Thursday, April 2, 2020

Showdown in Seaton - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 31

Alot opened the door.

Within was a vaulted room with a tiled recessed area that was once filled with water. The bathing pool had been drained and the room had been converted into a barracks for hobgoblins. The room was lit by braziers and lanterns. A cage in the center of the room contained a human prisoner - a middle-aged nobleman. A handful of hobgoblin mercenaries were sitting on their cots sharpening their weapons. They looked up at Alot's unexpected intrusion.

The B-Team:
  • Alot Aname - Neutral Good Warforged Fighter, ancient sentinel of a wizard's fortress, spent several decades deactivated underwater.
  • Baylore - Neutral Human Pirate and Pugilist (Monk). 
  • Brenna Myrasdottir - Chaotic Good Human Sailor and Divine Soul Sorceress, long-lost daughter of Whaler.
  • Bordar Graniteshaper - Lawful Good Dwarven Bearer of Grudges (Barbarian), on a quest to rescue the son of the leader of his clan.
Brain Jellies:
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Storm Sorceress from Ket.
  • Duke Obertus Feldren - rightful duke of Seaton after having been imprisoned by his duplicitous twin brother Marik. 
  • Lemundo Feldren - daughter of Oberus. She hired the B-Team to rescue her father and to help her restore him to his title.
The Battle of the Bathing Chamber
Two hobgoblins sprang up from their cots, grabbed their nearby weapons, and charged the door. A third moved towards the side of the bath pool, a fourth moved next to a large cauldron of boiling water. 

Baylore's fists became a blur as he quickly dispatched one of the hobgoblins. He moved forward to allow Alot space to move behind him and into the room. 

Alot quickly ran straight across the room, down the steps into the pool, past the prisoner cage, and up the steps on the far side, in order to prevent any hobgoblins from escaping. To his surprise, instead of escaping, the hobgoblin by the cauldron tipped it over and poured its steaming contents into the pool. The pool began filling with scalding hot water. The barefoot man in the cage began screaming as his feet were immersed in boiling water. 

Brenna sent a icy blue magical hands racing across the room but was the hobgoblins were able to deflect her arcane attacks.

Baylore left the remaining hobgoblin to Bordar and ran over to the hobgoblin covering the cage. Lemundo dispatched that goblin with a timely arrow from her bow which allowed Baylore to leap onto the top of the cage.

Bordar dispatched the hobgoblin mercenary in front of him before moving into the room to engage a second. After killing the second hobgoblin with his whirling axes, Bordar used his magical boots to leap over the boiling pool and slay the remaining hobgoblin.

Baylore clutched the side of the cage and tried to smash the lock with his fists. It took him two tries to demolish it. He quickly pulled the suffering prisoner out and leaped from the cage to the tiled floor surrounding it. 

Admiral Kovensky
The prisoner thanked Baylore for saving him. Duke Obertus Feldren rushed forth to greet the prisoner, addressing him as "Admiral".

The prisoner was confused, "Duke Feldren, why do you dress as a monk of Procan?"

"For I am not my twin brother, Marik. Admiral Kovensky, I am Obertus Feldren."

The prisoner was silent for a moment as he processed this information, "Duke Feldren? You are alive? We were told you had died! I attended your funeral! Tell me what happened!"

Baylore observed Admiral Kovensky carefully. He silently noticed that the admiral's display of surprise was feined. He was sure the admiral had known that the duke was alive.

Duke Feldren began to explain the story of his twin bother's treachery. How his brother had poisoned him and faked his death before imprisoning him within a magic mirror held by a cadre of corrupt monks on Leper Island.

Baylore cleared his throat and interrupted, "Your dukeness. If I may speak with you privately." The duke acquiesced and moved to a corner of the room with Baylore. Baylore continued, "Your brother had many allies. Perhaps some discretion is in order. Who is this man?"

Duke Feldren said that the prisoner was Admiral Kovensky of the King's Navy of Keoland. Duke Feldren had known Admiral Kovensky in the king's court. Admiral Kovensky had lobbied the king to strengthen the naval presence in the Azure Sea in order to put more pressure on the Holds of the Sea Princes to the southwest. Duke Feldren resisted, worried that such provocative actions would provoke a war with the Sea Princes.

Baylore nodded and replied, "Well, lets find out what he knows before we tell him more about us." As an afterthought, he added, "Sir."

Duke Feldren nodded and apologized. He returned to Admiral Kovensky, "Admiral, I will tell you all  about my adventures soon but our first task is to infiltrate the palace and confront my brother. What has happened since my disappearance?"

Admiral Kovensky told the duke that after his "death" over a year ago, Duke- that is- his brother Marik had requested the admiral come to Seaton to oversee the construction of a fleet of ships and the strengthening of the king's navy in the Azure Sea. Admiral Kovensky did exactly that. He served as admiral of the new fleet and was the architect of a new more aggressive strategy in the Azure Sea. He became a close friend and confidante of his brother Marik. Marik had strengthened the walls around the palace. He conscripted hundreds more soldiers and sailors. He razed the unauthorized structures outside Seaton's walls that would have provided cover and supplies to any siege. He raised taxes to pay for the new navy and for the defensive engineering projects.

Baylore noticed how the Admiral's eyes began to gleam with pride with every detail of his story. He cleared his throat again.

The duke noticed and interrupted Kovensky, "Yes. But why are there hobgoblin mercenaries in my bath chambers?"

Admiral Kovensky was shaken out of his reverie, "Oh, my apologies. Of course. About two months ago Marik had been sailing on a secret mission  when his ship was attacked by pirates. He was captured but subsequently rescued by some band of ruffians from Saltmarsh called the 'A-Team'. He returned to Seaton with one of his would-be kidnappers in chains - someone named Captain Horatio Vile."

The duke gritted his teeth but allowed Kovensky to continue.

"The incident had changed Marik somehow. His first act was to pardon Captain Vile of all crimes! Then he dismissed me from his court. Furthermore, he began dismantling the navy he had spent the past year constructing. He decommissioned each ship as they returned to port and dismissed their officers and crews."

Baylore rubbed his chin.

"On top of all that, he installed some former merchant from Saltmarsh as his new chancellor. I did not catch his name. What I do know is that he immediately replaced the palace guards with hobgoblin mercenaries. I objected and tried to talk some sense into my friend Marik. Marik became angry and had me arrested. That was a week ago. I've been held down here ever since!

The Secret Stairs
Having finished their rest in the bathing chamber. Admiral Kovensky was equipped with armor and weapons scavenged from dead hobgoblin mercenaries.

Baylore confided his thoughts to his team-mates, "Admiral Kovensky was probably in on the deal to have the duke poisoned and imprisoned. He was all about the militarization. However, he seemed genuinely surprised by the recent changes."

They exited the bathing chamber through the far doors. Duke Obertus Feldren led them a short distance down a long subterranean corridor. He pulled aside a heavy tapestry on one wall to reveal a hidden alcove. The alcove contained a narrow spiral staircase leading upwards.

"These stairs lead directly to a hallway near the palace throne room and my apartments. It was my shortcut to the bathing pool."

The team ascended the narrow stairs in single file.  Duke Feldren was separated from Admiral Kovensky.

Admiral Kovensky whispered to Lemundo the Lovely who walked in front of him, "Your ladyship. You disappeared from the palace about two months ago. Where have you been in this time?"

Lemundo, clad in armor and bearing both a short sword and longbow, demurred, "Oh, you know us palace girls. We like to sneak out."

Kovensky pressed, "Have you any insight on his recent changes? They were so sudden and mysterious! Is it some magical enchantment?"

Lemundo awkwardly tried to think of a believable answer.

Alot, walking in front of Lemundo, interrupted, "Lemundo, your father wishes to speak with you. Please step ahead of me."

DM Note-
At first, Alot was going to give Lemundo a story to tell the admiral. I replied, in character as Lemundo, "I will not. I refuse. Not because it's a bad story, but because I'm an NPC and NPCs interacting with other NPCs is the WORST kind of role-playing game and I will have no part of it! How about YOU talk to him!"

Lemundo coughed her relief and moved past and Alot now walked in front of the admiral.

The admiral cleared his throat, "Sir, if you don't mind me asking, but what are you?"

The laconic automaton Alot explained that he didn't really know. He had no memory of his creation or his original purpose. He became aware of himself underwater. He came ashore about ten years ago. He was a curiosity at first but was eventually put to work as a sailor on one of the king's ships.

The admiral asked him if he had heard of the Sentinels. He explained that the Sentinels were legendary warrior automatons constructed by powerful magicians over a hundred years ago. At one time there were over a hundred. Now they are lost. Admiral Kovensky said that he believed Alot to be one of these sentinels and that he had never before seen another.

With that they arrived at the top of the stairs.

Baylor stopped and instructed the others, "Okay, gear up. Lets get ready for anything."

