DGA6.03: Evils of Haranshire 3 – Forbidden mesa

The characters for this session:

Vir Onden, lvl 6 ranger;
Seck Rustrau, lvl 6 rogue;
Cat Weasel, lvl 6 warlock;
accompanied on a slightly random basis by Phoenix, lvl 6 barbarian, and NPC this session
They begin the session 118xp below lvl 7

On the trail of the missing courier! The Long Roaders have reached what they soon realize is a treetop outpost barely two furlongs from the Spire. The mesa is so overgrown with moss and vines that it had been invisible through the tree cover. As for the outpost itself, there are signs that it was once living quarters for womenfolk and youngsters, but not recently. As it is built high aloft, the shape of an Aarakocra, passing or circling, is visible through the spring green leaves above.

Loot: The elf prince bore a silver ring: Cat pinches it, as group loot I’m sure. Some of the bows are good quality, Vir may later retcon taking one.

To the Spire

It’s time for a same-page session, or council of war. What is their main goal, and what strategy are they going to adopt to achieve it? And given how beaten up the trek and fight has left them, what kind of rest stage are they at? It is now around noon, and with dusk they lose their winged allies.

Once they signal(1) the Aarakocra – Ktool – down he supplies more detail about the locality. Three other very similar outposts are erected in a perimeter. The north face of the mesa has a moat, not water-filled but with water pooled in it to some extent. The south where they are has much less of a barrier, more a ravine that can be jumped over. He has no idea how easy the mesa would be to climb, but again offers to organize an air elemental, that could carry any one of them, except Phoenix. Ktool reminds them that killing all the kobolds is top Aarakocra priority. He suggests killing the kobolds and sleeping in their lair.

  1. Cat uses a Minor Illusion of himself, cast above the canopy, beckoning Ktool down. That avoids the prep pool(2) shrinkage I offer. Ktool suggests a flashing shiny object will be a good enough signal, going forward.
  2. We don’t know exactly what “good preparations” the characters have made and what the journeys of the trio and Vir respectively have cost them, so I am using a 6d6 prep pool for gear other than specific gear such as thieves tools and potions. Each time there is a question about gear I roll the pool. Each time a d6 turns up a 6 it is removed.

The plan, as far as it can be formed, is to seize the kobold quarters, and take a long rest there. Without agreeing 100 percent whether their top priority is a sneaky rescue of Helena, with killing Syralth a bonus, or an assassination of Syralth with rescue a bonus, the Long Roaders take Ktool up on his offer. He flies off and they finish a

Short Rest – HD are rolled, and everyone feels a lot healthier!

Five Aarakocra duly summon an Air Elemental. Ktool has accurately judged its carrying capacity. It makes four trips, three for the lighter adventurers and one for piled packs. Neither arrow nor kobold flies up, and the three atop the main mesa formation begin coiling and tying off rope, for Phoenix who is far below.

Dice prep pool roll! Yes, and no dice reduced – they all packed plenty of rope, about 200′ all told.

Phoenix (even after raging to make the initial leap and climb) is forced to ditch his half-plate to finish the climb, and even then ends up being hauled up the last part of the way.

“Oh he has been eating all the pies…” groans Cat.

“Never trust a skinny cook!” Phoenix ripostes.

The spire, which rises a further 30′ or so, on the north-west corner of the mesa, is casting strong shade in the harsh mid-afternoon sunlight. It is less mossy, and perhaps worth a climb attempt. Phoenix slips and slides and makes little headway. Seck warns the others he can’t piton in – but he has packed climber gear [another dice prep, no losses] and having made the climb, drops the gear down to the next person, and braces himself on the rope. Cat is next, then the two together pull Vir up then all three hoist Phoenix up!

XP: lvl7-116

Winged defenders beware!

Seck investigates the spiretop: Cat disappears into the shadow of a weathered sandstone crenel. The spiretop is roughly square, with remains of crenelations, a small natural-looking hole (big enough for a kobold to squeeze out) and a sun-bleached but fairly intact square trapdoor. Using loose sandstone blocks, [and another success prep, pool still 6] they rig a net over the hole. Vir rummages for lamp oil [prep pool reduces to 5] and Seck drips it onto the old trapdoor hinges, then takes out his thieves tools and begins investigating the fastening. Cat unfolds the parchment map of Warcrown’s memories of the layout.

Seck rolls a nat 20 to ease the trapdoor open.

Cat and Vir peer down. Perhaps once there were ladders or the like, but as far as they can tell there is a vertical line of trap holes through the spire floors and on down… And there’s a natural hole under the rooftop hole as well. Two kobold guards doze near the latter. It’s not possible to get a line of sight while using a bow above.

