The Velvet Fists, Part 1 – Sword Coast Guard, Episode 21

Session Date: February 11, 2018

In the last episode, the Sword Coast Guard first defeated a band of mercenaries sent after them by a vengeful dragon turtle. They then received a lead about a thieves´ guild, the Velvet Fists, operating in the city, with which both Elodin and Xavier have history. It appeared that the time was ripe to strike against the Velvet Fists for both vengeance and justice.

Watch the entire game session on YouTube: The Velvet Fists, Part 1

For this session, Belwar’s player couldn’t make it, so an on-call player joined us with Pitch, a sorcerer.

15 Eleint, 1367 DR

The first order of business is having Xavier's and Elodin's familiars scout out the building, gathering a good idea of who's inside and the general layout of the structure. Then the Sword Coast Guard gathers together in an alley to discuss their plan of attack.

“I say we go straight for Andes Rowe,” says Xavier. “He betrayed my mentor and me, after all.”

“Revenge is fine,” says Elodin, “In fact, I want some myself — only on Petrick and Gelven — but our priority must be to rescue my old comrades.” Oddly, Elodin knows his comrades aren’t in the compound presently; they are off performing a heist which occasions this night being the best to strike at the guild.

The group discusses at length what to do, and they settle on entering through a window, and sneaking to the stairs leading to the basement. A letter from Elodin’s friend Sharra told them the guild’s treasure and some unknown allies would be down there.

Don’t ask me why they wanted to go to the basement and bypass all the potential enemies topside…

Pitch casts seeming on them to alter to make most of them appear as tieflings to help them infiltrate the compound. Iantorin refuses the spell, though, claiming he’ll not be involved in any deceptions.

The run into a couple men bathing behind one door, but Xavier does some fabulous sweet-taking and avoids any trouble. From there they find the stairs down.

The tunnel and stairs wind downward some 500 feet, and they eventually find themselves before double doors. Beyond the doors are ten small demons milling about the room.

Pitch and Xavier move bravely into the room, and the demons — which the heroes identify as dretches — snarl and wait expectantly for something. The fighter tries to intimidate the creatures, but they don’t back down. Finally, they lose their patience and attack.

As battle breaks out, Iantorin tells his companions, “This was a forgone conclusion, you know.” As a paladin of Helm, he had no intentions of not killing the demons.

The weakest of all demons, the dretches are quickly dispatched by the adventurers.

The room beyond has three doors leading farther into the compound. After peaking through each one, the group heads south to a corridor that smells of sulphur. They notice thousands of small holes covering the walls, floor, and ceiling, and suspect a trap of some sort. The corridor also has a large stone demonic head protruded from the end of the tunnel before it turns to the right.

When the heroes come to within ten feet of the stone head, it speaks a riddle to them.

Make me spin.

Hear me clatter.

I make lives,

And I ruin them.

Half the world lusts for me.

Half the world gives me away.

You own me,

Yet I own you.

You can hold me,

But I hold power.

After some discussion, they respond “Coins.”

The demonic head smiles, and replies, “Pass friends.”

With a sigh of relief, they turn the corner to find a massive stone door before them. The adventurers surmise that this is probably the vault where the Velvet Fists keep all their treasure.

There is a large keyhole, which Pitch tries to pick with his thieves’ tools, however, the lock is beyond his capabilities. They discuss trying to break the door down, but dismiss the idea.

As they turn to leave the corridor and explore another door, they run into a large group of rogues that they had seen above in the guild’s feast hall. They immediately move to attack.

Elodin leads with a fireball wiping out all but four of the rogues. One flees and Pitch takes off in pursuit. The rest of the heroes engage and dispatch the remaining villains. The quick sorcerer catches the fleeing rogue, dispatches him with burning hands, and then returns to his friends.

As Iantorin, Elodin, and Pitch tie up one rogue they captured for questioning, Xavier and Nigel move off down a tunnel to explore further.

Why…split…the — oh, whatever.

From the rogue the three heroes discover that Petrick and Gelven have both been watching the heroes’ movements in the basement — Gelven is a diviner with magical means to do so, after all. This first band of rogues was sent down to deal with them, and more are likely coming.

