Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Mystery of Crabber's Cove - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 66

After having successfully escorted the merchant Genevieve de Guare and her crew back to the free city of Nessermouth the crew was rewarded with one-tenth the value of the recovered cargo and received a special bonus of 5000 gold coins from Genevieve. Father Craig likewise returned the lost items to the trader named Davus Raal and secured the freedom of the dwarf Morley Tobe. 

Morley Tobe expressed his undying gratitude to Father Craig and promised to give up smuggling for a living. He was so impressed with Father Craig and Corvid that the dwarf pledged his life to the service of the Raven King. Father Craig performed a ceremony to invest the dwarf as a priest, granting him insights into the mysteries of the faith. 

The Sea Ghost set sail, stopping briefly in Scant before heading off across the sea to Saltmarsh.

Five days later, the Sea Ghost sailed into port at the small fishing village, more then a month after they left. Wellgar Brinehanded, priest of the sea god Procan, was standing at the dock as they arrived. It was Wellgar that sent them on their mission to Firewatch Island to check on the status of the priest's longtime friend. 

They relayed the news that nearly all the hermits at the island had been killed by sea zombies in the service of Orcus. It was fortuitous that Wellgar sent them, for although they arrived too late to save the hermits, they were able to stop a larger-scale attempt by the forces of Orcus to invade the mainland. Only then did they give Wellgar the sad news. Alas, the reason Wellgar lost contact with his friend was because his friend Marwen had passed away from natural causes several days before the zombie attack. 

Wellgar began to tear up, saddened at the loss of his longtime friend and long-distance companion. 

"Truly," he said, "'Tis a miracle of Procan. For although my good friend passed, it was his passing that prompted me to send you, and you were able to save the mainland from a greater threat. Praise be to Procan!"


The Crew of the Sea Ghost:

  • Alot Aname - Neutral Good Warforged Fighter, ancient sentinel of a wizard's fortress, spent several decades deactivated underwater, Captain of the Sea Ghost.
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Storm Sorceress from Ket, daughter of the king of the sea elves, deck sorceress and first mate of the Sea Ghost.
  • Craig "Blunderbuss" Oxworth - Lawful Good Dwarven Priest of St. Ogden (Cleric), sailor and shipwright, bosun of the Sea Ghost.  
  • Cai'luin Manaan - Chaotic Good Sea-Elf Bard, member of the royal family of the tribe of Manaan. Cook of the Sea Ghost.
  • Corvid Ravenson - Neutral Good Fallen Aasimar Paladin of Vengeance and Divine Soul Sorcerer, sent to Oerth to avenge those who wronged his angelic "brother", Auric Ravenson. Second mate of the Sea Ghost.
DM Note-
There is a big adventure gap between the end of Tammeraut's Fate (level 9) and the beginning of the Styes (level 11) so I'm filling it with short adventures and side-treks and player's choice. This week, it's a player's choice adventure as the crew sails back to Saltmarsh and investigate the mysterious abandoned house in Crabber's Cove. 

Also, Father Craig's player was back in the hospital for more surgery to remove an infection after his cancer surgery. Despite having surgery earlier that day, he joined us to play D&D online from his hospital bed!

Life in Saltmarsh
The crew disembarked from the Sea Ghost. Captain Alot Aname returned to the gazebo he had built on the cleared land where once stood Gellan Primewater's mansion before it burned down. There he stood all night. He had an idea - he would build a theater. 

Father Craig and Corvid returned home to the House of the Raven King. They were glad to hear that the nuns had served the town well in preparing the dead for their judgement and that the villagers of Saltmarsh had begun to accept and embrace this new god from foreign lands. 

Cai'luin walked through town with the intent of playing his lute for the patrons at the Snapping Line when he was intercepted by Eda Oweland of the town council. Eda complained to Cai'luin that the sea elves of Manaan had widened their no-fishing zone and prohibited her boats from fishing near their castle. She demanded access to those waters and continued to insult Cai'luin and his people. 

Cai'luin asked what the town council thought and she complained that since Baron Solmor had left to spend the summer in the capital in the king's court, and Aella having been gone over a month at sea, the council had been reduced to herself, Commander Fireborn, and Manistrad Copperlocks. Copperlocks didn't care for the fishers of Saltmarsh and Fireborn thought they were all smugglers, so they voted down any resolution she proposed. She demanded Cai'luin do something about this situation!

Cai'luin assured her he would take care of the situation.

The next day several of the crew met to inventory the treasures from their recent adventures and apportion the spoils. Afterwards they paid a visit the Quartermasters of Iuz to see if Captain Xendros had any magic items for sale. 

The Old House
In the afternoon, Cai'luin asked for help from the others. He told them about the mysterious crab at the abandoned house in Crabber's Cove. When he first came ashore in Saltmarsh he had encountered a crab that seemed to beckon him towards the house. When he spoke to the crab, the crab responded, "Free me!" He became unnerved and left the area, but now he wanted to gather the group and investigate the house.

The crew marched down towards Crabber's Cove towards sunset. It was the last gasp of the month of Coldeven. The sky was gloomy and the temperature barely made it above 45 degrees. Now it was getting dark and the wind from the ocean rattled the ancient dead trees of Crabber's Cove. 

The last three houses down by the pebbly beach had been abandoned decades ago. They stood empty and dark. Crabs wandered the tall dry beach grass. No crabbers came near this place. There were stories that anyone who entered these houses would disappear - never to be seen again. 

Free Me!
The last house was encrusted in thousands of crab. As the team cautiously approached the house, the crabs moved towards them. Cai'luin could hear them hiss in unison, "Free me! Free me from my eternal prison!"

Cai'luin tried to communicate with the crabs but to no avail. He could understand them but they could not understand him.

The team went around the outside of the house and noticed an entrance to a cellar. The entrance was chained close and bound by a metallic disk - a holy symbol of Saint Cuthbert. The disk offered no security - it could be easily broken. It was more of a symbolic seal - a holy warning to anyone who might break the seal.

The team then went back around to the front of the old house to investigate the interior. On their way in Cai'luin noticed dry boot prints on the wooden porch going into the front door. He knelt down and looked more closely. There were several sets of prints but one type of boot caught his eye - it was not the working-class boot of a sailor or fisherman - it was the boot of someone of refinement - an expensive pair of boots. He recognized the boot print. It belonged to the boots worn by Skerrin Wavechaser - personal butler of Baron Anders Solmor and suspected agent of the Scarlet Brotherhood.

They entered the old house. The door opened easily and there were no cobwebs covering the threshold - indicating frequent use. Inside they found a few old chairs and a bare table. The table showed signs of melted wax from a candle. 

Cai'luin looked around the room. Dozens of crabs crawled over the floor. One of the crabs clutched a silver key in one of its claws. Cai'luin snatched it away.

Captain Alot inspected the fireplace. There was always a loose brick concealing something important in the fireplace. As expected, he found a loose brick. Within the hidden compartment was a valise filled with hundreds of letters. He removed the letters to inspect them. Their wax seals had been broken. They were all written in code. 

He glanced over them. Several of the letters had notes scrawled in a different hand-writing. One of hte notes was a name he recognized - Yrsa Bjorndottir - the mother of Annor and Marlin Whalerson - along with a date - the day she died! 

DM Note-

Remember them??

Good Old Bess
By this time it was cold and dark outside and the wind was causing the drafty old house to creak and shudder. Alot placed the letters in his magical bag of holding and the crew went back outside to the cellar entrance.

