Hand of Light, Episode 12 – The Bone Hole

Session Date: April 15, 2017

In-Game Dates: 30 Mirtul to 12 Kythorn

You want to touch me?

Soon after the massive meteorite slammed into the Sea of Swords, the Hand of Light hears the steadily growing roar of what they assume to be a tidal wave headed toward Waterdeep.

Dona leads the former captives of the githyanki, including one of her sisters, toward the heroes’ compound nearby. Dexter enters the warehouse they just exited to warn the Red Sashes but finds them gone. Meanwhile, Dunkle scales a building to get a better look at the oncoming tidal wave.

From atop the building the rogue commands a perfect view. Sure enough, a tidal wave some twenty feet tall is rushing toward the coast. Dunkle sees the wave slam into Mount Waterdeep to little effect, simply breaking upon its steep slope. However, low-lying Dock Ward isn’t so lucky.

The tidal wave lifts ships and boats docked in the bay and propels them forward. The shipping-carrying wave crashes into the buildings of Dock Ward, leveling several blocks. As Dunkle watches in horror, he notices movement inside the tidal waves, and spots red, blue, green, and purple shapes.

Much of the force of the wave is dissipated when it hits the building Dunkle is on, though, and it merely gives it a sound shaking. Karn, Lyr, and Dexter are hit by the water and knocked off their feet.

As the chaos of the tidal wave settles, a new chaos rises: people screaming in confusion and pain. Karn and Lyr rush to aid anyone still alive in the leveled area of Dock Ward. When Dona returns from the heroes’ compound, she does the same.

It should be noted that Lyr doesn’t actually help rescue anyone. He puts on a good show of helping, but in fact is just pretending to help. He does cast a spell on Karn to increase his strength, allowing the paladin to clear rubble off trapped citizens. (And thus, let the record show that Lyr wasn’t completely indifferent to the suffering of innocents.)

Dexter casts fly on himself, and rises a hundred or so feet above the city to survey the wreckage better. He spots a large red creature grab a woman, shake her briefly, and then let her go. Thinking this odd, he and Dunkle go to investigate.

They find a large red toad-like creature hiding in an alley. The creature telepathically beckons the wizard – who is perched on the edge of a building three stories up – to come closer; Dexter declines. When Dunkle, on the ground, investigates, the toad creature moves toward the rogue telepathically saying, Just one touch, and it’ll be over quickly!

Dexter casts web on the monster to stop if from getting to the rogue, but the massive beast breaks free. Dunkle stabs it with his rapier, tries to keep his distance, but receives a nasty wound for his effort. The scuffle ends when Dexter banishes the creature, which the wizard had identified as some extraplanar monster.

Karn, Lyr, and Dona arrive on the scene after Dexter’s bat went to warn them that trouble was afoot. [Apparently, the wizard’s familiar has some sort of danger signal to let others know. Kind of like Lassie, I suppose…] Just as the three of them arrive, another red toad beast jumps out of a fountain nearby to attack Dunkle. [See, I told you it was like Lassie. Only a fountain instead of a well.] And not to be one-upped, another toad monster – this one blue – breaks through the front of a building where it was hiding and attacks.

Throughout the battle, the toad creatures telepathically tell the heroes they “just want to touch them.” Needless to say, the heroes do everything possible to ensure they don’t.

Dunkle climbs a building, lights a cigarette, and begins firing arrows at the monsters. Doing what they do best, Karn and Dona hack the red creature to pieces. Dexter meanwhile starts popping them with rays of frost.

The Hand of Light fights giant toad-like creatures in the streets of Waterdeep.

As the blue toad beast begins to scale the building to go after Dexter, Lyr polymorphs it into a small blue toad. The small toad falls to the ground, splatters on the cobblestones, and turns back into the blue toad creature. Karn is right there waiting for it, magical halberd slashing viciously.

Once the creatures are vanquished, the heroes inspect their bodies. Dexter finds small tubes on the hands of the red creatures, and the blue creature’s hands are a diseased black color. Several of the heroes were indeed “touched” by the monsters, and Dexter announces that they may be infected with some sort of disease.

By this time, the soldiers of Waterdeep and other adventurers have organized themselves against other groups of the toad creatures. The beasts don’t last long and are either slain or driven back into the sea.

The Hand of Light refuses to stand on the red text.

New Olamn

The heroes take the blue and red monsters to the New Olamn bard college, hoping to discover more about them, especially the nature of the disease they spread.

A sage at New Olamn dissects the red monster and finds a sack of small eggs in its belly. It appears that the monster injects the eggs into victims from the tubes in its hands. Now understanding why the creature wanted to touch her, Dona vomits noisily up on the floor.

The blue creature’s hands also carry some sort of disease. The sage suspects that those infected with the disease slowly transform into the toad-like creatures.

When High Harper Pharlonae Song-Joy arrives, a name is finally put to the monsters: slaadi.

Understanding of the slaadi’s true goals now dawns on the heroes: in the chaotic aftermath of the tidal wave, the monsters were infecting as many of the people in the city as possible. After several weeks or months, slaadi tadpoles will be bursting out of their chests, and other people will simply be transforming into the hideous monsters.

House of Duty

The heroes go to The House of Duty, the temple of Torm in the city. The temple has become a makeshift triage for those who were wounded in the disaster.

The heroes speak to Priest Inquisitor Raikon Kelsey to convince him to cure the infected people of Waterdeep. The Priest Inquisitor is very reluctant to do so, claiming that only those who properly donate to the temple can be cured.

When a guilt trip doesn’t convince the priest, the heroes take a different tact. They tell him that if the temples of Waterdeep don’t help, then the people will turn to the Guild of Apothecaries and Physicians. If the guild cures the people, it will earn them the favor of the populace and a powerful bargaining chip with the Lords of Waterdeep. In the past, the guild has tried to have healing by non-guild members – namely by the temples – outlawed. The heroes claim that after saving the people from this horrible disease, the guild might be able to accomplish that goal.

This finally convinces Priest Inquisitor Kelsey. He exclaims that not only will The House of Duty set to work immediately curing the populace, but they will convince the other temples in the city to aid as well. And to begin, the Priest Inquisitor himself cures the infected heroes of the slaadi infestation.

Downtime

The heroes spend the next tenday resting from their recent endeavors and pursuing personal interests.

Dona talks to the Scribe – a professional spy and informant who works for the heroes [when they don’t forget about him] – and asks him to get information about four of her siblings that are still missing. She also wants to know how to get to Skullport, where they believe two of her siblings currently are, and she wants a map of Skullport.

Lyr talks to the Scribe, too, though he requests the man dig up dirt on Physic Verdon Huldah, the ass wipe at the Guild of Apothecaries and Physicians who’s been giving the heroes a hard time. The bard also throws a grand musical benefits concert to raise money to rebuild the Sloshing Boot, Lyr’s patron tavern. He manages to raise five thousand gold for it. Lyr also spends some time at New Olamn, instructing students.

Dunkle spends his time gambling with nobles and rich merchants and getting to know Waterdeep, since it’s his first time there. He loses a couple hundred gold on the gambling – which is nothing compared to twenty thousand gold – but does learn the general layout of the city.

Dexter makes some scroll purchases, and spends his time learning new powerful spells.

