Saturday, 16 April 2016

D&D 5th Ed. Campaign - The Heroes of Oakvale (Part Two)

The continuing adventures of the Heroes of Oakvale. Other adventures from this campaign and others can be found at this link.

The Reeve of Oakvale has sent messages far and wide, asking for adventurers to come to Oakvale to rid it of strange creatures terrorising the area. The following heroes were amongst those that answered the call....

Andrew's character: Gur'ash Ironjaw - Half Orc Fighter (Soldier)
Dave's character: Darrius Evermier - Human Rogue (Criminal)
Garreth's character: Lucius Glimmerscale - Dragonborn Sorcerer (Noble)
Steph's character: Fauna and her wolf 'Echo' - Tiefling Ranger (Outlander)
Steve's character: Sharn Blightender - Half Elf Ranger (Folk Hero)

Fauna's player was absent for this session but the GM had already spoke to her about her characters responses to certain situations so it wasn't a major issue.

The Heroes of Oakvale (Part Two) - 'The Rescue'

Drawn together by a combination of convenience and coincidence the five heroes are amongst those who answered the call by the Reeve and have journeyed North to investigate one of the prime sources of the rumours of disappearances and strange indescribable enemies. They have fought there way to the centre of a hidden underground temple and after a furious battle have slain the vile Lich responsible...

Part One of this adventure can be found here.

Act One - 'A Triumphant Return'
As the Lich collapsed to the ground the feeling of oppression and doom that had filled the atmosphere lifted...albeit slightly. Lucius moved over to the body and began a careful search for any magical items that may be of use while the others secured the chamber.

Lucius discovered several items of interest including a strange gem, a ring and the creatures cloak but decided to wait until he had more time to examine them properly before attempting to utilise them. He also felt a lifting of the magical aura that surrounded the book discovered earlier in the underground temples library and it had become readable though appeared to be in a code of some kind, Lucius decided that would also be a problem for solving later. The items and wealth (such as it was) they had acquired while travelling through the dungeon network however might( in Lucius's opinion) create some issues with those amongst the party un-used to possessions of value so he got the attention of the rest of the adventurers and decided to put forward an idea.

"Ahem" "As we each have broadly different skills I suggest that any equipment or items we acquire go to those most likely to benefit from their use with the remainder and any coin we come across being divided equally amongst us" "Additionally I suggest we take a small percentage of this for any general expenses we acquire between us such as accommodation and the like for as long as we are travelling together"

The others saw the wisdom in this arrangement and agreed though Darrius was somewhat upset that his offer to look after the extra money was turned down in favour of Lucius.

Editors Note - I know this is standard practice in D&D campaigns but I thought it was more organic to do it as an in character bit of dialogue.

Stopping only to confirm what the Lich had stated about the bodies of his victims being hurled down the well the party left the underground temple and as night had fallen they made camp in readiness to travel back in daylight rather than attempt the journey in the dark. Lucius took this time to identify the magic items and discovered that the ring was one of protection and the jewel could be used to store the energies of spells for later use so kept these items for himself. The cloak rather interestingly enhanced both stealth and gave limited flight capabilities though both of these aspects functioned only at night and with the stealth aspects in mind he gave this to Darrius after a brief explanation of it's purpose. The fact that the cloak didn't match his outfit and was a bit tatty may have had a bit of a bearing on the decision as well. The stones discovered by Fauna had been enchanted to enable a person to communicate with another individual holding one of the other stones and she kept one for herself before giving the second to Darrius and the third to Lucius.

The book's cypher was relatively simple for the Dragonborn to decode and it turned out to be a diary of sorts detailing the Lich's life before his undead rebirth and the rituals, trials and other processes he'd undergone in order to become the creature they'd defeated. Lucius copied several passages and a few rare bits of ritual that he vaguely understood into his own ledger of arcane notes that he had taken to keeping. He also took the opportunity to make some notes about the unfamiliar spells he'd seen cast in the underground temple should he need to explain what had happened to the mages of his own city that may need to find ways to counter them.

