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    Master Greytalker

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

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    Tue Dec 08, 2020 8:26 pm  
    Post 146: Down the Oyt Avon

    Post 146: Down the Oyt Avon

    22 January, 571 [Fireseek 28] - Oytmeet (lowlands)
    Ossian and his crew are up before dawn, reading Na Fèidh for departure. At first light they cast off, poling the barge until it swings into the current of the Oyt Avon. Despite Ossian’s words from the night before, he makes no effort to continue his conversation with Willa, and he and the hands are in good spirits.

    The first hour out of Oytmeet they pass through a narrow valley of agricultural land. Trails run on either side of the river, and they glide by numerous villages and farmsteads. After that, the valley opens up for the rest of the morning, the trails recede from the river, and it is all sheep pasturage. Here the river is slow, and while the peilot is always alert and steering, many of the hands doze on the deck.

    By the early afternoon they have reached the end of the valley. The cliffs converge, and the ground grows rough and rocky. They leave even the pastures behind. All afternoon is spent maneuvering through canyons. Foamy white spray from the river coats the sides of the barge and even lands on deck. All hands are manning poles to keep them from colliding with the walls and rocks in the river and keep them from lodging on sand bars. The first hour is the most intense, but Ossian calls for all hands innumerable times after. Finally, as the sun is reaching the western horizon, the river straightens, slows, and pasture lands again appear on the bank. Ossian grounds the barge along a curve in the river and announces that they are done with traveling for the day.

    [ Used 8 pounds meat and forage; 10 pounds meat and forage remaining
    38 human rations remaining
    2 mule rations used; 14 mule rations remaining
    6 pounds charcoal used; 82 pounds charcoal remaining]

    23 January, 571 [Readying 1] - The Oyt Avon [lowlands]
    The pleasant rolling pastureland they glimpsed last evening continues all morning long. To the west, some five or ten miles away from the river, are high bluffs. To the east is open pastureland as far as they can see, with occasional copses or larger stands of forest on the rougher or higher ground.

    At midmorning comes their first navigational challenge of the day - negotiating a gravely-bottomed ford where the Oyt Avon is wide but shallow. The twin trails from Oytmeet, the one following the east bank and the other the west, cross here, and there are thorps on both sides of the river.

    After the ford, they continue on through the sheep country, but the copses grow larger and thicker, the forest stands running together, and the pasturage retreating to smaller and smaller fields closer and closer to the river. They are, announces Ossian, at the outskirts of the Oytwood.

    The sun is low in the west, but they have an hour or more of light left, when the rise that had been blocking their view of the left bank gives way to valley bottom, revealing another river, the Lea, about to join with the Oyt. Here Ossian guides the barge to the slow shallows, and calls the party together. He has, he says, faithfully delivered them to the mouth of the Lea, as promised, and another 50 gold lions are due him. What’s more, the party will need to decide what to do next. If they disembark here, they can make a day’s march up the valley of the Lea to the city of that name. From there, good trails lead north through Pregmere and eventually to their goal of Dersyth. Or, they can stay on the Oyt Avon. The river will take them more than half the distance north to the city they seek - but at a cost of carrying them far further east than they want. Do they wish to disembark tonight, or hire Na Fèidh for the journey through the Oytwood to Preston-on-the-Javan?

    After a short discussion, Willa, Tyrius, and Aurora all agree that they will continue on the Oyt downriver. Ossian nods, brings the Na Fèidh back out into the current, and spends the rest of the daylight running the rapids that are formed by the confluence of the two rivers. When the river finally returns to calm waters again, he steers the barge to the shore for the night.

    [ Used 8 pounds meat and forage; 2 pounds meat and forage remaining
    38 human rations remaining
    2 mule rations used; 12 mule rations remaining
    6 pounds charcoal used; 76 pounds charcoal remaining
    50gp paid for barge]

    24 January, 571 [Readying 2] - The Oyt Avon [lowlands]
    Once the party starts out in the morning, the forest rapidly approaches both banks of the river and grows more dense. The last pastureland becomes a memory, and the barge spends the entire day going downriver through the thick wood. Ossian tries to keep Na Fèidh in the center of the river, and encourages the party to be alert for movement along the banks, or anything that might betray the presence of brigands or humanoid bands. Perhaps it is the power of suggestion, but several of them come to feel that they are being watched. The forest boasts all sorts of trees including a wide range of fruit trees. The mixture does not provide a consistent canopy. Sunlight penetrates the forest, undergrowth is prevalent, and they cannot see far from the river except in cases where distant forested hills rise up above the treeline.

    In the evening, Ossian continues to navigate far later than he has before, using the light of Luna’s growing crescent. When asked about it, he says that they need to make sure they are well beyond the elven village of Edhellond. If the village comes to the banks of the river, there is no sign of it to those on the barge, but Ossian insists that without an invitation from the fey, they will not be overnighting in the area. Even when they are well beyond, and Ossian relents and allows the barge to moor, he requests that the party set a double watch for the night.

    [ Used 2 pounds meat and forage and 6 pounds human rations; 32 human rations remaining
    2 mule rations used; 10 mule rations remaining
    2 pounds charcoal used; 74 pounds charcoal remaining]

    25 January, 571 [Readying 3] - The Oytwood, on the Oyt Avon [lowlands]
    With nothing untoward passing in the night, Ossian and his hands are up even before first light, eager to cast off. Once it is light, the party can see that the forests are thinning and becoming interspersed with meadow. At midmorning, Ossian steers the barge to the banks and says the party has another decision. Up ahead, they can see a few wooden buildings on both sides of the river, and a ferry running between the banks. Ossian tells them that if they are bound for Dersyth, he can have them disembark on the north bank of the Oyt Avon, where the trail will take them to the city after several days’ march. He and his crew will be going another five miles down the Oyt, to where it enters the Javan, and then another six miles down the mighty Javan, to Preston, there to resupply before they make their way home. If the party wants a chance to buy goods before they set out up the trail, they should stay with the barge. If they feel that they are well-supplied, and can make New Midwood on their own, then being dropped off here, sooner, will save them a half-day’s journey back north from Preston.

    Aurora has been keeping track of supplies - although they exhausted their fresh food on the previous day and will be using trail rations on their march, they still have half a week’s worth - and Thokk and Larry have a new hunting trap. The party decides to disembark now, and Ossian steers Na Fèidh to the north bank. The dock there is just large enough for the river ferry, not the barge, but the peilot makes it work for long enough for the party to disembark. The mules take the longest time, not trusting the gangplank, and Ossian has to hustle to get Na Fèidh away before the ferry arrives. Already the peilot of that craft is shaking his fist at them as he approaches, so the party decides to continue up the trail before he makes port. They get two miles of walking in, back along the river bed, before they stop for a mid-day meal.

    The land they are traveling through is the now-familiar Geoffan sheep country, so Willa is not ready to loose Thokk just yet, instead waiting until they get farther from the river and perhaps settled lands. As the afternoon wears on, they do climb some hills, up and out of the Oyt river valley, but when they come back down the other side, they find themselves in the Javan valley, with just as much pasturage about as before. As the afternoon wears on into evening, however, they climb still higher, into rugged lands of light forest, and leave the sheep fields behind. If it stays like this on the morrow, Willa will give them leave to hunt.

    [ Used 8 human rations; 24 human rations remaining
    1 mule ration use, supplemented by forage; 9 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 74 pounds charcoal remaining
    55gp paid to Ossian and crew]
    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 Dec 15, 2020 10:55 am  
    Post 147: Oyt Ferry to New Midwood

    DM's note on sources: Prenffrwyth is not on Darlene's maps but is on those of Anna Meyer. I based my description of it from, although I expect much of that originally comes from Living Greyhawk sources.

    Post 147: Oyt Ferry to New Midwood

    26 January, 571 [Readying 4] - The Oytwood, on the Javan (lowlands)
    As the party breaks camp in the morning, Willa selects Babshapka as their forward scout, and tells Thokk to remain behind the party to hunt, but to catch up by mid-day. Larry she would send to hunt as well - but on this level ground with a trail, he is going to be hard-pressed to keep up with the main party as it is, without falling behind further to hunt. Thus he is kept with the main host.

    For most of the morning, the track remains in the rocky highlands overlooking the broad Javan river. As the morning wears on, however, they descend back into pastureland, and soon after come upon the outskirts of a village at the edge of a wood. It is so close to mid-day that the village is the obvious location for their meal, but Willa wants to make sure that Thokk has rejoined them before they enter. She sends Babshapka ahead to scout the village while the rest of the party waits on the trail.

    It is not long before they spot Thokk coming up the track toward them, empty-handed. By the time he reaches them, Babshapka has returned as well, the village being small and easily scouted. Prenffrwyth is a small community of a few hundred humans. What is remarkable, notes Babshapka, is that nearly all of the villagers work as skilled craftsmen in wood. The remainder are either shepherds or work servicing the trail, including the village’s single inn - which has common rooms, but no private rooms. “Good eno’ fer lunch,” decides Willa, and they eat their mid-day meal hot off the grill. While they dine, Babshapka engages in conversation with the proprietor. She explains that the village was founded generations ago by a forward-thinking Goeffan nobleman who had negotiated a deal with the elves of the Oytwood: in exchange for not logging the lands claimed by the elves, the elves would sell wood to the nobleman, from trees carefully selected and harvested by the elves. The nobleman stood to gain more from the taxes on the fine woods than from the sale of lumber, which was abundant in the region. He encouraged woodworkers from Old Midwood, across the Javan, to settle in the village, and with their labors they produced crafted goods worth even more in taxes. Over time the village came to be sought out by those from all over the cantrev, or even farther afield, wishing to 'prentice as woodworkers. Today these craftsmen represent the majority of the villagers, and the original deal with the elves remains.

    The first five miles of afternoon travel are through the forested lands north of the village. They are surprised to find that the woods are old and intact, perhaps even a remnant of the ancient Oytwood. Just the thinnest margin of the forest near the village shows signs of being used for firewood, with no trace of the source of the wood they saw in the numerous crafting shops. Once they emerge on the other side of the forest, again along the Javan, they can see the walled town of New Midwood up ahead, where a much smaller river flows into the Javan. They reach the town just before the gates are closed at dusk, and a few words from Tyrius are sufficient to gain them entrance, including Thokk. That evening is spent at an inn.

    There is a scop at the inn, entertaining the crowd, though not a graduate of the College of Cainaith. To Willa’s question, he confirms that long ago, even before the Age of Heroes, even before there were humans in Geoff, the three great wooded lands of the Dim Forest, the Oytwood, and the Hornwood were as one - one unbroken forest that stretched across the length and breadth of the land. The fey held their hunts and revels there and lived beyond time. It was only after the Gyri arrived and settled along the Javan and began cutting trees for their homes and sheep folds that the Dim Forest was sundered from the Oyt Wood. Of course, this incurred the wrath of the fey, who sent the evil fey races into the world to punish the humans for their hubris. The scop indicates Thokk with a flourishing gesture when he speaks of the evil fey races.

    [ Used 2 human rations; lunch and dinner at inns; 22 human rations remaining
    No mule ration use, forage in day and stabling at lunch and dinner; 9 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 74 pounds charcoal remaining]
    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 Dec 22, 2020 8:37 am  
    Post 148: The Road to Dersyth

    DM's note on sources: New Midwood is not on Darlene's maps but is on those of Anna Meyer. I based my description of it from, although I expect much of that originally comes from Living Greyhawk sources. Based on the descriptions therein, New Midwood would not canonically exist yet in the timeline of my adventure, just Midwood on the other side of the Javan. The fogs off of the river are from that source. Naming the river Rhychdir is my invention, based on the name of the cantrev of its headwaters. The name of the cantrev ruler is from that source.

    Post 148: The Road to Dersyth

    27 January, 571 [Readying 5] - New Midwood (lowlands)
    [Light Rain 11am - 1pm][Drizzle 1pm - 3pm]

    As the party sets forth from the inn in the morning, they are greeted by a heavy fog from the River Rhychdir, tributary of the Javan. Fortunately the road to Dersyth is broad and well-marked. They follow it gratefully, and would soon be walking in circles without the slick cobbles leading through the town and, beyond the gates, the drainage ditches bordering the road. The road takes them up and away from the river, and the rising sun burns back the fog, so that by the time they are a league from New Midwood they can see the green pasture land around them and, far to the north, and for the first time, the Barrier Peaks!

    Throughout the morning’s travel, the road rises and falls along the slopes above the river. An hour before they stop for lunch a light rain begins to fall, and continues for several hours, although it eventually slows to a drizzle. They are wet, but not cold in the warm daylight and not slowed on the good road in the highlands.

    The rain is finally letting up as the road turns and leads back down to the river. There, in the valley bottom, the path splits. A lesser track crosses the river at a bridge, while the main road continues along the river itself. The scop told them, the night previous, that there would be two roads to Dersyth. The more direct, but less traveled, way is the northern branch across the river. The southern route takes longer, but passes through more settled lands. Here with the choice in front of them, they all agree that they prefer the direct route.

    The bridge is of ancient timbers lashed together and supported by stone pilings across the river. The wood is sodden and slippery, but bears their weight. They are not far across when the trail climbs to rough ground and their view is blocked by encroaching woods. There are only four hours or so to their evening camp, but Willa tells Thokk to drop back and hunt.

    The party makes their camp in a small clearing in the woods. Thokk joins them soon after, carrying with him a scrawny owl which becomes dinner. He and Larry disappear into the woods, setting up their hunting trap somewhere nearby for the night. Willa reflects on what Ossein said about the elves of the Oytwood, and on what the scop said last night, about the fey releasing evil fey as a punishment to humans who did not respect their land. She asks Umbra what she knows about the elves hereabouts, and whether the party should take any precautions when traveling or hunting in forests.

    Umbra is silent for a long time. Those near her in the gathering dusk can see her face twisting, as if recalling painful memories. When she finally speaks, her voice is calm and cold. “What’s done is done. Ossein was wise not to anger the elves of the Oyt. Those of the Dim Forest and the Hornwood are the same. But these” - and she gestures at the trees around them - “are now human lands, all the way from here to Dersyth. Do what you will, hunt where you like, it makes no difference.”

    [ Used 2 pounds meat caught today, 3 rations, and inn fare at breakfast; 19 human rations remaining
    1 mule ration used, supplemented by forage; 8 mule rations remaining
    2 pounds charcoal used; 72 pounds charcoal remaining]

    28 January, 571 [Readying 6] - Cantrev of Rhwng yr Coed, on road to Dersyth (lowlands)
    [Thunderstorm 9pm-12am]
    The party is awakened in the night by nearby screams and thrashing. Thokk trots off into the woods and, moments later, the screams cease. He returns with a yearling roe deer slung over his shoulders, one leg twisted at an improbable angle. He begins skinning and gutting the dear as the others return to sleep.

    After a breakfast of hot venison, the party starts off down the trail. The woods continue and the ground rises until mid-morning, at which point they break out into more open meadows. Eventually they see crofts, cottages, and barns in the distance - more sheep country, though no villages larger than a cluster of houses are in sight. Innumerable trails cross the main track, but it is clear which is the main road. The party camps for lunch, enjoying more venison in the open grasslands.

    Shortly after they resume their march, the trail enters the forest again, and begins climbing up a steep, rocky slope. They crest this and pass down into a high valley of trees and meadows. Willa calls for a campsite underneath the edge of a forest, as Larry points out the gathering clouds.

    The last of the venison, supplemented by trail rations, makes their dinner, and Thokk eagerly sets the trap again before turning in.

    Several hours after dark, the sky is rent by thunder, lightning, and rain. The downpour continues until midnight.

    [ Used 6 pounds meat (caught), 1 ration; 18 human rations remaining
    1 mule ration used, supplemented by forage; 7 mule rations remaining
    6 pounds charcoal used; 66 pounds charcoal remaining]

    29 January, 571 [Readying 7] - Cantrev of Rhwng yr Coed, on road to Dersyth (lowlands)
    [Wandering Encounter: Men, Patrol]
    [Thunderstorm 8am - 10am; half movement]
    Umbra and Babshapka have the predawn watch. They are enjoying the dawn chorus of birds greeting the day throughout the forest around them when both prick up their ears. To the west, up the trail, the birds have gone silent. They have the party up and armed by the time the strangers appear, though few of them have their armor on.

    A squad of six soldiers, headed by an officer, approaches them cautiously. The men are in woolen tartans, cloaks and skirts, though of a different color and pattern than those they saw around Gorna. They have leather breeches besides, long spears, and several of them carry slings as well. The officer has a shortsword and buckler at his belt - his long spear bears a pennant, of two hands clasped together on a green field.

    The officer introduces them as a patrol for his lord, the Arglwyth Briallen merch Luther, ruler of the Cantrev of Rhwng yr Coed. He has a number of questions for them, but ultimately seems satisfied with Tyrius’ answers. He tells them that as outlanders, that can’t be expected to know all the laws of the cantrev, but keeping a close watch on Thokk and not drawing their weapons within town will be a good start. The party asks about the trail to Dersyth, and the man explains that they are about four days out, and that the trail will pass through a number of hamlets but none of any size before Dersythtown itself. The party thanks them and the men move on.

    Breakfast is a quick meal of trail rations while camp is packed. The hunting trap is found to be empty - perhaps just as well, as another deer might well have gotten them accused by the patrol of poaching the lord’s game. However, knowing that they are four days out from Dersyth is worrisome as they have less than three days of rations remaining; they will need to rely on their foragers. The party sets out west as the clear morning starts to cloud over.

    The forest they used to shelter from the storm last night goes but a scant mile or so before the trail climbs a high cliff overlooking a river. They spend all the rest of the day looking down on this river from above. In places it passes through broad meadows where sheep graze. Other times it rushes through steep gorges and there is no sign of human habitation about. A thunderstorm slows their advance and soaks them in the midmorning, but they have the rest of the day to dry out and clear skies by the time they camp in the evening, in light woods next to a clear pool.

    [ Used 7 rations; 11 human rations remaining
    1 mule ration used, supplemented by forage; 6 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 66 pounds charcoal remaining]
    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.
    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Apr 26, 2002
    Posts: 422
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    Mon Dec 28, 2020 2:53 pm  

    I've read through this whole thread, and I just wanted to say bravo. You make the setting come alive with all the little details, and I love how you're willing to go your own way when it benefits your campaign. It's really engaging, and your players are very lucky.

    One question I have is where you got your information about traveling through the wilderness? I'd have thought the rivers were impassible to barges in winter, much less the mountains themselves. I was also surprised that the barge captain turned down Larry's offer to light the way when they were sailing at night-if I were running things, I'd have accepted the offer and extended the rate of travel.

    When I was writing For Crown Or Country, I had to ask several questions on the Greyhawk Resources forum on Facebook about various details I wasn't sure about. Where'd you get your information?
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
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    Tue Dec 29, 2020 8:28 am  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    I've read through this whole thread, and I just wanted to say bravo. You make the setting come alive with all the little details, and I love how you're willing to go your own way when it benefits your campaign. It's really engaging, and your players are very lucky.

    Thank you, CSL. That it comes from someone whose prolific articles are all about bringing the setting to life with little details makes your recognition even more meaningful.

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    One question I have is where you got your information about traveling through the wilderness? I'd have thought the rivers were impassible to barges in winter, much less the mountains themselves. I was also surprised that the barge captain turned down Larry's offer to light the way when they were sailing at night-if I were running things, I'd have accepted the offer and extended the rate of travel.

    I've tried to be as explicit as possible about sources - most times before the party gets to a new city or settlement, for example, I include what I read in preparation. So you can assume that if I don't mention anything, it has been invented by me. And that would be most of the 'landscape scenes' as they travel. Typically what I would do is look at Anna Meyer's maps in as fine a level of detail as possible, and then try to imagine the natural world that would make those maps - how have the rivers carved the valleys, why it is forest in one spot but field in another, would the local peasants be growing sheep or oats, etc. My undergrad degree was in a Geology department, so once upon a time I had a number of earth science classes I draw upon for landforms, my graduate work was in Ecology so I've read a fair bit about competition between species and community assemblages, and I've always been interested in human land use. I am by no means an expert in any of those fields and I'm not saying my conclusions are accurate, but if they are evocative and lend verisimilitude then I would consider myself successful.

    As far as 'winter', I am using the weather generation tables as is from the WoGG. My previous 1E Greyhawk campaign was mostly set in Perrenland and the Vesve, so one thing I did not appreciate when I started this 5E campaign in Saltmarsh is just how far SOUTH the Sheldomar region is. Even Geoff, which I am imagining culturally as quasi-medieval Scotland to Keoland's England, is at 30N Latitude, in the subtropics, with a +20F to all temperature rolls. This is the latitude of RL Jacksonville, New Orleans, and Houston. So 'winter' brings cooler temperatures, to be sure, but it is not like ice floes are going to prevent river travel. If you haven't guessed already, the party is headed for the Barrier Peaks in their quest for the fallen star. Once there, with the adjustments for elevation, they will face some brutally cold conditions that will challenge movement and even survival.

    With respect to Larry's light and river travel, you may recall that I did have the captain of the Banner of Heather accept Larry's help when they were traveling up the Javan [Post 130], even if the Peilot of the Na Fèidh does not [Post 145]. This was just a function of the speed and size of the river. Crawling upstream on the wide and slow Javan, 150 feet of advance warning is plenty of time to maneuver around the occasional floating log or sand bar. Rushing downstream on the narrow Oyt, with frequent rapids to navigate, the extra vision from the light is simply not enough advance warning to avoid something like a rock or a rill, and would blind him to what was even further ahead.

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    When I was writing For Crown Or Country, I had to ask several questions on the Greyhawk Resources forum on Facebook about various details I wasn't sure about. Where'd you get your information?

    I don't Facebook, so I didn't know about this forum. Sounds like something I will have to check out, thank you!
    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 Dec 29, 2020 10:46 am  
    Post 149: A long journey almost ogre

    DM's Note on House Rules
    5E is very much a map grid-based edition, but it assumes that casters can place spells exactly where they want on a battlefield where targets have an exact position. In order to have a bit more verisimilitude for a six-second casting time against moving targets, I have casters make an Arcana check when attempting area of effect spells in combat. Failures are off-target, in the spirit of 1E's misses from a "grenade-like missile". This also helps contain the power of the bigger evocation spells like fireball and lightning bolt, since they can easily not include the optimal number of enemies and can even unintentionally include allies.

    Similarly, when shooting missiles into combat, if a PC rolls a low attack score (low being situationally decided by me but always including critical fails) I require them to make another attack on an ally to see if the miss results in a friendly-fire hit.

    Finally, the 5E rules for interrupting rest allow PC's to return to resting after a combat unless it lasts more than an hour! My players, however, know that even a round of combat will "spoil" their rest so that they do not achieve in-game benefits from it unless they start over.

    Post 149: With the Barrier Peaks in sight, the party's long journey is almost ogre

    30 January, 571 - [Readying 8] - Cantrev of Rhwng yr Coed, on road to Dersyth (lowlands)
    [wandering encounter, predawn, patrolled civilized hills: ogre]

    Umbra and Babshapka are on watch before dawn. Suddenly the chilly air is rent by a deep, horrible cry. Some huge humanoid is screaming out, as if in pain. A second later, perhaps in response, both elves can hear lumbering figures thrashing through the trees and dried grass toward them, scattering rocks with every massive step. The sounds come from all sides - the party appears to be surrounded!

    Surprise round
    Babshapka hears two groups approaching - one up the trail in front of him to the west, another off in the brush to the southwest. Umbra hears the howl of pain from the southeast, but a large group coming from the north. The howls have woken everyone in the camp except Thokk and Eddard.

    Umbra pulls back from the trail to the east of the party and takes cover in the space between a large stump and Shefak’s tent. To the northeast of the camp, fully five eigers are moving rapidly through the brush with nothing between them and the center of camp.

    Round One
    Up the trail in front of him, Babshapka can make out four massive eigers lumbering forward. Their hide “clothes” are tattered, their long greasy hair unkempt, but all are brandishing thick tree limbs as huge clubs. Babshapka whistles a warning to the awakened camp, then drops into the cover of the trees off the trail to his right. As the first eiger comes into close range, he sends off two arrows that sink deep into the brute’s body (16 points).

    Umbra pulls a wand out from her robes and mouths some arcane words. She is surrounded by an inky sphere of darkness which emanates fifteen feet from her in all directions. Its boundaries are hard to see, since the camp itself is still in pre-dawn darkness, but for even those with darkvision, Umbra disappears from view. [One charge from crystal of shadows, 9 remaining].

    The eiger that was shot by Babshapka skids to a halt on the trail, his eyes narrowing and his head swiveling as he searches for the source of the arrows. The eigers behind him bunch up, giving Aurora all the chance she needs. Not ten seconds out of her bedroll, she launches a fiery missile through the air at the west side of camp. As Babshapka sees the flaming sphere sail over his head, he ducks behind a tree, closes his eyes, and presses his back up tightly against the trunk. The fist-size sphere detonates at about chest height on the eigers, and a blast of concussive, fiery force shoots out between them. The eigers are burned and staggered, and a shower of flaming tree limbs shoots past Babshapka. (Aurora Arcana roll 12; Babshapka is unintentionally at the edge of the effect and will need a save for no damage, or fail for half. Babshapka saves for no damage. Eigers all fail for 29 points fire damage to each.)

    [Aurora's rest is spoiled. She starts at 1/3/3 for spell slots with three mage armors cast the day previous and not recovered; fireball takes her to 1/3/2. Her current mage armor runs until 5am, and so she is at full AC15 with spell, Dex, and bracers]

    When the rain of flaming twigs and branches cease, Babshapka rounds the tree trunk and fires off another two shots.

    Larry snorts, growls, and rolls into a crouch. He shakes Thokk awake, grabs his own shield, and then trots over to the trail at the west side of camp.

    [Larry’s chain is medium armor. It would take him 5 minutes to put on; 50 combat rounds. He is now breaking his rest. He starts with 2/3/3 for spell slots with two create waters cast the day previous. He is at AC15 with just Dex and shield.]

    Tyrius awakes with a start, immediately calling to Pelor and surrounding himself with a golden halo of light. He stands up, grabs his shield and mace, and vaults on Eddard bareback, waking the mount in the process. By his light he can see the four eigers emerging from the fireball, but also another three moving toward a clump of trees southwest of the camp. He urges Eddard forward to face them.

    [Tyrius’ plate is heavy armor. It would take 10 minutes to put on; 100 combat rounds. He is now breaking his rest. He starts at 4/2 for spell slots. He is AC12 with just Dex and shield.]

    Thokk grabs his shield and heads over to the same trees as Eddard and Tyrius, bellowing a challenge at the oncoming ogres. Shefak emerges from her tent and starts that way as well, Tyrius being the only source of light in the vicinity. [Thokk is now breaking his rest; he is at his full unarmored defense AC with Dex, shield, and ring. Shefak is breaking her rest, she is at her full unarmored defense AC with Dex and martial arts ability).

    Willa, in her tent, takes a moment to grab her lantern and greatsword. Leaving her armor behind, she moves to the west side of the camp, where the trail is now strewn with branches, some smouldering and some in open flame. She lights her lantern with a nearby burning twig and sets it on the ground behind her as she faces the oncoming eigers.

    [Willa’s magical plate is heavy armor. It would take 10 minutes to put on; 100 combat rounds. She is breaking her rest. She is at AC13 with just her Dex.]

    Round 2
    While Thokk and Tyrius prepare to hold the line against three oncoming eigers, Shefak spots a single one moving up from the south toward the center of the camp. His shape is barely visible against Willa’s lantern light, but gives the monk enough to go by. Shefak moves to engage him, striking at his legs with her staff, and kicking at his hands when he tries to bring his club down on her. (Shefak does 5pts damage).

    The four smouldering eigers arrive within club distance of the party defenders; one on Babshapka partially concealed in the trees, two on Willa and one on Larry in the open on the trail. Another arrives at the camp from the east and sends a javelin into Aurora’s back. (Aurora from 38 to 27hp).

    The eiger facing Babshapka brings his club down in a shower of branches. (15 points, Babshapka from 48 to 33hp). The elf darts away, and follows up with another arrow shot (giant killer ability, damage 10). Babshapka continues to dance around the eiger attacking him. Using the trees as cover, he shoots twice more, and the second sinks another arrow shaft deep into the brute, and it crashes to the ground. (10hp damage; one eiger down). Unfortunately his first shot missed the eiger, but grazed Willa! (attack roll critical fail, 5hp damage, Willa to 57hp).

    The two eigers facing Willa interfere with each other’s blows, so that she is unharmed, despite her lack of armor, and Larry seems too small and nimble for the still-smouldering ogre attacking him to find.

    In the trees to the southeast, however, two eigers and a massive eiger leader have arrived. One misses Thokk, but the other and the leader both land heavy blows on Tyrius’ shield. The paladin barely manages to stay mounted, but Eddard seems to move instinctively under him, keeping him on despite his lack of saddle and stirrups (total 29 points damage, Tyrius from 49 to 20hp).

    As soon as the five eigers bearing down on the camp pass through the edge of Umbra’s sphere of darkness they begin to bump into one another and stumble over tree roots despite their darkvision. One breaks through to the other side, but the other four remain confused and lost in the inky sphere. Umbra, who apparently can see even in the blackness, easily avoids their clumsy steps. (Eiger wisdom saves to orient themselves; four fails one success).

    Willa, wielding her greatsword two-handed, moves among the thick legs of the eigers, striking deep clefts through their calf muscles (two hits, 25hp damage).

    Thokk, now in the heat of battle, bellows a shout of rage and strikes back at the eiger attacking him (two hits, 13hp damage).

    Tyrius, barely keeping his shield above him, and facing both an eiger and eiger leader, swings his war hammer. At each blow he channels the power of Pelor, resulting in a burst of light and extra damage on impact (two hits for 18, plus 16 more in divine smite for 34 points total, Tyrius uses two first level slots and now is at 2/2). Eddard strikes forward with his hooves, but misses the ogres.

    Larry, having just avoided the blow of the eiger facing him, moves around to the side of the brute. He carefully lines up that eiger, one of the ones fighting Willa, and a new eiger approaching the camp from the north. Summoning the power of the mountain spirits, he launches a lightning bolt that strikes all three foes. (25 points damage; two eigers fail their save, one succeeds. Larry now at 2/3/2.) Aurora sends a firebolt at the one closest to Larry, felling the eiger and allowing the dwarf to back out of combat (16hp damage, two eigers now down). She moves quickly to the edge of the trees to gain some cover from the javelins being thrown at her.

    Deep in her cloud of darkness, Umbra puts two fingers to her lips and blows - the whistle is shrill but soft - even the eigers stumbling around her do not hear it. At her side, a mastiff-sized dog appears, itself even blacker than the darkness in which it is encased, except for its coal-red eyes. It growls, deep and rumbling, and launches itself at the eiger closest to Umbra.

    Round 3
    Larry is confident that Babshapka, Willa, and Aurora will make short work of the other three eigers now facing them, so he trots over to where Thokk and Tyrius are trying to hold off another front. This time, his lighting bolt is a little too eager, as he sends it right up through the pitched melee, where it arcs through everyone to some degree (Arcana roll for placement 1 (critical fail); 27 points to three eigers that all failed saves, 13 points to three party members that all made saves; Thokk to 53 hp, Tyrius to 7hp, Eddard to 11hp. Larry now at 2/3/1.)

    Shefak, moving in a blur, rains down blows upon the solitary eiger she faces, but still it remains standing (flurry of blows for one ki point, four hits for 39 damage, total 44hp to this ogre).

    Aurora sends a number of magic missiles at the eiger fighting Thokk (cast at second level, Aurora now at 1/2/2).

    The shadow hound darts forward, sinking its fangs into the leg of an eiger (6 points); the eiger topples to the ground (failed Strength save) and Umbra blasts it with a bolt of darkness that leaves a trace of frost on its skin (8 points).

    Babshapka moves south, drawing a bead on the eiger facing off against Thokk. He fires two arrows (23 points), felling the eiger and freeing Thokk from the immediate combat (three eiger down).

    Willa, facing the last of the two eigers wounded from the fireball, manages to slay each one with mighty blows of her greatsword (13 points each. Five eigers down). She turns north and charges at the approaching eiger, the one that was caught by the tail end of Larry’s first lightning bolt.

    Tyrius forgoes attacking the two eigers he faces, and instead lays hands on himself for 15 points (15 points left, Tyrius to 22hp). By the grace of Pelor, Eddard is also healed for 15 (Eddard to 24hp)

    The eiger charged by Willa holds her at bay with a club swing (11 points - Willa to 46hp).

    The eiger fighting Tyrius sees his companion fall to arrows, and turns to face Thokk, landing a massive blow (18 points, reduced to 9 from rage, Thokk to 44hp).

    The eiger leader, now facing Tyrius one on one, brings down another club blow on his shield. (13 points, Tyrius to 9hp).

    From the trees to the south emerges the largest eiger the party has ever seen. His thick limbs are like tree trunks, and odds and ends of human armor have been strung on the thick leather hides that hang off his massive body. Assessing the lightning-throwing dwarf as the greatest threat to his band, the chief strides forward, the ground shaking under his feet. He buries his club deep in the ground next to the dwarf, but Larry slips away.

    The lone eiger fighting Shefak nearly sweeps her legs out from under her with a low swing, but she leaps over the blow and tumbles away.

    Three eigers emerge from Umbra’s darkness, joining another arriving from the east. Four javelins sail toward Aurora in the trees (7hp damage, Aurora to 20 hp).

    Two eigers are fighting the shadow hound - one standing, the other having been knocked prone. Neither manages to hit the hound, and the one that has fallen loses his grip on the tree-club and lets it fall to the ground beside him.

    Seeing Tyrius in a bad way, Thokk ignores the eiger that has turned on him. He steps forward, slamming his shield and shoulder into Eddard and forcing the war horse out of the way so that he can stand between the eiger leader and Tyrius. (contested strength roll (shove attack) Thokk 22, Eddard 10). Thokk slashes at the eiger leader (two hits, 24 damage).

    Safe for the moment, Eddard disengages from the fray and canters forward, then turns and lets Tyrius set himself for a charge at the eiger leader’s exposed back. Now seeing the huge eiger chieftain, however, the pair agree to charge him from behind instead.

    Round 4
    With three more well-placed kicks and staff blows (19 points damage), Shefak lays low the eiger she faces (six ogres down). Before the brute has even hit the ground, the monk has spun about and is running toward the melee with Thokk, Tyrius, and Larry, following the glow given off by the paladin.

    Willa slays the eiger to the north (two hits; 23 damage, seven eigers down), then hurriedly looks about. The javelin-wielding eigers arriving from the northeast are nearly in the center of camp now, and the mules are panicking. She dashes over to them and attempts to lead Randy away by his halter, but the mule, eyes wide with fear, bites at her. (Willa Animal Handling roll 4).

    Bolts of darkness fly from the cloud of black and strike the eiger on the ground, who is still being savaged by the hound (3 points, 12 points).

    Eddard gallops forward, going as fast as he dares knowing that Tyrius has no saddle. He slams his forequarters into the chieftain’s thighs from behind. The eiger wobbles but does not go down. (7 pts from hooves; Eiger chief makes Strength save).

    Aurora looks out from her cover among the trees. The five javelin-wielding eigers have drawn together in a loose knot in the center of camp, preparing to charge her or perhaps Willa and the mules. Now is the perfect time for another...fireball! The fiery missile is in her palm and then launched before she even thinks about it - or the fact that their being in the center of camp means that they are surrounded by the party's gear. The missile flies through the air, detonating in the center of the five eigers (Aurora Arcana roll 16 for placement, all five eigers affected, 33 points damage to four that don’t save and 16 points to the one that does. Aurora now at 1/2/1). The force of the concussive blast instantly flattens both Willa and Sheffak’s tents, then sets them on fire. Willa’s oilskin tent burns all the hotter.

    “Me tent!” screams Willa, and then, a second later, “Ther map!” Aurora’s elation turns to realization and then concern.

    Babshapka looks up at the towering figure of the eiger chieftain, dwarfing even Tyrius’s great warhorse. He flips open the cover of his second quiver and pulls forth two of the recently purchased “giant arrows” and sends them forth. One impacts a scrap of chain armor at the eiger’s shoulder and doesn’t penetrate, but the other sinks into his chest and immediately the shaft breaks off at the wicked head (12 points).

    The chieftain raises his club up for another strike at Larry (3 points additional damage from giant arrow). This blow lands on the dwarf’s shield, nearly driving him into the ground (18 points, Larry at 38hp). The eiger leader and remaining eiger try ineffectually to hit Thokk.

    The standing eiger striking at the shadow hound lands a blow (13 points), giving his companion the chance to grab his own club and rise to his feet.

    Three eigers that survived the latest fireball in the center of camp charge Willa and Aurora, landing hard blows (Willa takes 11, to 35hp, Aurora takes 17, to 3hp. The third eiger aims at Aurora, but through her use of instinctive charm he ends up hitting his own companion (for 14hp).

    Larry hears the cry of pain from Aurora as she is hit. Ignoring the Chieftain towering above him, he floods the other melee with a moonbeam (Arcana roll 16 hits two eigers but neither party member, Larry at 2/2/1. 12 points damage, both eigers make Con saves for 6 points).

    Thokk continues his assault on the eiger leader (2 hits, 22 points).

    Tyrius sees that the few hits the chieftain has taken have not even slowed him down. Seeking a quick resolution, he pulls forth a scroll tube, withdraws the scroll and throws the tube to the ground. By the light of Pelor he reads the scroll of hold person, but the chieftain is unaffected (makes Wisdom save).

    Round 5
    Willa grunts with effort, dodging the blows of the eiger and landing her own (two hits, total 30hp). Straining mightily, she spins and lands a third blow backhanded (action surge; third hit for 14 damage). The eiger staggers, then collapses into a pool, gushing blood and fouling the pristine spring (eight eigers down).

    Babshapka continues his arrow assault on the eiger chieftain, launching two normal arrows (one hits for 11hp, plus another 4hp as Babshapka activates a hail of thorns - he is at 3/2).

    Shefak’s attacks are too rapid to follow, as she rains blows down on both the eiger and eiger leader fighting Thokk (ki point used, Shefak has five left, flurry of blows, five hits, total 40 points damage). One eiger falls to the ground (nine down), but the leader remains on his feet despite Shefak’s best efforts (eiger makes dex save, not knocked prone).

    The eiger chieftain raises both arms above his head and brings his blow down on Larry’s shield with a resounding crash that echoes through the forest. Larry is driven to his knees, and the moonbeam winks out (20 points of damage, Larry at 18hp, concentration save fails; 2 points additional damage to chieftain from giant arrow).

    The eiger leader lands a blow on Thokk (17 points, reduced to 8 from rage, Thokk at 23).

    The two eigers facing Aurora are concerned. Half their band has fallen and their mighty chieftain has not been able to score a single kill yet. One of them turns and begins fleeing. He avoids the burning tents, but as the mules scatter before him, he sees their pack bags on the ground and snatches one up as he goes. The remaining eiger swings at Aurora but misses.

    Both eigers fighting the hound land blows - the creature disappears into shadow, leaving nothing behind.

    A new eiger emerges from the trees to the south, limping badly. Fastened about its ankle, like some diabolical metal shoe, is the party’s hunting trap. It looks confused and in pain. In fact, it was the source of the initial cry that first alerted the guards and woke the party.

    Ignoring the eiger attacking her, Aurora points at the fleeing eiger and calls out “That one has our mule pack! Stop him!” She sends forth a perfectly-placed web spell (Arcana 26, now at 1/1/1), covering the eiger in sticky, restrictive strands. As an afterthought, she shouts, “And they are setting the tents on fire!”

    Thokk continues his assault on what is proving to be a very tough eiger leader (two hits, 12 points total).

    Taking advantage of the chieftain’s last blow on Larry, Eddard has turned and fallen back. Now Tyrius urges him forward in another charge. As the horse and rider slam into the chieftain he teeters, totters, and finally crashes to the ground, jolting everyone around him with a force that threatens to knock them down as well (trampling charge, two hoof blows for 20 points damage). Tyrius leans low across Eddard’s back, striking at the now prone ogre with his hammer (attacking with advantage, two hits for 14 total, plus another 8 points of divine smite, Tyrius at 1/2).

    Four bolts of darkness emerge from Umbra’s cloud and strike at the ogre struggling in the webs. (14 points damage, Umbra at 4/2/3).

    Larry rises, moves around to the fallen chieftain’s feet so that his spell will not hit Tyrius or Eddard, and sends forth a lightning bolt to travel directly up the eiger’s spine as it thrashes about on the ground. (Dexterity save at disadvantage fails; 19 points damage, Larry at 2/2/0).

    Round 6
    Now that the chieftain has fallen to the ground, Babshapka moves up the trail and takes aim at the eiger in the webs. He sinks two arrows into him (16 damage). Aurora unloads a barrage of magic missiles at the same target (cast at 3rd level, total 21 points damage, Aurora at 1/1/0). Finally, a freezing cold blast of darkness shoots out of the inky cloud (8 points), and the eiger ceases its struggles, sinking to the ground (ten eigers down).

    With a howl of pain and frustration, and a string of invective in its native tongue, the eiger chieftain rises to his feet, towering over Larry, and bringing its massive club down like a sledgehammer against a stake. Larry crumples to the ground, unconscious (19 points, Larry to 0hp. Chieftain takes 2hp more from giant arrow).

    The eiger leader matches his chief’s bellows and lands another blow on Thokk (14 points, Thokk takes 7 from rage, Thokk at 16 hp).

    There are but four eigers left near the center of camp, including the one engaged with Aurora and Willa and the one with the trap on its foot. With some two-thirds of their companions slain, two of those remaining decide to turn and run, and none think to grab pack bags before they go. The one who stays throws a javelin at Aurora but misses.

