DGA8.17: Lord of the Dance

The Long Roaders for this session

Seck, level 8 rogue;
Phoenix, level 8 barbarian (in Totem pact);
Cat, level 8 warlock with Dis his familiar

Assisted on a random basis by Negus, level 2 ranger, and Dingleberry, level 2 rogue;
and assisted completely by accident by the mysterious beauty

The Long Roaders begin 55xp from level 9 and end on 50

Quick recap

Good witch Beatrix reveals enough about Hagsjaw for our heroes to be on their guard – Karnley hags, ancient curse, two hag skulls of three gathered, and a faction belonging to the hostile side of the feywild! Jahia is nowhere to be seen, but her party’s mounts are in the stable… evidence points to the Tatterley domus… a mysterious dark figure slips away from the seedy tavern… after a fierce fight they bring him down.

Yarami is the name of the dead ranger

Seeing the waterlogged corpse now, Cat places him. Last seen in heavy rain amidst guard/bandits on the south side of Ravenreach. Jer the ranger allowed Yarami to be deadly.

The only casualty of the fight was Negus, and he’s mobile since having healing potion splashed on him. The others gather to where Cat is standing over Yarami’s body. Looking around for law enforcement Cat’s sense of a dereliction is underlined.

As Cat searches Yarami’s corpse (nat 20 on Investigate) and removes a nice hefty pouch and another of those shield-shaped passes, Seck waves the boatman over. Cat fishes a gold coin out of the purse, pays the man for his trouble, and the boatman looks dubiously at Phoenix. After a pause he turns and heads north in the direction of the Brawling Berserker… then returns a few minutes later as his slow thought processes fix on the weight of that purse.

“For another gold coin I can make sure the body’s no trouble for yer,” he offers, and that is done.

“There’s an air of malevolent apathy over this town, you could have saved yourself the trouble,” Seck comments cynically. Cat shrugs, it’s not like a couple of gold coins mean anything.

Negus’ testimony

Negus’ account of how he joined the fight is very simple. He saw Yarami slipping away from Seck and Phoenix and let drive!

What of Jahia? Here the news is less simple. He thinks she’s still in the big house, but they got separated. After scouting around the village, he found himself locked out of the house – no-one answered the door. So for all he knows, there could be no-one in the house.

During the lightning storm, Jahia got blinded and deafened and shocked… Filigree planned to heal her up over the next while. That’s why she was carried into the big house. Negus offered to go out to scout around, hence the separation.

Danger is sensed, but from where?

“I set store in Beatrix,” Cat says, “and I think she was saying the big house – the Tatterleys – is where the skulls are gathered.”

“I’m still on the fence about her…” Seck muses, then gazes around for the beauty he last saw at the stables… nope, she must still be back there. With Dingleberry… <shudder> …Seck puts that out of his mind.

Meanwhile Cat encourages Dis to pop out from under his clothes and take part in scanning the town, and the trio pace back away from the dock and into the square.

“Do you smell Shadowfell?” Dis squeaks to Cat and squirms back down to safety.

“I have an uneasy feeling,” Phoenix mutters.

Gazing hard – the light is dim now – Cat sees the great old three-legged gibbet looming dark there.

Perception minus a d4, Cat scores 18

The gibbet seems to take on a less-rigid outline. Is someone lurking at the base?

“There’s fey music on the air” Dis tells Cat (from hiding).

It arises! The Shadowfell faction attacks!

Closing on the gibbet Cat notices a pale fell light floating above the gibbet. “What does that signify, Dis?” he asks. She clambers back out. “It’s an evanescent spirit my lord.” “Can you speak with it?” “Yes but that would mean leaving your side.”

“Greetings, evanescent spirit,” Cat assays in fey. But he hears back in mongrel Teulon:

“Need life… give life… lay down… lay down…”

Cat walks quickly back to the reassuring bulk of Phoenix.

Area effect charm from fey pipes! DC13 CHA SV all round, but Phoenix gains a d4 for being in pact and Cat has advantage for his own pact. Phoenix burns a Luck, Cat is fine, Seck is charmed.

And as half a dozen or so villagers appear out of the dim, clutching simple household weapons, the great boss battle begins!

The battle for Hagsjaw

We’re only 15 minutes in and the entire session from here is combat!

DM

Inits: Seck/Phoenix, Negus, Cat, Blackrot and everything controlled by it, villagers not directly controlled, Bramble Jeem

Round 1: Seck makes the crucial decision not to kill villagers, lets the other pair know his thinking, and rushes the nearest. His hilt-slam with Red Whisper KOs the villager. Even faster than Seck, Phoenix darts past the gibbet – uses his reaction to Shield himself as something like spines or stickles strike at him from the lichen-crusted timbers – and uses Mocair’s flat to knock down three more villagers. Negus is ready and willing but closes up on Cat: “I got yer back!” Cat knocks one distant villager flying with Repelling Blast, then again on another, though this one stirs, still conscious.