Throwdown in the Throne Room
Baylore and Bordar threw open the large double doors leading into the throne room. Beyond was a long hall with a tall vaulted ceiling supported by twelve pillars. Windows located in alcoves lining the hall were concealed by heavy tapestries. At the other side of the hall was an raised area like a stage elevated above the main hall about three feet. A long stair connected the main hall to the elevated area. At the far end was a raised dais upon which sat the large throne of the duke of Seaton. Eight burning braziers provided illumination to the room. A long blue rug ran up the center of the hall to the duke's throne.

Marik Feldren stood by his throne. He was speaking with two confidantes- Captain Horatio Vile and Gellan Primewater! Gellan Primewater's face was hideously scarred from burn wounds!

DM Note-
This shocking surprise would have had more impact to the original characters of the A-Team. As it happened, only Alot would even know who Captain Vile and Gellan Primewater were. Aella's player was absent this night. Unfortunately, Alot had little interaction with the two NPCs and they would have no direct animosity towards him unlike the rest of the A-Team. On top of that, Alot's player had himself missed a lot of those sessions so the player really didn't know much about the NPCs other than by reading this blog. Ah, c'est la vie.

One additional note - It was Brenna's player who asked me "Is Gellan Primewater's face all burned like he barely escaped the fireball that destroyed his house?" It was such a good idea I replied, "Absolutely! I love it!"

Four heavily armored hobgoblin mercenaries stood at the ready atop the elevated area.

Marik Feldren and his companions were taken aback at the intrusion.

Duke Obertus Feldren stepped forward, "Marik! Your reign of treachery has come to an end! Surrender yourself and I may show you mercy!"

DM Note- 
At the time I think I actually said, "Marik! I'm saying something cool and menacing to start this battle! But I can't actually think of anything, so just imagine I'm saying it!"

Marik shouted, "So you've managed to escape! Guards, kill the intruders! Capture my brother alive!"

The two hobgoblin guards by the king shouted a loud order in their dark language. The two closer hobgoblin guards drew their weapons and advanced slowly, cautiously.

Likewise did the intruders enter with caution. The two sides steadily advanced upon each other, eyeing either others tactics, carefully planning their next moves.  Careful of any ambush from behind the hanging tapestries. Alot and Baylore took the left side of the corridor with Brenna following about ten feet behind. Bordar, Duke Feldren, and Lemundo moved to the right.

Captain Vile moved to make a covert escape through the side corridor.

Admiral Kovensky made a mad dash right up the center of the room, "My duke! These fiends have you under some kind of mind control! I'm here to save you!"

Alot made the comment, "Huh, okay. I didn't expect that."

Brenna pointed her magical harpoon point Hearth Spoon towards the rear of the hall and uttered an arcane word. A small flame shot out of Hearth Spoon and sped to the rear of the hall where it exploded into a massive ball of fire, consuming all those standing around the throne. The fireball instantly killed Gellan Primewater!

Marik Feldren, scorched by the fireball, appeared light headed. He swooned but remained standing by gripping tightly onto his throne, "What's happening? Where? What?"

Captain Vile stopped and shouted an order to a nearby hobgoblin captain, "Get the ring off Primewater's finger! Hurry!"

Admiral Kovensky made it to the throne. He heard Vile's command and saw that Gellan Primewater was wearing an ornate ring identical to the one on the same finger of the same hand as Marik Feldren. He realized what was happening. Admiral Kovensky bent over took the ring. He put it on his finger.

Marik Feldren immediately rushed to the admiral's side.

The admiral said, "Quickly, my duke. We must escape this place!"

Marik nodded and said, "Of course. Absolutely. I'll go wherever you go!"

A moment later, the doors leading to side corridors by the throne were thrown open as six hobgoblins came rushing in. Nearly simultaneously four additional hobgoblins appeared by the entrance to the hall behind the B-Team.

Additionally, a human appeared. It was the deck wizard of the Sea Ghost - Punketah!

DM Note-
I had originally planned for all the hobgoblins to be hiding behind the curtains. I even placed their tokens there hidden on the GM layer in Roll20. But no one was surprised. Everyone expected there to be hobgoblins hiding behind the curtains. Baylore's player even pointed out, "I'd hate to be the hobgoblins who pulled that duty - having to stand back there all day long IN CASE something happened."

He was right of course, so I quickly scrambled and moved my tokens to a more sensible position out in the halls and down the side corridors. 

Two hobgoblin archers loosed arrows from the raised dais while two other archers attacked from behind. The four hobgoblin swordsmen in the front  split up. Two attacked Alot and Baylore while two attacked Duke Feldren and Lemundo. Two moved in from the entrance and attacked Brenna and Bordar.

The two sergeants moved behind the swordsmen to support the attack on Baylore.

Brenna sent another fireball towards the throne, sending everyone diving for cover as it exploded.

Marik Feldren shielded his face from the blast but was surprised to find himself unaffected. Brenna had spared him in the hopes of capturing the false duke alive.

Admiral Kovensky was dead. Marik Feldren was once again surprised to find himself in his throne room in the middle of a battle.

Captain Vile abruptly changed plans. He ran back towards the fallen body of Admiral Kovensky. He reached down and took the ring off the admiral's hand. He put the ring on and told Marik to come with him.

Marik no longer appeared confused. He nodded and dutifuly followed Vile towards the exit.

Punketah the deck wizard threw up a wall of fog to obscure visibility and protect the surviving hobgoblins as they all tried to escape. Brenna's eyes narrowed and she threw one more fireball into the fog. It exploded. The fog fell. The blast had killed Punketah, the hobgoblin archers, and had badly burned the hobgoblin captains leading from the rear.

Captain Vile was badly burned but alive.

Bordar the dwarf was a whirlwind of death. His axes cleaved the enemies before him and he moved to aid Duke Obertus and Lemundo. After destroying the two hobgoblins plaguing them Bordar rand to the entrance and cut down the hobgoblin archers in the doorway.

Once he was done there, he activated his magic boots and sped towards the throne.

Baylore and Alot eliminated the hobgoblins and their sergeants before making their way to the throne.

The surviving hobgoblin mercenaries, both commanders, were badly burned and sensed their imminent defeat. They fled towards the exit. Alot ran towards them while Brenna sent icy magical hands flying through the air. Alot cut down the hobgoblins with his short sword before they could escape.

Meanwhile Duke Obertus Feldren and his daughter made their way to the throne. Duke Feldren threw away his disguise and stood ready to defend the position.

Baylore confronted Captain Vile. Before Captain Vile could even turn and lift his sword, Baylore punched him. Captain Vile fell to the ground.

Marik Feldren was once again confused, "What is this? What's happening?" He looked at the throne, "Obertus? How did you escape?"

From the throne, Obertus Feldren declared, "You're finished, Marik. Don't be a fool! You've lost! Give yourself up!"

Marik looked bewildered at the pirate Baylore.

Baylore bent over and took the magic ring off the finger of Captain Vile. He held it in his hand. He looked at Marik. He looked at the ring. With this ring he could control Marik Feldren. He'd have to kill Duke Obertus Feldren. He looked at Obertus. The only other people in the room were Baylore's allies. He held the ring between his fingers. Guards were coming. If he was going to do anything, he'd have to act fast.

To be Continued...

DM Note-
Literally, at that moment, Baylore's player said, "I bend over and pick up the ring."

I said, "Holy shit! Are you going to put it on and control Marik?"

There was a long pause. Baylore's player finally said, "I don't know yet."

And I said, "Okay then. TO BE CONTINUED." And we stopped playing for the night. It was EPIC!!!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Road to Seaton - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 30

It was a quiet morning in Saltmarsh.

The fishing boats had returned the previous day with a bountiful catch. There had been a celebration in the street with much rejoicing. Today the streets were quiet. The window shutters were closed. A few of the previous night's revelers still slept outdoors clutching half-empty bottles on benches and in piles of hay.

Baylore and Brenna waited impatiently for the Loyal Quartermasters of Iuz to open. He had been told that Captain Xendros was the person to see regarding the buying and selling of ancient artifacts and relics.

They were soon joined by Alot who had spent the night guarding the temple of Tristan outside the cemetery. With death of the temple priest Auric the worship of Tristan had lost its only priest in the entire land of Flaeness. The temple now belonged to the half-orc gravedigger Krag and the temple's two initiates.

Captain Xendros finally arrived. After a brief and perfunctory denial that she would have any connection to such a trade, she accepted their payment and showed them her current inventory.

The B-Team:
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Storm Sorceress from Ket.
  • Alot Aname - Neutral Good Warforged Fighter, ancient sentinel of a wizard's fortress, spent several decades deactivated underwater.
  • Baylore - Neutral Human Pirate and Pugilist (Monk). 
  • Brenna - Chaotic Good Human Sailor and Divine Soul Sorceress, long-lost daughter of Whaler.
  • Bordar Graniteshaper - Lawful Good Dwarven Bearer of Grudges (Barbarian), on a quest to rescue the son of the leader of his clan.
  • Duke Obertus Feldren - rightful duke of Seaton after having been imprisoned by his duplicitous twin brother Marik. 
  • Lemundo Feldren - daughter of Oberus. She hired the B-Team to rescue her father and to help her restore him to his title.
  • Dorgan Forgetender - spoiled son of the leader of the Graniteshaper clan of dwarves, sent to Seaton to oversee work, became a favorite of Duke Marik Feldren, and subsequently humiliated and imprisoned by his benefactor for refusing to carve lewd sculptures.

