DGA7.14: Stoney Creek part four – A cornered adventurer will bite

The characters for this session

In order of initiative:
Cat, level 8 warlock and his familiar Dis;
Phoenix, level 8 barbarian;
Seck, level 8 rogue;
Vir, level 8 ranger

The Long Roaders are 180XP from level 9

Level 8 gains: Cat is taking the Skilled feat, and will have Proficiency in Athletics, Perception, and Persuasion. Phoenix is taking the Lucky feat. Seck is taking the Skulker feat. Vir is thinking about it, but can take the Dash action as one of his several bonus action options as of now.

What to do?

The Long Roaders have triumphed, in the sense that they have found a lad that matches Liam’s portrait, barring the leech-for-a-tongue and leech-gills which definitely weren’t a match! The foul lair (12) he is in, and from whence came the two-headed trolls, is no place to rest. But they are all weary and battered. And, they have yet to locate the other item they want – an arm-bracelet or suchlike.

All of the action for the entire session!

Will they retreat? Will they attack the Mud King in his lair knowing that the hag lives in a pool that lets onto the throne cavern? Or will they fort up here somewhere?

Seck, with Phoenix to back him up, explores past a heavy fabric hanging that conceals a nook or extension of the cauldron’s cavern (10). In the nook, a crude but sturdy ladder extends up perhaps nine or ten feet, to a furnished chamber (11) fashioned for a man-size creature. After a cursory inspection of home-built shelves lined with storage jars and boxes, and a writing desk with paper and ink, and a truckle-bed or cot, Seck heads back to report.

Meanwhile after speculating accurately about the nature of Liam’s curse, Cat asks Dis to Detect Magic. Having confirmed that Liam will need something more significant than a Lesser Restoration, Dis drags a number of items out from the wall of the cavern. They have been jammed into cracks in no particular order, some overgrown with the glowing cave-moss.

The triple-twin loot:

Brooch of Shielding: Wondrous Item, legendary, requires attunement. Distinct design of Milil the Harpist, the brooch is fashioned in the shape of a 5-string harp about 3″ tall. While wearing this brooch, you have Resistance to force damage, and you have immunity to damage from the Magic Missile spell. As a reaction you gain +5 to armor class 3/day. Recharges d3/night. If you are a bard or half-elf, your enemy takes (d8xTier) Radiant damage if its attack successfully penetrates the Shield.
There is a catch: On attunement, and if you are a bard, druid or half-elf, one of your goals is to promote the lost worship of Milil among druid convocations/bardic colleges/ranger conclaves.
Mace+2: Superior and blessed by the One True Faith. Effectively +2. No extra effect vs undead for non-cleric/paladin of the OTF. Typical Teulon design.
Ring of Protection+1 – silver, engraved with chain-link design.
Ring of Underwater Breathing – brass, engraved with wave design. Requires an action to switch over, otherwise always “on.”
Shortsword+1: Superior quality. Effectively +1. Typical Teulon design, nothing distinctive other than its quality.

The earlier items Cat picked up:

Brooch of Bones: Wondrous item, uncommon (requires attunement). This strange brooch consists of 5 tiny bones arranged in the shape of a pentagram. While wearing the brooch, you can use an action to speak its command word and gain special protection against undead creatures. For 1 minute, undead creatures have disadvantage on attack rolls against you, and they cannot charm, frighten, or possess you. Once used, this property of the brooch can’t be used again until the next dawn.
Fine dagger: Superior quality. Effectively +1. Generic design, reasonably modern.

Seck and Phoenix return and report, Cat does the same with the gear found, and it seems the time is now upon them to make a decision.

Gaauh!

A sweet singing enwraps both Phoenix and Seck in stasis while even Cat cannot shake its effects off. Vir slaps Cat to alertness! Cat does the same for Seck and Phoenix.

As they recover, a creature – in fact a gorgeous woman, regally dressed – flashes at speed across from the steps leading up to their position, rakes Seck with terrible claws, bowls him over, and dives into the far pool.

Vir can see well in the dim light and notices both her royal garb and that about her arm is fixed a silvery band.

Let’s fort up!

Despite knowing the hag knows their position, the vote goes with forting up, in order to get a Long Rest then brave the dangers of the Mud King’s lair. The tentative plan from there is to perhaps convince him to stay neutral: Pirdo the goblin tells them that he is sad because of the hag.

The smell of the cauldron – which reeks of the same taint as the potions the Sieur Robert gave them – and Pirdo’s body odor are both pretty foul, but they are hardened campaigners. They lug all equipment into the curtained-off nook and clamber up. Seck carefully rigs up his Alarm gear on the heavy hanging before joining the others.