There is one hero who doesn’t forget about the tragedy that recently happened to the city. Karn spends his time tending to the wounding and otherwise helping people who were affected by the tidal wave and slaadi attack.

Is it normal to have that many heads?

At the end of their tenday of rest, Dunkle finds a note in his pocket from Etis Bright. The note requests that the heroes meet him at “the same place, same time.”

[Etis Bright is the NPC who, claiming to work for the Red Sashes, has been directing the heroes toward eliminating the Shadow Thieves from Waterdeep. Recently, the heroes discovered that Etis works for a rival criminal organization known as the Xanathar. So, Etis Bright has had them duped this entire time…]

Confident that it’s a trap, but none-the-less motivated to beat the shit out of Etis and get some information about his Xanathar masters, the heroes head to the City of the Dead shortly after midnight. Before their meeting, Dexter casts Rary’s Telepathic Bond so the heroes can communicate telepathically with each other. In the City of the Dead, they find Etis waiting in the alley between two mausoleums.

After some agitated banter and threats, Etis pulls a lever and disappears down a hole in the ground. Dexter sends his bat familiar down the hole to investigate. A long, slimy chute leads into the sewers. It’s a large chamber with tunnels leading away from it. However, the tunnels are blocked by portcullises.

One by one, the members of the Hand of the Light declare there is no way in the Nine Hells they are going down there. It’s obviously a trap. That room could have dozens of Xanathar soldiers surrounding it. There could be monsters. The list goes on.

However, Lyr – sweet Lyr – jumps down the chute anyway. [Lyr to save the DM’s day…]

The bard lands in the sewer water and notices that thousands of bones float on the surface of the water. Humanoid bones. Probably human bones.

Lyr climbs out of the water and looks through a portcullis where he spots Etis Bright running off down the tunnel. Indifferent to the danger and not wanting their quarry to escape, he dimension doors to the other side of the portcullis and gives chase.

The ever-noble Karn then jumps down the chute after the foolish bard. After landing in the water, he notices movement below him and scrambles out of the water. Dunkle splashes in the water and also quickly climbs out.

Then five serpentine heads shoot out of the water, attacking the paladin and rogue. The heads are massive – nearly large enough to swallow a man hole – and after attacking dip back into the water, out of sight.

“Need some help down here!” Karn telepathically shouts at Dona and Dexter. The paladin and rogue did okay against the first volley of attacks, but they had no desire to keep going at it alone.

Dona makes a big fuss about the slime and sewers being icky, and spends some time arguing with Karn. [This was awesome. Crazy monster attacking two characters, and Dona makes a fuss about how icky the sewers are. She spent at least one round refusing to go down there.]

Dexter, though, heads down, using his magical socks of spider climbing to control his descent. Finally, the barbarian does go down the chute, landing in the water just above the many-headed monster.

The heroes engage a multi-headed hydra in the sewers below the City of the Dead.

The monster stays out of sight in the murky water, making it a very difficult target. However, Dona, Karn, and Dunkle all hack and stab away at it, destroying three of its five heads.

Meanwhile, Dexter casts light on a brick in the ceiling, uses his dagger to break the brick free, and tosses it into the water. The magically lit brick sinks to the bottom of the water, provided sufficient illumination to see the monster.

“Oh shit,” Dexter mutters as the many-headed creatures comes into view. “Hydra!”

Hearing his companions in trouble – he didn’t go far in his chase after Etis – Lyr moves to the portcullis winch. However, Etis Bright leaps out of the water and attacks. After taking a couple nasty hits, Lyr polymorphs into a giant crocodile.

Lyr knocks Etis from his feet with a tail lash, and then chomps onto him with this tooth-filled maw. Etis flails away at Lyr, hoping to break the bard’s concentration, but to no avail. Lyr grinds his teeth down into the man, and he goes limp.

As the others fight the hydra, Lyr turns into a giant crocodile and takes a bite out of crime.

As the others continue their attacks against the hydra, two new heads magically grow from the dead heads, giving the monster a total of eight heads.

Desperate, Dunkle summons a surge of pirate energy and dives into the water, rapier extended. The blade sinks to the hilt in the hydra’s bulk. Next to the rogue, Dona hacks wildly at the monster with her silver githyanki sword.

However, the monster’s heads continue to bite the heroes, mixing their blood in the water along with its own. Several times the hydra tries to grab Dona and Dunkle in its maws to drag them off for safer consumption, but it’s unsuccessful.

Knowing things are becoming desperate, Dexter casts Evard’s Black Tentacles on the monster, restraining it.

Never one to be outdone by a rogue and wizard that don’t walk in the light of Torm, Karn calls upon his deity to imbue his weapon with holy power. The paladin then hacks off four of the hydra’s heads, leaps into the air, and drives his halberd deep into the monster’s body. [Critical hit with a level three smite: 51 hit points of damage. Oh, baby…]

With that mighty blow, the hydra’s heads go limp, and the monster’s bulk settles to the bottom of the sewer water.

The Interrogation

The heroes take Etis Bright, who’s only unconscious, back to their compound and toss him in a cell. Dexter polymorphs into a dire ape to drag the hydra back to their compound, too.

After Etis Bright wakes up, the Hand of Light begin their questioning. Etis folds quickly under their relentless interrogation – especially Donas – and tells them everything he knows about the Xanathar. Etis also turns out to be a doppelganger.

Etis tells them that he works for Shindia Darkeyes, the spy master of the Xanathar, and meets her every tenday at the Thirsty Throat Tavern. Their former companion, Katso, has been working for Shindia, too. The Xanathar is a thieves guild of sorts that deals heavily in slavery and assassinations. They operate in Skullport, an underground smuggling and trading base, and are run by someone called the Xanathar. [Yes, the Xanathar is led by someone called the Xanathar. Yes, it’s confusing. Sorry.]

In the end, Dona intimidates the shit out of Etis Bright, and the doppelganger agrees to help the heroes get to Skullport and find Dona’s siblings.

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

Cloakmaster Jarvis

My Hand of Light group just finished running this adventure a couple weeks ago. It turned out to be a fairly long one, taking us several months to play.

My players took a really cool approach to overcoming some of the obstacles in it, too. For instance, there were enslaved minotaurs that the mithsanki controlled with magical collars. Instead of just killing the minotaurs, my players freed the minotaurs and then convinced them to help them. They ended up with two minotaur companions that helped them throughout more than half of the adventure. In the end, one of the minotaurs pledged fealty to Karn and is now an official "follower."

In retrospect, I designed this adventure to be too long. I actually cut out the entire section of the adventure that deals with the bugbear area. The players knew about it, but they forgot to ask about going there and I didn't remind them. 🙂 So, we just didn't run it. It's a cool little area, though. I may "recycle" it in the future for use at the table.

Note: Some names were changed due to copyright licenses. I'm not very clever, though, so I'm sure you can figure it out.

Overview: The heroes are tasked with the seemingly easy task of eliminating the leader of a local thieves' guild. However, it turns into a battle to end more than just thievery. The leader of the thieves' guild also heads a group of carnivorous mithsanki who raid different worlds, capturing humans and elves for use as cattle. The adventure leads the heroes to the astral plane where they must put an end to generations of foul enslavement and butchery.

