Clearing the Field – Hand of Light, Episode 10

29 Mirtul, 1367 DR

Sorry, I’m way behind on this campaign log. All of these events happened at the group’s last session on February 4. I got busy preparing for the Marmalade Dog 22 convention I attended this last weekend, and – yeah, I won’t lie – there was probably some laziness mixed in here and there. Anyway, on with the recap!

After a short rest – which the Hand of Light definitely earned – Lyr casts seeming on the group to disguise their appearances. The bard figures it will help them move through the compound a bit easier and perhaps avoid confrontations. Lyr, Dunkle, and Karn appear as githyanki warriors; Dexter becomes a mind flayer; Dona’s form shifts to that of her sister, a servant girl of the githyanki; and Grull – well, Grull remains Grull (a minotaur).

The adventurers take a short rest with their minotaur buddy, Grull.

The heroes float down the central shaft of the level they are currently on to find themselves in rough-hewn corridors. Behind some doors, they discover a barracks full of enslaved minotaurs wearing collars. The heroes tell the minotaurs they are there to rescue them from the githyanki, but some complications arise since some of them appear to be githyanki. In the end, they remove the collars from the minotaurs and convince them to help them against the githyanki.

The minotaurs tell them what they can find in the lower levels of the compound: a minotaur guard post, a butchering room, and the dock area. They also tell them about Krovlockavoc, a bugbear leader in some tunnels to the north.

The Hand of Light rescues more minotaurs from the githyanki.

The Hand of the Light decides to go down to the lower levels, first. There they rescue some more minotaurs, removing the collars that compel them to obey the githyanki. At this point, all the minotaurs have been rescued, and their leader doesn’t want to risk is tribe to the cruelty of the githyanki. He wants to take his people and leave, but the heroes convince him to lend them just two warriors. In the end the minotaurs agree to wait in the barracks while the heroes clear out the githyanki compound, and two minotaurs accompany the heroes (one is Grull).

The heroes wisely decide to sneak past a pack of gith hounds...

The adventurers bypass a lair of gith hounds, preferring not to fight them. It appears that the seeming magic fooled the hounds. [Gith hounds are a custom monster I made up. Nothing, too, complicated. Just a hell hound refitted with a psychic damage breath weapon. The idea was to have something that fit the githyanki theme, and these seemed pretty cool.]

They enter a long shaft that leads up and down. The walls of the shaft are covered with magical runes. Dexter investigates the runes, but is unable to unsure what they do.

They heroes press on and discover a chamber with counters lining the walls. The counters are stained with blood and various butchering implements – mostly cleavers and hooks – cover them. Empty crates and a large barrel of salt stand in the room.

Directly off the chamber is another chamber with an iron gate barring it off. Within the barred off chamber – effectively a large cell – are dozens of elves in tattered robes. They cower against the walls and cry out in fear when they see the heroes, disguised as githyanki. It would appear that the elves form the staple of the githyanki’s diet, and this chamber and the other serve as cattle pen and butchering block.

After great effort, Lyr manages to convince the elves that the heroes are but wearing disguises to infiltrate the compound. Then they free the slaves and have them wait there until they can clear a path out through the docks.

Going up the shaft, they enter through locked doors to find a strange russet-colored pool. Dexter searches through his memory of the arcane and determines this is a portal to Gehenna, the plane of suspicion and greed and the home of cruel fiends. Quickly retreating, the Hand of Light locks the door and erects an impromptu barrier composed of table legs on the other side. [I was kind of hoping they’d step through the portal. That would have been fun…]

The Hand of Light fights a pack of gith hounds.

As the heroes float back down the shaft, they trigger the magical runes in the shaft. Waves of psychic energy roll over them, not only causing great mental damage but also stunning some of them. And, as a consolation prize, the gith hounds they had bypassed enter the shaft and attack them. [The rune trap was designed as a warning alarm against intruders for the minotaur and gith hound guards.]

Things are looking quite dire for the Hand of Light after two hounds unleash waves of psychic energy at them. However, a well-placed hypnotic pattern from Lyr neutralizes several of the gith hounds. Then it’s just a matter of surround and beat down.