Corvid looked at the seal, "Well, its obviously some kind of magical ward, right?"

Cai'luin nervously backed away, "You mean, like a fireball?" He retreated to a distance of thirty feet and hid behind one of the dead trees.

Father Craig rolled his eyes and prayed over the seal for ten minutes. When he was finished, he said, "It's not going to explode, you baby! Come on!"

Cai'luin returned from his hiding place, straightening his tunic, "Well, better safe than sorry."

Alot said, "Okay then, shall I open it?" He reached out to break the seal.

A familiar voice called out from behind them, "Wait, boss! Don't open it!" 

Cai'luin recognized the voice immediately, "Bess! What are you doing here?"

It was Bess, the intelligent and sassy giant crab with a crush on the pretty elf-boy. Bess explained that she felt a mysterious pull to this house. A force within the house was trying to take control of her but the power of Saint Cuthbert, the god that gave her intelligence, prevented it. Something in the house wanted her to help them break the seal. However, Saint Cuthbert wanted her to stop them from breaking the seal. 

Cai'luin sympathized with his friend but assured her that they would deal with whatever it was that was bound by the seal. They would take care of this and protect the town. He asked her to wait behind the dead tree and they'd be back soon. She reluctantly agreed. 

Alot broke open the seal and removed the chains. He opened the cellar doors and descended the steps.

The cellar beneath the house was flooded and covered in algae. It smelled like rotting crab meat and dead fish. A pile of rubble lay at the bottom of the stairs. 

A pile of heavy stones were piled against the wall opposite the stairs. 

Alot reached the bottom of the stairs followed by Cai'luin, Corvid, and Father Craig. They spread out through the small cellar. The water was knee-deep. Alot moved to inspect the pile of stones against the wall. 

Suddenly the water erupted as over a dozen giant crab, each easily the same size as a man, burst out of their hiding places beneath the scum. Only they weren't ordinary giant crab - these crab were the tattered and decaying remains of long-dead crab animated by some unnamable power!

To be Continued...!

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Revenge of the Man-Spiders - Ghosts of Satlmarsh, Chapter 65

Cai'luin shook off his brain jellies. 

He was standing at the base of a steep rocky hill surrounded by swampy forests. Midges and gnats swarmed around him. A horse he did not recognize was tied to a nearby tree. There was a strange villager sitting on a rock whittling a stick. 

The villager acknowledged the sea elf, "Howdy, welcome back."

"Where are we?" asked Cai'luin.

"Ya'll are in the Gnatmarsh. If yer lookin' fer yer friends, they done went in yonder cave up thar lookin' for bandits."

"I see. And who are you?"

"I'm just a local what from the village of Paducah. Yer friends hired me to be a guide through the Gnatmarsh what to lead them here." He pointed his whittled stick at the cave. 

"When was this?"

The guide squinted at the sun, "That was, oh, about an hour ago, ah reckon."

Cai'luin thanked the villager for the update and began his climb up the field of scree to the mouth of the cave. 

He entered the cave and saw immediately the bodies of two dead bugbears and a large spider with a body the size of a man's torso. The spider had two human-like arms that disgusted the sea-elf. 

Cai'luin continued into the cave, noting the chamber to the left containing two dead spiders, each the size of a horse, and a strange human-spider hybrid. The walls looked as if they were covered in the remnants of spider webs that had been burned off.

Further down the passage he saw a pit filled with excrement and rotting meat. He wrinkled his nose and pushed forward. 

Cai'luin found a vertical shaft. A network of wooden platforms were built along the far side of the shaft with ropes and cranes and a rope ladder allowing movement of cargo and personnel up and down. A gangplank allowed him to cross the shaft to the platform. The platform was littered with the bodies of three dead bugbears and another large spider with human-like arms. He descended the ladder to the platform sixty feet below. A rope bridge connected the platform to another passage on the far side. He crossed the bridge and entered a chamber filled with crates and casks of stolen cargo and contraband. Several bugbears lay dead on the floor. He could hear his companions speaking casually in the next chamber.

He entered the chamber and found his companions interrogating two bugbears who were tied up.

His friends acknowledged his arrival with a slight nod.

He said, "Hey gang, sorry I'm late. What did I miss?"


The Crew of the Sea Ghost:

  • Alot Aname - Neutral Good Warforged Fighter, ancient sentinel of a wizard's fortress, spent several decades deactivated underwater, Captain of the Sea Ghost.
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Storm Sorceress from Ket, daughter of the king of the sea elves, deck sorceress and first mate of the Sea Ghost.
  • Craig "Blunderbuss" Oxworth - Lawful Good Dwarven Priest of St. Ogden (Cleric), sailor and shipwright, bosun of the Sea Ghost.  
  • Cai'luin Manaan - Chaotic Good Sea-Elf Bard, member of the royal family of the tribe of Manaan. Cook of the Sea Ghost.
  • Corvid Ravenson - Neutral Good Fallen Aasimar Paladin of Vengeance and Divine Soul Sorcerer, sent to Oerth to avenge those who wronged his angelic "brother", Auric Ravenson. Second mate of the Sea Ghost.
DM Note-
This is part two and the finale of the short adventure - Cave of the Spiders - a third-edition mini-module available from DM's Guild. 

The Interrogation
Two bugbears were tied up and sitting in the middle of the cavern. The chamber appeared to be some kind of sleeping quarters. Dead bugbears littered the room.

Corvid loomed over them, his eyes gleaming with purple vengeance, "YOU WILL TELL US WHAT WE WANT TO KNOW!"

The bugbear looked afraid for its life, "Yeah! Yeah sure, boss! Whatever you say! We'll tell you anything you want, just promise you'll let us walk out of here alive! We don't want no more trouble!"

Corvid glanced back to Captain Alot and Father Craig to confirm the terms. He turned back and glared menacingly at the Bugbear. He hissed, "Agreed!"

The bugbears answered every question put to him. The bugbears were mercenaries hired by the bandit crew. Their boss-man was some human-spider hybrid guy. All the human-spider guys lived further down the shaft. Bugbears weren't allowed to go any further down so he didn't know exactly where. 

When asked about the logistics of their banditry the bugbear explained that they didn't have any horses or wagons. Whenever they robbed a caravan, they'd steal the horses and wagons and take them back to Paducah. There they'd hire local porters to carry the loot by hand through the swamp and to the cave. He explained that all the bugbears were allowed to keep the provisions and some of the loot, but the good stuff went to the boss-man and his crew. All that stuff was farther down the cave. 

Alot said, "That explains how the guide knew how to take us straight here."

"Yeah! Yeah! So, I told you what you wanted, right? Now you'll let us go, right?"

Corvid once again looked to Alot for confirmation. Alot nodded, "Yeah, sure. Get out of here."

The two bugbears, stripped of weapons, were allowed to climb the ladder and escape the caves.

The Spider Cave
Corvid cast another Feather Fall spell on the entire entourage and they drifted to the bottom of the vertical shaft. A passage led off into the darkness. A side passage led off to the left. The side passage was choked with spider webs. Alot caught some motion at the back of the side passage that resembled the movements of a  giant spider. 

Alot lit a torch and began burning a path through the spider webs into the side passage. He reached the edge of a larger chamber filled with spider webs. 

Alot soon found himself fighting two giant spiders at the entrance to the chamber. He was forced to drop his torch onto the ground in order to fight them off and was unable to advance further into the webs. 

Cai'luin was right behind Alot but was soon overwhelmed as an ettercap, hidden from view on the ceiling, shrouded by webbing, dropped out of the darkness and attacked! 