The journal tells of Vyllis, a mage living in the giant's realm in service to a being called Thrassyl'iax. Upon learning from his master that it was possible to use “shadow magic” to extend ones life indefinitely by trapping your essence in a phylactery and feeding that essence with the souls of the innocent. This ritual would require great amounts of souls as well as a location where the wall between the Shadowfell and the material plane is thin. Recruiting a young acolyte of his college Vyllis discovered the location of the temple and hatched a plan. Much of the rest of the journal discusses elements of the phylactery and some of the methods to create a “lich”. It would appear that Vyllis had almost completed the ritual but lacked the final piece of the ritual. 
The back of the tome has various spells and incantations outlined linked with Vyllis’ “shadow magic”.

In case the information should prove useful later he decided to keep the book for the immediate future at least. With those few minor points sorted each took a turn at watch while the others rested...well...except Lucius who presumed that such duties would not apply to those of noble blood and simply went to sleep. After a surprisingly uneventful night the party returned to town to report their success and claim their reward.

Editors Note - As a veteran of many RPG's over the years I'm always pleasantly surprised when a night goes by without a random creature trying to eat me...

After deciding to base themselves in town for a while they went to the tavern at which they'd stayed previously in order to negotiate a long-term rental of their rooms. After some back and forth between Sharn and the bar owner which was getting nowhere Lucius interjected and pointed out that business at the tavern would certainly increase now that the immediate troubles had been removed and that once word spread that their local hero Sharn Blightender had once again come to the towns rescue many would flock to the bar to hear the tale from the mouth of the man himself or they could base themselves at the establishment of another and the custom would go there instead. Seeing both the benefit of the arrangement and the potential loss of business should the threat be carried out a reasonable price was settled upon for the top floor of the hotel for a period of no less than two weeks. As word was already spreading through the town relating to their heroic actions they felt no need to hurry and instead decided to enjoy a much needed rest before collecting their reward.

True to their word Sharn had drawn a considerable crowd and this together with the unexpected quality of the music courtesy of the owners daughter had filled the bar area with a lively atmosphere with a second entertainer (a Bard) arriving early on adding to the entertainment on offer. Apparently word had spread of Darrius's previous amorous adventures in town as he was drawing several appreciative glances from some of the female bar patrons. The Half Orc Gur'ash was beginning to make the owner of the establishment regret including food in the negotiated deal for the rooms while the Dragonborn Lucius and Tiefling Fauna had drawn some initial attention but once it became apparent that they weren't going to start breathing fire or trigger any strange happenings they were left relatively alone.

This newly arrived bard was certainly talented but Lucius was more interested in the fact that he was using magic to enhance his performance though he knew that many travellers of this kind utilised such methods so was more curious than alarmed. One of the songs was an ancient tale that had been sang and told in various versions for many years though this version had several significant differences from that which was told in the lands of the Dragonborn.

The countries of Tellis were once ruled over by powerful chromatic dragons;
Coetir’dra the green dragon had her court within the Elven forest of Coellioed.
Rya’Krill the white dragon ruled the snow capped mountains of Rodahn.
A great red dragon held dominion over the human realm of Arndor, but his name has been lost to the ages.
The Giants of Nasshar followed the stoic leadership of the sea dwelling storm giants. This is how the wars began. 
History recounts the deaths of Coetir’dra and Rya’Krill but the short memory of man has long forgotten how they shook off their dragon lord. Through the ancient wars many of the storm giants were killed. The rest retreated into the sea leaving their lesser kin to fend for themselves.

Thrassyl’iax ruled Arndor for centuries, the death of his chromatic kin at the hands of the combined armies, sent him fleeing to Nasshar. Here he found a new lair, one with a secret, a gateway to the Shadowfell. 
Five years ago Thrassyl’iax returned from the Shadowfell, changed. He brought with him the foul magic of necromancy. The giants of Nasshar halted there war to deal with the new threat to their realm. Few know what has happened since then but the taint of the Shadowfell has spread.

This particular tale was far more welcome to Lucius's ears than the somewhat obscene song involving a Dragonborn and an impressionable young lady that followed it but he supposed that allowances had to be made when dealing with uneducated peasants.