At the bottom of the shaft, the heroes find enslaved, collared dwarves. After freeing them, they discover that the dwarves’ minds have been broken after what must have been decades of enslavement. From there, the heroes find the docks and a way out of the compound. They escort the elves from the butchering room and the dwarves to their commandeered githyanki ship – stationed a few miles away – where they should be safe.

The Hand of Light then goes back to the top-most level they had reached. They explore a section of rooms which turns out to be githyanki barracks. However, they find neither githyanki nor anything of much interest.

The Hand of Light walks into a bugbear ambush -- with a mind flayer thrown in for kicks.

The heroes enter another section of the compound which turns out to be a maze of sorts. As they are navigating the narrow corridors – they had to leave the two minotaurs out in the corridor – bugbears ambush them. Two bugbears engage the minotaurs; three take the heroes in the front; and a mind flayer engages Dona and Dunkle.

After the bugbear ambush, there is no way the heroes are letting the last two monsters flee.

Dunkle begins to freak out [and rightly so since I did my best to have the previous mind flayer feast on his brains], and the mind flayer uses dominate person on Dona but fails. As the other heroes take out the minotaurs, Dexter casts banish on the mind flayer. The evil creature disappears and doesn’t return. The last two bugbears try to flee, but the minotaurs and adventurers trap and slaughter them.

Beat up and bloodied, the heroes go back to the servant’s barracks for a short rest. Dexter prudently casts Leomund’s Tiny Hut for them to rest in. Fifteen minutes into their rest, the door to the barracks opens to admit a githyanki. The creature examines the opaque wall of the hut for a moment and then quickly leaves.

It dawns on the heroes that it’s probably safe to assume at this point that the entire compound has been alerted to their presence. [And no more Mr. Nice DM.]

The Hand of Light

Below are the famed members of the Hand of Light adventuring party.

Aelyrendar "Lyr" Fairsong - Bard

Dexter Ambrose - Wizard

Dona Falone - Barbarian

Dunkle Fledermaus - Rogue

Karn Mondel - Paladin of Torm

Trouble with Veneration

This is the adventure I designed for the Marmalade Dog 22 convention. It features various types of encounters: social interaction, stealth, combat, traps, and a tough final boss battle. The adventure is designed to run in a four-hour window.

I play tested the adventure with my Hand of Light group a month prior to the convention. The play test was invaluable to working out the kinks. I also learned that I needed to cut a lot of material if I wanted the convention groups to have a chance of finishing. I then DM'd this adventure three times during the convention. The first two groups of players seemed to enjoy it a lot. The last group of players was a little hard to read, but I think they liked it.

I had tons of fun running the adventure, especially the first two times. By the third time I ran the adventure, I think I was just tired from three days of gaming and staying up late, and I had also run it twice already. So, running it seemed less fun for me.

Overview: Yuan-ti are beginning to rebuild their ancient empire in Trallas. Their leader Soakosh has gathered many yuan-ti that had gone into hiding and is trying to complete the transformation to become an Anathema. Once he has done so, he can lead his people to dominate the region. The heroes are tasked with finding the source of evil in Trallas and putting an end to it. Victory is achieved by slaying Soakosh, either before or after he becomes an Anathema. When the heroes arrive in Trallas they have but a short time before Soakosh completes the ritual to become an Anathema.

Creatures Encountered: yuan-ti (several types, both from the Monster Manual and Volo's Guide to Monsters)

Levels: This adventure is designed for a party of 5 level-6 characters.


Trouble with Veneration - level 6 adventure (20 downloads)

 

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 3 – Hunting Ashton Sanguine

Session Date: March 11, 2017

In-Game Dates: 1 Flamerule to 2 Flamerule, 1367 DR

Previously on Heroes of GGG…

  • The heroes were commissioned to track down a criminal named Ashton Sanguine who tried to assassinate Grand Harper Pharlonae Song-joy of the New Olamn bard’s college in Waterdeep.
  • Near the village of Rassalantar, the heroes made a deal with an old lady, Granny Tichwillow, to recover the corpse of her sister Agnes who was killed under charges of witchcraft by a local order of knights of Torm.
  • The heroes infiltrated the crypts of Gauntlet Hall, recovered the corpse, and killed several knights and a priest of Torm on their way out.
  • After returning the corpse to Granny Tichwillow, the old woman cast divination magic, telling them where they could find Ashton Sanguine.
  • The heroes stormed a fortified plateau and ruined tower occupied by orcs and a giant, capturing one orc to interrogate.