Craig moved up to help Alot while Father Craig summoned a miraculous spiritual hammer and moved forward to defend Cai'luin. Suddenly another ettercap dropped to harry Father Craig. Corvid was forced to turn around and defend the bard and priest at the rear! 

Alot soon dispatched to two giant spiders and was able to help the others defeat the ettercaps.  

Alot picked up his torch and continued burning away the webs. In the rear of the chamber they found half a dozen humanoid figures cocooned in spider silk. 

The cocoons writhed - the victims within were still alive! 

The team cut them down and extricated the people from the cocoons. They were poisoned and near death. Corvid prayed for their restoration while Father Craig prayed for their rapid recovery. The six prisoners were soon miraculously healed! 

One the prisoners, a human woman of competent bearing, introduced herself as Genevieve de Guare. She was the leader of a merchant caravan that had been attacked by the bandits. She and her men had been taken prisoner - she knew not why. She informed the crew that if she and her cargo could be escorted safely to Nessermouth, she would pay them a reward of 5000 gold coins! 

Captain Alot agreed but asked that she and her crew wait here for their return. The crew left the prisoners with some water and rations and returned to the main passage.  

Shaft in Ceiling
As they continued down the main passage, they encountered two large spiders, each the size of a wolf. These were quickly dispatched. 

Captain Alot noticed a large shaft in the ceiling of the passage, thirty feet overhead. The shaft was at least twenty feet wide and was clogged with thick sticky spiderwebs. Alot stowed his hammer and held his torch aloft. He activated his winged boots and took flight. As he ascended into the shaft, he used his torch to burn away a path through the spider webs. There was a glow above.

He passed through the spider webs into a cavern. The cavern was lit by a lantern. A pot contained a vile looking stew. There was a small table and almost a dozen round mattresses that resembled flattened bags full of dry beans or pebbles. A knotted rope lay coiled up attached to a nearby iron spike driven into the rock. Over half-a-dozen human bandits stood ready for battle. They had been alerted to Alot's approach by his torch. 

Bandit Guards
Alot threw his torch onto the ground. He grabbed the knotted rope and tossed it down the shaft, yelling to the others a warning about the guards and calling form them to climb as quick as they could. 

DM Note-
I rope was fifty feet long. I ruled that only two people could climb it at a time. Climbing the rope required no roll but was done at half-speed. Thus a character with 30 feet of movement could climb 30 feet of rope as a "dash" action and do nothing else. It would take each character two entire rounds just to reach the top of the shaft and join the fight.

Corvid and Cai'luin began climbing immediately. Corvid made it half-way up the rope before he disappeared in a puff of silvery mist, magically reappearing in the cavern above. 

The bandits scrambled. One disappeared. Another exited through a small passage in the rear of the cave. A third transformed himself into the form a man-sized spider with human arms - an aranea! Another cast a spell and magically replicated himself into three identical copies! The rest unsuccessfully engaged Alot with short-swords and short-range electrical spells. 

Alot attacked the four duplicates. Each time he'd stab a duplicate it would disappear! He shoved one with his shield, hoping to reveal the true opponent. To his annoyed surprise, all of the remaining copies fell down. 

Corvid created a magical bonfire to block the exit at the rear. Cai'luin finally made it to the top of the rope. Worried about the one that disappeared he backed up against the wall by the edge of the shaft.  

Father Craig finally made it to the top of the rope. He uttered a prayer and created a spiritual hammer that engaged the enemy.

Cai'luin played a destructive note on his lute, creating a sonic attack that burst among the aranea bandits.

The invisible bandit suddenly appeared and attacked Cai'luin! Luckily the surprise attack missed the bard.

Alot finished off all the copies, killing the aranea, and rushed to help Cai'luin. 

Soon all of the aranea in the cavern had been defeated. 

Corvid said, "During the fight two people approached the bonfire from the passage. They couldn't get past the bonfire so they retreated. Get ready for more."

Alot said, "We're going to them."

Passage of the Spider Swarms
Corvid dispelled the magical bonfire and the team stepped cautiously into the passage beyond. The walls of the passage were a living carpet of spiders - thousands of them. As they moved through the passage, the thousands of spiders crawled over them, biting everyone. Alot began smashing spiders with his hammer while Corvid scraped them off with his magical sword. Cai'luin played another shattering chord on his lute which destroyed many of the spiders. Father Craig prayed for a miracle and a swirling vortex of spiritual hammers spun around them in a storm of destruction - killing the remaining spiders!

They advanced more cautiously. The passage ended with a drawn curtain. 

The passage suddenly exploded in a burst of flame! Father Craig broke his concentration and his spiritual hammers disappeared! 

Corvid was spared from the blast by a miracle. Surely he was favored by the gods! Corvid ran forward into the room, drawing aside the curtain.

The Arachnid Enchanter
The cavern was roughly forty feet across. A large round bed sat atop of carpet of fine embroidery. There was a table near the entrance. On the far side of the cave was a chest and a bookshelf. Near the entrance was an aranea with two wolf-sized spiders. In the rear of the room was a tall humanoid with six eyes and mandibles protruding form his jaw. He wore the flamboyant robes of a wizard! 

The aranea said, "Be wary, my lord Mettick! The intruders have survived!"

Cai'luin responded with a magical explosive blast of force he called the Depth Charge, exploding within the cavern and instantly killing the two spiders.  Alot rushed into the room and engaged the aranea, killing him. 

Mettick the bandit wizard paused to drink a potion of healing.

Cai'luin played a discordant note on his lute and whispered a dissonant song. Mettick dropped the empty vial in shock and retreated from the bard towards the back of the room. He crawled up the side of the wall, revealing that his legs, concealed beneath his long robes, split into two spider-legs each from the knees down. He hissed his displeasure at Cai'luin.

Corvid moved in and attacked the wizard. The wizard blocked Corvid's attacks by parrying them on the magical bracers that he wore on each arm. 

Alot charged forward to smash the wizard with his hammer. 

The wizard held out his hand to stop the charging automaton but to his surprise, nothing happened!

DM Note-
The MVP moment of the night came when, during a fight with the evil spider-hybrid wizard bad guy, I had a cool power that was a Reaction - if he got hit, he spent his Reaction to have the attacker instead target the next closest person.

Alot attacked, I expected a big roll and lots of damage, so I got giddy because I was going to redirect it to Corvid. I said, "I have a REACTION!"

Cai'luin the Bard's player is not very rules literate, and ALSO prone to answering questions with random bullshit so I never know when he's being sincere, said, "Nope! I got him with Dissonant Whispers this round. He already used his reaction to move away from me as far as he could."

Not believing him, I said, "Bullshit!" 

He replied, icily, "Look. It. Up."

I looked it up. Sure enough, right there in the spell description. "On a failed save, it takes 3d6 psychic damage and must immediately use its reaction, if available, to move as far as its speed allows away from you."

Corvid' player said, "Did [CAI'LUIN'S PLAYER] just beat CHRIS at RULES LAWYERING???"

I gave him a slow-clap. I was impressed. And kept reminding him of how impressed I continued to be for the rest of the night.

Father Craig prayed for more spiritual guardians to swarm the room, engulfing the enchanter in celestial hammers!

Mettick responded with another fireball spell! The room was engulfed in a fiery blast! Once again, Father Craig lost his concentration and the guardians disappeared!