The Road to Seaton
After purchasing a potion of healing, a pearl of power, a ring of swimming, and putting in a special order, the group left the amiable Captain Xendros to meet Aella at her house. There they reunited with Aella, Duke Obertus Feldren, his daughter Lemundo, the dwarf Bordar Graniteshaper, and his charge "Prince" Dorgan Forgetender.

The team equipped themselves for an overland journey to the nearby town of Seaton - capital of the duchy. The duke wore the robes of a monk of Procan to conceal his identity. Lemundo wore the hooded cloak over her adventuring attire she donned with pretending to be her commoner alter ego - Lemony Butterscotch. They set out up the coast road - essentially some wagon tracks that followed the coastline. By mid-day they had arrived at the dwarven mine. They stopped there for lunch and left Dorgan Foregetender to wait for their return. Bordar pledged that he would punish Duke Marik for the harsh treatment and indignities inflicted upon the young dwarf.

By mid afternoon they turned inland and followed the Sea River. Across the river they could see Seaton. It had changed in the two years Duke Obertus had been imprisoned. The once bustling port had been remade into a shipyard for the royal navy, its berths occupied not with ships of trade but with warships. The warehouses were replaced with barracks and training grounds. The ducal palace had been transformed into a massive walled citadel. 

Lemundo said that many of those changes had been undone in the last two months. Now all the royal warships sat careened and empty along the river's banks. Docked along the waterfront were pirate ships and smuggler's vessels. No royal soldiers could be seen. The town seemed deserted. There was none of the usual activity - either mercantile or military - for which Seaton had become known. 

They traveled a mile upriver to the old stone bridge that crossed the Sea River. They were asked to pay the standard toll of one silver piece per walking foot. They gladly paid. On the other side, however, they were stopped by a burly guard who demanded a sum of twenty gold pieces to exit the bridge. 

The duke, still disguised as a humble monk, became incensed that one of his guards would be so corrupt as to demand a bribe. The duke almost broke character as he berated the guard.

Brenna, in an attempt to de-escalate the situation, said, "Calm down, Duke."

The guard stopped short, "What did you call him?"

Baylore slapped his forehead. 

Brenna tried to recover, "I, ah, I said calm down dude."

The guard became suspicious, "No, you said duke." He peered at the monk intently, "You, remove your hood."

The duke removed his hood. The guard staggered backward, "D-Duke Marik! I mean, your excellency!"

The duke wrinkled his brow at being mistaken for his twin brother, the usurper, but he proceeded with the impersonation. He glared at the guard, "Guard, you will stand at attention!"

The guard regained his composure, "Pardon me, your excellency! M-might I ask a question?"

"What is it?" barked Duke Obertus.

"W-why are you dressed as a monk?"

"That is none of your business, guard! But if you must know, I sometimes dress as a commoner to travel unnoticed among the people. Remember that the next time you demand a bribe!"

"Y-yes sir! Yes, your excellency!"

With that the group continued across the bridge and turned south to Seaton. 

The Catacombs of the Citadel
As they neared the entrance to the city gates, Baylore pulled Duke Obertus aside, "Hey duke," said the pirate, addressing the duke of Seaton with startling informality, "I'm going to do a trick I learned. Hold still."

Baylore began to physically manipulate the duke's face. The flesh and muscles held its shape as if it were molded clay. Baylore had changed the duke's appearance using a minor magic spell he had picked up when he was younger. The group therefore entered the gates of the city without incident while Baylore glared at Brenna. 

A moment later the duke's appearance returned to normal. The duke said, "Follow me. I know a secret entrance into the palace."

He led them down an alley, through a back door, and into a cellar. There was a concealed door that revealed a dark narrow passage barely three feet wide. Lemundo and Duke Obertus lit torches and the group proceeded down the long winding passage.

After a few hundred feet the passage ended behind the back side of another concealed door. The duke told the others, "Through there one can enter the catacombs beneath the palace. It is lightly guarded. From there we can find the palace bath and a corridor to my chambers. I must ask you, if you encounter any of my guards, try not to kill them. They are simply performing their duties."

Baylore nodded and instructed the others to wait while he scouted ahead.

He quietly opened the door a crack and looked around. It was completely dark. The pirate's excellent night vision allowed him to see a long tiled corridor with an arched ceiling. He saw a nearby pillar. Leaning against the pillar was a humanoid guard. The guard was just standing there. In complete darkness. He could hear the guard breathing as well as the sound of additional guards farther down the corridor hidden by the gloom.

He sneaked through the door and gently approached the guard from behind. He crept around the pillar and punched the guard. The guard was caught completely by surprise and was knocked unconscious before he knew what hit him.  Baylore gently lowered the guard to the floor and examined him more closely.

The guard was a hobgoblin mercenary!

He gingerly crept farther down the hall and could make out five or more additional hobgoblin guards congregating in the complete darkness at the next pillar.

Baylore returned to the secret passage and reported his findings.

The duke rubbed his chin, "Hobgoblin mercenaries? In my palace? It would appear that my brother has allied himself with foreign influences. This changes everything. Something is afoot. You have my permission to kill every last one of the orange-skinned bastards."

Sneak Attack
The entire party filed into the main passage one at a time as quietly as they could. Baylore went to the far wall. Bordar moved behind a nearby pillar. Alot Aname lumbered into the passage. His heavy armor and weapons shook and clanked as he strode forward. He whispered loudly to the others, "Its pitch black! I can't see anything! What's happening?"

Baylore and Bordar, who had moved with grace and stealth with the ability to see in total darkness, both winced as the heavily armored automaton.

Lemundo and her father Duke Obertus Feldren gently laid their lit torches down in the secret corridor and carefully exited into the gloom of the main passage. They, too, were blind in the darkness.

Down the hall, the hobgoblins turned and looked in Alot's direction. Before they could act, Brenna pointed the barbed harpoon tip known as "Hearthspoon", uttered an arcane word, and sent a fireball to their location.

The group of hobgoblins exploded in a massive burst of flame!

Baylore and Bordar charged the remaining hobgoblins. The scene was momentarily illuminated by the dying fire, allowing Alot and Lemundo to join them. 

Only three hobgoblins remained. Two who appeared to be sergeants and a heavily armored captain. One of the sergeants advanced to engage Bordar and Alot in combat. The other sergeant moved right and attacked Lemundo. Duke Feldren quickly came to his daughter's aid in fighting the hobgoblin sergeant. The captain had taken cover behind a pillar. Aella sent several attack spells arcing around the pillar towards the captain.

Baylore went after the captain, using his special stealth skills to disappear and reappear in the pervasive shadows - attacking the captain from every direction.

The captain turned to escape and report the intrusion. Bordar struck down the hobgoblin sergeant and gave chase but was unable to keep up with the captain. Baylore disappeared and reappeared in front of the captain, blocking his escape. Baylore and Bordar attacked the captain but the hobgoblin feinted and parried their attacks.

Aella made an arcane gesture and uttered a mystic phrase. A bonfire appeared around the hobgoblin captain. The captain howled in pain and ran away, dodging and parrying as he escaped. The light of the fire gave Alot a moment of sight. He closed on the hobgoblin. Bordar and Baylor likewise followed the captain and one again had him surrounded.

The hobgoblin captain was ninety feet from the door at the end of the corridor. He was surrounded by his enemies. He was gravely injured and burned. He grit his teeth and made one final attempt to escape. He ran towards the door but the captain was struck down by a well-placed firebolt spell from Aella's outstretched finger. There was a tiny burst of flame as the hobgoblin captain fell dead only sixty feet from the door.

Alot stood in the darkness and blindly called out, "What is it? What's happening? DID WE WIN?"

Baylor took Alot's mechanical hand and assured him they had won.

The team re-grouped and the duke and his daughter picked up their torches. They moved to the iron door at the end of the passage. They prepared themselves to enter the next room. The duke said that the room contained a heated communal bath.

Alot opened the door.

Within was a vaulted room with a tiled recessed area that was once filled with water. The bath had been drained and the room had been converted into a barracks for hobgoblins. The room was lit by braziers and lanterns. A cage in one corner of the room contained a human prisoner - a middle-aged noble-man. A handful of hobgoblin mercenaries were in the opposite corner of the room sharpening their weapons. They looked up at Alot's unexpected intrusion.

To be Continued...

DM Note
We were unable to meet in person this week so we decided to try Roll20. This was our first ever attempt at using Roll20 and it went fairly well. 

I did some prep, not a lot, and went through the basic operations with the players before the game. I had to reconfigure my main encounter right at the beginning because I set it up wrong. I had set up an entire encounter using human palace guards but I forgot until the encounter started that I originally planned to use hobgoblins. Roll20 allowed me to change most of the NPCs quickly on the fly and I could gloss over the rest.

I like the features a lot. Everything that’s great about Roll20 is great. I love the initiative tracker and hp trackers. I learned from some little and big mistakes that I’ll be ready for next time.