As the hour grew late several of the party members retired to their rooms, suites of rooms or local bits of forestry as were appropriate to their own comfort and inclinations with the more social ones staying somewhat later. One particular couple were deep in their cups and were obviously in some distress and those of the group remaining in the bar decided to investigate as by this point there was little else to do. The couple turned out to be one of the local blacksmiths Bran and his wife Meryn whose distress was apparently being caused by the absence of their son. He was one of the no doubt brave but also wilfully unprepared individuals who had attempted to win the reward for ending the troubles plaguing the town and though some of his companions had returned he and several others were still missing. Gur'ash and Sharn promised they'd help if they could before retiring to their quarters. The fact that a reward was mentioned may also have been a factor in their willingness to assist.

Act Two - 'Taking Care of Business'
After a suitable nights rest it was decided that now was the time to claim their reward as well as sorting out a few other loose ends. Firstly the coin acquired during their recent quest was divided between them with Lucius keeping back a proportion for future expenses as agreed. Lucius went to see if he could negotiate continued use of the Willowwoods horse and carriage while the others went to claim their reward from the Reeve's representative Fredrick. Fauna had done her usual disappearing act but they had all quickly become accustomed to her habit of departing when she felt so inclined and then turning up when needed so no-one paid too much attention to her absence and that of her pet wolf.

The temple was somewhat emptier than the previous time the dragonborn was there as many had no doubt returned to their homes now the immediate threat had been eliminated. Finding the most obviously in charge looking of the priests who the noble (correctly as it turned out) presumed was the one with the most expensive looking outfit he was somewhat perturbed to discover that the Willowwoods had departed and that they had also taken their carriage from the stable to facilitate their departure. The priest himself knew of only one trader in carts and carriages and he was based some distance outside of town though there was a horse trader in the town market who may perhaps be of help. Disappointed he left hoping that the others had more luck when it came to their reward.

Frederick was once again in the garden behind his house and was pleased to see the returned heroes who had eliminated this second blight upon his home town. Frederick handed over a purse containing eight hundred gold coins explaining that the cleric who had accompanied them on their mission had expressed his desire to have a share of the reward donated to the temple in his name. Though this was more than his share should have been as he had made no claim on the loot taken from the underground temple this was deemed fair. Plus he had more than likely saved all their lives at least once.

Editors Note - When a mysterious NPC appears in a campaign they're usually there for a good reason...or are about to kill you all...

After meeting back at the tavern Lucius relayed the disappointing news about the carriage. Gur'ash and Sharn mentioned the grieving couple from the tavern and decided to go and see what extra information they could acquire about their missing child before finally deciding whether to assist or not. Neither Darrius and Lucius had any desire to chat with blacksmiths so stayed in the tavern while the Half-Elf and Half-Orc made their enquiries. There was little of interest going on in the tavern at this early hour though the bard from the previous evening was seated at a corner table armed and armoured presumably in readiness for travel to another town as was a sensible precaution in these troubled times. Fauna had disappeared...again...

Little extra information was to be gleaned from the Blacksmith though the aforementioned reward was quantified at four hundred in gold. Their son and a group of equally poorly prepared friends had seemingly travelled South believing the forest surrounding the elven lands to be the source of the troubles where unsubstantiated reports of 'strange shapes in the woods' had emerged. The few of the group who had returned had apparently become separated in the unfamiliar territory and had been unable to rejoin their comrades. Fearing their friends dead they had made their way back home but without a corpse to verify this his parents still held onto the vague hope that he was simply lost. Gur'ash mentioned their need for transport and as luck would have it the blacksmith had been attempting to restore an old carriage. It turned out that he had a strong interest in military memorabilia and had been trying to restore the likeness of the vehicle to that of a military type transport but like many of his projects this had only met with marginal success. The carriage was loaned to the group to use in the search for their son though they had no horses to pull it but at least part of their problem was resolved. It would probably have made sense to fetch a skilled negotiator to help with this purchase as horse traders were notoriously tough hagglers. However they instead went themselves.

