Hand of Light, Episode 26 – My Dear Missing Mother, Part 6

Session Date: December 9, 2017

In this episode, the Hand of Light finds an unexpected ally, slaughters mommies and their ghastly children, wrecks undead beholders, and nearly perishes at the hands of an angel.

23 Flamerule, 1367 DR

Before the Hand of Light proceeds any further into the compound, the doors to the beholder chamber they just fled swing open. Two rotting undead beholders grab Karn and Dunkle with their telekinetic eye rays and drag them away.

Then, before the doors close, Luna comes dashing through to join the remaining heroes. The dwarven paladin as been with the group long enough to know that members being dragged off — whether by tentacles or beholders —  is usually something that no one can do anything about. So, she doesn’t even bother asking.

Yep, Karn and Dunkle’s players were unable to attend the session…

The heroes investigate two doors nearby and find captives within. Some are from Leilon and others were simply traveling the road when they were taken by undead. One of the captives tells them that Lyr’s mother, Nicolette Fairson, was taken recently, and that no one who’s taken has ever returned.

One of the captives is a half-orc named Torug FaceSplitter, and he initially believes the heroes to be those responsible for shackling him. However, the Hand of Light convinces him otherwise, and Torug, a powerful warrior in his own right, agrees to help them out as he’s looking to get revenge on his captors.

The heroes explain to Torug they believe it’s a lich, but the half-orc seems undaunted.

The Hand of Light then users the captives out of the catacombs, using Lyr’s insect swarm staff to get by the undead beholders.

Further in the catacombs, they come upon a hallway lined with funerary recesses and two long hallways with sarcophagi in them. As they advance, ghasts leap out of the funerary recesses and drag Lyr into the middle of the pack and begin eating him alive.

In panic the bard unleashes one of his most powerful spells, destructive wave, and obliterates all of them.

Then the lids of the sarcophagi slide aside and two mummies shamble toward the heroes. However, Luna and Torug make short work of them.

Exploring further into the catacombs, the heroes find a couple rooms of interest. One is but a disused altar room dedicated to a fallen deity, and the other appears to the bedroom and study of the lich herself.

The heroes suspect a trap on that door, owing to the arcane runes written on it in blood, but sadly their trapper is absent. So, Luna and Torug just smash the door down.

Predictably, waves of necrotic energy roll over the party.

After recovering from such a cleverly disguised trap, they enter the room. They find some treasure and the journal of Miriam Hargreaves. They learn that this woman, a necromancer — and hopefully not an actual lich — has discovered a way to magically link herself to people so that any damage directed at her is instead transfer to them.

And, fortunately for the heroes, Karn is not present this day. For if he had been — and Dexter is damn sure to point this out to everyone — they would have never learned this information because the paladin is heaven-bent on destroying any knowledge related to the dark arts of necromancy and lichdom.

After taking a short rest in the altar room, Torug opens the door to see two undead beholders staring at him. “Close the door!” everyone else shouts at him.

What better way to make them fight more beholders than a random encounter when short resting? [insert evil laugh here]

The heroes don’t hide or run this time, though. They come out of the room, weapons and spells flashing. Lyr blinds one of them with blindness, making it a mostly helpless target, and Dexter begins blasting and blinding the other with sunbeam. One beholder does get off a couple eyes rays before they are both destroyed; so the heroes are not totally unscathed in the battle.

After licking their wounds, the group moves into a hallway that looks quite suspicious to them. Upon investigating, they find slits all along the walls from which they suspect something quite nasty will exit should they do the wrong thing.

They investigate a pair of double doors at the end of the hallway, and find a metal plate next to them that can be depressed. They finally determine that the trap is most likely triggered by opening the doors and that the plate probably disarms the trap.

So, what does Lyr do?

HE OPENS THE DOORS, OF COURSE!

Seriously, Lyr is the type of player that all DMs love. I mean the players had figured out my trap and were just about to completely bypass it. And then Lyr totally redeems my time spend designing the trap. 🙂

Fortunately, only Lyr was in the danger zone, and only Lyr is hit by a multitude of sharp blades that spring from the walls and begin slicing him to pieces. In panic, the bard slams his palm into the metal plate, depressing it and causing the blades to grind to a halt.

There is a bit of name-calling at this point, but Lyr just smiles, undaunted, and moves on.

The Hand of Light then enters a large chamber with columns running down the center, and a fallen, broken bronze statue lying in the center of the room. To the north are crypts with funerary recesses. To the south the ceiling has collapsed and stone rubble is strewn about.

As the heroes investigate the statue — that of an angelic being known as a solar — a deep noble voice begins to speak to them telepathically. It identifies itself as a powerful servant of a fallen god, Tabris, and warns them agains the evil necromancer that lies further on in the catacombs.

Luna uses her divine sense, determining that the area has been desecrated, but senses no fiendish, celestial, or undead creatures nearby.

After some discussion, the heroes ask the being if it can aid them. The voice tells them it will bestow a blessing on their weapons and armor if they lie them near the broken statue. Lyr immediately removes his armor and does so. Luna is about to do the same, but Dexter speaks up, questioning whether that is wise or not.

When Luna changes her mind, the rubble to the south explodes out ward, and a large demonic creature with four arms, two of which end in massive pincers, emerges. A glabrezu.

The voice in their head, now guttural and demonic, mocks them for their foolishness, and the demon drops a globe of darkness over itself.

The battle that follows is epic.

The glabrezu strides forward, snatches both Luna and Torug up in its pincers, and then casts power word stun on Dexter. As the wizard is left reeling for nearly half a minute and the demon begins rending the dwarf and half-orc to pieces, Lyr does the only thing he can think of.

He casts insect cloud from his staff, obscuring the demon’s vision, too.

Enraged, the demon goes into a frenzy, taking out its hatred on poor Luna. Lyr casts Bigby’s Fist, but the demon contemptuously dispels it. And then, the glabrezu tears Luna in half, throwing the two halves of her body to either side of the room.

Having no answer to the creature’s raw power and magical abilities, Lyr and Dexter both discuss fleeing, leaving Torug to his fate and losing the option of revivifying Luna.

However, the half-orc barbarian is not having it. With one final burst of courage and rage, Torug lays into the demon with his borrowed greatsword. The blind barbarian feels his weapon sink satisfyingly into the monster’s flesh several times.

And the darkness winks out.

The heroes then witness the might creature issue one last curse at them before its body dissipates into nothingness.

Immediately Lyr and Dexter pull the two halves of Luna back together, and the bard casts revivify. Luna’s eyes flutter open as life is restored to her corpse.

Then, wrecked, badly injured, and out of spells, the Hand of Light limps off to a dark corner of the catacombs to take a much needed rest.

That was an AWESOME battle! I had a blast running that glabrezu and was totally prepared to TPK the heroes. Fortunately, their bacon was saved.

This time.

The Hand of Light

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

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 17 – The Siege of Gauntlet Hall, Part 1

Session Date: December 3, 2017

28 Eleasias, 1367 DR

When we last left our heroes, they had just rescued the true Lady Nellabee Tharmar from the clutches of a succubus and her demonic offspring. Shortly thereafter, they learned that Gauntlet Hall – the castle they annexed from the White Knights – is under siege.

Following the instructions of the courier, the Sword Coast Guard heads to Castle Waterdeep to meet with Tzarrakyn the Younger about a supposed siege on Gauntlet Hall. It being late at night, the heroes wake him from his slumber in his quarters.

Tzarrakyn tells them that news came in that morning that orcs and giants had laid siege to Gauntlet Hall two days ago. He doesn’t have any more details and asks them if he can count on them to break the siege.

Iantornin loudly proclaims that they will indeed do that and Elodin mumbles, “Yeah, I mean it is our castle after all.” Tzarrakyn tells them to meet him on the morrow and one of the War Wizards will teleport them to Gauntlet Hall.

29 Eleasias, 1367 DR

After taking their rest in the Safehaven Inn, the heroes meet Tzarrakyn and Linar of the War Wizards in the morning. Linare explains that because she is only familiar with Gauntlet Hall, there are risks involved with teleporting there. Namely, they might not end up at their actual destination. He heroes accept the risks, and Linare casts her spell.

The Sword Coast Guard then finds themselves at Gauntlet Hall — but outside its west wall. Worse, to the west, they can see a whole mess of orcs swarming behind a fortified ditch and embankment.

The heroes head to the wall where they are challenged by the Waterdhavian soldier in charge. Despite explaining who they are, the soldier doesn’t seem to believe them.

Nigel attempts to persuade the soldier with music — it fails — and Elodin complains under his breath about the indignity of being refused entrance to their own castle.

Ultimately, the soldier tells them to go around to the gate and he’ll get Civiliar Casey who’s in charge. Casey meets them at the gate and the heroes are immediately allowed entrance through the sally port.

Xavier loudly begins to file a complain against the soldier who challenged them, but Iantorin silences him. “Later! There are more important matters to attend to at this time.”

The heroes and Casey go to the war room where other Waterdhavian officers are gathered and receive a summary of the situation.

Orcs and giants have set up fortified lines — ditches and spiked embankments — to the west and east of the castle along the ridge that the castle is built upon. A couple hundred orcs are behind each line. Then, to the south lies the main encampment of orcs, some five hundred of the foul beasts.

