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

Session Date: November 11, 2017

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

21 Flamerule, 1367 DR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Damn it! I told you!”

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

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

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

The Hand of Light

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

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

Session Date: November 5, 2017

13 Eleasias, 1367 DR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have no idea why they all think this…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sword Coast Guard

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

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

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

Session Date: October 27, 2017

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

20 Flamerule, 1367 DR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah… Protect them…

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

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

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

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

And just like that everything turns to shite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But not Karn. Evil must be vanquished!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hand of Light

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

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

Session Date: October 22, 2017

13 Eleasias, 1367 DR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then things get worse for the heroes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DM mercy, baby.

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

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

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

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

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

Belgarath drops to 0 hit points again. Not lucky…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sword Coast Guard

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

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

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

Session Date: October 14, 2017

20 Flamerule, 1367 DR

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

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

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

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

Immediately conversation begins regarding hags in the swamp.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’d I miss?” calls Dunkle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hand of Light

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

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

Session Date: October 8, 2017

13 Eleasias, 1367 DR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Now, any last words?”

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

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

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

“Damn…”

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

And thus the battle kicks off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“HE GOT MY BOOKS WET!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“NO ONE!”

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

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

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

For the DM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sword Coast Guard

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

Hand of Light, Episode 21 – My Dear Missing Mother, Part 1

Session Date: September 30, 2017

16 Flamerule, 1367 DR

After their tenday of downtime, the first order of business of the Hand of Light is to grill Luna over her motivations for joining the group and her general intentions, all while in a zone of truth. Specifically, they want to make sure she has no intentions of harming their adventuring company.

I missed this in the last entry, but Luna ate portion of a page from a book that contained information about wrongdoing of certain groups and individuals in Waterdeep. The presumption was that Luna was hiding something, and the group members are suspicious of her. But the DM would never create secret agendas for a character, would he???

Then the heroes head to New Olamn bard college to speak with Cora Sorel about the letter they received. They find Cora in Modesty Hall, the recreational hall. There they find her rather dejected as she and an instructor listen to three new students doing a horrible job playing their instruments.

Lyr casts enhance ability on the students, improving their musical talent signifantly, and their instructor begins praising them as musical prodigies.

As much of the rec hall breaks out into excitement over the students and heads over to listen better, Cora leads the Hand of Light out of the building and to her offices in the main compound of New Olamn. Cora berates Lyr quite sternly over delaying in arriving, mentions that he’s behind on his dues, and directs them to speak directly with Evard if they want to know more about Lyr’s mother, Nicolette.

Speaking with Evard, a bard who traveled in Nicolette’s band, they learn that she has been captured by undead near the town Leilon to the north. Evard tells them undead attacked the town, carrying off women and children into the Mere of Dead Men. Then, when Lyr and his friends did not respond to Nicolette’s first call for assistance, their band of bards took matters into their own hands, trying to find the captured townsfolk. This is when Nicolette was captured, along with the rest of the band, except Evard who escaped.

This is what happens when players are presented with adventure A and adventure B, and chose A. The story line of adventure B still advances...

The heroes begin to prepare for their journey to Leilon. Dunkle heads to the docks and finds a ship that can give them passage, though it doesn’t depart for five days. Dexter and Luna visit Essimuth, put up with long winded stories about undead, and manage to buy healing potions for the group. Lyr spends a couple hours researching undead types and the area around Leilon and the Mere of Dead Men. Karn procures flasks of holy water from the church of Tom.

The heroes then meet up and buy horses, since Dunkle’s connections at the dock didn’t yield a ship worth taking – they’d be in Leilon via horse before the ship even sails from Waterdeep. Then they set out along the High Road, heading north to Leilon.

19 Flamerule, 1367 DR

The road skirts the Sword Coast as it heads north, with jagged cliffs to the west and the imposing Sword Mountains to the east. The journey is uneventful until day three when they spot something flying toward them from the east.

The shape resolves into a large, winged devil bearing a trident. Dexter identifies it as a horned devil, and quickly relays some basic information to the others.

The devil tells that Hand of Light that its master, Jathar, wished to thank them for the excellent lead they gave him regarding the Moonstars. It looks like the elves will indeed be able to help with finding a map of Evermeet. That is, given enough “persuasion.”

The horned devil them holds out two large gems saying Jathar wishes to present them with a gift. It throws the gems to the ground below, and two inter-dimensional portals open. Through the portals, the heroes can see an ice-covered landscape where the wind howls. Fiendish, ice-covered creatures resembling orcs exit the portals and attack.

The ice orcs turn out to be minor challenge – though Luna takes a terrible beating. It’s the horned devil hurling balls of fire from 150 feet above that really gives the heroes pause. First Karn and then Dexter feel the bite of that devilish fire, before Lyr drops an insect cloud around the heroes, hiding them from the devil’s sight.

Just as Dexter polymorphism into a giant eagle so he can carry Karn up to fight the horned devil, Lyr casts hypnotic pattern on the monster, causing it to plummet to the ground. From there it’s your basic surround and pound; the horned devil doesn’t stand a chance.

After resting, the heroes continue their journey to Leilon. However, they take note that their troubles with this Jathar and Mephistopheles, the archduke of Cania, the eighth layer of the Nine Hells, might not be over.

20 Flamerule, 1367 DR

Upon arriving to Leilon, the heroes note that fully half the town is in ruins. Patrols of mounted soldiers in blue surcoats, soldiers of Leilon, patrol the streets as do spear men and archers bearing the eye and tears sigil of Neverwinter.

