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

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

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

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 12 – The Sunken Temple, Part 2

Session Date: September 10, 2017

13 Eleasias, 1367 DR

With the heroes planning to head north in the underground compound, Rusty splashes out of the water onto a quay. “Sorry guys,” the fighter says, streams of water running down him. “Had a rough night.”

“No worries,” says Belgarath. “We had to fight some shark riders and ghasts without you, but it wasn’t that –” Before the warlock can finish, he disappears with a flash of soft blue light.

“Damn, DM magic,” mutters Elodin.

Nigel nods. “Yep, tell me about it.”

“You should see if you can borrow some of that for your demon spawn children,” says Elodin.

“Hey, I’m just proud to be a father.”

Translation: Rusty’s player – who wasn’t present at the last session – arrived for this session. Belgarath’s player, however, wasn’t present at the beginning of this session. Rule is “if a player’s butt is not in the chair, his character’s butt is not in the world.” (I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll do if I ever get a player who stands the whole session.)

Metagamey magic aside, the Sword Coast Guard jumps into the water and swims north. They soon see a bridge spanning the river down the tunnel and approach to investigate.

As Nigel is examining the underside of the bridge, something grabs his ankle and yanks him underwater. The bard finds himself face to face with an ugly – by the bard’s standards, at least – sea troll. The troll extends one hand and growls something Nigel doesn’t understand.

Trembling, Nigel pulls a gold pieces from a pouch and gives it to the troll. The creature snarls, bites the coin in half, and extends its hand again.

The heroes dive down after their companion, and Elodin, seeing the troll speaking a language no one understands, casts tongues.

“Five hundred!” the sea troll bellows.

The heroes see another troll, clearly female, approach them from deeper in the river. Rusty checks out the troll holding Nigel, and it’s clearly male. “Cute couple,” the fighter remarks.

Elodin convinces the sea troll to come onto the dry land near the foot of the bridge where they can better discuss things. The sea troll demands a toll of five hundred gold to pass the bridge – because the “missus” wants it. To avoid a conflict, the wizard pays the troll.

See, if this were an MMO, this is what we’d call a “cash store” where players can buy experience points to level up. So, two trolls are worth 3500 XP. That comes out to 7.2 XP per gold piece, not adjusted for DM inflation, of course. (And if it were a real cash store, I’d be charging them dollars, not gold pieces…hey, I may be onto something.)

As Elodin and the sea troll continue their conversation, the wizard extracts information about the underground compound. He learns that “magic men” live in the area just west of the bridge, and that “fish men” live west of the area they fought the shark riders in.

The wizard then turns the tables on the troll, offering it information and then demanding five gold pieces. The confused troll hangs its head, dives into the water, and returns with a sack with five hundred gold pieces. “The missus is gonna be pissed with me,” the sea troll says, head hung dejectedly, as it gives Elodin the sack of gold.

This is what it looks like when players hack the cash store, take the money back, and still get to keep the experience points. (Which is why I told them next time we wouldn’t have a session. Banning them, you see.)

The heroes then quickly head west from the bridge to the “magic men” area. As they head down the tunnel, they can hear a commotion and loud screaming from behind them.

Yep, the missus didn’t like it.

At the end of the tunnel, they come upon double wooden doors – the heroes know they are wooden because Nigel rolls above a 5 on his Investigation check to determine what kind of doors they are.

Xavier pushes the doors open (once Nigel confirms they are wooden, of course) and finds a large chamber with many doors about the walls. In the middle of the chamber is a basin of water measuring some twenty feet by twenty feet square.

The fighter confidently strides up to the basin and peers over the edge into the water.

I might note – and all the players loudly noted this as well when Xavier said he was going to do this – that jumping first didn’t serve Malark so well with the shark riders. (Xavier is the new character that replaced Malark – same player.) However, I usually consider myself a benevolent DM. Usually.

A thick tendril of water explodes from the basin and tries to wrap Xavier about the waist. However, the fighter parries the tendril away with his sword and backs away.

Rusty rushes into the room, drawing his swords and crying, “Hell yeah! Time to kill shit!”, and the other heroes take up positions in the tunnel.

Just as Rusty enters the room, a second tendril of water exits the basin, wraps around him, and yanks him into the water. The fighter can’t see anything but water around him – whatever he’s fighting is either invisibility or made of water – as he’d dragged thirty feet downward into the murky water.

Xavier hacks wildly at the water in front of him, scoring a hit on something that he can’t see. There is definitely more than just water in the basin. Nigel and Elodin fling what spells they can from the tunnel, but it’s hard to hit the tendrils of water from where they’re at.

As Nigel enters the room to get a better angle on things, Belgarath appears down the tunnel behind Elodin. “Sorry for the delay, boys!” The warlock charges down tunnel and into he room. “What’d I miss?”

“Time to kill shit,” Rusty gurgles from within the basin.

Belgarath’s player arrived. He was at a local game shop when his truck wouldn’t start. So, naturally, he just replaced the starter in the parking lot, just like anyone else would have done…

And then two of the doors open, and four human females bearing shields and shark-teeth swords move into the room.

Just as the heroes adjust to the new threats, another door opens. Three men, each covered with a sheen of frost and one eye frozen over, enter the room. Rays of frigid frost blast out from their eyes, hitting both Nigel and Elodin, freezing them in place.

Waves of enemies are fun.

Despite being frozen in place, Nigel drops a hypnotic pattern on a group of enemies, incapacitating two of the frozen eyes. Then Belgarath and Xavier go to work, morning star and sword smashing and slashing through their foes. An invisible water creature, several of the warriors, and a frozen eye go down in pools of blood – or water.

Meanwhile, Rusty escapes several times from the water grasping him, only to be grappled again. Finally the fighters embraces the possibility of drowning and simply begins hacking away at the water around him. His flurry of attacks does the trick, and the water releases him. After swimming to the surface, he pulls himself back on to dry ground.

“And that’s how shit gets killed,” he says, spitting up a pint of water.

The frozen eyes repeatedly try to cast fear on the heroes, but Elodin is quick to counterspell them. Then, as the heroes drop more foes, one of the frozen eyes drops a fog cloud around him and moves through the double doors leading north.

Xavier and Belgarath follow after him, and Nigel casts dispel magic, removing the fog.

