DGA5.05: The Lurker Beneath, part two – the Hidden Shrine

The characters for this session

Cat, lvl 5 warlock; Seck, lvl 5 rogue; Vir, lvl 5 half-elf ranger; and (NPC, player absent) Phoenix, lvl 5 barbarian

To the next big show

Over the past seven hours Cat Seck and Phoenix have plumbed the depths below Nightwall Farm, braving weird voice-in-the-head and all manner, practically a zoo, of beasties. Now, as the trio attempt to sort out which blobs of hot mud are mud mephits, their long-delayed comrade Vir finally catches up.

With a Shatter spell from Cat and all-out attacks from Phoenix the last mephits fall. Even Vir has gotten a little muddied up but the others are crusted with it. Now the four ease over the boiling mud and head down a long and still-broad natural passage.

At first Phoenix punches the wall to keep his final rage up but after some minutes, as the passage elbows hard left and narrows slightly, gives up. Aside from the odd carapace-rattle or rat-scuttle, there seems no threat. He moves closer to the center of the pack, Cat outside and behind, and Vir off the other side. Vir has Seck’s longbow and quiver, but slung. He has Ulruf ready to use as a two-handed hammer; and has Erzlie back on his own wrist.

A weird arch

Cat can still see the furthest, as long as he shifts the light away from his line of sight. He calls the others to a halt, and studies what’s ahead.

The right passage wall draws closer, and the way ahead is demarcated with a smooth rock archway, carven with death or at least skeletal motifs. And (racking his memory of oddments of lore) symbols of healing and meditation. The cavern beyond is at least 30′ deep and he can see four upright skeletons, swords at guard, somewhat right of center.

Vir and Cat do as much as they can, short of passing under the arch, to see what else may be in the cavern. There’s a chest way off left, there’s a red statuette behind the bone pile. The statuette is shielding its eyes with one hand and blessing with the other.

After some discussion, especially around Phoenix’ battle tactics, a torch is hurled in near the skeletons and Cat lights it. Time to party!

The final boss?

Vir casts Entangling Vines and a couple of shots later the right-most skeleton is immobilized. He stashes Seck’s longbow to one side and readies Ulruf again. Seck moves to get an angle and flicks Maelsauga across, damaging one in the front. As Vir moves up, lightning arcs from the arch across him! The three able skeletons begin moving! Vir rapidly retreats.

Cat hurls inaccurate eldritch blasts:

“Ya finished?” – Phoenix

Phoenix charges the skeletons, and as promised, uses Great Weapon Master to cleave skeletons asunder! He misses one of the three – and uses his totem speed to evade right back out, tucking behind Seck.

“Tactical move – I call on the Eye of the Sea Eagle and he tells me the best place to be is here,” he avers.

Having finished mocking him, they watch the tangled skeleton fail to break free and the other skeleton fall back in good order. Then Vir shouts in pain and horror as the skin on his throat and chest rots and peels off! [10 necrotic dmg]

Phoenix shouts: “that’s not true!”

“Oh dear…” – Seck and Cat

Seck flicks Maelsauga out again but this time the skeleton parries the knife off. The rogue fishes out a healing potion and moves closer to where he expects Vir to end up. The latter dashes in, smashes Ulruf past the skeleton’s guard, and – to Seck’s surprise – stands his ground. Cat hurls an accurate Eldritch Blast and the skeleton, already battered, shatters back into the pile of bones. Phoenix rushes at the same time, pounds the vine-rangled skeleton apart, and gazes about, seeing merely a pile of bones left. He so reports.

But Vir, close to the pile, sees a huge single eye hidden behind it. And grinning slavering jaws. He again cries in pain as the eye bathes in necrotic radiance, and reaches out over the pile to slash at him. Slash slash! Vir is now seriously hurt.

Thinking back over this sequence I feel I missed one skeleton re-up from the big bad, but not more than one. Not too bad.

– GM

Seck moves in and hurls Maelsauga, but the creature casually raises a claw and the knife glances off. He shifts around next to Vir, shoves the potion into his hand, then around further next to Phoenix. Vir disengages, moves back just around the arch into cover, and is ready to use the potion. Cat hurls Shadow Blade, slicing into the creature, as Phoenix unloads a huge double-cleave. The creature is near-decapitated and falls dead!

“That’s why you bring a barbarian” – Cat

“I’m feeling inadequate and shit… let’s make sure it’s dead” – Seck

Loot and a short rest

With Red Whisper, Seck ensures the head is fully away from the body. He mentions the “parts for cash” aspect to Vir, who takes an interest after Seck’s potion has put some skin back on his body.

“This is Saint Osthenes… and I’d say the eyes are gems” – Cat, examining the statuette. “Which we are NOT prising out,” he adds firmly.

Cats looks over the bones of the fallen, and picks out and removes a silver pendant from one on the skeletal remains. The pendant has “Lise”engraved on it.

“That might help Lise mourn her hubby properly” – Seck

Phoenix is now happy his pack was so empty. The statuette goes in it. He looks round vaguely for more loot.

“Time for a short rest,” Cat suggests.

He watches as his comrades investigate the chest, which proves to be unlocked. It contains the deed to the farm, a dressy city-man’s hat, cash and some gems. He calls the hat as his – no-one else wants it! Vir sits down to join him for a

Short Rest – Vir rolls four hit dice, Cat regains his slots

Stirges!

The four, carrying the chest, decide to check the side-passage. Sure enough it does connect to the shale slope. And below in a scatter of loose rock are small bones and the glint of something hard and greenish. Vir heads to investigate that.