Another tactical discussion!

Eventually Vir acrobatically tumbles in and shoots twice, Cat lobs a torch onto the floor, Seck tumbles in and throws, and the kobolds die without raising the alarm. The rope is regathered from above – secured to a crenel – and lowered. It drops far, far down.

That’s another really good check and nat 20 attack roll from Seck… someone is burning all his luck away early! Vir’s player complains all the luck is being sucked away from his rolls!

GM

The next floor down has half a dozen kobolds, roosting some feet off the ground.

The plan is much the same, but involves some of them acrobatically vaulting. [Or, using Athletics, after making a DEX check to show their gear is under control] It goes fairly well. One kobold escapes and plunges down, sounding a shrill alarm.

They wait for a few seconds, assuming a mass attack upwards will follow. It does not. The next floor is empty. But glancing down Cat sees a kobold sawing at their rope. Twinned Repelling Blasts takes care of that (noisily).

There’s been a recent Twitter thread offering opinions on how far battle sounds travel, in a dungeon. My own feeling here is that Repelling Blast is noisy, but the roughened, water-worn sandstone series of access hatchways acts like a giant suppressor. I’m going with the “kobolds have to specifically raise the alarm” threshold at this point.

GM

“Let’s keep going down!” Vir decides.

He swings down. He loses track of the rope and ends starfished backward over the hole! His longbow does not snap, and he’s able to roll aside. The others follow, Cat bringing the light, then Seck, then Phoenix.

Phoenix spends his first Inspiration making sure he does not fall!

Sure enough, it is empty – there are signs of hasty evacuation. The kobolds below are talking excitedly. In draconic.

“Let’s make a deal” Cat offers in the same tongue. They negotiate, but only to lull the adventurers. Seck kills the first sneak-attacker coming up the rough drain-hole. Two kobolds flee down to sound the alarm! Cat snipes them with Repelling Blasts but one gets away, wounded. Vir misses a chance shot. The alarm is raised!

Time for a plan shift! After hastily conning how vulnerable they would be forted up here, the four Long Roaders swiftly shimmy all the way down the rope, past two main levels. It drops through every floor, all the way down to a flooded cellar level. Cat, who is first because he can see in the dark, [Stealth rolls down and] finds an unflooded pair of side chambers. He swings over to them.

Stealth rolls all round for the other three – no-one does too badly.

As they slide down, alarms and clawed feet can be heard, but it seems that no-one is running to the open shaft and looking for a rope! They all quietly join Cat who directs the others his way. Then he operates Mage Hand to untie the last length, implying they are on the second floor. Last to slide down, Seck has left some bloody hand-marks up above, to suggest the same. Now to see if that works! Time passes and the noise of alarm and searching fades away, above them. Then the crushed body of the last kobold drops down into the flooded cellar.

“Again, shoulda made that deal” Cat comments

Loot: trivial
XP: lvl 7-112, getting right past the defenses is a huge win

Long Rest! Everyone regains Inspiration for the success of the stratagem so far. Then well pleased, make no further stratagem. From here on it’s traditional Thud and Blunder.

Syralth’s lair

Vir’s best guess is that it’s the very wee hours of the morning as they stretch and assess the cellar level. Most of it is dank black water, pooled throughout what were possibly the planned stables, and they extend a long way north towards what is presumably solid sandstone. Opposite their hiding cellars, across the flooded main run, there’s another small exit.

Phoenix (who has a Ring of Swimming) side-strokes over to the nearest chamber, the one opposite. He reports a skull… a lump of stone drops from above… then another…

“Get back!!” – chorus of warnings

As Phoenix swims clear the entire side-chamber collapses – luckily the noise is quite muted.

Time to climb and get the team up! Phoenix is nominated. Rope coiled, he kicks the climbing spikes onto his boots, rages, and clambers up the sandstone shaft they roped down. It is notched from toolwork, as though deliberately widened. Gaining the first open chamber, he quickly punches the rough wall to keep raging and drops the rope-end down. He hauls the lightest – Cat – up, then they haul Seck, then Phoenix rests as Cat and Seck haul Vir up.

They are in an irregularity: this section of the first level is broken away save for a fringe of level footing. (#10 on map.) Tunnels lead off in two directions at right-angles to one another: but there’s another irregular shaft or gap nearby. To what appears to be a natural cavern, or partly-finished gallery.