The orc yields very quickly under interrogation, telling the heroes that Ashton Sanguine can be found in a cave complex behind the ruined tower. The monster exaggerates the number of orcs that can be found within, but Nigel shakes the truth out of him. Just a small force. The heroes then release the orc who promptly flees.

As the heroes approach the cave, a dark clothed figure from atop the mountainside above the cave entrance shows himself. He introduces himself as Shadoestar and, having heard the others interrogating the orc, says he was also hired by the Grand Harper to hunt down Ashton Sanguine. The heroes welcome him onboard with little fanfare or questions, though Guld secretly sees the newcomer – who claims to fight with fists and feet – as competition for the spot of “deadliest monk.” [This is the new player who fills our players out at five. He also plays a monk.]

Before they can move to the cave, though, a giant butterfly lands on the plateau. Shump seems to be drunk with glee as he approaches the magnificent creature, calling out softly to it, “Here Butter Bee. Come here, girl.” Using animal handling skills, Shump befriends the creatures and climbs on its back, and they fly up into the air.

“Sorry, guys,” the half-orc calls down at them. “But I’ve always dreamed of riding a giant butterfly. You all got this orc stuff handled, right?”

The heroes assure the happy barbarian that they do, and Nigel asks Shump to check in on his hippogriff in Waterdeep. Shump happily agrees to do just that as he flies off to the north.

In the opposite direction from Waterdeep.

[What? Cheesy exit for the NPC that’s no longer needed now that we have our fifth player? Whatever. I do this stuff for free. Sue me.]

The heroes silently enter the first chamber of the cave where they discover dozens of large crates and barrels. The crates are full of salted meat and other foodstuffs; the barrels hold ale that tastes like piss. Nigel comments that it tastes wonderfully familiar and tries to dunk his head in a barrel, though Shadoestar restrains him.

A corridor with two doors, one closer and one a little farther down, lead away from the first chamber. The heroes array themselves outside the first door – the darkness is causing trouble for the two humans in the group, though Elodin relieves the problem a bit with light cast on Rusty’s necklace – and begin to listen at the door. They hear orcish voices within laughing and talking, though Guld, the only one who speaks orc, can barely make out what they are saying. [Really bad perception checks… Is this a foreshadowing of how light monk vs. dark monk will turn out?]

Rolling his eyes at the other monk’s poor hearing, Shadoestar does a spinning back kick and smashes open the double doors. The small chamber on the other side has bedrolls spread about it and a door leading into a side chamber. Two orogs in plate armor and an orc shaman sit around a table playing dice. Another orog sleeps nearby.

“By Gruumsh’s eye, what the hell is this?” the shaman shouts. [I think all the players were itching for a fight. There wasn’t a whisper of negotiations, and they were rolling their initiatives almost before I asked them to. The players got the drop on them, too, gaining a surprise round.]

Guld and Shadoestar dash into the room, laying into the orogs with quarterstaff, fists, and feet. Nigel and Elodin fire eldritch blasts and firebolts into the fray. Rusty takes up position next to the two casters, “guarding the rear.”

The orogs pull massive greataxes from their backs and have at the two monks. One of them bellows in Orc, “Intruders! In the sleepy room!” The orc shaman blesses the three orogs and bangs on the door to the adjoining chamber, shouting in Common, “Adventurers are raiding the cache!”

As the battle continues, another orog and orc shaman exit the door that was further down the main corridor. The orc shaman blesses himself and orog, and the orog rushes Nigel, the closest target, laying into the fragile bard with his massive greataxe.

From within room adjoining the sleeping quarters, a lute-bearing half-elf emerges and casts a small burst of thunderous energy on the two monks, battering them about. Shadoestar recognizes the man as Ashton Sanguine. Then the half-elf darts back into the adjoining room, out of sight.

