Sword Coast Guard, Episode 19 – The Siege of Gauntlet Hall, Part 3

Session Date: January 14, 2018

Watch the entire game session on YouTube: The Siege of Gauntlet Hall, Part 3

29 Eleasias, 1367 DR

When we last left our heroes, they were in the midst of lifting a siege from their castle, Gauntlet Hall. The besieging army — composed of orcs, ogres, and giants — have the fortification surrounded and a large force, led by the frost giant Big Grin, was attempting to breach the compound through the catacombs. Orog lieutenants riding nightmares — fiendish horses able to travel the ethereal plan — were bypassing the defending heroes’ chokepoint and dropping soldiers off in their midst.

As everything begins to hit the fan, the valiant Sword Coast Guard doubles their efforts against Big Grin’s elite orog strike force. Their battle lines are shattered and the situation looks grim, but their morale and resiliency are as high as ever.

For the sake of a good narrative, let’s just ignore Nigel invisible and hiding in the corner, shall we?

Elodin, beset by three orogs begins unleashing thunderwave after thunderwave, eventually lessening the pressure on him. Nearby, Iantorin dispatches two soldiers — eventually — and then moves to help the wizard.

Belwar, still polymorphed into a T-rex, continues to bite and tail smack the elite soldiers around him to good effect. Their greataxes do dig painfully into his flesh time and time again, but the mighty beast shrugs it off. Until the orc sorcerer appears from the ethereal plan on the back of his nightmare and drops a fireball on top of him and Cora, the cleric.

Cora is the PC of an on-call player who was standing in for Xavier who couldn’t make the session. We just did a straight swap for the game’s sake.

When the waves of fire clear, the heroes notice that the orogs in the tunnels were not harmed at all by the fireball. Not cool.

Eventually Belwar loses his T-rex form, but polymorphs again into a giant scorpion. Cora, meanwhile, frantically throws healing at her comrades. At some point when enough orogs have fallen dead before the efforts of the heroes, Nigel drops his invisibility and starts helping, too.

The bard was helping. I’m just playing up his whole hiding in the corner thing because I think it was hilarious. 🙂

After throwing a few more spells, the sorcerer doesn’t return, and the remaining orog soldiers fall to the heroes’ blades and spells.

Several minutes go by without any more attackers presenting themselves. Elodin sends his owl familiar outside to investigate and discovers about fifty orcs establishing a defensive mound around the tunnel entrance. He can see Big Grin and his personal hill giant guards moving off toward the main orc encampment.

Deciding the frost giant commander has given up assaulting the tunnels — how many loses are too many, eh? — the Sword Coast Guard stations a few dozen soldiers in the tunnels and heads to the castle to rest.

A long rest. Because by Torm’s right gauntlet, they’ve earned it.

Hail Torm!

After resting, the wizards send their familiars out to scout the orc army’s encampments. They observe Big Grin giving a scroll tube to a lone orc riding a dire wolf who then takes off at full speed to the west.

To the west.

To the Sword Mountains.

You know, where several thousand orcs are gathered and where the great Lord Paxton himself is rumored to dwell?

If you still don’t get it, talk with Nigel. He’ll sing you a pretty song or two.

Anyway, the heroes decide that an orc messenger heading west is a bad thing. They commandeer the squad of griffin riders who fly them out to intercept the messenger. They swoop down on it, easily kill it, and recover the scroll tube.

The scroll inside makes them quite happy they stopped the orc messenger.

“By Helm, they were sending for a dragon!” exclaims Iantorin. “And they were lying about what’s really happened here. That’s not right.”

The heroes have a brief discussion and recall that Lord Paxton’s emissary, Sabastian Venetia, did indeed meet them while riding a massive white dragon.

The heroes fly back to the castle and notice Big Grin in the orc encampment. The frost giant commander is watching their flight back to the castle and cursing them loudly.