That morning catapults manned by teams of giants were set up behind the west line, and to the south they’ve spotted a massive battering ram covered by an iron roof. Currently the orcs are preparing to assault the castle, likely waiting until the catapults and battering ram have opened breaches in the castle walls.

Bjoern, an experience officer who’s much more competent than Casey, tells them that the orcs are operating with precision and coordination completely alien to their race. The heroes immediately suspect someone (or something) must be leading them, and Bjoern tells them that specks of fire have been spotted in the night sky above the castle the last two nights.

After a period of speculation, the heroes determine it’s possible that the leaders of the besieging army have access to nightmares, fiendish horses from the Abyss, and ride them over the castle at night for reconnaissance.

One of the men in the room, Mizela Faust, is no solider but a War Wizard. The obese man explains to them that he can cast a spell on them that will make them appear as orcs — or anything for that matter — for the next eight hours.

The Sword Coast Guard spends some time strategizing with Bjoern and Casey, trying to determine how to defeat the siege without fighting the entire army gathered outside. They believe that striking at the leader is definitely needed, but they also need to sow enough discord or defeat in the army to cause them to abandon the cause.

Then a soldier enters the room, out of breath. “It’s begun,” he says. “The battering ram has begun its approach.” And at the moment the entire castle shakes and there is a thunderous sound from the west.

“And those must be the catapults,” Bjoern says.

Frantic, Casey turns to the heroes. “Can you stop the battering ram?” she pleads.

“Of course we can!” proclaims Iantorin. “We’re the Sword Coast Guard.”

“Sword Coast Guard!” the other heroes shout, fists held high in the air.

After the wizard Mizela casts his spell, making them all appear as orcs, the heroes leave through the sally port to find the battering ram — a massive iron contraption covered by an iron canopy — slowly plodding along toward the castle gates, pushed by three giants easily twice as tall as a man. Behind the giants are half a dozen orcs bearing tower shields.

Elodin immediately casts a spell, turning the ground in front of the battering ram into a pit of mud. The front third of the siege weapon dips into the mud, and the two lead giants fall in and begin floundering about.

As the orc guard begins streaming forward, Nigel casts entangle with his fancy new magical bandalore — courtesy of the “real” Lady Tharmar — and stops five of them cold as roots wrap around them.

Belwar (supposedly a necromancer) polymorphs into a brontosaurus and charges into the fray, stomping and tail swiping the foes before him. Xavier follows and brings his enchantyed blizzard sword to bear against the entangled orcs. Iantorin, meanwhile, sticks close to Nigel and Elodin to protect the more vulnerable members.

One of the giants hits Elodin with a hurled rock, dealing severe damage to the frail human. However, things mostly go in favor of the heroes, and in short order they dispatch their foes.

With the battering ram crew dead — only giants would be able to move machinery that massive — and orc worg riders streaming at them, the heroes retreat back through the sally port into the castle. But not before Belwar creates four orc zombies from the corpses.

Finally the necromancer has arrived!

The orc army seems to take a collective breath at the loss, but soon the catapult crews resume their assault on the walls.

The Sword Coast Guard briefly discusses their next move and finally determines that they must take out the catapult crews, otherwise the western wall will come down within a few hours. So, they travel through Gauntlet Hall’s crypts and exit from a secret entrance half a mile to the north. There they begin to move around to the rear of the orc lines where the catapults are.

However, they run into an orc dire wolf patrol on the way. The heroes, still appearing to be orcs, try to bluff their way past the patrol as they are inquiring as to their injuries. They are doing quite well until Xavier opens his mouth and ruins it all. The orcs become increasingly suspicious until finally Iantorin, having tired of the charade, attacks them.

The battle is short; the orcs stand no chance against the powerful Sword Coast Guard. Xavier attempts to claim one of the dire wolves as his own, but Belwar’s zombies, unable to understand the eldritch knight’s intensions, rip it to pieces.

The heroes then arrive to the rear of the orc lines and begin discussing their plan for getting past the orcs and disabling the catapults. The conversation drags on for about ten minutes before a group of orcs approach them.

“What’s this?” one of them growls. “The Boss said everyone was to be at the front for the assault.”

“We just came from the north,” Iantorin says in orc. “We were ambushed by the enemy. We defeated them, but there could be more.”

The orcs’ eyes go wide. “Damned weakling humans! Come on. We got to tell the Boss about this.”

The orcs insist the heroes go with them, but Nigel feigns having been poisoned during the ambush and begins vomiting all over the ground. The orcs, disgusted and thinking it might be contagious, allow the bard and Elodin to remain behind.

Interesting how the two characters who CAN’T speak orc remain behind… Also the two squishiest characters… All alone… Hey, I’m the DM. I don’t question such fortuitous turns of events…

The Xavier, Iantorin, Belwar, and the latter’s four orc zombies, are then escorted to the Boss who turns out to be a towering frost giant, easily twenty feet tall. Two massive winter wolves, beasts purposed to breathe cones of cold and be raised by frost giants as pets, lounge nearby. But a few yards away are four gigantic catapults manned by ogres.

The orcs push the heroes forward. “These ones say the humans ambushed them to the north.”

The frost giant glares at the Sword Coast Guard for several moments, looming over them as he sizes them up. “Well, give your report then!”

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

Hand of Light, Episode 25 – My Dear Missing Mother, Part 5

Session Date: November 24, 2017

In this episode, the Hand of Light finds an unexpected ally in Iniarv’s Tower, argues over the fate of three books, and runs into creatures far beyond their pay grade, forcing them to flee.

21 Flamerule, 1367 DR

“Clearly we must unstone Gabriel,” Dunkle says, holding his hand out for the stone to flesh salve.

Karn shakes his head. “We have but two of the salves. These two stoned lizardfolk will likely prove more useful to our cause than Gabriel ever was.”

And thus the Hand of Light enters and extended discussion about who gets unstoned and who doesn’t. In the end, they decide to unstone Gabriel and one of the lizardfolk.

Because the DM made them roll dice for it. How many games have we all been in where the players took hours discussing something like this? Geesh…

After escorted the liberated lizardfolk and the stoned one back to the ziggurat where the other lizardfolk warriors are, the heroes rest for the night.

During first watch the shadows in the altar room begin to elongate and move, coming alive to attack them. Lyr, already heavily wounded, goes down and nearly transforms into a shadow himself. However, his friends quickly defeat the creatures and go the bard’s aid, reviving him and sparing him a fate worse than death.

22 Flamerule, 1367 DR

The next morning, the Hand of Light sets off for Iniarv’s Tower. They exit the swamp several hours later, and — after arguing over where to hide the boat — approach the tower which they can see off in the distance.

The tower lies mostly in ruins with but two spires and two chambers intact. There is only one obvious entrance into the compound, and there are no windows anywhere.

Believing this to be either suspicious or convenient, the Hand of Light is hesitant to enter through the doorway. So, Dunkle climbs the tower to check things out. From the south spire, he can see the top of the north spire, the roof of which as crumbled inward, revealing another entrance.

Dunkle gets a running start and leaps into the air, trying to clear the thirty feet between the two spires. Obviously, he doesn’t make it, slams into the side of the tower, and falls forty some feet to the ground.

Dexter, meanwhile, uses his spiderclimbing boots to easily scale the tower and tie off a rope to the north spire. The heroes then scale the rope and enter the spire, bantering back and forth about looking for a new rogue when they get back to Waterdeep.

The north spire turns out to hold very little beyond refuse and some rotten sleeping rolls. They descend the spire into one of the compound’s remaining chambers on the ground floor. In an adjacent room they can see massive piles of refuse.

“You know what lives in piles of refuse, don’t you?” comments Dexter. The group ignores him.

Dunkle sends his new owl familiar into the room to check things out. Looking through his eyes, Dunkle can see movement from one of the piles of refuse and relays the information to the group.

Karn snorts and begins moving into the room, silencing Dexter when he starts going on about stuff living in refuse. “Torm will protect us!” the paladin insists.

And then, as the Hand of Light nears the center of the room, the three piles of refuse explode into movement, and eight barbed tentacles begin wrapping around them and pulling them in toward large hungry maws.

“Otyughs live in refuse!” Dexter screams as a tentacle wraps around him.

What follows is a pitched battle with four ravenous otyughs that the Hand of Light nearly loses in the first few moments. However, the tide turns, as it usually does, and the monsters are put down.

However, not without loses.

“Gabriel, no!” screams Dunkle as he stares at his apprentice’s two legs — legs that were separated from the rest of his body when an otyugh bite him in half. The rogue then crawls into the monster’s corpse and pulls out the rest of Gabriel. Unfortunately, the state of his body prevents him from being raised from he dead.

As Dunkle, tears streaming his face, buries Gabriel outside the tower, the rest of the group takes a short rest. When they are all ready, the go back into the compound and ascend the stairs of the south spire.

At the top, they find a wooden door in excellent repair — not rotten like the others in the tower — and beyond it is a well maintained room containing a desk, a fireplace, and a bookcase.

Dexter and Dunkle find several books of importance. Three have covers of bones, pages made from human skin, and give information about dozens of known lichens in the Realms. A few other books appear to be the journals of Iniarv himself.

The heroes hear a muffled sound coming from the desk and can see one of the desk drawers rattling. Upon inspection it appears the drawer was wedged shut.