Things beginning to go south just a bit, Elodin launches a spell in the chamber, filling half of it with roaring flames. Both orogs and the orc shaman are burned severely, and one of the orogs goes down. All the bedrolls and furniture are now ablaze.

Nigel moves away from the large sweaty orog towering above him and takes a nasty hit for the trouble. However, Rusty is now standing between the bard and the creature. The bard probably wouldn’t have lasted long otherwise. Nigel then begins to fire more eldritch blasts at orogs.

Shadoestar and Guld continue to work on the orogs before them, wearing them down and dropping another. [Shadoestar is slowly edging Guld out on damage and kills…] Rusty lays into the orog in the corridor, cutting him up with his dual scimitars.

The battle proceeds with the tide shifting more and more to the heroes’ favor. Once all the orogs are dead, the last orc shaman makes a dash for the cave exit. Most of the heroes move to head him off and then take him down.

Shadoestar, however, shadow steps into the room that Ashton Sanguine has been taking cover in while blasting the party with magic. The shadow monk lays into his quarry with a flurry of blows, battering him savagely.

Spitting out blood and a broken tooth, Ashtone Sanguine snarls, “You’ll never catch me, fool!” and casts a spell.

He completely disappears.

The corpses of orogs and orc shamans lie around the heroes after storming the cave. However, Ashton Sanguine managed to escape.

The heroes suspect their quarry must have turned invisible and begin to search about the room, even casting various spells that both deal damage (to break Ashton’s concentration) and immobilize. In the end, however, their quarry is not to be found.

The fugitive having escaped, the heroes begin to shake down the rest of the complex. On a desk in Ashton’s room, they find papers with a complex cipher on them. Nigel and Shadoestar both try to decipher them, but are unable. They have a feeling the cipher is so complex it could take days or weeks to figure it out without the key. They also find on the desk a map of the Sword Coast region near Waterdeep.

In another chamber in the cave complex, the heroes discover a very large cache of weapons and supplies. They surmise that all of the food, arms, and supplies must be to support an army, not just the few orcs they’ve found here.

Thoroughly pissed, but just as thoroughly beaten up and bloodied, the heroes decide to take a short break to patch themselves up before giving chase.

Once the rest is finished, Shadoestar and Guld find a trail leading up the mountainside. The heroes follow it and find a small cubby hole of sorts with recent tracks in it. They also find an open and empty wooden coffer and two empty potion vials on the ground.

It would appear that Ashton Sanguine fled here and drank some healing potions. The heroes are not pleased.

They find fresh tracks leading west down the mountainside. Far off in the distance, perhaps ten miles, they can see a massive encampment of creatures. After some inspection, they determine it must be an orc army, numbering in the hundreds if not thousands.

Ashton’s tracks lead straight for the encampment.

Guld and Shadoestar decide to dash ahead of the group after their quarry. The fleet-footed monks are likely the group’s only hope of catching up to Ashton, who has nearly a two-hour head start on them.

After several hours of sprinting through the woods, the two monks catch up to Ashton Sanguine. A pitched battle ensues with the fugitive once again attempting his disappearing tactic, but Shadoestar’s senses are too fine to be escaped this time around. The monks find the half-elf’s invisible form and unleash unholy hell on him.

Once Ashton is knocked unconscious, they truss him up like a stuffed boar and make their way back to the group who was following along after them, though at a much slower pace. [Two monks with a movement of 45 feet are a force to be reckoned with…]

Once the heroes join back up, they move a few hours away from the orc army and set up camp for the night. Elodin casts a spell that creates an opaque magical barrier to protect them while they sleep.

Toward the end of the second watch, the heroes spot five small creatures tromping through the forest. They are only about waist high and wear large boots made of iron. The racket they make marching through the forest is enough to wake the undead.

As the diminutive creatures move along, they stop every so often to lick sticks and leaves they pick up from the forest floor. Occasionally they remove their dark-red floppy hats and rub them on the sticks and leaves. It appears they are following the trail of blood left behind from the bloodied and defeated Ashton Sanguine as he was carried through the forest.

The heroes recognize the creatures as fey known as redcaps. However, they know little more than that the creatures are renowned for their love of blood and bloodshed.