Audio got clunky at times. Lots of little drop offs. Lots of family interruptions. Lots of loud unwanted sound effects. Lots of people disappearing without notice.

Players kept drawing lewd pictures on the map, (rolls eyes) and attention to what was going on was about as poor as ink-person games.

At the end I gave a big cliffhanger ending description, but the player of the only PC in the room said, “sorry, I was AFK. What did I miss?” I kind of rage quit because I was exhausted and annoyed. NOT his fault! By that time I just really needed a snickers.

Other than that my players were REMARKABLY patient with me and with each other. There was a good hour there where we were really humming and had figured our collective shit out.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Chaos Phage - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 29

The sky was blue and the sea was calm as the small single-masted sailboat sailed from Leper Island to Saltmarsh. The boat was filled to the brim with passengers. Bordar the dwarf stared ruefully at the swollen red sting on his arm. It pulsated and glowed. Tendrils snaked outward from the center like little roots.

Baylore sat nearby. He said, "That big blue frog monster injected you with something. If you let that go you probably won't survive the night."

Bordar asked, "What should I do?"

Baylore shrugged, "I dunno. See a priest or something?"

Bordar said, "Where will I find a priest?"

The elderly abbot sitting in the boat with them said, "I once oversaw the hospital on Leper Island. I'm an ordained priest of Procan trained to perform healing miracles. Let me take a look at it."

Abbot Castellan inspected the wound and pursed his lips in contemplation, "This is no poison. It's a disease."

Bordar replied sullenly, "And you can't cure disease."

Abbot Castellan said, "Of course I can!"

Bordar showed renewed hope, "But.. I mean.. I didn't think..."

Abbot Castellan laid his hand on the dwarf's shoulder, Lets get you to the temple of Procan in Saltmarsh - assuming its still there. I was trapped in a magic mirror for eleven years! I can perform the ritual there."

"You can?" said Baylore.

"Yes. But we'll need to get something first."

"What is it?" gasped Bordar.

"We'll need a goat." said the abbot.

The B-Team:
  • Baylore - Neutral Human Pirate and Pugilist (Monk). 
  • Bordar Graniteshaper - Lawful Good Dwarven Bearer of Grudges (Barbarian), on a quest to rescue the son of the leader of his clan.
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Storm Sorceress from Ket. 
Brain Jellies:
  • Alot Aname - Neutral Good Warforged Fighter, ancient sentinel of a wizard's fortress, spent several decades deactivated underwater.
  • Brenna - Chaotic Good Human Sailor and Divine Soul Sorceress, long-lost daughter of Whaler. 
DM Note-
Last week, Bordar's player desperately read through the spells in the Player's Handbook looking for a Cure Disease spell. There isn't one. Baylore's player suggested Lesser Restoration or Greater Restoration. Bordar's player read those but gave up, "They only eliminate one condition!" he said. 

This week, when the abbot said he could do it, Bordar's player said, "How?"

I said, "He knows Lesser Restoration."

Bordar's player and Baylore's player both objected, "No, I checked that. it says it only removes one condition."

I had looked it up previously. I said, "Does it? Read it out loud."

Bordar's player read the spell,  "You touch a creature and can end either one disease or one condition afflicting it. The condition can be Blinded, Deafened, Paralyzed, or Poisoned."

Bordar's player said, "Well I'll be damned!"

Baylore's player struck Bordar's player several times with a long pepperoni stick.

However, just having a priest cast "Lesser Restoration" was too easy. I wanted them to earn it. 

The Temple of Procan
They moored the boat to a dock near Crabber's Cove. The team bade farewell to the Lizard-man King Kosj who was going to swim to his daughter's stronghold down the coast to the west. That left Duke Oberun Feldren of Seaton, his daughter Lemundo Feldren, Abbot Ando Castellan, and the crazy pirate as the remaining prisoners of the magic mirror. The duke and his daughter donned the robes of monks of Procan so that they could travel incognito. They joined the B-Team as they made their way up the hill towards the temple of Procan at the top of the bluff overlooking Crabber's Cove. On the way, Bordar overpaid for a goat for use in the ritual.

They could see in the distance that the town was celebrating. It had been a good catch and the people of Saltmarsh were in good spirits. As a result most of the priests and acolytes were in town and the temple was currently unoccupied. The temple was an octagonal transept with a long nave leading to the entrance porch. A statue of Procan stood at the center of the transept. Four side chapels were located in each corner of the transept. The domed ceiling of the transept was supported by sixteen columns. Behind the statue was a wide pool of water used for rituals. Behind the pool was a corridor leading to the room of mysteries where the priests performed the secret rites. 

Abbot Castellan led Bordar and the goat into the water. The water rose to the abbot's waist and to the dwarf's chest. The goat protested at first but was calmed into obedience by the priest's touch.  The others stood reverently around the nave and observed. Shafts of light shone in from the windows high in the dome. 

The abbot said "I shall draw the disease out of you and transplant it into this goat. If you are ready we shall begin." 

He grabbed Bordar's infected arm and began to wash it with the holy water, drawing the disease out of Bordar. Bordar grit his teeth as the swollen center bulged like an egg. The swollen red center eventually separated from Bordar's arm, but the long tendrils remained staunchly rooted in the flesh. The abbot grabbed the bulbous center and pulled like one would pull a weed with deep routs out of the ground. The tendrils stretched as the disease was pulled from Bordar's body. 

The abbot gave a final pull and the disease was freed from Bordar. Bordar fell back into the water. The abbot held the pulsating center in his clenched fist at the end of his outstretched arm. The tendrils thrashed about violently as the disease sought a new host. 

Bordar stood up and staggered backward up the steps and out of the shallow pool. 

The abbot reached toward the goat but the tendrils wrapped around his arm. The abbot struggled to transfer the disease to the goat. The tendrils lengthened and wrapped around the abbot's neck and body. The tendrils then tightened, drawing the abbots fist holding the core of the disease towards the abbot's chest. 

The abbot screamed. Before anyone could rush to his aid the abbot fell into the water. The goat bleated and ran away. The water of the pool frothed and boiled. Bright flashes erupted beneath the churning foam. Those observing stood awestruck.

Suddenly the water exploded outward. Standing in the pool was a ten foot tall bipedal red frog monster with long claws. Its skin was covered in bony nodules and calciferous warts. 

The frog-thing smiled, revealing a mouth filled with sharp shark-like teeth. It said, "Ah! Happy Birthday! It's good to be alive!" It glared at Bordar, "Dear old daddy! Come here! I have a need to breed!" 

Chaos in the Temple
Bordar staggered backwards to get as far away from the red frog-monster as possible. The red creature smiled and exited the pool. Duke Feldren stepped forward and engaged in battle with the creature. The others attacked it with ranged attack spells, crossbows, and arrows. Even the sacrificial goat tried to head-butt it. The crazy pirate, for his part, ran towards the side of the nave and tried to climb a column. Having regained his composure Bordar charged the monster with his magical axes.

The red frog-creature was no match for the combined efforts of the B-Team. It soon fell before their coordinated assault. It exploded into bits of red flesh.

The B-Team stuck around and helped the acolytes of the temple clean up the mess.

Payment Interrupted
Later that afternoon, once the temple had been cleaned, the B-Team joined Lemundo at the Empty Net tavern, an establishment favored by smugglers and pirates, to receive their payment for rescuing her father.

The Empty Net was an old two-story structure built atop pilings above the water. The B-Team, along with Duke Feldren still wearing the robes of a monk of Procan, sat at a table and ordered drinks while Lemundo went to her room to find the sack of two thousand gold coins she had hidden for their payment.

While she was looking a group of rough looking sailors climbed the stairs to join them on the upper level. Baylore knew at a glance that these sailors worked for the Sea Princes. A moment later more sailors came upstairs. Soon there were at least six sailors congregating by Lemundo's door with at least five more coming up the stairs.

Baylore got up and moved towards Lemundo's room while the duke moved towards the stairs. Bordar ensured the safety of his clan leader's son.

Lemundo opened the door but was stopped by the leader of the ruffians. He said, "Well hello there, Lemony. We've been sent to retrieve what you took from us and to teach you a lesson. Nobody steals from the Organization!"

With that, Baylore stepped into a shadow and mysteriously emerged from another shadow across the room near Lemundo's opponent. He punched the ruffian in the face.

The ruffian, confused, shouted, "What?" and a melee ensued.

Baylore and Lemundo engaged the ruffians by her door while Duke Feldren did his best to keep additional ruffians from running up the stairs. Aella cast a spell that created a gust of wind, forcing the bandits back into a corner. Bordar moved his charge into a nearby room before turning and assisting Baylore and Lemundo.

Baylore hit the leader of the ruffians with a stunning attack which allowed Lemundo and Bordar. The leader was knocked unconscious and thrown over the side of the mezzanine.

One of the ruffians smashed a cudgel over Aella's head and she staggered. Her wind spell ceased. Bordar moved to defend her. Aella cast a Witch Bolt spell, creating a continuous arc of lightning on one target. He screamed and jumped out the nearby window in order to clamber atop the roof of the porch below.