Watches, Seck advises, should be doubled, one charm-resistant member and one not. Pirdo is not trusted and Liam is not capable, so they are tucked at the rear of the cavern. Phoenix stacks the cot and boxes around the entrance to make a flimsy barricade of sorts.

Cat and Seck take first watch. The fire beneath the cauldron is stoked, but the hanging is thick and allows no light through. Cat begins sorting through papers and the like as Seck keeps his ears open for trouble…

Short Rest: dice are rolled, everyone is pretty much back to full, and Cat regains spell slots

Floreat Titania: Upgrade Dis!

A pricking on the top of Cat’s scalp and the voice of his patron Titania in his head! And the warmth of impressive boobs snugging onto his ears. Titania feels the hag is mocking her, Dis is getting an upgrade. Oh, and if Cat does get that circlet, he’s to allow just one drop of blood.

Dis gains Alarm and Floating Disk rituals.

Dis and Cat share the following Proficiencies provided that Dis is in the physical plane and linked to Cat: Alchemist’s supplies, Arcana, Athletics, Insight, Natural Explorer (Swamp), Nature, Perception, Poisoner’s kit and advantage on Nature checks related to poison plants, Religion, Survival and advantage that Favored Enemy feature grants against Giants and Fey. Cat also gains the features, watchwords and signs that being a Faction Agent of Titania’s court grants her minions.

Unless some weird factor prevents it, Cat now starts with Advantage in proficiencies he shares with Dis.


She’s not waiting!

Perception for Seck and Cat: the best is Seck at a mere 13. I rule that the enemy are right outside the hanging by the time he realizes what those slight tremors in the stonework are.

DM

Inits: Cat, hag, Phoenix, ettin-trolls, Seck, Vir, scrags

Round 1: Repelling Blast from Cat as the lead two-head troll shoves the hanging aside. It reels back, near-toppling others behind it, and part-ripping the curtain. As the next troll reaches the curtain Cat pulls back by Liam and Pirdo, and Phoenix readies Mocair. He can see now, as the cauldron’s fire pitches a dim light into their shelter through the gap created by the torn hanging. He moves up to the barricade and takes the Dodge action. He has no charges left on his Brooch of Shielding so bears with the pain as the troll claws deep into his gut. The troll has no weapon, and nor did the one Cat sent tumbling back. Now a third troll crowds in, piggy-backs up off the troll attacking Phoenix, rakes the Coaster twice, then tumbles clumsily back and falls on the floor. Seck can pick out a two-headed monster by silhouette and hurls Maelsauga. The dart sinks deep into the troll before returning to its master. Seck yells to Vir to swap out with Phoenix. Vir rises, seizes Ulruf into a two-hand grip, and moves up to help Phoenix. He strikes the troll solidly, using Colossus Slayer, then again.

Round 2: Cat can get a line of sight thanks to his Spell Sniper and draws a Shadow Blade out of the Fey realm, hurling it with advantage to good effect. The troll, still clawing at Phoenix, is having trouble balancing now. Cat slides on the brass Ring of Swimming… Phoenix changes stance to all-out, and cleaves Mocair into the troll. It falls with a wet splat on top of the troll that has previously lost its grasp and fallen. That troll begins getting out from under, then is stomped on by the original troll Cat set back through the hanging: using its fellow-guardian as a springboard the troll leaps and is well up the ladder, clawing down at Vir! Vir feels its claws pierce deep! Seck can only see the one attacking Vir, and hurls Maelsauga again. With no light to speak of, it’s a chancy shot, but it lands. Maelsauga buries itself in one of the troll’s four eyes and its horrid scream is echoed by a number of trollish voices behind it. Vir thumps the wounded troll with the spike side of Ulruf.

Round 3: Dis warns Cat that the smell of Shadowfell is more noticeable! Cat hurls Shadow Blade at the wounded troll and both of its throats roar, incensed! Beyond the trolls, a chant sounds, but this is not an attack: instead two scrags tear through the hanging and trample over the two prone trolls then leap up! Vir’s Sentinel kicks in, that scrag falls back – though to his horror Vir sees the cut is rapidly closing – and the other scrag finishes its scramble over the barricade! Phoenix hammers each of troll and scrag: the former falls: then he retreats out of scrag-claw range. Seck lights a torch. With the added light Vir can assess the condition of the trolls on the floor below, and sees there are more scrags beyond the torn hanging. Distracted, he misses the scrag twice. In return the scrag only manages to hit him once.