They speak with Lance Captain Hermon Shagavon, the leader of the Lances of Leilon, and are told that a necromancer named Gabriel Erskine is responsible for the undead invasion. Captain Shagavon tells them Gabriel claimed to be a priest of Oghma, the god of knowledge, but was known for experimenting on cadavers. So, naturally, when undead attacked, Gabriel must have been responsible. Captain Shagavon tells them that they tried to apprehend Gabriel, but her escaped in the Mere of Dead Men.

The heroes also speak with Captain Ivon Paxton, the leader of the Neverwinter soldiers, but learn nothing else of value.

So, they head to Gabriel’s house to investigate further. There they find a workroom with a cadaver, several books with detailed scientific notes about the anatomy of several creatures, including humans, and a large sig of Oghma – a blank scroll – painted on the wall. The evidence they find doesn’t seem to implicate Gabriel at all. The heroes discuss and believe that the citizens of Leilon were not correct in their belief that it was Gabriel.

The Hand of Light purchases a boat and heads into the Mere of Dead Men to either find Gabriel or the source of the undead problem. They travel for some time with little results. So, Lyr uses speak with animals to get assistance from a crow who leads them through the swamp toward another human it’s recently seen.

The heroes come upon a man up a tree fending off a handful of undead creatures with long tongues lolling from their mouths: ghasts. The Hand of Lights pilots their boat to the small island of dry land at the base of the tree and quickly defeat the undead creatures.

They convince the man to come down the tree, and it turns out to be Gabriel Erskine. He explains to them that he’s been traveling the Mere of Dead Men for some time trying to find the source of the undead in order to clear his name. Under another zone of truth it’s revealed that Gabriel is an inept fighter and has mostly been fleeing undead for the last few weeks.

Gabriel tells them he believes the source of the undead to be located in the Ruins of Iniarv’s Tower. However, he doesn’t know how to get to the tower. The heroes, though, do know where it’s located – in fact they passed it on their way to Leilon.

After discussing, the heroes decide that the source of trouble couldn’t possibly be in the tower. So, they decide to wander the swamp, hoping they get lucky. Gabriel volunteers to help them, though he strongly doubts they’ll find anything in the swamp.

The Hand of Light

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

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

Hand of Light, Episode 20 – Finding Katso: Part 3

Session Date: September 2, 2017

5 Flamerule, 1367 DR

Dunkle makes his way through the compound, intent on finding his comrades. The sounds of battle echo down the hallway, and the trail of corpses lead him in what he presumes is the correct direction. Finally, the rogue enters a large chamber and finds the other members of the Hand of Light locked in a pitched battle with several winged tieflings – and his friends aren’t doing so well.

Quietly, Dunkle sneaks up behind one tiefling and stabs Bleeder, his enchanted rapier, through its back. Yanking the blade out, he kicks the dying foe over a ledge into sewer water far below. Then he moves to the next tiefling. Bleeder lashes out ruthlessly, spilling the tiefling’s life blood and toppling it over the ledge as well.

And thus, with Dunkle’s arrival, the tide of battle shifts.

At this Karn dispatches a third tiefling, and the forth wisely flees down a tunnel. Katso, from behind his wall of force prison, pounds futilely against the magical wall, his mouth forming silent screams of rage.

After thanking Dunkle for finally showing up – and saving their butts – the heroes turn their attention to the gnomes. First, they convince them to stand down and stop throwing concussion grenades at them. Then they begin to persuade them that Katso is the villain here and would enslave the gnomes all over again if they continue to follow him.

At first the gnomes are hesitant and proclaim loyalty to “the Great One.” However, they eventually come around and admit they’ve erred – again.

Dexter’s wall of force then dissipates – it only lasts ten minutes – and a torrent of backed up water rushes forth from the tunnel above, wishing Katso with it. The Great One crashes into the water in the basin below and disappears under the swirling liquid.

Several moments go by, with the water level rising by ten feet in the basin, but Katso does not resurface. He was either killed by the force of the water or escaped.

If you had just watched your elite soldiers defeated and then faced the choice of fighting all five adventurers by yourself, what would you do?

The heroes then investigate the rest of the compound. In Shindia’s room they disarm a trapped chest and find gold and and two jars of flesh to stone ointment. In the general barracks, they find Katso’s bed – a bunk bed piled with blocks of wierdust – but little else of interest.

The heroes then approach both New Olamn and Eltorchul Academy to see if they can find a home for the gnomes. In the end, they land the gnomes a gig at New Olamn, documenting their alchemical knowledge and researching formulas.

6 Flamerule – 15 Flamerule

Then the Hand of Light spends a tenday of downtime:

  • Dexter – Researches the magical darkness covering Faerun and finds a formula for a solution that counteracts the particulates in the sky. He also surmises that the solution must be applied to the source in the meteorite near Amn for the particulates filling the air to be permanently neutralized.
  • Karn – Meets with the Scribe, requesting that he track down Jathar, an agent of Mephistopheles who recently attacked them in an attempt to get a map of Evermeet. He then spends time in religious service, encouraging the populace to take heart despite the darkness covering the land.
  • Lyr – Spends his time carousing with the merchant class in an attempt to find a manager for the tavern the heroes purchased. He hires a man named Barrick who agrees to do it for 10% of the inn’s revenue. He also recruits a redhead, Cynthia Silvertooth, whom Barrick required be part of the deal.
  • Luna – Writes letters to various people. She also carousels a bit, gaining three allied contacts in the middle class.
  • Dunkle – Recruits “the Flower” to work at their inn when it opens up. He also begins training her in the roguish arts so she may serve as a mole, gleaning information from patrons.

16 Flamerule

A courier delivers a letter from Cora Sorrel to Lyr, requesting – demanding – that the heroes come to her forthwith.

The Hand of Light

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

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