    Thokk lands yet another blow on the eiger leader (11 points), and this one is finally enough to dispatch the great brute (ten eigers plus eiger leader down). Thokk then runs over to attack the chieftain, but when he sees his spoon-buddy Larry crushed and bloodied on the ground, he trips over the body of a fallen eiger and falls to the ground himself. “NOOOOOO!” he cries in rage and torment. (Thokk failed a Dex save to move quickly across the body-strewn ground)

    Willa squares off against the last eiger in melee range, hitting it twice and killing it (24hp; eleven eigers plus eiger leader down).

    Shefak, seeing that Larry has fallen, attacks the chieftain, attempting to move him away from the dwarf’s body (two hits, 19 points damage).

    <Larry fails a life save and is one step closer to death>

    While the chieftain is thus occupied, Tyrius dismounts and runs to Larry’s side. He lays on hands for 10hp to his friend. (Larry to 10hp, Tyrius has 5hp left of lay on hands).

    Round 7
    Babshapka fires arrows at the javelin-wielding eiger (two hits, 10hp damage), and Willa charges and ends the eiger with one blow (13 damage; twelve eigers plus eiger leader down). As he falls, Aurora shouts “That’s right, Willa - get those eigers! Did you see what they did to your tent!” Willa turns and begins to pursue Aurora into the trees, shouting that a good punch in the mouth will shut her up. Aurora shoots a firebolt at the eiger chieftain as she flees from Willa (12 hp damage).

    Tyrius is remounting Eddard and preparing for another trampling charge when Aurora’s firebolt knocks the chieftain to the ground. This time, he does not get up (twelve eigers, leader, and chieftain down).

    Umbra shoots five bolts of darkness[i] at the fleeing eiger. (Total damage 18, Umbra to 4/2/2).

    As swift as the wind, Shefak [i]dashes[i] up to the last fleeing eiger.

    Larry rises unsteadily to his feet. Looking around, he sees all of the eigers about him lying still on the ground - but then he sees the party’s tents aflame! He summons forth [i]created water
    , having it fall as a gentle rain over both tents. (Larry at 1/2/0).

    Round 8
    With the falling rain dousing the flames enough for her to approach the tent, Willa uses her greatsword to peel back the layers of flaming oilcloth. When she sees her backpack inside, she reaches forth to grab it, getting only a mild burn in return. The thick leather pack is singed but not aflame. (failed Dex save, 2 points damage, Willa to 33hp) However, all the leather stitching is burned through and weakened. The longer she looks at it, the more unsalvageable it appears.

    Shefak catches up to the closest fleeing eiger and ends him (total of thirteen eigers, chieftain, and leader slain - some three or four escaped).

    Umbra emerges from her cloud of darkness and shoots freezing rays into the fire, while Larry continues to rain water down. Willa has pulled out her plate armor by the time the flames are out.

    Post Combat
    Babshapka asks for Tyrius’ help, and with his light quickly recovers the giant arrow that missed the chieftain (Babshapka total 19 giant arrows remaining). He uses a dagger to retrieve the head of the other arrow from the body of the chieftain, but the weakened shaft has done its job and splintered. There is no way to reattach the head, but he saves it nonetheless.

    Willa uses her lantern to sort through what remains of her tent.

    [The days have been in the 50’s F; last night it got down to 40F. Willa was sleeping in some combination of small clothes and her traveling clothes, with her cold weather gear clothes loose in her tent overnight and put on in the morning. I decided that I would apply the fireball damage first to the tents, and with their destruction reduce the amount of damage "left over" to apply to the items within. Similarly, containers would "soak up" damage before passing on what remained to their contents.

    5E rules for damaging objects assigns a hp range to objects based on their size and toughness. Magic items are assumed to be resistant to all damage (taking half).

    Fireball was 33 points of damage, both bludgeoning (concussive force) and fire.

    Willa’s tent is a “Medium, Resilient” object and absorbs 18 points of damage before it is irreparably destroyed. That leaves 15 points to transfer to each of the objects in it.

    Magic Plate Armor
    Magic Mace
    Cold Weather Gear
    Longsword Scabbard
    Dagger Scabbard
    Cold Weather Gear
    Silk Rope

    Magic Plate Armor is a “Medium, Resilient” item and it has resistance to damage. The seven points of damage done to it are not enough to harm it.

    Magic Mace is a “Small, Resilient” item and it has resistance to damage. The seven points of damage done to it are not enough to harm it.

    Bedroll is a “Medium, Resilient” item. The 15 points of damage done to it are not enough to completely destroy it, although it is severely damaged and needs to be repaired.

    Cold weather gear is a “Medium, Resilient” item. The 15 points of damage done to it are not enough to completely destroy it, although it is severely damaged and needs to be repaired.

    Longsword Scabbard is a “Small, Resilient” item. It takes 10hp of the 15 and is irreparably destroyed. Five more points of damage are passed to the sword itself. The sword is a “Small, Resilient” item and five points of damage are not enough to harm it.

    Dagger Scabbard is a “Tiny, Resistant” item. It takes 5hp of the 15 and is destroyed. Ten more points of damage are passed to the dagger itself. The dagger is a “Small, Resilient” item and ten points of damage irreparably destroys it.

    Crossbow is a “Small, Resilient” item. It takes 15hp and is irreparably destroyed.

    Silk rope is a “Small, Resilient” item. It takes 15hp and is irreparably destroyed.

    Backpack is a “Small, Resilient” item. It takes 10hp of the 15 and is irreparably destroyed. Five more points of damage are passed to each of the items inside.

    Tinderbox (inside backpack) is a “Small, Resilient” item. The five points of damage done to it are not enough to harm it.

    Leather purse (inside backpack) with coins is a “Small, Resilient” item. The five points of damage done to it are not enough to harm it.

    Map case with Willa’s Map of the Dreadwood and the Starfall Maps (inside backpack) is a “Small, Resilient” item. The five points of damage done to it are not enough to harm it.

    Tool box with Navigator’s Tools (inside backpack) is a “Small, Resilient” item. The five points of damage done to it are not enough to harm it.

    Folded Portrait of Nholast (inside backpack) is a “Small, Fragile” item. It is irreparably destroyed.

    Healer’s Kit Bag (inside backpack) is a “Small, Resilient” item. The five points of damage done to it are not enough to harm it.

    Belaying Pin (inside backpack) is a “Tiny, Resilient” item. It is irreparably destroyed.

    Oil flask (inside backpack) is a “Tiny, Resilient” item. 5 points of damage is just enough to irreparably destroy it. Luck roll +1; the flask is cracked and slowly seeping oil, but the oil did not combust.

    Potion vial (neutralize poison) (inside backpack) is a “Tiny, Resilient” item. 5 points of damage is just enough to irreparably destroy it. Luck roll +2; the stopper is cracked and the potion must be kept upright or it will leak.

    Potion vial (water breathing) (inside backpack) is a “Tiny, Resilient” item. 5 points of damage is just enough to irreparably destroy it. Luck roll -3; the vial is ruptured and the potion is lost instantly, soaking the other contents of the backpack.

    Potion vial (sweet water) (inside backpack) is a “Tiny, Resilient” item. 5 points of damage is just enough to irreparably destroy it. Luck roll +1; the flask is cracked and slowly leaking potion.

    Checking her items, Willa silently thanks the Gentle Sea Cow of the South that the most important non-magical items, the map case and tool box for her navigation instruments, survived the blast. She resolves to offer something to the goddess to show her gratitude.

    She takes up the flask of neutralize poison and walks quickly over to the brook that runs through the camp. It’s not the warm south sea where the Sea Cow reigns - but it must flow into the River Fyn, and that surely empties into the Javan River, and that enters the Azure Sea, whose waters lap against the shores of Saltmarsh and which even now are likely feeding her brother Tom. “Modder Cow,” she mumbles, so as not to be overheard by the party, “please accept t’is offerin’ o’ me t’anks fer yer protection an’ care o’ me, me family, an’ me mates.” She pours the contents of the phial into the brook as slowly as she can, thinking of how its contents saved her and Babshapka from poison gas in Castle Ravenloft, poison gas that was released, of course, by Aurora fooling with a chest she was told to let alone...she sets aside the thought as uncharitable. It is true enough, but such salt is not befitting the solemnity of this occasion. When she has poured out the last drop of magical potion, she bows her head and mumbles a few more words of prayer. The prayer itself was taught to her by her mother, and the memory of the two of them praying together to the Sea Cow when her father would take to the sea is one of the clearest of the few memories she has of her mother.

    On her way back to the others, Willa feels the smooth glass of the phial in her hand, with its worn paper label. She recalls her surprise at finding the phial, one of three such, was actually labeled when they recovered it from the captain’s cabin on the Sea Ghost. She suddenly regrets never asking Sigurd if it was he who labeled the phials with his own hand, but is glad that she remembered to thank the Sea Cow for protection for her “mates,” figuring now that should cover Sigurd as well.

    Returning to her gear, Willa carefully pours the potion of sweet water from its cracked glass vial into the now-empty phial she took to the brook. The sweet water was found, she remembered, in treasure they won from a medusa that Aurora turned into a slug. So she supposes the ditzy wizard has her moments. She tries the stopper of the broken vial in the phial hopefully - it fits, but not well, and could easily bounce off if jolted. Aurora has a stub of a candle in her writing supplies, and Willa melts wax liberally all around the stopper. In the end, she is confident it will take the gentle jostling of the pack mules or her own backpack, but not a fight or flight. With luck, they will have neither before reaching Dersyth where she can look for a new container.

    Shefak’s tent is a “Medium, Resilient” object and absorbs 18 points of damage before it is irreparably destroyed. That leaves 15 points to transfer to each of the objects in it.

    Cold Weather Gear
    Dagger Scabbard
    Dart Case

    Bedroll is a “Medium, Resilient” item. The 15 points of damage done to it are not enough to completely destroy it, although it is severely damaged and needs to be repaired.

    Cold weather gear is a “Medium, Resilient” item. The 15 points of damage done to it are not enough to completely destroy it, although it is severely damaged and needs to be repaired.

    Dagger Scabbard is a “Tiny, Resistant” item. It takes 5hp of the 15 and is destroyed. Ten more points of damage are passed to the dagger itself. The dagger is a “Small, Resilient” item and ten points of damage irreparably destroys it.

    Dart case is a “Small, Resilient” item. It takes 10hp of the 15 and is irreparably destroyed. Five more points of damage are passed to the darts themselves. The darts are “Tiny, Resilient” items. Five points of damage are just enough to irreparably destroy them. (Luck roll 0; all of the darts are destroyed).

    Waterskin is a “Small, Resilient” item. It takes 10hp of the 15 and is irreparably destroyed.

    Backpack is a “Small, Resilient” item. It takes 10hp of the 15 and is irreparably destroyed. Five more points of damage are passed to each of the items inside.

    Holy Symbol (inside backpack) is a “Tiny, Resilient” item. 5 points of damage is just enough to irreparably destroy it. Luck roll +4. Although the paint has been burnt off and the metal pitted, Shefak accepts it as a symbol of the impermanence of material form and it will continue to function for her as holy even though broken.

    Silver Statue (inside backpack) is a “Small, Resilient” item. The five points of damage done to it are not enough to harm it.

    It is still more than an hour until dawn. Babshapka and Umbra are the only ones who have had a complete long rest - everyone else has broken their rest to fight. It is agreed that they will wait until dawn and depart at a normal hour, which will allow the others to have at least a short rest. Before that, however, Larry insists that they pull the body of the eiger out of the spring. Even the mules refuse to drink from it later, however.

    Post-combat hp and spells remaining
    Larry 10/56, 1/2/0
    Babshapka 33/48, 3/2
    Umbra 38/38, 4/2/2
    Aurora 3/38, 1/1/0
    Tyrius 9/49, 1/2, 5/30 lay on hands
    Eddard 24/24,
    Willa 33/62,
    Thokk 16/66,
    Shefak 24/39,

    [Reasoning that they don’t know what the day may bring and they may still need their spells offensively, the party elects to spend hit dice on natural healing after their short rest rather than casting magical heals. Larry (natural recovery) and Aurora (Arcane recovery) also regain some spells.]

    Post-rest HD, hp, and spells remaining
    Larry 1/6, 54/56, 4/2/0
    Babshapka 4/6, 48/48, 3/2
    Umbra 6/6, 38/38, 4/2/2
    Aurora 0/6, 33/38, 1/1/1
    Tyrius 0/,6 44/49, 1/2, 5/30 lay on hands
    Eddard 3/3, 24/24
    Willa 3/6, 62/62
    Thokk 1/6, 66/66
    Shefak 2/6, 37/39

    At some point Thokk goes to check the hunting trap and finds it gone. The others tell him that they saw an eiger with it clamped on his foot. Thokk is incensed and demands that they go track down the eiger and get the trap back. Willa convinces him that the eiger has now had more than an hour lead time and is long gone, and it is not worth it to go off the trail and into some potential ambush of the whole eiger tribe. She tells Thokk to search the bodies of the eigers and see if they will pay for a new trap when the party gets to Dersyth. She stares pointedly at Aurora and says “an’ all me stuff, t’ boot.”

    Thokk comes back with 109 gold lions' value in coins of all different denominations. Willa estimates they may break even, once all of her and Shefak’s gear is replaced. Not counting the potion of water breathing, of course - that was likely worth in the hundreds or more.

    While Thokk was searching the eiger, he realized that all that meat has more than solved their food problem! They will likely have more meat than they can even carry. He is unprepared for the vehemence with which the others tell him that they will not be eating eiger, not even if he allows them to cook it. The elves are repulsed and Tyrius is indignant, although Larry just shrugs. Willa is a little queasy at the thought herself, but she is by now well used to finding creative arguments to manage Thokk. She takes him away from the group and explains patiently that he can eat off an eiger carcass himself while they are here - as long as he feeds on whichever one is farthest from camp. However, they will not be taking any of the eiger meat with them, as that would “spook the mules”. Thokk reflects on the combat and recalls the terrified screams of the mules during the attack. He nods and accepts the sage advice of his trusted evil advisor. The combat was exhilarating for him, and now that the eiger coin has softened the blow of the theft of ‘his’ trap, he is in fine spirits.

    As soon as the camp is packed after breakfast, the party is away. Already the crows are thick and loud on the corpses of the eigers, and most of the party are eager to be off before wolves or larger predators appear. The day’s march continues along the same hills and bluffs overlooking the river Fyn. Sometimes the hills are lower and nearer the river, sometimes higher and farther. Sometimes the trail is in view of shepherd’s crofts, and sometimes in desolate highlands with not a soul in sight.

    In the late afternoon they move away from the river, climbing up into rugged hill country, with a large peak between them and the Fyn. They camp in a bowl on the back side of the mountain, with untouched forest all around them. Willa decides that this is the perfect place to hunt, far from any tended flocks that Thokk might raid by accident. She tells the party that as they have less than a day of food left, five of them will remain in camp on the morrow while Thokk, Larry, and Babshapka all forage. Depending on how much they bring back at dinner, they may be able to continue on for Dersyth the day after.

    [ Used 6 rations (Thokk gorged on eiger flesh in the morning); 5 human rations remaining
    1 mule ration used, supplemented by forage; 5 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 66 pounds charcoal remaining]
    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.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Jan 05, 2021 1:26 pm  
    Post 150: The Road to Dersyth Part II

    Post 150: The Road to Dersyth Part II

    31 January, 571 [Readying 9] - Cantrev of Rhwng yr Coed, on road to Dersyth (lowlands)
    [Rain 3pm - beyond 12am]

    After a breakfast of trail food, the main party sees Thokk, Babshapka, and Larry off on their foraging run. With the day planned for sitting in camp, Willa goes through their gear, taking an inventory of the supplies on the mules and seeing what they might need to pick up in Dersyth. In the process, she finds the last remaining fishing pole, which gets her thinking. A Salter born and bred, she has no experience hunting - but with a pole she might be able to contribute to their food stores, if she made a side jaunt to the river.

    She looks at who is left at camp - Umbra, Tyrius, Aurora, Shefak. None of them are exactly ideal fishing companions, and yet with eigers about she doesn’t want to travel alone. For those already foraging she is unconcerned about them going solo - Thokk and Babshapka can easily hide, and Larry can turn into an innocuous animal, if facing overwhelming foes - but stealth is not Willa’s forte. For that matter, she can’t imagine sitting on a river bank and trying to cast a line in full plate mail - she will be unarmored and vulnerable. She will want someone to come with, just in case, even if they are only on watch while she fishes.

    With his gear still arranged all about on the ground, Randy is confused about whether he is going to be packed today or not, and he stamps his foot anxiously. Eddard speaks soothingly to him. Eddard!

    After Willa asks him, and then Tyrius just to be polite, Eddard agrees to go fishing with her and they set out at mid-morning, reaching the Fyn in about an hour and a half and having to go off-trail only a bit. The mist is just clearing off the water when they arrive at the river. Eddard proves to be an excellent companion, neither going on at length about nothing (like Aurora and Tyrius would) or remaining tight-lipped on the occasions when Willa does want to talk (as Shefak and Umbra do). Rather, he waits until spoken to and then gives slow, carefully measured responses. By the early afternoon, as rain clouds begin to gather, Willa has caught only a single fish (Survival roll 8 ), but has had a grand time. She gathers some rushes at the river’s edge, weaves them into a small raft of sorts, lays the fish on it and says some words to the Sea Cow while Eddard remains respectfully silent. She lets the raft and its offering float downstream as she packs up the tackle. Already an ambitious kingfisher is eyeing the raft and its cargo.

    All the way back to the camp it rains in brief showers that come and go. She and Eddard are quite wet by the time they arrive, but Aurora has a charcoal fire going and the others are looking for dry, dead wood to add. The rain doesn’t look to be stopping any time soon. A night in the 40’s, dry and in a tent, is one thing - but a night in the 40’s, wet and under the sky, is quite a different kettle of fish.

    One by one the foragers return to camp, all sodden. Larry is empty-handed (Survival roll 9), as is Thokk, although the half-orc is testy because he broke a javelin in his pursuit of game (Survival roll 5, critical failure). Babshapka brings in a brace of wood cocks (Survival roll 22), but the small birds are not going to be enough for all of them.

    Taking stock of their supplies after dinner finds them with even less food than the day before. Babshapka reports that his scouting from a nearby hilltop revealed that they are not too far from farming country. Willa tells them that they may just have to tighten their belt for a day, but they can likely buy food from a farmstead if they do not arrive at Dersyth on the morrow.

    The rain showers continue off and on all night, with the party taking shelter as best they can under the limbs of trees.

    [ Caught 4 pounds of game cock, used 4 pounds of game cock and 3 rations; 2 human rations remaining
    No mule rations used (full day of forage); 5 mule rations remaining
    7 pounds of charcoal used to cook meat and stay warm; 59 pounds charcoal remaining]

    1 February, 571 [Readying 10] - Cantrev of Rhwng yr Coed, on road to Dersyth (lowlands)
    [Rain 12am to 6am]
    [Hail 6am to 8am]

    In the morning as the sky lightens, the gentle rain changes to hail. When the ice pellets penetrate the mostly-bare limbs of the tree she is under and begin to bounce off her face, Willa wakes with a roar. “Aurora!” she bellows across the camp. “Yer buyin’ me a tent in Dersyth o’ I’ll be makin’ one from yer hide!”

    Shefak is already up, ignoring the hail and sitting cross-legged on the ground, facing east to greet the dawn in meditation. “We must accept loss as part of life,” she says in response to Willa, “and not dwell on material things.” She stands, then turns to face the party. “However, perhaps it would encourage Aurora to improve her aim if she had to replace all of our items from her own funds, rather than the party treasure.”

    The party finishes the last of their food supplies for breakfast and then packs the camp. “Bring us summit fer lunch,” says Willa to Thokk as they set out but he remains behind to forage. She had considered sending Babshapka out as well, but prefers missing a meal to stumbling into another pack of eigers while on the march, so she keeps him as their forward scout.

    The rain and hail continue for the first hour of their march. The trail takes them low and close to the river. As they travel, they leave the woods behind, and the land becomes green pastures, with shepherd’s fields more and more common as they progress. They make their noon camp, with Willa arranging a coal pit expectantly but not lighting it. Thokk shows up soon after, a string of small, skinned animals draped across his back and a small cloud of flies about him. He explains that just before he left the woods, he found a pair of pine martens skulking about the base of a tree that had a squirrel’s nest. He killed the martens with his javelins, and then fished the squirrels out of the tree one at a time and wrung their necks. He has brought enough meat for lunch and dinner besides!

    Some hours after they resume their march, the trail rises and is joined by another trail coming from the south. Willa and Aurora reason that this is the overland trail from the Lea and Pregmere that Ossein spoke of on the river. They must be nearing Dersyth.

    After this, the trail descends to the valley bottom again. Soon they start to see fields and farms, the first they have seen since New Midwood. While the folk of Geoff grow many things for their own household use, here the staple crop appears to be oats. They travel the rest of the afternoon. The farms grow more dense, but they have not arrived at Dersyth by nightfall, nor does Thokk have more forage for them when he arrives at their evening camp. However, they do find a stone-walled sheep fold with one corner roofed by rough timber and the flock nowhere in sight. Although the roof is not high enough for any of them to stand but Larry, all of their bedrolls placed one against the other just fit under the covered part, which is appreciated during a cold drizzle from before midnight through dawn of the next day. Eddard and the mules have to stay outside in the wet, but at least the stone walls of the fold cut the wind for them.

    [ Caught 8 pounds of game, used 5 pounds of meat and 2 rations; 3 pounds of meat but no rations remaining
    1 mule ration used, supplemented by forage; 4 mule rations remaining
    4 pounds of charcoal used to cook meat; 55 pounds charcoal remaining]
    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.&nbsp;
    Adept Greytalker

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    Mon Jan 11, 2021 7:26 pm  

    Boy, Willa doesn't like Aurora at all, does she? What's Aurora's alignment, anyway? I've seen you describe her alternately as a harridan, a ditz, etc.
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Jan 12, 2021 8:59 am  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    Boy, Willa doesn't like Aurora at all, does she?

    The players of Aurora and Willa are co-workers and have been friends for years. Willa's player is very cautious and Aurora's much more impetuous. Part of the dynamic is Aurora's player always saying "Let's do this!" without regard for consequences and Willa's player always criticizing whatever decision Aurora's player makes. She likes to complain, but it is good-natured.

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    What's Aurora's alignment, anyway? I've seen you describe her alternately as a harridan, a ditz, etc.

    A ditz, definitely. A harridan? Nah, more like a vixen or minx.

    I have some reflections on Alignment in this campaign between posts 108 and 109. Let me say here that for this, my first 5e game, I wanted to try a different approach to alignment. Basically I told the players that their job was to come up with a consistent personality and perspective, and that their actions would then dictate their alignment rather than the other way around. Thus, I have my understanding of what their alignment is, but it is not actually known to them.

    I did write an 'alignment' on their sheets based on my assessment of their role-playing:

    Aurora - Chaotic Shrill
    Babshapka - Chaotic Obliged
    Larry - Neutral Grubby
    Shefak - Not from around here
    Thokk - Chaotic Simple
    Tyrius - Blessed Be Pelor
    Umbra - Shrouded in Mystery
    Willa - Loyal Freebooter
    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.&nbsp;

    Last edited by Kirt on Tue Jan 12, 2021 3:52 pm; edited 1 time in total
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Jan 12, 2021 9:59 am  

    DM's note on sources: Dersyth, the Lake of Rhûn, and the Monastery of Pelor are not on Darlene's maps, but the first two appear on those of Anna Meyer. On Darlene's map, Dersyth would be at the edge of the mountains, north of the G in "Grand". I based my description of Dersyth and the Lake of Rhun on, although I expect much of that originally comes from Living Greyhawk sources.

    Post 151: Dersyth to the Lake of Rhun

    2 February, 571 [Readying 11] - Cantrev of Gwyrth Bryn, on road to Dersyth (lowlands)

    Morning’s light shows that they are easily within striking distance of Dersyth, which straddles the Fyn below them, so Willa encourages everyone to take an extra portion at breakfast and finish off the squirrel. They arrive at the gates of the walled city long before lunch, but not before the mists have cleared from the Fyn.

    Willa sets their priorities as; first, finding an inn, second, replacing their gear, and third, learning what they can about the starfall so as to determine whether they will need more serious gear for the mountains. Tyrius adds that he would like to find a temple to Pelor, both to give thanks for their safe arrival, and to see what the local priests might know about the starfall.

    Dersyth is the seat of its cantrev, and is a large walled town, but calling it a city would be a stretch. It doesn’t take them long to find an inn and accommodate their gear and then have a quick lunch. Afterwards, Thokk stays at the inn drinking, with Larry and ostensibly Umbra watching him, but she spends more time in her room than the common room. Tyrius is in the stable, under the direction of Eddard, seeing to the care and maintenance of the hooves and coats of the mules with implements borrowed from the stablehand. Willa, Shefak, Aurora, and Babshapka set out for the town markets.

    Purchased from private funds of Aurora
    6gp Two-person oilcloth tent (Willa)
    2gp Backpack (Willa)
    10gp 50’ silk rope (Willa)
    - Longsword scabbard (Willa - minimal expense)
    - Dagger scabbard (Willa)
    3gp Repair of cold weather gear (Willa)
    1gp Bedroll, new (Willa)
    1gp Vial with well-fitting stopper (Willa)
    2gp Two-person canvas tent (Shefak)
    2gp Backpack (Shefak)
    - Dagger scabbard (Shefak)
    3gp Repair of cold weather gear (Shefak)
    1gp Bedroll, new (Shefak)
    0.2gp Waterskin (Shefak)
    Total: 31.2gp

    Purchased with party funds
    1gp 10 flasks of lamp oil (Willa)
    0.1gp 10 torches (Willa)
    28gp 56 human rations (7 days x 8 people)
    0.7gp 14 mule rations (7 days x 2 mules)
    2.5gp Half a hundredweight of charcoal
    1gp 2 javelins (Thokk)
    5gp Cold weather gear (Tyrius buys new for Umbra)
    10gp 50’ silk rope (Aurora)
    0.5gp 10 pitons (Larry)
    0.05gp Signal whistle (Tyrius)
    5gp Hunting trap (Thokk)
    Total: 53.85gp

    [Notes: The river Fyn does not appear to have any sailed vessel traffic, just poled barges and rowed boats. Willa does not find a belaying pin for sale in the markets of Dersyth.]

    [It is cheaper to buy a new bedroll than to repair the damaged ones. Tyrius gives the two damaged bedrolls to the Temple of Pelor to distribute to the poor.]

    [It is cheaper to repair the damaged cold weather gear than buy new ones.]

    When the quartet have returned from the market, Tyrius sets out and quickly finds the temple of Pelor. As one of the Old Flan Gods, the worship of Pelor is quite strong here in the north of Geoff. Tyrius offers his prayers at the temple and talks to the priests. If he is looking for old lore, they say, he should travel west of Dersyth, up the Fyn road. A day’s journey from the town is a monastery dedicated to Pelor that houses many historical books and records. It is decided that half of the party will go there on the morrow.

    The skies are clear of clouds tonight, although Luna is full. Willa rearranges the watch schedule so that she is up after moonset but before sunrise (Celene is new so she is free of that complication). She is able to make her final and most accurate starfall map. The final area, to the most precise reading of her instruments, is about a 15 mile radius high in the Barrier Peaks. Even in such a relatively small area, how will they find a single, odd rock in that remote wilderness? Willa is hopeful the monks of Pelor will have more information for them, and she gives the map to Tyrius the next morning. Even if they can’t narrow the location, at least they should be able to tell the party what the conditions and weather will be like.

    [ Used 3 pounds of meat - other food at inn, no meat remaining; 56 human rations remaining (purchased)
    No mule rations used, fed at inn; 18 mule rations remaining (14 purchased)
    2 pounds of charcoal used to cook meat; 103 pounds charcoal remaining (50 purchased)]

    3 February, 571 [Readying 12] - Dersyth (lowlands)
    In the morning, Tyrius organizes the expedition to the monastery. Willa has elected to remain in Dersyth and watch those members of the party who might not be as welcome in a place that is sanctified to Pelor; Thokk (a half-orc), Umbra (who seems to draw her power from darkness), and Shefak (a Bakluni). Eddard will of course be accompanying Tyrius, but also Larry (who speaks Flan and seems well-liked by the Gyri they have met so far), Aurora (who wants to know historical information) and Babshapka (Aurora’s bodyguard). Since they plan to be at the monastery before nightfall, the “away team” will be traveling light and leaving the mules in town.

    During the day, Thokk remains at the bar of the inn, with Shefak as his minder, while Umbra largely remains at the inn but occasionally makes forays into the city. Willa visits a few stores and shops to continue replacing their gear and check up on the craftspeople still repairing her and Shefak’s cold weather gear. Willa also talks to several fletchers. They can fit the head of Babshapka’s ‘giant arrow’ to a new shaft, but none of them know how to specifically weaken the shaft so that the arrow will penetrate but then immediately break off. At least, they will not be able to do that without some guesswork, trial, and error. Willa keeps the head for now.

    Dersyth is built on both sides of the Avon Fyn, with one great stone bridge and several lesser wooden ones crossing the flow. The party entered town from the south bank but the trail to the west leaves from the north. The trail runs roughly due west above the river, though the Fyn’s meanders take it sometimes near and sometimes far from the trail. As the away team travels west, they pass more oat fields, sheep fields, and thorps, but no major settlements in all the day. The Fyn itself seems covered in mist for much of the day, and the trail rises slowly into the foothills of the great Barrier Peaks.

    By sundown it is obvious that they will not be reaching the monastery before dark, mostly due to Larry’s slower pace. Still, backlit against the red western sky, they can see a great stone structure on a hill just a few miles ahead that surely must be it. After they pause briefly to rest, Luna rises, and the light of her full body is ample enough to continue on this cloudless night (and they are lacking most of their camping gear, besides, providing strong incentive to reach the monastery before they sleep).

    As they draw closer, they can hear the Fyn coursing in a deep gorge below. The monastery is built at the narrowest part of the valley, where the Fyn is hemmed in by cliffs, and travelers must pass under the stone walls of the monks. Low walls surround fields of wheat and hops, while a great temple is in the center of it all. Lights play along the surface of the temple, almost certainly a magical effect, making it a welcoming beacon in the darkness.

    The monks at the gate question the party briefly, but when they learn that Tyrius is a Paladin of their Order, they welcome the entire party inside (despite a few impolite questions for them from Aurora, designed to reveal whether the whole enterprise is an elaborate ruse).

    While many of the monks are currently at nightly devotional services and some have even returned to their cells, there are a few remaining at the communal dinner table and the party is invited to dine with them - including Eddard, who is served a bowl of hot oatmeal! (The party is surprised when he accepts, as they have never seen him eat before.)

    When Tyrius asks about historical records, the monks tell him that he can visit their library after dinner. When he asks whether Aurora can accompany him, the monks somewhat begrudgingly agree, provided she is under his supervision at all times. Over dinner, the party discovers that the monastery serves as a center of learning and healing, but also brews beer. “We spread Pelor’s light unto the world in many ways,” says one monk. Many of the monks undertake martial training as well. The monastery itself protects the upper reaches of the Fyn and the Lake of Rhun, where both the Council of Druids and the Bardic College of Cainaith are to be found. The monks screen travelers, and allow only those with peaceful intentions to continue on. In ages past, they also kept warlords from attempting to seize the Council or College and thereby claim rulership of all Geoff, but those days of inter-clan rivalry and warfare are long gone, and no one disputes the rule of the Brennin (Grand Duke) anymore.

    Tyrius shows the monks the latest map of the starfall, and asks them what the mountains will be like at that spot. They provide some general guidelines, like “cold, high, and full of humanoids and monsters,” but nothing too specific. All of them recommend that Tyrius speak to the Council of Druids on the Isle of Rhun, for they will surely know such details if anyone does. When Tyrius asks how to ask them, they explain that if the party travels another day up the trail, they will come to the Lake of Rhun. However, the lake is continually covered in mist. Only those whom the druids wish to receive are granted passage through the mists to their home, the Isle of Rhun. Similarly, only those the bards accept are allowed through the mists to their College on Kindler’s Isle. All Tyrius can do is travel to the shore of the lake and petition to speak to the druids - what happens next is up to them.

    Some time after dinner Tyrius and Aurora are admitted to the great library of the monastery. The head librarian is a very old man, but also quite hearty for one of his advanced age. He has heard of no tales of a star falling in the Barrier Peaks specifically. Of course, planets changing in the sky are a portent of change on Oerth, and he knows several tales of stars falling in general or in other places, just not near here.

    When Aurora says that this would have occurred around seven or eight hundred years ago, he shakes his head sadly. At that point, he says, the Gyri did not even have a written language, and although this library likely has the most extensive collection of histories in the land, none of them are older than five hundred years. For tales older than that they will need to seek an oral history, and for that they will need to go to either the Council of Druids or the College of Cainaith, both repositories of the Old History of the Land.

    The monk - librarian is happy to show Aurora all the relevant texts, but she rapidly agrees that none of them are old enough, and none contain specific tales of this fallen star.

    The party are shown guest cells and pass the night peacefully.

    [ Half of party eats at inn, other half has lunch only on trail, using 1 ration; 55 human rations remaining
    No mule rations used, fed at inn; 18 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 103 pounds charcoal remaining]

    4 February, 571 [Readying 13] - party split between Dersyth and Monastery of Pelor (lowlands)
    [Thunderstorm 11pm - 2am]
    [Wandering encounter, Civilized Hills - Patrol, Men]
    Tyrius will not impugn the reputation of a Temple of Pelor by suggesting that they are anything less than safe, so he refuses to set a watch schedule for those who traveled with him. Nevertheless, he remains up after the others have retired to their cells, kneeling in a prayer vigil in a small chapel near their rooms. Some four hours later Babshapka comes to tell him that he has tranced enough, and will remain alert until dawn, should Tyrius wish to get some sleep. Tyrius nods gratefully as he massages the blood back into his legs, stiff and numb from the stone floor.

    The monks are up before dawn, as the entire population of the monastery celebrates a sunrise worship service in the marble-covered main temple. Tyrius drags himself from bed at the last minute to participate as well. After this, and as the rest of the party is waking, the more militant of the monks go outside and have weapons training in the cool morning air, while the aged and infirm or those more skilled in healing and brewing and other arts break their fast with the party. Tyrius opts to train as well, so that by the time the party has washed up, packed, and is ready to be on the road, he has not had anything to eat. If the lack of food and sleep is affecting him, he is good at pretending it doesn’t. As he rides to the head of the company on Eddard, he asks them rhetorically what they are waiting for.

    Eddard is only at a gentle walk but it is not long before Larry is huffing and puffing and struggling to keep up. Tyrius tsks his tongue. “This won’t do, brother Larrenthal. The monks were kind enough to let us in after dark, but I fear that once the the townsfolk close the gates of Dersyth for the night they will not open them for us.” None of them have brought their sleeping rolls, let alone the new tents, and it dipped into the 30’s before the sun rose this morning.

    “Ahm oon et,” says Larry, and casts the Longstrider spell on himself. “Ah’ll see ye a’ lunch,” he says, and trots ahead, faster than at least Aurora could follow, although the others might keep up with him if they had to.

    Not long after Larry is out of sight down the road, a number of figures approach the party from ahead of them. They appear to be a patrol of footmen, very similar in look to those the party met with nearly a week ago, although dressed in a different livery. The serjeant looks at the device on Tyrius’ shield and does not bother to even question them. He does draw forth an object from a large leather bag he carries to show them, though. It is a creature’s head, humanoid, though as large as a boar’s head. It has been rolled in salt to preserve it but still looks the worse for wear and they do not recognize it at first until Babshapka realizes that it is an eiger.

    “Aye, it be an eigre, true eno’,” says the serjent. “A whole troop o’ ‘em war foond on th’ low road t’ New Midwood. If ye be travelin’ east o’ Dersyth, best be on yer guard, eh!” The patrol continues up the road to the monastery.

    [Tyrius, Eddard, Babshapka, Aurora; moving 5 hours at 3mph (Aurora’s pace) = 15 miles
    Larry; moving 3 hours at 3.5mph plus 2 hours at 2.5mph = 15.5 miles]

    The party does indeed catch up to Larry at mid-day, for after three castings of longstrider he has walked at his own pace for the remainder of the morning. Even though they are eating trail food, and have little in the way of preparation or clean-up, he insists on taking a short rest for a full hour. While they eat, he contemplates the Fyn below, still shrouded in mist, but audible through the clear winter air. When they start up again, his natural recovery has allowed him to get those three castings back, and he tells them he will next see them at the gates of Dersyth.

    “Be careful,” says Eddard drolly, “I hear there are eigers on the road.” Larry chuckles as he speeds off.

    They do indeed find Larry again at the gates of Dersyth, trying to persuade the guards to keep the gates open until they arrive. The last rays of the sun glint off Tyrius’ armor as he thanks the guards, but they only scowl back.

    Reunited at the inn, Aurora and Tyrius tell the rest of the party that on the morrow they will be packing for a journey to seek the Council of Druids on the Isle of Rhun.

    [ Half of party eats at the inn, other half has lunch only on the trail, using 1 ration; 54 human rations remaining
    No mule rations used, fed at inn; 18 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 103 pounds charcoal remaining]

    5 February, 571 [Readying 14] - Dersyth (lowlands)
    The party (less Thokk, who is in a drunken stupor) is woken by thunder in the night, and all of them are glad for the roof of the inn overhead. The pouring rain, thunder, and lightning last from before midnight to well after.

    In the morning Willa orders their march once they pass out of the north gate of Dersyth. Since they now have their camping gear with them, there will be no hardship if they fail to reach the monastery by sundown - and less to explain to the monks about the party members that stayed behind last time. Nor does she want Larry off by himself ahead of the party, so they will all travel together at his pace. Today, as they pass through fields of sheep and harvested oats, she will keep Thokk with them, but depending on the terrain she might release him to forage on the morrow.

    The day passes uneventfully. From their camp, they can see the lit monastery on the hill all night, a shining beacon in the darkness.

    [ Breakfast at the inn, 4 human rations used in rest of day; 50 human rations remaining
    One mule ration used, supplemented by forage; 17 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 103 pounds charcoal remaining]

    6 February, 571 [Readying 14] - road from Dersyth to Lake Rhun (lowlands)
    [Light rain 8am-4pm, no affect on movement]
    Dawn comes, but the sunrise is unseen as the skies are overcast. By the time the party has reached the walls of the monastery, a light rain is falling. The river is covered in mists and a fog shrouds the land so that the horizon falls back from the great Barrier Peaks to just the trail immediately in front of them.

    All day the rain falls as they climb higher and higher into the foothills along the trail. An hour after their mid-day rest, the sound of the rushing river in the gorge alongside them fades away, and an hour after that it is replaced by the lonely cries of water birds and the gentle lapping of waves.

    Ahead of them, emerging from the mist, appear low wooden buildings. A small village sits at the shore of a mist-covered lake. Interestingly, it does not appear to be a fishing village - no nets or drying racks are in sight. There is a small dock, but no boats moored.

    The village is quiet, but not deserted. The villagers welcome the party and take them to the “petitioner’s house” - a two-story wooden building with the second floor just a loft accessed by a ladder. There is a stable, a large fireplace with wood already laid in, and simple but comfortable furnishings. It could be mistaken for a country inn, but there seems to be neither staff nor proprietor. The villagers tell the party that they are welcome to stay there as long as they need to. When they ask how long that will be, the villagers explain that only those who the Council of Druids wish may access their isle. A few are admitted right away, some, after a while, most never, until they eventually give up and leave.

    The party unpacks, settles in, and starts a fire in an attempt to dry their clothes. In the late afternoon, a man enters the building without knocking. He has close-cropped hair, hard-worn hands, and a simple robe of sky blue. He asks the party their business, and they reply that they would like to meet with the Council of Druids. He explains that he is a representative of the Council, and that they can state their business to him for the Council to determine whether they wish to hear it in person or not. Aurora is hesitant, but Willa forges ahead, and says that Larry would like to know whether the druids of these parts can teach him any spells he does not know. The man seems taken aback by the question, and asks does Larry not have a master? Does he not belong to a circle? Who taught him before, and why did they stop?

    “Ah war taught by a bar an’ raised inna cave,” says Larry simply. “Until ‘e said ‘e ‘adn’t nae more t’ teach me an’ Ah lef’.”

    After an awkward silence, Tyrius interjects. “He was accepted as a novice candidate by the Circle of the Great Druid in the Dreadwood, but he...did not agree with their teaching methods or priorities. He is, mostly, self-taught, as it were...”

    The man raises an eyebrow. “If that is your only business with the Council...” he says, in a tone that suggests that they are wasting their time.

    “Also, I am an historian,” says Aurora quickly. “And I am seeking information about an ancient event - a star falling in these parts. It is older than any written histories, but we were told that the Council has oral histories that go back further.”

    “We ‘ave a map,” says Willa bluntly. “O’ ther mountains, whar we think ther star fell. We’d be wantin’ t’ ken what ther weather be like oop yonder.”

    “I see,” the man says politely, although as he looks from one to the other of them it is not clear that he does, in fact. “I will present your petition to the Council. You will have their answer on the morrow.”

    A few of the party follow the man out of the building and down to the lake, where a single, oarless, rowboat is now tied to the dock. The man enters the boat, unties it, makes a mystic pass of his hands, and mumbles a few words. The thick mists of the lake part and the boat moves away from the dock, seemingly of its own accord. The mists close again behind the boat, like a curtain in a theatre.