This adventure is a dungeon crawl that features numerous opportunities for social interaction, traps, and ambush encounters. 

Creatures Encountered: minotaurs, brain eaters, mithsanki, gith hounds, zemmogoths

Levels: This adventure is designed for a party of 5 characters between 7th and 10th levels.


Cloakmaster Jarvis (21 downloads)

 

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 4 – Hunting Ashton Sanguine

Session Date: April 8, 2017

In-Game Dates: 2 Flamerule to 9 Flamerule, 1367 DR

Before this session began, the players decided on an official name for their group: the Sword Coast Guard (the adventurers formerly known as the Heroes of Gold, Glory, and Girls).

As the battle with the redcaps draws to a close, Nigel walks calmly over to the tied up and gagged Ashton Sanguine. Then, with little ceremony, the bard slits his hated enemy’s throat.

Once Sanguine is dead, a large scroll case winks into view. Nigel opens the case and finds a letter and nine mysterious blue discs. The letter refers to them as remnants. The group looks over the discs, unable to determine their function, and discusses the letter for a bit.

Rusty determines that it’s too much trouble to carry Ashton Sanguine’s body all the way back to Waterdeep. So, he chops his head off and stuffs it in a sack. The bloody sack, as it came to be known.

Dire News: Let’s Party

The group stops off in Rassalantar on their way back to Waterdeep as it’s on the way. There they meet with Lord Chenrey Vendrick, the nobleman who runs the village. When they tell him about the massive army of orcs camped but half a day to the West, he begins panicking and has a runner inform the Waterdeep soldiers stationed in the village.

The Sword Coast Guard [and by that I mean Nigel] then convinces Lord Vendrick to throw a feast that night in order to calm peoples’ minds. So, there is feasting and celebrating until early morning. The next day, Nigel wakes up with a horrible hangover, but everyone else is fine. [Nigel failed his save; everyone else passed.]

A Maiden Fair

On their way to Waterdeep, they come upon a noble woman and two guards traveling toward the city, too. It turns out that the woman, Lady Nellabee Tharmar, had been robbed of her carriage and valuables by bandits. Fortunately, it had been a non-violent robbery.

The heroes – Nigel in particular – offer to escort her back to the city. While the others are offering help, Rusty antagonizes the two soldiers with her. He eyes them up and down, insults their ability to protect their mistress, and in general seems to be spoiling for a fight. [I think the player was just wanted to fight stuff.]

At any rate, Lady Tharmar accepts their offer to escort her back to Waterdeep. Her travel pace turned out to be rather slow due to her cumbersome dress. So, Nigel persuades her to wear common clothes so her dress doesn’t slow their movement. [My player thought this was a great achievement, so I mention it here. Celebrating the little victories, I suppose…]

Then, later that night while the group is camping, Lady Tharmar approaches Nigel and seduces him. Quite easily, too: Nigel offers no resistance whatsoever.

Loose Ends

When they are but a few hours away from Waterdeep, they see a large column of Waterdhavian soldiers – approximately five hundred – approaching them as they march north.

Elodin ask one of the captains what’s going on, and the captain tells them that gnolls are marauding unchecked to the north around Red Larch. To protect the village and the valuable trade route that runs through it, Waterdeep is dispatching soldiers to protect the city. In fact, forces from Neverwinter and other members of the Lords Alliance are going to help, too. [This was a loose thread from the Princes of the Apocalypse campaign. The group killed the gnoll leader, dispersing the gnolls into the countryside, but never took care of the rest of the gnolls.]

Downtime!

Once the Sword Coast Guard is back in Waterdeep, the heroes spend several days resting and pursuing their own goals.

Rusty seeks out a trainer who can teach him techniques of fighting with great weapons, and begins training with Vhonna Deepdell at the Field of Triumph. He gives Vhonna a ruby ring in exchange for training. This thoroughly impresses her, and she says he can stop by anytime for training.

Elodin speaks with Linare Aeraelandar from the Waterdeep war wizards, as he is interested in joining them to benefit from training and spell learning. He is told that he needs to prove himself a friend of the city first. The wizard also spends a few days gambling around the city, using his innate luck to win a tidy sum of gold.

Nigel meets with Grand Harper Parlonae Song-Joy from the New Olamn bards college. [I forget what he did there, though. Nigel, feel free to leave a comment to explain…] Nigel also spends a few days visiting with Lady Tharmar. The lady’s library, in particular, is a locale of interest. (Nigel loves books…)

Guld spends his time stocking up the party’s supplies (healing potions and the like) and buys them all horses. Except for Nigel. He’s “special” and has a hippogriff.

I’ll Be Back

During their few days of rest while Nigel is at a tavern eating, a cloaked and mysterious man sits next to the bard who is alone. All alone.

The man demands the remnants from the bard or things will get violent. Nigel denies knowing what the man is talking about, but the mysterious stranger calls his bluff and resolutely states that they know Nigel has them. [And Nigel does have them. I made a point earlier about knowing which character was carrying them. DMs never ask innocent questions. Never.]

[Never.]

The man presses a dagger into Nigel’s ribs and claims there are more of them nearby. If he doesn’t give him the remnants, he dies. Nigel panics, grabs his lute (which he is barely competent with), and begins loudly playing it with the aim of drawing attention to himself.

It works. Most of the tavern glares at the bard and the horrendous “music.” Not liking the attention Nigel is drawing to them, the man snarls a threat, saying the bard will see him again, and leaves the tavern. He is followed by two other similarly garbed men.

[After the session, Nigel’s player told me how he was genuinely freaking out about this encounter because he was all alone. I was actually just about to have the men attack Nigel when he came up with the lute playing thing. Good idea. It probably saved his life...]

Questions? About What?

One morning, as all the heroes are eating breakfast in the Safehaven Inn, a group of Waterdeep watch arrives. They ask the heroes to accompany them to Magister Altadar for questioning. The soldiers refuse to explain what for, and escort them to the magister’s office near River Gate.

Once inside, the Sword Coast Guard sees several of the White Knights within. Guld is sure that he recognizes one of them as the cleric they killed while fighting their way free of Gauntlet Hall. It turns out that the White Knights are there to level charges against the heroes: murder, robbery, defiling a holy place, and tomb robbing.

There is a trial, and the heroes defend themselves quite well. In the end, they are acquitted of all charges except tomb robbing for with Magister Altadar sentence them to a “small favor to the city to be paid at a time of his choosing.”

Furthermore, the heroes turn things back on the White Knights, bring up how they apprehend innocents, put them on trial for witchcraft, and then burn them at the stake. Magister Altadar finds merit in the charges and has the White Knights present arrested.

Got Work?

The Sword Coast Guard meets with Tzarrakyn the Younger to see if he has any work for them. It turns out he does. [What kind of D&D game would it be if he didn’t?] It appears that some children have gone missing in Rassalantar, and he wants them to get to the bottom of it. [Okay, not every job has to be super interesting. At least they aren’t clearing rats out of someone’s basement. (They did that already.)]

The heroes also express interest in “taking care of” the White Knights. Tzarrakyn admits they are a problem, but they are also a large paramilitary organization. He says they are welcome to do what they can, but they many want to find allies first. Nigel mentions to the others that Granny Tichwillow might be willing to help. However, first, the group decides to take care of the missing children.