Meanwhile, Xavier opens a door to discover a room full of most nasty little demons, these ones called manes. Nigel throws a powerful spell into the room, killing them all with ease.

Xavier and the bard then walk into the room, their enemies dead and smug expressions on their faces.

I’m sure you saw this coming…

Suddenly three large ape-like demons — balguras — appear around them, having been waiting in the room invisibly. Two begin slamming and biting Xavier with abandon, and the third takes to Nigel with a vengeance.

Nigel is quickly in trouble, casts greater invisibility and moves away from the balgura. The demon can somehow still see him, though, and takes a swing at the bard, critically wounding him.

Hearing sounds of combat, the other heroes rush to their friend’s aid from back in the compound. Iantorin and Elodin turn a corner to see two large fly-like demons — chasmes — flying down the corridor. They engage one of them, but the other flies off north.

Directly toward Nigel. The invisible bard squeals as the monster’s probiscus stabs into his flesh and sucks his life energy out of him.

In a moment of great irony, Nigel tries to save his life with greater invisibility only to find himself against creatures that can still see him.

Pitch rushes up another corridor to engage the balguras, dropping a wall of fire on two of them. Moving away from the balguras, he runs into the same chasme that dropped Nigel.

A horrible droning produced by the monster’s fly-like wings fills his ears, and the sorcerer falls unconscious to the ground. He doesn’t even feel the proboscis stab into him and finish him off as well.

The remaining heroes eventually finish off their foes, and Iantorin mercifully rushes to the aid of Nigel and Pitch. Muttering a prayer to Helm, the paladin revivifies both of them.

“Next time,” Elodin says mater of factly, “stay with the group. Got it?”

Nigel nods weakly and mutters, “But my favorite spell. It — it — it didn’t work.”

Indeed…

As the heroes regroup, they determine that they need to head back upstairs and confront the leaders of the Velvet Fists. Otherwise, they’ll just continue to coordinate more attacks against them.

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

Hostages, Part 1 – Manus Invictus, Episode 3

Session Date: February 3, 2018

In the last episode, the heroes of Manus Invictus defeated the evil necromancer, Miriam Hargreves, and discovered that the dead god Myrkul is once again alive. In Leilon, they find the entire town decimated with the men and soldiers slaughtered and the women and children carried off as slaves by drow. Knowing that is but a symptom of the larger problem – the blackened sky – Manus Invictus hurries back to Waterdeep. There Dexter Ambrose tells them the entire Moonstar family, along with magical flasks full of liquid to neutralize the unnatural darkness, was carried off by a man named Jathar, a servant of Mephistopheles, the ruler of the eighth layer of the Nine Hells. If they want the flasks and the Moonstars returned, they’ll need to bring Jathar a rogue named Katso Saursi who is believed to be in Skullport.

Watch the entire game session on YouTube: Hostages, Part 1

Note: For this session, we had two on-call players – Ogre and Narmodir -- standing in for Dawn and Maximillian who couldn’t make the session.

27 Eleasias, 1367 DR

After stocking up on supplies for their journey to Skullport and then the Nine Hells, the heroes return to Dexter Ambrose who agrees to provide transportation. The wizard casts teleportation circle sending them to the center of Skullport.

There the heroes find themselves in the midst of one of the scummiest, most disreputable cities they’ve ever seen. Cloaked and hooded figures prowl about, along with creatures such as vampires and beholders. However, a sign near the teleportation circle reads, “This be safe haven to all traders and customers; keep thine weapons and thine uncivil tongue sheathed lest thee find the grinning skull of Death smiling in thy face.

None of the vile inhabitants bother them as they begin asking around for information about Katso. They are pointed to the Black Tankard tavern where they are told information can be had. There Daeris uses her womanly wiles to connive from the barkeep that they should talk to a dwarf named Ahmaergo who frequents the tavern.

When Ahmaergo – who turns out to be a duergar, a gray dwarf – arrives, Daeris again plies her womanly wiles to extract information on Katso’s whereabouts. Ahmaergo not only tells them where to find Katso, but also encourages them to “Kill that little shit!” Apparently Katso has wronged many in Skullport, including Ahmaergo.