    The rain lets up soon after, and the fog onshore disperses, but the mists over the water remain thick throughout the afternoon and night.

    [ 7 human rations used; 43 human rations remaining
    One mule ration used, supplemented by forage; 16 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 103 pounds charcoal remaining]
    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.&nbsp;
    Adept Greytalker

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    Posts: 422
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    Tue Jan 12, 2021 2:37 pm  

    Kirt wrote:

    A ditz, definitely. A harridan? Nah, more like a vixen or minx.

    I have some reflections on Alignment in this campaign between posts 108 and 109. Let me say here that for this, my first 5e game, I wanted to try a different approach to alignment. Basically I told the players that their job was to come up with a consistent personality and perspective, and that their actions would then dictate their alignment rather than the other way around. Thus, I have my understanding of what their alignment is, but it is not actually known to them.

    I did write an 'alignment' on their sheets based on my assessment of their role-playing:

    Aurora - Chaotic Shrill
    Babshapka - Chaotic Obliged
    Larry - Neutral Grubby
    Mathias - Neutral Bargainer w/ LE tendencies
    Shefak - Not from around here
    Thokk - Chaotic Simple
    Tyrius - Blessed Be Pelor
    Umbra - Shrouded in Mystery
    Willa - Loyal Freebooter

    Who's Mathias? Don't you mean Barnabas?
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Jan 12, 2021 3:55 pm  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    Kirt wrote:

    I did write an 'alignment' on their sheets based on my assessment of their role-playing:

    Aurora - Chaotic Shrill
    Babshapka - Chaotic Obliged
    Larry - Neutral Grubby
    Mathias - Neutral Bargainer w/ LE tendencies
    Shefak - Not from around here
    Thokk - Chaotic Simple
    Tyrius - Blessed Be Pelor
    Umbra - Shrouded in Mystery
    Willa - Loyal Freebooter

    Who's Mathias? Don't you mean Barnabas?

    Indeed. We lost Barnabus before we were playing online, so I don't have his character sheet - I think he may have been listed as "Chaotic Larcenous". And Mathias...well, that was unintended foreshadowing, as I just got ahead of myself. Mathias will join the party when they get to the starfall.
    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.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Posts: 774
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    Wed Jan 20, 2021 8:08 am  
    Post 152: A Druid of the Council of Rhun

    Post 152: A Druid of the Council of Rhun

    7 February, 571 [Readying 16] - Lake of Rhun (5000' elevation)
    The party is glad of the large fireplace and ample wood, for the night outside drops into the 20’s - the first time it has been below freezing since three weeks ago in the Stark Mounds. Larry and Thokk figure they are already higher in elevation than the peaks of the Mounds and they are only at the base of the Barriers and will surely have a lot higher to climb.

    In the morning, after breakfast, Willa dispatches several party members to the water’s edge. The day is clear and cold but the mists lie just as thick over the lake as before. Suddenly the mists part and the same boat is visible, piloted by the same man in the sky blue robe, but now with a passenger.

    The new man climbs easily onto the dock and then strides ashore. There is a grace and suppleness to his movements that belie the deep wrinkles on his face. He has a long white beard, which flows down the front of his robes, themselves of a deep, royal blue.

    No sooner has the man stepped foot on shore but he is approached by animals - swallows and sparrows from under the eaves of the houses, mice from under doors and through holes in the walls, a mountain hare from beyond the edge of the village. They cluster around him, following him expectantly as he walks forward but not getting under foot. He nods at the party members on shore, but does not speak to them or even pause as he moves briskly towards their borrowed lodgings.

    When he reaches the building, he finally speaks, but to the creatures, not the party. Lowering himself to one knee, he tells the mice, “Search th’ buildin’ - make sure thar are no ears aboot.” The mice scurry under the door and into holes - those inside hear them crawling within the walls and in the loft above. Standing, the man addresses the birds. “See tha’ we are nae disturbed,” he says, and they take flight, circling the house. They ignore the party, but any villagers who accidently stray too close are immediately set upon. “An’ ye…” he muses, looking down at the hare waiting beneath him, “ye can warm me feet.” For indeed, he is barefoot in the hoarfrozen grass.

    He enters the house without knocking, takes a seat without asking leave. The hare curls up on top of his feet. He welcomes the party to the lake (rather than them welcoming him to the house), and asks who they are and what they would have of the Council.

    Once everyone is inside and the door closed, Willa introduces the party, each in turn, and he nods at all of them and squints. When she finishes, he says, “Well, ye’ve certainly got eno’ magic aboot ye.”

    “Do you know the mage Nholast?” opens Aurora.

    “Cannae say as ah do,” he replies, “‘tho th’ nime sounds Suel to me ear.”

    “Indeed,” agrees Aurora. “Nholast of the Suel House of Linth. This mage was a general to the wizard Asberdies, who ruled the Yeomanry.”

    The man’s eyes narrow. “‘Rruled?’ More like ‘e crrrushed th’ folk o’ th’ Yeomanry ‘neath ‘his tyrannical boot, an’ used ‘is fell magicks t’ enslave th’ lot o’ ‘em.”

    “So him you know,” agrees Aurora. “Well, anyway, we were in his servant Nholast’s tower, one of them anyway, and found a diary. Some seven hundred fifty years or so ago, he recorded a star falling from the sky and landing near here. He planned to use the metal in the star to create a mighty weapon, but fortunately it seems he met his end before he had a chance.”

    “An’ we be hopin’ tha’ ye might help us t’ find yon star,” says Willa. After a pause, she adds, “t’ make sure summit so powerful hain’t fallen inter ther wrong ‘ands an’ all.”

    “Do you know of any such histories of falling stars?” finishes Aurora.

    “Och, aye, o’ course,” he says. “Long, long ago - long afore th’ Gyri larned t’ write, when only the scops kept histories in song, thar appeared a star in th’ sky brighter than any t’others. Over th’ course o’ a few nights, et grew brighter an’ brighter, until ‘twere as bright as Luna ‘erself an’ could be seen in th’ day. Then it fell t’ Oerth. The stories don’t say whar, but they do say tha’ the whole Oerth shook, ‘twas a roar like thoonder tha’ lasted fer hours, an’ all th’ mountains ‘twere afire.”

    The party, now sobered, remains quiet a moment, until Willa ventures, “But ye dinnae ken whar it lies?”

    The man shakes his head and shrugs.

    “I ‘ave a map,” Willa says, pulling the map case out of her backpack and ignoring the concerned look of Aurora. She unrolls the map and spreads it out on a table near the druid. “This be whar we t’ink ther star might be. What can ye tell us aboot yon mountain?”

    The man rises to look at the map, the hare jumping up but then docile at his side. It takes him a moment to work out the scale and scheme of the map - but when he realizes what it shows, his eyes widen. He sits back in his chair pensively, his hands fumbling as if looking for a pipe or other device he has not brought along. Finally, he nods as if deciding something, and leans forward again.

    “Somewhar deep in th’ Barrier Peaks thar be a caive,” he begins. “A caive tha’ be th’ source o’ many a strange crrreature. Th’ Council hae kenned this fer generations, an’ we even hae a name fer it - Th’ Unoerthly Caive. The crrreatures tha’ coom from th’ caive be unlak any ‘tother thing ye ever seen - they be doonright unnatural.”

    “Interesting,” says Aurora, “but what does that have to do with the starfall?”

    “Yer map o’ th’ starfall be centered right upon th’ Caive. Wha’ if they be woon in th’ saime? Wha’ if these crreatures be so unoerthly because they dinnae be o’ th’ Oerth?”

    “What be ye proposin’?” asks Willa.

    “We can ‘elp woon atother,” he says. “Th’ Council will show ye exactly ‘ow t’ get t’ yer starfall, an’ ye can tell us wha’ lies in th’ caive.”

    “But if you have known exactly where it is for generations,” says Aurora dubiously, “why haven’t you investigated it before?”

    The man explains that the Council’s affairs are those of Geoff - the vastness of the Barrier Peaks are not in their purview, strictly speaking, although the tendency of strange creatures to leave the cave every few years and create problems in Geoff makes it of interest to them. They have, occasionally, over the generations, sent druids to investigate - typically brash young types with something to prove. Many have come back without locating it, turned away by the vast, frozen peaks. Others have not come back at all - whether they have been lost to the mountains, or the cave itself, he cannot say. However, he says that this party seems powerful, numerous, and well-equipped; he believes that they can handle the dangers of the cave and return to tell the Council what is producing the monsters, and hopefully, how they can be stopped.

    Aurora, perhaps overly excited at meeting someone who knows of Asberdies, is eager to plumb the druid for more lore. “You know,” she interrupts, “even though Nholast told Asberdies he was his loyal follower, he actually wasn’t. At least in his diary, he mentioned that really he was a servant of ‘The Master’.” The druid does not react, but Aurora continues. “He even mentions that he was looking for Relics of the Whispered One.”

    At this last reference the druid’s face darkens, and he bolts upright. Startled, the hare dashes off and hides behind the party’s mule packs. “Tha’,” he thunders, “is an ancient evil best lef’ unspoken. If ye value yer lives, an’ those o’ yer mates, ye willnae pursue tha' farther.”

    Even imprudent Aurora is cowed by his vehemence, at least momentarily. “I...I did not mean to offend...or seek more danger,” she stammers, as she recovers, “I merely wished to ascertain whether this cave, and the starfall, might somehow be connected to the...the one we should not name.”

    The lightning in the man’s eyes dims. “Nay, nay, there be nae connection atwixt th’ two.”

    Aurora approaches the druid, turning her body so that she can hide from Umbra the fact that she is pointing with her thumb at the shadow elf. She silently mouths the words “Whispered One?,” signals Umbra again, and raises her eyebrows as if making a question.

    Willa grabs Aurora by her shoulder, pulls her back a step, and scowls at her.

    The druid shakes his head. “Whar ye be gang be dangerous eno’, without th’ ancient evil. Ye must all be o’ woon mind, without dissention, if ye be coomin’ back atall.”

    Willa clears her throat and looks pointedly at Aurora.

    “Oh, we’re of one mind,” agrees Aurora. “Most assuredly.” She turns her back on the druid and gestures to the party to gather around her in a huddle, even Umbra. “I just meant to ask,” she whispers conspiratorially, “whether he knows anything about the...the place that made Umbra faint last time.”

    “You can say the Spidered Throne in front of me, enchantress,” says Umbra dryly. “And we will speak of this later.”

    Aurora turns back around. “We were just wondering whether any of this was connected to the Spidered Throne?”

    The druid shudders and says that has nothing to do with the Unoerthly Cave - but is also something you should not seek.

    “So how do we be navigatin’ t’ ther cave?” asks Willa. “Ye ‘ave a better map than this one?”

    “Maps, feh,” the druid disparages. “Ye think ye can circumscribe th’ Oerth Mother Beory with paper an’ calc’lations? Ye think tha’ drawin’ a place in ink says anything aboot the place an’ its life? Nae, nae, I dinnae hae a map fer ye. Bu’ I can tell yer druid th’ names o’ the peaks an’ valleys an’ streams an’ forests twixt ‘ere an’ th’ caive. Nae the names ye call ‘em an’ write on yer “map”, bu’ the names they call themselves an’ t’ which ther own spirits answer! Yer druid can talk t’ th’ spirits an’ ask directions along th’ way.”

    In addition, the druid explains to them that there will be two principle routes to choose from. One would continue north along the trail they used to come here, pass through the lands of the Dwarven Clan Stonereaver, then follow the last traces of the Upper Fyn high into the mountains, before summiting a high mountain pass and coming down on the Unoerthly Cave from above.

    The other route would take them south and west around the bottom of the Lake of Rhun, up a different river valley high into the Barriers, across a number of rugged mountain ranges and finally a vast snowfield before coming upon the Cave from below.

    Shefak asks about the weather to expect. He replies that it will be below freezing during the day, and far below freezing (below zero) at night. The greatest danger, however, will be the wind. While they are down in the valleys it will be strong, but when they need to cross ridges and on exposed faces it will be downright dangerous. The air will be thin, and they will be out of breath. They will need a heat source to keep their water from freezing - he warns them that eating snow will not keep them from dehydration and death.

    As the druid explains all the hazards of the journey, Willa’s expression grows more and more sour. “An’ what be in it fer us?” she asks, finally.

    The druid shrugs, saying that they came to him, asking about the starfall. He is giving them the precise location of it, in return for them investigating and reporting back about the cave. It seems a fair trade - if they want to try to find the location of the starfall from their map alone, they are welcome to try.

    “Might be a fair trade fer ye,” says Willa to Aurora. “Wha’ do the rest of us want wi’ starmetal?”

    “Oh, Willa,” chides Aurora. “Always so suspicious and negative. This starmetal is incredibly valuable. I’m sure it will have attracted monsters with treasures and such. We can keep those, right?”

    The druid indicates that indeed the party is welcome to whatever they find or discover, so long as they can explain what they found in the Cave to the Council.

    Willa is not satisfied, but she does turn to the more practical - asking the druid about what they will need in terms of supplies and equipment, such as snowshoes? And where they might get such gear.

    The man says snowshoes would just be a burden except perhaps in the snowfield, but ‘boot spikes’ (crampons) would be of high utility. They will need fur-lined sleeping bags if they plan on resting at night - after examining their cold-weather clothes he thinks they are likely to be sufficient to move in the day. Alternatively they could sleep in the day in what they have and move at night, but then they would need better clothes rather than better bed rolls. They will certainly each need individual tents, or at least one large pavilion for all of them and their mounts. The mules are hearty enough that they can take the cold while moving, but they will need blankets, or to be kept in a tent and out of the wind, when they are resting. And of course, the mules will need liquid water as well. He recommends that the party purchase either a brass or iron camp stove and coal - actual, mineral coal, not the charcoal they have with them.

    As to where they can find all of this, he suggests the Dwarves - they frequently travel in the mountains, and are skilled craftsfolk besides. When Willa asks whether the dwarves would be willing to offer them a fair deal, he says that although they are a proud and independent people, they are nominally under the rule of the Brennin of Gyruff, and maintain friendly relations with the Council. He can write them a letter of introduction that will insure they receive fair treatment, so long as they behave. As to what “behaving” means, he warns them to not ask questions, especially about their mines or livelihoods or family, to not speak until spoken to, to not haggle or show distrust, and generally to mind their own business.

    While most of the party seems ready to agree, Willa is still convinced they are getting the short end of the stick, and asks what else the druid might be able to offer them. After a bit more negotiation, he offers to teach Larry a spell to protect them from the cold, provided he is able to cast spells of third level. When Larry says that he is (his favorite being lightning bolt) the man nods and says that it is unusual to see a free druid so powerful - and that Larry may want to see about joining some Circle or other at some point. Larry scoffs at the idea.

    The Druid first teaches Larry the names of all the spirits of the land he will need to talk to to find the Cave (which takes the rest of the morning), and then, when he is sure Larry can recall them all, he teaches him the prayer he will need to call upon the spirits of the mountain for Protection from Cold, which takes much of the afternoon. Finally, Aurora lends him parchment, quill, and ink, and he writes out a letter, in both Common script and Dwarven runes (although none in the party, even Larry, can read the latter). It informs the Dwarves of Clan Stonereaver that the party (and it lists them all by name) are acting on behalf of the Council, and are to be treated as allies in their endeavor.

    The druid takes his leave of the party and returns across the lake.

    [ 7 human rations used; 36 human rations remaining
    No mule rations used, forage all day; 16 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 103 pounds charcoal remaining]
    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.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Jan 26, 2021 7:46 am  
    Post 153: The Lake of Rhun to Moradinath-Mor

    By far the best source for maps of Greyhawk comes from the work of Anna B Meyer. I used for the party's travel. I would highly encourage any DM to use Anna's work, and anyone with the means to do so to support her Patreon at

    Post 153: The Lake of Rhun to Moradinath-Mor

    8 February, 571 [Readying 17] - Lake of Rhun (5000' elevation)
    [Clear; low 23, high 43]

    The party leaves the village by the lake at first light, when it is still below freezing and the grass crunches underfoot. Thokk lags behind, with instructions to hunt for them once he is well away from the village itself. By late morning the sun has melted the hoarfrost and the day warms - but not as much as it did in the green valleys below, along the Lower Fyn. The first stretch away from the village is through dense fir forest, but by some two hours out of the village they emerge from the trees and the trail follows the banks of the upper Fyn. This river is not clouded by the mist that covered the lake or the lower Fyn and visibility is good, although increasingly limited by the narrowness of the river valley itself. Soon they are walking at the water’s edge in a steep, rocky canyon, with the trail climbing most of the time.

    Willa reckons that it is as cold a day as they have felt since the “cold spell” on the Javan that set the merchants to speculating about giant raids. She is privately glad they are keeping warm by walking, and not immobile on the deck of a ship (although she would not admit that). With the blessing of the Great Mother Sea Cow, she will survive this foolishness and live to see the warm southern ocean again.

    Shortly after their mid-day trail meal they come to a stone bridge over the Fyn, where the trail they are on crosses from the northern to the southern bank. The stonework on the bridge is elaborate, with four life-size statues of dwarves holding axes at the corners. It is easy to surmise that they are crossing into the land of the dwarves, although no guards greet them. Aurora, at Willa’s request, sends Buckbeak back to find Thokk. She doesn’t want him hunting in the lands of Clan Stonereaver, so he is recalled to join the party. Just after they cross the bridge together, he spots a group of mountain goats moving along the cliff face over the trail, and despite his protestations is not allowed to go after them.

    In mid-afternoon, at what should be the warmest part of the day, it is barely above forty degrees, and the sun has passed from view beyond the walls of the steep canyon, although it will remain light for several more hours. Just an hour before their evening camp they cross the Fyn again, this time at an even more elaborately carved and decorated stone bridge.

    [ 7 human rations used; 29 human rations remaining
    1 mule ration used; supplemented by forage; 15 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 103 pounds charcoal remaining]

    9 February, 571 [Readying 18] - Trail to Moradinath-Mor (7500' elevation)
    [Clear; low 18, high 40]

    The next day is spent moving along the trail, which now stays entirely on the northern side of the Upper Fyn for all twenty-five miles traveled. Sometimes they are in narrow rocky canyons right at the water’s edge, sometimes the southern wall of the valley pulls back a mile or more and there is fertile meadows that could be grazed by mules, goats, or sheep (and some evidence that it has been, though they see no sign of herds, flocks, or inhabitants at the moment). The northern wall of the canyon remains steep and close, sloping up to the great snow-covered Barrier Peaks above them.

    The trail continues to gain elevation all day and it gets noticeably cooler as they go. For the last five miles, the trail leaves the river valley and begins making its way up the northern wall. Their camp this night is on a narrow ledge, scarcely three times wider than the trail itself. It appears that they will cross over a ridge and be able to move down into a valley on the morrow, but Willa does not wish to try the crossing in the dark, and the others are tired, sore, out of breath in the thin air, and cold enough to stop for the evening.

    [ 7 human rations used; 22 human rations remaining
    1 mule ration used, supplemented by forage; 14 mule rations remaining
    No charcoal used; 103 pounds charcoal remaining]
    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.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Feb 02, 2021 12:29 pm  
    Post 154: Moradinath-Mor

    DM's note on sources: Moradinath-Mor is not on Darlene's maps, but appears on those of Anna Meyer. I based my description on, although I expect much of that originally comes from Living Greyhawk sources.

    Post 154: Moradinath-Mor
    10 February, 571 [Readying 19] - Pass above Moradinath-Mor (11,000 feet elevation)
    [Light snow 1am-10am, sleet 10am-12pm, drizzle 12pm-3pm; low 15, high 33]

    Shortly after midnight, by the cloud-obscured light of Luna’s last quarter (Celene being new), those on watch see the finest of snowflakes drifting down. They melt rapidly after landing on the faces or sleeping rolls or hairy mule backs of those in the open, but accumulate on the stone trail and on the sloping roofs of the two new tents.

    The breeze that heralds the morning rapidly whisks the snow away from the high pass, and although it continues to fall it does not build up on the trail. After a quick, cold, breakfast the party is on its way. They have barely started out when they find themselves tired and gasping for breath - the air here must be very thin. Even Thokk, raised at these elevations, is out of breath - he must have grown accustomed to the lowlands in the last ten months. Only Larry seems unaffected, and for once he is easily able to keep pace with the party.

    Fortunately they do not have to go far before they summit the high pass and are able to look down on the vast valley below. Before them, in a wide bowl several miles across, is what they are seeking - the city of Moradinath-Mor, the city of the dwarves. At first glance they are overwhelmed by the number of walls, before realizing that most of the valley floor is paddocks. In the summer the valley must be lush with grass, but now it is all brown and frozen, though still divided into innumerable fields with gates and styles. At the outermost limits the rock walls are simply low piles of rough stones, cairn-walls such as one might build by collecting the rocks of the field where they lie. Closer to the center of the valley, the walls are of worked stone, squared and flattened, higher and straighter, though still enclosing open fields and the occasional stone barn or silo. By the time the walls of the city proper are reached, they are not only of worked stone, but every available surface is decoratively carved and linteled. The walls are high and cannot be seen over in many places. The city is full of statuary, gates, colonnades, arcades, porticoes, arches, plazas, amphitheaters, coliseums, domes, towers, basilicas, and keeps. It is as if hundreds of stonemasons had labored for generations to make every possible stone structure, but all balanced and in perfect proportion, not random or haphazard, but following a grand plan and all growing higher and finer into the very center of the city.

    As they travel down the side of the mountain into the valley, they realize that the city itself appears deserted. No beasts move amongst the hundreds of empty paddocks. No people are seen in the open streets and squares of the city. Is this a ghost town, an abandoned marvel? Then someone points out a thin column of smoke rising against the leaden sky and falling snow. Soon they can pick out dozens of places where discreet or even invisible chimneys are venting smoke into the sky. The city is not abandoned - but there is no one, man or beast, out of doors or above ground.

    They move through the outskirts of the city, where the trail becomes a broad flagstone road leading through the paddocks. While the valley floor is creased with ridges or rent with gullies, the road stays smooth and level, crossing over numerous stone bridges, cutting through embankments, occasionally lowering down long ramps with just the slightest hint of a grade. What they took from a distance to be barns and silos often are - but sometimes are not. Rather, they are occasionally stone bunkers and towers whose walls are perforated with crossbow slits. Similar to the archer’s nests in Talbaire, these have no visible doors, but unlike them they are large enough for whole squads of archers rather than a single bowman. Sometimes the bunkers have large iron plates completely shuttering wide, recessed windows. What waits behind those? Scorpions? More than once the more perceptive of the party hear noises from the bunkers and feel that they are being watched. Aurora suggests hailing the occupants, but Willa reminds her that the druid of the council said they were not to speak until spoken to. Throughout the morning the party continues, slowly making their way into the center of the city.

    By the time the walls and buildings rise so high around them so that they cannot see the rest of the city, they begin to notice entryways to the underground. Darkened archways open on stairs descending below street level. Blind alleys end in broad, descending ramps that become tunnel mouths. They even pass a wide platform, large enough to fit them all at once, surrounded by scaffolding with ropes and pulleys suggesting that the whole thing could be lowered into the earth, like a huge version of the dumbwaiter-car in Castle Ravenloft. And the noises - a low hum of distant activity, a buzz of muted voices, the faint echoes of hammers or machinery.

    Finally the road they are on enters a large, circular plaza. It exits through the opposite side, but all around the plaza are two and three-story buildings with numerous doors and windows, each one closed and shuttered.

    Halfway through the plaza, clustered outside one of the buildings, is a group of dwarves. Four of them are in highly-polished scale mail from head to toe, with visored helms shut so that the only living parts of them that may be seen are their eyes and beards - everything else is covered in articulated metal. They bear two-handed swords, fully as long as they are tall. The fifth dwarf is dressed in fine furs and leathers, with a woolen robe of deepest blue closed with a silver neck chain. With a few hisses from Willa the party forms up in a straighter line, and approaches wordlessly at a slow, dignified pace. They walk up to two-sword’s lengths from the dwarves and then stop. Tyrius, at the fore, dismounts, removes his helmet, and bows his head.

    The unarmored dwarf speaks in a deep, booming voice that several of them recognize as the Dwarven tongue, but none of them understand. They don’t respond. He speaks again, this time in Common. “Welcome, strangers. Welcome, travelers. Welcome to Moradinath-Mor.”

    Tyrius says, in perhaps the simplest introductory speech he has ever given, “Thank you.” He pulls out, unrolls, and holds forth the parchment given them by the druid of Lake Rhun.

    The unarmored dwarf takes the parchment and reads it slowly, looking at each of them in turn as if checking their number and appearance carefully against the descriptions on the parchment. Finished, he rolls up the parchment and, rather than return it, tucks it away. “You would stay the night?” he asks.

    “We would, gratefully,” says Tyrius, “and…” At the unrequested addition, the dwarf’s eyes narrow and Willa’s go wide in alarm. “...and, were it acceptable, we would purchase supplies.”

    There is a long and awkward silence before the dwarf finally gives a derisive snort. “So be it,” he says flatly.

    Without another word spoken, the dwarf leads the party across the plaza to one of the buildings. Opening the door, they find what looks to be an empty inn. There is a kitchen, a common or dining room, a suite of connected bedrooms above and below, and a stable that has a broad exterior door and a small interior door opening on one of the bedrooms. The last room he shows them has a hand-pump for drawing water from some unknown source, a coal bin, and a coal stove with bronze water troughs on top. The troughs empty into a basin in the floor. Lined with polished stone and accessed by stairs, the basin is large enough to fit two of them at a time. It isn’t until the dwarf has left the room that Aurora first works out what it is (a heated bath!) and whispers “Yessss!” in his wake.

    Once the various stoves and hearths of the inn have been running a while the whole place warms up, while outside, the snow has turned to sleet with the warmth of mid-day. The party has taken off their cold weather gear, bathed and changed into their travel clothes, and had their lunch of rations by the time the first tradesmen show up. Apparently the party is to wait at the inn while the custom comes to them. Throughout the afternoon dwarves arrive; some with pack mules, some with hand carts, all bearing goods. The first bring a general assortment of wilderness and adventuring gear, but after the party tells them what they are really interested in, the subsequent arrivals have inventories that are better suited to their desires.

    In all, the party purchases:

    10gp A pavilion tent
    80gp Eight fur-lined sleeping rolls
    10gp A double-sided wolf fur blanket
    84gp One-hundred twelve human rations (two weeks for eight people)
    3gp Twenty-eight mule rations (two weeks for two mules)
    10gp A small bronze camp stove and a copper kettle
    5gp “Cold weather gear” for one person
    28gp Leather-and-iron crampons for seven
    Two signal whistles -
    10gp Fifty pounds of mineral coal

    Total: 240gp

    The pavilion has a central pole that is ironwood, light and very strong, with oil-treated canvas sides, hemp rope guys, and iron-shod ironwood stakes. Packed in end-to-end, all eight of the sleeping rolls will fit under it, as well as the mules, although they will have one of the tent-sides more-or-less draped over the beasts and those sleeping closest to them will be in danger of being trod or shat upon.

    The sleeping rolls have water-proof leather exteriors and a variety of furs lining their insides - they are soft and quite warm. Sized for dwarves, they are over-wide for some of the party and a bit short for the humans, such that they come up to mid-chest rather than neck. Most of Thokk’s torso sticks out of his, the longest, so he is also sold a double-sided leather and wolf-fur blanket that he can wrap around the upper half of his body.

    The people rations are mostly familiar - dried fruits, meats, and nuts. In place of hard tack and cheese, however, they have narrow strips of leathery brown material the dwarves call “mushroom jerky”.

    The mule rations are mostly rolled oats lightly sweetened with molasses.

    The bronze camp stove is sized for coal, not charcoal, with a tiny door that opens and closes.

    Although Umbra has been using her sandals and emerald gown since they found her, and it is still without stain, tear, or fray, Tyrius insists on buying cold-weather gear, leather and furs, sized for her.

    Leather harnesses with small, sharp iron knobs and points (similar to the cestes used by pit fighters) are purchased that can be tied onto their footwear to make crampons. Willa finds the design overly-complicated and asks whether they don’t just have footwear already incorporating the spikes, like hobnailed boots. The dwarves chuckle and say no - if the iron is part of the shoe itself, it will transmit the cold to the inside of their shoes and their feet will get frostbite! They buy seven sets - Larry insists on going barefoot, even over the predicted ice.

    Two shrill little carved soapstone whistles are given to Tyrius as trinkets without charge.

    The hard pieces of mineral coal are said to burn twice as hot as charcoal for the weight, but are much denser and so fit in a bag even smaller than the bag of charcoal. A few pieces should be able to heat the bronze stove enough to warm a meal or heat their tent.

    After the party tells the first dwarven merchants that they would like to pay in gems, a craftsman arrives with a jeweler’s eyepiece, a small precision balance, a curious lantern with colored glass filter plates, and other strange tools. Babshapka lays out all 39 gems the party recovered in the Tower of Nholast, and the dwarf assesses them as follows:

    0.5gp very small jet
    0.5gp very small topaz
    1gp small chalcedony
    1gp large lapis lazuli
    1gp very small amethyst
    1.2gp rhodochrosite
    1.2gp huge moss agate
    1.4gp very large azurite
    2gp very small garnet
    2gp very small peridot
    5gp small spinel
    5gp huge azurite
    5gp huge malachite
    5gp very large banded agate
    5gp chrysoprase
    7gp very large tiger eye
    8gp very large turquoise
    10gp large citrine
    10gp large sardonyx
    10gp very large malachite
    10gp sardonyx
    10gp garnet
    10gp coral
    35gp large jade
    50gp peridot
    50gp huge hematite
    50gp very small black sapphire.
    50gp very large sardonyx
    50gp large coral
    50gp very small diamond
    50gp very small ruby
    100gp large black pearl
    100gp large spinel
    100gp star ruby
    100gp huge lapis lazuli
    100gp very large chalcedony
    100gp small oriental emerald
    100gp very small ruby
    500gp very large jet

    Knowing that they will not have this chance again in any human city, Aurora is at first excited at the prospect of using the note from the druid to get a “fair deal” and changing all of their gems into coin. Willa quickly reminds her that even the smallest and most meager gems are lighter than coins, and they are heavily-laden enough as it is. Perhaps they can consider selling their gems upon their return from the Unoerthly Cave, should they pass by this city again.

    It is thus decided that they will part with only enough gems to equal the 240gp in gear that they are buying. But this could be just a few of the larger gems, or any number of the smaller ones. Willa initially argues that they should get rid of as many as the smaller gems as they can, to lighten the load. Aurora counters that if they are sure they are getting a fair deal here, they should instead just use two or three of the large gems, since they will “keep their value” and if the party are forced to change gems somewhere else, they will lose less upon exchanging small ones than large. Tyrius adds his thoughts to the mix. In the end, they decide to go with Aurora’s plan of using the highest-value gems, and hand over...

    100gp large spinel
    100gp huge lapis lazuli
    50gp large coral

    ...and accept ten gold lions in Geoffian coins in change. Aurora also carefully records the values given by the dwarf for the other gems and even has him put his mark on the paper, as possible leverage in future dealings with gem buyers.

    The relative warmth of the afternoon has turned the sleet to drizzle. By mid-afternoon, that too has ceased and the skies slowly clear - the temperature drops outside and a thin layer of skim ice forms on the wet cobbles of the plaza. Larry says that as high as this alpine valley is, they will be going higher on the morrow - soon even the relative heat of mid-day will be below freezing.

    While it remains dry outside, Willa insists on packing the mules this afternoon and putting them through their paces, formalizing the packs today rather than tomorrow in the morning when it could be wet again. They start by packing the pavilion tent, all one hundred pounds of it, on Randy. As he walks around the plaza, laden, with Eddard beside him, the warhorse shakes his head. “Nope, that’ll make him slower than the rest of the party”. The mule can easily bear the load, but at the cost of a reduced pace. A few flasks of oil are moved to Larry, some rations are moved to Andy, and finally Eddard is satisfied that Randy will be able to keep up. However, they have not yet added any of the other gear they just purchased. There will need to be a drastic reduction in what they are carrying to make room for all of the new gear.

    They can replace their lowland sleeping rolls with the fancy new fur-lined bags. They can leave the charcoal behind as they have coal. But they will still need to shed something to carry all of the rations they have purchased…

    As they are enjoying their evening meal, a dwarf shows up asking for payment for the inn, at one gold for each of them. Willa turns this around in her head. “An ‘ow much would it be fer us ta keep some t’ings ‘ere until we return?”

    The dwarf is taken aback by the request, but has to admit that there is not much custom in the winter, and that it will not be much of a bother for the gear to be stowed in one bedroom of the closed building. Once he is assured that it won’t contain live animals or food or anything else that could go bad, he agrees to let them store their things for 1 gold lion a day, plus a promise that they will use the inn again for at least one night upon their return.

    Once they know that their things can be stored in relatively safety, the party finds other things they can shed besides sleeping rolls and charcoal, principally the three heavy tomes carried by Aurora, Thokk, and Andy. After all, sighs Aurora, they needed the diary and the book of star positions to find the starfall, but now Larry will be doing that for them.

    They leave behind:
    Andy Book of Infernal Bargains (20lb), History of the Good Hills (5lb), 65 pounds of Charcoal, 5 lowland bedrolls

    Randy 38 pounds of charcoal
    Umbra: Bedroll
    Aurora: Diary of Nholast (20lb)
    Shefak: Bedroll
    Thokk: Star book (20lb)
    Willa: Bedroll

    [DM’s note: All of party members are now at less than two pounds from being encumbered. Andy’s pack is at 410.6 pounds, and Randy’s is at 394 pounds (the most they can carry and still move is 420 pounds). Both of the mules are heavily encumbered, and will be moving at 20 feet per turn and will have disadvantage on ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws that use Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution. The party will use rations and coal from the mules' packs first, eventually dropping them to encumbered and removing the penalties.]

    The party turns in, eager to be off on the morrow.

    [ 7 human rations used, 15 remaining, 112 purchased; total 127
    2 mule rations used, 12 remaining, 28 purchased; total 40
    No charcoal or coal used; 50 pounds coal purchased]
    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.&nbsp;
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    Tue Feb 09, 2021 1:44 pm  
    Post 155: The Orcs of Gruumsh

    DM's Notes:
    By far the best source for maps of Greyhawk comes from the work of Anna B Meyer. I used for the party's travel. I would highly encourage any DM to use Anna's work, and anyone with the means to do so to support her Patreon at

    Post 155: The Orcs of Gruumsh
    11 February, 571 [Readying 20] - Moradinath-Mor (c. 11,000 feet elevation)
    [Light snow 11am-5pm, foot travel at 3/4 normal]
    [Low 18, high 31]
    [Randy starts the day with 394lb, Andy 387lb; both heavily encumbered]

    The party leaves at first light, but finds an escort of dwarves waiting outside the inn when they open the doors. Whether they are the same individuals as before or different is impossible to tell, for they are likewise clad in gleaming scale mail with nothing visible but their eyes and beards. Neither do they speak, and the dwarf who spoke to them the previous day is not to be seen. They take the party silently north through the city, and out to the edge of the furthest paddock before stopping without so much as a fare-thee-well.

    This side of the valley has no road, not even a trail, but Larry meditates for a bit and then says that the mountain spirits are guiding him north, up a little draw between a peak to the northeast and the shoulder of a much larger peak to the northwest. All morning they work their way up the trail-less rocky valley. Despite Larry’s warning the previous day, they are not gaining much elevation, and the city of Moradinath-Mor lies behind them, not below them.

    In late morning they are beginning to pass through the narrowest spot between the peaks when a light snow begins to fall. This, and the thin air, slows the party considerably. Fortunately the mules are slowed even more by their heavily burdens, and since they are setting the pace, the effects of weather and altitude on their progress are negligible. Willa estimates that they have traveled about five miles when she calls for the mid day meal.

    After their break they turn northwest, the valley floor now following the lowest point between two ridges. The ridge to their right is steep and dark, the one to their left an easier slope but covered in snow.

    The snowfall ceases at about the time the sun passes behind the mountains; Willa keeps them marching another hour in the twilight before selecting a campsite with just enough loose soil and scree that they can use their tent stakes, and as well where the last hour of wind has blown most of the snow away. With Larry providing unfrozen water at each stop, and the trail rations not requiring cooking, they use no coal, saving it for the higher elevations to come where they will need it to heat the tent.

    [ 7 human rations used; 120 human rations remaining
    2 mule rations used (no forage); 38 mule rations remaining
    No coal used; 50 pounds coal remaining]

    12 February, 571 [Readying 21] - Barrier Peaks, c. 11,000 feet elevation
    [Low 13, high 33]
    [Randy starts the day with 380lb, Andy 377lb; both heavily encumbered]

    After midnight the temperature continues to drop, but does not go below zero. Randy and Andy, who were in and out of the open side of the tent at first, eventually settle down (or realize it is warmer inside) and remain inside the tent with the canvas draped loosely over their backs. Between the mules and eight party members, the tent rapidly warms, and in their fur-lined sleeping rolls those not on watch pass a comfortable night. Those on watch, outside, find they need to keep moving to keep the cold bearable. Fortunately there is little wind down here in the valley bottom.

    The next day dawns clear and even Willa has to admit that the rosy light paints a majestic mountain landscape of rugged peaks and vast snowfields all about them, with nary a sign of habitation as far as they can see, and they can see many miles. The trail from the Lake of Rhun to Moradinath-Mor was deserted of people, of course, but it was a trail, and besides the stone bridges it was crowded with mule flops, discarded bits and pieces of broken tack, and abandoned campfire rings. Here they have a true remote wilderness, with the sense that they are the first people to pass through, or at least the first in a long, long while.

    The march itself, morning and afternoon, is uneventful - unless you can count the fact that it gets above freezing for about an hour in the afternoon as an “event”. The party continues up the long valley between the two massive mountain ranges, adding another ten miles or so by day’s end, still traveling at the pace of the heavily-laden mules. When they make their evening camp, the mountain spirits tell Larry that they are now beyond the places the Stonereaver dwarves regularly visit, and only occasionally are these peaks and valleys seen by two-leg eyes.

    [ 7 human rations used; 113 human rations remaining
    2 mule rations used (no forage); 36 mule rations remaining
    No coal used; 50 pounds coal remaining]

    Aurora and Tyrius have the 9pm to 11pm watch. Their watch starts with the night air in the twenties but rapidly dropping into the high teens. Having learned from the night before, the party gathered bits of scrub wood while it was still light, and after dinner Aurora shot firebolts at them until the green and half-frozen wood finally ignited. She and Tyrius now sit by a decent campfire to warm themselves. Willa is currently sleeping in the pavilion, and won’t be on watch until they are done, so she is not there to scold them that sitting by the fire means they are blind to the night around them.

    Surprise Round
    Without warning, the cold night air is split by the whoosh of fletched javelins. Both Tyrius and Aurora are struck, but have no idea from whence. Their shouts of alarm wake the rest of the party, who begin to rush out of the pavilion dressed in no more than their nightclothes, but with weapons in their hands.

    Round 1
    As the party rushes out of the pavilion, those with darkvision, and not standing next to the fire, see a host of orcs moving toward the camp from the southeast. Another volley of javelins lands among the party, wounding several of them. Tyrius calls to Eddard, and the warhorse is at his side with a clatter of hooves on the hard rock. Tyrius vaults onto the horse bareback, and casts the blessing of Pelor on Thokk, Larry, and himself. By the power of his spirit bond with Eddard, the spell benefits the horse as well.

    The sudden shouts and rushing about of the party has spooked the mules, and they too bolt out of the pavilion into the darkness, stamping their hooves nervously.

    The orcs have stopped their advance, but continue throwing javelins. Unbeknownst to the party, they are attempting to provoke a response, drawing the party away from the tents so that the real strike force can move in, but Aurora has other plans.

    Round 2
    Shefak uses the light of Luna’s waning crescent and Celene’s waxing crescent to charge forward. She finds an orc opponent and strikes at him mercilessly with fists, feet, and staff.

    Aurora ignores the fact that she still does not see their attackers, but trusts that they are somewhere beyond Thokk in the general direction that he even now is facing. She sends a full-scale fireball into the darkness, rather near to where Shefak is engaged in melee. “Aurora!” cautions Willa after the missile launches, but it is too late. The massive explosion illuminates the night (28 damage) and creates a boom that echoes up and down the valley for miles around. Of the orcs attacking from the south, nine are slain immediately and another three are wounded, with their heavy winter leathers still aflame. Satisfied, Aurora slinks away from the campfire and takes cover from the javelins in a cluster of nearby boulders.

    Babshapka uses the light of the now multiple fires to send out arrows towards their attackers, and then, seeing one particularly large one, casts hunter’s mark for good measure.

    Thokk rushes forward and engages the remaining orcs in melee.

    Tyrius and Eddard are farthest from the remaining orcs, but charge forward. Tyrius casts the light of Pelor on his shield to reveal the battlefield to his human eyes as the fires die out.

    From the rear of a camp comes a sudden shriek. In the boulders, Aurora finds herself surrounded by a group of orcs and casts her shield spell as a defensive reaction. The initial javelin volley from the south was a diversion, allowing this group to sneak closer to the camp. In the center of camp, a third group of orcs is rapidly approaching the mules. Their weapons are stowed and each of their hands are free - apparently they intend to grab the halters and make off with the beasts!

    One of the infiltrating groups moves closer to Babshapka. Suddenly he is recognized as an elf and hoarse shouts of “Lulgijak!” are taken up by the orcs as they point their weapons his way. [Thokk will later tell the party that this literally means “flowers-for-blood” but is typically an insulting way to refer to an elf]. Immediately all of the orcs nearby throw their remaining javelins at Babshapka and then charge, including a few that, moments before, had been intent on stealing the mules. [Babshapka takes a total of 22hp damage this round from multiple hits].