The trader was as stubborn as was expected and after leaving a deposit to secure the two better horses they returned to fetch some-one else to finalise the deal and Darrius seemed like the best choice for the job as it was presumed that the price would immediately double if the obviously noble dragonborn was known to be involved. Unfortunately in a spectacular failure of communication no-one informed Darrius that Gur'ash had left a hundred crowns of his own money as a deposit so the deal he negotiated wasn't quite as good as he thought. At least they now had a method of locomotion for their newly acquired carriage. On his way back through the market Darrius noted a stall of expensive looking items and was briefly tempted to help himself but something about the stall owner made him re-think the idea. He hadn't survived as long as he had by ignoring his instincts and something about the vendor made him distinctly uneasy.

Editors Notes - These instincts were actually our GM saying "Are you sure you want to do that?" which as all experienced role-players know means "This will result in your characters brutal and irreversible death but you can do it if you like..."

While these various mundane incidents were going on the now quite bored Fauna amused herself by stealing the horses and the bill of sale from a subsequently panicked Darrius and harnessing the carriage herself. On seeing the 'transport' they had purchased Lucius excused himself to go and buy some cushions and a something to use as a seat cover as well as using a magical cantrip to clean the area he had allocated for himself as seating. On the way he also noted the strange vendor of what turned out on closer inspection to be a selection of minor but no doubt useful magical items and after a brief introduction expressed his interest in some rarer items that the arcane merchant Quinn promised he'd look out for. His curiosity was also piqued by the fact that this merchant seemed to be using magical means to alter his appearance but deemed it impolite to mention it further as this 'Quinn' had been both respectful and polite and would almost certainly be of use later if not antagonized. Several of the others also had utilised some of their new wealth to re-equip themselves in various ways. With transport and equipment obtained it was time to search for the lost boy.

Editors Note - "Why the hell would some noble be bothered to find some blacksmiths son?" may be a question that some will ask at this point. Let's just say he has his reasons and leave it at that as the other players read these write-ups and all our characters apparently judging by the number of notes our GM handed out at the session start have their own little secrets.

Act Three 'The Forest of Coellioed'
As Fauna lived in the outskirts of the Elven forest she was familiar with the best route there though warned the passengers that it would be very difficult to travel far into the forest with the transport so they would almost certainly need to enter the forest on foot. With her usual haste they reached the outer fringe of the great forest just as night was falling and made camp nearby. Fauna dispersed several small items around the edge of the camp that she assured them would give early warning of any interlopers though it would still be a good idea if they had some-one on watch. Lucius decided the carriage was just about large enough to sleep in rather than risk the dirty floor and promptly went to sleep leaving the others to sort out who was on guard.

Those on watch could see disturbing shapes in the woods throughout the night and several of Fauna's warning devices were triggered but as no subsequent attacks occurred it was presumed that these were just curious forest animals rather than any significant threats. After an unsettled but still adequately restful night the search party ate a basic but filling breakfast from their travel rations and began their journey through the forest after Fauna had ensured that the animals were as safe as could be expected given the circumstances. Fauna herself had outdistanced the rest of the party by some significant margin before messaging Lucius with one of the sending stones they shared that there was something in a clearing ahead that they should look at.

The arrived to find the corpse of an elf wrapped in what up until recently had been Fauna's cloak and she was now clad in what had obviously very recently been the fallen elf's armour. The fact that something in the woods had felt emboldened enough to attack one of the elven cities scouts did not bode well for their own safety. Sharn retrieved several of the remaining items from the fallen scout before they moved further into the woods though this time they stayed closer together in light of the potential danger. With those with scouting talents and local knowledge leading the way the rest followed behind with radically varied degrees of successfulness with the decidedly less dexterous Dragonborn and Half-Orc being particularly guilty of errors.

Editors Note - Apparently neither me nor Andrew can pass dexterity tests for our characters...which is actually in character for them I suppose...but is still pretty annoying...

This trek through the woods was violently interrupted as a gigantic insect like creature burst from the ground and spewed a noxious mix of acidic spray over a surprised Gur'ash before attempting to bite him in half with it's vicious mandibles. The Half-Orc managed to snap one of these mandibles off before making a hasty retreat as far away from the emerging monstrosity as possible. Darrius immediately searched for some cover as Fauna and Sharn unleashed a hail of projectiles at it from their various crossbows and bows as Lucius's hastily summoned orb of lightning sailed disappointingly over it's head. A second round of arrows and crossbow bolts found several vulnerable spots slowing the forest predator down and  the Dragonborn focussed some of his sorcerous power into enhancing the spells potency and with more time to prepare this blast of electricity struck home and brought the creature crashing to the ground dead. They only had a few minutes to catch their breath before a new problem revealed itself.