Corvid glared at Mettick with holy vengeance! Righteous fury sublimated from his glowing eyes! His entire being flared incandescent with the righteous power of the god of death and plunged his magical sword into the arachnid wizard!

Mettick screamed and died. His body disintegrating into hundreds of harmless spiders that crawled away.

The Good Stuff
Mettick's strongbox was filled with stolen contraband. Within the strongbox they found 2,000 gp, 500 pp, 10 garnets worth 100 gp each, and a golden vial with a ruby stopper worth 500 gp. A  silver-and-jade lamp worth 700 gp had sat upon the table. It was knocked onto the floor during the many explosive blasts.

In addition, Mettick left behind two magical bracers and a magical ring. Unfortunately, the ring was listed among the items that were stolen from Davus Raal's caravan and thus needed to be returned.

The party took a moment to rest, bind their wounds, and catch their collective breath. It had been a difficult and desperate battle and they were badly injured. Cai'luin played a restorative song while Father Craig tended to the wounds of all those who had been injured.

DM Note-
Which was surprisingly everyone. Nearly everyone was below half hit points. Some were pretty desperately low. It wasn't a TOUGH fight but the players said it was challenging and really enjoyed it.

The party took the strongbox back to the shaft and lowered it using the knotted rope. There they left the box and continued down the passage.

The passage ended at the bottom of a large cave that rose a hundred feet overhead. A staircase was cut into the far wall of the cave that looped around to a ledge above them. There were wooden platforms suspended from the ceiling and walls of the cave and a rope bridge connected the platforms to more platforms out of sight behind the ledge above them. 

Several ettercaps had seen the party drop the strongbox from the shaft in the ceiling. They deduced that their master had been defeated so they fled up the stairs. 

Alot quickly took flight to the ledge above. He saw at least a dozen ettercaps and aranea bandits in human form. The alarm had been sounded and they were all fleeing towards a passage to the right.  Alot flew towards the entrance of the passage and tried to block their escape.

He attacked one ettercap as they fled past but there were simply too many of them. Soon the entire throng of ettercaps and aranea were rushing past him. 

Meanwhile the others were running up the stairs as fast as they could. 

Alot considered giving chase. He turned and looked into the passage. It became a vertical shaft straight down and was clogged with spider webbing. The fleeing spider-hybrids had descended into the oerth from whence they came. 

Corvid finally caught up. Alot asked, "What do you think. Should we go after them?"

Corvid considered it, "No. We better not. We have recovered the loot and we have freed prisoners to return home."

"Alright. Fine." Alot sighed, "Let's go."

They returned to recover the strongbox and escort the prisoners out of the caves.

To Be Continued...

DM Note-
The original module was unique in that it did not include a traditional dungeon map. Instead, it came with a cutaway side view of the dungeon! This was useless for Roll20 so I have to create my own maps in Photoshop. 

Here are the maps I created.  

Top level


Lower Level

Overall this was a good choice for a short two-session side quest. The players said they felt challenged and they enjoyed the non-standard opponents. 

My only complaint is that the original adventure left everything after the shaft in the ceiling empty. It's such an interesting location - what a waste! I filled it with ettercaps and aranea in case the players decided to hold off on the shaft and come back to it. 

However, MY mistake was leaving them there after the boss fight. Alot tried to engage them but it would have been such an anti-climactic fight for no reward and no narrative purpose. Alot's player just wouldn't get the hint that they were running away. I eventually just flat out told him, "Dude, they're fleeing for their lives. This is NOT a fight!" and he said, "All right. Fine."

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Cave of the Spiders - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 64


As they climbed ashore, Alot said, "Wait, didn't the priestess say something about tossing all their treasure into the cistern?"

"Yes," replied Corvid, "Are you really going to scavenge every last coin from the monastery?"

Alot, slightly embarrassed, defensively replied, "No! Maybe. Look, what if there's some magic glue down there? Let's just check it out."

Corvid said, "All right. Whatever."

The group walked up the path towards the yard within the walls of the hermitage. They stepped through the opening in the wall and into the yard.

To their surprise they heard, "Greetings, warriors!"

Two wet green hags emerged from the cistern. Their long black hair hung over their wrinkled wart-covered faces like a curtain of black weeds. The hag who spoke smiled while the other held her hands up to her face like a schoolgirl to cover her uncontrollable giggling. 
Hags of Three, Leave them Be
Hags of Two - Good on You! 
- Cai'luin Manaan, quoting and ancient Sea-Elf proverb


The Crew of the Sea Ghost:

  • Alot Aname - Neutral Good Warforged Fighter, ancient sentinel of a wizard's fortress, spent several decades deactivated underwater, Captain of the Sea Ghost.
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Storm Sorceress from Ket, daughter of the king of the sea elves, deck sorceress and first mate of the Sea Ghost.
  • Craig "Blunderbuss" Oxworth - Lawful Good Dwarven Priest of St. Ogden (Cleric), sailor and shipwright, bosun of the Sea Ghost.  
  • Cai'luin Manaan - Chaotic Good Sea-Elf Bard, member of the royal family of the tribe of Manaan. Cook of the Sea Ghost.
  • Corvid Ravenson - Neutral Good Fallen Aasimar Paladin of Vengeance and Divine Soul Sorcerer, sent to Oerth to avenge those who wronged his angelic "brother", Auric Ravenson. Second mate of the Sea Ghost.
DM Note-
So in between last week's adventure and this week's adventure, I had a chat with Father Craig's player about what to do about Morley Tobe's debt. I told him that Morley was a smuggler that was robbed by some bandits on the road north of Uskarn. Father Craig got the idea to find the bandits and recover the stolen property. So I did a quick search of available level-appropriate adventures and I found the perfect candidate - Cave of the Spiders - a third-edition mini-module available from DM's Guild. 

The Sea Hags
The crew of the Sea Ghost drew weapons and prepared to fight but the sea hags made no hostile act. The first sea hag simply sent a smug look towards the second. The second hag responded with another girlish giggle. 

Alot confronted the sea hags, "What's your business here?"

The first sea hag said, "We were hungry. We smelled death and came ashore to see what was on the menu. We found blood on the floor but no bodies. We were terribly disappointed. We saw you coming up the hill yesterday morning so we left. We came back this morning. Luckily, your little adventure last night provided plenty of tasty morsels for us to feast upon. We've been eating well since."

The second hag picked up a severed human arm covered in barnacles and blue rot. She took a bite and chewed. She swallowed her grisly portion and nearly choked on her giggles. 

Alot pointed his hammer at the first hag, "You cannot stay here. I order you to leave."

The sea hag looked offended, "What? Well! I can tell where we're not wanted. Fine. We'll just gather our belongings and we'll be on our way. Just a tic." She looked at the second hag and nodded towards the bottom of the cistern.

The sea hags submerged themselves and descended to the bottom of the eight foot deep cistern. 

Corvid asked through gritted teeth, "Are we just going to let them leave?"

Father Craig replied, "No." He clapped his dwarven hands in prayer to the God of Death. Suddenly the waters of the cistern began to rotate. Father Craig had created a churning whirlpool in the confined space. The hags were spun around and slammed into the sides of the cistern and into each other. 

The hags managed to drag themselves out of the cistern. They threw themselves onto the ground on the far side of the pool. Their momentary dizzy bewilderment quickly passed. They stood and bared gruesome fangs and deadly claws. Aella staggered back a step, her face contorted with repulsion and fear.

Alot took flight, the magical wings attached to his ankles propelled him over the cistern to attack the second hag. Her skull and bones were crushed by the repeated blows from his magical hammer.