1 – Entrance
2 – stores/watchpoints to gallery
3 – guard post
4 – throne room of Nevalth and gallery where drake rests
Simple barriers – barricades preventing drake from roaming, and gong alarm
5 – main stair up and archer posts
6 – archer posts and mildewed scrivener station
7 – archer posts and trash
8 – garrison station with minima of dragonborn gear
9 – comfortable dragonborn quarters
10 – hole from fontana above to cellar below
11 – Syralth’s decorated lair
12 – Helena and Alea’s comfy prison quarters

On a whim Cat wanders that way and peers in.

Cat makes a DC “yikes” Stealth roll

He is staring at a green dragon wyrmling, which greets him:

“I really think you ought to come in and speak to me.”

Cat is wearing his Ring of Mind-Shielding. And despite Arkul Hammerwing’s fanboying over the beautiful Syralth, Cat does not meekly approach.

Initiative: Cat/Vir, Syralth’s Lair Action, Seck, Syralth, Nevalth and other dragonborn, drake, Phoenix

Round 1: “Found him!” Cat yodels and throws his Shadow Blade, scoring a crit! Vir advances and Hunter’s Marks, then throws Bane.

Syralth shrugs off the Bane but takes 30 damage from the crit.

Syralth roars in pain and fury! Cat and Vir duck back out of line of sight. All around the group the walls sprout thorny vines and branches!

Everyone makes their DC15 STR SV! (Seck burns Inspiration)

Seck has Mobile so eases through the difficult terrain to get into the lair and line of sight and flings Maelsauga and leaps back away out of breath cone range.

9 more damage, Syralth collapses dying

The thorny area effect begins sagging but Vir says “there’s more – there must be cultists around” so Phoenix rages again. He races in to strike: finds Syralth down: hammers Mocair through the creature’s neck. Looks about: the chamber is decorated with shiny things. No weapons or armor he can see, so he heads out:

“The dragonling is dead, the cave has got jools and such but no sight of Jellyna.”

“That’s Helena.”

“Oh yeah…”

Loot: not looted yet, but coins, gems and other decorative-type stuff
XP: lvl7-108

Nevalth’s throne room

Maelsauga and Shadow Blade are recalled and Phoenix, with rage pulsing, paces roughly opposite and around, in the direction of a faint light. He’s looking into a large chamber, lit by tall sconces, at the left-back of a mighty stone throne, and a number of larger or smaller dragonborn. Beyond them a columned gallery and very near the throne room end of it, a great drake!

Phoenix is still using Eagle powers so retreats out of line of sight, reporting the situation in a non-thunderous tone.

Scout, Thug

Round 2: Vir advances and assesses the target-rich environment from cover. The dragonborn are less-disguised than when first fought. Two big thugs, two scouts, a cleric stand round the throne geared for a fight. The throne’s owner, the heroically-built Nevalth, is unfamiliar to him, and heavily-armored. Vir picks a scout and lines him up. Cat slides up, trying to stick to shadows, and Readies Action for Shadowblade again when targets present. Vir slams a shot into the scout, and switches to Ulruf. Seck slides up beside Vir, flings Maelsauga at the wounded scout, who drops. Then Seck Cunning Actions away from breath range (he hopes).

“To me my brave steed!” Nevalth calls the drake, clambering the throne as mounting-stool: meanwhile one thug and the second scout reach the archway and gout their green poison breath over Cat and Vir (twice) and Seck (once). They step to either side to allow the drake an attack. Cat’s readied Shadowblade wounds the scout, ready for Vir to use Colossus Slayer technique or Seck to finish.

All CON SV OK!

Phoenix moves in, past the scout (taking damage), around so that the throne is not full cover for the big guy mounting, and unleashes!

Reckless Attack, Great Weapon Master!

There’s a mighty sandstone smash as Mocair smashes the arm of the throne. But a second stroke sinks home and Nevalth takes a heavy cut where his plate armor hinges. Phoenix runs back, right through his enemies and friends, and into good cover.

From far south beyond the sinkhole, the dragonborn bard adds insult to injury and Viciously Mocks Phoenix; and sounds a gong.

The cleric buffs, the second thug swigs a potion and moves up, Nevalth mounts his drake. He readies javelins to throw.

From far beyond, shouts and footsteps – remaining cultists are rallying, in response to Syralth’s and Nevalth’s cries and the alarm gong.

Round 3: Vir moves to get a whack in at the badly-wounded second scout using both Colossus Slayer and Hunter’s Mark, and drops him; then turns to the thug round the corner, managing a nick. He sneers at the paltry damage. Then Cat drops Shatter! He covers thug, Nevalth and drake!