Slaves for My Palace

As the Sword Coast Guard travels north, they come upon monsters attacking a farmhouse. Several hobgoblins are in the middle of tying up the farm family to take as slaves, and a large efreeti supervises the effort.

As the heroes approach, the efreeti calls out, “Good day. I invite you to turn around and continue on your way. Interfering here will not go well for you.” Needless to say, the heroes charge forward to engage the creatures. [Sure, I knew they’d never negotiate with them, but it’s kind of my DM rule to almost always present players with a choice of social interaction or combat, instead of just forcing combat on them.]

The battle with the efreeit and hobgoblins begins.

The efreeti – which Elodin identified and pointed out as being immune to fire – summons a fire elemental which surges forward toward the heroes. Then the efreeti flies 120 feet into the air to throw fire down on the heroes.

The efreeti summons a fire elemental.

As the hobgoblins dash forward to, swords drawn, Nigel disables them with a hypnotic pattern. Guld, Shadoestar, and Rusty move to engage the fire elemental and incapacitated hobgoblins.

Nigel hypnotizes most of the hobgoblins.

Guld and Shadoestar quickly discover that attacking the fire elemental hurts them nearly as much as it hurts the fire elemental. Rusty kills two hobgoblins in one round and leaps over their corpses to attack a third.

The efreeti congratulates Nigel on his “parlor trick” and flies directly above the bard. Then it throws down two globes of fire. The first misses Nigel, but the second slams him square in the head. The fire critically wounds the frail bard, tossing him to the ground. [This was a critical hit. What was normally 5d6 damage became 10d6 damage. Yeah, nasty.]

Rusty trips the fire elemental. The efreeti flies above Nigel.

The efreeti crits on its hurl flame attack versus Nigel. (Poor bard...)

Heavily wounded, Nigel stands and casts hypnotic pattern on the efreeti. The spell catches the fiend off guard, and he falls 120 feet to crash into the ground. The efreeti is mildly wounded by the fall, but more importantly, he loses his concentration on the fire elemental.

Efreeit and fire elemntal both prone. Shadoestar down and dying from hobgoblin attacks.

12d6 damage the efreeti takes when Nigel casts hypnotic pattern on it, causing it to plummet 120 feet to the ground.

Enraged at the efreeti and hobgoblins, the creature begins to swat its fiery claws at the hobgoblins, dropping several.

The heroes begin to swarm the efreeti.

Guld, Rusty, and Shaoestar turn their focus to the efreeti, now, but it flies above them – a mere 20 feet this time – forcing them to use ranged attacks. Nigel responds with another hypnotic pattern, dropping the efreeti 20 feet to the ground. With the efreeti prone, Guld, Rusty, and Shadoestar surround him and rip into him with all they have.

Hobgoblin running for its life.

Efreeit falls 20 feet from Nigel's third hypnotic pattern of the fight.

Surrounded and displaying several nasty wounds, the efreeti attempts to flee, casting plane shift. However, Elodin counter spells it just in case the monster is trying to cast one of the heroes into a random plane.

The heroes tear into the fiend more with sword, fist, and quarterstaff. As a final effort, the efreeti tries to cast wall of fire on the heroes, but Elodin again counter spells it.

Efreeit is not dead yet...

The Sword Coast Guard has the efreeti surrounded.

As the Sword Coast Guard renew their efforts against the efreeti, both Rusty and Guld take turns tripping the thing to the ground. Finally, Rusty jumps atop the prone monster’s body and jams Ice Tooth up to the hilt in its chest, dispatching it.

And the efreeti is dead! (There was much rejoicing.)

With the efreeti and hobgoblins dead, the fire elemental wanders off into the countryside, and the heroes untie the farm family. Naturally, they receive an offer of lodging for the night and a meal as gratitude.

And Nigel… Nigel grins broadly at one of the farmer’s daughters.

All in a day’s work.

The Sword Coast Guard

the adventurers formerly known as the Heroes of Gold, Glory, and Girls

Russel "Rusty" Striker - Human Fighter

Nigel Dyreus - Half-elven Bard

Guld the Tower - Half-elven Monk

Elodin - Human Wizard

[sorry, still need a picture]

Shadoestar - Half-Elf Monk

A Trap, A Deal, and a Cloakmaster – Hand of Light, Episode 11

This session wraps up the Cloakmaster Jarvis adventure. I actually created this adventure back in September 2016. Due to it being a rather long adventure to begin with, holidays thrown in, and weekends off for convention play-testing, we’re just now finishing it up – half a year later!

Previously on the Hand of Light:

  • The heroes enter the astral plane and encounter a githyanki astral ship. They fight minotaurs, a mind flayer, and several githyanki. The githyanki are using magical silver collars to control the minotaurs and mind flayer.
  • The heroes enter the githyanki compound – a large rock floating in the astral plane – and begin clearing it out. They battle and defeat githyanki, mind flayers, bugbears, and gith hounds in the process. They also rescue humans and elves (who were slated for butchering and consumption by the githyanki) and a clan of enslaved minotaurs.
  • Beaten up and in need of rest, the heroes hunker down inside a Leomund’s Tiny Hut

Despite the githyanki spotting their tiny hut and leaving, the heroes continue through with a long rest while they have the chance. [They had gone through more than an adventuring day’s worth of encounters with no long rest at all. And the DM may or may not have hinted that he would allow a long rest even though doing so in the middle of storming an enemy base is usually a bad idea. He may also have mentioned that they’d need it…]

Rested and in full fighting condition, the heroes exit the servants barracks to find a tall, lean person in full plate armor and bearing a massive silver sword waiting patiently in the corridor. The figure introduces himself as Cloakmaster Jarvis and says that he has a proposition for them.

As the heroes file out into the corridor, Jarvis tells them that they have done admirably in defeating his warriors and slaves. In fact, they have proven themselves competent enough that he is willing to let them leave the compound unhindered. In exchange for his magnanimity in letting them go, he asks that they do small favors for him from time to time. He says that the githyanki often find it useful to have non-githyanki proxies on other planes. Furthermore, if they do so, he will raid their world no longer.

Naturally, this deal is a non-starter for many of the heroes, especially Karn and Dona. As the negotiations begin to turn sour, Jarvis threatens the heroes, saying he will track down all their family and those dearest to them, butcher them, and eat them.

When he delivers this threat to Dona, threatening her siblings, Dona quite characteristically charges Jarvis and slashes at him with her halberd. However, the halberd goes through Jarvis’s body, revealing him to be merely an illusionary projection. As Jarvis fades away, he delivers his offer and threat again, saying he’ll be waiting for them in his “embroidery” if they decide to reject his offer.

Jabba, the minotaur leader, says that he must leave the group now and lead his minotaur clan away from the compound and to safety. He thanks the heroes for rescuing them from their enslavement and gifts Karn with a magical Halberd of Life Stealing. Grull, the other minotaur that had been aiding the heroes, kneels before Karn and swears fealty to the paladin, saying he will continue on and aid them in defeating the githyanki.

The Hand of Light presses on, going up to a shaft and deeper into the compound. They find themselves in a maze of narrow hallways.

