The characters for this session
Vir Onden, lvl 6 ranger (hunter) – Vir has adopted playtest rules for the ranger allowing him versatile skills and spells. At present he is trialing the Tireless mode.
Seck Rustrau, lvl 6 rogue (scout) – Seck has adopted playtest rules for the rogue allowing him to pick up Stealth as a proficiency and drop Sleight of hand, which does not fit his character in any way. It’s now my job to force him into a sleight-of-hand contest.
Cat Weasel, lvl 6 warlock (fey pact) – Cat is considering playtest rules but his real need is proficiency in Persuasion since he is always elected Face for the team.
Assisted (drunkenly) by Phoenix the lvl6 Coaster barbarian (totem of the sea eagle) and (randomly) by Helena the lvl3 wizard (evoker).
The Long Roaders are 75xp below level 7. I am using the DCC experience system and so far it is working well.
We do a swap-out at this point. Given that there won’t be a major Underdark arc, any character that has Deep Speech swaps it out and instead speaks Undercommon.
In the Spire, a new plan is agreed
In the cold light of dawn, cursing the previous night’s brandy, the Long Roaders get real about travel through the Thornwood. They will all go east to pick up Vir’s gear, then cross north to drop Helena off with Tauster, then take the river down to Kuiper and ask him to coordinate with Oleanne, then possibly on to Milborne to uplift Helena’s gear.
This makes travel routine [for example the trip east is the easiest possible, at Survival DC5] and in due course:
- Kestrel bids Vir a relatively fond farewell, agreeing to keep in touch, and breaks camp herself, explaining that rumors of giants may mean danger for her contacts in the villages south-east.
- A Long Rest later, they head north. Vir now carries the full-length, iron-bound haft for Ulruf’s polearm configuration.
- Between the Woldcote river and Thurmaster Seck examines more tracks, though it is unclear how recent they are.
- Thurmaster’s guards are casual, allowing them all in without sight of guild tags, even though there are now five in the party not three.
Helena joyfully reunites with old Tauster. It’s clear she has great respect for him, and he is fond of her. Perhaps swayed by this welcome turn of events Tauster agrees to Helena’s idea of him breaking the wards on the coffer. It won’t happen overnight.
XP: The +4 for Helena’s safe return now fall due. lvl7-71xp.
A wizard and her spellbook
“Are you happy to stay here? That doesn’t get you your spellbook,” Cat asks.
“To get your spellbook, you only need to carry on with us, downriver,” Seck adds. “It’s not going to take long.”
This is a welcome air and Helena is inclined to stay with the Long Roaders. Naturally she doesn’t reveal her whole mind on this. She checks that they are happy to extend their journey as far as Milborne. With the prospect of an assault on the bandits, and needing to set that up over a day or so, none of the Long Roaders voice any objection.
Cat mentions that even if Helena hadn’t been going to Milborne, they would still feel obliged to go there and reassure Andren. Helena seems totally blank on the name “Andren” as either a childhood sweetheart or friend, though the name itself seems somewhat familiar to her. She fails to link his description with anyone she knows.
With very little delay Cat negotiates with the factor Pomfrat’s boat crew and hires passage back downriver to Milborne (agreeing on a stopover at Kuiper’s farm) for 25 silver.
The Long Roaders drag Phoenix from the Hound and Tails (he has already spent all of his ready change) pile all their gear on the boat, and are on the river that same night.
Garyld is dead – murdered!
Milborne is in a state. Before long the Long Roaders (minus Phoenix who spending more silver in the Baron of Mutton) are with Fr Lafayer, in the village temple’s laying-out room, standing over the body of Garyld.
- Seifren the young priest went missing, seeming to take up Carman’s quest into the New Mire, off to the south
- Lafayer broke his journey west and asked Garyld to track Seifren
- Garyld’s body was discovered on farmland south of the village
- Seifren is still missing
Lafayer welcomes the Long Roaders help! He leans heavily into the “senior cleric in the region whose help you may be glad of in future” so they (groaning inwardly) agree.
Vir’s knowledge of wounds and weapons [and a nat 20 on Medicine] allow him to state with confidence:
- Garyld was stabbed by a common dagger
- To the heart, from the front
- Very accurately and only once
“You know, I bet it was that Andren,” Seck opines. “Rival wood-turners and all that. And he seemed obsessive – though having met Helena that’s understandable.”
XP: lvl7-69. Don’t forget Lafayer as a contact!
Lafayer’s power: the dead speak!
Seck and Cat compile three key questions while Vir (with a stumbling-drunk Phoenix) double-checks that the body was slain where it was found, and Lafayer completes a ceremony around the body. Helena is an expert guild clerk and she is brought in to record details.
Once all is complete, a strange light glimmers about the corpse as Garyld’s spirit temporarily re-houses itself.
- “If you know who stabbed you, what was their name?” – Andren
- “Did you find Seifren?” – No
- “Did you find his tracks?” – Yes
- “Based on where the tracks were leading where do you think they were headed to?” – South
- “How many people were traveling on that track?” – Seifren alone
Plans are juggled
Vir’s report from the south is not encouraging, but he has brought with him a worried farmer from the hamlet, Harlaton, who has come north to beg Carman to “do summat” about “weird lookin’ critters” spotted around the New Mire. After speaking with Vir, he’s hoping they will give him a boost convincing the reeve.