From ahead the sound of a significant force could be heard and the group immediately halted in order to avoid discovery. Ahead a well organised column of distinctly military looking hobgoblin were moving at some pace through the woods and this formidable force was accompanied some small distance behind by a forest giant that had been the source of the majority of the noise that had alerted them. This worrying presence almost distracted them from noticing several young human prisoners being half dragged, half carried in primitive cages by three of the larger Hobgoblins. The force was far too large to assault directly so it was decided that they would follow them at as safe a distance as possible and hope for a better opportunity to liberate the creatures prisoners.

After following the armed group for some time they were led to a significant camp in the woods where their combined might and an additional group of forest giants made a direct assault an impossibility. Several furtive views of this camp located the prisoners in an improvised cage in between the main group of tents and the giants own smaller camp located downwind from that of the Hobgoblins. The parties surveillances were inconvenienced greatly by the frequent and well organised patrols that the military-like Hobgoblins were sending out at regular intervals and after some discussion it was decided that they would wait until the darkest point of the night before attempting anything. A cave was found near some undergrowth that would give them some measure of concealment while they waited and they settled down to get some rest but this stroke of luck become somewhat of a curse as it was also nearby that one of the sets of guards chose to locate themselves.

As visibility became nearly none-existent the nearby group of guards were replaced by a set of three far less capable looking Hobgoblins who were evidentially bottom of the pecking order being given the worst possible 'middle' shift and were feral and twisted in appearance. Being too close to sneak past it was decided to kill them as quickly and quietly as possible and implement a rescue before the deaths were discovered as by this time the majority of the rest of the camp was asleep. Sharn and Gur'ash were chosen for this particular task and they moved into ready positions for the assault. Sharn swiftly despatched his two targets with precise, clinical strikes from his weapons but Gur'ash's own target managed to scream out in alarm a moment before the Half-orc cleaved him into two very dead pieces. The outcry alerted several of those Hobgoblins who had only recently retired with one of the larger creatures who appeared to be a leader of some description bellowing something in their direction. In an effort to prevent this leader from investigating the commotion Lucius cast an illusion spell and attempted to replicate the sound of the small group bickering and then gradually fading in the hope that this would be interpreted as the guards quietening after their admonishment and to every-one's relief and surprise this quickly improvised plan worked.

Editors Note - I think either our GM was in a good mood or Hobgoblins are a bit thick because to be honest it was a pretty terrible plan all things considered...

With the immediate threat removed Darrius was generously given the opportunity by his compatriots to test out the stealth aspects of his new enchanted cloak and with Sharn and Fauna following closely behind he circumvented the sleeping area and began to cut through the bindings holding the shoddily constructed cage together. Though the adventurers were paragons of stealth the same could not be said of the exhausted, beaten and starved prisoners and as they reached the outskirts an alarm was raised from somewhere behind them presumably in response to the many noises made by the liberated captives. With stealth no longer useful they had no option but to flee from the army rousing itself behind them and together they retraced their route into the forest at the most urgent pace they could manage...

After several hours of constant pursuit the party and their newly acquired companions finally managed to create some distance between themselves and their pursuers and collapsed in a hollow by a small corpse of trees that was the closest thing to a concealed shelter they'd passed so far. To exhausted to continue they had no choice but to rest here and hope they would remain undiscovered...

Back to Reality.
Over to our GM for his opinions on how the session went.

The world the players are in has been designed as a full sandbox, like an RPG video-game with quest waiting to be discovered. However the party needed a little encouragement to stay together, and also an over arching story.
Enter the bard's song and the somewhat rail-roady blacksmiths son quest. It took a little in character convincing to get some of the party on board. They performed well other than a little cowardice from the Orc and hopefully have a little idea of the scale of things.

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