The earth around the gibbet stirs as weird jig-like music plays. Something drags itself up from under, something huge! and the unconscious villagers, helpless, rise and begin jigging toward the vaguely-humanoid, three-limbed thing. The light above the thing glows clearer in the growing dark. More villagers, coming mainly from where the lumber mill and Brawling Berserker lie, appear through the gloom. One reaches Seck. As a reaction he uses his Skirmisher ability and moves 20′ back.

A captivating spell falls on Negus and Cat, but they resist its pull. Cat hears a tiny, almost childlike voice:

“You’re in the killing zone.”

While at the same time Seck hears the Suggestion:

“Call them over.”

Round 2: “They’re trying to isolate you Phoenix, get back here,” Seck calls, hurling Maelsauga at Blackrot and pulling into cover by what seems a disused building. Bonus action hide. Scanning about (makes DC14) he sees no-one is coming out of the Craven Crow, nor the Tatterly front door.

Seck is allowed to make a CHA SV at the end of each turn, since he has reason to believe his “new friend” is in league with his attackers. However, he fails this time around.

Phoenix rages, attacks the great three-limbed thing Blackrot twice – carving chunks off its wood-like frame – and withdraws. Negus is in defense and looses at a jigging villager, missing in the gloom. Cat scans about as well, and sees that:

  • there’s a faint light atop the nearest watchtower;
  • the evanescent spirit is now two spirits!

Cat drops back, calling to the others to get clear of the square, while Blasting Blackrot. There’s a creak and crack, but it cannot be knocked back. In fact, the villagers are drawn into a whirling jig-dance about it, and, as it advances, they engulf Phoenix and Negus!

WIS SV! Phoenix burns a LK and still fails

The others hear Phoenix scream as he takes necrotic damage!

CHA SV from everyone except Seck.

Negus falls and Cat winces with pain, as Psychic damage sears their minds.

Disadvantage Perception check from Phoenix, he makes DC15

Above Phoenix the glowing light detaches and floats over to Negus’ fallen body. It sheds quite a strong light against the growing gloom.

Round 3: Seck hurls Maelsauga at the spirit; Phoenix – taking Psychic damage as he moves away from the dance – runs to the body, misses an Acrobatics check to sweep up the lad’s bow, and tag-and-drags the body away to his allies, who are now towards the square’s southern entrance. Seck’s hurl misses – the creature is surprisingly hard to land a telling blow on.

Negus’ retrospective CON SV against the spirit is fine. Seck (making DC18) finally works out that his new friend ain’t all that and with an oath, alerts the others loudly. He also feels a slight rhythmic shaking that suggests Cat uging them to get clear off to the roadway wasn’t a great move.

Negus makes his first death roll

Battle playbook

Cat scans around, (Perception minus d6, Dis cannot assist) and sees that the looming animated gibbet is being joined by more and more jigging villages. “Negus needs some healing… I can probably potion him” Phoenix calls, but Cat drops back to the lad, casts Spare the Dying, and looks over to the watchtower. Atop it the gorgeous elf is glowing slightly in the dark, and watches on with the body language of someone who is finding it all quite entertaining. He gets closer to cover next to a building Seck is by.

Blackrot grinds on. Two trees uproot themselves from nearby and begin closing on the adventurers. Virtually all villagers are now dancing about Blackrot in a weird jig. A spirit, glowing, floats near Cat to expose his skulking. And now all three can feel the ground shaking as something approaches from the south.

Phoenix survives an INT check.

Round 4: Bits of dust drift down off the disused building that Seck and Cat are sheltering by. Phoenix opens Negus’ mouth and pours a potion down (successful Medicine check, Negus is on 5hp) then still supporting the lad runs towards the stables. Seck finishes updating Cat on the charm and moves around the building away from Blackrot, into the spirit-light by Cat. Negus hauls out his hatchet.

“So we supposed to be bringing down the giant tree or what?” Phoenix hollers.

Cat can’t peer past the light of the spirit above him to scan the woods south. He sends Blasts at both lights, missing both times.

The walking trees come slowly on, one looming over Seck, slamming at him – “git gud shrub” Seck quips as it misses – then it learns and swings a massive branch. He takes Uncanny Dodge to reduce damage. Jigging villagers fill the space between buildings as Blackrot grinds on. The pair of lightbearing spirits keep tracking Cat and Phoenix, but Cat finally spots two red chips of light away south.