The two warriors find themselves in a corridor with basins of water lining either wall. Standing in the basins of water are four suits of plate armor engraved with water and seashell motifs and holding fanciful, silver tridents.

After they slaughter the remaining frozen eye, Belgarath investigates a suit of armor and yanks the trident away from it. A silver trident might be useful after all.

At that, Xavier moves to another suit of armor and begins monkeying with it.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how one encounter dovetails into two encounters back to back. The DM wanted to give them a moment to regroup – he really did – but no one, I mean no one, monkeys with my armor.

Two of the suits of armor glow softly with blue light, and water from the basins rushes up to fill them out, a sort of body made of water. The water armors then move to stab Xavier and Belgarath with their tridents, frigid ice coating them.

The hack and slash and lobbing of spells commences, and this battle is rather straightforward compared to the last one.

When the water armors are vanquished, the Sword Coast Guard moves back to the previous chamber and begins checking out the various rooms that opening up from it. The rooms all appear to be barracks, and the heroes find a decent amount of loot – gold, gems, and the like. Nigel also discovers dozens of tomes of history, and two books dealing with arcane topics. His backpack already overfilling, the bard improvises a pair of pants as a satchel, and stuffs the books into them.

We’ll need to remember throughout the rest of this adventure that Nigel is dragging around several dozen books in a pair of pants…

The heroes also discover a letter from a Vidette Rhona to a Zac Stormcrow. As they settle down to take a short rest, they read the letter.

The Sword Coast Guard

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

Not Pictured: Xavier - Eldritch Knight Fighter

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 11 – The Sunken Temple, Part 1

Session Date: August 27, 2017

11 Eleasias, 1367 DR

The heroes walk up early before the sun has risen to the sound of watch horns blowing and patrols of Waterdeep soldiers streaming toward the docks. After quickly donning their armor, they head to the docks.

There they find hundreds watch members and soldiers waiting anxiously on the docks. Belgarath investigates the water and discovers that it is darkened with blood.

Soon, several dozen Waterdeep soldiers emerge from the water, carrying a dozen wounded and bleeding sea elves, including Parlanacel Fairskin. The soldiers and sea elves give a report to a man of authority standing nearby, Captain Rulathon the commander of Waterdeep’s soldiers and watch.

It turns out that hundreds of sahuagin attacked the sea elf colony, massacring nearly all of them and stealing the remnants out of their magical vault. Parlanacel sees the heroes standing nearby and flies into a rage, demanding to know why they did not eliminate the sahuagin threat as they had promised to do.

This brings the attention of Captain Rulathon down on the heroes; he also demands answers. The heroes explain that they were dealing with hags in Rassalantar, and Rulathon’s ire is partially abated, though he does reprimand Tzarkin the Younger – a soldier in charge of negotiating contracts with adventurers – for his trust in the Sword Coast Guard.

Finally, the heroes are charged with dealing with the sahuagin forthwith and dismissed from Captain Rulathon’s presence.

On their way through the city, a courier finds them and delivers a letter from Lady Nellabee Tharmar to Nigel. Nellabee says she was pained to find that Nigel did not visit her during the last tenday he spent in town, and asks him to join her in the library if the love they shared was real. This, of course, is the same woman who magically compelled Nigel to give her the remnants the bard carried not so long ago.

Nearby, Nigel spots someone who looks exactly like Ashton Sanguine, the man who ruined his reputation at the bard college in Silverymoon and whose throat he slit several ten days ago. The heroes quickly swarm the man, who doesn’t even try to flee.

In the discussion that follows, the man who appears to be Ashton Sanguine claims to be Nigel’s son. The heroes immediately begin talk of the demonic offspring Nigel has been fathering with Nellabee Tharmar. In the end, the heroes release the man, who merely requests that Nigel join his mother in the library, as he did in the good old days.

With Nigel’s loose ways – and a rapidly growing linage – continuing to plague the heroes, they head north along the coast toward the Red Cliffs where they should find the sahuagin.

12 Eleasis, 1367 DR

As they travel, they notice a much increased orc presence in the foothills south of the Sword Mountains – Belgarath and Nigel fly above the group on their flying carpet and hippogriff. One orc patrol spots them and beadlines their way.

Five orcs mounted on dire wolves surround the heroes who attempt to parlay. Though initially aggressive, demanding to know what right the heroes have to be in Shattered Teeth territory, the orcs change their tune when the heroes mention an affiliation with Lord Paxton. After some discussion, the orcs reveal that they are sword vassals to Lord Paxton.

The parlay proceeds with uncertain results until Nigel claims he is Ashton Sanguine and produces a letter that seems to substantiate his claims. Convinced, the orcs tell him that Grammillion (the leader of the orc tribe) will want to see him as he totally screwed up the remnant job. The orcs even threaten to take them to him themselves, but the heroes sweet talk their way out of that.

In the end, the orcs let the heroes go on their way without violence.

And that doesn’t happen very often with this group…

The Sword Coast Guard arrives at the Red Cliffs and, after some time searching, finally discover a cave that leads to an underground stream.

Flying two to a carpet and hippogriff, the four heroes follow the stream into a small cavern that appears to be part of an underground lake. There are two quays that lead to passages, and a couple other tunnels leading in other directions.

As the heroes begin looking around, a man bearing a long lance and riding a great white shark surfaces from the water’s depths. He demands to know why they are there, and the heroes tell him they are hunting sahuagin and plan to kill them. The man responds that sahuagin have been displacing his tribe.

The heroes then offer to work with him to kill the sahuagin, and the man accepts. He motions them to follow him. The heroes drink their water breathing potions, Xavier jumps into the water, and the others dismount onto the quays.

At this point one player tries to make an insight check as I’m getting out the battle map and minis. LOL A little too late…

The man was, of course, deceiving the heroes, and Xavier notices five more men on sharks submerged below the water just as he jumps in. They move to attack immediately.

Though Xavier finds himself in a dangerous predicament, Elodin responds with a well-placed hypnotic pattern that catches most of the enemies. As the heroes attack their foes, one of the warriors moves about slashing his companions to wake them out of their stupor.

Just as the enemies have mostly escaped the hypnotic pattern’s effects, Nigel casts compulsion on them, causing nearly all of them to move away from the battle.

At this point, the fight turns into a matter of cleaning up one or two enemies at a time as they escape the compulsion effect. Xavier, with a stroke of inspiration, blows his Horn of Blasting at a group of them as they return from up passage. The enemies are heavily damaged, but the horn blows up in Xavier’s face.