The B-Team proceeded to engage with the ruffians in hand-to-hand combat, throwing them over the side of the mezzanine to crash into the tables of the tavern floor below. Eventually the way was cleared for the remaining ruffians to climb the stairs followed by a hulking brute brandishing a massive axe.

It was soon apparent that the hulking brute's attacks were devastating. Even when he missed, he destroyed nearby walls and tables. The B-Team concentrated their attacks on the hulking brute. Not even Baylore's stunning strikes could slow the massive pit fighter.

Eventually the brute had taken enough of a beating that he called for the retreat of the remaining ruffians. "You win this time! But you better watch yer back! Nobody steals from the Organization!"

Once they had fled, Lemundo picked up the sack of money she had thrown back into her room when the fight started. She gave it to Baylore, "Here you go. Two thousand gold coins, as promised. Don't ask where I got it."

To Be Continued...

Next Time-
To Seaton to confront the False Duke! Assuming we can get together. In-person gaming has been cancelled. I'm trying to get the group together via Roll20. We'll see if we can pull this off.

DM Note-
Aella's player had an upset stomach (too much sugar) so we called it a night earlier than normal.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Broken Mirror - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 28

Baylore the human pirate had become trapped within a magic mirror.

His companions in the B-Team stared on in disbelief. Once the initial panic died down they began to weigh their options.

A magical password was required to free Baylore from the mirror. The only person who knew the password was the Abbot of the monastery. He had died in the pirate raid two weeks ago. Ozymandias, the highest ranking survivor of the pirate raid, may have known but he was killed the previous day when the B-Team stormed the monastery. The two surviving monks - who were actually members of an evil cult - had no knowledge about the mirror. The current duke of Seaton, the pretender, might know. They could take the mirror to the wizard Keledek in Saltmarsh. Maybe he could help them.

Aella said, "Enough talk!" She picked up a rock and threw it at the mirror.

Everyone froze in horror!

The rock hit the mirror, creating a deep spider-web like impact crater, and bounced off.

"What are you doing?" demanded Brenna, breathlessly.

"If we destroy the mirror, everyone trapped within it gets released." replied Aella.

"Then why are you using a bloody rock?" said Brenna, "Hit it with some zap-zap!"

Aella nodded, "Good idea!" She pointed at the mirror and released an icy bolt of magical energy.

The mirror shattered into a thousand tiny shards.

The room filled with its formerly trapped inhabitants.

Chaos ensued.

The B-Team:
  • Baylore - Neutral Human Pirate and Pugilist (Monk). 
  • Brenna Whalersdottir - Chaotic Good Human Sailor and Divine Soul Sorceress, long-lost daughter of Whaler. 
  • Bordar Graniteshaper - Lawful Good Dwarven Bearer of Grudges (Barbarian), on a quest to rescue the son of the leader of his clan.
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Storm Sorceress from Ket. 
Brain Jellies:
  • Alot Aname - Neutral Good Warforged Fighter, ancient sentinel of a wizard's fortress, spent several decades deactivated underwater.
Prisoners of the Magic Mirror
A silver mist expanded from the mirror, filling the room. The mist coalesced into nine swirling shapes. Each shape took form and resolved into a humanoid once held prisoner within the mirror.
  1. A middle-aged man wearing the colors of the Duke of Seaton over his plate armor. 
  2. A young dwarf with a badly-shaved beard.
  3. A pirate with a crazed demeanor.
  4. An elderly man wearing the robes of the abbot of the monastery of Procan.
  5. A hulking blue frog-thing with long bony spikes protruding from its forearms.
  6. A massive animated snake skeleton with a fanged human skull. It had glowing green eyes and slithered quickly through the throng before coiling up by the stairs.
  7. A massive reptilian lizard-man with blue scales. He bore a long club tipped with obsidian blades.
  8. Something else, an unseen malevolent presence.
  9. Baylore.
DM Note-
I gave each of the players an NPC to run for this combat. There's no way I was running NPC-on-NPC fighting all by myself!

Aella's player ran the lizard-king.
Bordar's player ran the duke.
Baylore's player ran the crazy pirate.
Brenna's player ran the dwarf prince.
I ran the abbot. 
The players chose to keep Lemundo out of the fight. She stood away with Alot. 

Aella felt an invisible presence near her by the stairs. The presence slammed into her, hitting her on her head. She swung her staff in a counter-attack but the presence was already gone.

The massive blue frog-thing bellowed a throaty laugh. It croaked, "Wow! It's so great to be free! I'm so hungry! And I'm surrounded by such juicy morsels! Hey you! Little dude!" He was standing next to and addressed Bordar, "You look like a tasty snack! Climb in my mouth! I want to eat you!"

The blue frog-thing stabbed its bone spikes at Bordar. One bone spike stuck into Bordar's shoulder and injected him with some kind of red liquid. The liquid spread quickly under Bordar's skin, radiating outward from the wound like tiny wriggling subcutaneous worms. Bordar screamed in pain.

DM Note-
Bordar was hit by the Blue Slaad's claw attack. He had to make a DC 15 Constitution Saving Throw or be infected by the Chaos Phage. Bordar failed and was infected. This meant that Bordar could not regain lost hit points - ie, healing. More to come.

Bordar escaped the blue frog-thing and made his way to the young dwarf. It was Dorgan Forgetender, the son of the clan leader. "Dorgan! Your beard! What have they done to you?"

Dorgan's hair and beard had been poorly shorn. Dorgan stood proudly and defiantly and declared, "You may call me PRINCE Dorgan!"

Borday blinked and said, "What?" The nearby lizard-man brought him back to the situation at hand. Bordar picked up the young "prince" and carried him to the edge of the room and away from the fight. The red tendrils in the wound in his shoulder pulsed with agony.

Aella addressed the lizard-man in low-Draconic, the language of the lizard-folk, "Great Lizard-King! My name is Aella. We are allied with the Marsh Water Clan and I am a friend of Princess Orthokent. We seek your aid in defeating the monsters!"

The lizard-man stood proud, "Anyone who fights with my daughter, Orthokent, is a friend of King Kosj! I will aid you!" King Kosj turned his club towards the skeletal snake-creature.

DM Note-
Aella's player could not have chosen a better thing to say on her turn. King Kosj was going to be a wild card. He could be ally or enemy depending on how the PCs treated him.

Lemundo called out to the middle aged man, "Father! Father! It's me, Lemundo!"

The man looked around, confused, "Daughter? What is happening?"

"Father! You've been freed! But we are in danger! You must help the humans and dwarves defeat the bone thing and the frog thing!"

The man looked at the lizard king, "King Kosj! Are you responsible for this?"

The lizard king hissed at the middle aged man, "Duke Feldren! No, I was as much a prisoner as you!"

Duke Feldren nodded and aided the lizard-king in attacking the bone-snake.

Baylore maneuvered to begin punching the bone-snake. He called to the human pirate captain, "And who are you?"

The crazed pirate captain wobbled as he stood and stared around with mad eyes. He shouted, "THE GOVERNMENT!" into the air and ran to attack a nearby wall.

DM Note-
I had a player roll randomly on the Confusion spell effect table to determine what the crazy pirate would do that round.

The elderly man dodged through the battle and sought cover near the outside of the stairs.

The bone-snake unhinged its lower jaw and hissed at Baylore . Baylore could feel the effects of the bone-snake's mind-altering magic creeping over him. Baylore gritted his teeth and pushed through. He shrugged off the effects of the magic and smashed his fist into the humanoid skull of the skeletal monstrosity. The punch so rattled the undead creature that it began swaying and staring around uselessly.

Once Bordar was satisfied that "Prince" Dorgan was out of the way, he joined Baylore , Aella, Brenna, King Kosj, and Duke Feldren in battle against the snake-thing while it was momentarily stunned. The combined efforts of the mighty group defeated the skeletal snake before it could mount a substantive defense.

The abbot of Procan said a short prayer of healing for Bordar but to no avail. The red tendrils on Bordar's shoulder grew longer and fatter.

An Invisible Foe
Meanwhile the two surviving cultists of Olhydra - Odium and the brush-wielding acolyte - were tied to chairs in the corner of the room. The acolyte shouted that he could feel an invisible presence near him and begged for help. The others were too busy with the skeletal snake-thing to pay any attention. The acolyte screamed as the invisible force snapped his neck. The acolyte slumped dead in his chair.

Odium screamed and called for help. The same invisible force struck Odium, knocking his chair over onto the floor.

Brenna was standing at the base of the stairs. She clapped her hands together and called forth a swirling tempest of tiny celestial swallows. The birds swarmed the room, tearing into the blue frog-beast while leaving all of Brenna's allies, including for the moment Odium the auditor, unaffected.

The Blue Monster
Whatever it was that menaced the cultists had retreated away from the swirling mass of glowing birds and refused to come nearer. The blue frog-beast, however, laughed and claimed that it tickled.

The giant blue frog beast continued to taunt the rag-tag assembly, "You! Yes, you! You look like a tasty morsel! Get in my mouth!"

With the destruction of the skeletal snake-thing, the assembled heroes turned their attention to the blue frog creature.