Corvid sent a magical fire bolt at the hag. Aella followed up with a chaos bolt. 

Something invisible slammed into Father Craig. The dwarven priest looked around but could see no attacker. He immediately alerted his companions.

The first hag locked eyes with Aella. Aella stared back, compelled by the hag's magical gaze. 

Aella fell to the ground, dead!

Corvid surrounded himself with a vortex of flying blades and ran towards the first hag. 

DM Note-
Sword Burst
Conjuration Cantrip
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self (5-foot radius)
Components: V
Duration: Instantaneous
You create a momentary circle of spectral blades that sweep around you. All other creatures within 5 feet of you must each succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 1d6 force damage.
This spell's damage increases by 1d6 when you reach 5th level (2d6), 11th level (3d6), and 17th level (4d6).

The invisible attacker once again slammed into Father Craig. 

Father Craig ignored the attacker and prayed for the life of his companion, Aella. She coughed as she miraculously regained life and consciousness.

The remaining hag slashed at Corvid ineffectually. Alot moved to attack and crushed the hag under his mighty hammer.

Aella, worried about the presence of an unseen opponent, stood and cast a booming blade spell through her magical trident hoping to damage any potential foe near her. 

Father Craig followed up with a prayer that summoned a swirling vortex of spiritual hammers that covered much of the yard between the hermitage and the cistern. Aella covered the remaining area with a magical storm.  

Alot flew across the yard to the gap in the wall leading to the rocky beach behind the hermitage. He wished to prevent their unseen opponent from escaping. 

Corvid even cast a spell to detect the presence of anyone casting a spell or wielding a magic item but could sense nothing save his companions. 

Moments passed with no further attacks. 

Eventually, the spells expired and the crew let down their guard. Whatever invisible force they were fighting had fled. 

DM Note-
The invisible opponent was an invisible stalker that the sea hags had conjured. Once they were dead, it was free to escape. 

They gathered up the loot that the sea hags had scavenged from the hermitage and the cistern - a sack containing 325 gp,  a gold paperweight in the shape of a tortoise (100 gp), a silver candelabra stamped with the symbol of the sea god Procan (50 gp), and two potions of greater healing.

They spent the rest of the day exploring the island and spent the night in the hermitage. 

On the following day they returned to the Pit of Hatred and Father Craig sealed the rift by repairing the broken seal with prayer. 

Return to Uskarn
On the following day the crew took the daily ferry back to Uskarn where they found Janore, the priestess of Procan,  and the hermit Barret Gloffrin, two of the three survivors of the original zombie attack on the hermitage. They soon learned that the third survivor, Morley Tobe, had been captured by the merchant and smuggler Davus Raal and was being held against his will. Raal planned to sell Tobe into slavery to recoup on losses incurred when Tobe's smuggler caravan was robbed by bandits on the north road.

They then approached Raal with a proposition. If they could recover the stolen merchandise, would he let Tobe go free? Raal agreed and allowed them to speak with the dwarven smuggler. 

Tobe told them that he was robbed by a group of bugbears led by some human bandits near the crossroads to the north. 

Davus Raal said he was returning to Nessermouth with Tobe. He'll keep Tobe for a month. If they recover his stolen merchandise, seek him out there. He might also have further work for them.  

The crew next approached the bailiff of Uskarn, Feldrin Kane. The bailiff told them that a group of bandits had been raiding merchant traffic along the north road. The kingdom of Nyrond couldn't afford to send soldiers to police the roads so banditry was running rampant. He had heard rumors that the bugbear bandits lived somewhere in the Gnatmarsh swamp southeast of Paducah. 

The crew inquired about a possible reward for the bandits. The bailiff said that the custom was to allow those who defeat bandits to keep ten percent of the loot recovered.

Alot said, "Wait, does that ten percent include any taxes we'll have to pay the king of Nyrond?"

Feldrin Kane looked embarrassed, "Well, that is, ah.. yes, you'd have to pay taxes on that. So you'd really get nine percent."

"I KNEW it!" 

The Path to Paducah

The crew equipped itself for an overland journey. Corvid summoned his celestial steed - a nightmare-black horse with a mane and tail of gaseous glowing purple strands with glowing eyes. Father Craig purchased a horse and riding equipment from a local seller in Uskarn. He named it Lothar Granitecrusher.

DM Note-
I asked Father Craig's player, "Its four days to Paducah. How much feed do you buy?"

Alot's player chimed in, "It's a D&D horse. Lets be realistic. Buy just enough for a one-way trip."

The crew set off on their journey north. It was late spring and the weather was good. The road was in poor repair and in many places was little more than a dirt track. They camped along the road. They reached the crossroads late on the third day of their travel. There they found a man hanging in a cage. He had been condemned to live in this cage for ten days by the people of Paducah for petty crimes. He had consumed no food or water for several days and was near death. Father Craig took pity on the man and gave him some water and rations.

They arrived in Paducah late on the fourth day. Paducah was a small village of less than 200 people on the opposite bank of the Duntide river. The village was little more than a general store and an inn serving the river boat and barge traffic plying the Duntide between Nessermouth and Callistor. The land was marshy and prone to flooding so the structures of Paducah were elevated on pilings and connected by wooden gangplanks and rope bridges. 

Alot inquired with the locals about any recent bugbear activity. He found a local trapper who claimed to know of the location of a lair occupied by bugbears in the hills to the south. Alot hired the trapper as a guide. 

DM Note-
Alot's Player, trying to keep a low profile: “Greetings villager, we are but humble merchant travelers, regular common folk.”

DM (me), incredulously: “Said the robot man in magic armor that looks like a green dragon, accompanied by a pale knight in armor that would make Lancelot from the movie Excalibur blush, himself riding a massive warhorse with glowing purple eyes and a mane and tail made of sublimating violet hate-fire! Did I mention the dwarf wearing a skull mask and the half elf woman wielding a massive trident that marks her as the next in line to be monarch of the sea elves? Yeah! Humble merchant travelers indeed!”

The trapper took them on a journey south through the Gnatmarsh towards a line of hills obscured by trees. The trapper pointed towards a cave on the side of the hill. A steep trail lead up through a scree of rocks and boulders. The cave was once a waterfall where an underground river emerged from the side of the hill. Two bugbears stood guard at the mouth of the cave. 

Cave of the Spiders
Alot and Corvid led the charge up the steep path through the scree towards the cave. The bugbears responded by hurling javelins at the oncoming intruders. Aella created a magical ice storm at the mouth of the cave. 

DM Note-
One of the opponents they DIDN'T see had just cast Mirror Image, only to immediately lose the images to the ice storm. And nobody even knew it! Bah!

Although, re-reading the spell now, it says "A duplicate can be destroyed only by an atta⁠ck that hits it. It ignores all other damage and Effects." So it looks like an area effect attack wouldn't have affected the duplicates after all. 

Alot reached the cave mouth and finished off the two shivering frozen bugbears. To his shock, just inside the cave, he saw a human bandit lying frozen on the ground. As the ice thawed, the body began to convulse as if bladders were inflated and deflated under the skin. Extra spider-like limbs grew from its torso and the body took on the appearance of a human-spider hybrid - or rather, a large spider with a few vaguely human traits. 

DM Note-
Aella's player said, "Like a Spider Centaur?"

And I replied, "No, that would be a drider. This is more like a giant spider with vaguely human-shaped arms but still looks like a spider." 