    Round 3
    Larry maneuvers himself so that all of the orcs approaching the mules form a single line from his perspective, then calls on the spirits of the mountains to help him hurl a lightning bolt down the line [30 damage]. The bolt narrowly misses the mules themselves and they bray in terror.

    Babshapka continues to fire arrows, trying to avoid being hit by the mob gathering around him. Aurora shrieks again, but with all the orcs about specifically targeting him, Babshapka knows that running to her side will just draw more enemies there. “Go help Aurora!” he shouts at Willa.

    Willa turns from the orcs in the south, by now well under control, and sees the distance she will have to cover to get to Aurora. She runs, preparing to jump over the campfire as the shortest way there (Athletics check 8, critical fail), but trips on the rocky ground and flies sprawling through the fire itself, singing her nightclothes and sending a shower of sparks everywhere. Aurora dodges the orcs as best she can in the hope that Willa can recover soon.

    Shefak continues to rain monkly fury down on those still around her, losing her staff (critical miss) in the process but striking on unarmed and dauntless, then suddenly landing even more blows, regaining her staff, and seeming to disappear from the thick of the combat (1 ki point for flurry of blows, a second ki point for step of the wind and a bonus disengage).

    Of the orcs left in the diversionary force, the only one of any import is a huge, scarred chieftain. Tyrius and Eddard ride him down, hammer and hooves falling, and in a second Thokk is by their side, landing blows of his own, but the massive brute remains standing.

    Umbra emerges from the tent and cloaks herself in an armor of shadows. Through the darkness she sees a new orc arriving, this one with a spear in its hands and a second, glowing, spear floating beside it. By the light of the glowing spear she can see that he has only one good eye, the other being a gaping hole gently oozing near-frozen blood onto his cheek.

    A knot of orcs launches a volley of javelins at the retreating Shefak, but she spins, catches the first one, and throws it back, wounding its owner. Some of the others hit her, though, staining her nightclothes with blood.

    Aurora continues to dance around the orcs encircling her, but as her nicks, scratches, and close calls continue, she knows it will not be much time until her luck runs out.

    Round 4
    Larry launches another lightning bolt (25 points), again narrowly avoiding both mules and party members. Thokk, Tyrius, and Eddard continue to engage the orc leader. Shefak is now on the other side of camp, teaching the orcs there about the harmony of universal truth with her staff and feet, but taking damage as well and ultimately falling unconscious.

    Willa reaches Aurora’s side, pushing her out of the way and taking several blows meant for the wizard (22 points). In a surge of anger, she returns the blows on every orc nearby (action surge).

    Babshapka has retreated to the inside of the pavilion, so as to face fewer numbers of attackers at once, but he continues to fire arrows at those who are trying to enter the open flaps. The one-eyed orc pierces the heavy canvass on the other side of the tent with his long-headed spear, and rends the fabric all the way through to the ground, then steps through. He gestures at Babshapka, and the glowing spear strikes the elf in his side.

    Round 5
    Freed from immediate danger, Aurora sees a second one-eyed orc approaching the tent, and sends forth an underwhelming volley of magic missiles (cast at second level for four missiles, total of 9 points damage). Thokk, Tyrius, and Eddard continue to batter the orc leader.

    Inside the pavilion, Babshapka begins shooting at the one-eyed orc while trying to avoid both of his spears.

    Round 6
    Babshapka draws back his bow to its full extent, and fires point-blank at the eye-hole of the orc in the tent. The orc falls to the floor, one arrow deep in his skull and a second in his chest (26 points).

    Larry hurries to Shefak’s side, using a healing word to restore her to consciousness.

    The fight with the orc chief continues unfettered, until finally the huge brute falls to the ground and ceases to struggle. Thokk hurls a javelin at a retreating orc so hard it overshoots, hits a rock, and breaks (critical miss).

    Aurora shields herself again, but still takes damage.

    Shefak rises unsteadily to her feet, but is almost immediately struck down again by a fleeing orc in a parting blow.

    The second one-eyed orc enters the pavilion through the entrance flaps and attacks Babshapka.

    Round 7
    As most of the orcs remaining are in general retreat, Thokk turns and runs to the tent, entering to engage the one-eyed orc. He and Babshapka attack the orc from both sides.

    Everyone else in the party converges on the three orcs standing over the body of Shefak, with weapons, fire bolts, and poison sprays. Those that survive the initial onslaught turn and run. Once the second orc in the pavilion is slain, all orcs remaining are in full rout, and Shefak is soon pulled back from the brink of death by the grace of Pelor.

    The party listens carefully to the sound of the retreating orcs for several minutes before letting down their guard. They check the bodies of the fallen foes, dragging them away from the tent itself and the nervous mules. They have poor quality weapons, armor of no account, and a few tarnished silver coins each. The “food” they carry is inedible to all but Thokk, and their own mules are still overburdened by rations.

    When the party finally re-enters the pavilion, they find Umbra standing next to the huge rent in the tent side. She is humming softly to herself and making a motion in the air, as if she is sewing with an invisible needle and thread. Slowly, inch by inch, the heavy canvas of the tent is drawing itself together and sealing closed, with nary a trace remaining of the great tear and frayed edges.

    Once Aurora has received some magical ministrations to her wounds, she and Tyrius return to their guard duty - only now, they take turns at the campfire, so that one of them is warm, while the other one is uncomfortably cold but can actually see into the night.

    Inside the pavilion, Thokk has become the party’s cultural guide, explaining in his simple and direct language the intricacies of orc tribes, political structure, and religious beliefs. Each orc tribe, he explains, experiences a constant tension between the secular leaders (the chieftain and his favored lieutenants) and the religious leaders (shamen). Although the orcs as a people worship many gods, any one tribe worships only one god, for the shamans of the tribe will not permit the worship of any god but their own patron under penalty of death. The gods collectively embody all of the best features of the orcs, but each tribe focuses on only one of these features and that shapes the development of their particular culture. Tribes in which the shamen are the dominant force tend to be more insular, attacking any neighboring tribe that is not of their faith, and often warring as much with other orcs or humanoids as they do with humans and demi-humans. Tribes in which a strong chieftain is able to curtail the power of the shamen are more open to political alliance, uniting with same-faith tribes and other humanoids against their common foes the humans and demi-humans. Occasionally an orc warlord emerges who is personally so powerful and charismatic that he eclipses the shamen, unites all of the orc hordes under him and even makes alliances with tribes of different faiths. Then the human cities are put to the torch, the elves hide in the forests, and the dwarves cower behind their gates of stone.

    When asked by the others what faith these orcs who ambushed them were, Thokk explains that they are obviously those of Gruumsh, the Allfather who created the orcs themselves as well as all the other orc gods. He is usually called Gruumsh One-Eye, for He lost His other eye to an elven god’s arrow at the dawn of time when the elves tried to take the forests away from the orcs and said they could not live there. Gruumsh is the god of survival and conquest of territory. It is He who urges the orcs to fulfill their destiny of living everywhere on Oerth, in all environments, and enslaving all other peoples, but destroying elves. To become a shaman of Gruumsh, an orc must pluck out his own eye and cast it into a fire as a sacrifice to the god. If he lives, he will be granted divine favor and the power to cast spells. Although the dress, the tattoos, and other features were indicative as well, it was the presence of the one-eyed shamen that most clearly gave away the identity of their attackers. Collectively, all of the orcs under the shamen of Gruumsh are called the “Tribes of the Evil Eye”.

    After the party has absorbed this, Willa’s curiosity gets the better of her and she asks Thokk what tribe he was raised in. His father’s tribe, Thokk says proudly, was one of the “Tribes of the Dripping Blade”, with the shamen serving Ilneval, who Gruumsh created to be His trusted lieutenant. Dripping Blade orcs desire battle itself more than conquest, displays of prowess more than killing, but they are also strategically and politically astute, and the most willing of the orcs to make alliances between different groups for tactical advantage. It is because he was raised in this tribe, concludes Thokk, that he is simultaneously so wise, so battle-savvy, and so easy to get along with. And, he says, choking up with emotion, it is also because of this that he values so much the faithful service of his evil advisor. “Thokk thank you for question and for loyalty,” he says finally, sniffing back a manly tear as he looks gratefully at Willa.

    [Slain: 28 regular orcs, 2 orc eyes of Gruumsh, 1 orc war chief]
    [Taken: 117 sp]
    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.&nbsp;
    Adept Greytalker

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    Posts: 422
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    Sun Feb 14, 2021 10:00 pm  

    You make me eager for Tuesday afternoons. I love large parties and your campaign logs are a pleasure to read.

    How familiar are your players with Greyhawk canon and the contents of the classic modules? I'm curious as to how they'll react to the Starfall and what, if anything, you've changed to avoid spoilers.
    Master Greytalker

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    Mon Feb 15, 2021 10:29 am  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    You make me eager for Tuesday afternoons. I love large parties and your campaign logs are a pleasure to read.

    It is great to be appreciated!

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    How familiar are your players with Greyhawk canon and the contents of the classic modules? I'm curious as to how they'll react to the Starfall and what, if anything, you've changed to avoid spoilers.

    At this point in time, I don't think any of them knew or suspected what the implication of "a fallen star in the Barrier Peaks" was. Fortunately I did not have to do anything to avoid spoilers - none of them knew what they were getting into! The defining conceit of this campaign was 'a tour of the classic modules of Greyhawk updated to 5e'. The original point was that setting it in Greyhawk made it less work for me, so I could focus on the 5e conversion rather than the backstories, but in retrospect it worked well that none of them had prior Greyhawk experience.

    The game was originally in person with colleagues from work in Utah...
    Player 1: Thokk and Aurora
    Player 2: Barnabus and Tyrius
    Player 3 (son of Player 2): Larry and Babshapka

    We then added...
    Player 4: Willa
    Player 5 (my daughter): Shefak

    After I moved to California and the game went online, immediately...
    Player 2 dropped, Barnabus retired and Tyrius was retained as a collective party PC
    Player 3 dropped, Babshapka was taken over by Player 4, and Larry was taken over occasionally by Player 6 (Player 1's son)

    Player 7 (former colleague from Utah) was added with Umbra, but she never was able to find the playtime she needed.
    Her son (Player 8 ) briefly took on Tyrius.

    So, at this point in the story we have:
    Player 1: Thokk and Aurora (and often helping with Larry)
    Player 4: Willa and Babshapka (and often helping with Tyrius)
    Player 5 (my daughter): Shefak
    Player 6 (Player 1's son): Occasionally Larry
    Player 7: Occasionally Umbra
    Player 8 (Player 7's son): Occasionally Tyrius.

    The three younger players (5, 6, 8) had no previous with RPGs before I had a BECMI campaign set in Mystara with (5) and (8). (That game is logged on my Obsidian Portal site). Player (6) had no experience with RPG's before he started, and none of them had played in Greyhawk.

    Player 1 came into D&D with 5e. His is a tragic tale with a happy ending - he was prevented from playing RPG's in his youth by his religiously conservative family, and now in his middle age they are his passion and he shares them with his own children as much as he can. Before and during this game he ran a number of 5E adventure series for his children and for myself and other work friends, but they didn't give him any background on Greyhawk.

    Player 4 played a lot of D&D in college (c. 2E?) but hadn't played in years when she joined our group. She says her college experience was pretty free-form, and "I don't think we ever finished a module". I doubt there was an explicit setting in their group, so she had little to no Greyhawk experience either. After a few sessions of the Starfall she remarked to one of her college friends that she was currently fighting vegepygmies, and his response was "There are SO MANY of them!" That was the closest she got to a spoiler, and it was after we had already started the adventure proper.
    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.&nbsp;
    Adept Greytalker

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    Mon Feb 15, 2021 12:25 pm  

    So who generally plays Umbra? Is she a DMNPC, or do your other players take turns playing her? I notice she hasn't done much in the last couple of sessions.
    Master Greytalker

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    Mon Feb 15, 2021 4:41 pm  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    So who generally plays Umbra? Is she a DMNPC, or do your other players take turns playing her? I notice she hasn't done much in the last couple of sessions.

    Umbra's player was one of the principals in my BECMI Mystara game, and she and I spent a lot of time in Umbra's backstory development around the time of my move to California. While she was an enthusiastic player in person, for family, schedule, and personal reasons we found she just couldn't commit to online play. She was with us in most sessions throughout the Tower of Nholast (Posts 106-118). Her long period of unconsciousness at the end of that was in part plot-driven, but in part was for us to try to work out a time she could play more easily. She was with us during the ogre attack (Post 149) but at that point was missing more live sessions then not. Typically I played her as a DMNPC when her player couldn't be with us. She made the first few Starfall sessions but eventually just stopped coming, at which point I created a diverging storyline to move several of the characters without permanent players out of the party. I still hope to return to 'the others' someday, though!
    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.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Feb 16, 2021 3:23 pm  
    Post 156: Save vs. Cold

    By far the best source for maps of Greyhawk comes from the work of Anna B Meyer. I used for the party's travel. I would highly encourage any DM to use Anna's work, and anyone with the means to do so to support her Patreon at

    Post 156: Save vs. Cold

    13 February, 571 [Readying 22] - Barrier Peaks, 12000 feet elevation
    [Clear; low 8, high 26.]
    [Randy starts day with 366lb, Andy 367; both heavily encumbered]

    After Aurora and Tyrius are done with their watch, the others in the party take each their turn. Temperatures drop into the single digits. Those with darkvision not sitting next to the fire can see the bodies of the thirty-some orcs strewn about the camp steaming as they give up the heat of life, then slowly hardening and freezing over. By morning they are frozen solid.

    Umbra and Babshapka greet the dawn gratefully and rouse the rest of the party, who are glad of the pavilion as they try to move as quickly as possible from their sleeping rolls into their winter gear or armor or both before stepping outside. After Larry has prepared fresh water for the party (and the mules) and they have chewed their way through a cold, hard breakfast of trail rations, they are off.

    The valley they are following continues to rise throughout the course of the day, the air growing ever thinner and colder despite the sun. It certainly doesn’t rise above freezing. They get closer and closer to the tops of the peaks around them, going from the base of great cliffs in the morning to being only a few thousand feet from the tops of the ridges at day’s end. They camp at the end of the valley, where a “Y” intersection means they can no longer go west (unless they wish to travel straight up the snow-topped cliff face in front of them). Rather, in the morning, they will need to decide between the northern and southern branches of the valley.

    As the rest of the party prepares their evening camp, Larry meditates, eyes closed, speaking to the mountain spirits around them. His indecipherable voice rises and falls like the wind, occasionally booming like thunder or cracking like ice.

    As the party takes their evening meal inside the pavilion, Larry reports to them that they have a choice to make. The Unoerthly Cave lies over and beyond the ridge in front of them, and they will need to go around the mountain to reach it, but they can go either north or south. The northern way is shorter, and will allow them to stay in the valley for almost the entire way. However, there is one final high pass over the ridge that will be at a great elevation, along a way that is always covered in snow and ice, before dropping down into the valley wherein lies the cave. The southern way is longer and more circuitous, and they will need to pass over a series of no less than three mountain passes in a succession of smaller ridges. However, none of those passes is as high as the single pass to the north. The mountain spirits know no human measures, and cannot tell him how high, how cold, or how windy any of the passes are - only that the northern way is higher, colder, and windier than any of the series of passes in the south. He opens the party conversation to opinions, for he says they will need to decide their route before setting out in the morning.

    There is also the more immediate matter of the watch schedule. They are up far above treeline, and haven’t seen even bushes since morning, or frozen grasses since mid day. There will be nothing local with which to start a fire for tonight's camp. Those on watch outside the pavilion may need to bring the camp stove out and burn coal to stay warm enough to do their duty, or they may simply assume that it is cold and desolate enough here that they do not need to set an exterior guard, just making sure that someone is always awake and on watch inside the tent. They may, after all, need the stove to keep the tent warm if tonight is even colder than the night before! They could take turns of, say, one watching outside for half an hour before switching places with one awake but inside the tent and continuing to rotate throughout the watch. Or, they could simply try to both “tough it out” - with both those on watch outside regardless of the cold. They do, after all, have three casters capable of healing them of damage in the morning.

    After Willa, Aurora, and Tyrius confer, it is agreed that they will follow their normal watch schedule, outside the tent. Larry will cast his protection from cold on one of the watchers, and they will take the camp stove outside in an attempt to keep warm those on watch as well. Aurora’s brazier will be set up with coal at the ready inside the tent, in case that needs to be heated as well.

    As to their destination on the morrow, Willa says that they should take the path best suited to the mules and Eddard; Aurora agrees. Eddard seems to take this as an invitation to speak. He says they don’t know much about either path except that one is longer and the other is colder. Both are costs, but longer is a cost they can bear easier than colder - they have plenty of time, and plenty of food, but they don’t know how much cold they can protect themselves from. If they were being chased, or were chasing someone else, the risk of the high pass might be worth it. But in their current situation, the risk of any of them freezing, especially the mules, is not worth the benefit of arriving a few days sooner at the cave. While he is at it, Eddard says that they should start to feed the mules more - he suggests a ration and a quarter a day, so that they can more easily maintain their inner heat. The others agree to Eddard's counsel.

    Thokk and Larry are on the first watch (7-9pm). At the start of their watch, it is already below twenty outside. Larry casts his protection on himself, both because Thokk pridefully says it is not necessary, and because he has to admit his bare feet are getting cold standing on the ice, snow, and cold rock.

    [Temperature is below 30F but not below 0F. Everyone will need at least two factors of protection to avoid saving throws against the cold or three factors to rest. Thokk and Larry both have “cold weather gear” and so do not need saves. The stove, and Larry’s spell, will make them more comfortable, but are not necessary. Those inside the tent have already three factors without lighting the brazier; the tent itself plus their fur-lined bags. They rest comfortably.]

    Second watch is Aurora and Tyrius (9-11pm). Temperatures are in the mid-teens. No coal necessary, though Aurora does occasionally open the door of the stove and shoot in a succession of firebolts, then warm her hands over the re-radiated heat.

    Third watch is Willa and Babshapka (11pm - 1am). Temperatures are in the low teens.

    Fourth watch is Shefak and Babshapka (1am - 3am). Temperatures are in the high single digits.

    Fifth watch is Umbra and Babshapka (3am - 5am). Temperatures are in the mid single digits.

    The lowest temperatures are just before dawn as the party begins their day, in the low single digits. If they continue to climb higher along the mountain path, it will likely go below zero on the morrow’s watch, and the camp stove may be necessary for those outside at camp.

    [ 7 human rations used; 106 human rations remaining
    2.5 mule rations used (no forage, extra 0.25 each for warmth); 33.5 mule rations remaining
    No coal used; 50 pounds coal remaining]

    14 February, 571 [23 Readying] - Barrier Peaks, 14000 feet elevation
    [Ice crystals in air (frozen heavy fog) 6pm to 7am; low 3, high 20]
    [Randy starts day with 354lb, Andy 353; both heavily encumbered]

    The party starts off down the southern trail as fast as the mules allow in the morning. They are at high elevation, of course, but still in a broad valley between two mountain ridges that are even higher. Both ridges are snow-covered. Down here there are no snowfields, but the valley floor is a mix of ice patches and fallen rocks that they have to slowly pick their way between.

    Soon after their lunch break a narrow valley to their right draws Larry’s interest. After several minutes conferring with the spirits, he says that they will be going up this, rather than continuing south up the broad valley. Turn they do, and head up this much smaller side valley. Here it is narrow, barely more than a mile across, and has a curiously flat bottom and steep sides. Larry repeatedly shakes his head and mutters, and eventually says that the spirits keep telling him that this valley was carved by a massive river of ice, as if that was a thing possible. He hopes they are honestly mistaken, and not treacherous, for if they cannot trust the spirits to guide them, they are lost indeed.

    The valley twists and turns sharply twice, until just as it is growing dark it appears to dead end in a wall of rock and ice. Larry says that this the start of the first low pass - that they will need to cross the ridge in front of them in the morning, the arm of the mountain that they have been walking along the base of all day. Currently none of them can see how they are going to do that - the cliff face is nearly straight up. Possible for them with their climbing gear perhaps, but not the mules and Eddard. Larry can only say that this is what the spirits have told him. Thokk shrugs it off unworried, and says that he can scout a path in the morning that even the clumsy mules can walk.

    As they make camp, the air is full of delicate, dancing ice crystals - like tiny snowflakes, but just floating in the air. Larry believes it is moist enough to have fog, but too cold to do so, and Thokk agrees. Temperatures overnight drop into the low single digits, and again they decide to forgo the use of the coal, saving it for a time of greater need.

    [ 7 human rations used; 99 human rations remaining
    2.5 mule rations used (no forage, extra quarter ration); 31 mule rations remaining
    No coal used; 50 pounds coal remaining]

    15 February, 571 [24 Readying] - Barrier Peaks, 14,500 feet elevation
    [Clear; low 2, high 20]
    [Randy starts day with 340lb, Andy 340; both heavily encumbered]

    The camp starts moving before dawn and when it is just above zero. When the sun finally clears the ridge to the east, Thokk and Larry have a good, long look at the cliff face in front of them, conferring about possible routes. When they are both convinced that there is a way up, they start the party forward (Survival (Mountains), 25, plus help is 30).

    Willa has arranged the party in order single file, knowing that the way up may include narrow ledges. Tyrius asks to be in the center, with the mules, so that the protection of Pelor may extend to as many of them as possible (Aura of Protection, +3 to saves for allies within 10’). Eddard volunteers to go in advance, making sure the way is passable for mules, and safe for all - as he reminds them sardonically, if he plummets down the cliff face to his death, it will only take a single spell from Tyrius to bring him back.

    Over the next two hours they climb. Although the day warms as they go, the increasing wind makes it feel like it is effectively below zero, the coldest they have faced so far.

    My House Rules wrote:
    Below 0F. Whenever the temperature is below 0F, a creature exposed to the cold must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw at the end of each hour or gain one level of exhaustion. Creatures with a total of three factors of protection automatically succeed on the saving throw. Those with two factors have advantage on the save, one factor has a flat +2. A total of four factors of protection or a successful save are necessary in order to gain the benefits of taking a rest.

    [Note: everyone has three factors of protection, with cold weather gear plus activity, so no saves are needed at the moment]

    They spend as short a time possible on the ridge crest itself, buffeted by winds, and eyes stinging too much to take in the view, before starting down the other side. Here they are unable to plan their descent very far ahead, but simply have to trust to Larry’s intuition. (Survival (Mountains), 26, plus Thokk's help is 31).

    Once out of the wind and down in the valley on the other side, they have a good long rest with food and fresh water, then continue on for the day, through narrow and twisting canyons. They are still deep within one such canyon when Willa calls for the night’s camp.

    [ 7 human rations used; 92 human rations remaining
    2.5 mule rations used (no forage and extra quarter ration); 28.5 mule rations remaining
    No coal used; 50 pounds coal remaining]

    16 February, 571 [25 Readying] - Barrier Peaks, 17,000 feet elevation
    [Cloudy; low -7, high 10]
    [Randy starts day with 327lb, Andy 327; both heavily encumbered]

    Some time between one and two in the morning the temperature drops below zero. Shefak and Babshapka, on guard duty, agree that they cannot take the cold any more (cold whether gear but no activity, only two levels of protection). They enter the tent and find the mules restless, and several of the people in the party shivering in their bags. Stacking coals in Aurora’s brazier, they use a tinderbox to start them, to heat the tent. They fill the camp stove with unburnt coals, then add a few more burning ones to get the ones in the stove started, before taking it outside.

    [Watchers outside: cold weather gear and stove (2+1 = 3). Resters in tent (fur-lined bag, tent, and brazier (2+1+1 = 4). It continues below zero until 9am, but after 6am no one is trying to rest and everyone has “active” as a level of protection. Total five hours of coal burned in two places is total of 5lbs of coal used.]

    Although it warms somewhat after dawn, it remains cold in their steep-walled valley with little direct sun all day as they pick their way over and around avalanches of snow and rock. Occasionally they have to ascend rises that Larry’s spirits call “passes”, but none are as high as what they did on the day previous. More importantly, none are exposed - all remain down within their current valley and none require them to cross a ridge and face the full force of the wind. They have just emerged from their canyon into a much larger and wider valley when Willa calls an end to the day’s march.

    [ 7 human rations used; 85 human rations remaining
    2.5 mule rations used (no forage and extra quarter-ration); 26 mule rations remaining
    5 pounds coal used; 45 pounds coal remaining]

    At this higher elevation, the temperature drops below zero by 10pm. Again coals, stove, and brazier are put into use to keep the tent and those on watch warm enough to rest or function. [Total eight hours of coal burned in two places is total of 8lbs of coal used.]

    17 February, 571 [26 Readying] - Barrier Peaks, 17,500 feet elevation
    [Cloudy and windy; low -9, high 13]
    [Randy starts day with 310lb, Andy 310; both heavily encumbered]

    As they make their way out from the protected canyon into the open plain, the intensity of the wind builds, until it is blowing a constant 20 miles per hour, with occasional gusts. The sky is overcast, but not snowing, which is fortunate, for even the little pieces of dust, grit, and ice crystals are stinging their eyes and testing their endurance.

    This is a broad plain, but it is no river valley, not even one carved by some mythical river of ice. Rather, it is just a huge mountain top with higher mountains around it. The floor is not flat, but made up of innumerable smaller ridges, cuts, ledges, crevasses, drop-offs, and the like. Visibility is good, albeit painful, so Willa lets Thokk and Larry scout ahead, trying to find the least dangerous route for the mules and the party. Everyone else clusters around Tyrius in the center, both to conserve heat and block the wind, but also to stay near the protection of Pelor, for it is quickly obvious that even traveling they will not be generating enough warmth, with the wind rapidly stealing it from their bodies.

    7am: Actual temperature -6F, wind chill of -47.

    My House rules wrote:
    Below -30F (including wind chill). Whenever the temperature is below -30F, a creature exposed to the cold must succeed on a DC 12 Constitution saving throw at the end of each half hour or gain one level of exhaustion. Creatures with a total of four factors of protection automatically succeed on the saving throw. Three factors grants advantage on the save, two factors +2, one factor +1. Five factors of protection or a successful save are necessary to gain the benefits of a rest.

    [7:30am - All travelers have three factors of protection (cold weather gear plus activity) for advantage on their save, those within 10’ of Tyrius have a +3 as well. Everyone makes save]

    8am: Actual temperature -3F, wind chill of -44. [Andy fails save and receives one level of exhaustion; disadvantage on ability checks.]

    Although not seen at first, Andy’s shivering is eventually noted by Babshapka (Animal Handling 6), who tells Aurora to message Larry when she has range. They are moving at the pace of the mules (20), and Andy is still carrying over three hundred pounds of gear - they can’t afford to have him lame from frostbite! [Also note that level 2 of exhaustion is half movement]

    When Larry returns to the party, he casts Protection from Cold on Andy. The mule is still exhausted (level 1), but at least will suffer no further effects of the cold for an hour.

    8:30am: Actual temperature -1F, wind chill of -41. [Andy no save needed. Randy and Tyrius fail saves.]

    Babshapka notes Randy’s difficulties and Tyrius can speak to his own. Larry could cast another protection or even two - he has the slots but it is a concentration spell and doing so would remove the protection from Andy.

    Willa looks about - none of the crevasses they have passed are large enough to take shelter in; there is no effective cover from the wind short of the tent. The day is getting warmer, slowly - it is still early morning. They will have to tough it out and keep moving, for as long as they can move at least. She has them bring their group into an even tighter huddle and tells them to keep going, but to keep talking, too - and to keep an eye on the mules - if either of them starts to founder, they will need to set up camp and hope the next day is less windy.

    “Nae mooch chance a’ tha’” mumbles Larry, but his words are lost in the wind.


    9:00am: Actual temperature 0F, wind chill of -40. [Andy no save needed, everyone else makes their save.]

    Larry can tell his protection for Andy has faded. He returns to the party to renew it, but now has to choose between Andy or Randy (or Tyrius). Babshapka looks them over quickly but can’t see that either is in worse shape than the other. Larry shrugs and protects Randy.

    9:30am Actual temperature 2F, wind chill of -37. [Randy no save needed, everyone else makes their save.]

    10:00am Actual temperature 4F, wind chill of -34. [Randy no save needed, Aurora fails her save.]

    Teeth chattering, body shaking, Aurora now has one level of exhaustion (as do Tyrius, Randy, and Andy). Larry casts his final protection spell on Andy.

    10:30am Actual temperature 5F, wind chill of -32. (Andy no save needed, Tyrius fails his save).

    After half an hour more of travel, Tyrius stumbles and sinks to his knees. “I can’t...I can’t feel my feet…” he says absently. Then, more resolutely, “Pelor, give me strength!” and rises again. Although he continues to walk determinedly, the others soon find they are slowing their pace to stay near him (and his aura of protection).

    [Tyrius is now at two levels of exhaustion; disadvantage on ability checks and moves at half speed; this drops his speed to 15 while the mules are still moving at 20.]

    After a few minutes of this, Willa decides that it won’t do and asks Larry if his spirit guides know of any shelters or side canyons where they can get out of the wind to rest. Larry confers, but shakes his head. None that won’t take them several miles out of their way.

    Willa asks Eddard how he is doing. “Fine, I guess. A bit cold, I must say. But yes, Tyrius can ride, if that is what you are after.”

    [The problem with Tyrius riding is that while he will thus be able to keep pace with the party, being even less active means that he will drop to two factors of protection and make it more likely for him to fail his next saving throw]

    Thokk laughs and pulls his wolf fur blanket out of his backpack, wrapping it around Tyrius once he has mounted Eddard, in a way that is much gentler than his mocking tone. “Har, har! Problem is you think of your god, not battle! Thoughts of battle warm Thokk even when cold wind blows up his loincloth!”

    “Thoughts of my god are what has preserved half this party against the cold…” offers Tyrius weakly, but Thokk has turned his back before he has even finished, and his words are whipped away in the wind.

    11:00am Actual temperature 7F, wind chill of -29. [Now that it is above -30F, it is one check per hour, and the check automatically succeeds with three factors of protection; which is cold weather gear and activity, or cold weather gear and blanket]

    After another hour of movement, Willa calls for a halt for just long enough to get some trail rations out of bags and distribute them, and have Larry create water and fill waterskins. She doesn’t want anyone to stop or lose the little warmth they have built up inside their clothes. A few of them have not been drinking their water from the morning fast enough - they find it frozen in their waterskins now, with no way to get the ice out or put new water in. After the few remaining skins are filled, Willa tells them to keep passing the skins around, keep it sloshing and moving and being drunk. She wishes in vain for a fifth of rum to put in each skin to keep the water from freezing. They will walk slower for a while, but they will eat and drink as they walk.

    12pm. Actual temperature 10F, wind chill of -24.
    1pm. Actual temperature 13F, wind chill of -20.
    2pm. Actual temperature 12F, wind chill of -21.
    3pm. Actual temperature 11F, wind chill of -23.
    4pm. Actual temperature 10F, wind chill of -24.
    5pm. Actual temperature 9F, wind chill of -26.
    6pm. Actual temperature 8F, wind chill of -27.

    With the light fading, there is still no sign of shelter in this broad and windswept bowl. This is no place to camp, and Willa believes, with the exception of Tyrius, she could keep driving the party forward if she had to. However, the mules don’t have darkvision. With both of them already weak and overloaded, the chance of a stumble in the dark is just too great. They will make camp where they are, light the stoves, and hope for the best.

    There is no soil, and little if any gravel - they abandon any thought of using the ironwood stakes that came with the tent and instead use a total of eight pitons pounded directly into the bedrock to hold the ropes. When the tent threatens to sail away even with that, Willa works to get them to narrow the surface presented to the wind, so it is longer and thinner than normal, with the draped flap for the mules leeward.

    [ 7 human rations used; 78 human rations remaining
    2.5 mule rations used (no forage and an extra quarter ration); 23.5 mule rations remaining
    8 pounds coal used; 37 pounds coal remaining]

    7pm. Actual temperature 7F, wind chill of -30.

    When it is well and truly dark, the wind seems, if anything, to be increasing even as the temperature drops.

    First watch, 7-9pm, Thokk and Larry. [They make their saves and Larry even has it count as a “short rest”. Natural recovery allows him to recover a third level spell. Later, in the tent, Larry makes his save to complete his long rest as well.]

    9pm. Actual temperature 5F, wind chill of -35.

    The next watch is supposed to be Aurora and Tyrius, but Willa has already changed that. She wants Tyrius inside to make sure he recovers for the next day. When he objects, she points out that those in the tent may need his protective aura in order to rest, and he reluctantly agrees for the good of the party. It doesn’t take Willa long to convince Thokk to pull a double watch so that someone is with Aurora. She merely has to agree with Thokk that yes, these are real mountains and that no, none of them but Thokk and Larry are prepared to deal with the rigors of living in real mountains.

    Aurora (who is still at one level of exhaustion) is granted Larry’s recovered protection from cold spell so that she should not be affected by at least her first hour on watch.

    Second watch, 9pm-11pm, Thokk and Aurora. [Both make their saves on the watch and later in the tent for their rest. Aurora's rest removes her single level of exhaustion.]

    11pm. Actual temperature 3F, wind chill of -40.

    Third watch, 11pm - 1am, Willa and Babshapka. [Babshapka starts his watch already having had a full rest. He and Willa both fail saves on watch and come away with a single level of exhaustion. Willa is later able to get a long rest in the tent that removes her exhaustion]

    18 February, 571 [Readying 27] - Barrier Peaks, 18000 feet elevation
    [Snow 5pm to 5am, Wind 14mph; low -4, high 8]
    [Randy and Andy start at 290lb each, heavily encumbered]

    1am. Actual temperature 1F, wind chill of -45.

    Fourth watch: 1am - 3am, Shefak and Babshapka [Both complete watch successfully. Later, in the tent, Sheffak successfully finishes a long rest.]

    3am. Actual temperature -1F, wind chill of -50.

    Fifth watch: 3am - 5am, Umbra and Babshapka. [Umbra fails a save on watch and acquires the first level of exhaustion.]

    5am: Actual temperature -3F. Wind chill of -54.

    The party starts moving and prepping for day. Thokk is allowed to sleep in until just before the party departs so that he can have a full long rest given his double watch shift the previous night. Overnight, Randy and Andy have recovered from the day before, and Tyrius is better for having rested. [Currently, a single level of exhaustion on Tyrius, Umbra, and Babshapka]

    7am: Actual temperature -3F. Wind chill of -53.

    From 7pm to 7am the party has burned 11 pounds of coal (bringing the cook stove in from the watch at 5am) and has 26 pounds remaining.

    While packing, Willa is seriously concerned about the amount of coal they have left - enough for just another two-and-a-half nights, if they are like last night. Assuming they make it to the cave, how many days will it take to get back?

    She asks Larry to ask the mountain spirits how far remains to the starfall, hoping he can get a clear-ish answer. After an extended conversation, Larry has Willa review the terrain in the morning sun with him. He says that the valley, or bowl, that they are in is part of a much larger valley, with most of it lying on the other side of the low ridge on their north. The spirits say they need to travel to the end of this ridge, where the broader valley opens up, and then just a bit further, to the western end of the larger valley where it starts to narrow and rise again. Of course, they give no distances - but if it truly is at the western end of this bowl, Larry thinks he can see it from their current camp, and estimates it is one or two days of travel away at their current pace.

    While this is reassuring to Willa, the fact that the wind is even stronger today than it was the day before, making it effectively colder, is not; nor is the fact that they will be starting the day out with Tyrius, Umbra, and Babshapka already tired.

    They face a difficult choice; they can set out now like they did the day before, facing brutal cold and the possibility of more of them falling to exhaustion but at least getting closer to their goal, or they can wait several hours here in camp until it warms up enough to travel safely, protected from the worst of the cold but burning what little coal they have remaining and then traveling for only part of the day.

    Willa asks for comment from her normal counselors. Aurora thinks they should stay - whatever challenges lie ahead - worse terrain and cold, yetis and frost giants, she doesn’t want to face them with all of the party exhausted. They can wait a few hours for it to warm enough to travel. This agrees with what Willa was thinking to begin with, and Tyrius is focused on recovering himself and says he trusts their judgement. Willa tells people to finish eating and pack what they can, but that they will be staying in camp for the nonce.

    Willa asks Aurora if she still has Buckbeak on hand, since she hasn’t seen the hawk since the winds started. Aurora affirms that he is with her, just that she has been keeping him in a “non-dimensional space” rather than have him blown away in the gale. Willa asks if she can’t maybe dismiss him and summon instead something more appropriate, like a snow hare or arctic fox, that could stay on watch for them so that they could consolidate fires and spend coal on only the stove in the tent?

    Aurora explains that Buckbeak is not actually a hawk - he is a fey spirit that can take the shape of a hawk. And the limitations on his shape are the words of the summoning ritual. He could take the form of a hare or fox - if Aurora knew the appropriate ritual to summon him that way, which unfortunately she does not. Of course, at her level of power now she could start experimenting with the summoning ritual, changing the words and seeing if she could find such a form, but this is not really the time and place for experimentation. She tells Willa that she will start with Buckbeak on guard. He has a pretty weak frame, but she doesn’t actually know whether he can get tired or cold. If that doesn’t work, Aurora currently has enough materials packed to cast her ritual six times - she can summon a snowy owl to take his place. That, she believes, would be the most appropriate form from among that she knows the ritual to weave into being.

    While they are on the topic of magic, Aurora also mentions to Willa that if someone gets dangerously cold, she can use her rope trick to get them to a safe space to rest. She believes that the space inside the rope trick is a constant temperature, regardless of what it is like in the outside world - it certainly was much warmer in it, than the out of doors when they last used it to hide from frost giants in the Jotens. The limitations would be that she couldn’t get Eddard and the mules up there, that the space itself can’t move, that it lasts for just an hour, and that the person would need to be able to climb the rope of their own power to get in and out. Still, if they had someone in a seriously bad way, it might make the difference when needed. As much as Willa doesn’t like listening to Aurora’s lectures on magic theory, she has to admit that it could be an important tactical consideration.

    Something Aurora said about using the rope trick to hide from the frost giants jogs Willa’s memory. “Twarn’t it so t’at we could see out ther bottom?”

    “Yes, like a huge pane of glass.”

    “An’ ‘how ‘igh up can ye place it?”

    “The length of the rope - fifty or sixty feet.”

    Willa sucks in her cheeks as she thinks. “Well, t’en, ‘igh yerself up t’ere!”


    Willa explains that if Aurora can see out of the rope trick, but if the cold can’t enter, she wants Aurora to make a scouting blind directly over the tent, as high as possible to get the best field of view if she is looking directly out of the bottom. Aurora is to stay up there on watch, and if she sees anything she can alert them in the tent with her message.

    Aurora isn’t too keen on being outside, alone, on watch, but she is intrigued by a possible new use of her spell. She considers who she might have in the rope trick room with her. Tyrius, Umbra, and Babshapka need to be resting, Willa needs to be on command duty in the tent, Thokk would just get bored and distract her, and Larry...she’d rather not be in the air-tight confines of the rope trick room with him and his musky odor. But Shefak...Aurora tells Willa that she will agree to “stand watch” suspended over the tent as long as Shefak is up there with her, and Willa assents.

    Aurora steps outside, instantly feeling the frigid blast of the icy wind. She casts her spell and tosses her rope into the air, where it stands nearly straight up, though the end wavers in the force of the wind. She has to remove her mittens to climb, and instantly feels pain like knives stabbing into her hands, but manages to climb all the way up the rope (Athletics check 14).

    As she sticks her head and then her chest through the invisible entrance-way, she immediately feels a flood of warmth. The rope trick room is a pleasant 65F, and the warmest she has been since her hot bath in Moradinath-Mor. “Oh, yeah…” she sighs contentedly, but then feels a gust of cold as Shefak climbs through the entryway. Apparently “breaking the plane” of the inter-dimensional door can let in the cold and wind. She had considered sticking her hand mirror out to check a view beyond what she could see directly underneath, as they did in the Jotens, but now knows she won’t be doing that, at the risk of filling the room with cold air.

    Shefak crosses her legs in her meditation position, and tells Aurora to alert her when it is her turn to watch out the “window”.

    8am. Actual temperature -1F, wind chill -50.

    When it has been nearly an hour, Aurora wonders whether she can simply re-cast the spell to maintain it, rather than climbing down and casting it again from the ground. That would also be worth experimenting with - but not from fifty feet up. Both she and Shefak descend, spend an agonizing half-minute in the cold, and then climb back up to the blessedly-warm room. Shefak shakes her head disapprovingly as they re-enter.

    “What, you don’t like my magic?” says Aurora defensively.

    Shefak shrugs. “Self-indulgent. You should train to deny your flesh, not cater to it.”

    “You are welcome to watch outside, if you prefer the cold.”

    Shefak shrugs again. “I’m watching you as much as I am the tent. Someone has to make sure you stay awake in this hotbox of unrepentant hedonism.”

    “Well, I never!” is all Aurora can think to respond at the moment.

    9am. Actual temperature 1F, wind chill -45. [With another four hours, Babshapka and Umbra have completed a second trance and successful long rest. Each removes the level of exhaustion; only the single level on Tyrius remains.]

    Aurora casts her third and final rope trick to gain another hour of protection from the cold while on day-watch.

    10am. Actual temperature 3F, wind chill -40.

    Since she has not done anything but trade watch duty with Shefak on and off for the last hour in her warm room, Aurora has taken it as a short rest. She uses her arcane recovery to get back a second level slot and a first (to replace the mage armor she cast upon waking). She is not worried about third level spells since she has not cast any yet today. When her third rope trick ends around ten am, she goes quickly into the tent to confer with Willa, then comes back out and casts rope trick a fourth time.