The hulking blue creature lashed out with its forearm bone spikes, striking Baylore and King Kosj. Baylore felt a small red pellet that had been implanted into his chest by the spike. He quickly pulled it out and threw it away.

Aella stood on the stairs and unleashed a continuous stream of arcing lightning at the blue monster. Between Aella witch bolt, Brenna's celestial swallows, Baylore's devastating punches, Bordar's axes, Duke Feldren's great sword, and King Kosj's skewering trident, the blue monster was soon defeated.

The blue frog-thing exploded into glowing blue tatters as it died, showering the gathered assembly in tatters of blue flesh.

The Typhoon
Odium was still tied to the overturned chair next to the dead acolyte. He cried out, "Help! Help! Untie me! I'm still in danger!"

Brenna maintained her swirling cyclone of glowing sparrows. She moved away from Odium so that he was no longer protected within its sphere, "Lets see if it comes back."

Odium, left defenseless, began thrashing about. A minute passed and nothing attacked him. Brenna's birds disappeared, "It must be gone now. I think we're safe."

Baylore said, "Good. Lets all take the boat back to Saltmarsh."

Bordar and Baylore ascended the stairs and opened the cellar door. A strong wind blew the door all the way open. Hard driving rain sprayed inside. A gust of warm moist air filled the cellar. A storm was raging above.

DM Note-
Rolled a d12 plus a high/low to determine time of day. It was 1pm.
Rolled on the weather tables in the DMG. Forty degrees above normal, high winds, heavy rains. 

Baylore and Bordar managed to pull the doors back shut against the wind. Baylore turned and said, "Well, I guess we're staying here tonight, or at least until the storm dies down."

The B-Team and the freed prisoners settled in to rest. The abbot of Procan prayed and food and water was miraculously provided. The B-Team spent time getting to know the freed prisoners.

DM Note-
We spent the next hour or so working out the back stories of each player character and non-player character. Since Prince Dorgan was created by Bordar's player as a part of his back story and motivation for adventuring, I enlisted his aid, as well as the other players, in fleshing out some more of Dorgan's history, starting with the question, "So why did the pretender Duke Feldren imprison Dorgan?" 

We also went through each of the freed NPCs, working out the details of their backstories and how they fit into the current plot.

Dorgan's Story
Dorgan was the son of the leader of Clan Granite Shaper. Dorgan had been sent to Seaton to complete a commission for the new duke. Duke Feldren, having recently succeeded his "dead" brother, wished to decorate the citadel at Seaton with fine statues of himself. During his time among the humans, Dorgan was treated as a noble guest of the court. Dorgan was showered with gifts and fetes by his human patrons. Over time, Dorgan became accustomed to these human ways and succumbed to human decadence and immorality. Dorgan had become haughty and proud, taking seriously the title "Prince" when it was bestowed upon him by the Duke.

Dorgan became the duke's favorite courtier. The two spent a lot of time together and Dorgan became somewhat of a confidant. It was during a drunken confession that Dorgan learned that Duke Feldren's brother had not died as the world believed. The duke's brother was still alive and kept prisoner on Leper Island. Dorgan, taking seriously his role as Duke Feldren's friend and confidant, told no one and kept the secret safe.

One day, after an especially decadent celebration, Dorgan awoke to learn that he had shaved off his hair and beard the night before in a degrading attempt to become more "human" like his new friends in court. At first Dorgan was embarrassed but the adulation of the human courtiers soon eased his guilt.

Things changed when the duke began requesting statues that were more and more lewd and profane. The duke wished to possess statues of an illicit nature for his private collection. Dorgan became uncomfortable with the requests. The duke became enraged. Dorgan quickly learned that he was never the duke's friend. The duke ordered Dorgan's imprisonment for his insolence at refusing his orders. However, the duke was aware that Dorgan knew his innermost secrets. Additionally, he could not execute Dorgan for doing so would risk war with the dwarves of the Granite Shaper clan, and he needed their metal and weapons to arm and equip his growing army.

He had Dorgan taken to Leper Island where he could be imprisoned within the magical mirror of the Cult of Olhydra. There he could keep Dorgan alive as a hostage without risking his precious secrets.

The Story of Duke Oberus Feldren
Duke Oberus Feldren of Seaton was born just a few minutes before his twin brother Marik. Thus it was that Marik was raised in the shadow of his older twin. Upon the death of their father, it was Oberus who inherited the title of duke. It was Oberus who commanded troops in battle against the Sea Princes. It was Oberus who was made the governor of the southern province. Oberus who married well and fathered the lovely and spirited Lemundo. Oberus who was loved by his people and adored at the royal court.

Marik, ever jealous of his older brother, schemed for ways to usurp him. He sought the services of assassins from the Sea Princes. He was approached by the cult of Olhydra. They provided him with a slow poison that would make it appear that the duke had become ill and eventually appear to die. The price for their assistance was that the duke be kept alive and turned over to them for safe keeping. Marik, desperate to become duke, agreed to the terms.

So it was that Marik had Duke Oberus Feldren slowly poisoned. To the world it appeared that the duke had become ill. Two years ago Marik announced that his older brother had died from his illness. Marik then assumed the title and responsibilities of duke of Seaton and governor of the southern provinces.

In reality, Marik had his brother Oberus imprisoned within the magic mirror that belonged to the corrupt monks of Leper Island. Every few months Marik would charter a ship owned by Captain Horatio Vile to take him to Leper Island where he could gloat over his imprisoned brother.

Duke Marik's subsequent actions were openly hostile to the illegal activities of the Sea Princes along the coast of the Azure Sea. Marik had become a liability. A little over a month ago, Captain Vile betrayed Duke Marik. Instead of taking him to Leper Island, he was taken prisoner and brought to Gellan Primewater in Saltmarsh.

Primewater knew a wizard in Saltmarsh named Keledek who possessed a magical ring of mind control. They managed to place the ring on Duke Marik's finger and were thus able to control the duke's thoughts and actions. Unbeknownst to Captain Vile, Oberus' daughter Lemundo had stowed away on the vessel, hoping to learn where Marik had hidden her father. She was captured and prepared for transport to the Sea Princes. However, an unknown force of masked raiders had infiltrated the secret hideout of Keledek, rescued Duke Marik and Lemundo, captured Captain Vile, and stole something very valuable to Keledek - a black dragon egg.

The wizard Keledek believed Gellan Primewater was responsible for this raid so he firebombed Primewater's estate in Saltmarsh. Primewater escaped and has been in hiding since.

Vile's crew, now without a captain, decided to mount a raid against the Abbey on Leper Island. They knew that pirates stored their treasures within the abbey. Two weeks ago, they attacked the abbey. Finding no treasure, they killed most of its inhabitants and burned the abbey to the ground.

The Others
The stories told by the others represented somewhat simpler premises.

King Kosj was the leader of the Marsh Water tribe. When his tribe was attacked by the sahuagin and displaced from their home, he was captured. The sahuagin are in league with the cult of Olhydra so King Kosj was imprisoned within the mirror.

King Kosj was happy to hear of the work his daughter Princess Orthokent was doing. He had no ambition of removing her from power. He was, however, troubled to learn of the return of Sakatha in the Drowned Forest.

The abbot was the original abbot of the monastery of Procan. He oversaw a group of monks who ran a hospital for lepers on the island. He was betrayed by his own monks who had become cultists to Olhydra.

The Crazy Pirate gave no name and interacted little with the others. He stared wild-eyed at the ceiling and walls and occasionally blurted strange sounds. It was clear that he had spent many decades trapped within the mirror and had gone insane.

The Storm Passes
By dawn the next day the storm had passed. The assembly prepared to leave the island. Aella went to retrieve Ozymandias from the locked cell in which he was held. She found him dead - his neck snapped - a victim of the invisible killer. Since the invisible force had made no attempt to the kill anyone else, the rest of the team paid it little thought. As for Ozymandias, the invisible killer had perhaps saved them the eventual trouble.

DM Note
Bordar was still infected by the Chaos Phage and did not heal any hit points from the long rest. Bordar currently has 9 hit points. As written, Bordar would automatically lost another 3d6 hit points from his maximum after a long rest. This would have killed Bordar. This seemed unduly harsh so I gave Bordar another DC 15 Constitution Saving Throw, which he passed. So he didn't lose any more hit points for the night. But he'll have to keep making the save until cured of the disease. 

Baylore's player had the bright idea to let the disease run its course. His thinking was that once Bordar hit zero hit points, he could be healed. There are two things wrong with that - 

1. Even at zero hit points he'd still have the disease and couldn't receive any healing.
2. Baylore's player didn't know what happened to victims of the Chaos Phage when they reach zero hit points. 

It was a pleasant day. The sun was warm and the wind was calm. The group departed the ruins of the abbey and made their way back towards the dunes. The storm the previous day had created new dunes and had wiped away any sign of their previous tracks. The dunes towards the west side of the island, they way they had come before, appeared steep and difficult to navigate. The dunes on the east side of the island were flatter and packed hard from the heavy rains. They would be easier to traverse.