Shortly thereafter, the heroes notice a group of orcs guarded by ogres heading to the west. Apparently Big Grin is trying again to send for reinforcements.

Predictably, the heroes catch a ride with the griffin riders and fly to intercept the group. However, as they approach, Elodin — who can now see into the ethereal plane — notices a massive force gathered on that plane: the orc sorcerer, the orc lieutenants, two hill giants, Big Grin, and the orc general who is known as the Hand. The orcs are all mounted on their nightmares, ready to shift the entire force to the Prime Material plan just as soon as the heroes engage the orcs and ogres.

The heroes pull up briefly and discuss their next move. They realize the ambush may very well prove overwhelming for them, but it’s also their chance to take out the frost giant commander and the general over the orc army.

It’s a risk they have to take.

Elodin drops a wall of fire on the orcs and ogres, and Belwar follows that up with a fireball. And then the orcs, nightmares, and giants in the ethereal plane shift into the Prime Material plane, and the fight is on.

This battle lasted for about four hours at the table. I can’t possibly hope to capture everything here, but I’ll try to get some highlights.

First, the heroes discovered the difficulty with aerial fighting. It didn’t take long for their enemies to begin attacking the griffins, dropping them to the ground. (In the end, only one griffin survived.)

Next, many of them — and some of the orc lieutenants — discovered that falling to the ground from a hundred or more feet in the air hurts. A lot.

Iantorin spent much of the battle engaging the ogres and Big Grin. Elodin moved about the battlefield flinging high-budget spells such as wall of fire.

The orc sorcerer was tearing the heroes up with lightning bolts and other nasty spells. Until, that is, Cora paralyzed him with hold person and the companions took him down.

Belwar spent much of the fight as a T-rex, tearing into hill giants and orc lieutenants. It’s worth noting, too, that Belwar lost control of a fire elemental he summoned, and the monster went on a rampage against the heroes.

Nigel, meanwhile was — you guessed it — invisible (greater invisibility this time) and throwing mostly cantrips at his enemies.

Many of the heroes fell to the ground several times, dying, before they were saved by a well-timed healing spell (thanks, Cora) or a healing potion administered by a comrade.

The tide of battle shifted back and forth several times, but mostly favored the enemies. Most of the battle was characterized by the heroes just managing to survive. That is, until Nigel “arrived.”

You see, Nigel is often maligned, criticized, and blamed for a good many things. There’s the whole Lady Tharmar incident and the demon-spawned children, of course. There’s the incident with the hag’s candy and the bard’s odd addiction to it. And the list goes on. However, one cannot deny that he has his moments.

In a move of sheer genius — and, frankly, uncharacteristic bravery — Nigel strides forward into the midst of the orcs, ogres, and giants and unleashes a new spell he’s learned: destructive wave.

And in the flash of an eye, half of the enemies are decimated and their corpses flung to the ground.

Nigel the Savior. That’s what his comrades should call him. (But they won’t.)

In the end, all of enemies are defeated, except for two hill giants who flee to the west. Belwar did die during the encounter, but Iantorin quickly revivifies him. After looting their corpses, the heroes fly back to the castle.

3 Eleint, 1367 DR

Over the next few days, the heroes observe the orc army implode. One clan slaughters another and heads off to the north. Another attempts an attack on the castle and is destroyed. And then the remaining clan retreats to the west.

In the end, the siege of Gauntlet Hall is ended, and the Sword Coast Guard are hailed as heroes once again.

In the remains of the orc encampment they discover a map of the Sword Mountains showing several strategic locations of the remaining orc forces, and several documents giving them critical information that should come in handy.

But those are adventures for another day!