    11am. Actual temperature 4F, wind chill -38. [Tyrius has finished a second long rest period but failed his CON save to benefit from the rest. He remains at one level of exhaustion].

    “I just can’t get the chill from my bones,” Tyrius says groggily as he rises and begins to methodically chew some jerky without gusto.

    Aurora and Shefak enter the tent.

    “What dae yer spirits tell ye?” Willa asks Larry.

    “Wind’s still afury ootside, bu’ et be gang doon. Tanight won’ be so bad ahs las’.”

    Willa braves the outside long enough to squint at the pale outline of the sun behind the clouds. Returning to the tent, she says they will give it until mid-day to warm, but they are leaving in an hour whether it is safe or not. She tells the party to eat now, so that they can get in a full six hour’s march before dusk, without a rest.

    12pm. Actual temperature 6F, wind chill -32. [Everyone makes saves]

    The party has the tent packed and mules loaded by mid-day, the beasts already stamping and biting, eager to get moving rather than standing in the cold.

    [From 7am to 12pm the party has burned 2.5 pounds of coal (the cook stove in the tent) and has 23.5 pounds remaining.]

    12:30pm. Actual temperature 7F, wind chill -30. [No further checks necessary while moving as it stays above -30 and everyone is active]

    The party sets out. The first half hour is difficult, but they warm from exertion after that and the march becomes wearying, but manageable. The heat of the day peaks soon after they set out and afterwards the temperature drops, but it becomes apparent to all, not just Larry, that the wind is dropping as well, so it is bearable and they continue to march.

    To their left as they travel is the wide and uneven landscape of the bowl and then a higher mountain range, to their right is a ridge-line perhaps a thousand feet above them, and far behind that an absolute monster of a wall, a towering cliff face covered in snow whose summit is shrouded in clouds.

    As they pick their way across the barren, frozen, rough and rocky landscape, the ridge to their left lowers. Over the course of the hours it drops to half its height, then a quarter. The clouds overhead grow thicker, and lower, as they continue until eventually they cannot even discern when the sun actually goes behind the mountains in the west, but it is around that time that the first flakes of snow begin to fall. With the wind still around 15mph and gusting over 20mph, they don’t have to worry about accumulation - the snow is whisked away from the rocks as soon as it lands, scuttling along like millions of tiny white ghosts. Willa continues to encourage them on, saying they are going to use all the light they have and before it gets too cold to travel, snow be damned.

    6pm. Actual temperature 4F, wind chill -25

    Finally the ridge to their left has lowered into scattered outcrops with gaps between. In the twilight they can just make out the valley beyond, lower, much bigger, and flatter than the one they are in. When it is so dark that those without darkvision begin to trip and stumble, Willa calls for a halt. They have been marching without rest some six hours. They pitch the tent as rapidly as they can, and then lead the mules inside before unloading them.

    7pm. Actual temperature 3F, wind chill -26.

    Thokk and Larry do their watch from 7pm to 9pm. So far, those present are able to tolerate the cold in the tent, while those outside risk a few hours of exposure without lighting the stove. The snow continues to fall. Little drifts begin to accumulate in deep depressions and behind large crags, but for the most part the snow is swept away by the steady wind.

    8pm. Actual temperature, 2F, wind chill -28. [Thokk and Larry make their saves on watch]

    9pm. Actual temperature, 2F, wind chill -28. [Thokk and Larry make their saves on watch]

    As Thokk and Larry hand off the watch to Aurora and Tyrius at 9pm, Larry casts a parting protection from cold on Tyrius and wishes him well. “Mayhap ye won’ be needin’ this, Tyrius - th’ snoo be keepin’ th’ wind doon an’ tain’t so coold tanight.”

    10pm. Actual temperature 1F, wind chill -29. [Aurora makes her save, Tyrius no save needed.]

    11pm. Actual temperature 0F, wind chill -31. [Aurora and Tyrius make their saves.]

    Tyrius has made it through the watch session without growing more exhausted. Pelor willing, he will be able to shed his exhaustion with a good night’s sleep tonight. He and Aurora are relieved by Willa and Babshapka, just as it drops colder. They face a decision - if they remain on watch outside, they are going to need to bring out the stove. Or, they could do their watch in the tent, where the stove is about to be lit anyway.

    Willa and Babshapka slip the signal whistles out of Tyrius’ pack while he slumbers and light the camp stove in the tent. They plan on keeping themselves warm inside, but listening for any sounds outside. Every so often, several times an hour at irregular intervals, one of them goes out and makes a quick circuit of the tent, walking a fair distance in each direction and listening, but returning before getting too cold (less than half an hour), and making sure they they are warm again before setting out by alternating turns. The tent itself is quiet, with just the heavy breathing and occasional snores of those sleeping, punctuated now and then by the soft nickering of the mules or the gentle flops of them leaving steaming apples on the floor. Outside, all they hear is the wind.

    12am. Actual temperature -1F, wind chill -32

    [ 7 human rations used; 71 human rations remaining
    2.5 mule rations used (no forage and extra quarter-ration); 21 mule rations remaining
    0.5 pounds coal used; 23 pounds coal remaining]

    19 February, 571 [28 Readying] - Barrier Peaks, 18000 feet elevation
    [Clear; low -6, high 8. The temperature will be warmed by 2F for each mile traveled today to a maximum of +15F due to geothermal activity.]
    [The mules are starting out at 274lbs each, which is no longer heavily encumbered but just encumbered. Their speed will go from 20 to 30.]

    1am. Actual temperature -2F, wind chill -34.

    At 1am, Willa passes the signal whistle to Shefak and explains their watch plan. The monk nods earnestly.

    3am. Actual temperature -3F, wind chill -35.

    At 3am, Shefak passes the signal whistle to Umbra. Babshapka explains their watch plan and the strange elf nods cooly.

    As Umbra and Babshapka go about their watch, they notice the wind speed building. The still-falling snow is driven rapidly before it, hitting the windward side of the tent with force before flying over and around it. The sides of the tent flap against the mules, and they stamp irritably.

    4am. Actual temperature -4F, wind chill -47.
    5am. Actual temperature -5F, wind chill -57.

    By 5am there are snow squalls outside, and a wind of over 30 miles an hour that would strip the heat from anyone uncovered in minutes. The party wakes to a howling gale outside, and the watchers see the clouds growing lighter with approaching day, but also flashes of cold lightning between them.

    [Tyrius has successfully rested and removed his exhaustion]

    The party, mules included, eat inside. Willa says there is no point in even packing at the moment. If anything, the winds appear to be increasing.

    6am. Actual temperature -6F, wind chill -61.

    Larry says this is the peak of the storm, and that the spirits tell him it will be warming and the wind going down shortly. He cautions against watchers continuing to make scouting rounds, though. Their opening the tent flaps at this point will let in more cold than the little camp stove can compete with.

    Willa was satisfied with the march they had the day previous, starting at noon and have lunched already. She sees no point in exposing the party if it is not warm enough to at least march without them freezing. She is fine with waiting out the morning, if that is what it takes. She also approves tying closed the flaps of the tent securely for the moment, and not having scouts outside - although she does ask Aurora whether she wants to watch from above in her climate-controlled rope trick room.

    Aurora considers it, but agrees that nearly all threats to the party would not be out in this weather. However, anything that was capable of movement now, like frost giants or yeti, would be such a serious threat that she would rather hang on to her second-level slots for the time being. A well-placed web would likely be more decisive in combat than having a few more seconds of warning.

    7am. Actual temperature -4F, wind chill -54.

    11am. Actual temperature 4F, wind chill -41.

    At 11am Willa calls for camp to be struck so they can depart at mid-day. As bags are packed around her, Aurora dismisses Buckbeak and spends ten minutes ritual casting to summon her fey familiar back in the form of a snowy owl, Hedwig. The last half hour is spent getting the tent and stove packed, so that everyone has already spent thirty minutes in the cold by the time they are moving.

    12pm. Actual temperature 6F, wind chill -37. [Tyrius fails his save, and is again with one level of exhaustion.]

    As their last acts before leaving their campsite, Larry casts protection from cold on Tyrius, and Aurora sends Hedwig aloft, with instructions to search the lower elevations for caves large enough to shelter the party and trees or bushes large enough to burn.

    Hedwig squints in the light, for the squall in the early morning has blown the clouds away, and it is a bright, clear day. The snow stopped hours ago, and just a few drifts remain up against the largest of the rocks or down in deep crevasses.

    As soon as they start out it is apparent that the mules are moving faster than before. Since they left Moradinath-Mor, Randy and Andy have been moving at a slow plod and either Eddard or Babshapka has been calling for their rest whenever a natural windbreak appeared. Now, however, they have a more lively walking pace. Aurora, Tyrius, Willa, and Umbra (the slower members of the party) find that they can easily keep pace with the mules, but they are feeling the elevation, and are soon breathing deeply as if jogging, while actually at just a walking pace. Secretly, Willa doubts that she could go a full ten hour march at this pace, and does not rue her decision to keep today’s march to just six hours.

    All the previous day the party traveled west at the base of the low ridge. Now they finally move past it, turning north through a narrow gap that will eventually take them out into the large valley Larry’s spirits told him of.

    12:30pm. Actual temperature 8F, wind chill -33. [Tyrius no save needed, everyone else makes save]

    1pm. Actual temperature 10F, wind chill -29. [No further checks needed as long as party is moving.]

    As they emerge into the foretold valley, a strange sight greets the party. It is perhaps ten miles across but longer than it is wide, and slopes gently down to the center. Although still rough, it is not near as rugged and jagged as what they traversed the day before. However, the surprising feature is the innumerable spots where white smoke rises up from the floor. Thokk at first thinks he is seeing a great army encampment - but without the army. What is actually burning is not obvious, for the smoke is the white of steam, not the grey of woodsmoke or black of sooty coal. Looking across the vast valley, they do not see any creatures moving, just the smokes rising up and then being carried away by the wind. Furthermore, although the rock itself is the grey and black of granite they have been passing for a week, here and there in the valley are dots of yellow, often near the smokes. In the lowest, center, spot is a hint of blue.

    Willa doesn’t like the look of it at all. “What be t’ose, and be we crossin’ t’em?” she asks Larry suspiciously. The dwarf takes a moment to confer with his spirits, shaking his head incredulously.

    “They be sayin’,” he finally relays, “tha’ th’ fires o’ the Oerth be close t’ th’ surface ‘ere. Tha’ smoke be nae smoke, bu’ steam, so they say.” He shakes his head again, adding as an aside, “Fires o’ the Oerth, me feet! Tain’t no such thing. These spirits be daft.”

    After a minute more, he continues, “Boot t’ answer yer question, nae, we nae be crossin’. Th’ cave we seek is t’ th’ wes’ - we ‘ug th’ wall until we leave this valley, doon ah steep slope.”

    Willa removes one fur-lined leather mitten, then the steel gauntlet of her plate, then the kid leather glove beneath. She touches the rocky ground - it is as cold as ice, but so is the wind whipping past. “If thar be fahr unner ther Oerth, I ain’t feelin; it,” she says, more confidence in her voice. She points Thokk at the western wall, and he moves off to choose a route for the mules.

    2pm. Actual temperature 13F, wind chill -21.
    3pm. Actual temperature 14F, wind chill -18.
    4pm. Actual temperature 15F, wind chill -17.

    As they work their way along the southwestern wall, the wind drops. They seem to be using the cliff face itself as a huge windbreak. After three hours, they find a gap leading to a slope down. At least the spirits were not lying about that. But as the valley below comes into view, they are struck with another oddity.

    Starting more than a mile down with a few sparse bushes, eventually they see scattered pine trees on the lowest slopes. They haven’t seen vegetation in days, and even downslope should still be above treeline. Is it possible these subterranean fires exist, and are warming things enough for plant life to survive? This time Willa has Thokk upend a huge rock as she strips her hand, then places it on ground that has been out of the wind until moments ago. It is cool, to be sure - but not as frigid as the air above. Could these fires be real?

    The steep slope down looks treacherous, and they have just two hours of light remaining. Willa sets them moving again, with Thokk and Larry in front to select their route.

    5pm. Actual temperature 17F, wind chill -12.
    6pm. Actual temperature 18F, wind chill +3.

    Despite the declining sunlight, the air grows warmer as they descend, and the wind drops considerably. At first they pass over spare tussocks of frozen grass. By the time they find a ledge that is broad and flat enough for the pavilion, they are among scattered scrub bushes. Willa calls for a halt, saying simply, “Watch be outside ternight, no coal fer ther moment.” They could denude half the hillside in gathering enough wood for a decent campfire, and it would be green at that, so Willa tells them not to bother collecting wood - they should be enjoying the warmest night they have had in awhile.

    First watch, 7-9pm, Thokk and Larry [Warm enough that no saves needed]

    9pm. Actual temperature 15F, wind chill 1 (above).

    Second watch, 9-11pm, Aurora and Tyrius [Aurora and Tyrius both save]

    10pm. Actual temperature 14F, wind chill -1.
    11pm. Actual temperature 13F, wind chill -2.

    While Aurora is on watch, Hedwig returns. She has traveled south of the party and found only barren slopes of snow, rock, and ice - no greenery, and no caves. She made her way back up the valley in which the party is now, however, and found it full of fir trees at the bottom. Some eight or ten miles downslope of the party she also spied a cave that might serve as a cramped shelter for the party, if not the mules. The cave appeared to be occupied by canines, however.

    Third watch, 11pm-1am, Willa and Babshapka. [Both make their saves]

    [ 7 human rations used; 64 human rations remaining
    2.5 mule rations used (no forage, extra quarter-ration); 18.5 mule rations remaining
    5 pounds coal used; 18 pounds coal remaining]

    [Unbeknownst to the party, they are camped less than a mile from the Unoerthly Cave.]
    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.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Feb 23, 2021 12:47 pm  
    Post 157: The Unoerthly Cave

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers to module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks
    [Bold font] or [blue text] indicates specific keyed encounters and area descriptions from the original module.

    Lurkers Above have no official 5E stats - I made my own conversion.

    The playdate for this, our first Barrier Peaks session, was 12 January, 2019.

    20 February, 571 [1 Coldeven] - Barrier Peaks, 18000 feet elevation
    [Clear; low 8, high unknown (inside cave).]

    Third watch, 11pm-1am, Willa and Babshapka.

    12am. Actual temperature 13F, wind chill -2. Willa and Babshapka both save.
    1am. Actual temperature 12F, wind chill -3. Willa and Babshapka both save.

    Fourth watch, 1am - 3am, Babshapka and Shefak

    2am. Actual temperature 12F, wind chill -3. Babshapka saves; Shefak fails and gains 1 level of exhaustion.
    3am. Actual temperature 11F, wind chill -4. Babshapka and Shefak both save.

    Fifth watch, 3am - 5am, Babshapka and Umbra

    4am. Actual temperature 10F, wind chill -6. Babshapka and Umbra both save.
    5am. Actual temperature 9F, wind chill -7. Babshapka and Umbra both save.

    Long rest successful saves: Babshapka, Umbra, Larry, Thokk, Aurora, Tyrius (removes exhaustion), Willa, Shefak (removes exhaustion), Andy.

    Unsuccessful long rest save: Randy, starts day with 1 level of exhaustion.

    The morning dawns fair and clear and the party has a better view of the long slope upon which they have camped. As Hedwig reported, at the bottom of the slope is a narrow valley covered in fir trees. Where they are now has the occasional scrub bush, but these thicken and turn into stunted trees as the slope descends. It was an unusually warm night, and Willa is gratified that they did not, in fact, end up using any coal. If they keep going down this slope there should be fallen firs to collect for a campfire tonight.

    Randy is particularly fussy, not taking his breakfast grain and kicking and biting as they try to load him. Babshapka and Eddard check his feet, confer, and decide that he may have a colicky indigestion from the cold. Eddard advises them to not feed him for now, to shift some of his load to Andy, and to see if the morning’s walk will help. If he is not better by lunch, Eddard suggests using the camp stove to heat water and giving him warm water for lunch, followed by a warm mash if he will take it.

    Once the mules are laden, the party continues down the slope. They are among the first of the low, scattered trees, with dry and frozen grass beneath their feet, when Larry suddenly looks stunned and stops in his tracks. He is a bit more composed by the time the party catches up, but when they do, he tells them simply, “Th’ spirits say we be ‘ere.”

    The rocky mountainside is before them, with stunted vegetation clinging wherever it can. At first glance, it is just like any mountainside they have seen for days. A moment’s pause, however, reveals more. Here and there among the natural rocks, from tiny pebbles to huge slabs as large as city walls, is worked stone, carved stone, sections large and small that are perfectly flat and nearly vertical, not cracked or angled. Someone - dwarves? stone giants? - has worked sections of the mountain, shaping them and giving them form. These sections go from ground level to over three hundred feet up the side of the mountain. Who can say what lies within - a fortress? A subterranean city?

    Careful inspection of the wall reveals no arrow slits, no windows, no chimneys - but there are two doors! The larger of the two is at ground level and can easily be approached on foot. It is some fifteen feet across and just as high, with the area of worked stone wall beyond it adding another five or ten feet on each side. The door is closed, with the door itself of stone identical to the wall in which it sits.

    Above, some 200 feet up the side of the cliff face, is a smaller door, perhaps a third the size of the lower one. That door is open, and the darkness beyond the open doorway suggests that it leads deeper into the mountain. Is this the “unoerthly cave”? No path or roadway leads to it. It looks like a scrabble up the cliff face would allow access to it, but there are several sheer surfaces that will need to be climbed.

    Aurora sends Hedwig up to investigate the cave above. When she returns, she relates telepathically that the cave mouth opens into a medium-sized space wider than it is deep or high. All of the surfaces within - floor, walls, ceiling - are stone, completely featureless and flat. A heavy layer of dust and dirt is on the floor.

    Aurora approaches the lower door. Here is something odd - touching the door, and the wall, the dust comes away on her gloved hand - there is not in fact stone beneath, but something else! Vigorous rubbing reveals that it is metal, some kind of hard, gray metal like iron or steel and yet not recognizable. Both the door and wall are made of this.

    Further, if this wall is not is beneath the mountain’s stone! Indeed, she can shift a few smaller rocks and find more of the metal wall underneath. Is it possible that the entire section she is seeing is one huge metal wall, though now mostly buried under rock - from a landslide, or an earthquake, or deliberate design? If just the parts she sees are metal, it is as much metal as any of the party has ever seen in one place. If the whole side of the mountain underneath the rock debris is is more metal than they knew existed in the world.

    Thokk moves forward, presses his javelin hard up against the strange metal surface, bears down with all his might as he draws the head over the wall with the wooden shaft nearly doubled in pressure. The shaft snaps. He rubs his hand against the line in the wall. As the dirt is worn away, it reveals the metal underneath without even a scratch. Whatever this strange metal is, it is harder than beaten iron.

    Aurora investigates the lower door. It appears to be without handles, hinges, or any other mechanism of opening. It is recessed several inches back from the wall itself and so obvious to sight, but fits into its frame so flush that not even a paper-thin crack is present anywhere around the margin.

    Thokk, with the help of Tyrius and Larry, spends several minutes trying to push the doors in. Despite his bulging muscles and best efforts, they do not so much as move. [Strength ability check 23, +5 help, +2 guidance, total 30].

    After a bit of discussion, it is resolved that the party will try the upper cave, which appears to be the entrance. Aurora suggests that with three fly spells, she can get the mules and Eddard up, and everyone else can climb. Willa agrees, but insists that the cave be scouted first by more of them than Hedwig before they move either of the two mules up.

    Thokk and Larry, the two most experienced climbers, get into their purchased climbing harnesses and remove hammers, pitons, and ropes from the mules. Even before they have gotten ten feet off the ground, it becomes apparent that none of the rocks are a solid cliff face - all of them are scree that has tumbled down from above and is now leaning against the solid metal wall in heaps and piles. Plenty of the rocks tumble away at the slightest touch, careening to the bottom of the cliff. At best, Thokk and Larry can find large rocks that are firmly in place, supported by the stacks underneath and joined to other rocks by plant roots. The climb itself [Thokk Athletics roll 26] is almost inconsequential - the tricky part will be choosing a route that is safe. [Thokk Survival (Mountain) roll, with advantage from use of climbing harness and pitons, +5 with assistance of Larry: 8, 16+5 = 21]

    With Thokk leading and Larry belaying, the two choose what they believe to be a stable route up the side of the cliff face, leaving a trail of pitons behind them. Sweat glistens on Thokk’s massive biceps as he ascends using almost entirely upper-body strength. Eventually they reach the level of the cave itself.

    The cave mouth opens into a finished room, 8 feet deep, 20 feet wide, and 10 feet high. The far wall has a vertical line from floor to ceiling down its center. All of the surfaces - floor, walls, ceiling - are of the same strange wall metal as outside, completely featureless and flat. A heavy layer of dust and dirt is on the floor, but there are no tracks apparent.

    Thokk bellows down to Willa that it is safe and that she can order people for the ascent. He and Larry tie their ropes together, having easily fifty more feet than needed. Their plan is to lower the ropes straight down from the entrance of the cave and haul people straight up, rather than having them climb the circuitous piton route. They will begin with the lightest people and move to heavier ones as they have more hands to anchor the rope at the top.

    Shefak is the first one up. She rapidly realizes that rappelling up the face will not only endanger her, but everyone below, so she tries to put the least weight possible on the loose rocks as she ascends, pressing just enough to keep herself from dragging and scraping as Thokk and Larry haul her up. The others move away from the base as the occasional rock tumbles down.

    Babshapka is the next up, then Aurora, then Tyrius. Willa and Umbra remain at the bottom with Eddard and the mules.

    Upon her arrival, Aurora investigates the cave, looking for any secret door or control mechanism, but finds nothing (Investigation 23). She sends a firebolt against the metal wall. The dust and dirt turns to soot, but when she cleans that off she finds the metal below is both completely unaffected, and still cool to the touch (Investigation 24).

    Thokk pushes against the doors, but these yield no more than those beneath (Wisdom save 8 ).

    Tyrius stoops down and brushes away the dirt in front of the doors. He finds a curious recessed groove running along the base of the doors, but not the wall. “I think…” he says slowly, “these doors don’t open in...I think they might slide open.” (Wisdom save 18 ). “Thokk, try pushing them apart from each other.”

    Thokk shrugs and adjusts his stance, then focuses on pressing his palms as hard as he can against the doors and moving them away from each other. (Strength check 22). The line running down the center of the wall widens to a narrow crack. Emboldened, Thokk adjusts his hands again and bellows as he strains. He manages to pry the doors a full two inches apart, revealing a much deeper cave beyond. But now, even with space enough for his sausage-thick fingers and much better leverage, the doors won’t budge. Thokk works at them for several minutes until his arms are trembling, but cannot move them further.

    Aurora reaches up to put her hand on his shoulder and bids him rest. She listens at the narrow gap, but does not hear anything immediately. “Well, that ought to be safe enough for even Willa,” she says. “Time to bring the mules up.” She has Larry knot a rope about her waist and then he and Tyrius lower her down the cliff face.

    At the bottom, Aurora and Willa and Eddard discuss strategy. Eddard is quite confident that he can simply zoom up to the cave entrance once Aurora has cast a fly spell on him. He is more worried about the mules. They are likely to panic and bolt once they get off the ground. He recommends blinkering them and pulling them up with rope. Willa suggests that Eddard guide each of the mules up, one at a time, and he agrees - until Aurora informs them that fly is a concentration spell and she can cast it on only one animal at a time.

    Still, Aurora casts fly on Eddard, and he floats easily up to the cave to inform the others of the situation. After some discussion above, Larry casts spider climb on himself and comes down. While Willa modifies a feed bag into a hood for Randy, Larry unties Aurora and leads the rope through Randy’s halter and then the stays of his pack harness. He walks around the base of the cliff with him for a few minutes until the mule grows accustomed to being led blind, then has Aurora cast her second fly spell. Larry walks over to a large rock with a low incline and guides the mule up it, then has it walk with him up steeper and steeper slopes, until both are ascending vertically. Randy is hesitant and it is slow going with lots of coaxing, but eventually they reach the cave entrance and Randy is led inside, his hood removed. Larry waves down to Aurora to dismiss her spell.

    Tyrius slips a crowbar from the mule’s pack and gives it to Thokk. The barbarian’s eyes brighten with excitement and he immediately returns to the doors even as Larry is descending the cliff face.

    With a number of grunts and tugs, Thokk succeeds in getting the doors open half a foot - just wide enough for someone narrow to slip through. Shefak slips on her ring of invisibility and enters.

    At the base of the cliff, Larry gets Andy prepared, and Aurora casts her third fly spell. Larry begins guiding Andy up the cliff face.

    Shefak rapidly realizes that the great cave is far deeper than she can go using just the dim light entering through the partially-open doors. The interior of the cave is a large, dark chamber. It is sixty feet by sixty and has three tunnels out, across from her (north), to the right (east), and to the left (west), all aligned at precise angles. Down the tunnel in front of her there are recessed doorways barely visible; she cannot see down the other tunnels from her current location, and would likely not have light enough even were she there. In the center of the chamber there is an odd circular support column that runs from floor to ceiling [Drop tube]. While most of the floor of the cave is quite flat and solid, there appears to be textured walkways running from the tunnels to each other and the door, all intersecting at the column.

    After Larry gets Andy into the outer cave and untied, the rope is used to bring up Aurora, Umbra, and Willa in quick succession.

    Aurora spells: Start 4/3/3
    Used: Mage armor (5am), Fly (x3).
    Currently: 3/3/0

    Larry spells: Start 4/4/3
    Used: Create water, spider climb
    Currently: 3/2/3

    (9am) Shortly after Umbra is hauled into the exterior cave, she approaches the narrow opening of the doors. She examines the space beyond first with her eyes open, and then, closing her eyes and with her nostrils flaring (Perception 24).

    The most obvious thing about the space beyond the doors is that it is warm - as warm as a spring day - far warmer than the montane winter outside. Perhaps there is something to Larry’s “fires in the Oerth"?

    The air beyond smells stale - not unexpected for a cave, but still, unsettling. Deep, deep within she hears sounds - low, repetitive, pulsing sounds. This is a stranger place, perhaps, than she has ever been before.

    “I thought we be lookin’ fer a fallen star,” says Willa dubiously. “Nay a metal cave.”

    “I think,” says Aurora, “someone found the star first...someone built this...fortress? guard the star. But so much metal! Could this all be star metal? Could the star be so big that they mined it to make all of this?” She shakes her head, not sure what to believe.

    Working together, Thokk, Willa, and Tyrius manage to open the sliding doors wide enough for even the mules to squeeze through without having to unload them. All of the party files through into the chamber beyond. Tyrius summons the light of Pelor while Willa gives a low, impressed whistle.

    Just inside the sliding doors, before opening out into the larger chamber, there is a door set into the walls on both sides, so that the door they entered is the middle one of three. Aurora immediately finds a strange device on the wall to the right of the two other doors. Set into the door frame at about the height of her torso, is a small panel divided into three. The top section contains a narrow, horizontal slot. The middle section is a flat panel. The bottom section is a small, recessed bowl or receptacle, with the space above it going into the unseen inner workings of the panel. She tries to touch and probe this, first with her mage hand, and then her real hand, but nothing happens.

    The party takes a few cautious steps into the larger chamber beyond. The hooves of the mules clatter on the odd metal floor and the noise echoes down all three of the corridors before them. Suddenly Umbra hears a strange, faint, high-pitched warbling like a bird call, and then a hiss like a steaming kettle. The light of the chamber dims. Turning behind them, they find that the large double doors they entered have closed completely.

    Thokk strains to push them apart, but to no avail. He throws his shoulder against them, but succeeds only in hurting himself. (Thokk takes 2 points bludgeoning damage). They are unoerthly strong. He suspects foul magic, like that of the walls and bars of the Ghost Tower.

    These middle doors, notes Aurora, lack the curious panels of the smaller ones.

    With no way of going back, the party goes deeper. Willa lights her lantern and draws her sword.

    They are impressed by the absolute amount of metal everywhere. Most everything is covered in a layer of dust, though. Near the strange column is a pile of rags. Babshapka investigates (Nature 16). It is a strange, ancient cloth - perhaps silk, and a disarticulated skeleton. It could be human - the proportions are correct, but it is so old and dry, crumbing to dust as he handles it, and missing so many parts, that he cannot be sure.

    The party turns their attention to the column [drop chute].

    The column is a hollow cylinder with an opening on both sides. Inside are two tracks opposite each other, running the vertical length of the shaft up to the ceiling and down as far as can be seen in the darkness. The tracks remind Aurora of some of the belts that were used in the machinery that operated the dumbwaiter room in Castle Ravenloft, but larger. They remind Tyrius of the belts that translate the motion of a wind or water mill into the action that spins a millstone or moves trip-hammers. They are not moving. Each track has a series of handles spaced eight feet apart. At the top of the tube the handles appear to fold into the wall so that they could pass through a circuit, were the track moving. Thokk kicks some of the bones into the shaft - he hears them bounce off the side a few times, but does not hear them hit the bottom - it is either a long way down, or a cushioned landing. The shaft descends farther than any of them can see, either with their own darkvision or by the light of Tyrius’ spell.

    Given the three options of exit corridors, the party decides to head west. Willa arranges them in marching order, with the mules in the back. Thokk and Babshapka are in the front rank, Larry and Shefak in the second rank. No sooner have they started down the corridor, when the ceiling falls and envelopes them! [numbered encounter 1]

    For those watching, a thick, heavy, section of ceiling, fully twenty feet across, has peeled away and fallen, but upon draping itself around the front two ranks, has pulled itself together, and is even now constricting its muscles to simultaneously strangle and smother them. [Thokk, Babshapka, Larry, and Shefak each take between 6 and 8 damage, are restrained, and are suffocating]

    Round 1
    Willa rushes at the strange muscular blanket-like creature, slashing it with her greatsword [15 damage].

    Babshapka struggles to draw his swords inside it, but finds his arms pinioned to his sides, with no room to strike.

    [All four of the characters inside take another 6 to 8 damage.]

    Larry struggles inside the creature, trying to break free, but only feels it grabbing him tighter and further squeezing the air from his body (Strength save 8 ). Babshapka fares no better (Strength save 11).

    Umbra shoots forth a frigid beam of blue-white light that strikes the creature, raising welts on its rubbery skin.

    With the last air in his lungs, Thokk bellows forth a muffled roar (first use of enrage for the day - advantage on strength saves). Punching, kicking, and struggling, he forcibly crawls forth from some orifice of the beast and out onto the metal floor (Strength save 19).

    Inside the creature, Shefak stills her mind and summons her internal energy. Feeling her go limp, the creature shifts its muscle groups to the still-struggling Babshapka and Larry. Suddenly Shefak strikes out, using her knees and elbows to strike deep within the creature at now vulnerable organs. The creature spasms, them topples over, dragging all three of those inside to their sides.

    [Attack action: unarmed strike, unarmed strike. 1 Ki point (flurry of blows): Bonus action: unarmed strike, unarmed strike, target save vs. dex or knocked prone. Total four attacks, 1 hit against AC 16. 9 damage, Lurker Dex save 4, fails. Those attacking it from outside now have advantage.]

    Aurora shoots a firebolt at the creature [12 fire damage].

    Tyrius charges, raining down blows of his hammer [two hits, total 17 damage]

    Round 2
    Thokk tries to pry open the sphincter-like mouth of the creature and retrieve his friend Larry, but to no avail. His powerful hands find no purchase of the boneless, rubbery creature. [Larry strength save 2, +5 from Thokk’s help = 7. On Thokk’s turn, he neither attacks nor has taken damage since his last turn. His rage ends.]

    Umbra sends for a skeletal, disembodied hand to grab at the creature, but that, too, is ineffective.

    Now standing nearly astride the creature, Willa opens great gashes along its flanks, revealing glimpses of her mates inside. [two hits, one critical, total 29 damage] The creature quivers, but can no longer effectively constrict. The three inside, even Larry, begin to crawl out.

    Aurora shoots a last firebolt at it [damage 11], and the creature’s movement ceases. It slowly oozes out a purple-colored, blood like substance. This makes the floor sticky, but drops through the slots in the treaded part of the floor making a steady dripping patter on some surface close below. As the liquid drains away, the color of the creature turns from the dull gray of the metal ceiling to a dead white.

    Larry suggests that the party walk further apart, and Aurora explains to Thokk how he can probe the ceiling with his wooden pole every so often to detect other such creatures.
    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.&nbsp;
    Adept Greytalker

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    Fri Feb 26, 2021 9:19 pm  

    The journey just getting to the Starfall has been just as exciting as actually starting to explore it. Your players are all very, very lucky to have you as their DM.

    You mentioned in a previous thread that the party is going to shrink in size a bit. How many PCs will be in the party once some of them leave? One of the reasons I love your thread is because I like large parties.
    Master Greytalker

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    Sun Feb 28, 2021 1:40 pm  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    The journey just getting to the Starfall has been just as exciting as actually starting to explore it. Your players are all very, very lucky to have you as their DM.

    And they tell me so, so I am lucky as well!

    CruelSummerLord wrote:

    You mentioned in a previous thread that the party is going to shrink in size a bit. How many PCs will be in the party once some of them leave? One of the reasons I love your thread is because I like large parties.

    The party's current size is eight - they will pick up a new member, run by a new player, inside the Unoerthly Cave, bringing them to 9 PC's for three stable players, which was unwieldy. Once out of the cave, they will split with the five more-played characters becoming the main party, and the four less-played ones branching off - with the possibility to be continued in the future. Then the main group will get one more new character, for a total of 6 PC's played by 3 players. That is where we are right now and I am very happy with how it is working.
    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.&nbsp;
    Adept Greytalker

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    Posts: 422
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    Sun Feb 28, 2021 9:26 pm  

    Kirt wrote:

    CruelSummerLord wrote:

    You mentioned in a previous thread that the party is going to shrink in size a bit. How many PCs will be in the party once some of them leave? One of the reasons I love your thread is because I like large parties.

    The party's current size is eight - they will pick up a new member, run by a new player, inside the Unoerthly Cave, bringing them to 9 PC's for three stable players, which was unwieldy. Once out of the cave, they will split with the five more-played characters becoming the main party, and the four less-played ones branching off - with the possibility to be continued in the future. Then the main group will get one more new character, for a total of 6 PC's played by 3 players. That is where we are right now and I am very happy with how it is working.

    What's the next story arc? Are you sending them to the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, pitting them against the Slave Lords or making them fight Against The Giants?
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Mar 02, 2021 11:05 am  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:

    What's the next story arc? Are you sending them to the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, pitting them against the Slave Lords or making them fight Against The Giants?

    Yes, one of the three. Wink

    I think it is a little to early for that - today is the second of many posts about their Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. I don't want to get ahead of myself and would rather entertain speculation about what is going to happen to them on the spaceship rather than what will happen if they survive it.

    We will BUILD to that.
    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.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Mar 02, 2021 11:28 am  
    Post 158: The First Vegepygmy Battle

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers to module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    Locations keyed in the module are indicated in [blue].

    The playdate for this, our second Barrier Peaks session, was 18 January, 2019.

    DM's Notes: Vegepygmies and Thornies are statted for 5E in Volo's Guide to Monsters. However, the ones the party found herein were my personal conversions which attempted to stay closer to the source material. Mine are considerably more resilient and also have the six gradations of power found in the original module (HD1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6), whereas Volo's has only normal vegepygmies (CR 1/4 and just 9hp) and chiefs. I have started a thread in the 5e forum documenting my hombrew conversions to S3 but unfortunately have not worked on it of late; I started it in anticipation of running the module but soon the actual play itself consumed my posting time!

    Vegepygmy Sporrior AC15, Hp.16, Dart: +5 to hit, d6+3 piercing, pack tactics
    Vegepygmy Sprout AC16, Hp.22, Javelin: +4 to hit, 2d4+2 piercing, pack tactics
    Vegepygmy Sapling AC17, Hp.30, Club: +0 to hit, d10-2 bludgeoning, distracting attack
    Vegepygmy Champignion AC18, Hp.37, Mace: +0 to hit, 2d4-1 bludgeoning, distracting attack
    Thornie AC15, Hp.30, Bite: +3 to hit, d4+2 piercing, prickly

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 1 - Level I, South
    9:40 am - 3 displacer beasts
    12:50 pm - Police robot
    1:00 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 4 thornies
    1:10 pm - 4 vegepygmies, 1 thornie
    3:20 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    7 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    8:10 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    9:10 pm - Worker robot
    10:30 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 5 thornies
    11:50 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    Post 158: The First Vegepygmy Battle
    20 February, 571 [1 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 1

    The corridor they are in has at least six of the strange doors before it turns a corner at the end, but Thokk hasn’t gone thirty feet before he finds one of the doorways, to his right, is open. The party investigates the small (20’ x 20’) room beyond [unnumbered room - apartment].

    It is a small chamber, apparently a solitary living quarters, judging by the furniture. The furniture itself is easily recognizable in form and function, but is made of strange and unfamiliar materials. The walls, floor, and ceiling are of the same metal as the exterior corridors. The floor and walls are solid, while the ceiling has a few rectangular panels that look as though they might be made of glass - although impossibly large for single panes. Just inside the door are two small, recessed panels on the wall. Both are rectangular and slightly larger than a human hand.

    Once several of them are in the room, Aurora presses the first panel (closer to the door) whereupon there is a slight whirring noise and the door slides shut. After a brief moment of panic, with many of those in the party looking for the inevitable pit trap, water trap, crushing ceiling, etc., Aurora pushes the panel again, and the door resumes its open position!

    When the second panel (farther from the door) is pressed, the room is flooded with very bright light. After their eyes adjust the party can see that the light is being produced by, or perhaps coming from behind, the glass panels in the ceiling.

    The party searches the room - it should be a quick search of a small space with little of interest - but each of them is dumbfounded by the strangeness of the materials used to make otherwise familiar objects. Showing the odd materials to one another, the party comes to recognize that they appear to be variations on the same thing:

    “Cave Horn”: This material is lighter than wood but hard and rigid, like horn. It shows no sign of having been carved - in fact, it looks more like it has been cast in a mold of exceptional detail and precision. It is reasonably easy to scratch, and in a few places there are scratches and scuff marks. Pieces that are large or thick are quite rigid, with just a trace of flex. Pieces that are small or thin, however, bend easily under pressure but instantly return to their original form when released. If pushed too hard, they will break rather than bending permanently. The odd material seems to be a substitute for wood and much of the furniture is made from it.

    “Cave Sponge”: This material appears to be full of tiny holes, like a sea sponge but much smaller and more regular. It compresses easily under pressure, but springs back almost immediately. It seems to have been cut to fit each of the items it is inside. The odd material seems to be a substitute for straw, hair, or feather-stuffed mattresses and upholstery.

    The bed has a frame made of light, rigid material they begin to call ‘cave horn’. The mattress is covered with a thin, linen-like but unrecognizable fabric. It is rent, torn, and stained in several places. Beneath the fabric is a thick block of soft, incredibly light, and resilient material they begin to call ‘cave sponge’.

    The room also contains an odd, stuffed divan. It appears to be designed for two or more people to sit next to one another, but in comfort, which is a strange concept. Of course, people often crowd together on benches at trestle tables or in pews at church because they must. But anyone wealthy enough to have private, upholstered furniture would surely want a chair to themselves, wouldn’t they? The divan has a frame made of cave horn. The seat and back cushions and armrests are covered with a thin, linen-like but unrecognizable fabric. It is rent, torn, and stained in several places. Underneath the fabric is a thick block of cave sponge. They imagine the divan would be exceedingly comfortable, as if it were designed for sleeping rather than sitting.

    There is a low table flanked by the divan. The height of the table is odd. For creatures sitting on the divan, it would be difficult to eat without bending over uncomfortably. The table is made of a single piece of a cave horn.

    There is a high table flanked by chairs, all of them made of cave horn. The table is a solid piece with fixed legs rather than of trestle construction, and likely cannot be put away when not in use, even though it is light enough to move easily. The chairs have normal backs, but no legs. Rather, the seat continues down the front, across the bottom, and up the back, so that the whole thing from the side rather resembles a lower base letter “b”.

    The desk is plain and unadorned. The drawers open easily, with a sophisticated system of runners and metal castors such as might be found in an expensive trap. The drawers are either empty or have worthless junk, however. Oddly, they find no trace of ink, ink bottles, quills, sealing wax, parchment, paper, or anything else that might be expected in a desk. The surface of the desk is a hard, reflective metal sheet, while the drawers and legs are made of cave horn.

    There is a small cave horn nightstand by the bed that seems to double as a chest. The lid folds up, but the entire front may be pulled out like a drawer as well. The hinges are of a hard, reflective metal. The drawer opens easily, with the same runners and castors as in the desk. It is empty, however.

    There are also skeletons in the room - definitely humanoid and most likely human, judging by their size and features, but the bone is exceptionally old and dry. What remains of the rags they are clad in is an exceptionally light material, thin like silk but remarkably resistant to decay judging by the age of the bones.

    “I wonder whether we could stop this door from closing if we had to,” says Aurora. She places the chair from the room in the doorway and presses the interior plate. The door slides closed, pausing when it reaches the chair. Aurora thinks she hears a whirring sound, like mice scurrying in the walls, and then the chair shatters, with several broken pieces of the horn-like material landing inside the room and several outside, as the door slides firmly closed.

    “Remind me not to be the last one through the doorway,” she says.

    9:40am - Unbeknownst to the party, three displacer beasts approach the apartment cautiously, sniff and listen to the sounds of them searching the room. Later, when the party emerges but without the mount and mules, the beasts fall back into the shadows and tail them.