Scrags impelled to the hag init now return to their natural place, ie the bonus Dash they used is not usable now


Round 4: Cat asks Dis to sense where the hag is, and hurls Shadow Blade at the scrag. A shallow cut, but it is enough: it staggers and falls off the ledge, taking part of the barricade with it.

I rule this is ineligible for a reaction at the time, but on consideration, I’m not so sure. Reading the StackExchange wisdom, yes I am right. Whew!

The hag stays back, content to send in endlessly-regenerating shock troops. Dis updates Cat: the hag is beyond the scrags. Cat passes this on…

A few seconds of tactical planning!

“I can take a hell of a chance,” Seck offers. “If I can clear the scrags and take her down, we can turn the tables.”

“I can back you up…” Cat offers reluctantly, since Dis can act as Seck’s ally if she’s visible; but Phoenix shrugs his mighty shoulders:

“Leave me the chance!”

Round 4 continued: Phoenix makes a flying leap off the ledge where the barricade has been knocked down, grabs the hanging with one hand – the curtain rips further and Phoenix takes a claw-rake as he does so – swings past the nook entrance, lands by the cauldron immediately to his left and with two scrags to his fore. He crashes Mocair into them – noticing in the better light that both have the same leech-like growths Liam does – and finishes his move by easing around them and ending by the edge of a height above water’s edge, and in the face of a gorgeous woman. She seems queenly, wearing a tiara, a silvery arm-circlet, and a cynical mockery of Titania’s customary outfit, displaying a generous amount of nip-slip. Phoenix modestly averts his gaze and calls Seck his position.

Back in the nook the least-wounded troll is once again stomped on as a revived troll rises, leaps off his comrades, and misses Vir. The first troll put down is stirring. Two scrags stomp on both.

Seck can see a little more and is able to judge distance and arcs. He gets up as much speed as he can, and using Cunning Action Dash, dive-rolls over all scrags and trolls in the nook then thief-rolls up facing the scrags outside: with a great CHR check feints and send them the wrong way, runs around and through Phoenix and rises in cuddle-range with the hag. Easily resisting the temptation of the boobs (tit-tation?) he slams Maelsauga into her throat and claps his other hand over her suddenly-noticeable fangs!

Vir judges the intervening ground then uses his last slot to Misty Step adjacent to the hag, opposite Phoenix, the cauldron at his right-rear and a 10′ drop at his left. He brings up Vow of Enmity and smashes Ulruf against her flank and thigh.

Scrags are confused, two outside turning on those attacking their mistress. Phoenix and Seck are merely clawed. Inside the nook beyond the hanging there’s a melee of scrags and trolls trying to obey their own instincts and the hag’s earlier commands.

Round 5: Cat moves to get line of sight and Misty Steps next to the cauldron, stabs the hag with Shadow Blade. The nearest scrag lashes out but misses him. The hag bunches enormous muscles, flings Seck down, stomps on him, and spikes him with a talon-spurred heel. Vir activates Sentinel and keeps her fixed in place with a thrust from Ulruf. Seck uses Uncanny Dodge on one of the blows but is still feeling very battered. Phoenix switches focus to the hag and hammers at her with Mocair. She seems a little shaken, but by no means cowed. Phoenix weaves away towards the original lair (12), ducking under a scrag claw.

Over in the nook the superior strength of the ettin-trolls wins out. One clambers up, kills Pirdo and seizes Liam. The put-upon, much-stomped ettin-troll scrambles out from under the pile-up with an angry bellow!

Seck rises to his feet, and rams Maelsauga into the hag’s face. She is badly shaken and distinctly weaker. Vir cuts her down with a single chop from Ulruf, steps to cover Cat, and misses the nearest scrag. Which in turn claws him back, also missing as it slips in hag-blood.

Seck feels a huge scrag-fang pierce as one stoops to bite him, but he avoids the grapple, staggering and on his last legs. In the nook, scrags turn and scramble out to the attack! Seck gets an Opportunity Attack, cutting one deeply with Red Whisper as it goes for Vir. Another galumphs clumsily across at Phoenix, missing its attack.

Round 6: Cat stabs Shadow Blade at the hag, giving her two failed Death Rolls. He circumspectly moves back behind the cauldron.

The Hag makes a nat 1 on her Death Roll and is permanently dead

Phoenix cuts light-heartedly at the scrag fronting him then walks around it to the hag, and chops her head off. It rolls off the ledge and splashes into the pool below. Arrowfish dart towards it. The decapitated body transforms into a hideous, powerfully-muscled hag. But a very dead one!

“This is the sixth hag on my count… is this the end of them?” Phoenix grumbles, but as Cat says drily:

“For all we know we are working our way through eighteen.”