The Sword Coast Guard

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

Not photoed: Iantorin Mournsoul - Half-Elven Paladin of Helm

Manus Invictus, Episode 1 – Myrkul’s Devoted, Part 1

Session Date: January 6, 2018

Watch the entire game session on YouTube: Myrkul's Devoted, Part 1

With five members of the Hand of Light adventuring party either killed or captured by the undead forces in the catacombs beneath Iniarv’s Tower, the opportunity presents itself for a new group of adventurers to rise to prominence along the Sword Coast. Introducing Manus Invictus, the Unconquered Hand...

10 Eleasias, 1367 DR

Having arrived to Waterdeep but a tenday ago, the members of Manus Invictus begin looking for odd jobs, like any good adventuring group looking to gain fame and fortune. They hear of a powerful wizard named Dexter Ambrose who is looking for help dealing with a necromance and undead to the north.

It sounds like a boring cliched job, to be honest, so two members get drunk at the Sloshing Boot tavern in Dock Ward while the other three decide to meet with this wizard. And thus Daeris Rosebloom, Maximillian Pitackleton, and Profero head to Eltorchul Academy where this wizard is apparently an instructor.

They aren’t exceptionally impressed by the wizard, an average-looking middle-aged human. They are even less impressed when Dexter explains that the rest of his adventuring company was wiped out by undead while he was indisposed by a cluster of black tentacles that had been plaguing his former company, the Hand of Light, since its earlier days.

Why would the Hand of Light delve into dangerous catacombs without their wizard? And why would they not simply destroy these tentacles like any adventuring company worth its weight in dead monsters would?

Dexter charges Manus Invictus with defeating the necromancer, a woman named Miriam Hargreves, and with recovering a magical bag full of a veritable library of valuable tomes. Once the adventurers press the wizard for five hundred gold apiece – because freeing the region from a dangerous undead threat clearly isn’t reward enough – they depart, promising that they won’t return to Waterdeep a failure as Dexter did.

They find their other two companions so slobbering drunk that they likely won’t be able to travel for days. So, they leave them behind at the Sloshing Boot – which is quite somber, apparently having lost its prized bard recently – and head to another inn, Guinevere’s Rest. There they pick up three lizardfolk warriors that Dexter mentioned might be available to help them if needed.

And two men down, they’re definitely needed.

13 Eleasias, 1367 DR

Traveling north under the blackness of the midday sky – when is someone going to do something about the darkened sky anyway? – the adventurers are ambushed by a group of drow and their pet displacer beasts.

Outlined by faerie fire and unable to see their assailants, it’s a tense moment for the adventurers as the large displacer beasts charge in and poisoned bolts rain down on them from the darkness. However, Maximillian casts daylight and reveals the battlefield to all.

With the element of surprise over and the advantage of darkness stolen, the battle quickly turns against the half dozen drow warriors and two large feline monstrosities. As Profero drops drow after drow with his own crossbow, the remaining dark elves drop into the tall grass and flee.

However, Manus Invictus refuses to let any enemies escape and possibly bring more in against them. They chase them down and ruthlessly execute them.

Imagine that. The players no longer want to leave potential enemies behind them. I wonder why…

As the heroes continue their journey north, they talk among themselves about the implications of drow patrols on the surface. At the very least, It would appear they are taking advantage of the darkened sky to extend their territory.

At worst, the drow have something to do with the sky.

15 Eleasias, 1367

The heroes find the entrance to the catacombs below Iniarv’s Tower exactly where Dexter described them. They note a recently trampled path heading to the northwest, but think little of it. It must be the path the undead take when raiding the road and the town of Leilon.

Shrug and move on. No investigation. No tracking. Okay, right then!

After making their way through the catacombs for nearly an hour, they find themselves in a large chamber whose tall ceiling lies out of sight in the darkness. Four artificial waterfalls fall into fountains in the four corners, and the north and south walls are lined with stone slabs. Upon the stone slabs rest a couple dozen rotting corpses.

Maximillian blasts several corpses with firebolt, expecting them to rise as undead, but nothing happens.

The heroes shrug and move into the room. As they reach the center of the room, five of the corpses do indeed rise and move nimbly toward them, their eyes burning red with hatred.