The Webbed Room
The crew pressed forward into the cave. To the left was a side chamber, forty feet wide, filled with spider webs. A massive spider, the size of a water buffalo, crawled along the webbing on the side the wall. 

Alot charged into the room, narrowly avoiding a falling net of webbing triggered by a silken trip-wire. He took flight and crushed the giant spider with two mighty blows from his magical hammer. 

A thick stream of silk was fired at Alot from a previously unseen wall within the room but missed. Corvid ran in, avoided the falling spider web, and cast a fire-bolt spell at the new attacker - a human-sized spider-human hybrid known as an ettercap. Another giant spider lurked nearby.

Aella stepped into the room and was immobilized by the falling net of web silk. She used the last remaining bead on her necklace of fireballs against the ettercap and giant spider. The room exploded in a burst of flame which cleared the entire left wall of the cavern of spider web and killed the giant spider. Alot then made quick work of the remaining ettercap. 

The team used minor fire spells to clear the room of remaining spider-webs. 

The Pit
The crew pressed deeper into the cave, following the ancient path of the old underground riverbed. The path was clear and showed frequent use. Up ahead the path widened and a deep bit yawned before them. The pit smelled of feces and rotting meat. Alot deduced that the bugbears used this pit as a trash heap and outhouse. They carefully avoided it and continued.

On the other side of the pit they heard the sound of bugbears working in a large underground chamber. They cautiously advanced. 

The Platform
The crew rounded the corner and saw a deep shaft, roughly forty feet in diameter. The staff descended from high overhead and continued hundreds of feet into the earth - the dry remnants of what was once an ancient waterfall. On the opposite side of shaft was a series of wooden platforms supported by timber pilings and iron braces driven into the stone walls. A crane facilitated the lowering and raising of barrels, bags of cargo, and crates of stolen merchandise down to other platforms farther down. Ladders allowed transit from lower to upper platforms. Several bugbears were working moving contraband on the platform. A human bandit looked over them from a higher platform. 

The human overseer noticed the arrival of the intruders and called out an alarm. The bugbears dropped their crates and picked up nearby weapons. 

Alot flew across the chasm using his winged grieves and landed on the upper platform next to the human. The human responded by casting an invisibility spell and disappearing! 

Corvid attacked the bugbears with magical scorching rays. 

Father Craig prayed for a guiding bolt which struck and killed on of the bugbears. Aella followed with a magical ray of frost. 

Suddenly a giant spider the size of a water buffalo but with human limbs appeared out of thin air and tried to bite Alot. The venomous mouth parts were unable to pierce Alot's invulnerable armor. 

Alot smashed the giant spider-hybrid with his magical hammer while the others made quick work of the bugbears with ranged magic attacks.

Once the platform was pacified, Alot laid down a long gangplank for the others to cross the chasm.

The Shaft
Corvid looked down and saw the dark shape of a  bugbear standing on the platform below. Alot said, "I can fly but you all might be vulnerable climbing down this rope ladder." 

Corvid said, "Don't worry about it. Jump."

Aella said, "That's sixty feet!"

"Don't worry. Trust me. Jump."

They jumped.

Corvid cast a magic spell and the crew descended slowly through the air.  

The bugbear beneath them called out the alarm.  

Th crew landed on the platform and made short work of the bugbear. They heard more coming from the passage across the rope bridge and a handful rushed out to face them on the bridge.

The new bugbears were quickly beaten back and they retreated into the passage behind them. The crew followed them into a chamber used as storage for supplies and an adjoining chamber covered in pallets that served as sleeping quarters. 

Alot, Corvid, Aella, and Father Craig soon dispatched the bugbears waiting for them. Two remained, grievously wounded, who threw down their weapons and surrendered. 

Alot sighed, "Well? Are we taking prisoners?"

Corvid glared at Alot, "Yes. Of course we are!" 

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Tammeraut's Fate - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 63


The sun eventually set. 

The team had prepared the hermitage for the return of the invaders from the sea. They positioned themselves on the balcony overlooking the scullery. The four bodies were laid on the floor in the privy as bait to lure the invaders upstairs. Oil of Slipperiness had been liberally applied to the stairs. Alot and Corvid stood at the top of the stairs, prepared to intercept anyone trying to climb them. Craig, Cai'luin, and Aella positioned themselves away from the stairs with good visibility over the scullery.

Aella moved towards one of the arrow-slit windows on the south wall. She looked down at the beach below.

As the last rays of the evening sun slanted across the dark waters of the bay, she caught movement from the corner of her eye along the beach - a dark humanoid form standing silently in the surf. Aella was positive it wasn't there a moment ago. With the next crashing breaker, she lost sight of the intruder in the deepening darkness. When the spray cleared, the figure was gone. Night had fallen.


The Crew of the Sea Ghost:

  • Alot Aname - Neutral Good Warforged Fighter, ancient sentinel of a wizard's fortress, spent several decades deactivated underwater, Captain of the Sea Ghost.
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Storm Sorceress from Ket, daughter of the king of the sea elves, deck sorceress and first mate of the Sea Ghost.
  • Craig "Blunderbuss" Oxworth - Lawful Good Dwarven Priest of St. Ogden (Cleric), sailor and shipwright, bosun of the Sea Ghost.  
  • Cai'luin Manaan - Chaotic Good Sea-Elf Bard, member of the royal family of the tribe of Manaan. Cook of the Sea Ghost.
  • Corvid Ravenson - Neutral Good Fallen Aasimar Paladin of Vengeance and Divine Soul Sorcerer, sent to Oerth to avenge those who wronged his angelic "brother", Auric Ravenson. Second mate of the Sea Ghost.

The Back Door
Aella stepped away from the arrow slit and pointed her magical trident towards the spot where the shambling figures were entering the hermitage. 

A sudden magical storm of ice and wind erupted. A hailstorm of ice and snow slammed into the shambling barnacle-encrusted zombies, pummeling them into the ground. The localized hailstorm destroyed all of the lesser zombies leaving only a handful of hardy survivors to continue through the door that once served as the sleeping quarters of the hermits.

The Front Door
The sound of splintering wood accompanied the entry of the zombies through the front door and vestibule of the hermitage. The entrance had been left mostly open and a group of wet barnacle-covered zombies draped in seaweed emerged into the scullery. 

Cai'luin cast his Depth Charge spell while Aella used a charge from her magical Necklace of Fireballs. The lesser zombies were torn to bits by the double explosions. Once again, two of the tougher zombies survived and pushed forward toward the stairs. Another three zombies at the back of the group retreated through the entrance and were lost from sight.

Defending the Stairs
Two zombies slipped and fell trying to climb the stairs. The zombies climbed the rest of the steps on their hands and knees. Corvid created a magical bonfire at the top of the stairs, restricting the path the zombies. Aella created a magical swarm of snowballs that pummeled the zombies as they made their way up the stairs.

Father Craig said a prayer to the Raven King and a giant glowing symbol appeared near the top of the stairs - the sigil of the Raven King - that would smite any enemy that might approach it. The two zombies were quickly dispatched.

Alot heard something attempt to open the barricaded door that led to the upstairs battlement. After a brief attempt, whatever it was stopped.

The Catwalk
Cai'luin stood by the privy watching the entrance. He caught movement behind him and he turned to look into the rickety catwalk built over the dining hall. A zombie had climbed a ladder from the tower and had crossed over the ramshackle balcony. Before Cai'luin could react the zombie had crossed the catwalk and attacked! 