    The party isn’t keen on walking around with their mules and gear in tow and exposing them to fights, and this room seems like an ideal place to keep them. Eddard is easily able to open and close the door by pushing the wall panel with his nose, and Tyrius is able to communicate with him telepathically even with the door closed. Just to be sure, the party tries to open the door from the outside, and are unable to do so. What a great place to stow things! Eddard agrees to stay and watch the mules, and the party eagerly sets out.

    “Ye sure ye don’t need yer spells?” Willa asks Aurora. “Ye used all yer powerful ones gettin’ ther four-legs up ‘ere.”

    “No, I’m only down a mage armor and three flies so far,” says the enchantress confidently. “I still have plenty of uses of magic missile and web left, and that should be enough for whatever else we find dropping from the ceiling. Mind you, I do like fireball and certainly wouldn’t mind having one on hand, but I’m no one-trick pony.”

    “Suit yerself,” shrugs Willa as they start down the hall.

    When they reach the corner at the end of the hallway, they see a narrower hall with more doors ahead, but immediately at hand there is another open doorway, with light streaming through it out into the dark beyond.

    Looking through the doorway, they find the room is recognizable as a private feast hall or perhaps the meeting place of a privy council [unnumbered room - activity room]. There is a single long, high table with eight chairs set up. All of the chairs are individual rather than being benches. More grimly, the bones of several humans or humanoids lie strewn about - some in reasonably articulated skeletons and some scattered. Most have rags of fabric clinging to them but no weapons or other devices are in sight. There are several piles of refuse along the walls and in the corners of the room. The southern wall is interesting in that it is gently curved, like the interior wall of a great round tower, rather than set at the precise right angles they have seen everywhere else.

    There are two doors along the interior wall of the hall, and two, including the one they are looking through, along the exterior wall. Most of the party has already passed into the room when Aurora pauses at the threshold. “Hmm…” she says, staring at the wall.

    “What ho?” asks Tyrius.

    “Look at this,” she replies. “This door doesn’t have the slot - glass - receptacle configuration of all the other doors - just a single pressure plate.” Tyrius nods and enters.

    “There are two plates on this side,” he says, “like inside that bedchamber.”

    Aurora presses the single plate on her side of the wall, and the door slides shut, sealing the rest of the party in the room and her outside. A second later, the door opens, and Tyrius grins at her. “Just like the bedchamber,” he says. “Watch this…” He presses the second interior panel and the room is plunged into darkness. Yells and curses from the party, now searching the room, quickly follow.

    And Pelor said let there be light…” he says jovially and presses the panel again. The rectangular ceiling glasses again flood the room with light.

    While the party searches the room, poking through the refuse piles, Aurora goes to the other doors. The door on the exterior wall is identical to the previous one, and can be opened or closed on either side. The two interior doors, however, have the three-part panel they have seen elsewhere, and there is nothing she can do to get them open.

    “What’s different about this space…?” ponders Aurora to herself.

    “In t’other room, ye helped searchin’, an’ in t’is room, yer jus’ sittin' on yer arse?” suggests Willa, as she uses her sword to poke through a jumble of trash on the floor.

    “This room is for public use, whereas that bedroom was private,” Aurora answers herself, giving no indication she has heard Willa. “Private rooms should have keys - which means something in that triptych panel is a keyhole.” She walks over to one of the interior doors, staring at the strange three-part panel. “And if this is the keyhole,” she traces the upper, horizontal, slot with her finger, “the key must be thin and flat, but broad.” Aurora tells the others, as they root through the refuse, to be on the lookout for anything small and flat that might fit in the door slots, but even after more searching, nothing relevant is found.

    The party returns to the hall. It is just a short way up and around the corner, and there is light ahead as well.

    They ignore an open, but dark doorway as they move forward. Looking around the corner, Thokk sees a long hall with no fewer than seven open doorways, each one with light spilling out.

    “Hush!” says Umbra suddenly, killing the innocuous chatter in the party. After a moment of silence, she says, “there is something ahead that is rustling - like tall grass in a breeze.”

    Thokk frowns as he tries to understand her words, then shrugs and moves forward. Peeking into the first room, he sees a curious sight [12]. Ten creatures - eight diminutive, and two the size of large dogs, are in a long, narrow room. The light comes from the ceiling, and the eight tiny men stand with arms open and faces up toward the light, swaying gently back and forth. The men are a mottled green and brown color, and are dressed in armor that looks like it is made of pieces of bark. They bear clubs and javelins, and their features are rough and distorted. Their hair is gathered in top-knots, and they have curious growths and protuberances erupting from their skin, particularly in the region of their bowels.

    As Thokk stares on in bewilderment, the men closest to him in the doorway turn slowly to face him, looking on with curious, lidless eyes.

    Thokk and Willa draw their weapons, but do not advance. They note that the curious bipedal creatures are small, ranging from two to three feet high. The four-legged creatures are rather larger, being the size of mastiffs. A few of the creatures in the room closest to them take some steps forward, then stop, emitting a strange warbling sound and beating on the hard wooden breastplates they have.

    Suddenly every open doorway begins spilling forth the tiny creatures. They move rapidly into the hall; those with javelins preparing to throw, while those with clubs move to the front ranks to engage Thokk and Willa.

    Willa hits one twice (total 25 points) but it remains standing. Apparently they are very tough for diminutive plant-men. Now that they are moving, Willa can see that they are not actually in wooden armor - rather, while much of their body is twisted, sinewy vegetation that moves, other parts have hard, woody plates covering them, like some kind of living exoskeleton.

    Thokk hits one (12 points) and Umbra, testing whether or not they are damaged by magic, fires off three dark bolts (total 7 damage) which do indeed seem to wound one (Umbra now at 3/3/3 for spells).

    Round One
    The three largest plant men, barely three feet high, attempt to batter Thokk and Willa with their clubs. For being so tough, they are not particularly strong, and the blows bounce harmlessly off of Willa’s armor or are easily avoided by Thokk.

    Willa’s counterstrikes are strong, but don’t penetrate the hard wooden plates of the creatures (hit rolls 14, 16 - they have AC17).

    Thokk hits twice (for 18 total) and the plant man he faces is still standing. How infuriating! Thokk enrages. (second use of rage for the day).

    Seeing the hallway swarming with the tiny creatures and more emerging from the rooms, Larry steps up behind Thokk and Willa. Calling upon the mountain spirits of storms, he launches forth a massive lightning bolt (32 points) low to the ground (Larry now 3/2/2 for spells). It shoots through the plant men in the front ranks of the party, enters one of the rooms they are coming out of, and bounces off the metal walls, filling the air with the smell of ozone. A half-second later, it emerges from the room, and heads straight back at the party, arcing through the plant men along the way! Babshapka, Willa, Larry, and Tyrius are all forced to dive out of the way, and still take damage from the stroke (16 points).

    With currents still arcing through his chainmail, Larry plants his feet firmly again. “Worth et” he says simply, but Babshapka is not so sure. The plant men seem to have attracted the lightning, but it passed right through them - none of them seem the worse for wear.

    “Uh, Larry...are you sure plants are hurt by lightning?” the elf asks. “Maybe we could try fire?”

    [DM’s note: Vegepygmies and thornies are immune to damage from electricity]

    The back ranks of plant men launch a volley of javelins at Thokk, Willa, and Babshapka. Only Babshapka is hit, but by three of the small, pointed sticks. The projectiles don’t have metal heads or even fletching, but they are covered in wicked barbs and the plant men throw them with deadly accuracy. Between the javelins (14 points) and the previous lightning bolt (16 points), Babshapka is not doing so well (now down to 9hp remaining).

    Seeing Babshapka waiver, Shefak launches herself forward. She leaps into the front rank with a kick that knocks a plant man out of the way but does no damage. Another kick wounds one, and a mighty blow from her staff finishes it off. (total two hits, one critical, damage 25). Seeing its form quiver on the floor, then cease its struggles, Shefak encourages her teammates, “They are strange, but mortal. Don’t give in to fear.”

    Despite her words, there is another volley of javelins from the plant men, and two find their mark among the party.

    “Ugh, there are too many…” frets Aurora, now regretting her words to Willa about not needing fireball. “They are like plant - rats. This should help…” she fills the hallway with webs, creating a shield against the javelins, trapping several of the plant men, and effectively halving the number the party are facing. (Aurora now at 3/2/0 for spells)

    Babshapka takes the opportunity to withdraw into the back ranks, giving space to anyone else who wants to rush to the fore.

    Tyrius pushes in by Willa and attacks, landing two blows with his hammer (total 17 points) and killing the second creature, then withdrawing. Umbra follows up with a ray of shadow at the closest one to her. (5 points).

    Round 2
    Now safely in the back ranks, Babshapka launches two arrows of his own at a plant man, following it up with a hail of thorns for good measure. The shots should do good damage (22 points total), but the plant man appears unaffected. Even the shafts that miss the wood armor and penetrate the living plant fibre seem to do no damage! (Babshapka spells to 3/2).

    [DM’s note: vegepygmies and thornies are immune to damage from non-magical piercing weapons]

    Babshapka, in a rare moment of anger and frustration, throws his bow on the ground and draws his two swords.

    Another volley of javelins lands for effect among the party. They realize now that the plant men are actually timing their throws to support the front melee ranks of their compatriots - when one of the party steps up to make an attack, they are met with a javelin throw.

    [DM’s note: Vegepygmy missile troops have “pack tactics” - advantage on attacks against any foe engaged in melee with an ally].

    Shefak continues to spin and weave among the melee. She lands two unarmed blows, and a solid blow with her staff. Seeing the number of foes still standing, she inhales sharply, then exhales loudly as she kicks a plant man so hard it flies backward and lands in Aurora’s web! (Second ki point spent for Aurora; flurry of blows plus contested strength roll to knock back 15 feet). In response, one of the strange plant-thorn-dogs lunges from an open doorway and bites Shefak.

    Tyrius looks for an opening between Thokk and Willa, then using Thokk’s rage to effect, moves forward, strikes twice (for 16 damage), and moves back.

    Annoyed that the plant men survived his lightning bolt, Larry summons a moonbeam and places it in one of the rooms from which they are still emerging (Larry now 3/1/2 for spells). The three plant men still in the room wriggle and writhe - the intense light seems to be browning, even scorching, their green “skin”. (7 points to two of them, 3 points to one).

    The tiny plant men don’t seem to understand that the party are the superior combatants. They are continuing to emerge and attack undaunted. Willa is getting angry. She strikes one of the plant men in the doorway of a room and fells it (24 points, now three vegepygmies down).

    Another volley of javelins lands among the party, damaging Shefak (6) and Tyrius (13). Shefak has outworn her welcome on the front lines and has sustained numerous wounds (Shefak at 3hp). Of all the plant men trapped in Aurora’s web, two struggle through and make attacks on Shefak and Tyrius, but to no effect.

    Thokk can barely make out anyone with the sound of his blood raging in his ears, but it seems he hears someone shouting “Fire!” over and over again. Is it Willa? Aurora? No matter. He drops his shield and shrugs his backpack off one shoulder, changes his sword to his offhand, and has the pack on the ground. (Dex save 23). Rummaging in his pack, he pulls out two flasks of oil and launches them at the lead melee plant man and the closest thorn-dog.

    Umbra shoots a Ray of Shadow at one of the thorn dogs, which does appear affected by the cold damage. Suddenly her shadow hound appears in the middle of the melee, baring its jet black teeth and uttering a menacing growl.

    Aurora shoots a fire-bolt at one of the oil-covered plant men (14 points damage, plus 5 from the oil). The resultant fire spreads to the other oil-covered creature and ignites the webs. At the end of the brief conflagration, two of the plant men have been burned to death (total five down), and many others are smoldering and wounded. Aurora had hoped that the plant men would go up like seasoned wood, but it appears that they are too “green” for that, too moist to keep burning after the oil and webs have burned away.

    Round Three
    With most of the plant men near the party struck down, they are now attacked by three thorn dogs. Shefak suffers a bite and drops to the floor in shock, unconscious. Umbra’s hound is bitten, but Willa’s magical armor protects her from another bite.

    Babshapka uses a second-level spell slot to heal himself, but is disappointed in the result (5 points healing, Babshapka’s spells to 3/1).

    Now that the webs have been burned away, there is a volley of eight javelins at the party! Two are aimed at Willa (missed), four on Thokk (one hit for 5, Thokk takes 2), and two on Umbra’s hound (one hit for 4). Before anyone in the party can react, another seven javelins come in! Two on Willa (one hit for 6), three on Thokk (missed), and two on the hound (both hit for 12).

    Umbra shoots another three dark bolts at the plant men around her hound (now at 2/3/3), and the sixth such creature goes down.

    Babshapka gets Aurora’s attention by slapping her with the broad side of his sword, and tells her “There’s too many.” He then shouts at the party for a general retreat and grabs his bow from the floor. Umbra adds her voice to those calling for retreat.

    Somehow the shouts reach Thokk even through his battle lust. He sheathes his sword (which was already in his offhand), throws his pack back on one shoulder, stoops and grabs both his shield and the crumpled body of Shefak. Straightening, he ignores the thorn dogs at his heels as he trots down the hall away from the combat.

    [Note; Thokk took damage this round, so he does not lose his rage even though he did not attack]

    The spellcasters, Larry and Aurora, prepare to cover the party’s retreat. Aurora plans on casting a new web, while Larry is ready to move his moonbeam, once Thokk and Tyrius are out of the way. In the room where the moonbeam already is, the three plant men take more damage and a seventh one is killed.

    Tyrius retreats down the hall, calling after the others to join him.

    Before retreating, Willa decides to attack one of the thorn dogs (two hits, 27 damage). In the course of her attack, several of its thorns blunt themselves on her plate. Without her magic armor, she would likely have taken damage just from getting too near the creature. Willa resolves to warn Shefak of this, if she can be revived.

    Aurora casts web in front of Willa and Thokk, the party members farthest to the front, then continues her own retreat. She conveniently ignores the fact that her web is covering Umbra’s hound (Aurora now at 3/1/0 for spells).

    Round 4
    Of the three thorn dogs covered in Aurora’s web, one remains stuck, one attacks Umbra’s hound, and one emerges to attack Willa. Of the three largest plant men, with clubs, two are caught in the web, while a third breaks free and swings at Thokk.

    The party is feeling confident that their tactical retreat is going well, when suddenly there is an odd hissing sound. To the north a set of doors has opened, revealing another room full of the creatures, on the near side of the web!

    “T’ey ken ‘ow ter use doors!” gasps Willa in surprise. Two of the creatures strike ineffectually at her with clubs.

    Larry whispers a healing word to Shefak, restoring her to consciousness, then concentrates on moving his moonbeam closer to the party. (Larry’s spells at 2/1/2). He gets his spell to cover the newly open doorway, and two plant men and two thorn dogs writhe as they run through it (17 points each!). This is not[/] the kind of light these plants like, apparently.

    Babshapka continues to retreat down the corridor, but Willa is surrounded - she has two of the plant men and two thorn dogs on her. Cursing in annoyance, she strikes at one of the plant men, slashing it into a quivering pile of tendrils (two hits, one critical, total 32 damage). When Aurora [i]firebolts
    the other one, it falls as well.

    Umbra’s hound struggles to keep attacking, but it is ensnared by webs. She mutters darkly, looking down the hall at the plant men and thorn dogs emerging from the moonbeam. A sphere of darkness appears between the creatures. Tendrils of darkness break the surface of the sphere, reach out, grasping at them. Three manage to elude its grasp, but one thorn-dog is grabbed and held. (Entropy; Umbra now at 3/3/2 for spells).

    The plant men in the hall send a volley of ten darts at Thokk and Umbra’s hound. (Three hits on Thokk, one critical, 24 points of damage, reduced to 12 from rage. Five hits on hound, two critical, 32 points of damage). The hound gives up its essence to cover Umbra’s retreat, disappearing back into the shadows from whence it came.

    Plant men begin struggling through the new web, trying to reach the party.

    Shefak jumps down from Thokk’s shoulder, and he draws his sword.

    One plant man batters his club against Willa’s plate armor.

    Round 5
    Thokk and Willa are still covering the party’s retreat. They have turned the corner from the new web, though, and so are visible only to the creatures emerging from the last room, the one whose door just opened. Two darts are thrown at them (Thokk is hit for 5, takes 2).

    Umbra has retreated far enough that she is standing in front of the door of the room in which are the mules and Eddard. She looks anxiously down the hall in both directions as she waits for the rest of the party to catch up with her.

    Larry moves his moonbeam, keeping it just behind Thokk and Willa so that any pursuers have to run through it to get to them.

    A thorn dog misses Thokk; both he and Willa are missed by plant men.

    Shefak pauses in her retreat, adopts a standing meditative pose, and briefly glows with a golden light. She then runs to Umbra’s side, outside the door. (Wholeness of Body - Shefak healed for 18 points).

    With two swift strokes of his sword, Thokk fells two of the thorn dogs.

    Willa hits the remaining plant men twice and then falls back, ignoring their feeble response strikes.

    Aurora and Babshapka arrive at the door to the mules. Babshapka starts pounding on it, while Aurora tries to message Eddard.

    Tyrius arrives at the door and reaches out to Eddard. The door finally opens.

    Round 6
    Aurora provides covering firebolts as the party enters the room as quickly as they can through the doorway. Plant men are still throwing darts as Willa and Thokk, his rage fading, enter last. Just before the doors close, Larry moves the moonbeam into the hallway outside the door itself.

    As the door closes, Thokk turns, ready to form up ranks. When he realizes that they were actually running away, not drawing the plant men forward to fight them from a better position, he howls in frustration. He is not ready for the battle to be over.

    Willa turns on the party accusingly. “What ther ‘ells were t’at?” She seems both surprised and disgusted by their disarray.

    “I guess we are not very practiced at retreating,” offers Aurora. “We don’t do it often. In fact, I think the last time we ran away from a fight was before we knew you. We were outnumbered, and fighting against smugglers.”

    “And skeletons,” adds Babshapka in agreement.

    “And sausages,” says Thokk, and shivers in remembered dread.

    Willa snorts derisively, and motions everyone away from the door while she takes off her helm and places her ear up against the metal.

    Aurora moves to a far corner of the room and begins a ritual of detect magic. Willa hushes her incantations testily. Umbra glides up to the door and listens with Willa. They agree that there are still noises of the plant men without, but they are faint - either they are far away, or the door is an excellent insulator of sound. Willa mutters that she hopes the creatures don’t know how to open this door.

    Tyrius makes the rounds, examining each of their wounds. He finds Babshapka most in need of healing and lays hands on him (5 points of healing, Tyrius out of lay on hands). The elf thanks Tyrius and cautiously lowers himself to the divan, preparing to trance.

    Suddenly the door of the room slides open. It has been less than a minute, and Larry’s moonbeam is still flooding the hallway with light. Beyond the area of the beam, however, are arrayed a dozen or more of the plant men, front ranks with clubs readying a charge, back ranks with darts and javelins in hand. To the side of the door frame, one of the larger plant man stands by the wall, stretching his arm up to retrieve something from the receptacle at the bottom of the three-part panel.

    Willa leans out and grabs the creature, attempting to pull both it and whatever it has in its hand into the room, but it turns and writhes in her grasp. Apparently it doesn’t have joints, at least not ones that work like Willa expects. (Contested strength roll; Willa 7, Sapling 16. Willa spends an inspiration point to re-roll hers, and gets a 5 (critical fail!)).

    Babshapka leaps up from the couch, asking whether they are continuing the fight. In response, Willa shouts “Shut ther door!” through clenched teeth as she continues to tug on the plant man. Finally she wrestles it into the room (Willa contested strength roll 18, sapling 12), and then wraps her hands around its little neck, attempting to throttle it.

    From the hallway comes a volley of javelins, and Willa is struck by one (10 points). Larry moves to the door, pressing the panel to close the portal, and mentally moving his moonbeam to cover the exterior panel even as the door slides shut.

    Thokk wrenches the plant man from Willa’s grasp, throws it to the floor, and then chops at it with his sword. (two hits, 21 points, but it still lives!)

    Aurora abandons her ritual and attempts to message the plant man in Ancient Suel, the oldest language she knows.

    Eddard moves along the wall and holds his nose to the wall panel, prepared to shut the door if it opens again. Shefak moves to the closed doorway, ready to deflect any entering javelins.

    Tyrius steps up to the scuffle, motioning Thokk away. He wants to knock the plant man out, the better to question him later. He hits it on the head with his war hammer and it goes limp and falls to the floor. He carefully picks it up and carries it to the bed.

    Willa has gone to her knees and is pushing around the floor the bits and pieces of the plant man that Thokk hacked off. She comes up with a small, flat, rectangular bit of cave horn. It is jet black and slightly reflective, shaped like a playing card but smaller. “I t’ink t’is be ther key ter ther door…” she says, and hands the object to Aurora.

    Eddard has joined Tyrius alongside the bed. He sniffs suspiciously at the tiny plant man. “This is what you all were running from?” he asks, clearly not impressed.

    “There were a lot of them!” says Aurora defensively.

    “In my experience,” opines Eddard, “when facing large numbers of minor opponents, it is best to use area-of-effect spells, such as your fireball, or Master Larry’s moonbeam.” Aurora reddens, attempts to respond, and then silently seethes.

    Finally, she says, “I’ll be readying a comprehend languages. Bring me the thing when it is conscious.” She stomps across the small room and begins another ritual.

    Tyrius lifts the arm of the creature, tries to feel for a pulse, but is unsure if there was one to begin with. Babshapka comes over, casts a cure wounds to speed the process along. (Babshapka’s spells to 2/1). The creature doesn’t stir. “I think it’s dead,” the elf says.

    “But I was trying to knock it out!” objects Tyrius.

    Babshapka shrugs. “Maybe plants don’t go unconscious.”

    Aurora sighs exasperatedly and motions for Babshapka to move the creature from the bed to the low table beside the divan. She unpacks some supplies on the divan and prepares to dissect it right on the table, as well as examining the javelins that landed inside the room. While she works, she asks each of the party, in turn, to tell her what they remember of the combat, in as much detail as possible. The entire encounter lasted less than a minute, and she pieces together a more or less coherent narrative from the collected memories.
    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.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
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    Tue Mar 09, 2021 11:39 am  
    Post 159: Police Robot

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers for module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    The playdate for this, our third Barrier Peaks session, was 8 February, 2019.

    DM's Notes: Police Robot: AC11, Hp. 130. The police robots generate a protective force field that can take 20 points of damage. In effect, they begin each of their turns with 20 temporary hit points.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 1 - Level I, South
    9:40 am - 3 displacer beasts
    12:50 pm - Police robot
    1:00 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 4 thornies
    1:10 pm - 4 vegepygmies, 1 thornie
    3:20 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    7 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    8:10 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    9:10 pm - Worker robot
    10:30 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 5 thornies
    11:50 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    Post 159: Police Robot
    20 February, 571 [1 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 1

    [Unbeknownst to the party, after the loss of a door card and many of their warriors, the vegepygmies have decided that they have successfully defended their territory. They haul the dead and wounded off to the mulch room, and post guards in some of the dark rooms approaching their hallway, but don’t otherwise menace the party.]

    It has been some fifteen minutes and the door has not opened - Willa and Umbra don’t hear anything outside. The party prepares to rest.

    “I don’t think this is a city, or a mine,” says Aurora suddenly.

    “Why not?” asks Tyrius.

    “These rooms - whoever heard of a bed chamber, or a meeting room, just lying off the street outside the main door of a city? Where are the guard rooms, where is the market square?”

    Tyrius nods, forced to agree. “What do you think this is?”

    “I think it is a ship,” Aurora says matter-of-factly.

    “Yer barmy!” explodes Willa.

    “I’m serious,” contends Aurora. “I thought before that they built this city at the site where the star fell. But what if there was no star - I mean, what if all of this (and she gestures all around them) was the star!”

    Willa shakes her head. “I don’t ken from magic, but I ken ships. Ships don’t be made o’ metal.”

    “Water-ships, no, of course not. But ships that move between the stars? What if this whole place is a star ship? What if what Nholast saw was this whole thing falling to Oerth?”

    “Ships don’t fly,” says Willa, “an’ t’ey don’t fall, neither.”

    “Mules don’t fly!” counters Aurora. “And yet I made two mules and a celestial horse fly up to the entrance of this place. I can’t begin to imagine the magic it would take to make even one of these strange doors - and we’ve already seen a dozen! Is it so hard to believe that the mage who made this place could make it fly? Fly between stars?”

    “Yer daft,” says Willa, but this time she doesn’t sound quite as sure of herself.

    (11:25am; rest time 1 hr for all)
    It has been an hour since the party killed the plant man. Most of them elect to take the benefits of a short rest.

    Larry’s spells from 2/1/2 to 3/2/2 (natural recovery).
    Aurora’s spells from 3/1/0 to 3/1/1 (arcane recovery).
    Shefak recovers all her ki points.
    Tyrius spends 3HD and gets back 20hp.
    Thokk spends 2HD and gets back 22hp.
    Larry spends 2HD and gets back 20hp.
    Willa spends 3HD and gets back 19hp.
    Willa also uses her Second Wind for another 15hp.
    Babshapka spends 3HD and gets back 30hp.
    Shefak spends 2HD and gets back 15hp.

    With the addition of two cure wounds spells from Tyrius, the party is all at full hp. Tyrius’ spells now at 2/2.

    After an hour without interruption, the party decides to make longer-term plans, and to take a long rest. (Long rest will recover: full spell slots (including for Tyrius, Babshapka, Umbra), rage, wholeness of body, lay on hands, second wind).

    They consider wedging the door with a piton, but are unsure they would be able to get it open again, even if it worked to hold the sliding door shut, which they doubt it would. The door actually goes lower into a groove in the floor, so they can’t place the piton beneath the door, either. In the end, they position Thokk as sitting on the floor, leaning his back up against the door, so at least he will be woken if it opens.

    The restless mules are unladen, and the gear packs distributed around the room, bed rolls taken out and placed on the floor. Things they may need to access during the rest are laid out on the desk, low table, and high table. Tyrius doesn’t get out his bed roll, but he does take off his armor and lay down in the bed - sighing in both amazement and satisfaction. “I don’t think the Earl has a bed as comfortable as this, be it stuffed with goose down,” he says contentedly. “In truth, I don’t think the King of Keoland does.”

    The mules sniff at the odd fabric covers of the bed mattress and divan, but don’t like what they smell. They try a few pieces of the dissected plant man, and this they actually chew and swallow, but without much gusto. It is still early in the day, so they are not too hungry. Fortunately the warm air of the cave seems to have improved Randy’s colic and attitude.

    Aurora examines the small card found by Willa. She agrees that it is the right size for the horizontal slot on the door, and could be a key - but learns little else about it.

    Some time later one of the mules raises his tail and deposits a load of droppings on the floor. Those in the party who are awake ignore it - they have been living for more than a week with the mules and their droppings in their tent, and this room is considerably larger than the tent. After a few moments, though, Larry sits up and begins to snuffle. (Nature check 22). He wanders the room sniffing, then licks a grubby finger and holds it in the air. “Och, this rrroom be vent’lated,” he says finally.

    Bored with nervous energy in the strange place, many in the party start to seek out the source of the air. Aurora (Investigation 18 ) finds, on opposite sides of the room, twin wall panels with tiny, pinprick-sized holes that were not noted before. Using a thin sheet of parchment to detect the current, she is able to see that indeed, air is flowing out of one of them and in to the other. She looks for a way to disassemble the grate and finds four screwheads in the corners. The slot for the screwdriver is thinner than her parchment paper, however, and tiny besides. They would likely need jeweler’s tools to undo it. She unpacks her sharpest utility knife and fumbles at the screwheads, but the blade is still too thick.

    Thokk has been ignoring the proceedings so far (except for a hearty chuckle at the mule’s initial defecation), but he perks up when Aurora takes out her knife. He is still annoyed that they ran away from the plant men. Is the screechy elf-woman going to fight something? He stands and moves to her side.

    “What you do?” he asks as he sees her touching the wall with her dagger.

    “Trying to open this grate, Thokk dear, to see the vent on the other side.”

    He watches her fumble for a bit and then gently shoves her out of the way. “Thokk open,” he says, and then swings his ham-hock sized fist at the wall. The metal is hard and takes the skin off his knuckles, but he does leave a dent - this isn’t the same kind of hard metal that broke his javelin head without a scratch.

    At the resounding clang and grunt of pain, Willa looks up from sharpening her greatsword. “Thokk, no!” she says, dropping her implements and dashing to his side.

    Thokk assumes that she is jealous and wants to open the grate herself. “Thokk find first!” he says, and lands another powerful blow on the metal, denting it further. “Advisor find own grate.” She attempts to shove him away from the wall, but is unsuccessful. (Contested Str check Willa 7, Thokk 20). Aurora has wisely retreated from the wall.

    “Thokk, NO!” Willa says, and tries to punch him on the jaw (Attack roll 13), but he moves instinctively and takes the blow on his shoulder (Thokk AC without shield 17). He continues to pound on the grate, now with both hands in urgency, sensing that he has to finish before Willa tries to do it herself.

    Willa slides between Thokk and the wall just as his right hand finally breaks through. The broken, jagged metal rips bloody gouges in his hand and wrist, but he steps back smiling in satisfaction. “There, Ror-ra!” he says contentedly, “Thokk open!” He grins triumphantly at Willa, and then returns to his post by the door, blood dripping from his lacerated hand.

    Aurora returns to the wall. Willa is livid. “Now, ‘ow we be closin’ it?” she demands of the enchantress.

    “Close it? Why Willa, think of it as an alternative exit, if something locks the door from without,” she smiles. Aurora examines the space beyond the broken grate with her dagger. There is a box-shaped depression the same size as the grate, with the only exit being a narrow tube at the top, a few inches in diameter.

    “And who be able t’ exit yon?” demands Willa hotly.

    “Oh, Charlotte, of course,” replies Aurora easily, “or Larry in one of his wild shapes. Willa, you need to be more open to possibilities.”

    Willa considers her next action, but everything that springs to mind would involve interrupting her rest. She stomps back to where she left her sword and whetstone on the floor, and takes out her anger on the blade.

    (12:50pm; 2:25 hr into rest for all)
    [Unbeknownst to the party, a security robot on patrol moves down the hall. It pauses over the body of the slain lurker, runs some diagnostics on the wounds, and concludes that it is highly improbable it was killed by vegepygmies. It routes all available power into its sensory apparati, and its hearing picks noise coming from one of the jet-carded apartments.

    The robot wheels forward, and the displacer beasts camped outside the room break and retreat. The robot approaches the door and holds forth its key probe to the pearl-colored sensor panel of the lock.]

    Some two-and-a-half hours into their rest, the door slides open. Thokk, who was asleep, looks up quizzically. There is nothing in the unlit hall, but gliding into the room is a very strange creature.

    It appears to be several different sizes of metal barrel, onto which two arms and two tentacles have been affixed. Nearly all of it is metal, although some of the articulations look to be covered in tarred cloth, perhaps. It is unclear how it is moving as it glides silently across the floor. Numerous tiny, dim lights glitter along different surfaces. As it enters the room the topmost barrel swivels back and forth and the party realizes that it is to be taken as a head.

    Thokk, seeing no enemies in the hall and no weapons in the hands of the strange metal creature, gets to his feet and draws his sword, but does not immediately attack, instead waiting for Willa or Aurora to set the tone. Or even for Tyrius to talk to it, he supposes. Tyrius likes to talk to strangers.

    Others in the party leap to their feet, but do not attack. Once the creature is inside the room, one of the human-like arms reaches behind it and presses the panel by the door. The door closes, and the creature glides to the center of the room.

    Willa looks for a card in one of its hands, or even its tentacles, but does not see one. She moves to block its access to the rest of the party, and greets it in Common. The creature swivels its head from the door panel back to her, but does not otherwise respond.

    “Aurora, wha’ be t’is?” asks Willa over her shoulder.

    Aurora, followed closely by Larry, approaches.

    “Some sort of construct,” says Aurora confidently. “Like the iron golems in Castle Ravenloft, or the flesh golem in the Tower of Nholast.” She frowns at it. “But certainly the most amateurish one I have ever seen. I mean...look at how ugly and ungainly it is...the greenest animator ‘prentice could do better.”

    Larry steps up to the creature and pokes it. Its head swivels, its tentacles wave, but there is no other reaction. He tries to find something that might be an eye, focusing on the little colored lights. Looking at one on its chest, he sees a bright red light and is momentarily blinded (Investigation 2).

    “I suppose…” considers Aurora, “a flying city of master wizards would have to have dozens of ‘prentices on hand. Perhaps this is someone’s first practice.”

    “T’is ain’t a flyin’ city,” says Willa, “an’ it ain’t a ship, neither.”

    Aurora begins speaking to the creature in every language she knows, trying to issue it command words. Constructs, she knows, are built to do things. They have functions that can be triggered - if only she can find the right words. She speaks for several minutes but has no more luck than she did with the flesh golem.

    Still suspicious, Willa draws her sword, and Babshapka notches an arrow, but even this does not provoke a response. Willa tosses a coin in front of it - perhaps reasoning that the lowliest of constructs would be used to clean - but neither does the creature react to that.

    Frustrated, Aurora pulls out her wand of magic detection. She could use a ritual, of course, but that would tax her rest. Perhaps with this she can get enough information to know how to command it (wand charges to 15).

    After a brief moment, her face looks perplexed. “Wha’?” demands Willa.

    “It’s not magic,” says Aurora, dumbfounded. She looks around. “Nothing in this room registers as magic...not even the door.” But how can that be?

    “Well, it ain’t alive, neither,” says Willa and Aurora nods agreement.

    “Is it a clockwork?” Aurora asks, apparently to herself. “That would explain all the metal and moving bits, I guess.”

    “A clockwha’?” asks Willa.

    “Clockwork,” says Aurora, sounding more confident now. “Some gnomes make automatons that seem animated, but they aren’t actually magic - just complicated machines. Inside they have gears and springs and such. Of course, they can’t think or react - they are little more than toys.”

    She bends nearer, trying to find any buttons or levers that might control it. There are several articulated protuberances, and she even manipulates a few of them, but to no effect. “I don’t know,” she sighs. Keep it here and let me think.”

    Aurora goes over and sits on the floor near the desk (having previously smashed the chair in the door). Willa grabs Thokk’s arm and maneuvers him so that they are both blocking the doorway, preventing the thing from leaving, though it shows no inclination to do so.

    (1:00pm; RT 2:35 hr for all)
    [Unbeknownst to the party, while they are inside with the police robot, a patrol of twelve vegepygmies with four thornies has made its way down the hallway. Normally they would cut the lurker into manageable pieces and haul it off to the mulch room, but now having found the party they thought they had driven off still camped so close to the colony they are concerned. Sensing the vibrations through the floor, they locate the room the party is in and set up camp outside. They are not keen to lose another card assaulting the room, but they can wait until the party emerges into the hall, where their superior numbers will be more of an advantage than trying to force their way through the narrow door.]

    [Unbeknownst to the party, another four vegepygmies and a thornie have arrived to reinforce their position - a total of sixteen and five now lie in wait.]

    Some ten minutes or so after the automaton entered the room, Aurora’s mage armor has expired, which is typical for the early afternoon. She casts it early in the morning to last until their mid-day break from marching. Now, however, she chooses not to renew it - again so as to not tax her rest, as she needs her mind refreshed to get back two more fireballs to deal more effectively with the plant men.

    Suddenly the automaton emits a brief series of high-pitched beeps. “Language analysis complete,” it then says in perfect Common, with a hint of a Uleki accent. “Initiating translation protocol.”

    The party stares at it, all of them surprised, even Eddard.

    “Unrecognized personal,” it continues, “please present identification cards.”

    There is perfect silence in the room.

    “Unrecognized personnel,” it continues, “present identification cards.” The timbre in its “voice” has changed upon repetition, and carries an obvious element of command.

    Aurora swallows and stands. “Please describe identification cards,” she says, her mind racing.

    “Identification cards are issued upon admission of personnel to ship,” it says. “Present identification cards.”

    “‘e said ship,” whispers Willa, eyes wide in astonishment.

    Babshapka turns and does a rapid search through the desk, but finds nothing resembling a card or document (Investigation 22).

    Aurora draws forth the black rectangle Willa recovered from the plant man. She holds it in front of her and takes a step toward the automaton. “Here’s our identification card,” she says.

    It glides smoothly toward her, positioning itself so that the red eye that blinded Larry is a foot from the card. Those in a position to see the card and Aurora’s face see a red light briefly play over both.

    “Colonist Identification Card does not match personal biometrics of subject,” the automaton announces. “You are being detained. Do not resist.”

    Aurora gives a nervous laugh. “Of course not. We will not resist. Explain detention method.”

    “You will be taken to level one security facility for detention. You will be held there until processing.”

    Aurora holds out her arms as if waiting for restraints.

    Round One
    Babshapka steps between Aurora and the automaton, letting fly with a string of words in elvish, hoping to confuse the machine. He still has an arrow nocked, but does not fire. The machine’s two tentacled arms reach forward, trying to avoid Babshapka and reach Aurora’s wrists.

    [Grappling; two contested Athletics rolls. Automaton 17, Aurora 19+5 from help = 24. Automaton 7, Aurora 15+5 from help = 20].

    With help from Babshapka, Aurora is able to back to the far side of the room without being seized.

    Larry is already standing next to the machine. He holds forth his hand and sprays it with a green venom. The drops bead up on the metallic surface of the machine, but do not seem to affect it.

    It speaks again: “Subjects are resisting detention. Initiating combat protocol.”

    From across the room, Aurora pleads, “Four hours! Combat protocol countermanded. Subject will submit to detention in four hours!” (Persuasion roll 10).

    Willa swears like a sailor and brings her greatsword down in a long overhead strike, then recovers it and strikes again at the socket where one of the tentacles attaches to the body. The machine makes no effort to evade her blows and is easy to hit - but both times her sword strikes, she sees a glint like a blue field just above the surface of the thing. Although she feels the impact in her sword, there is no visible effect on the machine - not even a scratch or dent (two hits, damage 11 points, 9 points, but damage absorbed by forcefield).

    Willa watches as Thokk’s first hit also impacts the curious blue field (11 points). His second strike, however, does not (7 points) - and it actually scratches the metal when it lands.

    Round Two
    Aurora continues to try to move away, while not being trapped between the bed and desk. She shouts at it, “You are broken! Initiate self-diagnosis!” (Persuasion 25)

    It responds. “Self-diagnosis placed in action queue. Will commence when combat protocol has resolved.”

    Umbra shoots a ray of shadow at it. It strikes the metal frame and frosts part of it over (11 cold damage).

    Willa shouts, “There be a blue field aboot the creature, an it made me sword do nothin’. But Thokk’s sword be makin’ the blue aura vanish. So now we might be in ther mix!” She hits twice (damage 14, 11) and her hits are leaving dents and scores on the machine.

    Babshapka fires arrows from point blank range. One hits (10 points), while the other bounces off its rounded steel chassis.

    Thokk is grinning, glad to be engaged in melee again, and against something more formidable than a plant man. He strikes twice (10 points, 9 points).

    Shefak slips in front of Larry, bringing her magic staff down hard, twice, and following up with a scissors kick. (damage 10, 7, 8 ).

    Tyrius, from atop the bed and currently unarmored, sees little room to add another melee participant to the fight. He surveys the scene and watches the door, in case his spells are needed.

    Eddard speaks soothing words and moves between the nervous mules and the combat as much as the confines of the room allows.

    Larry draws his scimitar, the rust on the blade scraping on the scabbard as he pulls it forth. He hits the machine (for 8 damage).

    Round Three
    A sliding door in the lower body of the machine opens. With a fwoosh, a brilliant blue stopperless flask is ejected, landing on the metal floor with a tink, tink, tink as it skips across the room. Suddenly the flask cracks open like an egg, and the room is instantly filled with a thick, smoky gas.

    Shefak (Constitution save 11) takes a step forward to strike another blow, but then falls to her knees, and a second later is prone upon the floor.

    Willa holds her breath (Con save 21) and fumbles desperately in a pouch pocket. She draws forth her ioun stone and tosses it in the air. It immediately takes up orbit around her head - and she ceases needing to breathe!

    Babshapka (Con save 4+3 from Tyrius = 7) and Tyrius (Con save 14) collapse as well. Thokk howls a battle cry (third rage since entering the cave), but before he has even finished, his massive frame has fallen and is draped over the high table in the room (Con save 13).

    Larry, seeing his protector Thokk collapse, screams in shock and fear. (Con save 3 (critical fail), but dwarven resilience gives advantage on saves vs. poison, and second Con save is 21). Gasping and choking, he runs to the doorway to press the panel. “Nooo!” mouths Willa, but with no air in her lungs, she is silent. She tries to catch Larry as he passes and prevent him from opening the door, but he wriggles from her grasp (contested strength roll Larry 19 (critical success), Willa 13), jumps, and hits the panel with his fist.

    Eddard (Con save 5), Randy (Con save 10+3 from Tyrius = 13), and Andy (Con save 4) take a few staggering steps. The mules sink to the floor before rolling to their sides. Eddard manages to lock his knees and remain upright, but with a drooping head before he is motionless.

    Umbra takes a deep breath before the gas reaches her and resolves not to exhale until the strange machine is down. Adventuring on her own for so long has taught her to carefully ration her spells, but she recognizes a dire situation when she sees one. She casts dark bolt as a third level spell, unleashing as much magical power as she can and hitting the machine with five separate bolts for 21 points of force damage. (Umbra now at 3/3/1 for spells).

    Aurora is reflecting on her decision not to engage so as to preserve her rest as she, too, falls to the floor (Con save 8+3 from Tyrius = 11).