When they remove the wedge, a tiny gray creature with wings an large bat-like ears flies out. It zips over to Karn and lands on the paladin’s shoulder. “Hi, I’m N1-24. What’s your name?” it asks in a high-pitched voice. “Are you my master?”

“No,” Karn says, narrowing his eyes. “What are you?”

“That appears to be a hommonculus,” Dexter says. “If he doesn’t know who his master is, I’d guess that the bonding ritual with the wizard that created it — Iniarv I presume — was never completed.”

At that, Karn snatches the small creature in his gauntleted fist and brings it down in front of him. “How did you get in the desk?” he asks the creature.

“I was locked in there,” N1-24 responds.

“Who locked you in there?”

“None of your business.”

“No games,” the paladin growls sternly, squeezing the creature slightly. “Who locked you in the drawer?”

“None of your business! None of your business!” N1-24 squirms around, trying to get free. “What’s your problem you big stupid metal head? Let me go! I just want to find my master.”

Dunkle then walks over. “N, calm down,” he says. “I am your master.”

“Master!” the hommonculus cries out in happiness. “I’ve been waiting for you! See how clean I’ve kept your room? Please tell ugly-faced metal head to let me go.”

Once Karn can be convinced to release the N1-24, the creature goes to Dunkle’s shoulder, embracing his neck and purring into his ear.

At Dunkle’s prodding, the creature reveals that he was created by Iniarv but the bonding ritual was never completed. He’s been waiting in this room for a long long time for his master to return. Recently, a women with black hair named None Of Your Business entered the room and locked him into the desk drawer because he “talked too much.”

N1-24 then notices the books that Dunkle and Dexter were looking over and points out that one of Iniarv’s journals is missing. The Hand of Light begins to suspect that this woman took the journal which likely contains information about achieving lichdom.

When they ask N1-24 where the woman might have gone or where they could find the journal, the creature says he doesn’t know but they might look in the crypts below the tower.

Just as they are about to leave the room, Karn demands that they destroy the books that give information about the liches. What ensues is a lengthy and heated discussion between the paladin and the wizard, the latter of which refuses to burn books that likely contain important information about the liches should they ever desire to track them down and destroy them.

In the end, the books disappear, much to Karn’s anger. The paladin suspects either Dunkle or Dexter did something with them, but he has no evidence.

This marks the third argument of the day with the Hand of Light. The stress of the adventuring life may be getting to them. Maybe it’s time to retire and hang out with flumphs.

With N1-24 happily riding Dunkle’s shoulder, the heroes arrive at the entrance to the crypts and find the door — a large circular stone — already rolled aside. Inside they find clear tracks made from creatures dragging their feet (zombies most likely) and follow them.

As they travel, they notice most of the funerary recesses are empty as though the remains were either stolen — or worse, animated.

The come into a massive chamber whose ceiling stretches more than sixty feet above them. Columns run down the center of the room, and lining the sides are dozens of stone slabs on top of which lie humanoid forms wrapped in linens. In the four corners of the room are small waterfalls that plummet from far above into basins. A basin of water with a fountain shaped like some angelic being stand in the center of the room.

“Those can’t all be mummies, can they?” Lyr asks, indicating the linen-wrapped figures.

Karn moves forward, hefting his halberd. “Only one way to find out.”

As the heroes move into the center of the room, several of the figure stand and attack.

Dunkle dashes forward and stabs one of them with Bleeder. The linen wrappings immediately fall away into a crumpled pile on the floor, but a swarm of furious beetles flow down his rapier and onto the rogue, crawling under his armor and bitting him all over. Dunkle screams like a girl, and swatting the insects off him, moves away from the beetle swarm.

All of the linen-wrapped figures turn out to more of the same, with swamp of beetles emerging to attack the heroes the moment they destroy the linen wrappings.

Just as the Hand of Light is starting to get the hang of the fight, using holy water from the fountain in the center of the room to destroy the undead creatures, floating bulbous creatures begin to emerge from behind the four waterfalls in the room.

“Holy hells!” shouts Dexter from his perch atop the fountain. “Undead beholders!”

The four beholders immediately begin pummeling the heroes with necrotic rays from their central eyes and a variety of other rays from their eye stalks. After only a few moments of taking shots from the rotting, undead beholders, the heroes know they are outmatched.

“Let’s get the hell out of here!” screams Dunkle. No one disagrees.

At that moment, Lyr is struck by a moment of genus — a rare occurrence. The bard first casts insect plague to hold back the linen figures, and then uses his magical staff to create a second harmless swarm of insects around the heroes that completely obscures them.

Unable to see any targets, the undead beholders fire randomly into the the area, but hit nothing. The Hand of Light then retreats from the room. The linen figures amble stupidly into the insect plague area and are quickly destroyed.

From the hallway, Lyr peers through the doorway into the chamber as he is the only one who can see while in his insect swarm. After a few moments, he sees the beholders float back where they came from behind the waterfalls.

The Hand of Light discusses their options and decide to sneak past the beholders. They simply don’t have the resources to deal with the creatures on such unfavorable terms, especially when they might need to fight a lich yet that day.

So, under the guise of the bard’s insect swarm, they sneak back through the chamber. The beholders do exit and take blind shots into the insect swarm, but the heroes make it safely across the chamber and into another hallway.

“By Torm, that was tough,” Karn comments.

None of the other members of the Hand of Light disagree.

The Hand of Light

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

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 16 – Confronting Lady Tharmar, Part 2

Session Date: November 19, 2017

28 Eleasias, 1367 DR

When we last left our heroes, they had just defeated a handful of demon-spawn in the library of Lady Nellabee Tharmar. Lady Tharmar herself, after revealing herself as a succubus, had fled to the ethereal plane.

As the heroes of the Sword Coast Guard stand in the Great Library, discussing their next move, an inter-planar rift opens, Lady Tharmar’s appears, grabs Iantorin and Belwar, and yanks them through the rift. “Don’t worry!” she laughs as the rift closes. “I’ll show your friends a good time!”

“What the hell was that?” asks Xavier, his Blizzard Sword at the ready.

Elodin thinks a moment or two — as his Arcana check is processed — and replies, “Just a DM plot device. Nothing we can do anything about. Now, what were we saying?”

“I can’t believe Nellabee didn’t take me with her,” Nigel says. Head down, the bard wipes a tear from his glistening eyes.

“Yeah, that might have been for the best,” mutters Elodin.

Iantorin’s and Belwar’s players were at this session, so those characters got yanked into the Etheral plane for Lady Tharmar’s amusement.

The companions hear boots echoing down the hall that leads from the library, and then see several tiefling and half-orc guards round the corner.

Two guards, a human and half-orc, are shocked to see the corpses of demon spawn littering the floor. As their tiefling commander — a warlock of considerable power — commands them to kill the heroes (except for Nigel; Lady Tharmar wants him alive), the human and half-orc, Tiebald and Rickard, defect to the heroes’ side and aid them against the guards.

Instead of re-leveling the encounters, I whipped up a couple NPCs for my players to use this session. Basically a simplified barbarian and fighter.

Nigel drops a well placed hypnotic pattern, holding four fo the guards in place right off the bat. Xavier, Tibald, and Rickard then move into start cleaning up. However, the enemy’s warlock leader was unaffected by the spell, and promptly starts blasting his own companions with eldritch blast to snap them out of it.

Elodin drops a wall of fire in the library, scorching many of the guards and the warlock. However, the enemy spellcaster responds in kind, dropping his own wall of fire on the heroes.

I had literally opened up wall of fire on my phone and was reading about it when Elodin’s player told me he was going to cast it, too.

With two walls of fire filling much of the hallway and the library, the combatants scramble about to free themselves from the waves of heat. Then, after some more back and forth, the Sword Coast Guard finally brings down the last of their foes.

At this point, the heroes suspect that Lady Tharmar was likely moving through the compound, alerting the guards to their presence, or the noise from combat was drawing them down on them.

Elodin sends his owl familiar outside with a note to warn the Waterdeep watch of demons in the manor. The watch captain and guardsmen across the street are justifiably terrified at the though of fighting demons themselves, and send for Force Gray, the elite strike force of the Lords of Waterdeep.

As the heroes stand around in the library discussing matters…

Don’t ask me why they didn’t move elsewhere if the enemies obviously knew where they were…

Another group of tiefling and half-orc guards come upon them. This time the heroes bluff the guards away from attacking, gesturing to the corpses around them and warning them that if they don’t leave, they are next. The guards restrain themselves, obviously not wanting to end up as warm corpses on the stone floor.

As the two sides talk things over, a baying begins to sound throughout the compound. The manor guards’ eyes go wide, and one of them curses, “Not the hounds!” Two of them then break a window and flee outside to the courtyard, obviously having decided to flee from these hounds, whatever they are.

Not content to let a group of foes flee, Nigel casts compulsion on them, preventing two from getting away. Then all of the heroes, except Nigel, break windows and move out into the courtyard in pursue of the manor guards.

Four large hounds, their fur night black and shot through with crimson, come barreling down the hallway into the library. Three jump through the windows and engage Xavier, Tiebald, and Rickard, breathing gouts of fire upon them. The fourth falls upon a tiefling guard under the effects of compulsion, likewise breathing fire.