Narmodir turns into a bat to scout out the building where Katso should be located, and indeed finds the tiefling rogue inside along with three other tiefling goons. Oddly, though, Rastaban’s locate person spell is not indicating that Katso is inside the building.

However, Narmodir’s description of the winged tiefling inside matches that of Katso, so the heroes confront the occupants. They try diplomatically requesting that Katso accompany them, but the tiefling refuses. As is common in situations such as this – at least where adventurers are concerned – a fight breaks out.

Ogre rushes inside and grabs ahold of Katso, though it must be noted that the barbarian is rather disappointed that he’s not allowed to kill him. However, a wood and leather contraption falls free from the tiefling’s back, revealing this to not be a winged tiefling at all.

Narmodir never actually saw the wings, just shapes under the cloak that looked like wings.

Outside the building, more tiefling rogues drop down from the rooftops, and a winged tiefling – presumably Katso – appears through some sort of dimensional portal. It would appear that Katso had been informed of their coming and prepared an ambush in response.

Imagine that.

After several moments of tense combat, Manus Invictus kills most of the tieflings, sends the others fleeing, and captures Katso.

However, just as they think victory theirs, a large, black iron construct resembling a suit of armor with a white skull for a helmet, appears. It’s a Skolem, part of the Skullport’s police force.

“Lay down your weapons and surrender for judgement,” the automation intones. Manus Invictus is rarely given to moments of submission, but they wisely recognize that this would be a good time not to resist.

The Skolem clamps enchanted manacles on the other’s wrists.

Fortunately, Rastaban escapes with Katso, using Bigby’s Hand to carry the rogue off. The Skolem gives chase but doesn’t apprehend him.

The Skolem then teleports the others to a small chamber occupied by what surely must be a lich reclining on a throne. The lich, looking supremely bored, asks them to justify their actions.

The heroes explain that they were attacked by the tieflings and only defended themselves – something that is technically true. The lich turns out to have some prejudices against Katso, too, and lets them off with a light punishment: spend the next day cleaning the ceiling of the cavern the city of Skullport is located in.

For the remainder of that day, the heroes do their best to clean the ceiling of the cavern (even though the sentence wasn’t until the next day). Eventually they meet up with Rastaban, who still has Katso. They rest the night and then in the morning tear the letter from Jathar, instantly teleporting all of them to Avernus, the first layer of the Nine Hells.

Apparently, they decided to skip out on serving their sentence… I wonder how the Skulls will take that news…

28 Eleasias, 1367 DR

In Avernus, they find a blasted wasteland clearly the byproduct of the Blood Wars, eons of infernal battle between the demons of the Abyss and the devils of the Nine Hells. Off in one direction they can hear the shouts and screams of battle and can even see aerial combatants swooping about.

Fortunately, they spot the river Styx in the opposite direction and begin to head toward it.

They are intercepted by a group of devils. Five appear to be the tortured ruins of humanoids and two are covered with barbed spines. One of the barbed devils challenges their presence in Avernus.

The heroes tell them that they are simply traveling to Cania, the eighth layer, and will be on their way. The devils in return offer unfettered transportation if the proper price is paid: their souls.

And here we go with another battle.

This group of devils is pitiful, though, and Manus Invictus easily defeats them.

Then they arrive to the River Styx where they find a bell hanging from a pole. Profero rings the bell, and a fog begins to gather over the river.

A large cloaked figure slowly poles a barge out of the fog and to the shore, its red eyes glaring at them from under its cowl. Skeletal hands protrude from the cloak.

“State your destination, mortals,” the Boatman says in an otherworldly voice that ripples with power.

The heroes state their need to travel to Cania to meet with Jathar, and the Boatman states his price: one soul, freely given.

Why do I think we’re about to have another fight? 🙂

Manus Invictus

The famed members of the Manus Invictus adventuring party.