Dunkle drinks an invisibility potion and scouts ahead. The rogue passes through several rooms with fountains full of inky black water and leering gargoyles perched on ledges above. Finally, the rogue finds himself in a larger room with a long basin of dark water and dozens of gargoyles above. He doesn’t consider the danger of moving so far from his companions. So far from help.

With nearly a half hour having passed without hearing back from the rogue, the rest of the group enters the maze. Dexter and Lyr view the gargoyle statues with much more suspicion than the rogue, inspecting them and blasting them with rays of frost to ensure that they are just statues. [And why wouldn’t they be?]

As the other heroes pass into the second such room, Dunkle decides to head back. He invisibly approaches Karn and whispers into the paladin’s ear, “Karn, vengeance has come. Your doom is near!” Karn spins around and slams a gauntleted fist into Dunkle’s mouth. Dunkle screams in pain, announcing that it’s just him. Karn slaps him for good measure and sternly reprimands the rogue. [This was hilarious. Karn’s first blow did 5 damage to Dunkle. The second slap was just for effect. I suspect Dunkle will goose different party members in the future…]

A Small Surprise

The Hand of Light enters the larger room with a long basin of dark water. As they are passing through it, Lyr notices slight ripples in the basin and a thin reed sticking out of the water. Before the bard can warn his companions, bugbears leap from the water, surrounding the heroes, and several gargoyles animate on the ledge above.

[The monsters got a surprise round. Lyr and Grull (their minotaur buddy) were the only ones whose passive perception beat the bugbears’ stealth roll, and it turns out that Dona and Dunkle have features that prevent them from being surprised. Good for them...)

Bugbears spring from the basin of water, and gargoyles animate on the ledges above.

Dona slams a gargoyle with her halberd as Dunkle stabs a bugbear emerging from the water. Grull swings at a bugbear but misses.

Lyr, seeing his companions surrounded by a large group of foes, casts compulsion and points to the east. All of the gargoyles and two of the bugbears are affected by the mind-affecting magic and begin to flee the room. The two bugbears that don’t flee flail at the heroes with their wicked morning stars, one doing severe damage to Dunkle.

Dona slashes at a bugbear with her halberd, critically wounding it, and hacks at another as it flees the room. Stabbing with his rapier, Dunkle sinks his rapier deep into a bugbear’s flesh. Lyr begins throwing viscous mockery at bugbears.

As Karn hacks at one bugbear with his new magical halberd, Grull lowers his head and charges another bugbear. The minotaur slams the monster hard, and its shattered, lifeless body crumples against a wall. Finally, Dexter blasts a bugbear with a ray of frost.

Enraged, Dona decapitates a bugbear, dropping it and spraying herself with satisfactory amounts of blood. Dona is happy. Very happy.

A bugbear's critical hit against Dunkle.

The bugbear on Dunkle blasts the rogue in the face with its morning star, nearly ripping the rogue’s jaw from his face and splattering the ground with teeth. Dunkle collapses into a heap on the floor, dying. [I believe this was a critical hit that the bugbear rolled super high damage dice for.]

Lyr blasts a bugbear with viscous mockery again, and saves Karn from a nasty hit with a well-placed cutting words. While Karn and Grull continue to hack at bugbears, Dexter sends his familiar, Vesper, to deliver a healing potion to Dunkle and blasts a bugbear with ray of frost.

After Vesper feeds Dunkle a healing potion, the rogue comes to and stares at this teeth on the floor and floating in the basin’s water. Groaning in pain, but alive, he snaps his dislocated jaw back into place and ties a rag around his face to hold it in place.

Enemies continue to flee the room under the effect of Lyr’s compulsion. While they do so, Dona, Karn, and Grull work furiously to drop their enemies.

With all the enemies that are not fleeing dead, the heroes take up positions in the hallway, creating a choke point. Then Lyr shifts the direction of his compulsion to make the gargoyles come back toward them. As the gargoyles are compelled to return, they walk directly into the kill zone the heroes have set up, and are decimated in short order. [The gargoyles failed their wisdom saves to escape the spell every single time. Only one bugbear ever broke out of it.]

The heroes follow a trail of blood the one remaining bugbear left, entering a small room with a basin of water. The blood trail leads straight to the water. Dexter surmises that the basins of water must have tunnels connecting them to each other and the bugbears were using them to move from room to room. After a short discussion, the heroes leave the room and continue on in the maze.

[It was entertaining for me to see the players talk themselves out of checking the fountain. The bugbear was hiding in the fountain. There were no tunnels. If the heroes would have searched the basin, they would have easily found the bugbear. And likely killed it, if I know my players. But they didn’t. They talked themselves out of it. Priceless.]

Let’s Make a Deal

They heroes take some time to patch up their wounds and chug healing potions – Dunkle and Lyr both got their clocks cleaned. [At one point Lyr’s player asked me, “Is there any limit to how many potions we can drink in a day.” I responded, “As far as I’m concerned, you can double chug them, one in each hand.” Yeah, they were that messed up. LOL ]

After healing up, the Hand of Light presses forward in the maze. Karn, in the lead, turns a corner and comes upon a fiendish creature bearing a trident in one of its four hands. “Ah, the heroes. You have come,” the creature communicates telepathically with Karn. “Our employer said you would be coming. Now I suppose we must kill you.”

“Who is your employer?” Karn asks loudly so his companions know he’s found something. His halberd is at the ready. (It’s always at the ready…)

Dexter, seeing through Vesper’s eyes as the bat familiar is perched on Karn’s shoulder, searches his knowledge of the arcane and identifies the creature as a type of yugoloth – fiendish creatures from Gehenna and renowned for being mercenaries. The wizard passes the word that these are fiends and mercenaries.

The conversation between the yugoloth and Karn carries on, and it becomes apparent that the creature would be willing accept payment from the heroes to let them pass. However, the righteous paladin quickly sours to this idea once he learns they are fiendish creatures. Karn doesn’t make deals with fiends. Ever.

Ever.

The tunnels are cramped, allowing only Karn and Grull to see the creature, and the yugoloth is only communicating with Karn. Seeing their chance for peaceful negotiations wane, Dexter, Dona, and Dunkle take another route through the maze, hoping to come to a spot where they can see the creature. And maybe get in a better spot should battle break out. They run into another yugoloth instead.

The three of them open up negotiations with the second yugoloth, and it seems to be going well. The creature would definitely accept payment to let them pass. The heroes ask how much, and the creature laughs, telling them to make an offer.

“Twenty thousand gold!” says Dunkle.

“We accept,” the yugoloth replies immediately. He pauses in concentration, apparently passing the word telepathically to the others that an agreement has been reached.

As Dona and Dunkle dig gold out of their packs, Dexter shouts out to Karn that the yugoloths will let them pass. [Let’s not linger on how they can carry so much wealth around with them… Suffice it to say that we all find logistics to be boring. It’s a game. I’m willing to sacrifice realism for fun.]

The Hand of Light negotiates with yugoloths, attempting to pass them without a fight.

However, Karn is having none of it. “I DO NOT DEAL WITH FIENDS!” the paladin of Torm roars as he rushes forward to attack the yugoloth in front of him. Karn’s halberd tears into the fiend’s flesh and, powered by divine smite fury, deals the creature a nasty wound.