Seck eagerly describes dragon cultists and asks him meaningfully, if that tallies with the sightings. The farmer latches onto Seck’s description and from then on the weird critters sound a great deal like dangerous dragon-cultists or half-dragons.
The Long Roaders are now committed to helping Lafayer and Vir (somewhat reluctantly) agrees to send an animal messenger back to Kuiper to coordinate the new timeframe. Harlaton is close by, so pushing down there by nightfall and heading into the New Mire the next day will work.
Helena is still blank on who this murderous Andren could be, and decides to ask around Milborne. For himself, Lafayer can only speculate vaguely why this young man would have been fleeing south, or came to confront Garyld.
But it’s time to see if local reeve Darius Carman will pay for any of this…
Carman pays guild rates
Helena stays with them as consultant as the Long Roaders visit Carman the reeve to discuss what’s to be done. [They roll on CHA plus a d8 for rep.] Carman is enormously respectful: but he has his own objectives to wangle them into. In the negotiations, Helena’s expertise is of great help. Carman is willing to pay up to 250 gold coins to ransom Seifren, and agrees to pay them 150 gold coins for the mission into the New Mire: find out what is going on, put a stop to it. If there are creatures such as the farmer has described, bounties will also be paid.
Their first stop is Harlaton, from where spells can be changed out after communicating with Kuiper. They will need to trek into the marsh with light equipment. Potions are dished out – Phoenix gets the 1d2 healing dose bottle.
Using a group roll Phoenix is persuaded (very very sulkily) to leave his half-plate in Milborne. Everyone will gear up once the marsh mission is done.
At this point the GM apologizes that given how the season has stalled over the Ruined Keep, he’s going to zip the adventure forward by short-cutting the New Mire job, which is essentially a level one quest.GM
Goblins of the New Mire
A day into the New Mire, with two levels of exhaustion apiece, the Long Roaders Plus One reach the lair of the goblin chief. It has been a hellish slog. Goblin snipers are barely visible – they can’t be targeted if they miss.
Negotiations are in two stages:
Vir Seck and Phoenix get to make an Intimidation check. Two of three make DC12.
Cat gets to make a Persuasion check with advantage thanks to that.
And this is what transpires:
- The goblin chief explains the source of the New Mire: a sacred vessel that dribbles pure drinking water. He found it in an underground complex. It seems to be the cause or root of this tribe breaking away from the Goblins of the Grail, now living in the Darkvald.
- Seifren, much the worse for wear, is ransomed out. The goblin chief sells him cheap, for 100 gold coins. Cat claims not to have much coin on him. Seifren will therefore be swapped for gold at the swamp’s verge nearest Harlaton on the morrow.
- After a round of celebratory grog drinking, the chief agrees to move north, to the lake known as Eelhold, for a blackmail payment of 250 gold coins and safe passage guarantee.
Helena advances to lvl4!
Back on the vengeance trail!
And so over the course of the next three days the Long Roaders Plus One take long rests sufficient to restore them, get Seifren back to Milborne in time for the next Tenday, and arrange for the goblins to be paid blackmail and travel safely north.
Carman presses the case for investigating the Garlstone Mine, which by coincidence is also the sketch map they looted off the strange shrouded humanoid. And where Old Grizzler blames Wicked Fairies for things going wrong. They step away from this, tactfully.
Vir uses his Animal Messenger to finalize details with the goblins and with the Long Roaders’ allies.
Then, with Kuiper alerted, they turn their attention back to the east fringe of the Thornwood. Where, by this time, Oleanne has pinpointed the hidden tunnel that leads west to the Underground Keep.
And with Phoenix’ player absent we end the session at that point.
Props: If you are running Haranshire you will probably notice I have taken some dramatic licence here. A mysterious Andren who is not Helena’s childhood sweetheart, and is able to kill a veteran ranger, is designed to link with a later arc. Shame we did not have time to get into Fiasco: Village Detective!
Milborne’s young priest Semheis becomes Seifren, partly as a play on the German for cipher, partly because I would have had to spell out the name Semheis. He becomes the McGuffin that forces the New Mire plot. The goblin dingus becomes a slightly more recognizable dingus, and they themselves are a pingback to both Pais’ old friends the Goblin Grail Gang, and Temple of the Nightbringers.
I had prepped ideas of how to shortcut travel, both in the Thornwood and in the New Mire. I pregenerated some difficulties for the Thornwood, both with and without Vir, Kestrel and Oleanne. In the end I did not need to worry about it because I more or less bullied the players back into sticking with their ranger. I did take care to note how very heavy the gear is the characters are lugging about. Shout-out to DM Assistance for helping my thought processes here.
I had a couple of options prepped for the New Mire, but my gut told me to ignore them and just dish out exhaustion based on them, no rolls, but with a prefatory apology. So we zipped quickly to the important bit, negotiating.
Final props to my random one black and one white d6 which between them are controlling about 90% of Helena’s decisions.