As the heroes engaged the hell hounds, a cambion — one of Nigel’s sons with Nellabee — flies into the library. Seeing Nigel alone, the cambion says, “Come with me, father. Mother would like to speak with you.” Waves of magic wash over Nigel, compelling him to comply.

Nigel, a half-elf, has advantage on charm saves. He still rolled a 7. 

The cambion and Nigel then fly off, heading upstairs. They enter a room containing a blood-stained altar and find Lady Tharmar, in succubus form, waiting for them.

Nellabee tells Nigel that despite her love for him, she is greatly disappointed in him and his comrades, claiming they have ruined her operation in the manor. Thus, she and Nigel’s children will have to leave before the Waterdeep authorities arrive.

Elodin objected later that Nellabee attacked them first. Whatever.

Nigel begs Nellabee not to leave, decrying his unending love for her, but the succubus opens a portal to Cania — the eighth layer of the Nine Hells — and departs, promising to visit him often. The cambion gives Nigel an affectionate hug and says, “We’ll see each other someday soon, father,” before plane shifting away himself.

Nigel makes his way back down to his comrades and finds them victorious over the hell hounds. At that moment, Force Gray — two wizards, a paladin of Torm, two fighters, and a halfling rogue — arrive and begin speaking with the Sword Coast Guard.

One of the wizards expresses disdain that they even needed to be summoned, claiming that the Sword Coast Guard — an adventuring company of no small fame — should have been able to take care of things themselves. The heroes give various excuses, none of which really satisfy Force Gray.

With Force Grey bolstering their ranks, the heroes moves through the manor, making sure it’s cleared of any remaining guards or demon spawn.

Finally, they come upon four humans tied up in the master suite: Lady Nellabee Tharmar, her daughter, and her two sons. The heroes are suspicious of another trap, and explain to Force Gray that the succubus was talking the form of Lady Tharmar.

The paladin of Torm calls upon his divine magic, surveys the humans, and declares that they are not demon spawn, just victims of the forces of hell.

The heroes untie the captives, and Nigel rushes to Nellabee himself. “My love, I’m so relieved to find you again,” the bard tells her.

Lady Tharmar looks at him confused. “Thank you for rescuing us, but who are you?”

An awkward conversation ensues with Nigel baring his heart and Lady Tharmar claiming not to know him. The other heroes apologize for their friend, claiming he has certain issues that need to be set right.

They are correct, of course. Nigel has…issues.

Finally, Lady Tharmar rewards the heroes richly, even giving Nigel a musical instrument imbued with magical powers.

As the heroes leave Tharmar Manor and head back to the Safehaven Inn, a small boy runs up to them. “Excuse me,” the courier says. “Are you the Sword Coast Guard? Well, Tzarrakyn the Younger needs to speak with you right away. Something about Gauntlet Hall being under siege.”

Elodin sighs. “Yes, of course it is.”

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

Hand of Light, Episode 24 – My Dear Missing Mother, Part 4

Session Date: November 11, 2017

In this episode, the Hand of Light discovers the importance of listening to NPCs despite how much they dislike them. The heroes also discover unexpected allies, finish up the yuan-ti temple, and investigate a “Bone Graveyard.”

21 Flamerule, 1367 DR

Unsure of their ability to battle the two massive snakes in lower, flooded level of the yuan-ti temple, Dexter proposes they move on.

Karn protests briefly, citing the thirty some yuan-ti eggs the snakes carry and the likelihood of them hatching into more yuan-ti to plague the Mere of Dead Men and surrounding area. Amazingly, Luna and Dexter manage to convince the paladin quite easily that there are more important matters to deal with.

Apparently not even the mighty Karn had the cojones to fight these powerful beasts in their own element…

As the Hand of Light begins to travel toward a Bone Graveyard to the south that Mildred “Milly” Mildew told them about, saying that her missing grandaughter might be there, Dunkle surfaces from the water, a massive black tentacle wrapped around him. “Help!” he gasps before the tentacle begins to pull him back under the water. “Pirate energy!”

Lyr holds his mandolin forward like a mounted soldier holding his saber, and jumps into the water with a shout of “I’ll save you!” The bard’s confidence in himself is overestimated — isn’t it usually? — and a tentacle quickly wraps around him, too. Lyr’s eyes go wide, and just before he is pulled under the water he squeaks, “I’ve got this, guys!”

Karn, Dexter, and Luna shoot glances at each other and then shrug. What’s one bard anyway?

Lyr’s player joined Dunkle in the ranks of players who didn’t make it to the game session. Life sucks; then tentacles grab you.

So, the heroes begin rowing their boat to the south. Gabriel, the priest of Ohgma, rides with them, and Milly is poling her own boat along with them.

Suddenly, the water churns around them, and a reptilian form rises before them. “You are surrounded, smoothskins,” the creature states awkwardly in Common. “Give us that one, and we let you go.” It gestures at Dexter with its spear.

Dexter, having identified the beast as a lizardfolk, says, “And why may I ask?”

“We hunger,” it states, “and only walking corpses are to be found here.”

Karn smiles and says, “What if we told you where you could find two delicious and quite fresh meals?”

And so the heroes tell the lizardfolk about the two massive snakes and even offer to help them kill them. The lizardman agrees to the arrangement, and two more rise from the water.

And thus the three players who came to the session each got to play a lizardfolk warrior! They were level 9 barbarian/fighter hybrids I made that morning when I found myself up to two players who wouldn’t make the session.

Then, with their new allies in tow, the Hand of Light heads back to the yuan-ti temple. One lizardfolk goes under the water and draws the gargantuan snakes out from their lair. Dexter banishes one immediately, and the heroes gang up on the remaining snake, fighting from a wide staircase that runs up the outside of the temple.

The snake turns out to be quite nasty, spitting acid and even swallowing on of the lizardfolk. Fortunately, the snake regurgitates its still-living meal, and the adventurers are able to bring it down.

Once the remaining snake returns, the heroes all unload on it. It doesn’t take long before the beast is but a corpse floating in the swamp.

Then the group takes a few hours for the lizardfolk to prepare a meal of the snakes and set up an impromptu smoke tent to cure more of the meat.

For their help in bringing down enough meat to feed them for months, the lizardfolk offer to aid them further in the swamp. The heroes mention they are looking for a Bone Graveyard to the south. The lizardfolk tell them they know of it — in fact, many of their clan entered it and never returned — but that it lies to the east, not the south.

Hey, Milly is an old woman. Her memory is going… (And I just work here.)

The group then travels to the Bone Graveyard where they find an island covered with skulls and bones from a wide variety of creatures, small and large. The ground is spongy, but it supports them, allowing them to leave their boats behind.

They spot the ribs and backbone of some monolithic creature rising in the distance and start toward it.

As they travel, rotting arms burst forth from the moist ground, and zombies pull themselves out of shallow graves. The Hand of Light and lizardfolk immediately go on the offensive, hacking and slashing into the small horde of undead.

The battle is over quite quickly, though, as simple zombies proved to be no match for the heroes.

“Well, that was invigorating,” Luna says, patting her Maul of Disruption. As it turns out, undead are her favorite sort of enemy.

When the heroes reach the gigantic ribs and backbone, they notice two petrified lizardfolk standing near it. They question their lizardfolk allies about it, but they know nothing, having never dared enter the bone graveyard themselves.

All about are many rotted corpses, and then they recognize several as lizardfolk. It would appear they have learned the fate of their compaions’ clan.

Then, two more zombies, these quite large, rise up from the ground and advance on the heroes. Just as they move to engage the monsters, Luna practically skipping with joy, another creatures floats up into the air above the skeletal backbone.

The Hand of Light pauses collectively, and Dexter mutters a simple, “Oh shit.”

The newest combatant appears as a large skull with a glowing central eye and large maw. Ten spectral eyes float about its skull, turning to regard the intruders.

“Death Tyrant!” the wizard says, recognizing the monster as an undead beholder.

The battle that then unfolds test the heroes to their limits as the death tyrant begins unleashing ray after ray of deadly magic at them.

It turns out that a death tyrant can fire SIX rays per round. Oh, I was in heaven! LOL

Karn is nearly petrified right off the bat, and the heroes urge their lizardfolk allies to simply run, which two of them do after taking the two large zombies down. The biggest challenge the heroes face is actually getting at the monster as their two heavy hitters — Karn and Luna — are mostly useless at range.

Dexter, however, as an answer with fly. Of course, as soon as he casts the spell and the two paladins begin flying up toward the beholder, the aberration begins targeting the wizard with all of its rays. Freaking out, Dexter downs an invisibility potion and hides under the skeletal backbone.

Outraged, the death tyrant strikes Gabriel with a petrification ray. The simple priest has no defense against the attack and turns to stone.

If Dunkle survives the tentacles, he’ll find his new student too “stoned” for learning the ways of the rogue, I feel.

Karn flies toward the death tyrant, but gets zapped by a sleep ray. As he falls unconscious, his grave falls over fifty feet to the ground. A lizardfolk hits him with a javelin to wake him, but Karn then spends precious time recovering his weapon.

Meanwhile, Luna has much more luck, closing with the death tyrant and slamming it with her maul of disruption. She empowers the blow with a smite, giving the monster much to think about.