As battle kicks off, Dexter, Dona, and Dunkle are all screaming to stop fighting because they’ve bought their way through. The yugoloth in front of them is unconcerned that Karn is attacking his companion – he’s likely thinking it would just be more money for him should the other yugoloth perish. Dona finishes paying the yugoloth, and he calmly teleports away.

Meanwhile the other yugoloth casts cloudkill on Karn, Grull, and Lyr who take moderate damage and are blinded in the noxious yellowish-green mist. However, Lyr casts dispel magic, causing the cloud to dissipate. Karn continues to attack the creature. However, the yugoloth casts darkness and flees, likely teleporting away, too.

After a minute or so, the darkness disappears. The yugoloths have made good their exit.

What follows next is a general intraparty argument and discussion. Many topics are discussed, but chief among them are “Karn, why did you do that?!? We had paid them to pass!” and “Twenty thousand gold!?! Damn it, Dunkle, you are banned from further financial negotiations.” It’s worth noting that Lyr passes out cold when he learns how much money Dunkle and Dona gave the yugoloths.

[That “discussion” was awesome. I’m so glad I gave the players a chance to talk and negotiate with the yugoloths instead of just turning this into a hit points and damage contest.]

Welcome to the Embroidery

The heroes finally find a shaft in the maze that leads upward. They ascend the shaft and move through a set of double doors. Beyond is a hallway with more double doors at the end. They file into the hallway, and move to the doors at the end. However, when Karns hand moves to open them, it passes straight through them. Damned illusions…

The illusionary walls and doors drop away and a portcullis of sorts slams down to block the doors leading out of the chamber. They find themselves in a throne room with rows of fluted columns running along either side. Stone gargoyles perch atop the columns, leering down at them. A plate armored githyanki – Cloakmaster Javis – lounges on a throne atop a dais, and three githyanki warriors stand near him.

“So, you’ve decided not to accept my offer,” Jarvis says. “And you’ve passed through my death maze, defeating my minions there. Very well.” He stands and readies his sword. “Try me on for size, heroes!”

Before anyone can react, the heroes hear spell casting from the corner of the chamber, and Dexter fights off the effects of a blindness spell. A sorcerer.

The Hand of Light confronts Cloakmaster Jarvis and battle begins.

An invisible sorcerer.

The githyanki move to engage the heroes, two teleporting past their front lines. One engages Dunkle, another Dona, and the last Lyr. Dona wounds her githyanki with her halberd, and it responds with two mighty strokes of its greatsword, opening minor cuts on the barbarian. Dunkle and Lyr take moderate wounds from their attackers.

Cloakmaster Jarvis sneers at the female barbarian, moves up to her, and unleashes hell with his silver greatsword. After a barrage of blows, Dona is left reeling, her lifeblood leaking from several vicious wounds. “Don’t worry, my dear.” Jarvis’s hushed voice is the sweat embrace of promised pain.

“Remember, you won’t die today. First I’ll butcher and eat your sisters before your very eyes, and then – only then – will you taste death. You will yearn for it long before I am finished with you!”

Karn casts shield of faith and sacred weapon, while Grull charges ahead recklessly to attack a githyanki. Dunkle’s rapier finds a chink in a githyanki’s suit of armor and sinks into the monster’s flesh halfway to the blade.

Holding forth his magical staff, Lyr casts insect plague in the corner of the throne room, enveloping Cloakmaster Jarvis and one of the githyanki. Both immediately move out of the insect swarm but not before having taken nasty bites from the critters. The githyanki warrior stumbles too close to Karn, though, and the paladin pounds him into the ground with his magical halberd. One enemy down.

Dexter, meanwhile, casts telekinesis – the invisible githyanki sorcerer tries to counterspell it and fails – and uses it to yank away the greatsword the githyanki next to Lyr is holding. The wizard calmly floats the sword back into his grasp and smiles at the creature. The githyanki snarls, takes a step, and rips his sword away from Dexter.

The invisible githyanki sorcerer casts hold person on Dexter, but the wizard again fights off the spell’s effects.

Dona’s halberd goes to work on Jarvis, dealing some nasty wounds, but she doesn’t manage to slay him. Again, Cloakmaster Jarvis lays into her with his greatsword. This time Dona is left on the precipice of death.

Seeing Dona in trouble, Dexter misty steps up nearer Jarvis, uses telekiness to rip the Cloakmaster’s sword out of his hands, and tosses it into the far corner that is still covered by the insect plague. “Want your sword? Go get it!”

Karn, noble Karn, rushes forward to Dona’s aid, too. The holy paladin of Torm lifts his halberd high, calls to his god for righteous strength, and brings the weapon down on Cloakmaster Jarvis in a vicious combination of attacks. Holy radiance flows from the weapon into Jarvis’s body as blow after blow finds its mark. And, when Karn finishes his barrage, Jarvis’s ruined body is left in a heap on the floor, practically cleaved in two. [This was a critical hit that Karn used a level three smite on. A total of 67 damage in one blow. Incredible. LOL.]

Cloakmaster Jarvis and his githyanki minions lie in growing pools of blood at the heroes' feet.

Dona, now bathed in the blood of her hated foe, thanks to Karn, is quite happy.

Dunkle stabs his rapier into the back of a githyanki, dropping the creature, and then the rogue hides behind a pillar. A bolt of lightning from the invisible sorcerer rocks through Grull, Lyr, and Dexter. Lyr casts faerie fire where he believes the hidden caster is, but the spell fails.

The battle now turns into a hide and seek contest with the invisible sorcerer. Dexter uses Vesper’s blindsight to help pinpoint the sorcerer’s location, but the heroes find it very difficult to hit their foe. [Disadvantage due to invisibility and the shield spell make for a very cagey opponent.]

In the end, though, it’s only a matter of time. They finally manage to break the sorcerer’s concentration on greater invisibility, surround him, and beat him down into death.

Boss Battle Means Boss Loot!

Their enemies defeated, the Hand of Light pilfers their corpses. [Hey, don’t judge. It’s what all good heroes do.]

The group discovers that the sword Jarvis was using is a +3 greatsword. This goes to Dona who feels giving up the reach of her halberd is probably worth it for such a powerful weapon. Dexter mentions that githyanki are known to hunt down non-githyanki who dare to wield their silver greatswords – they consider them sacred in a way – but Dona doesn’t care.

“You mean more of my hated enemies will seek me out for me to kill them? Sounds good!”

In Cloakmaster Jarvis’s rooms they find a chest full of silver and gold. Under the bed, Dunkles finds a small coffer containing 400 platinum pieces and promptly proclaims, “This is mine!” He soon realizes that was a mistake.

The group surrounds him and the berating about spending 20,000 gold pieces on the yugoloths is struck up once again. Needless to say, they don’t let Dunkle keep the platinum pieces.

In Jarvis’s study they find several maps marking the locations of hundreds of “meat farms” scattered across many different worlds. It appears that the githyanki raid these locations, capturing cattle – humanoids and elves – for butchering and consumption. Dexter and Lyr also find a motherload of magical spell scrolls stashed in Jarvis’s desk.