The trolls, still under strict instruction to defend the cavern complex, continue the battle. Liam’s captor jumps down with him and emerges; and the other put-upon irate troll blunders out, roars in anger and looks about for something to wield…

I think to myself, hey, this could be very good for the characters, and roll a d20. I score a nat 20.

DM

It grabs the cauldron, upending it as it raises it overhead…

DEX SV all round! everyone gets 16+

Liquid splashes out, on all scrags and trolls present, and the Long Roaders see leech-like creatures fastening upon them. The luckless troll-kin throw themselves down, rolling around, bellowing in confusion and pain…

The third ettin-troll, just recovered, emerges from the nook. Liam picks himself towards the Long Roaders.

Phoenix plunders the hag of the circlet, a large opaque glass bottle, a superb necklace, and two rings.

Vir and Seck heave the cauldron’s last dregs onto the ettin-troll, which like its fellow becomes very distracted!

Victory!

Away to the silent flood

Vir and Seck scramble packs down while Cat – lamenting the lost chance to pack all the notes and containers into loot – reassures Liam and orients himself with the way out. They need to hurry, lest the arrowfish be finished with the hag head.

They plunge through the pool below, and into the cave they found a ledge within. Here they take stock (while Vir who has no ring to aid him takes a lot of deep breaths) and plunge in again, emerging in the translucent water of the outer-cavern pond. The arrowfish there and in the tunnel give them a hard time! Seck is feeling like he has but 1hp to give, and as for Liam, the lad shows signs of trollish resilience, for the savage gnawing would kill a normal lad!

Some time later the Long Roaders are loading packs to the makeshift-repaired Slippery Eel. Out on the flood, the glimmer of dawn shows an upraised and slender female arm.

Cat clarifies whom he is expecting, and Phoenix obligingly swims out with the circlet.

The siren looks at him with a sultry gaze through cowrie-shell-colored eyes and says, “I must first have a word with Cat the Majestic, Beloved of Titania.” Then paying him no further heed swims to the Slippery Eel and raises once more in a provocative pose and says to Cat:

“Lord Cat, you have done me a great favor so I, in return for a little little little of your blood, do you a great favor.”

“I think I can spare a single drop,” Cat responds, and so she kisses him and a sharp fang bites down and draws a drop of his blood.

After a few moments below the level of the flood, she rises once more bearing a staff or sceptre that glimmers pinkish-orange, and passes it up to Cat. Then with a wave of her hand and a blown kiss for Cat she is gone.

Cloverford and the Abbey’s safety

Using his ragged red cloak and their stock of spare clothes to cover Liam, the Long Roaders skulk into Cloverford, mooring at the same general trade docks they had previously. Piego looks first for breakfast and then for a drydock for repairs. He asks Phoenix to meet him later on, for an update on the return mission, or farewell celebration.

Though Cat has ideas for exactly that kind of return mission, with hunters and hired workmen at their beck, all agree the main objective is to smuggle Liam to the Abbey where they can find Wachstein Holst the Loremaster. By duly circumspect communication with the palace, they gain entry.

Liam will need a Remove Curse followed by Greater Restoration, and Holst is just the man. He has been expecting them, and once the Long Roaders give him the Watchword as Faction Agents for the Inquisitor Marshals (DGA7.08) he agrees to cast those free of charge.

Long Rest!

The session ends as the Long Roaders minus Vir lock in their Level Eight gains, and begin planning their move against the Sieur Robert. Cat may not have kept any of the papers from the cavern den, but he did recognize his old mentor’s hand with a pen. Time for some denouncement!

XP: the Long Roaders are 175XP from level 9

Loot assessment from Seck/Dis/Holst

Necklace: Not magical! Sunburst pattern, with eight yellow sapphires inset. Worth at least 1000 gold coin. How passé!

Altiia, Ring of Presumption: Very rare item. Requires attunement. A single beryl set in a white-gold band. On attunement the bearer learns of the selkie Altiia and her life. You gain the fae tongue permanently. As a bonus action you chant in the selkie dialect, and allies up to your Proficiency bonus within line of sight can choose to make a bonus action: Dash or similar move (such as Swim) on your initiative. This does not stack with your allies’ existing bonus actions, but replaces them.

Bottle of Containment: Wondrous item, uncommon. This 6-inch-tall square glass bottle (weight: 5lb) has a funnel-shaped neck and a rubber stopper. It can hold up to 20 units of any liquid, each unit being either a magic potion or up to 1 gallon of ordinary liquid. While in the bottle, each liquid is contained separately from the others. A liquid may be recalled from the bottle by speaking its name and tipping the bottle upside down. If the bottle is smashed, all the contained liquids are expelled.
Currently holds: Supreme Health, Elemental Control, and Haste, 1 dose each, and 12 doses of the cauldron’s leech-potion. The latter are recalled by speaking the word: “Simpolo.”