Jeem’s last big move, everyone attempts DC13 INT SV, Cat fails but Phoenix encourages him with Inspiration and he realizes the flames eating him are illusory; Seck fails and realizes he is trapped with a bottomless pit all round him.

The great boar of the woods enters at init 4. Sigh.

Round 5: Staring across the bottomless pit towards Cat Seck realizes something huge and living is charging right at his comrade. “Cat get the hell outta there there’s something charging you! Get to Phoenix!” He swigs a Greater Healing.

“Negus grab a potion and head to Cat,” Phoenix advises. Negus gets caught on the component bag’s catch. Phoenix yanks the lad’s arm free and runs at the nearest spirit, leaping and scything Mocair through it: it goes out. He runs at the nearest servitor tree – the one mashing at Seck – and chops Mocair into it. A small chip flies off. Seck activates the last charges on his boots and uses flitting step to stab it at the same time. A deep stab!

Negus only has a hatchet so decides not to attack the tree. He skedaddles to support Phoenix.

Cat realizes that the “pinpricks of red light” are enormous eyes, and that the distance has halved in the intervening time. He shifts towards the eyes – gingerly – and judging the distance to a nicety, tucks the Staff under his arm, holds up his rod and casts Banish! The eyes disappear! Cat runs away near Negus and Phoenix, hoping to tempt the spirit this way.

Blackrot grinds on. The villagers jigging draw near to the group between stables and disused building. But then the servitor tree slams Seck again – painfully – and he realizes he is not in a bottomless pit after all. The glowing spirit floats up – Phoenix misses an Acrobatics check to leap high – and tracks away. Jeem drops to Cantrips, a mocking rhyme assails Cat, who winces at the Psychic damage.

75 minutes combat so far, the average round time is picking up!

Round 6: Seck uses Mobile to attack the servitor tree, stabs it, uses the leverage of the building he has his back to, scores DC25 Acrobatics, swings up over the eaves of the stables and ends lying flat, reaching for his component pouch. He’s bathed in light from the spirit. Phoenix is still intent on the latter spirit and leaps, ending its light. The faint glow of the lady atop the watchtower makes her obvious to both he and Seck.

“Any chance of pitching in, lady?” Phoenix bellows. [Rolls a 2 on CHA check] There’s a tinkle of amused laughter.

Since Phoenix breaks up his attacks with a discourse, and the action of leaping up is completely different to charging at a dance across the ground, I do not allow a blow-through effect. He has one attack left.

DM

Phoenix next wheels and races at the jigging whirl, knocking a villager clear with the flat of Mocair. As a Reaction the servitor tree stomps on it. “Come away Negus!” Phoenix calls and pulls back. Negus again fails to lift a potion from Cat and skedaddles after his hero.

Cat scans about hoping the Mockery will give him a hint. Dis smells Shadowfell toward the big house, and Cat shifts around the near side of the stables and on the way catches sight of a horned being, pipes in hand and bow slung, in partial cover there. Behind the stables the young ostler lad is hiding there, looking keen to help. Cat cheerfully orders him to keep hiding!

Blackrot grinds on. With no light to mark an adventurer the servitors move randomly towards life. One stomps over at Cat and the lad. Jeem blinks atop the damaged servitor, which is tracking just south of the disused building, so as to get line of sight on Seck, who makes a WIS SV and shrugs off Jeem’s mockery.

Round 7: Seck yells the direction, rises, runs along the stables roof, leaps onto the nearest servitor, swings off a branch, runs along the next roof, and leaps at Jeem. Acrobatics DC20 made followed by DC25! He knows where Jeem must be, and flicks Maelsauga that way, with disadvantage. It hits!

Meanwhile Phoenix swats three more villagers away from the dance. Only about a dozen remain. He turns and gets clear of Blackrot, only to confront the other servitor. Negus takes a cut at a villager – missing – and runs to the stables corner. The horses are beginning to spook.

Dingleberry enters on the same init as Negus, but is currently taking it easy

Cat runs around the stables – spotting nothing about the horses – and failing to see Jeem contents himself with decent cover. “I can see what She sees in you now,” the lady calls sweetly.

Blackrot grinds on. The jigging villagers approach Negus. The servitors stomp along but too slowly to catch anyone. One, the undamaged one, moves nearer the watchtower. Jeem blinks away atop it. Blue-violet blasts – three of them – smash at Cat and the blasts and added Psychic damage hurt him severely. He misses the Concentration and the Great Boar finishes its charge along the line it was previously running, ending in the square. It swivels and with a huge bellow of insensate rage, wheels on Seck’s tree!