It had a twenty percent changes of blowing up. I rolled 89 on the percentile dice. This made me happy.

Once the last of the shark riders and sharks are killed, the heroes search their bodies and not tattooed along the inside of their forearms: the distinctive symbol of Drazovin.

Then the heroes move to the south to investigate a room off one of the quays. The room contains two pools with large rocks scattered about. Rope is tied around the rocks with the loose ends coiled next to the rocks. On the far wall is painted the symbol of Drazovin.

Belgarath suspects something amiss with the rocks and moves in to investigate. As soon as he nears the pools, the water ripples and several pale-skinned humanoids with long tongues lolling out of their mouths emerge from the water.

Ghasts.

Though the heroes are initially overwhelmed by the monsters’ sudden rush, they quickly shift the tide of battle back in their favor. Belgarath downs several of the undead with his morningstar, and Xavier does the same with his magical sword. Nigel and Elodin fling spells from the back line.

Soon, the ghasts are defeated, and Xavier dives into a pool to investigate. At the bottom of the pool, he finds a skeletal figure with a rope attached to a rock tied around its ankle. The skeleton is “alive” and claws futilely at Xavier, who is out of reach.

After finishing the skeleton off, Xavier tells the group what he found. The heroes suspect that the ropes and rocks were a method of feeding the ghasts.

The Sword Coast Guard

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

Not Pictured: Xavier - Eldritch Knight Fighter

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 10 – Tichwillow’s Truth, Part 2

Session Date: August 13, 2017

1 Eleasias, 1367 DR

As the Sword Coast Guard stands over the hacked and smoking corpses of ogres and trolls, they hear loud footsteps – running footsteps – approaching from separate corridors. The heroes discuss briefly how to prepare for whatever is coming, but end up doing nothing.

That’s what happens when players spend the time discussing what to do but don’t actually decide on anything.

Then, from one corridor emerges a large, two-headed giant – which the heroes and their grandmothers easily identify as an ettin. A second horribly deformed giant covered with bumps and boils, though with only one head and much larger than the ettin, exits another passage. This giant, a formian, bellows, “For Tichwillow!” and leads a charge against the heroes.

Elodin immediately banishes the formian, and Belgarath nearly single-handedly takes the ettin down. The heroes then gather around the spot the formian was banished from and prepare themselves to attack when it returns.

The formian returns, takes an incredible wolluping from the heroes, and then turns its large, misshapen eye upon Nigel. The bard’s skin ripples as his bone structure rearranges itself, and he is left as horribly deformed as the formian.

Which is possibly the single worst sort of thing that could happen to a lady-loving, player like Nigel. All good things much end eventually… I was originally debating between evil eying Elodin or Nigel, but Nigel insulted the formian and Elodin kindly translated. So, the formian chose Nigel. Thanks, Elodin!

The formian puts up a decent fight, dropping Belgarath, before finally going down himself. The heroes then mercifully heal Belgarath and bring him back up.

The heroes pass through a chamber covered in mud created by water constantly running down the walls, and enter a large room that serves as the pantry. Several carcasses hang from the ceiling by chains, maggots swarming them and flies buzzing about. Nigel then searches the containers and packages on the shelves, looking for ale, but instead finds several bottles of rum. That’s a win in Nigel’s book.

Just wait for when he decides to drink the ogre rum…

They then arrive at the door leading into what they call the “root room.” Belgarath listens at the doors, hearing what he believes to be primates grunting within. With the door barred from the other side, Mugzy – Malark’s ape companion – bum rushes the door in an attempt to break it down. Although he does fail to break the door down, he overwhelmingly succeeds at alerting those within to the heroes’ presence outside.

Nigel examines the door, finds a crack through which he can see the other side, and casts unseen servant on the other side of the door. The magical creation then lifts the bar from the door, opening it.

Inside the massive chamber, they see several thick roots – some 10 feet in diameter – punching through the walls and protruding into the floor. On the roots are perched two large, four-armed, white primates which Malark identifies as girallons. They are native to jungles far to the south, but the ranger knows they can be trained, and he immediately tells the group to leave one alive for him.

Mugsy is a good companion and all, but, I mean, a two-ton, four-armed gorilla is hard to beat, right?

As Belgarath moves into the room, Granny Tichwillow’s voice calls out to them. She congratulates them for making it this far, claiming it was but a test. She them proposes they work together, as they did when they brought down the White Knights, instead of fighting. Tichwillow promises them such a deal would be very lucrative for them.

Though the heroes cannot see her in the room – they suspect she is invisible – the begin negotiating with her. Among the many things discussed is that Tichwillow wants them to deliver unspoiled, innocent children to her. In exchange for that, she’ll give Belgarath information about a sentient morningstar he is seeking. Though Malark seems okay with such an arrangement, Elodin opposes it.

See? Occasionally alignment does matter in D&D. The other 98% of the time it might as well just say “whatever.”

Meanwhile, Nigel tried to sweet talk Tichwillow, saying he never wanted to fight her to begin with. Some of the heroes favor making the deal and walking away, though others want to fight – and which wants which sways back and forth several times.

FWIW, I would have been completely happy with Tichwillow making the deal and allowing the heroes to leave. Hags generally prefer to negotiate rather than fight. Also, it gives me that much more time to dream up foulness and mayhem for Tichwillow to be about and look forward to another encounter between her and the heroes. Alas, it was not meant to be…

Belgarath decides the matter, casting shatter where he believes her to be standing. Once Tichwillow is visible, her true form is revealed: a large annis hag, deformed and hideous.