The redcaps follow the blood trail right up to Elodin’s magical dome and they begin to pound on the impassible barrier with their scythes while changing something in a language none of the heroes understand. The recaps spread out around the dome, and two climb above it.

Nigel casts a spell to understand what they are saying. The fey are chanting, “Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood…” without end as they surround the dome, banging on it with their weapons.

This continues for the next two hours while the heroes finish up their rest. Then, once they are ready, they engage the evil redcaps, striking out at them from within the dome.

Since the redcaps themselves are unable to pierce the magic of the dome, they quickly scatter, running for cover behind nearby trees. The heroes exit the dome and give battle.

There is much slashing of swords, punching, flinging of spells, and the like. The redcaps turn out to have a mad dash ability wherein they wildly charge the heroes, drop kicking them with their heavy iron boots. However, the only thing that really matters is that Shadoestar ended up killing three of the redcaps.

And Guld killed none.

The light monk versus dark monk competition had been decided…

And Guld was sad.

Poor Guld…

The Heroes of Gold, Glory, and Girls

This is the group's interim name until they come up with an official one...

Russel "Rusty" Striker - Human Fighter

Nigel Dyreus - Half-elven Bard

Guld the Tower - Half-elven Monk

Elodin - Human Wizard

Shump the Long - Half-orc Barbarian

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 2 – Hunting Ashton Sanguine

Session Date: February 25, 2017

In-Game Dates: 29 Kythorn to 1 Flamerule, 1367 DR

I’m behind on my writing... Technically I should be writing a Hand of Light post (or several) first, but this session is freshest in my mind. So, here we go. (And because it’s late and I’m lazy, I skipped proofreading this. But it’s not like I’m getting paid to write this, so whatever...)

The Heroes of Gold, Glory, and Girls decide that before assaulting Gauntlet Hall, a night’s rest is in order. As they are setting out the next morning, they come upon a macabre scene: massive avian creatures resembling vultures only with antlered heads are feasting on humanoid corpses.

The creatures note the party’s presence but doesn’t seem to pay them any heed – they already found breakfast, after all. After some examination, the heroes determine that it was a group of traveling locals that the monsters attacked and are currently devouring.

Figuring that if they don’t kill the creatures, they’ll just attack some other innocents later, the heroes charge. Elodin opens up with a well-placed fireball that both severely injures several of the monsters and destroys the corpses. The monstrous birds take flight and begin swooping down on the heroes. They put up a ferocious fight, a couple homing in on the wizard in retribution, but the heroes make rather short work of them.

[These are the perytons that the group was supposed to have encountered last session, only the DM pulled the wrong monster card and had them fight super easy flying dinosaurs. I felt it only appropriate that I rectify the mistake.]

The heroes then head to the secret entrance to Gauntlet Hall. After an extended examination of the barred gate – it was rusty, but the padlock and hinges were well oiled – Rusty wraps the padlock in cloth to dampen sound and then smashes it open.

They enter the crypts below Gauntlet Hall and begin to make their way to the room that holds the coffin of Granny Tichwillow’s sister, Agnes – and the living statue of Torm that Elodin barely managed to escape. There are White Knight patrols in the crypts, though, warding against undead that might rise, and the heroes avoid one patrol on their way into their destination.

Once they are in the room they thankfully not that the statue of Torm is once again standing motionless in its original spot. They examine the coffins, trying to determine which one is that of Granny Tichwillow’s sister, and find one with wood that has obviously not been submerged in the water as long as the others.

Once they are ready, Shump, Rusty, and Guld take up positions around the statue of Torm while Nigel and Elodin prepare themselves halfway across the chamber. Once they are all ready, Elodin uses an unseen servant to pick the coffin out of the magical basin of water.

As they expected, the statue of Torm immediately animates and attacks. Shump, Rusty, and Guld immediately begin wailing on the thing with axe, sword, and quarterstaff. The statue proves to be amazingly resilient, shrugging off the best they can dish out. And then, with two blows, Torm lays Guld low.

With the monk bleeding out on the flagstone floor, Nigel and Elodin begin unleashing the best of their magic against the statue. They discover that their spells seem to roll of it, barely having any effect.