Round 8: Phoenix runs at Jeem’s tree, leaps at the stable wall and Jackie Chans off it, launches across and strikes up at Jeem. Who is strangely unmoved. Two more cuts before he has to grab for a handhold, with the same result, suggest that it was an illusion! Seck could also see the Blasts so leaps off his tree, back onto the disused building, along it, Cunning Actions to launch down with a fantastic tuck and roll, then across around the stables. Negus Disengages from the villagers, runs around the stables’ south side and gets in cover. Cat peers up at the treetop, sees nothing, heads into the stables, finds a stall, and grabs out a potion. Directly opposite he sees Dingleberry with a happy smile on their face. “We are fighting for our lives out here!!!” he yells with a DC25 Persuasion. He chugs his Greater Healing and feels a lot better.

Blackrot grinds on after Negus, around the south side of the stables. The servitors return to the attack. Phoenix shrugs off Vicious Mockery as eerie pipe music plays about him. It doesn’t give him a lead on where Jeem is. The boar wheels, seeking more prey.

Round 9: Seck is now facing the undamaged servitor tree! Aside from a faint glow from atop the watchtower near him, there’s no light. He ducks into the stables, looks about – DC25 Perception – sees Jeem right there! It looks like the satyr is torn between killing Elderberry and attacking Cat!

“He’s in here!”

Seck lunges at Jeem with Red Whisper but his alarm and yelling at the top of his voice makes him stab a length of stable wall, not the satyr. Phoenix leaps off the tree into the dark, lands on his back painfully, bounces to his feet, and runs to intercept the whirling jig of villagers. One blow is wild, the other tumbles a villager away. Five down, 11 to go. He adds a Totem dash to get away round the stable and into the stalls menacing Jeem. Negus has heard someone yelling “keep running Negus” and does so! Dingleberry fishes out a torch, and lights it. Light is now adequate in the stables block. Cat shifts elegantly (DC13) around the mounts and Shocking Grasps Jeem – he loses his Reaction! – then steps back a little to block potential escape routes.

The environment (equivalent to a Lair) Jeem has up begins to fade

Blackrot surges against the Watchtower. As a Reaction there is a sweet singing from atop the tower, and Blackrot and the two servitors stop. In the stables, Jeem spreads his hands: grins at Phoenix with an engaging grin:

“We obviously got off on the wrong foot: Look! Elephant!”

CHR Check failed, unhelped by a last Luck point.

Phoenix’ head snaps around as he tries to see where the elephant is! Jeem disengages and runs behind the servitor tree near the stables, then takes the Bonus Action: Hide behind it. But because of Dingleberry’s torch they all have a fair idea of where he is.

Round 10: Seck and Phoenix both spot the hidden satyr. Phoenix moves clear, charges, while Seck moves to get line of sight and Readies for throwing Maelsauga when Phoenix gets to melee.

Whack! Stabbo! Mocair rises and falls one last time! Jeem is dead! Phoenix looks around once more for the elephant but still can’t see it. Oh well, it must have gone now.

“Yess!!! Take that Jeem!” Cat gloats, moving in the direction of the tree and body.

The music ceases. The elephant-size boar snuffs the air… villagers shuffle away, stunned.

Round 11: Seck and Phoenix move around scanning for more enemies. Hmmm, boars are unpredictable. Seck heads for the stables again and clambers. Negus attacks the unmoving tree: the hatchet bounces off and out of his hand.

Cat loots the pan pipes and a shortsword and bow and arrows. Well made, an elven look to them. “We’ll have to run an Identify over these, Dis!”

“They won’t be stupendous, otherwise he would have used them,” Seck warns.

One servitor activates, but Blackrot’s spirit is gone and the gibbet falls into component beams. The boar charges Cat! Its tusk gores deep and he Misty Escapes to the watchtower top, beside the lady.

Round 12: Seck drinks another Greater Healing while Phoenix cuts at the boar. It seems to be shaken, as though its original power has halved. Phoenix taunts “nyaah!” and flees past the active servitor. Negus applies poison. A lit torch arcs over at the (inactive) tree and falls to the ground. Cat throws two Repelling Blasts on the boar and again it seems shaken. The boar charges after Phoenix, smashes into the active servitor tree: limbs fall, but Phoenix dodges clear. In response the tree slams the boar and kills it: then falls inactive.

Combat ends!

(Not counting the shortened round 12 it averages out to 15 minutes per round)

“You truly are blessed,” the lady tells Cat, conversationally.

XP: lvl9-50

Loot: pan pipes (only useful to Jeem, but possibly valuable to a collector) and Grace of the Swan, a linked pair of weapons.

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