“Must have shot the wrong ones,” Maximillian says.

One of the wights, formerly a female dwarf, charges in with a large club, and another – a half-orc – wields a greataxe. Curiously, the third wight, a half-elf, has a broken lute strung around its shoulders. The fourth is slight of build, wielding a rapier, and the fifth bears a heavy pick and shield.

Three of them are, of course, former members of the Hand of Light. It’s two bad two of the players missed this session… It was a cool treat for the group to fight their former selves.

Manus Invictus and their lizardfolk companions, not carrying who these fiends used to be, engage the undead creatures. Just as the heroes are falling into a familiar rhythm, two ghost-like wraiths fly through the closed doors and home in on the group’s most vulnerable members.

With a cleric in their party, the heroes deal with the new threat with comparative ease, and the monsters are quickly dispatched.

Interested in the wights, the heroes search their corpses over, but find nothing of value. Whoever they used to be, they are but copperless bodies now.

Farther into the catacombs, they enter the foyer of a chapel to Myrkul, the former god of the dead who was killed during the Gods Wars some years ago. Double doors lead straight ahead, presumably into the main chapel, and – they suspect – where they will find the necromancer.

So, they decide to check out a couple side doors first. You know, no need to leave enemies behind them before confronting their true foe.

Behind the door to the south they find a scriptorium, complete with six skeletal figures sitting at desks. Five of the skeletons put down the quills they were writing with, turn to regard the heroes, and warn, “Enter not the study of the high priest!”

Manus Invictus can see a single door on the other side of the scriptorium.

“Guess that’s where we need to go,” says Daeris. “Let’s kill some stuff!”

As the heroes move into the room, the skeletons cry, “You were warned!” and move to attack.

Fortunately, they are but pitiful skeletons, and the adventures make short work of them. Unfortunately, they were inhabited by vengeful spirits, and five ghosts rise from the skeletons’ shattered remains.

Daeris is possessed immediately by a ghost, and watches in horror as her body begins to attack her companions. Maximillian, however, is having none of that. Using turn undead he forces the spirit out of the rogue’s body.

Things go well for the heroes, with them dispatching three of the ghosts, but the last two fight prove to be annoying, if not deadly. Moving through walls so the heroes cannot attack them and possessing their lizardfolk companions, they drag on the inevitable end.

But the end does come, and the heroes finally vanquish the undead spirits.

Beyond the door in the scriptorium, they do indeed find a study. At a desk they find the fourth journal of Iniarv and the necromancer, Miriam Hargreve’s, journal. In a chest they uncover the mother lode of treasure: fanciful objects of art, gems, and nearly more gold and platinum than they can carry.

The players recognized much of it as coming from their former characters. One commented that having to write it all down a second time was punishment for not selling it when they had a chance.

Feeling slightly worse for wear and knowing the necromancer is likely close by, Manus Invictus holes up in the high priest’s study and takes a short rest.

Manus Invictus

The famed members of the Manus Invictus adventuring party.

Maximillian Pitackleton, cleric

Daeris Rosebloom, rogue

Profero, fighter

Dawn Fledermause, fighter

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 18 – The Siege of Gauntlet Hall, Part 2

Session Date: December 30, 2017

29 Eleasias, 1367 DR

When we last left our heroes, they were in the midst of lifting a siege from their castle, Gauntlet Hall. The besieging army — composed of orcs, ogres, and giants — had the fortification surrounded and were preparing a grand assault. The Sword Coast Guard disabled a massive battering ram, and they had just reached the army’s catapults and the crew that guards it, lead by a frost giant named Tralavor “Big Grin.”

Looming over the heroes — who currently appear as orcs thanks to a seeming spell — the frost giant leader demands a report of the humans that supposedly ambushed them north of Gauntlet Hall. Xavier then muddles through a poor explanation, rousing the giant’s suspicions.