 

A Turtle’s Revenge – Sword Coast Guard, Episode 20

Session Date: January 28, 2018

In the last episode, the Sword Coast Guard defeated the general and lieutenants of an orc and giant army besieging their castle, Gauntlet Hall. With the fall of their leaders, the army imploded, and the heroes were triumphant in lifting the siege.

Watch the entire game session on YouTube: A Turtle's Revenge

3 Eleint, 1367 DR

With the orc army defeated, the heroes travel back to Waterdeep to take some much needed downtime.

Over the next tenday, Elodin performs tasks and services for the War Wizards, earning himself two favors from ranking members. However, he offends Linare, second in command of the War Wizards, by borrowing a book from her library and lending it to Nigel.

Nigel gives an elaborate state party and performance in Lady Nellabee Tharmar’s mansion, to which many nobles and important people in the city are invited. The function is a success, and the bard makes two allied contacts.

However, Nigel wakes up the next morning with fuzzy memories of doing something very, very illegal, though he can’t remember exactly what – alcohol does that sometimes. As he’s lying in bed, the door to his room blows inward, and Linare strides in, demanding her personal journal back.

Nigel quickly gives it back to her, and as he does so, he seems to recall that Linare might have been involved the previous night’s illegal activity. Before he can press the matter, though, the woman turns and leaves.

Meanwhile, Iantorin spends his tenday at New Olamn researching how a Holy Avenger is crafted. After paying for use of the library and several knowledgeable curators to assist him, he discovers one piece of useful information.

Belwar, the deep gnome wizard, makes contact with Captain Rulathon, a leading representative of the Lords Alliance in Waterdeep, and inquires about this Lord Paxton figure the heroes have been hearing about more and more recently.

Captain Rulathon tells Belwar what he knows. Lord Paxton is either a storm giant or cloud giant seeking to establish a feudalistic empire along the Sword Coast. So far the giant has other giant tribes – hill giants, frost giants, and fire giants – and orcs sworn to him as vassals. He even has an ancient dragon that’s rumored to serve him. Recently, an emissary of Lord Paxton reached out to Waterdeep itself, extending an invitation to become a vassal. The Lords of Waterdeep refused, of course.

Bribing a courier – just a boy really – Xavier manages to get lots of useful information about the Loyal Order of Couriers and Servants. Most importantly, he learns that it’s a front for a thieves guild known as the Velvet Fists, lead by Petrick Vivesk. They use the couriers and servants to gather information about nobles and their properties for use in blackmail and robberies. Finally, he discovers that a man who betrayed him and his mentor years ago – Andes Rowe – currently works with the Velvet Fists.

The boy tells Xavier that a heist is planned for sometime soon, but doesn’t know when. Xavier prods him to go find out, and the boy agrees. However, the boy never shows up for their next appointed meeting.

15 Eleint, 1367 DR

After their downtime, the Sword Coast Guard travels five miles north of Waterdeep to an appointed meeting with some pirates who had agreed to buy a magical trident from them.

However, the meeting is not what they thought it would be.

Some time back when they were clearing out sahuagin and defeating cultists of Drazovine, the heroes robbed this dragon turtle, Gimuss the Hungry, of the magic items in her treasure room. The pirates turn out to be a mercenary adventuring group called Faithful Defiance that was hired by Gimuss to exact revenge on them.

The mercenaries tell them this upfront, desiring to simply retrieve the magic items without a fight. However, far be it from the Sword Coast Guard to settle upon a peaceful solution!

Faithful Defiance counts as its members four swashbuckler tieflings, one gnome sorcerer, and their leader, a war priest of Beshaba.

This battle last a few hours at the table. I’ll just give some highlights, as usual.

The gnome sorcerer repeatedly turned one of the swashbucklers into a T-rex, but Xavier spent much of his time chasing the gnome down and casting magic missile at him to make him lose concentration.

The war priest tried several times to banish both Xavier and Iantorin but was unsuccessful. The paladin of Helm took a particular interest in defeating the priestess of Beshaba, and went toe-to-toe with her.

Meanwhile, Nigel – do I even need to say it? – cast greater invisibility and blasted his foes with cantrips for most of the battle.