DC16 CON SV, Cat is using Rod of the Pact Keeper. The thug misses (chose the wrong potion!) and is slightly battered.

Seck recalls Maelsauga and edges around to target the thug, who is bloodied now. Then gets well back, hoping to be in that happy, safe middle ground between throne room and passage where there is a hostile bard. The thorny vine-growth is definitely wilting now.

The bard sneers again at Phoenix, who resists charging into the dark.

“Maybe I should get that prick,” Cat ponders. “I’m the one that really hates him,” Seck claims jealously. “Yeah, but he bad-mouthed me unconscious last time,” Cat points out.

Full attack by the thug on Vir, and the second thug moves up in support of Nevalth, who (sighing) realizes the enemy are not going to present him with a riding attack, and dismounts again, seizing a mighty glaive from beside the throne. The cleric buffs Nevalth.

“Bring me your champion! I’ll fight him one on one!” Nevalth calls. Phoenix senses the others looking back his way.

Since this seems unfair to just decide Phoenix’s choice by random roll, I turn it over to the players.

GM

“There’s no honor while we are attacked from front and behind,” Phoenix decides, and offers to swap: Cat does the bard-hunting and he will attack Nevalth. Phoenix races through his friends and with two blows, demolishes the thug. Then races forward, dashing (with throne as cover) right past the champion and drake and around to another exit, but not quite far enough to get out of harm’s way.

Round 4: Cat advances through the thorn vines and past Syralth’s lair, his Fey Sight soon petering out as he finds a glow ahead and right (southern #9 on map). Vir has the frightening sight of Nevalth in front of him: he advances and Nevalth Sentinels him in a dangerously exposed position! Vir switches Hunter’s Mark to Nevalth. Vir begins running through his spell catalog. With Erzlie he can use Oath of Enmity and with Greenfist he has the Warcaster feat. Seck slips forward again, calling Maelsauga back, and hurls it into Nevalth’s exposed face.

“I could do with a good combat-support rogue here,” Phoenix clearly calls.

Seck can hear Phoenix’ voice. He has very little chance of getting across the throne room unscathed, so draws Red Whisper and edges back. But at least, he would never think of demanding Phoenix’ help.

The thug and Nevalth both use their green mist breath weapon!

CON SV made again!

Nevalth glares at Vir, who feels a terrifying presence. Seck cheers him, seeing him quail.

Even using Seck’s Inspiration, Vir misses. He is at disadvantage against Nevalth for the round.

Away in the tunnel the bard realizes Cat is stalking him and heads back round to the gong and barriers. He knows the glow from his room will spoil Cat’s Fey Sight.

The thug hammers Vir but he dodges Nevalth’s slicing glaive. The cleric poisons Phoenix with his breath weapon. The drake squeezes into the north-west tunnel and hits Phoenix twice, biting savagely.

“I woulda been alright if the cursed gawds hadn’t made me drop my half-plate” howls Phoenix. “Yeah, a pox on those gawds,” agrees Seck, still safely back north-east. “Try climbing 120′ of mesa wearing half-plate” reply the cursed gawds.

Phoenix hammers at the cleric rather than the drake, and despite the buff the cleric is staggered.

“He’s not down! I still need a rogue,” Phoenix clearly calls, again. “Sorry, busy,” Seck responds.

Round 5: Cat takes Vicious Mockery damage. The bard is using a torch now, to prevent Shadow Blade advantage. He turns back and retreats.

Vir, at disadvantage against Nevalth, negates it with Vow of Enmity and hammers Nevalth with Hunter’s Mark and Colossus Slayer damage. Acting on that, Seck uses his Skirmisher Boots [reaction, two charges] to ghost behind Nevalth and [thanks to the advantage] stabs Red Whisper deep. Nevalth seems to grow and shake with rage, and takes a firmer grip on his glaive: a ring glints on one finger. Seck makes another attack [it is his regular turn now] but Nevalth avoids him this time, parrying the blow. Seck retreats well away, recouping health as Maelsauga continues sucking Nevalth’s life force. Nevalth moves: Vir activates Sentinel and smashes Ulruf into Nevalth: Nevalth’s glaive slices Vir, who in turn shakes off his fear of the champion.

Footsteps echoing suggest reinforcements from the far south end of the gallery. The bard is linking up with the other cultists, whjo are gathering at the stair-head.