Alot activated the magical wings built into his mechanical feet and flew through the air over the scullery to land next to Cai'luin. Alot smashed into the zombie with his hammer and forced it back onto the rickety catwalk. 

Corvid quickly joined Alot in the defense of the flank. He moved his magical bonfire to a new location on the catwalk as more zombies could be seen climbing the ladder from the tower on the other side.

Aella created a magical hailstorm inside the tower while Cai'luin simultaneously played a shattering chord on his lute. The ladder was destroyed and the zombie waiting to climb onto the catwalk fell. The other zombies waiting their turn at the foot of the ladder exited the tower and the hailstorm contained therein.

Assassin Through the Window
Cai'luin backed away from the catwalk. He had been badly injured by the attacking zombie. Suddenly two crossbow bolts struck the wall next to him. He turned to see a zombie with a light crossbow clinging to the wall outside the arrow slit behind him. The zombie moved for cover as Aella sent magical bolts of chaos at the undead creature. Corvid poked his head through the arrow slit and sent a magical bolt of fire at the assassin. 

Cai'luin moved to a position near the window. When the assassin crawled back to the window to loose another round, Cai'luin was there to run it through with his magical rapier.
The Final Push
Three zombies had escaped Aella's hailstorm in the tower. They re-entered through the vestibule, crossed the scullery, and began to crawl up the stairs. 

Alot shouted, "Help me out! I want to capture one intact!"

Alot produced a rope and threw it around the last zombie. Corvid held the zombie while Alot bound it tight. The other two zombies, having been severely damaged by Aella's hailstorm, were quickly dispatched.

The assault had been repulsed. 

Corvid asked, "Why did we capture one?"

Alot explained, "They return to where they came from at dawn. Lets release it and follow it back."

Father Craig said, "This book here tells me exactly where the Pit of Hatred is. I don't think we need him."

Alot shrugged his mechanical shoulders, "Then we have a back-up, just in case I guess."

Cai'luin interjected, "We should name him 'Steve'!"

Finally, Some Rest
They dangled "Steve" from the balcony overlooking the scullery and slept in the prior's quarters. Alot even flew down to the hermit's cells and retrieved some beds for the others to sleep on. 

Alot then flew around the island while the others slept, searching for any other zombies or additional threats. He found none.

The morning sun rose. The hermitage was littered with the smashed and dismembered corpses of long-dead drowning victims. Alot informed the survivors hiding in the cellar that it was safe to emerge. Janore Stormswake, Barret Gloffrin, and the dwarf was Morley Tobe, emerged from their hiding place. 

They were starving so Cai'luin prepared some breakfast with the supplies the crew had brought to deliver to the hermitage.

The trio were escorted to the dock on the north side of the island to meet the half-orc ferryman, Raserhill, when he arrived. 

"Except for you!" demanded Father Craig, grabbing the dwarf Morley Tobe by the arm.

"What? Why?" demanded Morley.

"You owe a debt to the half-elf merchant in Uskarn. A dwarf MUST pay his debts!"

"That's outrageous!" replied Morley, "You can't turn me over to Davus Raal! I can't pay him! He'll sell me into slavery! You're obviously some kind of holy  man! You'd sell me into slavery?"

Father Craig considered this, "Okay, how about I pay off your debts and you work for me for eight years as penance."

Morley boggled, "How is that any different from slavery?"

Craig was becoming annoyed by this discussion, "One way or another, you WILL pay your debts!"

Morley sighed. "Well do I have any other choice? I'll serve you, MASTER!" he replied, bitterly.

Alot interjected, "Hey, Father Craig? Are you going to keep this guy on the island? Because we're going to hunt for the undersea wreck. It might be dangerous while we're gone."

Morley suggested, "How about I wait for you in Uskarn?"

Father Craig, who was beginning to reconsider the entire idea, reluctantly said, "Fine!" 

Alot said, "Do you have any money?"

Janore said, "No, as hermits we renounced all our wealth and material possessions when we joined the hermitage. We tossed all our coins into the cistern in the yard."

Alot gave the trio some money to spend in Uskarn and paid Raserhill the ferryman. The trio boarded the ferry and departed for the mainland.

DM Note-
I felt Father Craig's player was being uncharacteristically harsh on this poor dwarf. I'm not sure if the player was having a bad day or wanted to make a point about dwarf honor or what. I mentioned to him that I thought forcing another being into slavery didn't seem very Lawful Good. It may be Lawful, but it was Lawful Evil to condone it or Lawful Neutral at best to not actively oppose it. 

Father Craig's player was thinking that if it was "voluntary" it was okay. Morley had the choice- face the music with Davus Raal or work it off with Craig. I countered that any kind of service where Morley couldn't just leave would be bondage and therefore slavery, and that choosing slavery with one master vs slavery with a different mast wasn't really a choice at all! 

I could tell Father Craig's player was getting frustrated at the ethical argument so I tabled it. Game time is not the time for arguments about alignment and ethics. That's what the internet is for! 

We later exchanged emails about it. I did some research about which kingdoms in Greyhawk still practices serfdom, slavery, and indentured servitude. I also familiarized myself with the differences and similarities between each. Nyrond, it seemed, still had serfdom as legal punishment for debt and one would imagine indentured servitude would be an option too. 

I even guilt-baited him a bit by asking him if he even bothered to ask why Morley was in debt? 

Father Craig's player took the bait and asked.

I told him that Morley was a hilll dwarf from the Anodan hills where his family still lives. Mining has been very poor so he ran a trade caravan from the north to Nessertide on the southern coast of Nyrond. The king's taxes have been brutal so he resorted to smuggling for Davus Raal to make ends meet.  

His caravan was attacked and raided by bandits from the Gnatmarsh. He lost his entire cargo. Davus Raal demanded payment for his lost contraband. If he doesn't pay, Raal will sell him into slavery. So he sought sanctuary from the monks. 

Father Craig's player asked about the bandits. 

Great, I thought. Though I didn't mean to I just introduced a new quest hook for them to follow - a storyline for which I'd need to prepare. So I did some research and found an old adventure that fits with what I have in mind. We'll see if they go that direction. 

Where Are We?

The team walked back across the small island to the hermitage.

Father Craig walked next to Captain Alot, "I have a question. I got kind of disoriented when I just appeared here. Where are we?"

Alot said, "We're at a hermitage on Firewatch Island."

Father Craig rubbed his chin, "I see. And where's that?"

"It's three miles away from the town of Uskarn." he said, hooking his thumb behind him towards the mainland.

"No. I mean where ARE we?"

Alot paused, "We're on the southern coast of Nyrond."

Father Craig grabbed Alot's wrist and stopped, turning the automaton around to face the dwarf, "No, listen. WHERE ARE WE?"

Alot finally realized that the dwarven priest had no concept of where in the world they currently were, "We're about a week's sail northeast of Saltmarsh in the kingdom of Nyrond. We were sent here by the priest of Procan in Saltmash to deliver supplies and check on the status of the hermitage. We arrived too late to save the hermitage, apparently. Now we are going to find the Pit of Hatred and stop whatever made those zombies."

Father Craig nodded sagely, "Got it. Thank you."

The Pit of Hatred
Alot set the bound zombie they had named "Steve" free on the south side of the island. Steve ran back into the sea and disappeared beneath the water.

The crew followed Steve underwater. Captain Alot was an automaton adapted to operating underwater. Cai'luin was a sea-elf. Corvid and Aella both wore magical Cloaks of the Manta Ray, and Father Craig donned his new Helm of Underwater Action. 