The death tyrant uses a telekinesis rays on her, moving her back, but the determined paladin comes right back at the beast and continues to work it over with her maul.

With the monster nearly dead and his glaive recovered, Karn flies recklessly at the death tyrant, glaive extended. His weapon impales the monster through the bottom of the jaw and up through the skull.

The monster screams in agony, and then its spectral eyes wink out as it becomes noting more than a large skull.

After the death tyrant is destroyed, the heroes loot the area of treasure from the aberration’s previous victims. They then begin to scour the area, destroying at least fifty more zombies.

When they finish, Milly tells them she’ll go home to her cottage now.

“But what about your lost granddaughter?” Karn asks her.

“Shelly?” Milly looks confused. “She’s a weaver in Baldur’s Gate. Has been for years. I’m sure she’s fine, dearie. Thanks for your concern, though.”

As Milly poles her boat away through the swamp, the Hand of Light stifles a surge of rage.

“I have a feeling we’ll see her again,” Dexter says.

“Probably at the head of an undead army,” Karn replies.

The heroes had noticed on several occasions that the undead always completely ignored Milly.

It’s amazing that they never asked her about that though… I had a backstory and excuses — er, reasons — prepared and everything!

The Hand of Light then tells the lizardfolk they are looking for people being captured by undead and dragged off into the swamp. The lizardfolk tell them they have, in fact, seen this. The undead are taking the people to a tower to the east.

“Damn it! I told you!”

Dexter, Luna, and Karn all turn to see Lyr dragging himself out of the swamp. Apparently he had escaped the tentacles.

“I told you we should have gone to the tower!” The bard begins flicking chunks of black flesh off his clothes. “We wasted all this time wandering the swamp while my mother is held hostage!”

Karn shrugs. “Hey, you win some and you lose some, right?”

The Hand of Light

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

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 15 – Confronting Lady Tharmar, Part 1

Session Date: November 5, 2017

13 Eleasias, 1367 DR

In this session, the Sword Coast Guard finally investigates the truth behind Lady Nellabee Tharmar. For some time, the heroes have suspected her of breeding demon spawn with Nigel. The adventuring party also gains a new necromancer comrade, Belwar.

Captured malenti in tow and defeated sahuagin and cultist compound behind them, the Sword Coast Guard travels to Waterdeep. The journey is uneventful, and when they arrive they set off for Castle Waterdeep to report their success to Captain Rulathon, the commander of the Waterdeep soldiers and watch.

After a short wait, they are granted an audience with Rulathon. He is pleased to hear they successfully defeated the sahuagin and brought back a captive. However, when the heroes tell him about the Drazovinite cultists they also found, Rulathon is upset to learn the heroes killed all the cultists except for those that got away.

Rulathon upbraids them for “cowboy tactics” and explains the captives provided information for battling one’s enemies. Ian, a paladin of Helm, vehemently vouches for the heroes, and Rulathon — himself a paladin of Tyr — abates his lecture.

Xavier then convinces Captain Rulathon that the Sword Coast Guard’s efforts on behalf of Waterdeep would be much more effective if they weren’t questioned by every city official — such as the harbor master — when they were about tasks assigned to them by Rulathon or others.

Rulathon then commissions them as official agents of the Lords of Waterdeep and has papers drawn up for them. He does, however, charge Ian with responsibility for the group’s conduct.

The heroes then go about their separate ways to pursue downtime activities.

Elodin is granted entry to the War Wizards and serves with them for a ten day. The wizard, however, leaves no lasting impression with them. Linare lectures him briefly, saying that he should put the same effort into service with the War Wizards as he does adventuring with the Sword Coast Guard.

Elodin also meets Sharra, his dear friend and former member of a thieves guild that Elodin ran in Amn. Elodin’s guild had been absorbed by the Velvet Fists with Elodin himself forced to flee. Sharra tells him that the Velvet Fists themselves were forced out of Amn by the Shadow Thieves several years ago, and they’ve been operating in Waterdeep since. She tells him that Petrick, their leader, runs a guild called the Loyal Order of Couriers and Servants as a front for information gathering. Many of its members gather information from nobles to be used for heists and blackmail. Sharra and her companions are forced to do Petrick’s dirty work and are basically slaves.

Elodin assures Sharra that he’ll find a way to rescue them and bring justice to Petrick. She tells Elodin that the best time to strike is when they are preforming a heist because Petrick and Gelven, a diviner, will be distracted as they oversee the heist. She tells him she’ll let him know when they have a heist planned next.

Iantorin serves at the shrine of Helm in Waterdeep for the ten day. He travels about the city spreading the word of Helm and helping those in need. He gains one favor from the church of Helm in the city for his efforts.

Xavier goes to the War Wizards, hoping to learn about this missing mentor, a former War Wizard, and a couple villains from his past he’d like to get even with. The cost for information is exorbitantly expensive, though, so he resorts to good old fashioned street research. He is rewarded for his efforts when he learns that Andres Rowe — a man who betrayed him and his mentor to an ambush by assassins — runs the day-to-day operations of the Loyal Order of Couriers and Servants, a guild in Waterdeep.

Belwar, a newly arrived necromancer in the city, seeks out a source of corpses and bones for his undead creations. He finds a man, Kados Starfire, who can supply him. Rumors says that this Kados is associated with a dangerous group of mages who operate out of Skullport, a black-market city below Waterdeep.

Nigel spends his time with Lady Nellabee Tharmar, catching up on vigorous activities in her library. At the end of the ten days, Lady Tharmar invites Nigel and his companions to a banquet hosted at her mansion then next day. With a caress across the cheek and sweet words, she magically convinces the bard that they should all arrive unarmed and unarmored. Nigel promises to do his best to ensure this happens.

When the heroes come back together, Belgarath introduces them all to his step-brother Belwar. Belgarath then takes his leave, and Belwar takes up adventuring with the Sword Coast Guard.

Belgarath’s player wants to try out a necromancer. So, this was the handoff.

The heroes then hear rumors of someone looking to purchase an underwater breathing item. They just so happen to have a magical trident that does this, among other things — quite a powerful weapon, actually, though none of them want to use it. They meet with a shifty-eyed man and negotiate a price around 150,000 gp. They all agree to meet on the 15th of Eleint, five miles north of Waterdeep, on neutral ground, to make the exchange.

Nigel then tells them about the banquet with Lady Nellabee Tharmar, and everyone agrees they should go and figure out what’s going on. Many of them suspect Lady Tharmar and Nigel of spawning demon children together.

I have no idea why they all think this…

Nigel then works hard to convince them not to wear armor or take their weapons with them. Iantorin immediately agrees, saying it would be poor form to arrive garbed for battle at such a function. Xavier insists on wearing his armor, though he agrees to leave behind his sword and shield — as an eldritch knight he can summon them in moments anyway. Elodin and Belwar have no problems leaving behind their obvious weapons, knowing their real strength — spell casting — doesn’t rely on mundane steel implements.

The heroes arrive to the banquet and are escorted inside. Belwar has a detect magic spell going, and he notices that many people have auras of transmutation around them.

They are escorted to the Great Library where Lady Nellabee Tharmar has a long banquet table set up. There are many other guests, a few of them beautiful women supposedly present for the companions “entertainment.” These three women also radiate transmutation magic…

After they are welcomed and seated, Lady Tharmar invites Nigel to dance. As their dance finishes, Lady Tharmar kisses Nigel full on the lips, draining part of the bard’s life energy. When the other heroes see this go down, they immediately leap to attack.

Lady Tharmar reveals herself as as succubus, and, as she is attacked repeatedly, teleports to the ethereal plan, escaping. She smashes an amulet at her feet first, though summoning a massive ice devil. The beautiful women turn out to be cambions, devilish offspring that result from union between a succubus (Lady Tharmar) and a human (Nigel).

The Sword Coast Guard then battles the ice devil and Nigel’s children, the cambions. Belwar polymorphs into a T-Rex attacking the cambions, while Elodin and Nigel fling spells at their foes. The wizard animates ten forks from the table which he then directs against his enemies. The bard spends most of the battle under the effects of greater invisibility, throwing eldritch blasts at the cambions.

Xavier and Iantorin move about the field together against their foes, the later using a table knife as a weapon and turning the ice devil and one cambion with his Helm-granted divine powers.

In the end their foes are defeated, those one of the cambions also flees with plane shift.

The Sword Coast Guard then hears Lady Tharmar’s laughter off in the distance and know that their night has just begun.

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

Hand of Light, Episode 23 – My Dear Missing Mother, Part 3

Session Date: October 27, 2017

In this episode, the heroes continue to delve deeper into the yuan-ti temple. Players can be obstinate at times. That’s why DMs wield complete cosmic power: they need it.

20 Flamerule, 1367 DR

As the heroes contemplate their next move and prepare for a short rest, Dunkle shimmies up the rope back outside to check on Milly who they had left there in her boat.

Inside, the remaining heroes hear a commotion, and Milly calls up, “Um, hello? Black tentacles just came out of the swamp and pulled underwater the fellow who goes on and on about pirates and pirate energy and all that related baloney.”

“That’s fine,” the heroes call up as one. “Just a plot device.”