The battle develops into a lengthy affair (taking nearly 3 hours of game time). Here are some highlights:

  • Tichwillow casts wall of thorns cutting off the party into two groups.
  • An acidic gas cloud wells up within the wall of thorns were some heroes are trapped.
  • Belgarath casts darkness on himself and takes on Tichwillow – an annis hag – and a girallon mostly by himself.
  • Tichwillow lightning bolts Belgarath, uses a bottle of wasps that heal her with their stings, and shatters a mirror over her head, producing a duplicate of herself.
  • Nigel dispels the duplicate.
  • Tichwillow casts blink (which the DM then forgot about for the remainder of the battle).
  • Elodin burns a hole through the wall of thorns and begins lobbing spells in the room.
  • Tichwillow gives Belgarath a crushing hug, dropping him unconscious, and then continues to crush him in his arms until he is dead.
  • Malark fires off volleys of arrows at Tichwillow.
  • Malark and Mugzy go down at various paints.
  • Tichwillow walks through the stone wall and appears in hallway next to Elodin and Nigel.
  • Elodin’s owl carries a potion to Malark, healing him.
  • Tichwillow casts cone of cold on Elodin, Mugzy, Nigel, and Malark.
  • Tichwillow drinks several healing potions.
  • Finally, Malark shoots an arrow in Tichwillow’s throat, dropping her

With Tichwillow and her girallon pets dead – Malark didn’t get his wish – the heroes quickly move to loot the hag’s body. They find potions of healing, a potion labeled “Love Potion #11,” an immovable rod, and a horn of blasting.

In the adjoining room used as prison cells, they find Tonguecutter, the orc they had rescued from the trolls and ogres and who had pledged allegiance to them. Tichwillow had imprisoned him once again; so, they free him once again.

2 Eleasias, 1367 DR

The Sword Coast Guard then heads to Gauntlet Hall, the castle they took over after killing most of the White Knights – noble paladins of Torm. There the heroes receive fanfare and a reverent chant of “Sword Coast Guard!” from the garrison of Waterdeep soldiers as they enter.

Not sure how they pulled this off… They ally with an evil hag, kill goodly knights of Torm, and then are revered as triumphant heroes… (It would be unfortunate if the truth ever came out…)

Civilar Casey is in charge of the garrison and tells them that the castle is now fully fortified should the orc army in the Sword Mountains make a move on Waterdeep. The heroes entrust Tonguecutter to her care, telling her that he has valuable information that can be used against the orc army.

2 - 12  Eleasias, 1367 DR

Then the Sword Coast Guard heads back to Waterdeep where they pursue various downtime activities:

  • Elodin buys and scribes scrolls, and meets with a member of his old thieving group. He is trying to get information about rescuing Sharra, a former companion, from the Velvet Fists, the thieving group that absorbed his.
  • Nigel works as a researcher in New Olamn bard college and earns a favor from a scholar.
  • Belgarath works on finding someone who can cast a permanent tongues spell on him, and runs across Fea Eltorchul, a powerful wizard from Eltorchul Academy. Fea tells him that she could do such a thing, but he would need to bring her tomes of great arcane power. She also agreed to research the crypt where a sentient morningstar could be found.
  • Malark finds a merchant selling magical arrows and buys five arrows +1.

The Sword Coast Guard

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

The Sword Coast Guard, Episode 9 – Tichwillow’s Truth, Part 1

Session Date: July 30, 2017

Midsummer, 1367 DR

Following the lead Linare gave them, the Sword Coast Guard heads to Dock Ward to speak with the sea elves about the malenti they found in their midst and the remnant it had.

They arrive at the harbor master’s office, and strike up a conversation with the busy man. Instead of getting straight to the point about why they are there – they simply need him to call the sea elves so they can talk – Nigel decides to spin up a tale about being there to claim salvage from the harbor.

The harbor master naturally asks to see requisition papers, which they don’t have. There is some back and forth, during which a second lie and the true reason for their being there are put forth. However, the harbor master is not having any of it, including a substantial bribe the heroes try to give him. Finally an attempt at intimidation by Malark pushes him over the line. In short order the harbor master has a squad of Waterdeep Watch there to sort things out.

The Watch calls bullcrap on their stories, and gives the Sword Coast Guard a stern rebuke. They are warned not to engage in any more deception against city officials. The civiliar in charge tells them that only their good reputation for aiding Waterdeep is saving them from official charges being laid against them. This time.

With the heroes somewhat deflated, the Watch detachment blows a giant horn that protrudes into the water of the harbor. Soon thereafter, a handful of sea elves emerge from the water.

The heroes tell their leader, Parlanacel Fairskin, they were sent by Linare to inquire about the malenti and remnant. The sea elves take them somewhere private underwater where they may talk, giving the heroes potions so they can breath underwater.

Throughout the scenes with the sea elves, the players continue to butcher Parlanacel’s name, leading to some interesting dialogue.

The heroes learn from Parlanacel that they captured a malenti – a Sahuagin, the racial enemy of the sea elves, that looks exactly like a sea elf – in their mist and that this malenti was carrying a remnant. He tells them that over the millennia the sea elves have been gathering remnants from the sea bed, and they have a few dozen stored in their magical treasure vault. The sea elves did not know the significance of the remnants until recently.

The heroes mention that they have eight of the remnants themselves. Parlanacel tells them the remnants all have a certain marking on them, and asks to see the hero’s remnants. Nigel then opens the tube where the remnants should have been – before he lost them to Lady Nellabee Tharmar – and feigns surprise when the tube is revealed to be empty.

Nigel then goes on to say how he had a dream where Nellabee took the remnants from him, but he though it was just a dream. Now it looks like it really happened.

All the players know what really happened, but their characters don’t. So, I had Nigel roll a Deception check and the others Insight checks. Nigel’s roll was higher than everyone else’s, so I ruled all of the characters believed him.

The heroes are taken to the malenti, whom the sea elves still have captive. Thus far the creature has refused to give any information.

So, the Sword Coast Guard then interrogates the creature, using detect thoughts. They gather valuable information about where the Sahuagin live, who their leader is – a four-armed Sahuagin brute – and that the Sahuagin are mining an underground lake for more remnants.

The also get information about a cloaked figure holding a trident who appears to be related to the effort to collect the remnants.

In the end, Parlanacel beseeches the heroes to go to the Sahuagin community, destroy them and all the malenti, and reclaim as many remnants as possible. He fears that if the heroes don’t do that immediately, the Sahuagin will attack the sea elves in order to steal the remnants from their vault.

The heroes promise Parlanacel that they will take care of the Sahuagin threat, and the sea elf leader gives them a dozen potions of water breathing to aid them in their efforts.

After their meeting with the sea elves, the heroes leave Waterdeep and head to Granny Tichwillow’s cottage, figuring that settling that business is the most pressing matter.

Some promises were meant to be broken, right? Actually, the group was split on what to do next, and I had the dice settle the matter. The dice ruled they go to Tichwillow’s.

