Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Final Assault, Part 2 - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 47

Empress Seklaz drifted into the submerged throne room accompanied by her wave shaper and handmaidens. That disgusting piece of flotsam Baron Kepmak was sitting on the throne.

Baron Kepmak was laughing at some off-color joke told to him by one of his champions. He noticed the entrance of Seklaz, "Your highness, I assure you we will return your lost lobster to you in due time."

She hovered there for a moment, glaring at the four-armed baron. He looked at her as if wondering, "What else?"

She was already annoyed at the loss of Shern, her prized fighting lobster. Now the floundering idiot refused to vacate her chair.

Her words were measured but barely contained her growing annoyance. "You will vacate the throne for your empress."

Baron Kepmak finally realized his faux pas and bolted out of the throne made of corals and shells. He bowed apologetically as Seklaz moved to take his place. Her lip curled - it reeked of him. 

No matter. She was only here temporarily. Soon the combined forces of the sahuagin armies would converge on this stronghold. From here they would perform the ritual that would flood the entire coast. The surface dwellers would drown and her armies would quickly conquer the new territory. 

The priestesses had already demonstrated the power of the ritual in sinking the former lizard-folk stronghold which they now occupied by eighty feet. Soon they would complete the sinking of the island and begin capturing sacrifices for the greater ritual to come. 

A sahuagin warrior swam urgently into the throne room. "Your highness!" he blurted. 

Empress Seklaz glared at the warrior. The wave shaper chastised the warrior, "You will observe proper decorum!"

The warrior regained his composure and bowed. He waited to be recognized. The wave shaper said, "You may speak."

"Your highness, we are under attack. The surface scum attack from above while mer-folk, lizard-folk, and locathah attack the lower entrances underwater. An advance force of surface scum have gained entry through the outer and inner gate. Your highness - it appears to be the thieves who stole your lobster."

Empress Seklaz shot out of her throne. Her beady eyes flashed with anger. "You will kill the intruders at once!"

The warrior bowed and withdrew. 

Empress Seklaz looked at that oafish lout Kepmak, "Well? What are you standing around for? Go at once and defeat these intruders! Defend your stronghold, you idiot!"


The B-Team:
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Storm Sorceress from Ket, daughter of the king of the sea elves, Deck Sorceress of the Sea Ghost.
  • Alot Aname - Neutral Good Warforged Fighter, ancient sentinel of a wizard's fortress, spent several decades deactivated underwater, Bosun of the Sea Ghost.
  • Captain Baylore - Neutral Human Pirate and Pugilist (Monk), Captain of the Sea Ghost.
  • Bordar Graniteshaper - Lawful Good Dwarven Bearer of Grudges (Barbarian), exiled from his clan, Ballast of the Sea Ghost.
  • Craig "Blunderbuss" Oxworth - Lawful Good Dwarven Priest of St. Ogden (Cleric), sailor and shipwright.  
DM Note-
The party had thirty rounds before the force from Saltmarsh arrived at the front gate. It was now round 11.

Never Split the Party
Craig Oxworth was alone in a dark hallway surrounded by hostile fish-men. A celestial maelstrom of tiny hammers swirled around him, protecting him, grinding away at any foe that approached him. He advanced down the corridor and the fish-men retreated from the vortex. 

Ahead of him in the darkness two fishmen collapsed. The silhouette of Captain Baylore briefly stood over their bodies before melding into the shadows. Suddenly Captain Baylore stood behind Oxworth.

"There's a whole bunch of sahuagin warriors in the room to the left. There's, like, maybe three waiting to ambush you in the room to the right. Be careful."

"Where are the others?" asked Craig.

Baylore looked behind them, "They're invisible and strung out behind you."

"Are we  still making a run to take out the leaders on the second level?"

"No. We'll never make it in time. The forces from Saltmarsh will be here in two minutes. Change of plans. We're going to take out as many sahuagin warriors up here as we can. Are we good with that?"

"Got it." 

Baylore turned to the empty hallway littered with the dead bodies of sahuagin, "Everybody hear that? Don't worry about a stealth mission. Take out as many sahuagin as you can! There's a bunch in the room to the left."

The other invisible members of the party voiced their assent. 