DM Note-
I numbered the columns across the top of the map 3-18 and had Baylore's player roll 3d6 to determine starting square. I had expected the bell curve to give me a number from 8-12. He rolled 16, way over on the side. We had to come up with a reason for taking such a path.

As they moved across the hard-packed sand, skeleton guardians erupted out of the sand and attacked.

The team pressed on, battling wave after wave of skeletons as they crossed the wet sand.

Once they reached the cliff there emerged a great mass of bones like a skeletal juggernaut! The lumbering mass of bones rolled like a great wave towards them.

Aella called forth a thundering tidal wave of water from the sand which crashed down upon the skeletal juggernaut. The juggernaut began sloughing skeletal parts as it continued its approach. She called forth another crashing wave of water. The juggernaut was defeated before it could reach the party.

The assembled group of temporary allies was still surrounded by a horde of skeletons but the undead guardians were eventually defeated.

They returned to the point on the beach where they had left their boat. It was half-buried in sand. The human boat that had delivered Bordar had left two days previous with the approach of the storm. The halfling druid Bobert was nowhere to be seen. He had probably left with the humans.

The group excavated their boat and prepared it to sail back to Saltmarsh.

Bordar looked warily at the pulsating red wound on his shoulder. A glowing red mass had formed at its center.

DM Note-
Bordar has 7 hit points remaining. 

To be Continued...

Friday, March 6, 2020

The Winding Way - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 27

Aella shook the brain jellies from her head and looked around, "What's going on? Where are we?"

Baylore filled her in, "We're in the cellar beneath the ruins of the abbey. All those dead guys over there were monks and acolytes."

Brenna interjected, "Turned out they were not only corrupt, they were worshiping some elder elemental being called 'Olhydra'. Torture and human sacrifice and other nasty stuff. We captured these two."

Aella nodded, "Got it. What's next?"

Brenna pointed to the meditation room. The tapestries on the wall had been drawn aside to reveal a concealed door. "We think that's the entrance to the secret dungeon. We're going in there next."

Baylore addressed Lemundo the Lovely, "Lemundo, stay out here with 'Beep Boop' and guard these two prisoners.

Lemundo nodded her assent.

The team readied their weapons and opened the door.

A short tunnel widened into an unfurnished and undecorated thirty-foot-square chamber. Standing next to one another in the center of the room were two enormous skeletal guardians with massive bull skulls atop decaying shoulders. Each guardian bore a massive, rusted axe. Despite their age, the skeletons were dripping wet and covered in a glowing green slime or mold.

Five corpse-like figures were arranged shoulder to shoulder along the eastern wall. Each of the corpses appeared to have drowned in agony.

The massive skeletal minotaurs shambled to a defensive position and hefted their axes to attack the intruders.

The B-Team:
  • Baylore - Neutral Human Pirate and Pugilist (Monk). 
  • Brenna Whalersdottir - Chaotic Good Human Sailor and Divine Soul Sorceress, long-lost daughter of Whaler. 
  • Bordar Graniteshaper - Lawful Good Dwarven Bearer of Grudges (Barbarian), on a quest to rescue the son of the leader of his clan.
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Storm Sorceress from Ket. 
Brain Jellies:
  • Alot Aname - Neutral Good Warforged Fighter, ancient sentinel of a wizard's fortress, spent several decades deactivated underwater.
Guardians of the Winding Way
The two skeletal minotaurs took position to either side of the entrance. Baylore and Bordar charged forward and engaged in combat while Brenna and Aella targeted the skeletons from the hallway with their spells.

A dark spectral form emerged from one of the bodies on the wall. It was black and humanoid but with an indistinct face and glowing eyes. It strode forth and glared at Bordar. Bordar shrunk under the withering stare of the creature. Brenna shouted, "Be careful! It's a bodak! They can stare you to death!"

The bodak directed its gaze towards Brenna. This allowed Baylore and Bordar to concentrate attacks on the dark creature. Though the bodak was a formidable opponent, it eventually fell to their attacks.

Upon the defeat of the bodak, Brenna got the attention of Aella. Brenna held up the medallion she had taken from the body of Ozymandias. Brenna asked Aella if the medallion looked familiar and what it might mean.

Suddenly the skeletal minotaurs stood at attention and held their weapons at rest.

Brenna noticed this but was confused by the strange behavior.

Bordar rushed into the room and engaged the minotaurs. The skeletal guardians resumed their threatening posture and re-engaged in battle.

As soon as the minotaur skeletons were reduced to piles of inanimate bone there arose another threat. Spectral ghosts emerged from the bodies along the wall and flew around the room. One reached its ghostly hand into Bordar's body and he felt the life force within him begin to drain. He retreated quickly and avoided the worst of the effects.

Brenna stood forward, "Hold on! I have an idea!" She brandished the medallion engraved with geometric symbols, "Back! Return to your posts!"

The ghosts stopped their attack and dutifully returned to their positions within the human remains embedded in the east wall.

"Hey! It worked!"

The party opened the door on the east wall and exited the room.

DM Note-
The medallion is not a holy symbol and it doesn't control the undead guardians of the Winding Way. It only "deactivates" them to allow safe passage. It wasn't even Brenna's turn but I heard Brenna's player ask Aella's player about the medallion. It was Bordar's turn so I interrupted and said, "They stand at attention and hold their weapons at rest. What do you do?" Brenna's player barely noticed and Bordar's player just kept attacking without caring - which reset the minotaur.

I didn't want to give away the secret. I couldn't ask, "[Brenna's player], are you still holding the medallion?" because that would have been too obvious. So I asked, "[Brenna's player], what are you doing with your hands right now?" and Brenna's player answered, "I dunno. Casting a spell?" while waving his hands around. So I took that to mean Brenna put the medallion away in a pocket. So the specters attacked. Only later did Brenna's player catch on to what was happening.

The Winding Way
The corridor beyond presented a pair of intersections- a four-way junction followed by a T-junction.

Bordar confidently led the way. At the first four-way intersection he chose left and strode headlong towards a left turn.

Baylore became worried that the dwarf was perhaps a little too incautious. "Bordar, you should slow down and watch where you're going?"

Bordar looked over his shoulder, "What?"

At that the floor beneath his feet disappeared and revealed a dark pit. Bordar plunged into the pit and landed ten feet below with a wet smack. The smell of burning acid and wafts of smoke began to rise from the pit. Bordar was out cold and lying in about two feet of caustic acid!

The B-Team sprang into action! Baylore cursed and removed his pack. He took out a length of rope. Brenna grabbed the rope and tied it around her waist. Aella ran forth and kicked Brenna hard, sending Brenna into the pit! Baylore held the rope fast to stop her fall.

Brenna lurched to a stop just above the unconscious Bordar. She reached out a touched Bordar. A spell of healing brought Bordar back to consciousness. His eyes became wide and he screamed in pain and terror - he was still half-submerged in acid! He grabbed Brenna and, with a  stomp to activate his magical boots of striding and springing, he leaped out of the pit, Brenna in hand!

He landed beside the pit and did his best to wipe the acid off his body using whatever shirts and bits of cloth were handy. Bordar's eyes were wild. He was shaken to his core.  "That was horrible! I am in a great deal of pain!"

Baylore said, "You nearly died. Lets retreat so you can rest and clean yourself off."

The team retreated back to the cellar, holding the medallion aloft to keep the specters at bay. They rested for an hour and caught their breath.

DM Note-
Well THAT was exciting! 

Bordar has a passive Perception of nine. NINE! He walked right into the pit. The fall was 1d10 damage. Bordar took it in stride. The acid however was 4d10 damage. I rolled 10, 10, 10, and 1. I gulped. Brenna's player saw the roll and winced. I told Bordar's player 31 damage.

He said "I'm out!"

Baylore's player said "That is very very bad!"

Bordar's player asked why.

Baylore explained, "Whenever you take damage when you are dying, you automatically fail two death saving throws."

Close. The rule is on page 197 of the PHB and says the following: 

Damage at 0 Hit Points. If you take any damage while you have 0 hit points, you suffer a death saving throw failure. If the damage is from a critical hit, you suffer two failures instead. If the damage equals or exceeds your hit point maximum, you suffer instant death.
He was thinking of the times he got hit by an attack while at 0 hit points, which is an automatic critical and thus does two death saves in damage. Damage from an acid is not a critical hit. Its just damage.

In any case, the players worked out a plan. Baylore used his action to retrieve rope from his pack. I allowed Brenna to take the rope and tie it around herself in place of her movement. She prepared a healing spell action in case she became adjacent to Bordar. Finally, Aella kicked Brenna, shoving her into the pit. I had Baylore make a Strength saving throw vs 10 to hold onto the rope and Brenna made a Dexterity saving throw vs 10 to execute the maneuver. She healed Bordar for 8 hit points. Bordar stood up, grabbed Brenna, and used his magic boots to jump out. 

Great teamwork all around!

However, everyone was low on HP so they decided to take a short rest, spend some Hit Dice, and recharge some Sorcerer spell slots.