The heroes also discover dozens of small silver figurines in the shape of humans, elves, and minotaurs on shelves in Jarvis’s study. After some investigation and detect magic spells, they discover that each figurine is linked to the silver collars that slaves wear. The githyanki use these figurines to control their slaves.

Dexter investigates further and finds that some of the figurines are still active, indicating slaves are still collared. Lyr channels psychic magic through the figures and commands the remaining slaves to remove their collars. They do so, and are freed. The heroes don’t know where those slaves are in order to find them and lead them out of the astral plane, but at least they know they are free now.

The Meteor

The heroes leave the githyanki compound and head back to the astral ship they had commandeered. There they find all of the human and elves slaves hunkered down and awaiting their return.

They note that the massive meteor they saw in the sky when the first entered the astral plane is still there, only closer. And it appears to be racing toward a large area of silvery streaks which Dexter identifies as a portal to a different plane.

There is little to be done about it though, so they smash the gem of returning that Fea Eltorchul had given them. After several minutes a portal opens before them, and they rush through. The portal leads them to a chamber where they find Dain Flintlock, Fea Eltorchul, and several members of the Red Sashes waiting.

As all of the rescued slaves surge through the portal to freedom, the heroes present Jarvis’s head as proof of their success. Dain congratulates them on a job well done, and says he is convinced that they don’t work for the Xanathar.

Dain tells them that from time to time the real Red Sashes might call on them for assistance, if the heroes are so inclined. The heroes agree that it would be a good arrangement.

Their work done, the Hand of the Light leaves the compound below the warehouse in Dock Ward. It is the early hours of the morning, and the city is asleep and dark about them.

Suddenly a flash of light above them and loud roar draws their attention upwards. There they see a brilliant portal open in the sky miles above them, and a meteor – the same meteor from the astral plane – enters the sky through the portal. The roar of the meteor hurtling through the atmosphere is almost deafening.

The meteor charges across the sky, directly at Waterdeep, and then breaks into two large chunks. One piece strays to the west, off the coast of Waterdeep, and the other travels southeast. They hear the meteor that headed off the coast crash into the ocean. The city shakes, building sway, and the heroes are knocked from their feet.

Lights begin to turn on in buildings near them as people awaken, and the Hand of Light begins to hear a low roar from the east. The sound steadily increases in intensity.

“This is not good,” Dexter says. “I do believe a tsunami is headed our way.”

“At least we’ll be able to run faster without 20,000 extra gold pieces on us,” Lyr says, glaring at Dunkle and Dona. “I hope the Sloshing Boot isn’t damaged.”

Dona glares at the bard. “SHUT UP!”

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: One adventure. Three groups. Three approaches.

I just got back from Marmalade Dog 22, a convention in Kalamazoo, Michigan. At the convention I ran the Trouble with Veneration adventure I designed. In this post I'm going to look at how the three different groups approached the same adventure and how their approaches to overcoming the obstacles in it differed.

Before I start into that, one of my goals was to create an adventure that could be run from beginning to end in my time slot. That is, I didn't want the players to get 3/4 of the way through it and then have us run out of time. I'm happy to say that all the groups finished the adventure, and only one group went about five minutes over the slot time to do so. Of course, I had to do some finagling and cutting of scenes to make it happen, but that wasn't unexpected.

It also looked like most of the players were having fun, too. Many of them seemed to be impressed by the miniatures and maps. I think they are accustomed to playing "theater of the mind" D&D. From their reactions during the game and many of their comments during and after, I think I just won many of them over to D&D with minis.

Anyway, that's enough bragging. (I'm awesome, but not that awesome.) On with the show!

Below I'm simply going to walk through room-by-room how the different groups overcame the encounters. I'll include a brief overview of what's in the room (see the adventure PDF for more details) and as many details about the player's actions as I can remember. I found it very interesting to see how different groups of players approached the obstacles in front of them. Hopefully, you will, too. (And if you don't, no one is forcing you to read this.)

A1 - Temple

A massive stone statue of a snake dominates the far end of this room. Gleaming emeralds serve as the statue’s eyes. Smaller statues of humanoids with serpentine heads line the sides of the chamber. Runic writing is engraved on the walls. [The heroes can see no way to proceed farther into the temple compound.]

Groups 1 & 2: Both groups searched around the room and found the secret door. The rogue from group 2 had a blast plucking out the emeralds from the statues' eyes. 

Group 3: The heroes searched the statues, but several players rolled really low on Perception. The paladin started pounding on the large snake statue with his hammer. The shaking of the chamber caused the outline of a secret door to become visible, and then the warlock discovered how to open it. (The paladin's solution to many problems was it hit it with his hammer, I was to discover.)

A2 - Guard Room

In this small chamber, a handful of men and women in simple red robes sit around a table playing a game of cards.

Groups 1 & 2: The players simply attacked the guards and killed them. In group 2, the paladin and fighter take two dead bodies each with them. (Don't ask me why... The table thought it was funny; we didn't ask questions.)

Group 3: The guards were horrified as they thought the temple shaking had to do with the ceremony. (I wanted the players to be able to be able to try to talk their way pas the guards. So, I came up with this justification that would allow that strategy. Maybe it's a stretch. Maybe the players didn't buy it. Whatever.) The paladin entered the hallway and attacks outright, but not before the ranger casts spike growth on guards. The paladin charges through the spike growth anyway to squish one of the guards up against the wall. The other guards are decimated by the ranged characters.

A3 - Kitchens

Stovetops, ovens, and counters dominate this room. Cooking utensils, pots, and pans hang from the walls. Six male and female elves in simple white robes are preparing food. [The elves are slaves.]

Group 1: The heroes tell the elves to stay put while they stop the ceremony.

Group 2: The heroes convince the elves to strip down and give them their white robes. Then they tell them to flee the temple.

Group 3: The heroes convince the elves to flee to A1 with weapons and wait there for them to return.

A4 - Dining Hall

A long table runs the length of this room. Six cultists in red robes are eating dinner.

Group 1: Warlock disguised himself as a cultist and distracted the cultists as the other heroes sneaked past. One hero slips on blood, causing noise (rolled a 1 on Stealth). The warlock throws his imp familiar (shape shifted into a rat) on the table to distract them. The rat runs over their food, pissing the cultists off, but also distracting them. The rest of the heroes sneak by, and the warlock leaves to follow them.

Group 2: The heroes try to sneak past the cultists in their white robes. (White robes are for slaves; red are for cultists.) The sorcerer has a fireball readied in case they are spotted. Sure enough, one player rolls low on his Stealth check, and the cultists challenge them because the slaves should be cooking. The sorcerer lets loose his fireball, killing all the cultists but one. The heroes make short work of the last cultist.

Group 3: The warlock is trying to deceive the cultists here, but the ranger doesn’t care. She casts spike growth on them. The group fights the cultists. One is left, but hidden in the room. Two characters go up the ramp to the next level, thinking the room is clear. The cleric and sorcerer check the room out, and the cultist casts hold person on them both. Frozen, they are helpless. Fortunately, the ranger goes back to check the room out, sees what’s going on, and blasts the cultist with a couple arrows, killing him.

B1 - Fountain Room

A large basin of water and fountain occupy this room. The stone fountain is in the form of a snake-human abomination: it has the torso, arms, and head of a human, but instead of legs, it has the body of a snake. Doors across the way lead farther into the temple.

