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

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

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

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

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

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

Session Date: November 19, 2017

28 Eleasias, 1367 DR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the heroes stand around in the library discussing matters…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elodin objected later that Nellabee attacked them first. Whatever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elodin sighs. “Yes, of course it is.”

The Sword Coast Guard

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

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

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

Session Date: November 5, 2017

13 Eleasias, 1367 DR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have no idea why they all think this…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sword Coast Guard

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

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

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

Session Date: October 22, 2017

13 Eleasias, 1367 DR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then things get worse for the heroes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DM mercy, baby.

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

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

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

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

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

Belgarath drops to 0 hit points again. Not lucky…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sword Coast Guard

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

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

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

Session Date: October 8, 2017

13 Eleasias, 1367 DR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Now, any last words?”

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

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

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

“Damn…”

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

And thus the battle kicks off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“HE GOT MY BOOKS WET!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“NO ONE!”

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

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

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

For the DM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sword Coast Guard

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

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

Session Date: September 10, 2017

13 Eleasias, 1367 DR

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

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

“Damn, DM magic,” mutters Elodin.

Nigel nods. “Yep, tell me about it.”

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

“Hey, I’m just proud to be a father.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Five hundred!” the sea troll bellows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yep, the missus didn’t like it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waves of enemies are fun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sword Coast Guard

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

Not Pictured: Xavier - Eldritch Knight Fighter