We all had a good laugh when Nigel cast that spell – his favorite spell – on the first round of combat.

Elodin cast animate object on a handful of forks and used them to decimate two of the swashbucklers. The other wizard, Belwar, was teleporting around the battlefield, unleashing spell after spell at his enemies.

As the tide of battle turned against the mercenaries, they began to flee. Only the war priestess got away though – thanks to her magic – and the heroes ended up with two swashbucklers as captives.

They interrogated the captives, who were quite cooperative and gave them information about the dragon turtle and about the rest of their mercenary group, including where their ship docks. In exchange for their cooperation, the heroes don’t murder them on the spot, and instead take them back to Waterdeep where they turn them over to the city watch.

Who will likely hang them on the morrow.

Elodin then receives a letter from his old companion Sharra, bidding them to make a move on the Velvet Fists that night. Sharra and others from Elodin’s old band of thieves are currently being coerced to do the Velvet Fists’ dirty work, and it’s Elodin’s goal to rescue them.

After taking a long rest, the heroes take up positions around the House of Discretion, the guild hall for the Loyal Order of Couriers and Servants, the front for the Velvet Fists, and prepare themselves for a night of hard work.

First the send their familiars in to scout out the exterior of the building, and then they begin discussing battle plans.

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

Myrkul’s Devoted, Part 2 – Manus Invictus, Episode 2

Session Date: January 20, 2018

The heroes of Manus Invictus arrived at the catacombs beneath Iniarv’s Tower on their quest to retrieve a magical satchel full of important books, and — if possible — defeat the necromancer, Miriam Hargreve. After defeating wraiths, wights, and a scriptorium full of ghosts, the adventurers find themselves before the doors leading into what they believe to be a chapel to Myrkul, the former god of the dead.

Watch the entire game session on YouTube: Myrkul’s Devoted, Part 2

Note: For this session, an on-call player, Mora, was standing in for Profero who couldn’t make the session.

10 Eleasias, 1367 DR

Rastaban and Dawn, having been left behind by their companions for their state of drunken uselessness, awake to a courier summoning them to Dexter Ambrose. The heroes meet with the wizard who gives them enchanted horseshoes so they can catch up with the rest of Manus Invictus who is already en route to the catacombs.

First, though, Dawn speaks with Dexter about her brother Dunkle. The wizard tells her that he believes Dunkle to be dead, but that if Dawn can bring him his remains, he will see what can be done to resurrect him. The fighter agrees.

Rastaban and Dawn then travel north, eventually catching up with their companions just as they stand in front of the doors to the Chapel of Myrkul where they believe the necromancer to be waiting.

It’s amazing how conveniently these things work out!

After checking the doors thoroughly for traps, Daeris nudges open the doors into the Chapel of Myrkul.

The heroes see laid out before them a massive chamber whose vaulted ceiling is held aloft some sixty feet in the air by double rows of thick columns. Wooden pews are arranged to either side of an ominous carpet that runs down the length of the room to the foot of a dais on the far side of the room. On the dais stand a podium, altar, and two large figures wearing plate armor. Oddly, shelves containing hundreds of jars run the circumference of the chamber.

And, all along the walls, they see, standing passively, bedraggled humans with red runes painted all over their bodies. These must be the captives the necromancer has linked to herself to transfer any harm directed at her to the captives instead.

As the heroes enter the room to investigate the captives, Dawn — Dunkle Fledermaus’s sister — begins to act strangely. However, the others shrug it off, and Maximillian begins removing the runs from the nearest captive.

At this Dawn cackles in an otherworldly voice, “Fools! Now you shall suffer the wraith of Myrkul!” Black energy gathers about the fighter, and then dark tendrils lance outward, striking the heroes.

And then, as the companions are recovering from the vicious onslaught of necrotic energy, the two large figures in plate armor descend the dais and attack with gigantic swords.

Surprised and slightly in shock at the sudden attack from Dawn, their companion of many adventures, the heroes suspect that something has possessed their friend. Maximillian turns undead, causing the armored figures to flee, but Dawn is unaffected.