Over on the west side of the throne room, beyond the drake, the cleric summons an eerie green fiery lance from nowhere as he retreats from Phoenix’s archway: it misses. The drake does not, and its claws rake Phoenix. At his comrades’ urging he keeps focusing on the cleric, and, still attacking recklessly, deals a fatal blow. Then – making sure to update his comrades – powers on, striking a massive cut at the drake’s left rear leg. It bellows in pain!

Round 6: Cat hurls both the thug and Nevalth back with Repelling Blasts. Although Nevalth is barely hurt by this, he looks unsteady. Vir moves back away from the danger zone and Cat finds himself the front line.

“EEEEuuhhhh!!!” squeals Cat. For once, he joys not at being center-stage.

Vir swigs healing potion. Phoenix is yelling something about teaming up on Nevalth… but Seck ignores this and circles round to attack the drake: Nevalth activates Sentinel and slices Seck, who uses Uncanny Dodge to reduce the strike to trivial. Seck summons Maelsauga and throws it at the drake, getting Sneak Attack damage on it. Relatively weak damage, but the drake rages in response!

Footsteps clanging on the stair, and noisy calling of strategy (in draconic). The bard has crept close again and again Phoenix suffers Vicious Mockery.

The thug advances and hammers Seck while Nevalth both slices Seck and menaces him: Seck is at disadvantage attacking him.

Phoenix takes a claw from the drake: Reckless Attack! Great Weapon Master! He savages the drake in response: it looks a little shaken. Then Phoenix retreats away up north-west to a guard-post position (#3 on map), calling back that he needs to heal. Seck, who has not bothered to let Phoenix know he is now supporting, has the barefaced audacity to complain.

Round 7: Neither of Cat’s Repelling Blasts are enough to drive Nevalth back. He steps up by Seck, in support. Vir takes a breath attack from the bard, and is poisoned. He pursues and strikes! A light wound only, as the bard dodges the second strike and in response, casts Hellish Rebuke!

Seck leaves Maelsauga in the drake and gets another health point back. Now, he attacks the thug, staying out of Nevalth’s glaive range. The thug seems a little shaken. Seck moves further and Nevalth strikes! Another uncanny dodge to reduce damage. But on the other hand it’s a terrible normal action round for thug and Nevalth, they both miss.

The GM directly reminds Seck he has still not communicated.

“Phoenix, get back in here and help!” Seck demands.

The bard flees – Vir misses his Sentinel attack; draconic voices and footsteps drawing closer. They must have reached the foot of the stairs, surely.

The drake delivers a raking charge to Seck, who can’t reduce this. He sways unsteadily.

“Phoeeniixxx!!” Cat yodels desperately.

Phoenix runs right round the drake and swings twice, connecting once with Nevalth. He too is wobbling. “Anything ya got!” Phoenix yells.

Round 8: Cat hurls his Shadow Blade and Nevalth can’t parry it: he falls. “The hero cleric and drake are both dead!” Cat lies, “we hold the field!”

Since the reinforcements can hear the drake, Cat rolls Deception at disadvantage, but his worst roll is a 17!

The reinforcements pause, and, instead of rushing up the gallery, creep warily, using cover.

Now free from worrying about the bard, Vir focuses on the thug and gets into flanking position, striking with Hunter’s Mark and Colossus Slayer, then critting with his second strike! The thug falls. Vir stands over the body, breathing hard.

With breathing space now, Seck Sneak Attacks the drake, but misses. He gains another health point from Maelsauga, moves away ready to grab a potion. He can hear the chanting of another cleric.

The drake tail-whips Phoenix – who dodges – and charges the others! Vir reacts with Sentinel, hitting hard with Ulruf, but he and Seck are both hit. Vir falls! Phoenix leaps after the drake and puts it down!

“The drake really is down now! Let’s negotiate!” Cat yells.

There’s a pause and muttered draconic debate. Then:

“We want 15 minutes to gather our belongings, then a clear path out!”

“No approaching the fallen, and we can agree!”

“Leave a clearway to the escape hole, then we agree!”

The deal holds: the bard and what sounds like about twice the Long Roaders’ numbers splash into the cellar. The noises are both less and great, so possibly some of them are gear dropping separately.

A quick search determines that all of this level is abandoned, except for a remote and latched room in the north-east. It is furnished with crude comfort and there, the Long Roaders find a wood-elf matron and Helena.

Mission accomplished!

Loot: tba, but includes a ring, some part-drunk potions, and weapons/armor
XP: lvl7-104 (another 4xp if and when Helena gets to Tauster)

And as our heroes decide whether to search for treasure and the other elf hostages and learn what Helena knows, or to pursue the remaining cultists, the session ends.

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