Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Iron Principalities, Session 2

This past Tuesday we had our second session, and our first full session of play, of the new Dungeons & Dragons campaign at Just Games.  I think the "newsletter" idea of the last post worked out really well, and I'm very excited to see the enthusiasm and investment of the players - Sylvus' player had a "spellbook" printed containing all the spells he has access too, while Dormammu's player was kind enough to bring a cheat sheet of "what you can do during your turn" for everyone.

Dramatis Personae:

 Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 1
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 1
Zerin of Birdsall, Half-Elf Paladin 1
Mival Shimov, Human Fighter 1
Cor, Rock Gnome Wizard 1
Lasair Lightfood, Wood Elf Rogue 1
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 1

Lasair found the hiding place - a hollow under an upturned oak tree - of the kobolds that had been caught stealing cheese, and taking pity, turned the pork bones, nuts and a few other scraps she'd gathered into a serviceable stew for them, earning their trust and gaining a little bit more information about the town of Holger.  Granted, they weren't able to offer much beyond a kobold's perspective of the town - the best trash heaps to dig through and how to avoid being seen by the local constabulary.

The group spent an entire day - checking the calendar, it is the 16th of Sowmont, a month analogous to April in Earth's temperate zone of the northern hemisphere - exploring Uncle Oswedge's old house.  They found a number of interesting things, most notably a map of the region, with a number of castles and villages drawn on, with only the immediate vicinity of the Five-Towns labeled.  Also, a small gold statuette of the famed gnomish accordion-composer Gilgamesh von Hohenzollern on a trapped platform; when they carefully triggered the trap, a chute opened in the ceiling, dropping the desiccated remains of a long-dead giant wolf spider into the room.  It seems the trap had been neglected for some time.

Consulting the map and the various bits of news and local gossip they'd picked up at the Whole Hog the night before, they started planning a course of adventure.  If they took the Cursed Pass to the Maw, it would take them past the Groaning Keep, where three hundred years earlier, an entire order of corrupt knights were tortured to death for their crimes.  Skirting the edge of the Maw, they might be able to collect some goblin hands to trade in to Baron Vitellius for the bounty he'd announced.  They could drop off a naming ceremony present for Lord Vesper's newborn son (they decided to give him the statuette of Gilgamesh von Hohenzollern) at Craghold Keep and then circle around the southern end of the Ironspine Mountains to visit the town of Jonquil, curious about the retired war-wizard who had beaten a demon at chess and forced it to compile his memoirs.  From Jonquil it's a short jaunt to Baron Vitellius' castle to collect on the goblinoid bounty, and that will bring them halfway to the Dismal Swamp to investigate rumors of an impossibly ancient stone road through the swamp, the stones carved to resemble dragon scales.

Buying a wagon and enough food to last them to Jonquil, they bid Holger farewell for the time being, tasking the kobolds with keeping an eye on the house for them.

Travel down the Cursed Pass proved easy, and in late afternoon on their first day of travel (the 17th of Sowmont), they came within sight of the Groaning Keep, a foreboding edifice of black stone squatting toad-like over the Pass, crumbling under the weight of time and neglect.  They quickly noticed the complete absence of birdsong in the area; even the buzzing of insects was absent.  Around the Keep itself, nothing grew save a breed of greasy, gray-green vine that clung and tugged at the ruined masonry.  Cor was able to identify these as Assassin Vines, rumored to grow only in the soil of mass graves.  Approaching warily, Dormammu threw an experimental eldritch blast at the nearest growth, and was immediately attacked by lashing, thorny vines that nearly crushed the life out of him.  Pulling back, the party attempted to blast the vines with fire bolts and eldritch blasts, Mival and Kholark wading into the fray with their flails.  Enraged, Kholark brought the head of his flail down on the woody bole of the growth, sending splinters flying as the vines went limp.  Cor collected some samples of the vines' glowing green sap and the group moved through the newly-revealed gap in the wall to enter the courtyard of the Keep.

They soon heard the scraping of something against stone, and the clink of metal.  Emerging from a mostly-intact side building was a humanoid figure, swathed in the charred and moldering robes of a priest, face hidden in the depths of the hood but skeletal hands exposed.  The mortal remains of one of the long-dead cursed knights of the Groaning Keep, the undead thing lunged, hurling itself against Zerin's shield, swinging a rusted longsword with savage fury.  Reaching out with a bony claw, it grabbed Zerin's face, burning him with necrotic energy.  Pushing the creature back, Mival and Kholark moved to surround it, with Sylvus darting in and out to strike at it with his quarterstaff, enchanted with a Shillelagh spell, while Dormammu, Cor and Lisair held back, peppering the thing with eldritch blasts, fire bolts, magic missiles and arrows.  Finally, roaring with the red rage of battle, Mival brought his flail down on the back of the thing's skull, shattering it, with the entire skeletal horror swiftly collapsing into dust and flakes of ancient, blackened rust.

Unfortunately, the sound of battle drew the attention of other undead knights, which began to emerge from shadowy corners and gaping doorways, converging on the adventurers' position.  Kholark, Mival and Zerin swiftly formed up into a shield wall, keeping themselves between the casters and the shambling undead as they slowly backed towards the gap they'd come through.  Cor and Dormammu kept up a steady stream of offensive cantrips, trying to whittle the undead down as they came.  And the sun was beginning to set.

I love being able to end a session on a cliffhanger like that!

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