Cackling in rage and glee, Dawn points her hands at Daeris and Mora, unleashing necrotic tendrils that rot parts of their exposed flesh and leech their life force.

Rastaban, a wizard of no small power, then banishes Dawn to an extradimensional plane while the heroes regroup.

After a brief discussion about what they should do, and arriving at no good solution, the wizard releases the banishment, returning Dawn to their midst. The possessed fighter immediately takes up the attack again.

As the fight wears on, the large heavily armored figures return to battle, and the companions take a helluva beating, the Rastaban, with no better options, once again banishes Dawn. That at least allows them to finish off the two undead without blasts of necrotic energy flying at them.

Maximillian, meanwhile, moves to the altar to investigate things, thinking there must be a better solution than killing their friend. Upon searching around he finds two secret doors on the wall to either side of the altar, and he notices that one jar on the shelf above the altar is decked out in more jewels and gold than any other jar.

The cleric takes the ornate jar and moves down from the altar. “I think I found something!” he calls out, holding the jar high. “This is either going to do nothing, or something. And it might be a good or bad something.”

With that, the halfling cleric smashes the jar to the ground, shattering it. Immediately, the captives begin to look about in confusion as though having just been released from the spell cast on them.

Rastaban then released his banishment, and the body of Dawn appeared motionless on the floor before the heroes. Daeris moves to inspect the female fighter and confirms she’s dead.

“Oops,” mutters Maximillian.

The soul of Dawn — the real Dawn — had been, in fact, trapped in that jar the entire time, looking on helplessly as her possessed body fought her friends.

Smashing the jar released Dawn’s soul which streaked outward, seeking to return to her body. Her body, though, was floating banished on an extradimensional plane. Thus, with nowhere to go, Dawn soul fled instead to the Fugue Plane.

On the Fugue Plan, Dawn finds her brother, Dunkle, still waiting to be collected by his deity, and both have a joyous and tearful reunion. Then Dawn sees the soul of Miriam Hargreves, the necromancer, approaching, having died as well.

She immediately runs to the woman and puts her in a stranglehold. As the two souls combat each other, attempting to — What? Kill each other? — Dawn feels a call from beyond the grave and recognizes that her comrades are calling her back to life.

Reluctantly she releases the necromancer and begins to return to the land of the living. However, as she leaves the Fugue Plane, she sees an ominous cloaked form with a skeletal face arrive and tower over the souls. As Dawn streaks away, it looks at her, and sneers, “I’m back!”

As Dawn opens her eyes, she sees her friends standing around her. “Myrkul!” she gasps. “He’s alive! I saw him!”

* * * * *

12 Eleasias, 1367 DR

As the heroes escort the captives north toward Leilon, they have a quick run in with some cyclops and their pet T-rex, but the heroes put a swift end to the monsters.

They arrive to find Leilon completely destroyed though. The corpses of soldiers and men litter the area, but they notice no bodies of females or children. After some investigation, they ascertain that drow attacked the town and carried them off as slaves.

They consider tracking them down, but Dexter sends them an urgent message, asking them to return right away. Along with the captives, Manus Invictus returns to Waterdeep via teleportation circle.

Once in Waterdeep, Dexter explains to them that the flasks containing the magical solution that will neutralize the darkness in the sky have been stolen. The culprit is a man named Jathar who seeks a map of Evermeet for his master, Mephistopheles, the ruler of Cania, the eighth layer of the Nine Hells.

A note from Jathar explains that he’ll return the flasks — and the Moonstar family that was in possession of them — only if they bring him Katso Saursi, a former companion of the Dexter Ambrose.

And so Manus Invictus must now travel to Skullport where Katso is believe to reside, and then, once they have him, travel to Cania itself to make the exchange.

Ah, the burdens of being heroes.

Manus Invictus

The famed members of the Manus Invictus adventuring party.

 

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

Session Date: January 14, 2018

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

29 Eleasias, 1367 DR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hail Torm!

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

To the west.

To the Sword Mountains.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a risk they have to take.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Eleint, 1367 DR

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

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

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

But those are adventures for another day!