Baylore turned back to Craig, "Release your spiritual guardians. Let the others through so they can attack. They'll become visible and once you can see them you can pray for more spiritual protection from your crazy-ass god."

Craig nodded and the vortex of hammers vanished. 

Baylore and Craig were immediately shoved to the side as Bordar, the invisible dwarf berserker charged past screaming.

Baylore said, "That will keep him busy. Alot, wherever you are come with me. We're going back to the entrance to keep the way clear for the forces from Saltmarsh." 

Aella became visible, "What about me?"

Baylore pointed in the direction of the screaming battle-dwarf, "Go with him."

Into the Barracks
Bordar slammed into the wall of sahuagin fish-men, his twin axes hewing a path of bloody slaughter. The room was filled with over two dozen fish-men warriors. They swarmed towards the entrance, blocking Bordar's advance.

Aella cast a spell and a magical tidal wave rose up out of the stone floor and washed over the attacking sahuagin knocking many off their feet.

Craig Oxworth stepped behind Bordar and prayed to Saint Ogden, Chosen Defender of the Gates of Death. He was once again enveloped in a swirling cyclone of celestial hammers that chewed through any enemy that stayed too close to him. The cyclone of hammers helped clear the path for Bordar's advance. Bordar moved to the edge of the cyclone and engaged the enemy as they stood just outside its effects. A few valiant sahuagin charged through the cyclone to attack Craig only to fall before the holy defense.

They had slowly advanced thirty feet into the room before they heard a loud and ominous presence in the darkness on the far side of the large chamber. There was a brief flash of light from a spark generated by a javelin. For a split second they caught a glimpse of a massive four-armed sahuagin surrounded by a coterie of armored warriors. 

Manning the Gate
Back at the entrance, Captain Baylore saw that the portcullis was still down. The room was littered with nearly a dozen sahuagin bodies. A handful of sahuagin warriors were on the other side of the portcullis - trapped outside. The pirate captain examined the large capstan that raised and lowered the portcullis was heavy and would require some effort to work. 

"Alot, you here?"

A disembodied voice answered, "Right here."

"You raise the portcullis and I'll handle these guys as they come through."

"I can raise the portcullis," said another disembodied voice. It was Oceanus. "I would have raised it already but I was by myself. I didn't want to get swarmed by those guys."

"Okay, you raise the portcullis. Alot and I will deal with the sahuagin."

Baylore and Alot stood in front of the portcullis. Sahuagin were poking their spears between the bars at them. Alot once again became visible as he drew his short sword and stabbed back through the bars. The Sahuagin withdrew from the portcullis and away from Alots' attacks. 

The capstan began turning on its own as the invisible Oceanus went to work. The portcullis bars raised to knee-level.

Captain Baylore stepped away from the portcullis and disappeared into a shadow. He reappeared in the vestibule on the other side of the portcullis and engaged some of the sahuagin there. 

The portcullis was raised to chest height. Alot crawled underneath and engaged the sahuagin warriors. One warrior blocked Alot's attack and disengaged. The warrior ducked underneath the portcullis and pulled the quick-release pin that connected the capstan chain to the portcullis. The heavy iron portcullis slammed shut with a loud bang trapping Alot and Baylore in the vestibule.

Alot cursed, "God-DAMMIT!"

Baylore was fighting a sahuagin warrior in the back of the room, "Alot, do you got these?"

Alot, still annoyed at the warrior's subterfuge, sighed, "Yes. I got it."

Baylore backed into the darkness and reappeared back in the inner chamber on the other side of the portcullis. He quickly dispatched the warrior that released the chain. 

"I'm going back to help the others. You finish up here."

Baylore stepped backwards into shadow and was gone.

Alot dispatched the remaining sahuagin and returned to the portcullis.

Oceanus, now visible, said, "I can reattach the chain and raise it again. But it's going to take a little bit."

Alot took off his backpack and withdrew a crowbar, "Don't worry about it."

He took the crowbar to the portcullis and wedged it into the side. He was able to use the leverage of the crowbar to pop the portcullis out of its rails. The heavy iron gate fell to the floor. 