Group 1 & 2: The group investigates the fountain. Someone listens at the door and hears tortured screaming. They break down the doors.

Group 3: The paladin and warlock are investigating the fountain. The pally dunks the warlock’s head in the water to make sure it’s wet. It is. Just as the paladin is about to break the two doors down, the rest of the heroes catch up from their encounter in A4.

B2 - Torture Chamber

Implements of torture fill this large chamber, and flickering torches adorn the walls. Four screaming humans and elves are secured to slabs of stone and four steel cages with captives in them hang over cauldrons full of boiling liquid. Wicked, humanoids with snake-like heads work over the prisoners with hot pincers and knives. One snake creature is lowering one of the cages into a cauldron.

Group 1: The dwarf piles the dead bodies he took from A2 on top of him in front of the door to the room before the group opens the door. I’m not sure what he was aiming for, but it was funny. The heroes don’t stop the yuan-ti malison from dropping the elf into the boiling oil, and he dies horrible. The sorcerer drops a fireball in the room, hurting the enemies, but also killing all the elves.

Group 2: The sorcerer casts web in the room to suspend all the cages and prevent the elves in them from being dropped in the boiling oil. After defeating the enemies, they rescue all the elves.

Group 3: The nightmare speaker casts Hunger of Hadar, and the cleric, with spirit guardians going, moves through the room, inadvertently killing all the elves. (He didn’t know they were there.) The heroes do save one of the elves, with the paladin using lay on hands to heal one of them up.

B3 - Bathes

A ramp slopes down into steaming water. Towels hang from the wall nearest the entrance.

Group 1, 2, and 3: The heroes do nothing special in this room.

B4 - Scythe Trap

Light scrapings cover the stone floor in this corridor. [There are scythe blades hidden in slits along the hallway. Pressure plates at the far end of the hallway trigger the blades.]

Group 1: The group finds the trap and the buttons used to deactivate it for 30 seconds. They throw two dead cultist bodies into the blade area to makes sure the buttons actually disable it. They bodies are diced up and destroyed. Then they go through without any issues.

Group 2: The group finds the trap and how to disable it. They go through without any issues.

Group 3: Everyone rolls very low on their Perception checks, and they can’t figure out how to disable the traps. The paladin is partway through the trapped area before the warlock even finds the trap. Then the warlock and cleric rush through the trapped area as fast as they can. They take some damage. Then they search that side and find the button to disable the trap. The paladin jams a javelin into the hole to disable the trap, and everyone runs through.

C1 - Gathering Hall

The center of this chamber is dominated by a large statue, its lower half the coils of a snake and its upper half humanoid. The walls of the chamber are lined by small statues in the form of humanoid snake men.

Group 1, 2, and 3: None of the groups had time to run this encounter. [When I was designing the adventure, I didn't think there would be enough time for it in a four-hour game slot, but I wanted to include an extra scene just in case one was needed.]

D1 - Soakosh Chambers

The walls of this chamber are covered in an ornate fresco depicting snake creatures ruling over humans, elves, and dwarves from their temples and pyramids. Gilt furniture occupies the room: bed, wardrobe, chest, desk, and bookcases.

Group 1: The heroes ransacked the room and got the magical items in it.

Group 2 and 3: There wasn't enough time left, so I cut this scene out.

D2 - Ceremonial Chamber

Four platforms stand about this room, and in the center of the room is a large pool. Slaughtered captives are tied to columns on each platform, and blood runs down from the platforms into troughs and into the central pool. The pool is filled with blood and massive mass of writhing snakes. Red-robed figures stand around the pool, chanting.

[After the heroes defeat all or most of the yuan-ti purebloods and the pit master, the next wave of this encounter triggers.]

As the last of the yuan-ti fall, the mass of writhing snakes fall into the pool of blood, revealing a massive yuan-ti with multiple heads. “You have slaughtered Meershaulk’s righteous servants. You have committed sacrilege against his sacred snakes. And you have profaned his holy temple. However, you are too late. This day I have risen to divinity, and you all shall pay dearly!” And with that, the monstrosity moves to attack.

Group 1: The sorcerer opens up with a fireball into the middle of the mass of snakes. This damages all the purebloods and the pit master. They defeat the purebloods and pit master fairly easily. When the anathema enters the fight, the sorcerer blinds it with the scroll of blindness (I rolled horribly on my save). Then the heroes beat the thing down fast. I kept rolling horribly on my attack rolls, so the anathema never does any damage against any of them.

Group 2: The sorcerer opens up with a fireball into the middle of the mass of snakes. This damages all the purebloods and the pit master. The pit master puts two of the heroes to sleep before he goes down. When the anathema enters the fight, he casts polymorph on the fighter, and turns her into a bunny. He then puts her into a bag at his waist. On her turn, the fighter/bunny chews out of the bag. Later she bites the anathema with her sharp, pointy teeth, forcing him to make a Concentration check, which he fails. So, she becomes a dwarf again. The anathema drops two characters to 0 hit points. Two other characters are still sleeping. The battle is already going poorly for the heroes, and then the anathema casts polymorph on the fighter again. This time she makes her save. She then lays into the anathema, using power surge, and deals a bit of damage. I end up having the anathema die at 100 hp because we were running low on time, and I wanted the players to win. It was looking like a TPK otherwise.

Group 3: The sorcerer opens up with a fireball into the middle of the mass of snakes. This damages all the purebloods and the pit master. The pit master puts the cleric to sleep, and the other players let him sleep for like three rounds before waking him up. Once the anathema comes out, the heroes are blasting him with spells, eldritch blasts, and arrows. They did a lot of damage quickly to him. The anathema casts darkness and moves to a different spot so the heroes won’t know where to unleash their barrage of ranged attacks. On the monster’s next turn, it lands a critical hit on the paladin with its constrict attack and does 10d6 damage. The paladin drops to under ten hit points and is restrained. The anathema begins to move after the cleric, but the paladin taunts him. I was going to have mercy on the paladin and kill him on the next round, but decide to finish him off with a claw attack. Once the pally is at 0 hit points, the anathema turns to the cleric and attacks. I roll low and all the attacks miss the cleric. At this point the anathema is outside the darkness spell, and the rest of the heroes unleash on it. Finally, the anathema goes down.

 

That's it, my grand analysis. Less analysis, I suppose, and more just recounting what the different groups did. But I found it interesting. And, if you've made it this far, I'll wager a bet you found it interesting as well.

Cheers and happy gaming!

 

These are the miniatures for the pre-generated characters I supplied my players in the Marmalade Dog 22 convention in March 2017. I painted all the miniatures myself, though I wasn't able to finish the paladin on time for the convention. Front: Paela Longleaf (halfling rogue), Umara Fezim (human cleric), Yuldra Lightbringer (aasimar paladin), Bivrib Fireforge (dwarven fighter). Back: Nemear Hope (tiefling warlock), Leshanna Devanoe (half-elven sorceress), Mindartis Nightbreeze (wood elven ranger).

These are the miniatures I used for the yuan-ti anathema and purebloods for the Marmalade Dog 22 convention in March 2017. I painted the pureblood minis myself. The anathema mini I deployed "naked" though.