The Sword Coast Guard

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

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

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

Session Date: January 6, 2018

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

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

10 Eleasias, 1367 DR

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

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

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

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

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

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

And two men down, they’re definitely needed.

13 Eleasias, 1367 DR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 Eleasias, 1367

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manus Invictus

The famed members of the Manus Invictus adventuring party.

 

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

Session Date: December 30, 2017

29 Eleasias, 1367 DR

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

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

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

Blank looks.

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

No response.

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

And then Belwar casts banishment on him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sword Coast Guard

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

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

Hand of Light, Episode 27 – My Dear Missing Mother, Part 7

Session Date: December 23, 2017

In the previous episode, the Hand of Light continued delving deeper into the catacombs beneath Iniarv’s Tower north of Waterdeep. They destroyed mummies and ghasts, were ambushed by undead beholders, and fought a glabrezu – a demonic creature from the Abyss.

23 Flamerule, 1367 DR

At the end of their resources, the heroes leave the catacombs and head to Iniarv’s tower to rest. On the way, both Karn and Dexter are pulled into a copse of trees by thick vines. Since this is the result of powers beyond their control, the rest of the adventurers continue onward.

Dexter’s player was not at this session, and Karn’s said he would be a little late.

During their rest, Lyr reads portions of a journal they recovered from the catacombs. It’s owner, Miriam Hargreeve, turns out to be a powerful necromancer who is responsible for the undead attacks on the town of Leilon to the north. As a follower of the dead god Myrkul, she is attempting to gather the god’s scattered essences from across the realms and bring him back to life.

This necromancer has also found the personal memoirs of the lich Iniarv himself wherein he details a dark ritual by which a caster can make himself impervious to physical and magical harm. Any damage or harmful effect is instead transferred to innocents linked to him. Miriam Hargreeve apparently has completed this ritual.

24 Flamerule, 1367 DR

After their long rest, the heroes head back to the catacombs. Karn joins them along the way, having fought free of the vines, but he doesn’t know what happened to Dexter.

As the Hand of Light retraces their path through the catacombs, they begin to hear eerie, haunting music about them. Drums make up the main thread of music, and scores of bells, completely out of tune to the drumming, chime cacophonously.

Dunkle decides to send N1-24 (whom the rogue successfully established a familiar bond with while resting) ahead to scout. The homunculus travels but a few corridors away before two creatures step into the corridor ahead of him.

The creatures’ bodies are transparent, resembling ghosts of some sort, and they wear lengths of chains with bells attached to them. Their eyes glow red with undead hatred, and they surge forward.

Fortunately, N1-24 makes it back to Dunkle safely, though quite terrified. Then the Hand of Light springs into motion.

Torug, the half-orc barbarian whom they rescued previously from these same catacombs, runs around the corner, throwing caution to the wind, to engage the ghosts.

Then, two more ghosts float around the corner, and the four apparitions approach Torag and begin flailing at him with their chains. Each hit the barbarian takes pulls him closer and closer to the ghosts until he is surrounded.

Then two halflings playing drums enter the corridor, too, and begin flinging spells at poor Torag.

Luna and Karn dash around the corner, to aid the half-orc, and attack the ghosts with abandon. Meanwhile Dunkle begins shooting away with his bow.

Lyr, seeing the desperate straits Torag is in, rounds the corner and casts insect cloud with his staff, blinding everyone in the area except for himself. The bard then moves up to Torag, touches him on the shoulder, and casts dimension door, teleporting both of them behind Karn and Luna.

With the barbarian out of their reach, the ghosts team up on Luna and pull her into their midst.

Karn has had enough at this point and, gripping his hold symbol, invokes the holy power of Torm, turning three of the ghosts. With three ghosts fleeing, the fourth that stays falls quickly to the heroes.

Lyr then casts suggestion on one halfling drummer, bidding him to flee to another room and practice his drumming more because it is quite clearly horrible. With the ghosts fled and the other halfling running away as well, the remaining halfling drummer also decides that flight would be best.

With their enemies fled, the heroes patch themselves up a bit with healing spells and potions before pressing onward.