They swam after Steve for two miles. Here the depth of the sea floor reached over three hundred feet. It became dark. Only a faint blue glow could be seen far overhead. 

They reached the edge of a large drop-off. The drop-off was the side of a crater several hundred feet wide. They descended into the crater and were suddenly overwhelmed by a dark chill - a feeling of cold that withered their bones and an overwhelming sense of dread that drained their will to live. 

DM Note-
DC 16 Constitution Saving Throw or take 4d8 Cold damage, half damage on a successful save! Father Craig and Corvid took 15 cold damage, the rest took 7.

On top of that, they all had to make a DC 16 Charisma Saving Throw or gain Vulnerability to Necrotic damage. Aella, Corvid, and Craig failed that one. Corvid normally had Resistance to necrotic damage, so Vulnerability meant he just took normal damage.

The crew descended into the massive crater. At its center they found another deeper pit roughly one hundred feet in diameter. At the center of the pit was the stern of a wrecked galley lying vertically atop a large pile of humanoid skulls and skeletons. 

As they approached the wreck, Cai'luin found a broken piece of marble, like a large chunk of one-third of a marble table top. Elvish runes were engraved upon the flat surface of the shard. The runes communicated a warning to stay away from the sealed rift and the horror that lied below.

On the far side of the wreck they saw a marble slab that had been cracked. Light poured out of the crack, forming a bright fiery column that illuminated the entire pit. A dark silhouette stood in front of the column of light, staring into it lost in thought as one might a camp fire.  

DM Note-
I described the light leaking out of the crack as every sci-fi film from the early eighties - it was the the light from the Ark of the Covenant, it was the light in Poltergeist, the warp core in Wrath of Khan, etc. 

The crew circled around the stern of the ship. Cai'luin spotted humanoid figures lurking inside the wreck of the galley. He informed the others and immediately detonated a depth charge spell inside the wreck while Aella used her magical control of the elements to cause a massive wall of water to sweep the interior. 

The figures poured out of the wreck - they were more undead like the ones they had fought the night before - the animated bodies of drowned sailors and monks covered in seaweed, coral, and barnacles. 

The crew had been drawn out into three groups - Cai'luin and Alot in the front, Corvid and Aella about thirty feet behind, and Father Craig alone in the rear. 

Drowned zombies armed with rusty swords engaged Corvid and Aella. Another harassed Father Craig in the rear. Father Craig summoned a spiritual hammer to defend himself. Aella created a swarm of snowballs to pummel her foes. 

Corvid engaged the multiple zombies that surrounded him, cutting them down with his magical sword. 

A lone zombie emerged from the wrecked hulk. Its face was concealed by a porcelain mask. It approached the crew with caution. Once it was close enough it removed it face, revealing its horrid appearance. 

DM Note-
DC 13 Wisdom Save or be Frightened for one round! 

Aella, Alot, and Cai'luin recoiled in horror at the fiend's gruesome visage.

The dark form ended its reverie near the column of light and joined its masked companion. It was a creature with a humanoid torso and face - that of a ship's captain - but its lower body was replaced with octopus tentacles! The dark form said, "Ah, the Raven King has sent his servants to stop me! Know this! I, Syrgaul, captain of the Tammeraut and faithful servant of Orcus will be the agent of his dark lord's revenge!"

A black cloud of inky darkness emerged from Syrgaul and enveloped the crew!

DM Note-
DC 15 Constitution Save or take 6d8 necrotic damage! Remember, half the party was now vulnerable to necrotic damage!

Cai'luin, Aella, and, to a lesser extent, Corvid and Alot were trapped in the life-draining cloud of death!

DM Note-
Cai'luin and Aella each took 26 necrotic, doubled to 52! Corvid failed his save but took only 26. Alot took only 26. Aella was down to 1 hit point and Cai'luin was in single digits. Corvid was pretty hurt too. Alot's hit points were in the 90s, so of course he was now complaining that he was about to die and needed immediate healing!

The inky cloud began to dissipate. Cai'luin and Aella were curled up and shivering along the edge of the pit. Corvid was hunched over. 

Suddenly a brilliant glow enveloped the group from the left. It was Father Craig! The dwarven priest radiated a warm aura. The aura restored the life and vitality to his companions. 

DM Note-
Things were looking grim for our party! Then Father Craig cast Aura of Life!

Life-preserving energy radiates from you in an aura with a 30-foot radius. Until the spell ends, the aura moves with you, centered on you. Each nonhostile creature in the aura (including you) has resistance to necrotic damage, and its hit point maximum can’t be reduced. In addition, a nonhostile, living creature regains 1 hit point when it starts its turn in the aura with 0 hit points.

It was a pretty epic Gandalf-at-Helms-Deep style moment!

Cai'luin played a note on his lute. His companions were further invigorated. 

DM Note-
Mass Cure Wounds.

Aella created a magical storm of ice around Captain Syrgaul and the masked assassin.

As the ice dissipated, Corvid stood erect, squared his shoulders, and pointed his blade at Captain Syrgaul. 

"Tell your master - we are coming for him."

Corvid, wearing the magical Cloak of the Manta Ray, streaked across the bottom of the pit and plunged his magical sword into Captain Syrgaul over and over.  

DM Note-
Corvid's first attack did 39 damage. His second attack also did 39 damage!

Captain Syragul counterattacked with his greatsword and tentacles but Corvid barely managed to turn aside the attacks with a defensive Shield spell! 

Father Craig prayed for a miracle. A great sonorous bell tolled, its peal racing through the sea like a clap of thunder. 

Cai'luin played a dissonant note on his lute while whispering an arcane incantation. The masked assassin recoiled in anger and fled to the far side of the pit. 

Corvid struck Captain Syragul again, plunging his sword deep into the foul creature's heart. Captain Syragul screamed as his body dissipated into wispy tendrils of dark hatred. 

DM Note-
Corvid dealt 44 damage on that final hit.

Corvid quickly closed the distance with the masked assassin and decapitated him with a final strike. 

DM Note-
Critical hit for 26 damage.

The crew searched the pit and found that the light emerged from a broken seal, like a large marble table top. The shard they previously found fit neatly into the missing piece - but the seal was still broken. 

DM Note-
Someone asked, "Will Mending work?"
I quickly looked up Mending and said, "No, the crack is much bigger than ten inches. You would need Stoneshape or some kind of magical glue."

They also found a large chest filled with coins. 

No one was able to repair the seal so they decided to leave it. Father Craig would sleep on it, pray for a solution, and come back tomorrow to seal the breach. The party hauled the chest of gold back to shore and carried it back on land. 

As they climbed ashore, Alot said, "Wait, didn't the priestess say something about tossing all their treasure into the cistern?"

"Yes," replied Corvid, "Are you really going to scavenge every last coin from the monastery?"

Alot, slightly embarrassed, defensively replied, "No! Maybe. Look, what if there's some magic glue down there? Let's just check it out."

Corvid said, "All right. Whatever."

The group walked up the path towards the yard within the walls of the hermitage. They stepped through the opening in the wall and into the yard.

To their surprise they heard, "Greetings, warriors!"

Two wet green hags emerged from the cistern. Their long black hair hung over their wrinkled wart-covered faces like a curtain of black weeds. The hag who spoke smiled while the other held her hands up to her face like a schoolgirl to cover her uncontrollable giggling. 

To be Continued...

Hags of Three, Leave them Be
Hags of Two - Good on You! 
- Cai'luin Manaan, quoting and ancient Sea-Elf proverb