Cat’s fae sight comes into its own as a swarm of stirges drop off the slope tunnel roof: Shatter! Bits of stirge rain down as the echoes die away.

Vir holds up a gauntlet with the emblem of a green dragon on it.

Cat has been wearing the hat, and by now has concluded it is magical.

Zombies! Dragonborn zombies!

As the four explore further down the side passage the ground erupts under them and six zombies, two of them larger and wielding great flails, attack!

Some are protected with armor, but on others the shred of green scale can be seen. As one punches Seck with a jaw-rattling slam, Cat notices a pair of shiny rings on its hand. Some of the zombies seem larger than even a large man: Vir and Cat pick out the stubs of wings.

This is a tough battle, as the smaller zombies attempt to grapple to allow their flail-wielder comrades to attack with advantage, and Phoenix wears several thumps. Seck makes full use of his uncanny dodge to reduce the hurt he is put to.

But the adventurers are beginning to learn tactical positioning, and once they group up and Cat uses his Eldritch Blasts to separate the zombies, the fight is one-sided.

Cat retrieves the rings. They truffle through the soil but find nothing of interest. Sighing, and vowing to come back with shovels and better light, they begin the long path back around and up.

Up into deep night

Seck is the vanguard but makes sure he has Phoenix up with him before they start any serious roping-up of packs or chests. They both stay as far away from the uncanny rattling shaking chest in the cellar, as they possibly can.

With Seck and Phoenix up top the remainder of the return up is routine. The chest is a little tricky to maneuver up and out, and does fall at one point, but without chaos. Packs and the like are carried up into the cottage, to keep the cellar clear. And finally Vir, who has had to keep a wary eye out on great rats sniffing up through the glittering cavern, is hauled up.

It is well after the midnight hour. Cat gives up on his optimistic plan to somehow bathe and dress and join Val Felspit’s “do” at the guildhall. They take an extra short rest to reopen the chest, sort the gems and coin, and bag the coin into four more easily-manageable bags.

And so out of Nightwall Cottage. And Vir easily catches the last phrasing of a ringing chant!

Cultists attack! The battle of Nightwall Farm

“This doesn’t need to get ugly! Hand over the egg!” – dragonborn bard

“We don’t have any egg!”

And so it begins.

Cat manages to completely shift the battlefield early on: he casts his mighty patron’s great enchantment Plant Growth, excluding the path to the gate and the patch where Seck seems to have sneaked to. By doing so he ensures that only one of the two tough dragonborn thugs can close on them, and only one scout.

There is a brutal tit for tat around the porch and path to the gate. Seck is put down, Cat is put down as he makes the gate, but despite cleric healing, a thug and a scout are also put down – the thug being given two fails on his death rolls – before Vir smashes the nearest cleric into what is probably true death, spending Ulruf’s charges on Mage Slayer.

That, and Vir bellowing for the watch, and audible suggestions that the watch is actually coming, is enough for the cultists to break off, dragging their fallen with them down towards the river. They still seem to believe that Phoenix’ pack does carry an egg.

A squint-eyed man looms over Seck as Cat (revived by Phoenix, but using one of Cat’s potions) casts Spare the Dying on him.

“This is a late hour to be inspecting a rundown cottage” – herbalist Koilev, pushing a bolus under Seck’s tongue and encouraging him to swallow the juice

Lights from the White Inn and nearest cottages suggest the New Town is alarmed, but before more people arrive the session ends.

The end battle lasted fully half the session, so I ask pardon for not writing a blow-by-blow.

Props: Until the big showpiece battle outside, this is a near-straight version of MT Black’s The Lurker Beneath Red Larch. In terms of environment, my instinct was to have a stock wall around the farm, so that is added. Otherwise I don’t sense any difference between how the farm fits into Mooregate’s New Town, and how it fits into Red Larch in the original. In the original, Red Larch is not at all detailed: New Town is an easy and readymade substitute venue. I have decoupled magistrate Harburk Tuthmarillar from the venue so as to link him to Mooregate’s justice system.
The timeline of who-disappeared-when is changed. St Osthenes (source: a DCC supplement on forgotten gods, but slightly changed) is swapped in for the evil idol of the original. Green dragon cult related items and furnishings are added in to provide context to both “cultists attack” and an ongoing story arc; and gadgets the group can use.

– GM

Gear Glossary

Erzlie: red-gold bracelet. Erzlie was a paladin of an ancient people known as the Ilmer. She wielded Ulruf for a large part of her life, and the two are linked. Aside from some benefits that hark back to her own background, Erzlie offers an Oath Pact of Vengeance. It can be voluntarily set aside or renewed after each long rest.

Maelsauga: hummingbird-shaped throw knife. It has a minor curse on it but boasts superior range, Sharpshooter facility, return-to-owner, and +3 force damage.

Mocair: great axe. Mocair the gallant is an ancestral paladin of the plains tribes. He offers an Oath Pact of Vengeance. It can be voluntarily set aside or renewed after each long rest.

Osuz: rod of the pact keeper. Raises with tier, so +2 at present.

Red Whisper: shortsword +2. Allows Seck to swap his sneak attack dice for nerfing his target’s ability to speak above a whisper.

Skirmisher boots: Using charges, offers limited ‘port move and reaction attacks within 60’.

Ulruf: ji. Ulruf remembers defending a great civilization against all manner of foes. It thinks of itself as a polearm blade, but shapes itself to its bearer’s thought, though it will always look somewhat spear-hammer-bladelike. Vir has bought two fine hafts/shafts for it, one polearm length and his preferred option, warhammer length. Ulruf offers Oath of the Mage Slayer and in oath pact, can do a lot of damage to magic or spellcasters.

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