1 Eleasias, 1367 DR

As they travel along a gravel path flanked by fields of wheat, they hear the sound of children’s mischievous laughter coming from the fields. The heroes investigate – Belgarath using his flying carpet and Nigel his hippogriff – but they find nothing but solemn scarecrows in the field.

There are some jokes at the table about the scarecrows animating and attacking them, but the DM pays this no mind. Players have fanciful imaginations, after all.

As they get nearer Tichwillow’s cottage, the gravel on the path turns supernaturally sharp and harms the hooves of two of their horses. They continue the rest of the way through the wheat fields, wheat tassels breaking off and sticking fast to their clothes as they walk along.

They finally arrive at the cottage around midnight – a fine hour for meeting someone suspected to be a witch or hag – and Granny Tichwillow invites them in.

The heroes confront her about the letter they found in the Candy Witches’ lair. Tichwillow reads the letter and then exclaims that her “evil clone” from the feywild must be working with the Candy Witches. She says that the Unseelie fey creating an evil person that looks just like her, and that it must be her that did it.

Belgarath is having none of it, though. As he eyes the stooped old woman before him, he sees through her magical disguise and and sees the grotesque form of a hag standing before him. He tells his companions what he sees, but most seem content to ignore him.

Nigel in particular wants to believe Tichwillow, and asks her where they can find her “evil clone.” Tichwillow them brings forth her divining tin and begins her ritual for consulting the bones. Blood, spit, and herbs go into the tin tray, and finally she casts in a handful of small bones. After a moment of reading the bones, she tells the heroes they can find her clone in a cave on the coast.

There is some discussion among the heroes about what to do, but Malark and Belgarath decide it by drawing their weapons and attacking.

As the battle unfolds, Granny Mathilda Tichwillow’s true form as a grotesque, large hag is revealed to all. Granny Tichwillow immediately squashes a toad on her shoulder, triggering teleportation magic that whisks her away.

Then the cottage itself comes alive: the doors and windows grow sharp protrusions that attack the heroes when they try to move through them, and the cauldron begins spewing forth toxic gas. Outside the cottage, several scarecrows, including a giant-sized one, animate, pull themselves down off the poles that hold them aloft, and swarm the cottage.

The heroes scramble to get out of the cottage – toxic gas is not good – where they then confront the scarecrows. The creatures are resistant to many of their attacks, but Elodin quickly learns that fire works quite well on them. He then drops a fireball that immolates several of them.

Granny Tichwillow's cottage turns into a death trap.

Once the heroes defeat the scarecrows, the cottage stops attacking them. With the danger passed, the heroes move back into the cottage to explore its contents.

Malark picks the lock on a chest upstairs and opens the lid to release a swarm of wasps. The insects cover him with scores of nasty stings before the ranger and Belgarath can kill them all.

In the bottom of the chest is a single copper pieces. Covered with swollen stings, Malark snarls and tries to scoop up the copper piece. A massive jolt of electricity courses through his body and tosses him away from the chest.

Just as he’s about to have Mugzy smash the chest to pieces, Elodin calmly has his mage hand retrieve the copper piece for the ranger.

Downstairs Nigel discovers a secret recipe book of Tichwillow’s that appears to contain recipes for potions and other oddities. The bard discretely pockets the book, hoping it contains a recipe for more of that delicious candy.

After taking a long rest, the heroes find several tracks made by large creatures outside the cottage. Following the tracks brings them to the Troll Holl, wherein dwell the ogres and trolls that helped them destroy the White Knights.

Things click together for Nigel at that moment. He tells the group that those ogres and trolls were probably working for Granny Tichwillow all along since it was she who sent them there to recruit them. The heroes agree and suspect they are walking into a trap.

Before going in, Belgorath and Elodin cast comprehend languages just in case they need to understand Giant, the language both trolls and ogres speak.

In the first chamber of the cave complex, they find several ogres and a troll on guard. They convince the brutes to lead them to the throne room and overhear a conversation in Giant where the ogres are talking about Tichwillow giving them orders to kill the heroes.

Ogres aren’t smart. No one else speaks their language, right? So why not talk about killing the heroes in their presence?

Elodin casts suggestion on one ogre, convincing it to leave the cave, and that ogre takes one of its buddies with him. With only a few ogres and one troll left, the heroes pounce on them. A wall of fire and some hack and slash later, the ogres and trolls are but smoking corpses on the ground.

The heroes confront ogres and a troll as they track down Granny Tichwillow.

And now they just need to find Tichwillow.

 

The Sword Coast Guard

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

 

The Sword Coast Guard, Episode 8 – I’ll Keep Them Safe for You, My Dear

Session Date: July 16, 2017

21 Flamerule, 1367 DR

As combat with Agnes Gristlegrums begins, Elodin casts shatter on her. The spell has no effect other than to reveal Agnes as illusion.

The heroes hear cackling laughter from all around the room, and three old ladies appear: one rides a flying carpet, another rides an animated table, and the third, Agnes, rids a sow. The heroes later identify the old ladies as a coven of green hags, evil fey known to deceive and corrupt.

The heroes begin their battle against the green hags, two prisoners in the cages – Malark and his ape companion, Mugzy – break out of their cages. The hags fling spells at the heroes – eyebite, hold person, polymorph – and small toads in the undergrowth are constantly transforming into giant toads.

The hags’ magical defenses are great, and the giant toads are wreaking havoc, especially on Malark and Mugzy. Finally Elodin lands banishment on one of the hags, breaking their coven. With the coven broken, the hags cannot cast spells, and the tide of battle turns. The heroes quickly overwhelm one hag, and just as the banished hag returns – Elodin was put to sleep by eyebite that one hag was maintaining concentration on – the other hag goes down.

The remaining hag, Agnes Gristlegums herself, tries to flee the chamber on her sow. However, the heroes are having none of it; they quickly swarm her and take her down. Belgarath chops off the heads of all three and stashes them into a sack for later.

The Sword Coast Guard takes on a coven of green hags and their giant toad minions.

The heroes recover treasure from the chamber, including a Flying Carpet and an Animated Table. They make bacon out of the sow. They also find a letter that implicates Granny Mathilda Tichwillow as part of the hags’ operation.

The heroes return to the chamber with a portal to the Feywild, and Nigel and Belgarath go through. Nigel speaks with his long-lost love, Guinevere, and other elves in the Feywild. The elves tell them that the Unseelee fey are using several portals in the area to pass into the material plane where they are spreading evil and corruption. In order to stop the evil fey and close the portals, they must kill all the hags.