They do notice, however, that the drumming and chiming continues to follow them.

After sprinting through the chamber that conceals undead beholders behind waterfalls, the music goes nearly silent. Lyr presses his ear to the door behind them and hears the music get louder, coming from that chamber. With all haste, the heroes move onward before the music catches up with them.

 I made it abundantly clear at least three times that the music is following them as they continue deeper into the catacombs.

Then, the adventurers enter the large chamber where they fought the glabrezu but the day before. Just as they enter it, a large form materializes in the air before them. Its face is concealed under the cowl of a black hooded robe it wears, and large feathered wings spread out behind it.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” it snarls as a black greatsword materializes into its skeleton-like hands. Black motes swirl around the greatsword, and the weapon seems to leech some of the light from the room.

The heroes converse briefly with the figure who identifies itself as Arakiba Venkalth, a fallen angel of the dead god Myrkul. He claims to serve Miriam Hargreeves who sent him there to kill the heroes.

“You however,” Arakiba says, pointing a boney finger at Karn, “I shall take as my own. I will take great pleasure in corrupting you, paladin of Torm!”

Just as the fallen angel moves to attack and the heroes brace themselves for battle, the three ghosts and halfling drummers appear behind them.

Not.

Good.

I mean, I made it clear that they were following them. I don’t know what else a DM could have done…

With the chain-whipping ghosts and little drummer boys behind them, and the powerful Arakiba before them, the fight goes south fast.

Lyr confronts the ghosts and drummers, but quickly gets pulled into their midst and takes a horrible beating. The bard is forced to cast invisibility and flee back into the chamber.

Meanwhile Luna, Karn, and Torug go toe-to-toe with Arakiba, dishing out damage but taking a lot in return. A lot. Dunkle, meanwhile move behind the columns in the room and begins firing at Arakiba with his bow.

With Lyr hidden and fled, the ghosts chain-whip Luna and pull her into their midst.

Torug is the first to fall to Arakiba’s blade, and then Luna goes down under a barrage from the ghosts and drummer boys. Then Arakiba unleashes a blast of radiant energy from himself, taking out both Lyr and Karn.

Karn manages to claw his way to consciousness for a moment, however.

Arakiba then stands over him, sword poised, and says, “Death would be too easy, paladin. I shall make you Myrkul’s!” And then the fallen angel slams Karn aside the head with the flat of his blade, knocking him unconscious.

An oath-breaker paladin would be fun, right?

With everyone else fallen, Dunkle dashes into the fifty-foot-high stacks of funerary recesses, scales one of them, and hides inside a recess. The rogue uses all his pirate energy to say quiet, praying that the enemies don’t find him.

As the ghosts and halfling drummers take up a search for the rogue, Arakiba begins decapitating the fallen heroes. First Torag’s head goes onto Karn’s halberd. Then he jams Luna’s head onto the half of her own upright maul. Finally, Lyr’s head goes onto his rapier.

Finally, a drummer boy locates Dunkle. What follows is a prolonged game of cat and mouse with Dunkle popping out of a recess, climbing around the stack, and hiding in another while the ghosts and halflings look for him.

Eventually however, the rogue is caught. A ghost wraps him with its chain, pulls him from a recess, and drops him to the floor. Dunkle takes a horrible beating, and barely clinging to life, looks up to see Arakiba towering over him.

“Parley?” the rogue asks weakly.

Arakiba nods and lifts Dunkle up into the air by his hair. “Granted!”

As the rogue breathes a sigh of relief, Arakiba roars, “I shall parley with your spirit!” And then its black sword comes across and parts Dunkle’s head from his body.

As darkness consumes Dunkle, the last thing he hears is the fallen angel’s evil laughter.

And thus the stories of Dunkle Fledermaus, Luna Hammerforge, and Aelyrendar Fairsong presumably come to an end. But what of Karn Mondel? Will he turn to evil under Arakiba’s influence? And what of Dexter? Can the wizard somehow rescue his companions from Death’s cold grip?

THE TALE OF THE HAND OF LIGHT IS NOT DEAD YET!

The Hand of Light

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

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