DM Note-
Alot's player said he used the crowbar to open the portcullis. He rolled well - with Advantage thanks to the crowbar - but my mind had trouble imagining how the crowbar helped. 

I asked Alot's player, "How would a crowbar help? It would only raise the portcullis a few inches. No wait, I got it." I started describing what I thought but I stopped myself. I turned it around, "Instead of me saying it, you describe it. You tell me how the crowbar opened the portcullis."

Alot's player was momentarily confused, "I'll be honest. I figured a good die roll would do the trick."

I said, "Yeah, but paint me a word picture. How did it help? I have an idea but let's hear yours."

I think its important to let players have some narrative control, especially when applying game mechanics to a situation that doesn't immediately make sense.

Alot's player stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. He described how the crowbar popped the gate out of its rails in the wall. I said, "Genius! Well done! That was better than my idea!"

My idea, BTW, was simply to bend the bars wide enough to allow someone to squeeze through. His idea was far superior. 

After disabling the portcullis Alot turned to the heavy stone doors of the main entrance. He used a hammer and some iron spikes to wedge the door permanently open. 

He took a look outside. He saw the boats carrying the forces of Saltmarsh approaching. They would be here in a little over a minute. 

Arrival of Kepmak
The large four-armed Baron Kepmak entered the barracks opposite the party. He walked slowly and cautiously into the room. He was accompanied by eight of his finest champions. He carried a javelin in one of his four hands that occasionally sparked and arced with the ground, briefly illuminating the monstrous sahuagin noble and the room still filled with over a dozen warriors. 

The warriors cleared a path in front of the baron. 

Bordar slew the last remaining sahuagin with which he was engaged. There was no one between him and the baron.

Bordar said to the others, "Hey, he's got a javelin of lightning too, just like mine!"

Craig said, "Bordar, that javelin of lightning IS yours."

Bordar looked confused, "What do you mean?"

Aella explained, "Remember when we were running away from this place yesterday? You threw your javelin but didn't pick it up. That is YOUR javelin of lightning - the one you left!"

Bordar's eyes narrowed in anger, "Oh, that sumbitch must PAY!"

Craig grabbed Bordar by the back of his collar, "Yeah, but right now, let's withdraw to the corridor and get some cover."

Baron Kepmak continued to approach.

Not a Good Round for Kepmak
Aella, Bordar, and Craig had withdrawn to the corridor. Captain Baylore came jogging down the corridor from the entrance, "What's going on?"

Craig darted across the opening to the barracks to the other side of the corridor. Baron Kepmak saw the dwarf and threw his javelin of lightning. 

He missed and the javelin stuck into the wall. 

DM Note-
Dammit! So disappointing!

Craig filled Captain Baylore in on what was going on, "There's a big guy in there and he looks tough."

Baylore made a quick glance around the corner to assess the situation. He rolled his eyes, "Is that all? Okay, follow my lead!"

Baylore withdrew into the darkness. Suddenly he stepped in front of Baron Kepmak and delivered a severe strike to the fish-man's solar plexus. 

Baron Kepmak staggered backwards. He stood still, unable to move or breathe. 

Baylore turned to the others and said, "He's all yours". He sauntered back to the corridor brushing off his hands.

Aella withdrew a scroll and opened it. Although she could see in the total darkness of the sahuagin lair her vision couldn't discern the words on the scroll. 

DM Note-
I ruled that you can't read in dim light. 

I swear I read that somewhere. Maybe 4th edition. I honestly can't find it now but I swear I remember it.

Aella's player cried foul and said that she could read in moonlight or dim firelight. I apologized and said my ruling stood. Even if its not RAW, its my interpretation and it makes it more interesting. 

Bordar was angry. He hurled both his magical axes - Fate and Fury - at the stunned baron. They missed and clanged to the floor. He reached to his back and withdrew a javelin.

It crackled to life with sparks of electricity.

DM Note-
Me: "Hey! I said you don't have your javelin of lightning. I was serious."

Bordar's Player: (chuckling) "Oh, but this is my OTHER javelin of lightning!"

Me: "I thought Alot had it!"

Alot's Player: "Nope, I gave mine to him after we escaped. He's legit."

Me: "Oh. Oh ho ho. That's awesome!"