They leave the Feywild and move to the final chamber in the Candy Witches’ den. There they find three toad abominations that turn out to be farmers that the three hags turned into their current state. The heroes take the toadies with them, promising to find a way to restore them to normal.

Exhausted from their endeavors, the heroes travel to Waterdeep where they can take some needed downtime. On the way, during a night’s rest, Malark, Belgarath, and Nigel all break out their musical instruments and being playing, each trying to outperform the other. Malark plays quite poorly, and Belgarath and Nigel find themselves tied.

22 Flamerule, 1367 DR

Upon arriving in Waterdeep, a courier approaches Nigel and gives him a letter from Lady Nellabe Tharmar where she requests a meeting with the bard. Elodin recognizes the man as Asmoran, a member of his former thieves group. Elodin and Asmoran talk briefly, and plan a meeting for later.

Belgarath takes the toad abominations to the temple of Torm. He is there to collect the bounty for dispatching Lady Ushien Stormbanner, the leader of the White Nights. He also pays to have the clerics cast greater restoration on the toads and have them transformed back into humans. (The heroes later deside that the farmers might make a good addition to their keep, Gauntlet Hall.)

Nigel meets with Lady Tharmar at an inn in Sea Ward, where they go to a private room. Nellabee tells Nigel she knows about the remnants due to having spoken with Linare or the War Wizards, and tries to convince him to give them to her for safe keeping. When Nigel declines, Nellabee uses some sort of charm magic on the bard who then obediently hands the remnants over.

As Nellabee is leaving, she introduces Nigel to one of their children, practically a grown man. She tells Nigel that they have many more children, too. Nigel is shocked and wonders what he’s gotten himself into.

Elodin meets with Asmodan at the Safehaven Inn. Asmodan tells him that the Velvet Fists – the thieves guild that absorbed Elodin’s group and ran him out of Amn – is now operating out of Waterdeep. They have formed a guild, the Loyal Order of Couriers and Servants, as a front to hide their criminal activities. Most of Elodin’s old group, including his Shara Dhestin, still work for the Velvet Fists, though they had believed Elodin locked up. The wizard and Asmodan arrange for a way to contact each other, and then depart. Elodin had resolved years ago to rescue Shara from the Velvet Fists, but failed. This appears to be his second chance.

The heroes spend a ten day of downtime pursuing individual activities as follows:

  • Malark takes on small bounties in Waterdeep, mostly that of debtors, and earns a little bit of fun money.
  • Belgarath spends his time in New Olamn bard college, researching the location of a sentient morningstar. He finds an obscure text indicating one may be found in the tomb of a demilich. The tomb is located in the Fields of the Dead, far to the southeast of Waterdeep.
  • Nigel researches the Feywild and its inhabitants, trying to determine how his long-lost love from Silverymoon ended up there. Ultimately, he’s not quite certain.
  • Elodin spends his time buying, selling, and scribing scrolls. He manages to sell one scroll for 5000 gp, and earns a wizard contact who is desperate for any scrolls that move or transmute stone.

Shieldmeet (Midsummer), 1367 DR

With their ten day of downtime finished, the heroes head to Castle Waterdeep to meet with Linare of the War Wizards. They had given her one of the remnants to study.

Linare tells them that the remnants are shards of power that slivered off an ancient, evil being named Drazovin, an Elder Power. The Elder Powers were either destroyed or banished from the known plans by the gods eons ago. Linare believes that if enough of the remnants are gathered together, they could be used to release Drazovin from his banishment and allow him to enter the known planes once again.

Linare also tells them that the remnant the heroes gave him was stolen from his magically warded chambers a few days ago. However, there the sea elves that live in Waterdeep Harbor came into possession of a remnant recently, taking it from a captured malenti (a sauhagin spy). Linare suggests they speak with Parlanacel of the sea elves to learn more as this malenti might have information about the group seeking the remnants.

After the other heroes leave, Nigel asks Linare if she had ever heard of someone named Lady Nellabee Tharmar. Linare says that she has not. Nigel thanks her and leaves.

To this point, the bard as decided not to tell his companions about having lost all the remnants. In fact several times he’s claimed to have them safe and sound at his side.

Oh, sweet webs of lies...

The Sword Coast Guard

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

Rusty - Human Fighter

Nigel Dyreus - Half-elven Bard

Elodin - Human Wizard

Belgarath - Half-elven Rogue Warlock

Malark - Human Ranger

The Sword Coast Guard, Episode 7 – A Witch Moot

Session Date: July 2, 2017

19 Flamerule, 1367 DR

This session’s cast: Elodin, Rusty, and Nigel. Belgarath’s player couldn’t make it.

As the howling in the distance gets louder and closer, the heroes ready themselves. They take up defensive positions in the network of small islands connected by fallen logs that surrounds them in Burp Swamp.

The heroes take defensive positions in the swamp as the howling approaches.

A loud, keening howl sounds from a nearby island, causing terror to shake Nigel and Rusty to their core. The heroes can hear movement and see floating logs depress in the water and creatures jump onto them, quickly approaching, but they can see nothing.

A large mastiff wreathed in shadows appears next to Nigel, clamps its teeth into the bard, yanks him from his feet, and then dissipates away into shadows. A similar beast appears next to Rusty, attacks, and disappears. Elodin, from his position up a tree, hears a mastiff climbing the tree, and he, too, is subjected to an attack from a shadowy hound.

Nigel turns invisible and moves about stealthily, but the mastiff has no trouble locating him. Rusty finds himself surrounded by two biting mastiffs, and the one in the tree with Elodin continues to harass him.

These creatures are pretty sweet. They can turn invisible as a bonus action. So, I was having them move, attack, and then turn invisible. So, the shadow mastiffs had advantage on their attack rolls, and the heroes had disadvantage on theirs. Cool stuff… From the DM’s point of view at least… I was intentionally not having them change positions while invisible. That way the players wouldn’t have to play the “guess which square they’re in” game. The mastiffs are very stealthy, so I think they could have easily beat the heroes passive perception checks. The battle would have been doubly nasty if I had done this. I was going for challenge, not TPK.

Frustration setting in, Elodin drops a hypnotic pattern on the area where he believes three of the hounds are located, though Rusty unfortunately gets hit by it, too. Rusty and two of the mastiffs are affected, but the third bites Rusty, shaking him out of the hypnotism.