Return to the Corridors

After an hour or two of rest the B-Team returned to the secret passages. Brenna held the medallion aloft as they easily bypassed the spectral guardians. This time Baylore took the advance position. Baylore moved slowly, cautiously, checking the floor and walls inch by inch. He found a two-foot wide path around the sides of the acid pit. At the end of the corridor was a door.

Aella said, "Wait, that can't be right! We just looped around. That door should open onto the corridor leading to the minotaur room!"

Baylore shrugged. He checked the door. It opened outward. He found a wire on the door that connected to the ceiling.

"Its trapped." he announced.

"Can you disarm it?" inquired Brenna.

"Nope! Not in my skillset."

He tied some string around the door handle and the team backed away. He pulled the door open and a massive stone pillar in the ceiling slammed down right where one would stand if they were opening the door. Beyond the door was a blank wall.

"Okay, that makes sense." said Aella.

DM Note-
Aella's player is an architect in real life so she's usually the group mapper. Plus she's good at it. She was very confused that the door didn't line up. At first I thought she had misunderstood my descriptions and mapped it incorrectly. I looked at her map and assured her, "Nope. You are one hundred percent accurate so far."

The corridor was a dead end.

They retreated to the four-way intersection. Before they could advance, Baylore spotted a thin metal wire strung tightly between the walls at just about thigh height for an adult human. Low enough to make it awkward to crawl under and high enough to make stepping over it difficult. Just ten feet beyond the tripwire was another four-way intersection.

Baylore said, "Lets go around."

"Why? Why don't we cut it?" demanded Bordar.

Baylore stood back, "Cutting it will activate whatever its supposed to trigger. So go ahead, be my guest. Just let us back away."

Bordar considered this, "Good point. Lets go around."

They continued down the main corridor and took a left at the T-junction. That corridor connected with another T-junction but another tripwire brought them to a stop. They backed up and took the other corridor. It turned right with two doors located in the corner.

Baylore could find no tripwires or traps so he opened the door.

A  ballista located just behind the door shot a heavy black iron bolt the size of a small spear. It struck the wall behind Baylore with a loud "Cthunk!" and wobbled.

"Okay then," said Baylore , impressed. He opened the second door.

It, too, shot a heavy black bolt from an automated ballista. It struck Baylore in the shoulder. He staggered back from the impact.

"Ugh! Didn't expect there to be two!"

Brenna helped remove the bolt and applied dressing and a medicinal patch to the wound.

The corridor to the right connected to the second four-way intersection they saw beyond the tripwire. They advanced and took the corridor to the left.

The Curse of the Jade Vampire
The short corridor opened into the corner of a room forty feet square. Another exit lie in the near corner to the left. In the center of the room was a large jade statue of a beautiful elven woman. The statue was exquisite.

All around the room were open chests overflowing with gold coins and various gemstones. A large metal strongbox was locked closed on the far side of the room.

Baylore and Brenna looked at one another and simultaneously said the word, "Mimic."

Brenna took out her crossbow and loosed a bolt into one of the open chests. Nothing happened.

The party loitered in the entry while Brenna and Baylore considered the next move. Bordar strode right up to the nearest open chest, "Fine, I'LL trigger the mimic!" He began hacking away at the chest and the gold with his axes. Gold coins went flying and the chest was reduced to splinters. To everyone's surprise, the axes sundered several gold coins.

Bordar picked up a broken coin, "Hey! These aren't gold! These are WOOD!"

At that moment the statue transformed from a beautiful elven maiden into a horrible fanged nightmare. The jade statue stepped off its pedestal and crept near Bordar with its hands raised like rending claws.

Brenna shouted, "Stand back!" and held aloft the medallion. The jade statue was undeterred. "Wait, what?"

Baylore ran to Bordar's aid. The monstrous jade statue slashed at the pirate pugilist with its claws and bit him on the shoulder with its long snake-like fangs.  Baylore gritted his teeth at the pain and felt his muscles begin to tighten. He had been cursed!

Bordar was next to be bitten by the jade vampire. The dwarf stiffened and found it difficult to fight.

The jade vampire took advantage of its opponent's lethargy and continued to slash and bite them. Throughout the onslaught both Bordar and Baylore continued to hack and punch the statue while Brenna and Aella lobbed magical attacks.

Eventually the statue was shattered and the curse was broken - the pair were returned to normal.

The party split up and examined different parts of the room. The chests were indeed all filled with fake wooden slugs painted gold.

Baylore spotted tiny holes placed all around the strongbox, "Its trapped. I'm guessing needles."

"I'll smash it open!" declared Bordar.

"No!" said Baylore , "You'll just set off the traps and fill the room with needles."

Aella said, "I've got an idea." She made everyone stand back twenty feet from the strong box and cast a spell to freeze the lock, hoping the ice would expand and it would break open. The lock froze but it triggered the trap, filling the area with tiny poisoned needles.

"Told you!" said Baylore .

Bordar looked in the strongbox and found nothing but a note that said, "Congratulations, Thief! I hope the effort was worth it!"

Bordar rolled his dwarven eyes.

Meanwhile Baylore found a hidden door behind a tapestry.

The Iron Guardians
The party explored the concealed corridor. It opened into another room forty foot square. The walls, floor, and ceiling of the room were covered in plates of metal. Two iron pillars held up the ceiling in the center of the room. The pillars resembled glowing red coils. The air shimmered from the heat radiated from the metal plates. The room was, for all intents and purposes, the inside of an oven.

Baylore said, "I don't buy it." He moved into the room. The heat and metal plates disappeared and were replaced with to large iron-clad automatons shaped like minotaurs. Each minotaur had an arm that ended in an axe blade and an arm that ended in a heavy hammer head. The iron guardians charged the human pirate.

Brenna rushed into the room to help Baylore . In so doing she became trapped in the corner.

The second guardian moved to block the entrance, trapping Bordar and Aella in the corridor.

Brenna cast an Acid Spash spell. The acid struck the nearer guardian and splashed onto the second. The guardians iron covering began to corrode.

The torso of the nearer guardian began spinning while its legs remained still. The whirling axe-arm and hammer-arm repeatedly slammed into Baylore and Brenna.

Bordar attacked the guardian blocking the corridor while Aella hurled chaos magic at the automaton.

Eventually they were able to destroy the automaton blocking the corridor and Bordar rushed to join the fight in the room. The second iron guardian was soon likewise destroyed.

Upon the defeat of the automatons, the party surveyed the room.

Bordar pointed out, "Where are the prisoners? I thought this was a prison."

The room was filled with chests of gold, stolen bolts of fine cloth, and other treasures. A narrow flat object in the corner was covered by a sheet. Brenna peeked under the sheet and saw a mirror with a decorated border of intricately carved gold.

Brenna said, "I think they're in the mirror."

Bordar incredulously replied, "What?"

"I think this is a magic mirror. It traps souls. There's a password to activate it and another password to release a prisoner."

"What's the password?" demanded Bordar.

Brenna shrugged. She held up the medallion but nothing happened. She started guessing myriad passwords.

"What was the name of the sea god? Hydrox? Hydron? Hail Hydros! Open Hydrox!"

None worked.

DM Note-
The password was "Hail Olhydra" and when Brenna's player got close I was like "C'mon. C'mon. SO CLOSE!" Eventually Brenna's player got frustrated and just started shouting random words. I had to step in and say, "Okay, you're done. Leave it alone."

"We should rest on this." suggested Baylore . "Let's hole up in this room."

Aella beetled her brow, "I know we're low on spells and healing, but we literally just woke up and started our day like three hours ago."

"Have you got some place to go?"

"What about food?"

"We've all got dry tasteless rations."

"And water? We're each brought a gallon of water onto this island and we drank that yesterday."

"Deal with it."

With that, they spent the entire day in the vault studying all the items for magical properties, counting the gold, and resting. They slept on the floor, ate only dry tasteless rations, and went without water.

Eventually they decided to leave the vault.

Baylore said, "We'll interrogate the prisoners in the cellar. They'll know the passwords."

Brenna said, "We should take the mirror with us. Its portable."

Aella suggested, "We should put it in the magical bag of holding!"

Baylore , Brenna, and Bordar looked at Aella in shock and simultaneously cried, "NO! LET'S NOT DO THAT!"

"Why not?"

Brenna explained, "The mirror is an extradimensional prison. The Bag of Holding is an extradimensional space. If you put extradimensional stuff within an extradimensional bag, bad things happen."


The mirror was easily portable and they carried it out of the Winding Way.

Mirror Mirror
When asked about the mirror, Odium said he had no idea it was in the vault. He was sent to audit the ledgers and was only visiting. He knew nothing about the mirror or any passwords. He spitefully pointed out that the only person who MIGHT know the password was Ozymandias and that they killed him.

The young acolyte who had been caught cleaning the meditation room shouted his angry defiance at the infidels. The elemental princess of the oceans will rise up and swallow them. Hail Olhydra!"

Brenna nodded and turned to the mirror, holding up the medallion, which she thought was a holy symbol, and said "Hail Olhydra!"

The mirror flashed, filling the room with light. Brenna, Bordar, Aella, and the others shielded their eyes from the glare.

When the light died down, Baylore was gone!

Baylore was trapped within the mirror!

To Be Continued...