Dunkle couldn’t make the session. Our table’s standing rule is that black tentacles gobble your character up if the player isn’t present. It’s a fine tradition that started with Dona the Barbarian. I miss Dona. L

Meanwhile, Dexter and Karn try to convince Gabriel to stay outside the temple with all the captives they just rescued. They are having a hard time of it until Lyr, still invisible, intercedes. The bard casts minor illusion on the pebble, making it glow, and carries it to Gabriel.

“This magic pebble will grant you powers,” Lyr tells the man. “Powers that you must use to protect the captives outside. We are counting on you, Gabriel.”

Trembling Gabriel takes the pebble, which appears to be floating in midair. “Yes, Mystic Seer! Your wish is my command!” And with that, the priest of Oghma scrambles up the rope to fulfill his duty.

Gabriel is a fine NPC. I don’t understand why my players dislike him so much…

The heroes then sweep the temple level they are currently on, rescuing two injured and sick captives from one room. In another room — a room that is pitch black — they find several humans manacled to the walls. One is but a decaying corpse, and the others are so starved that they are naught but bones covered with flesh.

They free these prisoners, and Luna determines that their condition is quite serious and will require weeks if not months of medical attention to nurse them back to health. They carefully move these people outside where Gabriel can protect them.

Yeah… Protect them…

The heroes then move down wide staircases to the next level down. There they find an enormous temple, complete with a stone altar and wall steamers covered with snake patterns. Two more staircases lead down to another level, and several large stone doors line the walls.

The heroes move to one such door and upon opening it, discover more than half a dozen humanoids in the room. They have snake-like features — forked tongues, narrow eyes, scaly skin — and the heroes identify them as yuan-ti purebloods, the “lowest” form of yuan-ti.

The yuan-ti make a half-hearted attempt at demanding who they are, but then leap to the attack.

Only moments in the battle, a stone door nearby opens and four creatures resembling large snakes with arms — yuan-it abominations — emerge. Two fire arrows at the heroes, one uses suggestion on Lyr, causing him to surrender, and the fourth casts blade barrier around Luna and Karn, cutting them off from Dexter and Lyr.

And just like that everything turns to shite.

Lyr — the only caster with spell slots left — calls out to his friends, “Guys, I think it’s best that we just surrender. We are not match for them!” The yuan-ti abomination that had cast suggestion on him, stoops the bard up and begins carrying him back to the prison room upstairs.

Luna and Karn, trapped in the blade barrier, do what they can to fight their foes, but their efforts are a stalemate at best. And, while they are trapped, the yuan-ti abomination priestess drops a flame strike and other nasty spells on them.

One abomination grabs Dexter and drags him into the middle of the temple. Another abomination puts his sword to the wizards throat and demands that the heroes surrender or he kills their companion.

In response, Dexter casts misty step and appears next to Karn and Luna inside the blade barrier. The priestess laughs and drops another flame strike on all three of them.

Once Lyr is manacled in the prison room and the abomination leaves, the suggestion dissipates. The bard, suspecting that his friends need him, casts dimension door and appears back down near his companions.

Up until this point there had been much guzzling of healing potions and general distress. Things looked bad. Very bad.

With nothing but his life to lose, Lyr strides out into the midst of the yuan-ti and drops a destructive wave. One of the yuan-ti abominations goes down, and another is severely injured.

The priestess drops her blade barrier, and the purebloods surge toward Luna and Karn. The two paladins make short work of them and then move onto the abominations.

As the tide of battle shifts, the yuan-ti priestess flees to the stairs leading downward and escapes. Then the yuan-ti that had shackled Lyr returns and gets summarily dealt with.

With their enemies defeated and their lives still intact — barely! — most of the heroes, severely injured and with resources depleted, want to hole up for a long rest.

But not Karn. Evil must be vanquished!

At the paladin’s insistence, they explore the rest of the level. The rescue some more captives from the kitchens and find a yuan-ti egg chamber. The eggs are guarded by yuan-ti broodguards — people that have been magically turned into hideous yuan-ti minions — and the heroes wisely close the door when the broodguards don’t immediately attack.

Finally Karn agrees to let them get some much-needed rest, and the heroes leave the ziggarat and find a ruined building a ways away that will serve well as a resting spot. Fortunately, they rest eight hours without incident, recovering their health and magical resources.

Upon returning to the ziggarat’s temple area, they find the yuan-ti broodgurads carrying the eggs out of the egg chamber and down the stairs. The broodguards immediately attack, and the priestess who had escaped joins in, also having rested and regained all her resources.

This battle goes much better for the Hand of Light, with them quickly capturing most of the broodguards — they are hoping to turn them back into people — and causing the priestess to flee yet again. This time, however, the priestess simply disappeared from inside a room. They didn’t see what she did, so they aren’t sure how she left. They search the area for her but find nothing.

They discover that the stairs leading down to the next level actually lead into a submerged part of the temple. Dexter transmutes himself into a fish and explores the level down.

The wizard-turned-fish discoveries two massive snakes some fifty feet long in one chamber. The snakes wear saddles and net rigging holds dozens of yuan-ti eggs to their backs. It appears that the priestess was attempting to flee the ziggarat and take the eggs with her.

Dexter goes back above, turning into a man once more, and relays this information to his companions. The heroes then begin preparations for luring the snakes out of the submerged area where they can be better dealt with.

The Hand of Light has no intention of letting those yuan-ti eggs hatch.

Mmm… still haven’t found Lyr’s mother though…

The Hand of Light

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

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 14 – The Sunken Temple, Part 4

Session Date: October 22, 2017

13 Eleasias, 1367 DR

In this session a new player, Ian, is introduced — that’s his character’s name — as Rusty is no longer able to continue with the group. I had planned for the heroes to meet him at the very beginning of the session before they go neck-deep in trouble, but Ian’s player arrived a little late, and consequently was thrown into the worst part of the trouble. You’ll see…

The Sword Coast guard begins to explore the submerged tunnel, hoping to find the sahuagin they’ve been searching for.

Xavier sends his octopus familiar ahead to scout. Then, as the group travels, they come upon the octopus floating in the water with a harpoon bolt stuck in it. Glancing around the corner, Xavier sees several sahuagin waiting for them, reloading their harpoon guns. One of the sahuagin casts a hold person at him, though the fighter manages to fight off the magic.

At the battle joins, more sahuagin swarm them from another direction. Belgarath and Xavier move in to take out the threats, and Nigel and Elodin prepare to provide magical support.

However, four more sahuagin approach from the group’s rear, being pulled along by speedy reef sharks. While Nigel panics and casts compulsion on them, Elodin drops a shatter, killing three of the sahuagin and both sharks. Nigel magically compels the remaining foe to move away from them.

The flanking crisis averted, the casters turn their attention back to the original foes. Xavier and Belgarath are doing quite well slaughtering sahuagin and several corpses already float in the murky water. The sahuagin priestesses continue to fling hold persons at them, finally catching Belgarath in one.

Churning water from the rear alerts Nigel and Elodin to yet another flanking threat, and they turn to see two massive hunter sharks speeding toward them. Riding the hunter sharks are a large, four-armed sahuagin baron, and a sahuagin sorceress wearing exquisite flowing robes.

The sorceress casts polymorph on Elodin, and the poor wizard finds his body shrinking and hardening until he has become a clam. The baron immediately rushes Nigel.

Elodin is to spend most of this battle, which ends up lasting about four hours at the table, as a clam and unable to do anything. As a DM, I feel kind of bad about that — sitting a game out sucks — but it was what the sorceress would have done. I was hoping someone would interrupt her concentration at some point, but that didn’t happen until about the tenth round of combat, several hours later. And this is why I rarely deploy spells such as polymorph and banishment against the players: they have the potential to remove the player from gameplay for extended periods of time.

As all hell begins to break loose with things going very badly for the heroes, they realize that most, if not all, of the sahuagin must have been alerted to danger by their battle with the dragon turtle. During the time the heroes were exploring the abandoned dwarves complex, the sahuagin were preparing an ambush.

Fortunately, however, a new combatant enters the fight: Ian, a paladin of Helm. Sent to seek the heroes out and aid them, Ian arrives behind the sahuagin baron and sorcerer and immediately attacks the baron.

Fortune was not to be had for “the new guy,” however. After a nasty barrage of attacks form the baron, the sorceress casts disintegrate on him, not only killing him, but reducing his body and equipment to ashes.

And for the second time that night, the DM felt bad. Not only killing the new player’s character, but destroying his body so he couldn’t easily be raised from the dead. I’m not always such a jerk, am I? (Yeah, okay, maybe I am…)

And then things get worse for the heroes.

Belgarath murders several sahuagin, including the priestess who paralyzed him, and follows a tunnel north, hoping to flank the sahuagin baron and sorceress. He comes upon a few sets of doors, and opens one of them. Inside he discovers half a dozen sea elves tied to massive copper vats. The sea elves immediately call out, pleading for him to rescue them.

Thinking he has found allies that might help them fight the sahuagin, Belgarath moves into the room. However, as he does so, the head of his new magical morningstar transforms into the visage of a ghostly, undead elven female. “Elves!” The visage moans. “We must kill them! Take me into their midst and let me wail.”

Belgarath, his mind easily swayed by the sentient weapon’s request, does so. The morningstar unleashes a wail that kills two of the sea elves outright.