As Rusty and Elodin begin to clean up the mastiffs on them, Nigel engages in hit-and-run tactics, slamming the hound harrying him a couple times with dissonant whispers until it drops.

With the mastiffs dispatched, the heroes travel a couple hours to the northwest where the ground rises slightly and is less swampy. Small toads begin to exit the swamp, trailing after them and even nipping at their boots and ankles. After the Nigel and Elodin spend some time eldritch blasting and fire bolting the toads, the creatures give them a respectful berth. Hundreds of toads do continue to follow them, though.

They come up on a vine-covered entrance to a cave complex. They’re not sure this is their destination – they figured the witches would be in a cottage – but they decide to check it out. First, however, a long rest is in order.

20 Flamerule, 1367 DR

After resting, they make their way into the cave. They find that the corridor is covered, floor, walls, and ceiling by thick roots that makes progress slow. Furthermore, long vines hang from the ceiling. The vines seem to move slightly on their own, gently caressing them as they pass.

At this the heroes spend some time hacking the roots and vines and inspecting them. The vegetation oozes a black, diseased liquid. Rusty and Elodin determine that the roots and vines are decidedly not natural, much like the rest of the swamp. Some supernatural force is corrupting the area.

In the first chamber of the cave complex, they find dozens of clay pots hanging from the ceiling. Nigel climbs onto Rusty’s shoulders to pull one down, and upon opening it, they find hundreds of dead centipedes. They appear to have either suffocated or starved to death.

As the heroes move to one of the two tunnels leading out of the chamber, small sylvan creatures reveal themselves in the vines hanging from the ceiling. They squeal something in Elvish, and cause four of the pots to fall to the ground and shatter. As the sylvan creatures flee down a tunnel, swinging by the vines, hundreds of small centipedes swarm over Nigel and Rusty – Elodin is luckily farther away.

The clay pots shatter on the floor, releasing swarms of centipedes on the heroes.

The centipedes crawl under the fighter and bard’s armor and clothing, biting at their skin. Rusty takes hundreds of poisonous bites, and Nigel likewise begins to have a very bad day.

I rolled a critical hit on Rusty. It turned out to be 8d4 damage, and many of the dice came up as 3s and 4s.

Rusty and Nigel begin to kill the insects swarming over them, but Elodin has seen enough. He drops a fireball on his friends and the swarms of centipedes. The wizard uses his penchant for luck to help Nigel avoid the brunt of the blast, and Rusty’s ring of fire resistance protects him.

Most of the centipedes are blackened husks and piles of ash after the flames of the fireball clear away. Those few that remain are quickly destroyed by the heroes.

The heroes move off down the tunnel the small sylvan creatures fled down, and come upon a large chamber filled with bed rolls, a cabinet, a chest, and a table. Elodin holds back as Rusty and Nigel enter the room to investigate.

Immediately globes of darkness fall over the three heroes. Rusty and Nigel both suffer stabbing attacks by creatures they cannot see, though they suspect it to be the small sylvan creatures. Elodin is not spared, either, as a small blade stabs him in the side.

Nigel rushes out of the darkness to the center of the chamber. There he sees several of the small creatures on the floor – the heroes later identify them as darklings – and two larger ones – darkling elders – hanging from the vines with hand crossbows at the ready. Surrounding and having an “oh shit” moment, Nigel casts greater invisibility.

Nigel finds himself surrounded by darklings.

Rusty swings away in the darkness, killing one of the darklings on him. Elodin backs out of the darkness, firing fire bolt at the darkling attacking him.

Several darklings surround Nigel, stabbing at him, and the two elders on the ceiling begin shooting bolts at the bard. The creatures appear to have no problem seeing Nigel despite his being invisible. In response, the bard skitters out of the fray and casts hypnotic pattern – his greater invisibility is lost, but it wasn’t doing him much good anyway.

Most of the darklings are caught in the effect and freeze, swaying gently back and forth as the spell takes effect. The globes of darkness also wink out as the darkling elders are no longer able to concentrate on them while incapacitated.

Hypnotic pattern to the rescue again. Definitely a great spell. I thought Nigel was in trouble for a moment. Hypno saved his butt. Well done, Nigel. On another note, blindsight is awesome, too.

Once Rusty and Elodin take out the darklings harassing them, the fighter moves up to the hypnotized creatures and has a go at them. Rusty moves from one to the next, hacking them apart before they can respond. Occasionally when one isn’t killed by the fighter, Elodin and Nigel finish them off with fire bolt and eldritch blast.

The heroes investigate the room and find a good amount of loot – copper, silver, and gold coins – in the chest, along with a statue of an elven female. A tapestry on the wall depicts a dark-skinned female queen before nobles and supplicants.

Elodin and Nigel examine all this evidence and what they know about the darklings – their exploded into brilliant light when they were killed, leaving behind only piles of ash – and determine the tapestry depicts the Summer Queen, the ruler of the Seelie fey in the Feywild.

In response to two good arcana rolls by Nigel and Elodin, I pulled out the DMG and Volo’s Guide to Monsters and read a lot of the lore about the Feywild and Darklings to the players. It’s all really interesting stuff. I was concerned it might be boring to just read blocks of text from the books, but right afterwards I asked the players about it, and they all said they liked it. Cool.

In another chamber, the heroes come upon leather hides – mostly from humans and a few orcs – covering the floor. On top of the hides are bones, some with scraps of flesh still clinging to them. They examine the bones and determine them to be from humans and a few orcs.

One wall of the chamber glows softly with light, and Nigel approaches to investigate. Through the hazy light, he sees a perfect reflection of the chamber he’s now standing in. Soft music from a flute floats from the hazy portal.

The heroes determine that this is a place where the prime material plane has come into contact with the Feywild, causing a gateway between the two planes to form. They are torn about going in or not. Just as Nigel is about to walk away, a beautiful elven female appears in the Feywild chamber and beckons Nigel to enter.

The heroes discover a gateway to the Feywild, and Nigel is sorely tempted to enter.

Nigel enters the Feywild for a few moments, and then walks back into the material plane. Elodin and Rusty tell him that Nigel stood in the Feywild chamber for fifteen minutes doing nothing before returning.