    At the end of the round, just Willa, Larry, and Umbra remain conscious.

    Round Four
    A panel in the upper half of the machine slides open, and a thick, heavy, black metal wand emerges from its ‘chest’. The creature points the wand at Willa, and there is a brief, high pitched hum. Twin bolts of red light like magic missiles fly forth, hitting Willa square in the chest. Despite the breastplate of her magical plate mail, she feels a searing pain in all her upper body. (13, 18, for a total of 31 points radiant damage).

    “Stop resisting! Stop resisting!” the machine drones.

    Willa tries to circle around it, hitting it from behind to stay away from the wand (two hits to the automaton, total 23 damage).

    Umbra continues to hold her breath (Con save 22). She unloads another five dark bolts at the machine. (11 points, Umbra now at 3/3/0 for spells).

    The door of the room slides open and Larry dashes into the hall. Even though he is free of the gas, he still feels its soporific effect (Con save 19 with advantage). From the middle of the corridor he turns and shoots out a thorn whip, wrapping the prickly tendril several times around Thokk’s leg, then jerking back and pulling the half-orc into the clean air of the hallway. (Thokk takes 8 points, but this is not a magical slumber, and the damage does not wake him).

    [Unbeknownst to the party, as soon as the door opens the sounds of combat against the police robot reach the nearby vegepygmies. Not wanting to engage the robot, they withdraw down the corridor and are not seen by Larry.]

    Round Five
    Stop resisting! STOP RESISTING!” calls the machine, ever louder. This time when the metal wand projecting from its chest hums, Willa is not taken by surprise. She is able to dodge one of the blasts and is only clipped in the arm by the other (8 points).

    Willa is tired of this tin can. She adjusts her stance, locking herself in one place, but bringing her maximum strength to bear. She brings two crushing blows down on its head in rapid succession (two hits, total 28 points).

    Larry stoops over Thokk, slapping him hard in the face. The barbarian is alive, but comatose. Larry charges back into the gas-filled room and slashes at the automaton with his scimitar (4 points).

    Umbra is forced to exhale, but is still standing (Con save 18 ). She is down to second-level spell slots now, so she showers the machine with four dark bolts. Each hit draws forth sparks of electricity from the creature. (18 points, Umbra at 3/2/0 for spells).

    Round Six
    Between the open door to the hall, and the vent they previously discovered, the gas in the room has largely dissipated. Larry doesn’t feel any burning in his lungs as he slashes at the tentacles of the machine (7 points with his scimitar)

    Willa screams soundlessly and continues to batter the machine. One hit (15 points) causes a shower of sparks, while the second (13 points) causes all of its lights to go out. It ceases to swivel the wand toward her, and its tentacles slowly droop to the ground. It appears they have won.

    Willa reaches up into the air, catches and stores her magic stone. Now that she can talk again, she says, succinctly and bitterly, “I don’ like t’is cave one bit.” She sheathes her greatsword without cleaning it - one advantage of a bloodless opponent - and picks up Thokk’s greatshield from where he let it fall. Using the shield as a huge fan, she stands in the doorway waving it until she is convinced all of the gas has dispersed.

    In the hallway, Larry attempts to heal Thokk (cure wounds for 9 points). He is able to recover the damage Thokk suffered from the thorn whip and opening the grate besides, but the barbarian still does not awake. (Larry’s spells to 2/2/2.)

    Larry drags Thokk back into the room, even as Umbra is arranging the bodies of the others into more comfortable positions, out of the way so that the three conscious party members can traverse the room.

    Willa presses the panel and closes the door. Larry attempts to piton the door closed, but after several blows from his hammer he finds that he has just blunted the piton - both the metal of the floor and the door are far harder than the iron spike he is using.

    Willa tells him not to mind, she’ll guard the door. Umbra asks if they shouldn’t find a safer place to stay. Willa agrees, but says that until they can get the rest of the party conscious, they aren’t going anywhere. Umbra shrugs.

    (1:10pm; Time in rest 2:45hr for Aurora/Tyrius only)
    [Unbeknownst to the party, the vegepygmies in the hall creep closer and resume their cordon around the door.]

    A few minutes later Umbra goes over to the automaton and asks Larry whether he wants to help her take it apart and see what is inside.

    Larry declines, and says that such things are better left to Aurora. Umbra asks him what else he is doing while he waits for the others to, hopefully, wake up. He shakes his head but does not answer. She asks him whether he can at least provide her with some tools.

    Willa gets up from the door, goes through one of the mule packs, pulls out a healer’s kit that will provide a scalpel, forceps, tweezers, and scissors. “Take yer time an’ be careful” she admonishes. Umbra thanks her and sets to work.

    The hard metal plates of the chassis have been rent open in many places by Willa’s sword blows, revealing a view of twisting cords and cables, gears and ratchets, and oddly-shaped mechanical works. “I guess it is a clockwork,” admits Umbra.

    Umbra locates a chamber in the lower part of the body in which she can see several stopperless flasks like the one the automaton discharged at them. One by one, like precious eggs, she pulls them forth from the body of the creature. In the end, she pulls out two blue flasks, one green, one red, and one black.

    Larry wishes to compare the intact blue flasks to the one from before. He looks about the room for it, but it seems to have disappeared! (Investigation 1, critical fail). Larry is befuddled.

    In the upper torso of the automaton, Umbra uses scissors to sever the cords that connected the metal wand to the insides of the creature, but cannot do much more without more appropriate tools. She finally convinces Larry to help her lay it down on its side, however. Underneath, there are several caster-like wheels.

    (1:20pm; Rest Tine 2:55hr for Aurora/Tyrius only, RT 10 min for all others)
    Some ten minutes later, one of the mules snorts, brays, and struggles to its feet. As it stands, the two halves of the spent blue cannister are revealed! Larry hurries over to it (Investigation 18 ). The only difference he notes, besides the spent one being split down the middle, is that the dial rivet of the spent one is on the rightmost setting, while all of the others are in the middle. The inside of the flask is mostly hollow and empty, although there is a section under the two rivets that is partitioned off and appears unopenable.

    One by one, over the next half hour, people and animals alike regain consciousness.

    Once Aurora is awake, Umbra shows her the inside of the automaton. There are multiple sections and components she can recognize, although she has no idea what any of them do. The inside is covered in writing. Aurora proposes that they continue to rest until at least she fully recovers her spells - some five hours more, by her estimation. Willa and Tyrius agree. Now that Aurora is awake, Larry agrees to look over the creature with her. The only thing he recognizes is the tube through which it projected the flask - he compares it to the ovipositor of a wasp, with the flasks being eggs.

    [Unbeknownst to the party, the three displacer beasts that were stalking them earlier but were spooked away by the security robot return to see if they are still present. Although they can still smell the party, the vegepygmies now outside the door cause them to retreat again.]

    (6:25pm, Rest Time 8hr for Aurora/Tyrius only, RT 5hr 15 min for all others).
    By the time Aurora and Tyrius have finished their long rest, Babshapka and Umbra have had a chance to fully trance as well, and everyone has had their evening meal.

    (Aurora at 4/3/3, Tyrius at 4/2)

    [ 7 human rations used; 57 human rations remaining
    2.5 mule rations used (no forage); 13.5 mule rations remaining
    No pounds coal used; 18 pounds coal remaining]

    Aurora’s first action is to cast mage armor on herself (active until 2:25am). She then begins a ritual casting of comprehend languages. (Aurora at 3/3/3)

    (6:35pm, Rest Time 5hr 25 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa).
    Aurora’s ability to understand the strange script will last an hour (to 7:35pm), so she quickly gets to work, with her parchment and ink on hand to take notes. The first thing she examines is the stopperless flasks. The settings on the dial rivets are numbers - from left to right, 5, 4, and 3.

    The interior of the automaton is a sea of words and numbers. Some words she recognizes easily (power source, atmospheric analyzer). Others she understands the word itself, but not the context in which it is being used (matrix processor, field generator). Many others she simply doesn’t understand - her spell has translated the word, but either she doesn’t know the word in any language or she doesn’t know the meaning (laser pistol, flux capacitor, servomotor).

    She looks for any slot on the outside or port on the inside that might fit their black identification card, but doesn’t find one. Lacking knowledge of the parts or their functions, she is most interested in the things labeled “power sources”. One heart-sized metal and glass flask was securely mounted in the center of the machine, with thick cords that led to the metal wand (“laser pistol”) that shot Willa, at least before Umbra cut them. Other cords connected that flask to many other parts of the body. She is able to remove the flask itself, and tries to remove the wand, but it is so securely fastened to its retractable mount that she is unable to free it.

    In the “head” of the machine, near what appears to be a retractable retort, Aurora finds a device inside something labeled “power disk frame”. The “power disk” itself is thick and round, but she cannot see much detail on it without extracting it. This she resolves to do.

    Babshapka stands nearby, watching, holding tools, and offering suggestions. Fortunately, the room is very well lit by the overhead light panels.

    After a bit of exploration, Aurora determines that the Power Disc is being held in a mount that looks something like a miniature bureau drawer, but with springs as well as runners. Somehow she needs to get the drawer to open and release the disc.

    [Simple Non-lethal Items Chart. Initial roll 8; modified to 7; Triangle.]
    Her initial efforts to extract the disc do little other than getting her tools stuck. She keeps trying.

    [Roll 9; modified to 8. Returns her to start]
    After freeing her tools, Aurora is ready to start over again. She adjusts her angle of approach.

    [Roll 4; modified to 3. Advance to circle.]
    This time she seems to be getting somewhere. Aurora has triggered the spring mechanism and opened the drawer mount. Now she just needs to extract the disc itself, through the broken fragments of the automaton’s body, without damaging it.

    [Roll 4; modified to 3. Advance to finish.]
    Aurora triumphantly pulls the disc out of the body of the clockwork and holds it up for the party to see.

    Not wanting to lose whatever knowledge she has gained, Aurora first pries apart the machinery to give her more room to work, then spends several minutes inserting and removing the disc until she is sure she understands intuitively how it works.

    [-2 to roll for having operated a similar item previously]
    [Aurora now has a permanent -3 on rolls to insert or extract a Power Disc. In any situation that is not time dependent, we can assume she is automatically successful. If she was trying to change a disc during combat, a roll might be called for to see if she could finish in one round rather than circling around the chart a few times.]

    (6:45pm, Rest Time 5hr 35 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa).
    Now confident of her ability to extract and deposit the disc, Aurora takes some time to examine the disc itself. It is blue-colored, of some hard material like glass or slate, and is the size of a large coin. One side is smooth and unmarked, the other side has a white, arced band, marked like a sundial with 5 lines. A taut thread rests on one of the lines, the central-most one.

    She looks carefully around the room, attempting to find any other place she might be able to insert the power disc, but ultimately does not find any.

    (6:55pm, Rest Time 5hr 45 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa)
    Aurora returns to the body of the clockwork man, looking for anything else useful that she might be able to extract. She decides to try to remove the strange box labeled “atmospheric analyzer”. Despite her best attempts, and those of Babshapka, they are unable to get it out (Sleight of hand rolls 6, 7). Still, she believes it is possible to reach the screw-mounts, if only there was someone with smaller, more nimble hands. She calls over Shefak and explains how she thinks the device can be removed. (Shefak Sleight of Hand roll 21). The monk is able to disconnect a few waxed threads connecting it to the insides, pop the device out of its mounting, and extract it from the body of the clockwork.

    A gray slab of a material similar to horn, it is about the size of a necklace case. On one side are three windows, all rectangular in shape. Behind each is a strip of colored paper. The papers are all white on one end and shade into another color at the other end. The window to the left is white shading to yellow, the middle window is white shading to purple, and the paper behind the right window is white shading to green. Over each window is mounted a translucent jewel, the same color as the colored paper of that window. At the front of the slab is a series of small holes. On the back is a narrow panel set in a groove. Sliding it reveals a slot about the size of a coin. The case is only 1/4' wide, 1/2' long, and about a thumb’s width thick.

    [Unbeknownst to the party, the three displacer beasts return to try again - but find the vegepygmies still camped outside the apartment door. They withdraw again.]

    (7:05pm, Rest Time 5hr 55 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa)
    The coin-sized slot on the back is empty - but it is about the size of the power disc. Aurora slides the power disc recovered from the clockwork man into the “analyzer” and it fits perfectly. She slides the covering panel back into place. And immediately the windows in the device start to glow!

    Almost hopping with excitement, Aurora pushes buttons on the device, hoping for a reaction.

    [Simple Non-Lethal Items Table. Roll 1 - 1 = 0, advance to circle. Roll 2 - 1 = 1, advance to finish.]
    It does not take long for the device to start functioning. Delicate hair lines in each of the three screens start bobbing up and down, each ending toward the white, rather than colored, section of their window. The machine speaks in an alien language while strange symbols move across a screen. To the others, it is gibberish, but Aurora can both hear and read the following:

    “Spore and pollen count low” (this is assessed by the yellow window)

    “Radiation level negligible” (this is assessed by the purple screen)

    “No toxic gasses detected” (this is assessed by the green window).

    Aurora knows what spores are (the products of mushrooms), as well as pollen (from flowers), and toxic gasses. ‘Radiation’, on the other hand, is an unfamiliar concept to her. She thinks it is related to the radiant light of the sun or moon - but why would it say that radiation levels are negligible, if they are in a brightly lit room? Perhaps ‘negligible’ means they are not capable of causing damage. She supposes that they could test the function of the device by attempting to get a reading on Larry’s moonbeam spell - that might be detectable radiation.

    With no further use for the analyzer at the moment, Aurora finds a switch that de-illuminates the lighted windows and carefully sets it aside. She returns to the body of the clockwork, poking and prodding and seeing if there is other machinery she can pry from its frame.

    An attempt to remove the red eye that scanned the identification card fails, and the gem-like lens is cracked in the attempt. (Babshapka sleight of hand roll 10). Inside the “head” of the machine, a broken retort is found.

    (7:15pm, Rest Time 6hr 05 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa)
    Once Aurora is convinced that there is nothing more of use or interest that she can strip from the clockwork, she puts away her tools and asks Willa and Tyrius what they should do next. Four of them are still resting, so setting out against the plant men is not an option. However, many of them are interested in the strange card-shaped key, and wonder if it can be used to open other doors besides their own. Eventually they decide to try the card in the doorway directly across the hall from them.

    Tyrius presses the panel on the wall that slides the door open. As light from their room spills out into the hallway, several of the thorn dogs are illuminated close at hand to the door. Before the doorway is even completely open Tyrius is pressing the panel again, and succeeds in closing the door before the dogs can enter the room.
    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.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Posts: 774
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Mar 16, 2021 1:10 pm  
    Post 160: The Second Vegepygmy Battle

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers for module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    The playdate for this, our fourth Barrier Peaks session, was 17 March, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 1 - Level I, South
    9:40 am - 3 displacer beasts
    12:50 pm - Police robot
    1:00 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 4 thornies
    1:10 pm - 4 vegepygmies, 1 thornie
    3:20 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    7 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    8:10 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    9:10 pm - Worker robot
    10:30 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 5 thornies
    11:50 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    Post 160: The Second Vegepygmy Battle
    20 February, 571 [1 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 1
    Tyrius presses the panel on the wall that slides the door open. As light from their room spills out into the hallway, several of the thorn dogs are illuminated close at hand to the door. Before the doorway is even completely open, Tyrius is pressing the panel again, and succeeds in closing the door before the dogs can enter the room.

    The debate now turns to whether they should confront the dogs or refrain from conflict until everyone has rested. “How about we avoid conflict altogether?” suggests Babshapka bitterly. “These plant creatures are just defending their home. We are the invaders here, surely?” His comments are not taken seriously by the others, however. As their talk turns to a scouting mission in the hallway, he switches from his bow to his broadsword and shortsword.

    Tyrius is unsure of how many thorn dogs he saw, and the consensus is that numbers matter - a foray with just those in the party who have already rested might be worth it if they could quickly clear the hall. He decides to gather more accurate intelligence. Eddard positions himself by the door-panel. With his telepathic link to Tyrius, he will know instinctively what is the best timing for opening and closing the door, without the paladin having to shout any commands.

    Tyrius casts light on his shield and holds it in front of him as he moves to the door. He nods and Eddard noses the door panel. Tyrius moves quickly into the hall, spinning and keeping in motion so that he cannot be mobbed by the dogs [dodge action]. He goes out as far as he dares and is halfway back to the door before they can react. The door is closed again without any of the plant-men or thorn-dogs having entered.

    Tyrius counted 5 dogs and 16 plant men outside, with the dogs in front ranks and the men behind. Babshapka listens at the door to see if they are agitated, but does not hear any commotion.

    (7:25pm, Rest Time 6hr 15 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa, Comprehend Languages runs to 7:35pm)
    Five dogs and more than a dozen pygmies is more than the party thinks they can clear easily, and some are in favor of waiting until everyone has rested. Aurora, on the other hand, seems to think that there are not enough of the creatures outside. Or at least she says she doesn’t want to waste a fireball just to leave their room, when she might need all three once they head back down the hall that seems to be the lair of the creatures. She wonders if there might be another way to clear the hall.

    Her gaze falls upon the colorful stopperless flasks pulled from the clockwork and she picks one up. “Red is pretty universal for fire, right?” she asks.

    “Mayhap,” says Willa skeptically, “bu’ ‘tain’t like blue be fer sleep.”

    This sets Aurora to thinking. “If only there was some way we could test those flasks without opening them.” Her first thought is always her wand of magic detection, which can often provide a clue as to the kind of magic it finds. But she has already confirmed that everything they have found so far is mechanical, not magical. But if it is mechanical, could she use the same strange technology upon itself?

    She picks up the "atmospheric analyzer". Of course! Aurora takes the two halves of the spent blue flask and carefully examines them. Most of it is a hollow, empty space. But there is an unopened box on the inside, opposite where the dials and plunger are. Intricately cut levers emerge from the box and go to various latches set about the inner seams of the flask. Aurora is confident that the box contains a control mechanism, and that the dial and plunger can somehow be used to release the latches. If the contents are alchemical rather than magical, it is possible they are inert when sealed closed, but immediately react when the flask is opened and they are exposed to air.

    The wizard focuses her thoughts. She has only a few minutes remaining of comprehend languages - likely not enough to read the device for all of the flasks. She tells the others to watch the door while she performs another ritual.

    (7:35pm, RT 6hr 25 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa, CL to 8:35pm)
    Recalling the time in her ‘prenticeship when she was required to work in an alchemical laboratory, Aurora reaches deep into her pack to find the cleanest scraps of cloth and rags she has. She puts a few drops of water and lantern-oil on them, then carefully cleans the five flasks with one rag each, making sure to swab every surface of their bodies, especially around the plungers and along the seams where whatever ingredients that might be inside could leak out. Then she carefully lines up the rags and prepares to test them. [Aurora gains one Inspiration Point]

    Starting with her swab sample of the red egg, Aurora finds the switch that lights up the windows of the atmospheric analyzer and holds it close. Willa sets her ioun stone to circle about herself.

    [Modifier discovered: -2 to roll for having operated a similar item previously. Aurora now has a permanent -3 on rolls to use the analyzer. In any situation that is not time dependent, we can assume she is automatically successful. If she was trying to take a reading during combat, a roll might be called for to see if she could finish in one round rather than circling around the chart a few times.]

    Red Stopperless Flask
    “Spore and pollen count low”
    “Radiation level negligible”
    “Trace amounts of incendiary chemicals detected”

    Aurora grins. “That sounds like fire to me!” she says gleefully.

    Green Stopperless Flask
    “Spore and pollen count low”
    “Radiation level negligible”
    “Trace amounts of neurotoxins detected”

    Aurora doesn’t know what “neuro” is referring to, but from "toxins" she guesses this one is some kind of poison.

    Blue Stopperless Flasks (two)
    “Spore and pollen count low”
    “Radiation level negligible”
    “Trace amounts of neuroinhibitor detected, degraded but likely to be in opioid family”

    None of what the analyzer says is intelligible to Aurora, but fortunately they already know the blue flasks produce sleep - assuming all blue flasks are equal. After this reading, the device gives an uncharacteristic “ping” that has heretofore been unheard. Aurora looks it over but cannot find any differences in the readouts. With a sinking suspicion, she slides open the back panel and removes the power disc. The hair has moved - rather than being in the middle setting, it is now two from one end, three from the other.

    Aurora sighs. “I guess four uses of the device is a charge then? And this has two charges left, or eight more uses?” She tells the rest of the party to be on the lookout for power discs whenever they search any part of the cave. They may prove even more valuable than the card-shaped keys!

    Black Stopperless Flask
    “Spore and pollen count low”
    “Radiation level negligible”
    “Trace amounts of nitrates and dichromates detected, in combination likely to produce explosion”

    “Nitrates” and “dichromates” are unknown to Aurora, but “explosion” is a word she is intimately familiar with.

    (7:35pm, RT 6hr 25 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa, CL to 8:35pm)
    With the red flask confirmed to be fire, Aurora says that she will clear the plant men in the hall with the device, allowing the party to explore rooms as they had planned. She checks whether anyone in the party has anything that might make them resistant to fire, but no one does. Babshapka stands near the doorway, ready to move in front of Aurora should something go wrong. Tyrius, Eddard, and Umbra, who are rested, stand nearby, but the others are hopeful the hallway can be cleared without them breaking their rest to help.

    Aurora spends some time playing with the dial and plunger on the red flask. Suddenly she hears a muffled “click” from inside, as if some of the internal latches had released. “Open the door!” she shrieks and Babshapka hurriedly presses the panel. The door slides open. There are two groups of plant men, one to the right and one to the left of the door. Aurora tosses the flask into the midst of the knot of plant men and thorn dogs to the right.

    “Tink, tink, tink…” it sounds as it skitters across the floor. Half of the diminutive men turn toward the sound, the other half toward the open door. “Fwoosh!” From the flask erupts a cloud that looks to be liquid fire, engulfing all the creatures in a ten foot radius and covering them in gooey, dripping flames.

    [Table discovered: Using a grenade requires rolling on the “Simple Lethal Items” table]

    In the midst of examining the flask, Aurora has discovered two things. First, the dial reading (3, 4, or 5 in the alien language) is a timed delay, measured in seconds. One can activate the flask and then still have the delay time before it explodes. Second, the flask is activated with the plunger, which must be depressed completely, spun widdershins 180 degrees, and then depressed completely again.

    [Aurora now has a permanent -3 on rolls to activate and throw a grenade.]

    Surprise Round
    Fire covers the plant men and thorn dogs. They are all burning, but none are slain. Aurora estimates the power of the blast to have been about a quarter that of her fireball - rather underwhelming, in fact, perhaps equivalent to a large flask of oil or alchemist's fire. [Initial damage is 2d6, Aurora rolls 8hp]

    From behind Babshapka, Umbra shoots forth a ray of shadow, squarely hitting the closest of the flaming plant men.

    Tyrius and Babshapka, with war hammer and broadsword, emerge from the room. They smash and slice at the burning creatures. Babshapka manages to fell a thorn dog, and then retreats to the doorway to guard Aurora.

    Round One
    Much to Aurora’s surprise, the fire continues to burn, both on the creatures and the floor, as if it was more like oil than a fireball. While it is dripping off the creatures, it is doing so slowly - it almost seems to be sticking to them, like some sort of flammable tar. [The incendiary grenades will continue to do damage after the initial explosion, at d6 damage per round - this grenade will last another four rounds - this first round everyone hit previously took another 2 points]

    “Sapling” plant men come forward, swinging at Tyrius and Babshapka with their wooden clubs. Babshapka is hit (for 8 points).

    Aurora pulls back into the room, allowing Eddard to charge into the hall. He attempts to trample the plant man that is fighting Babshapka, but the little creature moves out of his way.

    Tyrius swings and kills a thorn dog with his hammer, then wounds the plant man that had attacked him.

    Somewhat larger plant men join the fight against Tyrius and Babshapka. Babshapka is clubbed (for 6).

    At this point the smaller plant men, with darts and javelins, have targeted Babshapka, and launch a volley of eight missiles. Several of them pierce his arms and legs. [Babshapka takes 23 total and is at 11/48]. Swearing, he slashes his broadsword across the nearest plant man twice but does not fell it.

    Considering the large number of plant men still in the hall, including half of them not on fire, Aurora decides to use her first fireball of three. She steps out of the room and launches it behind the unwounded ones to the left, placing it perfectly so that the blast envelopes them but does not reach those of the party in the hall (Arcana roll 12). Her explosion affects six of the plant men, slaying two of them outright and wounding four others [22 damage], as well as two of the thorn dogs.

    Thorn dogs swarm Tyrius but his heavy armor protects him. Babshapka takes another javelin hit, this one to his throat, and falls to the floor, bleeding out. [critical hit for 11 damage]

    Round 2
    [Those vegepygmies still on fire from the incendiary grenade take another 5 damage]

    With Aurora now in the hall, a plant man launches a javelin at her. She reacts by casting a shield spell to protect herself, and then returns fire with a massive firebolt. [17 damage][Aurora’s spells at 2/3/2]

    Three dogs and two plant men miss Tyrius and Eddard with their bites and clubs.

    [Babshapka successfully makes his first death save]

    Two javelins pierce Eddard’s leather barding. He whinnies in pain and then his form shimmers and disappears. His barding falls empty to the floor of the hallway.

    Willa, watching anxiously from the doorway, darts into the hall. She squats, grabs Babshapka, stands, and carries him back into the room, shouting at the others to retreat. Two plant men swing at her, but their blows do not penetrate her magic armor.

    Tyrius turns to see where his spirit mount has fallen, and echoes Willa’s admonition to Aurora. He grabs the empty barding and drags it back to the room. As soon as he is inside the door, he prays for a cure wounds spell and lays his hand on Babshapka, whose throat is still seeping blood. [11 points; Babshapka is conscious and stable.]

    Aurora is now alone in the hall and is quickly surrounded by four of the plant men. Her magical shield deflects four of their battering blows.

    Round 3
    [Those vegepygmies still on fire from the incendiary grenade take another 3 damage]

    From the doorway, Willa shouts “Aurora, get in ‘ere, we be shuttin’ ther bloody door now!”

    Babshapka rises and staggers to the wall, holding his hand inches from the panel that will shut the door, hoping that Aurora will withdraw, knowing that if she does not he is duty-bound to defend her.

    Aurora retreats, slipping through the knot of plant men that have formed around her [disengage action]. As soon as he sees she is headed for the door, Babshapka presses the panel, and she slides through the closing door with no plant men able to follow.

    There is an awkward silence punctuated by the panting gasps of Tyrius and Aurora. Finally, Aurora speaks. “Well, we learned that the fire flask doesn’t explode as powerfully as my fireball, but that it keeps burning. That is useful knowledge.”

    “We learned t’at I ‘ate t’is fecking ship!” shouts Willa.

    Aurora smiles broadly. “I told you it was a ship!” Willa looks about her for something to throw at the enchantress.

    [Over the next hour, Babshapka takes a short rest and spends four hit dice to heal 30 points. He is at 41/48]

    [Unbeknownst to the party, the vegepygmies have decided that the party is nearly as dangerous as the security robots, who they avoid precisely because of their use of incendiary grenades. After the party has retreated to the room and closed the door, the vegepygmies gather their dead and wounded and retreat. The dead and wounded they place in the mulch room (the wounded to recover, the dead to decompose), while the unwounded return to their rooms in the colony. A few of the wounded thornies and pygmies are placed on guard duty in the hallway leading to the colony.]

    [Unbeknownst to the party, the three displacer beasts return, and are pleased to see that the vegepygmies are gone. They sniff at the remains of burnt plant material on the floor, and set up in a position where they can see the door open without the party seeing them.]

    (8:45pm, RT 7hr 35 min for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa, Aurora’s comprehend languages no longer in effect)

    (9:10pm, RT 8hr for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa)
    [Unbeknownst to the party, a worker robot clangs down the hall, its hydraulic legs pumping rhythmically. It opens the door across the hall from the party and to the east to check the room, then the one next to the party. As it approaches the door of the room the party is in, the displacer beasts scatter.]
    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.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 774
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Mar 23, 2021 11:46 am  
    Post 161: Worker Robot

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers for module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    Keyed rooms from the map are indicated in [blue]

    The playdate for this, our fourth Barrier Peaks session, was 17 March, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 1 - Level I, South
    9:40 am - 3 displacer beasts
    12:50 pm - Police robot
    1:00 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 4 thornies
    1:10 pm - 4 vegepygmies, 1 thornie
    3:20 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    7 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    8:10 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    9:10 pm - Worker robot

    10:30 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 5 thornies
    11:50 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    Post 161: Worker Robot
    20 February, 571 [1 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 1

    (9:10pm, RT 8hr for Larry, Shefak, Thokk, and Willa)
    [Unbeknownst to the party, a worker robot clangs down the hall, its hydraulic legs pumping rhythmically. It opens the door across the hall from the party and to the east to check the room, then the one next to the party. As it approaches the door of the room the party is in, the displacer beasts scatter.]

    [9:10pm. Long rest for Feb 20 / Cave Day 1 complete for all party members.]
    Those who did not fight in the most recent skirmish outside the room have completed their long rest. Larry now has his full complement of spells. Talk turns to strategy for clearing the hall - hopefully with more success this time.

    After a bit of discussion, it is decided that they will open the door with Thokk and Tyrius in front, making a shield wall and trying to distract the javelineers from the rest of the party (dodge action). If the casters can eliminate the missile troops with their ranged spells, then all the melee fighters will move in to engage. At some point, Shefak will slip invisibly to the rear of the pygmies and attack them from behind. Umbra mentions that if they are preparing for combat, she would take some healing from Larry or Tyrius [four points of lay on hands administered].

    The party members line up around the doorway. When their formation satisfies Willa, Tyrius presses the door panel and the door slides open.

    There are no plant men in the hall. And no thorn dogs.

    Instead, there is another clockwork man. Willa pulls out her ioun stone, prepared to release it.

    This clockwork, however, is different from the other one, and considerably smaller. It is short, and squat, and has just two arms instead of four. It has two legs as well, rather than a flat bottom on castors. With the door open, it trills a short warble that might be taken as a greeting, and then advances to the door, with each step it takes producing a barely audible hiss and whir as its legs flex and extend as well as a loud clang when its foot contacts the deck.

    The clockwork hisses and clomps until it stands a bare foot from Thokk and Tyrius, who are still blocking the door. Thokk looks down disgustedly at the thing, barely four feet tall. Are there no worthy opponents for Thokk in this bizarre cave?

    “Should we let it in?” asks Tyrius bemusedly.

    No one in the party objects, so he pulls back to give it access, and it “walks” into the room. Willa gestures at Tyrius to close the door, and he presses the panel again.

    “I’m going to ritual-cast comprehend languages,” says Aurora matter-of-factly. “Keep it busy and don’t let it leave the room or bother me.”

    The odd clockwork takes a few steps, inclines its body as if it was looking at the floor, and pauses at the edge of where the metal is still slick with the blood lost by Babshapka when he nearly bled out following the last fight. With a whirring sound, a sliding panel in the torso of the clockwork opens, and a snaking hose emerges. The creature takes the hose in one hand and holds it low over the pool of blood. A fine mist emerges from the hose, and Willa tosses her stone into the air, where it begins to circle her head. Rather than put people to sleep, however, everywhere the mist touches the blood, the blood bubbles, clumps, and coagulates into a fine white powder in what is now a thin layer on the floor. When the clockwork has converted all of the blood to powder, it produces a humming sound. Suddenly the hose in its hand begins sucking in air rapidly, as if a man was sucking through a reed straw. The hose sucks up all of the white powder, until a faint discoloration on the floor is the only indication it was once covered in blood.

    The clockwork bends and with one hand picks up a bloody cloth the party had used to staunch Babshapka’s neck wound. It then turns and begins heading for the wall. Willa motions the others out of its way while she watches its actions with an almost morbid curiosity.

    The clockwork clomps over to the wall, to where Thokk had broken through the wall grate and exposed the air duct. Another panel on its chest opens and a drawer slides out. Inside the drawer are a number of small hand tools. It takes a diminutive screwdriver in one hand and works rapidly to unscrew each of the four tiny screw heads in the corners of the grate, takes the grate in one hand, and replaces each of the screws in turn. It puts away the screwdriver and closes both the drawer and its chest panel. It holds the grate up in front of its “face”, as if inspecting it visually. Then, grasping the grate firmly with both hands, it proceeds to fold it over twice, until it is a quarter of the size it was before. Even Thokk gasps. He had to pound on the grate repeatedly with all his strength to break through the perforated metal. This clockwork, with its spindly arms, has just easily folded the metal - with the second fold clearly demonstrating strength greater than that of Thokk or Willa. Perhaps it is a worthy opponent after all. He steps forward to shove it, hoping to provoke a fight, but Willa intercepts him. Thokk stomps over to the divan and lies down, sulking.

    The clockwork walks around the room, ignoring the party, but clearly inspecting the walls, floor, and furnishings. When it gets to the mules it pauses at a pile of their droppings. Suddenly a hatch in its back is released, and a hinged door opens wide at the top while remaining closed at the bottom. Those nearby can see that the door leads to a small space inside the body of the clockwork where there is a pile of broken parts of furniture and machinery. The clockwork reaches back over its head and drops first the folded grate and then the bloody bandage into the drawer so that they land on the pile of sundries. Then, with both hands, it picks up the mule droppings and deposits them in the hinged drawer on its back as well. Finally, it sprays the floor where the droppings had been with its mist and sucks up the white powder with its curious hose.

    At this point the clockwork completes another loop around the room and heads for the door. Aurora is still working on her ritual. Willa decides to stall it. She sticks her hand into the open chest of the clockwork they fought, rips out a handful of the odd waxed cords, and scatters them across the floor of the room. The smaller clockwork walks to each of them in turn, carefully picking them up and dropping them inside its drawer. In the time it is doing this, Willa is stripping everything she can from the inside of the fallen clockwork. Now she drops one item at a time in opposite corners of the room, such that the clockwork has to cross the room, retrieve the part, and cross the room again for the next one. It does not tire of the game, but she is nearly out of parts when Aurora finally stands up and announces that she is ready.

    (9:20pm, Comprehend languages lasts until 10:20pm)

    “Hail!” says Aurora. The clockwork ignores her and continues retrieving the bits and pieces dropped by Willa.

    “Automaton - cease your cleaning!” commands Aurora. The clockwork does not pause.

    Willa has now run out of parts. The clockwork clumps over to the frame of the other machine-man. It looks it over, and issues a series of chirps and warbles. Aurora hears it say, “Security robot structural integrity compromised - diagnosed as irreparable. Many sub-components still salvageable. Deliver to level one robot repair facility.

    Aurora has never heard the word “robot” before, but she takes it as a synonym for clockwork creature.

    The drawer on its back closes and the hatch seals. It bends down and grabs two of the arms of the larger clockwork with its own hands. Leaning back and walking backwards, it drags the fallen machine toward the door. There is a terrible sound of metal scraping on metal as the jagged edges of the larger clockwork slide across the floor. As it reaches up to press the wall panel, Aurora says “Don’t let it go.”

    Willa immediately countermands her, saying, “Ye cain’t control it - ye tried. Tyrius, let it out ther door.” The paladin steps aside, and the smaller clockwork drags the larger one out the door.

    “We could follow it…” suggests Aurora, “It said something about a ‘repair facility’”.

    Willa actually considers this, then shakes her head. “Nay, ther noise it be makin’ will only attract godsken wha’. An’ we need ter stick close ter ther mules.” Indeed, as the torn pieces of metal on the frame of the fallen clockwork catch in the open grates of the floor of the hallway, the screeching echoes up and down the corridor.

    “We stick ter ther plan an’ investergate ther tother rooms.”

    “First,” says Tyrius, “if we are to leave the mules alone, I would like to re-summon Eddard.”

    “Fair eno’,” agrees Willa. “Be at it - p’raps ther noise from yon clockwork will hae drawn off anyone ‘ereabouts by then.”

    Tyrius closes the door and begins the ritual prayer. In the end, Eddard reappears. Tyrius fills him in about the resolution of the combat and the appearance of the clockwork while he helps him on with his barding. He looks up at the height of the ceiling, then decides not to put on his steed’s saddle or bridle for now.

    Willa orders the party and they pass into the hall. There are soot stains on the floor from the fiery flask and Aurora’s fireball. There are bits and pieces of broken and burned plant limbs strewn about, but all of the bodies of the plant men and thorn dogs have been removed.

    Eddard noses the door panel to close it behind them from inside. Willa tells Aurora to use the black card to open the door across the hall from them, and tells Shefak to keep guard for them around the next corner. Shefak slips on her ring of invisibility (Stealth 21) and scouts the hallway.

    Just as Aurora and Babshapka are passing through the now-open door into the new room [apartment], Willa hears Shefak whisper that there are thorn dogs just around the corner, but they are unmoving, seemingly on guard as well. “Good,” whispers Willa back, “stare ‘em down, an’ let us ken if t’ey be comin’.” She motions to the rest of the party to proceed, but to be quiet about it.

    The room into which Babshapka and Aurora pass appears to be another living quarters, but larger than their base across the hall. Babshapka presses the second wall panel, and Aurora grins as the room is flooded with light from the ceiling glass. The room has a large double bed in place of a single, and two night stands rather than one. Fully eight chairs surround a large dining table. Two divans flank another of the curiously low tables whose function remains unknown. The materials are all the same - cave horn for the furnishings, cave sponge for the mattress and divans, metal for the walls, floor, and ceiling. There is a skeleton clad in tattered silks on the floor of the room. Babshapka examines it, finding broken ribs that suggest it died violently.

    “Look for more cards,” suggests Aurora. Babhapka opens the night stands, flips the mattress, looks under the divans, pokes through the refuse strewn across the floor, but finds nothing of interest, card or otherwise (Perception 22).

    “Nex’ room,” hisses Willa, and points down the hall to the east, away from the thorn dog at the corner. Babshapka and Aurora comply, as Willa and Tyrius move into the open room to see for themselves.

    “This is a lot larger,” says Tyrius, and Willa nods. It was cramped quarters in the other room, with two mules, a warhorse, eight people, and a fallen clockwork crammed in. Larger than a rope trick space, but not by much. While Aurora and Babshapka open and search the next room, Tyrius contacts Eddard mentally and has him open the door. The party moves their beasts and gear over to the larger room across the hall; Willa lays the mule bags on the bed. She flips the table on its side. It is light, far lighter than wood, and not exactly a barricade, but it could provide some cover. She and Tyrius maneuver it into the doorway, push a divan up behind it to hold it in place, and then climb over everything to exit. Eddard noses the door shut.

    The next room over [apartment] is deep but narrow, in between the two others in size, the door just a few feet from where the body of the ceiling creature still lies. There is a double bed and end tables, two divans and a low table but no dining table or chairs. Babshapka searches it but comes up empty. They close the door behind them and move on.

    The next door is near the main entrance of the cave, in the chamber where there is the circular shaft to somewhere far below. Aurora, now an old hand at the doors, slides the black card confidently into the slot. A loud and pulsating buzzing fills the air - “Brrrt - brrrt - brrrt!” Babshapka looks about nervously to see what might be attracted.

    “What the - I don’t…” begins Aurora, but she is cut off by speech coming from the door! What is an unintelligible language to Babshapka is discernible to her, since she still has her comprehend languages running. “Access denied,” the voice says, “Security clearance not accepted.” Aurora looks in the receptacle under the slot. The card has not been returned. She swears.

    Aurora quickly looks at the door mechanism, but can find no way to physically dismantle it to get at the key. The klaxon sound of the door continues. Babshapka draws forth an arrow and turns his back on the door.

    “It’s okay, no worries,” says Aurora out loud, as she silently continues to curse. She says the words of a knock spell, and the sound of the alarm ceases. She sighs with relief.

    Inside the door mechanism, she can hear a faint whirring sound. The door does not open. The card is not released. She presses on the panel to no effect. She calms herself to think. Knock is good for opening one lock. If the mechanics of the door are particularly complicated, it might have more than one lock - just like a merchant who triple-locks his trunks. (Arcana 23). The door is susceptible to magic, she is sure of it - but how many spells she would need to use to open one door remains unknown. Clearly more than one.

    “Go get Thokk” she says to Babshapka.

    Thokk throws his shoulder against the metal of the door a few times, then shakes his head sadly.

    “Well,” says Aurora resolutely. “We got that key from a plant man. We know where we can get more.”

    Aurora returns to the main party and whispers to Willa that they will need to get more keys. When pressed, she reluctantly provides details. Willa motions everyone over. Leaving Shefak on guard in the hallway, the others return to the apartment with the mules and shut the door behind them to discuss strategy. After some ten minutes of preparation, the following plan is decided upon:

    Shefak, while invisible, will attack the nearest dog in the hall. Once an alarm has been raised, Willa and Thokk will charge up the hall to slay the next one. By that point their attacks should draw a response. Once the hallway is filled with plant-men, Aurora will send a fireball to clear them out. If that carries the day, they should have plenty of bodies to search for keys. If not, they will pull back and defend the door of their base room from a safer position. Eddard listens to the plan and comments that a few well-placed enhancements now could save any number of healing spells later. Tyrius decides to cast Heroism on Thokk (will last one minute) and Aid on himself, Willa, and Babshapka (will last eight hours, provided they have not lost the bonus hp by then). Babshapka casts Hunter’s Mark (will last one hour or until his concentration fails), and Umbra casts Armor of Shadows on herself (will last eight hours).

    Willa, having noticed before that the plant men were impervious to stabbing or arrows, borrows two of Tyrius’ hammers in case she needs a missile option.