At that moment, the remaining sea elves stand, easily shaking away their ropes and draw daggers. They surround Belgarath and begin stabbing crazily at him.

As the warlock takes wound after wound, he realizes they weren’t sea elves after all. They were malenti, sahuagin that physically resemble sea elves in every way.

Then a four-armed sahuagin rogue exits a vat where he was hiding, swims down to Belgarath’s side, and unleashes a flurry of attacks with his shortswords. Belgarath succumbs to the wounds and falls unconscious.

See, I didn’t have ALL the sahuagin ambush the group. I thought that would be too much. I left this rogue and malenti here to fight after the big ambush. However, some heroes still make wisdom a dump stat, so what’s a DM to do? Answer: murder them and hope they learn better next time.

Meanwhile, Xavier, Nigel, and Elodin — observing as a clam — are having a helleva time with their battle. The sharks, baron, and lightning-bolt flinging sorceress gain the advantage and appear to on the verge of defeating the heroes.

Immediately upon dying, Ian’s spirit zipped away to the Fugue plain to wait, with the other recently deceased, the arrival of Helm or an angelic representative to take him to his final place of reward in Helm’s kingdom.

Several minutes go by, and Ian sees a celestial chariot appear in the sky, driven by Helm himself. The deity calls out to his faithful who fall in line behind him for their journey to their eternal rewards.

However, as they begin to move away, Helm’s eyes fall on Ian, and the god brings his chariot to a halt. “You! Paladin,” the deity says, addressing Ian. “Have you finished your life’s purpose so soon? It has been but a few years sense your joined my holy order.”

Falling to his knees, eyes downcast, Ian replies, “I fear I have failed, my lord. Struck down by a sahuagin sorceress, leaving my wards unprotected.”

“My faithful do not fail!” the god bellows in response. “Go back, paladin, my blessing upon you. Complete your purpose in life: protect the weak and provide guidance to the misaligned.”

“AND THIS TIME, THOU SHALT NOT FAIL ME!”

Ian’s spirit then whisked away from the afterlife and found his restored, fully healed body waiting for him in the underground lake. He felt first wetness and then righteous fervor as he took up his sword and assailed the sahuagin baron with all of Helm’s wrath behind every blow.

DM mercy, baby.

The heroe’s plight looks somewhat better with their newfound ally. However, then the four-armed sahuagin rogue and malenti arrive with Belgarath tied up.

“Surrender or I slit his throat!” the sahuagin rogue tells the heroes.

Belgarath comes about, though, and casts sleep on the malenti, making them fall into a slumber. Furthermore, Xavier ignores the threat and attacks the baron.

Belgarath rolled a 20 on a death check and recovered 1 hp. Lucky…

At this, the rogue follows through with his promise and opens Belgarath’s throat with his shortswords.

Belgarath drops to 0 hit points again. Not lucky…

As the brawl between the rogue, baron, and sorceress continues, Ian manages to reach the sorceress. The wicked sahuagin had been flinging lightning bolts and other debilitating spells that them long enough. The paladin slashes the sorceress and releases a well of holy energy into the blow: smite.

Heavily wounded, the sorceress’s concentration on polymorph is interrupted, and Elodin transforms back into his old self. Enraged, the former clam — er, wizard — releases a torrent of arcane energy at his foes.

The tide of battle shifts yet again, and both the baron and sorceress dispatched, their bloody corpses joining the couple dozen others now floating in the crimson waters.

Seeing his companions dead, the sahuagin rogue flees to the north, toward the dragon turtle’s lair. Belgarath gives chase, but the rogue escapes.

I suggest that the party could follow the rogue into the dragon turtle’s lair, but they soundly reject that idea. Not sure why…

Xavier and Belgarath murder two of the sleeping malenti, but Ian spares the third, claiming he should be turned over to the surviving sea elves in Waterdeep for justice. Belgarath doesn’t like this but isn’t willing to fight the paladin over sahuagin scum.

The heroes then begin to explore the rest of the underwater compound. The find barracks, the baron’s audience hall, the baron’s room, a shrine room to Sekolah, the sahuagin deity, and a treasure room.

The treasure room contains a nasty trap — pressurized jets slam the heroes into spikes on the walls — and a chest full of coins and a rope of entanglement. In the baron’s room they find more gold to line their purses.

Finally, having had enough of the Sunken Temple, the heroes set off for Waterdeep, their new companion, Ian, along for the ride.

I’m not sure Ian’s player fully understands the depth of what he’s gotten himself into…

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

Hand of Light, Episode 22 – My Dear Missing Mother, Part 2

Session Date: October 14, 2017

20 Flamerule, 1367 DR

As the heroes continue their discussion of where to go — wander the swamp or go to the ruins of Iniarv’s Tower — glowing balls of light appear in the distance, rapidly approaching them. Karn identifies them as will-o’-wisps just as the undead creatures attack.

Mostly stuck on a small island, the heroes are quickly surrounded by the monsters. The will-o’-wisps attack by slamming into them, sending jolts of electricity coursing through their bodies. Luna lays into the undead lightning bugs with abandon, her Maul of Disruption obliterating the creatures with every swing. After several moments of being zapped by the creatures and smashing them in return, all but one of the will-o-wisps are defeated.

As the remaining monster streaks off to the southwest, the heroes and Gabriel (their beloved NPC worshipper of Oghma) pile into their boat to give chase. The will-o’-wisp quickly zips out of sight, but the heroes continue in that direction thinking maybe it will lead them to the necromancer they seek.

In the distance they see a hunched figure in a boat, pushing itself along in the water with a crude pole fashioned from a branch. Dexter sends Vesper ahead to check it out and reports that it appears to be an old lady.

Immediately conversation begins regarding hags in the swamp.

I don’t get it. Can’t a DM simply place an NPC in a swamp without speculation and suspicion taking over?

As the heroes row closer, the old lady turns and greets them, introducing herself as Mildred. She says she lives in a cottage near the swamp and is looking for her granddaughter. According to Mildred — she tells the heroes they can call her “Milly” — undead broke into her cottage a few days back and kidnapped her granddaughter. She asks the heroes to help her find her.

Suspicions high, Karn, the noble paladin, agrees to aid her, but also casts divine sense. Milly is neither undead, celestial, nor fiend. However, Karn does sense undead creatures not far from the boat, some thirty feet down into the water.

The heroes begin dumping flasks of holy water into the swamp above the undead. The holy water purifies and cleanses the water, allowing them to see into its depths. Finally, one the divine water has penetrated to thirty feet, skeletal corpses of gnolls are revealed. The undead creatures’ eyes glow red when the holy water touches them, and they surge upward toward the heroes.

A brief battle breaks out — the gnoll skeletons are no match for the group — and Dunkle appears just as the last skeletons dies, the rogue exiting the water and pulling himself onto a log. (He had fallen into the water some ways back and the group had only searched half-heartedly for their lost pirate rogue.)

Translation: Dunkle’s player was late to the session.

“What’d I miss?” calls Dunkle.

“Undead. Old lady,” replies Lyr as Luna smashes the last skeleton.

The heroes then have another brief conversation with Milly, finally deciding that she is at least half crazy. However, they do set off with her to the southeast, deciding she’s the best lead they have for finding the necromancer. It’s worth noting that Gabriel and Lyr both insist they should go to Iniarv’s Tower, but they are mostly ignored.

After some time traveling, they come upon the ruins of some ancient civilization. Crumbling buildings rise from the swamp, their lower stories having sunken into the mire, and they spot a ziggurat in the distance whence from tortured screams float to them.

Hounds on the trail, the Hand of Light makes haste to the ziggurat and finds a moss-covered entrance — a narrow chimney really — leading down into the structure. The screams emanate from the chimney. They quickly tie off a rope, drop it down the chimney, and head down.

Karn is the first to drop into a fairly large room. The paladin sees several humans manacled to walls and tied to tables. Snake-like humanoids wielding implements of torture — hooked knives and heated pincers — stare at the paladin, having paused at their work when they heard a clamor and commotion from the chimney as the heroes were descending.

“Torm aid me!” Karn screams as he readies his halberd and charges the monstrous men.

As the rest of the Hand of Light slides down in the room, Dexter identifies the monsters as yuan-ti. Several of the creatures simply look like men with snakes for heads. However, two of them have arms that end in dozens of snakes instead of hands.

As the ass-kicking unfolds, one of the yuan-ti loudly calls down a hallway, presumable alerting others nearby to the intruder’s presence. Sure enough, more yuan-ti — these ones with lower torsos of snakes — and large, undead, skeletal snakes arrive soon after.

Many of the yuan-ti and the skeletal snakes have nasty and potent spells that they bring to bear against the heroes. Seeing they are at risk of being overwhelmed, Dexter drops a wall of force to split the yuan-ti forces. It buys them some time, but those that were cut off find an alternative way at them.

Karn, Luna, and Dunkle spend the battle taking names and kicking ass. Dexter casts spells like his life depends on it — it does — and counterspells most of the enemies’ nastiest spells. Lyr, however, spends most of the fight invisible and doing…well, things.

Lyr had cast invisibility on himself and didn’t want to have wasted a 2nd level slot. So, he spend the fight distracting and annoying the monsters. You know, typical Lyr stuff.