Duhma, Ring of Recall: Legendary item. Requires attunement by a spellcaster. Ten tiny jet beads set into ten interlinked engraved circles, in a red-gold band. On attunement the bearer learns of the Deva Duhma and her fall from grace to servitude to the Aboleth ########## [Unpronounceable]. You gain the Celestial, Underdark and Primordial tongues permanently. As an action, requiring both verbal and somatic components, you can shift back to your designated Teleportation Ritual Circle, without using a spell slot, once between Long Rests. A Long Rest is required to (re)designate a Circle and a further Short Rest to suppress that Circle. One Circle at a time is active, and no more than ten Circles can ever be stored, Currently only one Circle has been stored in Duhma, and while no Identify spell can reach through Circles, the presumption is that it is either part of an elaborate Teulon Empire hag network, or part of an elaborate Aboleth network.
There is a catch: If you are good/law aligned/ the kind of person who feels obliged for favors, you are obliged to free Duhma’s mortal remains and purge/purify her immortal soul back to the realm of Celestials. If you are a ranger, permanently add “Hags” and “Aboleths” to your Favored Enemy list.

Staff of the Seas: staff, rare (requires attunement by… a warlock…). This pale orange staff is made of petrified coral. While attuned, you can breathe underwater.
The staff has ten charges. Whole holding it, you can use an Action to expend some of its charges to cast one of the following spells from it, using your spell save DC: control water (4 charges); create or destroy water (1 charge); maelstrom (5 charges); wall of water (3 charges); or water sphere (4 charges).
The staff regains d6+4 expended charges daily at dawn. If you expend the last charge, roll d20: on a 1 the staff turns to water and is destroyed.

Note on Holst: As a Faction Ally he is unwilling to cast a spell that would alert the enemy network to his role, such as probing where that Teleportation Circle might be.

Look forward to season eight!

DM Notes

Mini-review of The Mud King of Stoney Creek

An adventure for S&W levels 5-7, by WR Beatty, and purchased through DriveThruRPG

Overall my only quibbles about this adventure were expressed in 7.11, regarding map clarity. I really enjoy adventures that allow characters some leeway. Not endless sprawl of course!

What I changed: My change was fairly significant compared with the original. I swapped Gorbo out and linked Roeburr and his influence in Cloverford in. By introducing Liam as the fetch-quest subject and linking him to Roeburr’s leech-mating, I made the adventure time-sensitive. Even the storm that delayed the Long Roaders (DGA7.10) advanced the curse by a day. By replacing the original BBEG with a bog-hag (ex 4E but suitably tweaked) I tied the Long Roaders’ “Marked Man” reputation in to the “hags-are-behind-everything” hook, and of great significance to options, made the Mud King not so much a brooding boss as a brooding potential sub-plot. If his origin story locks into the ruin, he becomes a much more intriguing challenge. In terms of minor stuff I did not feel I could live with cutting-wire traps in the tunnels (being outside of Dimgaard’s tech level) and felt the underwater tunnels were a big enough challenge, given the bloodfish. So I dropped all in-tunnel traps barring stinging growths, which I added for the last segments.

The adventure is one of the few I’ve run that has a challenge level at the Long Roaders’ own. I find that as the 5e levels go up the ability to withstand real challenges at their own level increases.

Writer WR Beatty has added in a plethora of rewards. Given the challenge level I was really happy with these though 5e has its own strictures and Dimgaard setting has more. I highly recommend, even if you are running a bog-standard 5e campaign. Just generate rewards for your own campaign setting and you’ll be fine.

Hat-tip to the zine, Saving Throw (proceeds to James D Kramer) and the writer Joseph Browning for his adventure in it, Trolls of the Simpolo Swamp. I decided not to use the whole thing, but swiped the leech-mating idea when replacing the original nemesis Gorbo with Roeburr/Cat’s arc.

Other Sources: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Marvelous Magic, by MT Black, for the Bottle of Containment, Brooch of Bones, and Staff of the Seas.

2 comments

  1. Author and publisher here. Thanks for the nice words!! Sounds like you had a good time with this. I like some of the changes made and I’m really glad this managed to challenge your players.

    • Thanks WR! I was a little sorry to reduce the number of trolls a party had to get through but my group had already had to flee from the night attack… Aside from that one problem figuring out the creek vs waterfall, I really liked your design. Thanks again!

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