    Tyrius at (2/0 and 26 lay on hands remaining)
    Babshapka at (3/2)
    Umbra at (3/3/3)
    Aurora at (2/2/2)
    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.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Mar 30, 2021 1:44 pm  
    Post 162: The Third Vegepygmy Battle

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers for module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    The playdate for this, our fourth Barrier Peaks session, was 17 March, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 1 - Level I, South
    9:40 am - 3 displacer beasts
    12:50 pm - Police robot
    1:00 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 4 thornies
    1:10 pm - 4 vegepygmies, 1 thornie
    3:20 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    7 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    8:10 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    9:10 pm - Worker robot
    10:30 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 5 thornies

    11:50 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    Post 162: The Third Vegepygmy Battle
    20 February, 571 [1 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 1

    (10:20pm - Aurora’s Comprehend languages ends)

    Round 1
    Shefak manages to get within striking distance of the thorn dog without it noticing (Stealth 11, but 16 with advantage due to her invisibility). Only one of her two staff blows really connects, but it proves enough (10hp) to slay the dog, which was apparently still wounded from the previous scuffle in the hall.

    The thorn dog further down the hall does not charge them. Rather, it retreats back around the corner. This immediately frustrates Willa and Thokk’s plan to slay it and draw out others. Willa smashes her two hammers together, making as much noise as she can. Thokk shouts taunts in Orc down the hallway.

    A plant man emerges from a side room and dashes after the retreating dog. Babshapka sends two arrows his way, but even the one that hits seems to have little effect (damage 12 plus 5 from Hunter’s Mark, but vegepygmies are immune to non-magical piercing damage (12) and resistant to magical piercing damage (5 becomes 2) - it appears that the Hunter’s Mark does damage of the same type as the weapon itself, but the fact that it is at least magical helps).

    Aurora sends a firebolt after the fleeing plant man, and this proves much more efficacious (17 damage).

    [Unbeknownst to the party, this guard is alerting not only the nearby rooms, but the entire colony. Vegepygmies are pouring out of their rooms and moving south in direct response, but a whole other group, led by two sub chiefs, is taking the ‘long way around’ to come at the party from the east.]

    Round 2
    A thorn dog, this one fresh, rounds the corner and charges the length of the hallway at the party. Babshapka draws on it and considers switching his Mark to the beast, then decides it might be better to track down the fleeing plant man to see how far he has run and how many rooms he has alerted. He shoots at the dog, but it seems to have the same resistance as the plant men. (one hit for 12, thorn dog immune to non-magical piercing).

    The dog is fast, and able to leap at Babshapka before any of the others can react. Babshapka has been standing near the open door of the table room and he curses himself for not darting into the doorway after his second shot. (Babshapka takes 5 piercing from the dog's thorny maw).

    Thokk hits the dog twice, but does not slay it (total 18 damage).

    Round 3
    Bounding ahead, two more thorn dogs charge the party, and Thokk, glorying in the prospect of battle, moves to block the hallway. The three leap and snap at him, but he nimbly keeps his shield between himself and their thorny teeth.

    Using Thokk for cover, Babshapka enters the table room and presses the panel to slide the door closed behind him. Shefak is inside the room with him.

    The end of the hall ahead, just at the corner, begins to fill with dozens of plant men, each carrying handfuls of barbed darts and javelins. They form up lines in the back row and begin to target the party. Others are moving to the fore with gnarled clubs in hand, preparing to charge once their numbers are massed.

    Larry calls forth a moonbeam, placing it at the most massed concentration of plant men (lasts up to one minute or concentration, Larry to 4/2/3).

    “That doesn’t look good,” whispers Umbra, referring to the plant men missile troops massing. Before they can get off a volley, she points a wand at the end of the hall, and it is filled with inky blackness. No longer are the missile troops visible, although the first of those with clubs are starting to emerge. (Umbra to 3/2/3, darkness lasts ten minutes or concentration). The darkness also completely envelopes the moonbeam, although Larry can sense that his spell is still there and presumably still doing damage.

    Tyrius moves up next to Thokk, and begins swinging at the thorn dogs fighting the barbarian, battering their woody limbs with Molly (two hits, 21 total damage).

    Thokk shouts exultantly (rage; three left) as he hacks at the dogs (one hit for 11).

    Willa drops Tyrius’s hammers and they clatter to the metal floor. She shouts her own battle cry as she draws her greatsword and engages the dogs (two hits, 25 damage total, two dogs of the three remain).

    Aurora had planned to send a fireball down to the end of the hallway, using the ninety-degree bend to shoot flames both at the missile troops at the end, the melee ones advancing, and any reinforcements as yet unseen around the corner. Now that the hall is enveloped in darkness, however, she is unsure of the actual distance. Unconcerned, she launches her flaming missile anyway (Arcana roll 9, fireball lands 5 feet short of planned target). For a split second the darkness is pierced by a light so bright it illuminates the plant men within it, allowing their silhouettes to be seen even through the glare of the moonbeam. Then the flames centered in the darkness go out, but the wave of burning air is rushing down the corridor toward them, filling the side room to the right as it passes. Only now is Aurora realizing that she landed it short of the mark and it could engulf the party. The flames lick at the thorn dog in melee with Thokk and Willa. They are both hit with a wave of heat and a smell like burning wood and smoldering vegetation, but take no damage themselves.

    (34 fire damage, DC15 Dex save for half. Fully thirty-one plant-men and a thorn dog were in the area of effect. After saves, eight saplings, seven sprouts, two sporriors, and a thorn dog are slain, while another fourteen troops are wounded but still advancing. Aurora at 2/2/1)

    Once the roar of the fireball has faded, the noise of the plant men, both those in sight, those covered by darkness, and those around the corner, redoubles. The ones in sight, many of them still aflame, seem undeterred by the deaths of a full score of their companions. Larry decides it is time to hunker down. He ends his first moonbeam and casts another, this time at the most potent level he can, moving it to halfway down the hall, in between the corner and where Thokk, Tyrius, and Willa are holding the line. “Tha’ shood ‘old ‘em, well eno’” he grumbles. (Larry to 4/2/2; third-level moonbeam will last to round 13 and this round is doing 19 damage to any who enter the area).

    Shefak presses the door panel of the tabel room and looks out upon the combat. Seeing just a single thorn dog left in the melee, she emerges and kills it with two strikes of her staff, leaping out of the way of its barbs. (total 12 damage, Shefak uses a ki point and bonus disengage to avoid its reaction to being attacked. Shefak at six ki points remaining).

    Round 4
    Babshapka decides that dealing with the oncoming hordes now takes priority over tracking one individual. He ends his old hunter’s mark and casts it again on a new target, continuing to fire at the advancing plant men through the gaps between Willa and Thokk but to little effect (one hit for 9 damage + 2 hunter’s mark = 1 point damage). Babshapka at (2/2)

    Umbra shoots a ray of shadow at the same plant man that Babshapka targeted but misses.

    Three plant-men emerge from the darkness, pass through the moonbeam, and launch darts at Thokk and Willa, who take the shafts on their shield and armor. Two new thorn dogs run the same gauntlet and are able to reach the pair, snapping at them in melee. Willa returns their blows (two hits, 15 and 16 damage) and takes out one dog.

    Seeing the first of the missiles beginning to rain down on the front ranks, Shefak retreats to the open doorway of the table room, and readies to attack anything that attempts to enter.

    Thokk slays the other dog (damage 9).

    Two plant men make it through the moonbeam; one manages to swing his club at Thokk.

    Larry maintains his concentration on his moonbeam (now base damage 17).

    Tyrius attacks the plant man with the club (9 damage), and Aurora sends a firebolt at it as well (6 damage).

    Round 5
    Umbra sends another ray of shadow at the approaching plant men, but misses.

    Six plant men manage to make it through the darkness and then enter the moonbeam. Ignoring the corpses of their companions littering the hall, they join a single living plant man and begin throwing darts at the party, principally Thokk (seven attacks, three hits, all critical, 34 total points damage, Thokk takes 14 after rage and heroism). Most of them fall to the floor, slain by the moonbeam, soon after their volley. Willa sheathes her greatsword and picks up Tyrius’ hammers from the floor.

    Larry maintains his concentration on his moonbeam (now base damage 20).

    Aurora sends off a firebolt at the plant men (damage 12), but then notices something at the edge of her vision, approaching from the other hallway, not the one to the north the party is defending, but rather the one to the east, the one that leads to the slain ceiling monster and the main entrance of the cave. She grabs Tyrius by the shoulder. He turns, and the light from his shield falls upon a thorn dog galloping toward them. “Don’t let us be flanked!” says Aurora, and Tyrius moves to intercept the dog.

    Babshapka drops back so as to view both hallways, and launches a single arrow to the north (damage 12 plus 5 from hunter’s mark, results in 2 damage).

    Round 6
    Larry affirms his concentration on the moonbeam (now base damage 21), and turns to face the dog by Tyrius’ side. He slashes at the dog with his scimitar but misses. However, behind the first dog come a half-dozen others from the east, bounding forward. Beyond them, at the edge of his darkvision, he can see a long column of plant men approaching. Larry shouts a warning to the others.

    Aurora firebolts one of the missile troops (14 damage).

    To the north, plant men and now thorn dogs are continuing to pass through the darkness and moonbeam. Three dogs are approaching Thokk; one snaps at Tyrius down the other hall. Two dart-bearing men and one with a club pass through the moonbeam. One manages to get off a dart before he dies, but Thokk intercepts it with his shield.

    Babshapka continues firing arrows (two shots, one hit, 5 plus 4 is 2 points of damage).

    Willa moves to the east hallway, strikes at a thorn dog but misses.

    Umbra decides the host approaching unimpeded from the east is far more of a threat than those trickling through the moonbeam and taking damage besides. She turns and pulls away from the northern hall, fixing her full attention on the vanguard of dogs. Suddenly a great dark sphere appears. Tendrils of insubstantial shadow snake out from it, wrapping around the nearest thorn dogs, pulling at them. Their advance is slowed - perhaps more helpfully, they no longer are agile enough to wound those striking at them. (six thorn dogs fail their save against Umbra’s entropy spell - they now move at half speed and cannot take reactions. Umbra to 3/2/2).

    With no melee opponents, but now being the sole defender on the northern hall, Thokk yells and shakes his shield and sword at the plant men launching darts. [Thokk has neither attacked nor taken damage this turn. His rage ends. He takes the dodge action and uses another rage. Two rages left]

    Tyrius forgoes attacking, moving in such a way as to try to distract and draw the shadow-slowed dogs to him. (Tyrius takes the dodge action) He contacts Eddard mentally and has his mount open the door to the apartment on the south side of the hall, in case the party needs to fall back. The large table, on its side with a settee bolstering it from behind, blocks the doorway so that only the top half of the doorway is open.

    Round 7
    The forces in the north and east are both building and pressing upon the party. Aurora starts calling for a general retreat back to the room. “Bu’ we hain’t none o’ us been wounded,” objects Willa (ignoring Thokk for the moment). Aurora insists that they will be, if they allow themselves to be surrounded on all sides. In fits and starts, they begin to make for the door of the apartment, some with more alacrity than others.

    Umbra fires off a ray of shadow at a thorn dog but misses, then turns and moves to enter the apartment. She tries to climb over the table barrier, but her feet slip and slide on its smooth surface and she appears insufficiently strong to pull herself over with her arms alone (Acrobatics 8 ). She scowls and then disappears, suddenly appearing a second later well within the room. (Shadow step, Umbra at 2/2/2).

    Larry maintains his concentration on his moonbeam (this round, damage 21) even though he cannot see it. He looks nervously at the plant-men and thorn dogs arriving from the east, more all the time. He shouts to Thokk, asking him if they should retreat, but the enraged half-orc’s only answer is a bloodthirsty laugh.

    Four thorn dogs and a plant man with a club attack Thokk, Tyrius, and Willa, but their armor protects them.

    Shefak attacks a thorn dog with her staff, hitting it twice (total 18 damage), but twisting out of the way of its responding bite. Hearing Aurora’s calls for a retreat, she turns and sees another thorn dog blocking her path to the door. Summoning her ki, she runs at the dog and then unleashes a series of high and low kicks. The last one connects, knocking the dog fifteen feet back and to the side and opening up her path. (Shefak uses a Ki point for flurry of blows, now at 5 ki points. Three unarmed attacks on dog, last one hits, forces a strength save, dog fails and is knocked back). Shefak continues to run forward, jumps, and pulls herself over the table and into the room (Acrobatics 12). “Get this out of the way!” she shouts at Eddard, pointing at the settee and table.

    Eddard places his broad head along the side of the settee and digs in his hooves. He pushes the settee out of the way, although the table remains blocking the doorway (Strength check 17).

    Willa stays in the thick of the combat, not retreating. So far no plant men or thorn dogs have been able to penetrate her magic plate mail. If they want to keep throwing themselves on her sword, that is fine with her (two hits, 26 damage total).

    Babshapka fires off another two arrows, this time at the host in the east, but misses both times. He retreats about half the distance to the door.

    Tyrius continues to move among the thorn dogs, urging them all to attack him (dodge action) while his companions retreat to the safety of the room. He moves closer to the room himself, but it is one step forward and two back all the way.

    Aurora tries to calculate the area of impact that will hit the most opponents (Arcana 13), and then launches a fireball down the eastern corridor. It lands among five thorn dogs and two plant man “saplings”. (two fail for 38 damage each, five save for 19. Aurora at 2/2/0). Before the blast has even detonated, she turns and is halfway to the door of the apartment. Arriving there (with a little push from the explosion behind her), she tries to slide the table out of the way but is unable to budge it (Strength check 5).

    Round 8
    With Eddard continuing to push the settee to the far side of the room, Shefak moves the table from the inside, opening the doorway at last.

    Willa attacks a thorn dog (one hit for 14).

    The five thorn dogs bound by tendrils of shadow are largely unable to escape their effects (four failed Wisdom saves, one success). Umbra moves to the doorway and shoots a ray of shadow (7 points) at the one that managed to free himself. Babshapka shoots the same dog with an arrow (5 points + 2 hunter’s mark = 1 damage).

    Larry moves back from the scrum to view the northern hallway again and pulls the moonbeam back, closer to Thokk (this round it will do 21 damage).

    A sapling with a club, and a thorn dog, continue to attack Thokk to no effect. Halfway down the northern hall, the plant men launch a volley of seven darts and javelins. Only one finds its mark (5 piercing, 2 after rage, 0 after heroism).

    Five shadow-bound dogs bite at Tyrius and Willa, but miss. A sapling misses Tyrius with a club.

    Aurora, standing in the now-open doorway, sends out a firebolt but it misses.

    Thokk wants to back up so that he can assess the situation in the east hallway. He yells at Larry to have the moonbeam follow him as he retreats.

    Round 9
    Umbra, next to Aurora in the open doorway, sends out a ray of shadow (8 damage).

    Larry heeds Thokk’s words and has the moonbeam cover his retreat. It sweeps over eight plant men as it moves, doing 15 damage to each.

    Five shadow-bound dogs bite at Tyrius and Willa, but miss. A sixth misses Larry.

    Two saplings with clubs miss Willa, another two Thokk.

    A total of seventeen plant men missile troops have now accumulated in the northern hall and send a volley of darts and javelins at Thokk. Five find their mark (including two critical hits). [Thokk takes 50 points, to 25 after rage, to 22 after heroism] Thokk decides it may indeed be time to retreat. He sheathes his longsword, turns and runs (thorn dog bite and sapling club opportunity attacks both miss). He pauses only long enough to scoop up a surprised Babshapka (Athletics check 26) with his free arm before barreling into the room. Umbra and Aurora manage to get out of his way without getting knocked down.

    Seeing Thokk fleeing, Tyrius reasons that they are about to be hit with a flood of plant men from the north. He turns as well and makes for the door (club opportunity attack from a plant man misses). He is in no position to scoop up Larry as easily as Thokk did Babshapka, but he manages to push and shove and keep the dwarf in front of him as he goes (Athletics check 15).

    Aurora decides to lay down suppressive fire and cover the retreat of her companions. She sends out four magic missiles (cast at 2nd level for 17 damage, Aurora at 2/1/0).

    Willa looks about - it seems Aurora has convinced even Thokk to retreat. She increases the speed of her attacks to an unsustainable level as she clears her path to the door (action surge, four attacks, two hits, 27 damage).

    As Willa, the last one to enter the room, crosses the threshold, Thokk presses the door panel to close the door behind her.

    Round 10
    Babshapka sets another arrow to his bowstring and draws it lightly, pointing it at the floor near the closed door. “I think we should give it a minute,” he says tersely. Then, thinking better of it, he puts away his bow and draws his broadsword.

    “Does anyone need healing?” Tyrius asks, looking pointedly at Thokk, who is covered in puncture wounds from the darts and javelins. The half-orc shakes his head, and no one else speaks up.

    Round 11
    (Thokk’s heroism has expired)
    (Thokk’s second rage has expired)

    Willa, standing near the door, hears the mechanical whirring of the strange lock mechanism. She gestures at the others to be ready.

    As the door slides open, those near it can see a cluster of plant-man melee troops formed up in a phalanx outside. Farther back are rows of missile troops, even now poised to throw. Willa, closest to the door, can see a plant man straining upward to reach the receptacle into which a key card would be returned.

    Larry faces the door and concentrates, moving his still-existing moonbeam to just outside the door itself. He drops it squarely on two saplings, four sprouts, and a sporrior. They writhe in pain and begin to scatter.

    Thokk attacks the fleeing plant men nearest him, cleaving down at them with his longsword (two hits, 18 damage).

    Willa pushes past Thokk and reaches into the receptacle with one hand. With the other, she shoves hard, knocking the plant man back into the area covered by the moonbeam. It tenses in pain and she grabs the key card triumphantly. “Close it!” she shouts, and Babshapka presses the door panel.

    Round 12
    Unnoticed by the rest of the party, Shefak slipped on her invisibility ring even as the door opened. Now, she slides by Thokk and out into the hallway, stifling her gasp as she enters the moonbeam and takes damage. She passes through to the other side and out into the sea of plant men, trying to avoid them as they scurry about (dodge action).

    Willa tosses the black key card to Babshapka and draws her greatsword. He in turn tosses the card to Aurora and moves his hunter’s mark to a thorn dog just visible through the closing door. Aurora fumbles the card, then bangs her head on the oddly low table as she dives after it.

    Two thorn dogs snap at Thokk but he fends them off with his shield. Willa beats them back from the doorway (two hits, 26 damage total).

    Thokk, sword still drawn, faces the door as it slides closed.

    (It's minute up, Larry’s moonbeam finally expires)

    [Unbeknownst to the party, in addition to all the vegepygmies stirred up from the rooms they attacked, another 12 vegepygmies and 5 thornies have arrived as a patrol (wandering encounter) and joined the forces outside the door being directed by the sub chiefs.]

    It isn’t until a few minutes later when someone finally notices that Shefak is no longer in the room with them. From the center of the room, Aurora tries to message her. Receiving no response, she moves to the door, where the metal is thinner than the width of the walls. Now she does indeed hear back.

    Shefak explains that she is invisible, in the hallway just outside the door. There are some 30 to 40 plant men and a half-dozen thorn dogs out there with her. More importantly, there are two plant men that seem to be in charge. They are much larger than the others, standing nearly five feet tall, and are greatly gnarled and barely able to move. With whistles, chest thumps, and gesticulating limbs, they appear to be ordering the other plants, men and dogs, about. It is the first time Shefak has seen any of the plant men do anything more than blindly charge forward and attack. Now, they are forming up into well-spaced rows, with melee troops in front and missile troops behind, all surrounding the door of the room in which the party is. On either side of the door are stationed thorn dogs.

    As Aurora begins to relate Shefak’s message to the party, Willa and Tyrius confer. They agree that with their complement of best spells depleted, and the damage Thokk has taken, it is not worth it to provoke another fight. If the plant men storm the room, however, the party should definitely target the leaders. Perhaps if these larger plant men are slain or captured the others will disperse. Their conference is interrupted by Aurora reporting that Shefak is saying urgently that another plant man with a black card in hand is approaching the door. The party readies for another fight, while Aurora moves away from the door and begins a ritual casting of comprehend languages, for use on the leader they intend to capture.
    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.&nbsp;
    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jan 05, 2002
    Posts: 774
    From: Sky Island, So Cal

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    Tue Apr 06, 2021 9:01 am  
    Post 163: Speak with Plants

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers for module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    The playdate for this, our fifth Barrier Peaks session, was 5 April, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 1 - Level I, South
    9:40 am - 3 displacer beasts
    12:50 pm - Police robot
    1:00 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 4 thornies
    1:10 pm - 4 vegepygmies, 1 thornie
    3:20 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    7 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    8:10 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    9:10 pm - Worker robot
    10:30 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 5 thornies

    11:50 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    Post 163: Speak with Plants
    20 February, 571 [1 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 1

    Round 1
    As the door slides open, Thokk enrages (one rage left). He immediately pushes through the crowd, barreling straight at the plant man leader and ignoring those in his way. (Three opportunity attacks, two sapling clubs and a thorn dog bite, all miss). Thokk reaches the leader, bends down, and attempts to seize him with his bare hands about the creature’s neck. (Thokk makes a failed grapple attempt. He uses an inspiration point for a re-roll, but fails again).

    Aurora thinks better of her plan, ceases her ritual, and shoots a firebolt through the doorway. Umbra follows that with a ray of shadow.

    Babshapka struggles briefly with the plant man at the door and comes away with the key card. [Current tally, one black card each on Babshapka and Aurora].

    Willa strides out the door to her right, wading through the battle lines toward the second leader. The attacks on her by those she passes are ineffective (three sapling clubs and three thorn dog bites, opportunity attacks, all miss). Willa grabs the seemingly surprised plant man, hugs it to her chest, and begins walking backward despite its struggles and the attacks of those around her. She manages to drag it five feet closer to the door. (Successful grapple attack and moves opponent at half own speed)

    There is a volley of sixteen javelins and darts. They all are thrown through the open doorway. The plant men do not appear to have reacted immediately to the assaults on their leaders, or perhaps they are just mindlessly executing a previously decided-upon plan. Larry is wounded by two javelins, Babshapka by four.

    The leader evading Thokk's grasp manages to bring up a sort of cobbled-together flail and tries to strike at the barbarian, but is too close to be effective. The leader being grappled by Willa struggles, but cannot free itself.

    Tyrius moves to the doorway, sees that Willa has one leader well in hand but that the other has not yet been subdued by Thokk. The paladin casts compelled duel, hoping to goad the leader into charging at him, but it resists the power of Pelor (vegepygmy leader makes a Wisdom save with 17; Tyrius at 1/0 and 26 lay on hands remaining).

    Shefak dives into the combat, becoming visible and attacking the leader that Thokk faces, but from behind. She uses her flurry of blows to both prevent its reaction and knock it down (Shefak now at four ki points - first hit, stuns leader, no reactions, second hit, failed dex save, knocks it prone, total 17 points damage). “Now try!” she yells at Thokk, as the enraged barbarian struggles to understand why the plant man he was just fighting has dropped to the ground without him touching it.

    From inside the doorway, Larry casts a moonbeam, hoping to scatter the missile troops. It lands on six sprouts and six sporriors - the damage is disappointing, and half of them make their saves, but it is distracting and will hopefully frustrate a second volley. (Larry to 4/1/2; second-level moonbeam will last to round 12).

    Round 2
    Babshapka moves back behind the wall of the apartment, out of view of the missile troops, and pulls out one of the javelins that stuck in his side.

    Willa continues to drag the plant man leader backwards toward the door, ignoring the attacks on her (one dog and three sapling club opportunity attacks miss). She enters the area of the moonbeam and clenches her jaw as she begins to take damage (round 2 damage nine points, Willa saves and takes four). When she gets to the doorway she pauses, holding the plant man in front of her like a shield against the javelins. Still inside the moonbeam, and still taking damage, are two thorn dogs, three sporriors, three sprouts, three saplings, and the leader being held by Willa.

    Frustrated that the moonbeam hasn’t scattered more opponents, Larry runs up to the doorway, right behind Tyrius and Willa. He yells, drops to one knee, and slams the ground with his fist, sending forth a wave of force. A thunderous sound echoes down the metal corridors. (Thunderwave at first level for nine points - Larry at 3/1/2). The shock hits Tyrius first (Con save 4, fails); he takes damage (9 points) and flies forward out of the doorway and into the hall, barely managing to remain on his feet. Willa is thrown into the air, but comes down in place and manages to retain her grip on the leader (4 points damage). As the wave propagates out the doorway, about half the javelin-throwing troops go down, falling to the floor. Their green-gray skin burns and cracks in the moonbeam. The club-bearing saplings in the doorway, tougher than their missile throwing companions, remain standing. Four of them batter at Willa. They are unable to break through her armor, but their blows help loosen her grip on the leader, and he manages to break free. He staggers forward, turns, and beats his flail at her chest plate, knocking the wind from her for a moment but not doing any lasting damage (attack roll 20 vs. AC21).

    Outside the room, three thorn dogs snap at Tyrius with their barbed jaws. The remaining missile troops all target Willa - because she is in the doorway, or because she tried to capture their leader? (Now that she is in melee with the saplings, the missile troops have advantage). Two sporriors and five sprouts are left - of the seven missiles thrown, three manage to penetrate her armor.

    As the fallen leader before him stands up, Thokk leans down and snatches it in a bear hug, then lifts it over his head, holding it high in the air so that none of its woody limbs can find purchase on the floor (successful grapple attack). He turns and moves heavily toward the door, pausing only to raise a booted foot and kick the free leader fighting Willa in the back (successful shove attack). As the standing leader stumbles forward past Willa, Thokk moves to take its place in the doorway, the other leader still held over his head. Thorn dogs snap at his heels (three opportunity attacks - one hit, 5 points, 2 damage after rage).

    Shefak assesses the doorway - most of it is blocked by Thokk’s girth, but there is a bit of room over his head, just to the side of the plant man leader. She runs forward, planting her staff like a pole, and starts her vault - but the pole slips on the metal floor, slick with plant juices. Shefak slams into Thokk, then falls to the floor (failed Acrobatics check). Thokk stumbles forward from the blow. Shefak shakes her head, leaps to her feet, and re-assumes her invisibility.

    Tyrius, from inside the room, attacks the four saplings battering Willa (two hits, 21 damage, one sapling down). Aurora firebolts another one of them (9 damage).

    Round 3
    With the doorway now clear, Shefak runs inside the apartment, launching herself into a flying kick at the free plant man leader.

    Babshapka hits the door panel and the door begins to close.

    Willa trades blows with the plant man leader inside. The three remaining saplings beat her with clubs, and the leader manages to turn and slip out through the closing door.

    Thokk tightens his grip on the remaining leader he holds aloft inside the room.

    Larry dashes to the half-closed door, moving his moonbeam to center it onto the fleeing leader. In response, four sprouts and a sporrior throw missiles at him (one hit, Larry takes 5). Aurora runs to his side, sending a volley of magic missiles after the leader through the last six inches remaining between the closing door panels. The plant man leader is slain just before the door closes (14 points damage, Aurora to 1/1/0).

    Tyrius smashes two of the three saplings that remain inside the room into planty bits (two hits, 7 and 11 damage).

    Round 4
    Thokk continues to grapple the leader, holding him high overhead.

    The one remaining sapling in the room attacks Willa with its club. Willa returns his blows (one hit, damage 11). Tyrius moves to support her (one hit, damage 7).

    Aurora shoots a firebolt at the grappled leader, but it misses, impacting the ceiling instead.

    Larry tosses Shefak a rope, and she moves to Thokk’s side, urging him to set the plant man down so that she can bind it.

    Round 5
    The sapling strikes at Willa again, and her response smears it all over her greatsword. Now just the leader is left alive inside, although Larry and Babshapka are guarding the door in case it opens again.

    Thokk holds the leader down while Shefak ties it up with the rope.

    When the plant man is well and truly bound, Thokk loses his rage and moves to guard the door.

    Aurora begins a ritual casting of comprehend languages, while Shefak uses her Wholeness of Body to recover 18hp and then moves much of her personal gear over to the mule packs (cold weather clothes, crampons, bed roll, staff, dagger, mess kit) so as to lighten her load. “It seems like we will be in this cave a while,” she says, to no one in particular. Umbra nods and puts her own cold weather gear and crampons in one of the mule packs.

    [Unbeknownst to the party, the remaining vegepygmies in the hall withdraw. In just this last skirmish, besides numerous comrades, they have lost a black key and two of their subchiefs. They collectively retreat, back to defend the colony and await further instruction]

    Aurora and Babshapka come over to where the leader is tied up. Aurora begins speaking to him, knowing he cannot understand her, but trying to keep a friendly tone in her voice.

    As the leader whistles and rattles his limbs, Aurora hears a deep basso voice, slow and ponderous. “You…(and he inclines his head at Aurora)...thrower of fire! Burner of men! You think you can conquer the colony! But you will never overcome us! Never!”

    The leader’s obvious hostile reaction gives Aurora pause. Without being able to speak to him, she will be unable to persuade him of anything. She retreats to the far side of the room, where she can still hear him and whisper messages to Babshapka with translations of what he is saying.

    Although he has calmed somewhat at Aurora’s retreat, the leader’s defiance has now shifted to Babshapka. “You will not overcome us! We will defend the colony, though it cost us our individual existence, we will be reborn to serve the colony again! You may chop off our limbs and branches, but they will grow back! We will defend our lights and our soil!”

    Seeking a nonverbal way to indicate their friendly intentions, Babshapka sets down his weapons on the floor. He tells the others in the party to set down their weapons and back away. A few follow his directive, but Thokk just laughs.

    The plant man pauses in his invective. When he resumes speaking, his tone is less forceful, but still suspicious. “Do you mock me? Do you seek to frighten me, by showing me the dead bodies of your former foes? Is this what you will do to me, with my body? I will not be intimidated! Do your worst, and I will serve the colony to the end!” Babshapka only now realizes that his bow and arrows are made of wood - to this plant man, apparently they look like dead bodies laid in front of him.

    Babshapka throws up his hands in frustration, gathers his things and withdraws. Larry stumps over, willing to give it a try. He squats by the leader, who is still dripping sap and whose living wooden armor is chipped and cracked in several places. Larry touches him and bestows a cure wounds. (Larry at 2/1/2).

    The leader winces at Larry’s touch, then shudders as a few of his wounds close and the wood knits itself together. A single violet flower bud emerges from between wooden plates in the soft joint of an elbow. The leader’s eyes widen.

    “You heal me...why? To make me whole before you sacrifice me?”

    When Aurora translates this for Larry, the dwarf shakes his head and holds forth his empty hands at the plant man. There is a long silence.

    “If you truly wish to cease hostilities...untie me, and let me go.”

    Aurora has been translating and messaging as fast as the leader speaks, without commentary, but when she says the last line uncensored she immediately regrets it. “Now, hold on there, Larry!” she says out loud right after, but Tyrius strides over and begins working at the ropes that bind the plant-man’s limbs while Larry holds out his empty hands in a gesture of peace. All eyes in the room are on the plant man as it stands, then walks over to where its wooden flail fell and collects it. More than one of the party have their hands on their weapons, but the leader ignores them and moves to the bodies of the several slain saplings in the room, then kneels by them.

    The leader lays its hand on the chests of the dead, rumbling in a rhythmic cadence, repeating the same prayer for each, “Your life was not in have served the colony in life, and now you serve it in death...soon your body will be absorbed by the soil and your spirit will sprout again…” When it has repeated the same prayer for each of the fallen, it weaves their limbs together and stands, pulling on the body of one and testing that they all come along as it drags them. Bits and pieces of broken twigs are left behind, but the leader seems unconcerned about these.

    As the leader makes toward the door, trailing its fallen comrades, Thokk draws his sword and moves to bar its way. “Nay, Thokk, let ‘im go,” says Willa, “bu’ we need fer sommun ter foller ‘im.”

    Shefak nods and moves behind the leader. Aurora tells Larry he should go too, but in scout mode. Larry suddenly shrinks down, assuming the form of a tiny wolf spider. Almost unnoticed, spider-Larry darts over to Shefak and climbs up her pant leg, eventually settling on her shoulder by the time the door is open (wild shape, one use left).

    The party tenses as the door opens, but the hallway beyond is empty - or at least, there is nothing moving. Bits and pieces of plant men are strewn everywhere, and more than a few scorch marks from fireballs[i] are present, as well caked-on plant juices baked to the metal floor with [i]moonbeam. But there is nothing recognizable as a body, neither of plant man nor thorn dog. Without thanking them or even turning around, the leader plods out into the hall, dragging the four fallen saplings behind him. After Shefak crosses the threshold of the door, she puts on her ring and disappears. A very perceptive observer might see a small grey spider floating along the corridor at shoulder height, but Larry’s current size and color render him nearly imperceptible.

    The door is left open; Babshapka and Thokk move into the hall to set a watch, while Tyrius offers healing to them and any of the others remaining. Besides his one last spell, he still has nearly all of his lay on hands available.
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    Tue Apr 13, 2021 12:22 pm  
    Post 164: A Curious Spider

    DM's Note on Sources: This post contains spoilers for module S3:Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    Keyed rooms from the map are indicated in [blue]

    The playdate for this, our sixth Barrier Peaks session, was 29 April, 2019.

    Party Wandering Encounters - Day 1 - Level I, South
    9:40 am - 3 displacer beasts
    12:50 pm - Police robot
    1:00 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 4 thornies
    1:10 pm - 4 vegepygmies, 1 thornie
    3:20 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    7 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    8:10 pm - 3 displacer beasts
    9:10 pm - Worker robot
    10:30 pm - 12 vegepygmies, 5 thornies
    11:50 pm - 3 displacer beasts

    Post 164: A Curious Spider
    20 February, 571 [1 Coldeven] - The Unoerthly Cave, Day 1

    The plant man leader passes the table room [unnumbered activity room], an empty side room [ibid], and a black-keyed closed door [12A] without pause. When he gets to the long hall lit from the numerous rooms that held other plant men [12], however, he sets down his burden. One by one he goes to each of the rooms, steps inside, and presses the wall panel that turns out the overhead lights. The rooms are a mess of broken furniture, scavenged odds and ends, and bits and pieces of fallen bark and twigs. He murmurs as he does this but Shefak does not have the benefit of Aurora’s comprehend languages. Shefak counts her steps as she goes, realizing now that her return trip may be in darkness and, unlike many of the party, she cannot see in the dark.

    When it gets to the end of the corridor, the leader passes through a doorway and goes to the far end of the apartment [12], which is in just as much disarray as the others. In the back is a keyed door, and the leader pauses and withdraws a key from some recess under its living armor! Spider-Larry scampers down Shefak’s arm to get a closer view, and sees a flash of bright yellow as the plant man inserts the key in the slot, and again as it retrieves the key from the receptacle, before it is again tucked away from sight.

    As the door slides open, Shefak is hit with a rich, pungent, earthy smell. The large triangular room [mulch room; see DM's notes at end] within is full, with nearly every square foot of space being taken up by plant men, although the doorway is flanked by a pair of thorn dogs and at least one more is further within. The ceiling lights are bright and the plant men sway gently as their arms reach upward, their eyes closed. As Shefak’s eyes adjust to the brightness she can see more details. All of the plant men bear some type of injury - hacked off limbs, cracked wooden armor, sap-weeping wounds, burned and blackened skin. More plant men, or their bodies, lie on the floor - there is no way to move without stepping on them. Those on the floor look to be dead, or sleeping, though their wounds are worse than the others. Underneath them is a thick brown mass, like a rich loam or humus - the metal floor is not visible through the mass of bodies, broken branches, and brown layer.

    Thorn dogs just within the open door bristle, but then bow their heads to the leader. Other plant men, seemingly in a daze or trance, move forward slowly, and one by one the leader hands off to them the four different bodies it has been dragging. Each one is carried inside the room and then let gently down to the floor. The leader warbles, whistles, and beats its chest, and a few of those helping respond, but the majority of the gently swaying plant folk seem not to notice. Shefak quickly estimates perhaps two dozen standing plant folk - the number of fallen is impossible for her to guess.

    The leader spends just long enough in the doorway to see the bodies lain on the floor, and then turns. Shefak rapidly backs up and out of its way. It passes back through the room, out into the hall, and turns north. As it goes, it turns out more lights in more apartment rooms [12]. Shefak tries to keep running tallies now of both the number of rooms passed and her steps to return. They pass four more, all on the left, before arriving at a four-way intersection. The plant is moving faster now that it is not dragging its fallen comrades behind.

    At the intersection, the leader is soon surrounded by smaller plant folk arriving from the right branch. That hallway itself is dark, but light spills out into it from numerous doorwars along the south wall [12]. Plant folkn move in and out of the doorways and into the hall. The whole place appears much as did the southern hall, at least before the combat with the party. The leader beats its chest loudly and whistles as it wades into the crowd, and these apparently unwounded plant folk respond much more enthusiastically than the ones in the mulch room did.

    Shefak looks down the hallway. Invisible as she is, there is no way she can pass unnoticed - she is unlikely to get ten feet without someone or other bumping in to her. She proceeds just far enough to see where the northern branch of the intersection leads. No plant folk are in sight there. It is lit, but dimly, with many of the ceiling panels flickering in a way that is reminiscent of candles, but in whole blocks at once rather than points. There are numerous doors on both sides. She decides it is time to return to the party and report.

    Unbeknownst to her, Larry had decided to continue scouting when they were back at the plant man hall. The tiny spider lept from her shoulder to the wall, then climbed to above the height of the plant men. At human head height, he now scurries along the wall as fast as his eight little legs can carry him.

    As Shefak turns and carefully makes her way down the now-dark hallway, she ponders. The leader turned out lights in eleven rooms as he went. Thokk and Willa said that each room had produced some five to seven plant men, as well as a thorn dog, in their initial fight. Assuming that the leader thinks these rooms are now unoccupied, no longer needed, is there a way to estimate casualties among the plant folk? Six of them per room, times 11 rooms; 66 plant folk and 11 thorn dogs? But more than likely the wounded in the mulch room are a result of the fighting - so perhaps two dozen wounded, and 40-some slain, as many as eight thorn dogs slain and three wounded? Then Shefak remembers that a large force in the third attack came from the east - are there more rooms in that direction? If so, her numbers are likely to be an underestimate of their losses.

    Outside the party’s room, Thokk and Babshapka remain on alert. Thokk hears faint metallic clanking approaching, that then resolves itself as footfalls on the metal floor. He draws his sword and tells Babshapka to be ready.

    At a distance just beyond his sword-reach Shefak suddenly becomes visible. “Boo!” she says, though with a gentle smile. She proceeds to enter the room, where others are already binding wounds or laid out on bedrolls, although everyone still has their armor on and weapons at the ready. Shefak relates her story to Aurora, Willa, and Tyrius. When Aurora asks about Larry, Shefak looks surprised, and cranes her neck to see both shoulders - there is no spider on either one. She shrugs and says she did not notice his departure.

    Aurora moves to the open doorway and tries to raise Larry with her message spell, but to no avail. By the time she returns, Shefak is already kneeling, eyes closed in meditation but holding her crystal before her. The leaders of the party confer, agreeing that they will give Larry enough time for everyone in the party to complete a short rest. After that, if he has not returned, they will go out to look for him.

    It is hard for Larry to estimate time and distance while in spider form. He figures he has crawled about halfway along the hallway of plant folk, and gone past five open doorways leading into rooms full of the creatures [12]. To the north, a corridor leads away from the light and noise of them. He turns the corner and proceeds that way. He passes a closed door, then an open one. There is a brief side-foray into a storeroom, with smashed and empty crates, and then back out into the hall. Continuing north, he passes another four closed doors before then next open one, this one leading into a room with several pieces of battered and scratched furniture [unnumbered apartment]. After one more closed door, he comes to an intersection, with the main east-west corridor of substantially greater size than the north-south one it crosses. Larry turns to the east, but has not gone far when he arrives at a T-intersection, with the wall ahead bearing a single door. As he pauses to look in all directions, there is a whooshing of air as the door opens and light spills out into the hall from the room beyond [Police HQ]. The light is immediately followed by a clockwork - a large one of the kind the party fought before. This machine creature turns south and speeds away down the corridor. Larry follows as fast as he can, but the machine is soon lost to his sight.

    Larry turns a corner and passes another four doors before coming to a second T-intersection. This time turning south, he finds a four-branched corridor, with a hallway full of plant folk to his west. He is reasonably sure it is the same hallway he passed through before, seen from another perspective. He continues south. After five more doors he comes to a large atrium, at a nexus of hallways, with a hollow circular column in its center. Suspecting that he has returned to the initial entrance to the cave, he heads west and soon finds the body of the ceiling monster the party fought some fourteen hours before, still lying on the floor in all its massive bulk.

    It is not far past that when he can see Thokk and Babshapka standing guard in the hallway. He crawls to the floor and then resumes his dwarven shape. Thokk trots over and pats him on the head affectionately, which is as close as the barbarian will go to telling him he was worried about him.

    [Unbeknownst to the party, in the hallway, three displacer beasts approach - seeing Thokk and Babshapka on guard in the hallway, they retreat into the shadows.]

    DM's Note: On the map of Level I, there is a curious room just beyond the most south-west of the vegepygmy occupied rooms. It is accessed through a jet lock, which should indicate an apartment, but it is larger than the other apartments nearby and of odd shape. More strangely, although the only room granting access to it has vegepygmy occupants, it does not have any, according to the map. I decided that this was a "mulch room", where the southern vegepygmies take their dead and wounded, and where the wounded could heal themselves by decomposing the dead. The northern vegepygmies have an entire hallway filled with humus in which they grow mushrooms to eat, so it seemed fitting that the southern colony would have something similar. All of the living vegepygmies in the room when Larry and Shefak found it were ones that had been wounded in the various battles with the party so far.
    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.&nbsp;
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