As the heroes debate what to do, the elven female returns on the fey side, and beckons again to Nigel. Suddenly Nigel remembers her as a summertime love he had back when he was studying at bard college in Silverymoon. The easily tempted bard has to summon all of his willpower not to dive back through the portal.

This scene played out for a while and was super fun. The player plays Nigel as this “ladies man” who is can never turn down an attractive female. So, I was intentionally tempting him to enter. I think the players had mostly determined that their true mission didn’t lie through the portal, but there was some lingering doubt. That is, why would the DM put the portal there if the heroes weren’t supposed to go through it? So, I kept temping Nigel. Finally, though, the heroes leave the room, though. I still hold out “hope” that they’ll go back later…

The heroes come upon another chamber, this one very large with half of it on a ledge fifteen feet high. Iron cages dangle from the vines hanging from the ceiling, and odds and ends are scattered about the floor. Hundreds of small toads hop all about.

Up on the ledge is a large black cauldron. Next to the cauldron is a wrinkled, wart-covered, old lady sitting on the back of a large sow. Something seems familiar about the woman, and the heroes believe she is the Granny Tichwillow’s sister that they retrieved from the White Knights – only that woman, Agnes, was dead when they retrieved her from Gauntlet Hall.

Agnes greets the heroes, and invites them to join her on the ledge for a witch moot. Reluctantly, the heroes move up on to the ledge and begin to converse with her.

Rusty, Elodin, and Nigel speak with Dread Agnes Gristlegums at the witch moot.

Agnes tells them that the giant toads and mastiffs in the swamp were a test of their abilities, as were the darklings. She then invites them to join her and her sisters in their efforts. Those efforts turn out to be a scheme to bring darkness and chaos upon the entire area.

She proudly confessing to being the one to distribute the candy to the children in Rassalantar – the candy that Nigel has been popping constantly – and even shows them the cauldron, full of liquid candy brewing, and a counter with candy wrappers and candy molds on it. She warns them if they don’t join her, she’ll subject them to cruel experiments instead. Agnes even transforms into a beautiful half-elven female in a revealing blue dress to temp Nigel.

I think it was close to working, too… Poor Nigel. His DM knows exactly what his true motivations are...

The heroes are not inclined to join Agnes and her witch sisters, however. Nigel moves off the ledge, and Rusty rushes forward to attack.

And that is where we ended the session. Probably not a bad cliffhanger, as it turns out. It will also allow Belgarath to participate in this “witch confrontation.”

 

The Sword Coast Guard

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

Rusty - Human Fighter

Nigel Dyreus - Half-elven Bard

Elodin - Human Wizard

[sorry, still need a picture]

Belgarath - Half-elven Rogue Warlock

Sword Coast Guard, Episode 6 – Into the Swamp

Session Date: June 4, 2017

18 Flamerule, 1367 DR

After their victory over the White Knights, the Sword Coast Guard makes a sweep of Gauntlet Hall, their new castle. Locked up in the cells, they find a farmwife and a half-elf. The farmwife was tried and found guilt of witchcraft and slated for execution. The half-elf turns out to be a bounty hunter the church of Torm had hired to bring Lady Ushien Stormbanner in for crimes against the church of Torm. The bounty hunter, Belgarath, was captured by the White Knights in his attempt to do so.

The group welcomes Belgarath into their party as he turns out to have useful skills and an axe to grind against troubles in the area. [He’s also the new PC of the player who previously played Shadoestar.]

The heroes return the farmwife to her home before continuing on to Rassalantar. There they inform Civilar Casey, the leader of the Waterdeep soldiers stationed in the town, that Gauntlet Hall is now available for her to garrison with soldiers to defend Waterdeep against the orc army gathering in the Sword Mountains.

Casey is grateful and tells them about another problem in town that she doesn’t have time to deal with. Two children, Sebastan Cohen and Tambor Bridges, were found dead that morning. Their tongues were cut out and nailed to their foreheads, their mouths were stuffed full of candies, and their bodies were nailed upside down to trees near their homes.

She tells them that the blacksmith was arrested for the crime as he was the last one to see the two children as they were working at his smithy the previous day. The blacksmith denies all the charges. The heroes offer to get to the bottom of the crime, and Casey thanks them profusely.

[These were the two children that Shadoestar intimidated into telling him about the “Candy Troll.” It would appear that someone didn’t appreciate the children ratting…]

Upon investigation, the Sword Coast Guard discovers that there is very little evidence that the blacksmith did anything to the children, and the candies stuffed in the mouth seem to point to the Candy Troll, anyway. They do learn of a wrinkly old lady who enter the smithy the previous day under the pretense of looking for brooms. The old lady took an interest in the two children and left without buying anything.

As they investigate, they are approached by Sidney Jasperfer, the ringleader of the children in Rassalantar that have been pulling pranks on everyone. Sidney is terrified and afraid for his life, and he begs the heroes to help him. He says that the monsters will come for him next because he knows where they live. After calming words and persuasion by the heroes, Sidney agrees to lead them to the monsters’ home in Burp Swamp, though he is clearly terrified of going there.

Since it is late in the day, the heroes stay the night at the Sleeping Dragon Inn, planning to head to the swamp in the morning.

19 Flamerule, 1367 DR

Once the heroes arrive in Burp Swamp, named for the bubbling quagmires whose gaseous expulsions resemble burps, they find the locale overgrown with diseased, blackened vegetation. There is also supernaturally large population of toads inhabiting the place. Travel is made difficult as they are forced to move across fallen trees and small patches of soggy ground. Most of the ground is swampy water.

They come upon a wrinkly old lady perched on the branches of a large tree. As the Sword Coast Guard strikes up conversation with the woman, several giant toads exit the waters and stare blankly at the heroes. The old lady warns them that they are not welcome in her swamp and tells them that if they leave Sidney with her, she’ll let them leave. Sidney is petrified out of his mind.

The heroes refuse, and a battle breaks out. The woman turns out to an illusion, and the party is left to battle four giant toads and a tree that comes to life. The heroes manage to defeat the living tree and toads, but Sidney is swallowed and killed by one of the toads.

Then the group hears howling in the distance. Howling that seems to be getting closer.

The Sword Coast Guard

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

Russel "Rusty" Striker - Human Fighter

Nigel Dyreus - Half-elven Bard

Guld the Tower - Half-elven Monk

Elodin - Human Wizard

[sorry, still need a picture]

Shadoestar - Half-Elf Monk