Meanwhile, the statue has chosen Shump as its new victim, and begins slamming the mighty barbarian with savage blow after savage blow. However, with Shump heavily wounded [and Guld one death save failure away from oblivion] the heroes finally manage to fell the statue.

The heroes confront the statue of Torm (the troll mini) to reclaim the coffin of Tichwillow's sister.

After dumping a healing potion down Guld’s throat – the monk’s own healing potion, mind you – the heroes open the coffin to make sure they got the right body. Immediately the green runes on the coffin glow even brighter, and the magic spreads to the walls, illuminating the entire room, and spreading out into the corridor.

Figuring they just triggered a magical alarm to alert the knights of their presence, the group grabs the coffin and rushes off toward the exit from the crypts. In their haste, they turn a corner and come upon a group of knights headed straight for them. [What a coincidence…]

The group of White Knights spot the intruders making off with the coffin, shout “Graverobbers!” and attack. The battle turns out to be a rather nasty one.

There is some slinging of fireballs by Elodin. Nigel plays hide and seek around the corner to avoid blasts from the enemy cleric while incapacitating some of the enemies with a hypnotic pattern spell. Shump, Guld, and Rust engage the front line of knights. Archers – tough bastards that can take a hit – rain arrows down on the group. Both Guld and Rusty down at points in the battle, but their friends bring them back up. And the cleric alternates between shaking allies out of the hypnotic pattern and casting hold person on the heroes.

The tide of battle shifts both ways a couple times – at one point when two of the heroes were paralyzed with hold person, it looked particularly bleak, but Nigel saved them with a well-placed magic missile on the cleric – but in the end the heroes triumphed. [It seems that I end every battle description with “and the heroes won.” I need to fix that…]

While fleeing the crypts of Gauntlet Hall with the coffin, the heroes run into a patrol of White Knights.

The group grabs the coffin and books it out of the crypts. Miles away, they hunker down for a rest, feeling they’ve earned it. Afterwards, they note that the area around Gauntlet Hall is swarming with patrols of knights, the beehive having been kicked. Prudently, they make haste back to Granny Tichwillow’s cottage.

After making their way through the fields of wheat dotted with scarecrow after scarecrow – sure Granny Tichwillow had a scarecrow fetish, but this was pushing it – the heroes enter the old woman’s cottage. Granny Tichwillow is overjoyed when they show her the coffin and her sister’s corpse. She claims that at last she’ll be able to give her sister a proper burial.

Gratefully, Granny Tichwillow agrees to fulfill her end of the bargain. She casts some bones in a in tray, slices her palm to squeeze blood in, and spits in the tray. Then, stirring the mixture with a long nail, she begins to chant arcane phrases. After several moments, she gazes into the tray in silence. Finally, looking up, she tells the heroes that Ashton Sanguine has taken up with several “friends” in a ruined tower near the mountains west of Rassalantar.

The heroes then set off to finish their business with their quarry.

They find the crumbling tower on a tall outcropping of rock with a ramp leading up to it. They see orcs atop the tower and a massive giant at its base. The heroes approach the ramp unseen, preparing themselves for battle, but deciding to give diplomacy a go first.

Although the orcs aren’t overtly hostile, they certainly aren’t friendly either. They do admit that Ashton Sanguine is with them, but refuse to allow the group entrance.

Diplomacy failed, the Heroes of Gold, Glory, and Girls make a daring rush up the ramp. Orcish arrows and giant-thrown boulders rain down on them, and the heroes find that they underestimated their foes. One by one the heroes go down, until no one remains to claim gold, glory, and girls. Except the orcs.

[See, I told you I’d need to fix that. LOL. Okay, okay, I suppose that not really what happened… sigh…]

The heroes charge up the ramp and slaughter orcs and giant alike. Elodin convinces one of the orcs to surrender rather than die. They tie the orc prisoner up and prepare to interrogate him.

[See. This is another example of why fiction is more interesting than fact…]

The Heroes of Gold, Glory, and Girls

This is the group's interim name until they come up with an official one...

Russel "Rusty" Striker - Human Fighter

Nigel Dyreus - Half-elven Bard

Guld the Tower - Half-elven Monk

Elodin - Human Wizard

Shump the Long - Half-orc Barbarian