“What tribe do you serve?” Big Grin demands.

Blank looks.

“And how are you even still standing?” The giant prods one of Belwar’s zombies, animated from dead orcs.

No response.

“These are the imposters that attacked the battering ram!” the frost giant commander roars. “Kill them!”

And then Belwar casts banishment on him.

As the giant’s pet winter wolves engaged the heroes, the ogres that had been manning the catapults also move to attack.

Nigel then casts greater invisibility on Elodin, who then sneaks around to the catapults and drops a wall of fire across three of them. The wizard drops a fireball on the fourth and smiles as the fires engulf the catapults, ensuring their fate.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Sword Coast Guard is killing winter wolves, orcs, and ogres. Belwar manages to cast some doubt into the minds of the ogres about whom they should be fighting, but when the dumb brutes realize the deception, the fury of their attacks increases threefold.

Just as orog reinforcements are moving into the battle and the frost giant reappears, banishment having run its course, the heroes take to the air by various means and make good their escape back to the castle. Big Grin curses them as they fly away, but is powerless to stop them.

Belwar, polymorphed into a giant eagle, and Iantorin, riding his magical pegasus steed, make slow circles of the orc encampments to gather more information about their forces. While they do so, they notice the frost giant leader gather up fifty some orcs and a handful of orcs and then head north, presumably to find the secret entrance to Gauntlet Hall.

Belwar and Iantorin return to the castle and relay this information to the others. Then the heroes head down into the catacombs to defend the secret entrance in case the giant and orcs manage to find it.

They attempt to take a short rest to gather their strength back but are interrupted as a resounding boom echoes through the tunnels and the pitiful gate the blocks the secret entrance is blown from its hinges. Outside they ogres and orcs ready to stream into the tunnel.

The heroes take up defensive positions, and Elodin drops a fireball outside, immolating over a dozen orcs and wounding several orogs. Meanwhile Xavier and Iantorin easily dispatch a couple ogres that enter the tunnel.

And then an orc sorcerer riding a nightmare — a fiendish horse from the Abyss able to travel to the Ethereal plane at will — appears outside the tunnel, drops a fireball in the midst of the party, and then flies away.

As the adventurers recover from the fiery blast, they move back into the tunnels where it will be more difficult for the sorcerer to lob spells at them.

Several minutes go by, and nothing happens. The heroes aren’t sure exactly what the frost giant — who is positioned outside the tunnels a safe distance away — is planning now, but they take advantage of the respite to rest.

Once they are healed up a bit and feeling at least a little better, they prepare for the giant commander’s next move. The heroes aren’t disappointed.

Out of thin air, four orc lieutenants riding nightmares, appear in the tunnels, surrounding the party. However, they aren’t alone. Each lieutenant carries two soldiers, either orcs or ogres, with him. The lieutenants drop the soldiers off and then move away to safety, further down the tunnels.

Surrounded on three fronts, the heroes fight frantically against the renewed assault. Belwar even polymorphs into a T-rex despite the cramped quarters. After a few moments, though, the heroes manage to drop all of the attackers, proving once again that they are up to anything Big Grin can throw at them.

However, in the chaos of battle, the heroes had spread out a little too much, and when the lieutenants and nightmares appear again, they drop off soldiers all around them and in their very midst. And this time the troops are their elite soldiers, battle-hardened orogs.

In just a few moments, the orogs unleash hell on the heroes.

Nigel, beset by two of them, takes several horrendous wounds, casts invisibility, crawls into a corner, and curls up into a fetal position. The rest of the heroes, cursing their luck, wonder how much longer they can hold out.

And what happens when the lieutenants just bring in more soldiers?

The heroes are beginning to wonder if this battle can even be won. The thought occurs to them, too, that they should have killed Big Grin when they had the chance.

The Sword Coast Guard

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

Not photoed: Iantorin Mournsoul - Half-Elven Paladin of Helm