Finally, the Hand of Light does prevail agains their foes, though they are rather beat up, and Dexter is mostly out of spell slots. They believe, however, that they must have found the source of the undead that attacked Leilon and carried half the village away.

As they contemplate taking a short rest, they wonder how much more of the compound was alerted and en route.

The Hand of Light

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

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 13 – The Sunken Temple, Part 3

Session Date: October 8, 2017

13 Eleasias, 1367 DR

As the heroes look up from reading the letter, Rusty is surrounded by a mysterious blue aura and vanishes from sight.

“Woah,” says Xavier, drawing his sword and scanning the area for danger. “What in the Nine Hells was that?”

“Stand down. That’s just a no call no show right there,” Elodin explains.

Belgarath thumps his morningstar against the palm of one hand. “You know, in some adventuring groups, three of those in a row…” His voice trails off ominously.

“Damn!” Xavier sheathes his sword. “I was excited for a second. I do have the mage slayer feat, after all.”

The remaining four adventurers move down the hallway toward a set of double doors. Belgarath quickly scans them for traps, picks the lock, and pushes them open.

Beyond the doors is a large room dominated by a massive basin of water. At the far end, standing in front of an altar are a hooded figure and a woman, both wearing turquoise-colored ceremonial robes. The woman glances at the heroes in the doorway, smiles, and steps through a glowing magical portal behind her.

As the portal winks out, the hooded figure – one arm actually ending in a large crab-like claw – walks to the middle of the basin, supernaturally walking on top of the water. He holds a magnificent trident in one hand – a human hand – and pushes his hood back to reveal a barnacle-covered face.

“First, I want to thank you,” he says, “for giving us time to gather the remnants are move them somewhere… safer.” He glances over his shoulder to where the magical portal once stood.

For, you see, this is what happens when the heroes storm a compound, make a hellova ruckus, and then take an hour short rest: everyone else in the compound is alerted and has time to prepare.

“Now, any last words?”

“Yeah,” says Belgarath. “I HATE cutscenes. I would have eldritch blasted you in the face as soon as the door opened.” A mystical blue light begins to emanate from the warlock, and his body becomes less corporal.

Nigel elbows Elodin in the side. “Hey, can he force a no call no show?”

“DM can do whatever he wants,” Elodin whispers back.

“Damn…”

“Okay, okay,” Belgarath shouts. “It’s fine. Just kidding.” The blue light disappears, leaving the warlock in place. “Now – ELDRITCH BLAST!”

And thus the battle kicks off.

Hey, cutscenes are needed from time to time. Gotta deliver a semblance of story elements and plot points before the belligerent ones begin killing things…

As they move into the room, the heroes discover that dozens of starving ghouls are chained to the bottom of the basin of water, their reaching hands not far from the surface.

The barnacle-covered, claw-handed man – we’ll just call him Crab-Man here on out – causes a tidal wave to surge from the basin, slamming Elodin and Nigel to the ground. He then casts a powered up hold person at them, but Elodin counters it.

Low on spell slots, the bard and wizard begin throwing cantrips at their foe, while Xavier and Belgarath, both melee combatants, do what they can from range as entering the ghoul-filled water to get at Crab-Man is out of the question.

At a gesture from Crab-Man, water in the basin animates and attacks the heroes, grappling and restraining all of them except Nigel. The bard considers himself lucky…until Crab-Man casts another hold person and Nigel finds himself paralyzed.

Then water from the basin surges upward, swirls wildly near the ceiling to form large hailstones, and then pummels the heroes.

Laughing wildly, Crab-Man puts himself in line with Xavier and Elodin, pulls a wand from his belt, and unleashes a lightning bolt at them. Xavier avoids the brunt of the magical energy, but Elodin is hit hard and nearly goes down.

“Son of a tongue-less bard!” Elodin screams. “We’re screwed!”

As Nigel shakes of the hold person spell, the bard, in shock, says, “He got my books wet.” He can see ink bleeding from his makeshift bag (made from a pair of pants) where he was carrying dozens of precious books.

“HE GOT MY BOOKS WET!”

“Ohhhh, that mother is dead,” whispers Belgarath as he begins to slam his morningstar into the altar, hoping it is the key to Crab-Man’s power.

“Sacrilege!” Crab-Man, a priest of Drazovinites, bellows as cracks begin to run along the stone altar. He moves across the water next to the warlock and unleashes a series of blows at him.

Then, fists clenched in fury, Nigel quickly casts a spell and a screams, “DIE, BOOK BANE!”

Crab-Man’s trident suddenly heats read hot, and he reflexively releases the weapon from his grip. He manages a whispered, “Oh shit,” before plunging into the water. It would appear that his water walking ability was tied to the trident, a fact that the ever-perceptive bard had deduced.

Several ghouls instantly lash out at Crab-Man, claws scratching his barnacled flesh. The man tries to pull himself from the water, but ghoulish paralysis sets in first. The ravenous ghouls then pull his rigid body beneath the water and begin feasting.

Xavier watches the bloody spectacle for a moment and then averts his eyes. “Nice work” he calls to Nigel. “Why didn’t you do that in round one?”

The bard glares at him dangerously. “No one touches my books.”

“NO ONE!”

After looting Crab-Man’s body, the heroes find a secret door in the room and investigate the tunnel beyond it. It leads them to a quay and an underground lake.

The heroes unanimously agree that nothing good will come of investigating the lake and that it will probably just lead to an encounter they’d rather just avoid. So, they send Belgarath in to investigate “real quick.”

One of the true joys a DM experiences is first hearing the players thoroughly enumerate why the should NOT do something, and then hearing them say they want to do it anyway. Because that always turns out well.

For the DM.

As Belgarath moves into the room on his flying carpet, he spots a gigantic shape protruding from the water. As he finally sorts it out as the back of an enormous turtle, a voice booms, “WHO ARE YOU AND WHY ARE YOU HERE?”

As this conversation unfolds, the heroes – most of whom are still back in the tunnel – identify the creature as a dragon turtle. It turns out that the Drazovinites and Sahuagin were paying the dragon turtle in order to mine the walls of the underground lake for remnants.

The dragon turtle demands a similar arrangement from the heroes, should they wish to leave his lair alive. The heroes discuss just leaving (they figure the monster can’t fit through the narrow tunnels), but then Belgarath realizes the turtle must have piles of treasure, possibly including magical items.

When they refuse to make a deal with the creature, it moves to attack, but Elodin casts banishment on it, and it disappears. This gives Belgarath, aiding by Xavier’s and Elodin’s octopus familiars, time to find the monster’s treasure trove.

Drinking a potion of water breathing and diving under the water, the warlock finds a tunnel and begins swimming down it. After half a minute of swimming, Belgarath determines the tunnel probably leads back out to the ocean, and turns around.

Back in the underground lake, the dragon turtle reappears as Elodin’s spell runs out and moves to attack. This time the wizard casts wall of force across the entrance to the tunnel. Enraged and unperturbed, the dragon turtle begins slamming its incredible bulk agains the wall of force and the stone walls.

As rubble and dust begin to rain down on Nigel, Xavier, and Elodin, the latter uses minor illusion to create duplicates of himself to distract the turtle. Meanwhile, the bard begins casting geas, which takes a minute to do so.

Seeing the turtle distracted as he comes back into the lake, Belgarath checks out other parts of the chamber, eventually finding another tunnel. And this tunnel does lead to the monster’s treasure horde! The warlock greedily scoops up a morningstar, scarf, and flute, though he leaves the tens of thousands of gold and platinum pieces on the floor – even he can only carry so much.

As Xavier and Nigel stumbled out of the tunnel that seems ready to collapse, the dragon turtle forces its head through a small hole its created between the wall of force and the stone wall. It inhales deeply and breaths a cone of scalding steam at the heroes. Fortunately, the angle is wrong, and it just hits the wall.

Just as the tunnel is collapsing, Eloding misty steps to the back of the turtle, using a minor illusion of himself in the tunnel to distract the turtle.

Belgarath spots three turtle eggs, each the size of a man, and ties a rope around one of them, planning to drag it out with him. Just as he nears the exit from the dragon turtle’s lair, he comes face to face with the enraged creature.

“THIEF!” it bellows as it inhales, preparing to breathe.

Belgarath discretely downs a potion of gaseous form, and is expelled to the surface of the lake as his body transforms into mist. He hears roars of rage and confusion behind him as he heads to his flying carpet.

Elodin, left floating in the water when the turtle headed under to its lair, casts fly on himself and begins booking it down a tunnel to the south. Belgarath is close behind him.

As they flee, both heroes can hear the dragon turtle behind them – it must have seen them – begin slamming into the entrance, apparently trying to follow them. However, the monster just doesn’t fit, fortunately for them.

This was a badass encounter and tons of fun. So glad the players decided to “just take a quick look.”

The four heroes meet back up in the Drazovinites complex, and review the loot Belgarath pocketed from the stupid turtle. A scarf of water breathing and golden flute go to Nigel, and Belgarath gets a Morningstar +2 of Giantbane.

After exploring some abandoned dwarven tunnels to the east, the Hand of Light heads back to an underwater tunnel they found near the entrance to the entire compound. They originally came here to kill sahuagin, and so far they haven’t seen any of the creatures. They figure that this tunnel should lead them to the sahuagin.

The Sword Coast Guard

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