Bordar pointed the javelin at Baron Kepmak. Lightning arced and danced off his hands.

It was enough light for Aella to read the scroll. She stepped forward and spoke aloud the incantation. Baron Kepmak, still stunned from Baylore's strike, became enveloped in magical force. He was held tight. 

Baron Kepmak's champions ran to his aid. They charged at Bordar but were unable to stop his throw.

Bordar hurled the javelin over the heads of the baron's champions. The javelin struck the baron. Lightning exploded and ran in a line back to Bordar's outstretched hands. 

Baron Kepmak shuddered and convulsed before falling to the floor dead. His charred corpse lay lifeless on the ground steaming.

Alot Covers the Flank
The Portcullis ran past Oceanus down a corridor leading to the armory room. The corridor was protected by two warriors armed with spears and two heavy fighters armed with hammers. Alot drew his own hammer and dove into the defenders. 

The four sahuagin defended their stronghold with a dedication and ferocity Alot had never before witnessed. His magical hammer was a blur of motion during the pitched battle with the four fish-men. 

The two hammer-wielding sahuagin put up the strongest defense. There they managed to hold Alot at bay for nearly an entire minute. 

Ultimately the four sahuagin lay on the floor dead but Alot had been brutally injured. His mechanical gears strained. His metal bones were fractured. Artificial blood ran out the gaps in his heavy draconic plate armor in iridescent rivulets. 

He paused for a moment to catch his breath. He heard a loud electric zap echo down the corridor ahead. Something big had happened. He regained his composure and ran towards the fight.

DM Note-
Alot has an Armor Class of 25. Let me repeat that for clarity: TWENTY-FIVE. Alot's player built him and has developed him over time as an experiment in maximizing armor class. 

I can only hit him with a natural twenty - or by warriors with advantage who have been blessed. He is nigh invulnerable and is unaccustomed to taking any damage whatsoever. 

Luckily, against enemies with less than their full hit points, sahuagin attack with advantage. 

Last week I did eight points of damage to Alot and he was still injured. Each sahuagin got two to three attack with advantage - so I got four to six chances to roll a natural twenty per sahuagin. 

This added up and I was able to score multiple hits against him! Every time I hit Alot I did a little dance in front of my computer and the other players came to enjoy my celebration.

Then I reduced Alot to half his maximum hit points - he was "bloodied". I was so excited! I did an extra-special celebratory dance! 

I bloodied Alot! Mister Twenty-Five Armor Class! Bloodied! 

I was so happy!

There was an audible gasp that swept through the ranks of the sahuagin warriors. Their leader, Baron Kepmak, was dead. They froze in panic. A few turned and fled.

Those champions that were still engaged with Bordar, Craig, and Baylore at the entrance continued to fight. They fought to the death in search of vengeance for their fallen leader.

The champions in the room retreated slowly and covered the escape of the other sahuagin as they began to flee out the exit at the back of the room. So many were fleeing that they formed a clog at the exit.

Having defeated the champions at the entrance, Bordar and Baylore moved farther into the room. They allowed the champions to slowly cover the retreat. 

Baylore moved to the exit to the left that led to the armory. There he met Alot. 

The party was reunited. They could hear the shouts of armored fighting men charging past the vestibule at the main entrance. The sound of fighting in other chambers soon echoed down every corridor. 

Duke Obertus Feldren, Marshall of Seaton, and his daughter Lemundo charged into armory and barracks. Commander Fireborn, wearing the armor of an officer of Keoland, hobbled right behind them on his prosthetic leg.  

They met Captain Baylore and his crew and clasped hands. 

Captain Baylore and the crew of the Sea Ghost had been relieved. They had accomplished their mission and had cleared the way for an easy retaking of the lizard-folk stronghold.

The battle was won, they could rest.

To be Continued...

Final Outcome
Baron Kepmak defeated = 25 victory points
Opening the gate = 15 victory points
Blademaster Mahakat defeated = 10 victory points
Coral Smahsers, 5 points each x 8 = 40 victory points
Champions, 3 points each x 9 = 27 victory points
Warriors, 1 point each x 45! = 45 victory points
Total score = 162 victory points

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