DGA8.22: Across Rime River

The Long Roaders for this session

Phoenix, level 8 barbarian, afoot;
Cat, level 8 warlock, riding Morgan-horse;
Seck, level 8 rogue, riding Rott

Assisted randomly by Jer, level 5 beastmaster ranger, and lady Ioanna, werewolf

The Long Roaders begin 9xp below level 9 and end on 2

We’re on the clock!

The victory over Bad Fruul is enough: the Long Roaders decide not to round up stray loot and lose at least a day out of Cat’s tight schedule. A solid night’s sleep sets Jer to rights: then, in the pre-dawn 10 days before full-moon, he leads the way north through the hills.

Cat rides chief Korva’s shaggy-coated mountain breed. The chief keeps Gray Lady in exchange. Morgan-horse is a princely gift, confident on the trail and at home in snow. Seck of course rides Rott, and Phoenix walks, while the mules Ne’erdowell and

Ioanna rides the palfrey. Her equipment is warm furs, a hunting bow, a practical hand-axe, and an equally practical hunting knife. She’s warm towards Phoenix, deals with Seck as a friendly equal, and is edgy around Cat.

With Jer, Phoenix and Seck scouting, the journey across the hills is warily uneventful: wolves track the party at all times. The pace is necessarily slow, adding about an hour to the traverse. While it’s not obvious, the winding trail takes them to higher elevations. Frigid drifts of rain with occasional sleet pellets sting exposed skin. All three are glad of the good rain-shedding furs they bought from trader Flint.

Choices

The crossing-point is a wide shallow stretch of the Rime River, known as the Pool. In the midst of the pool, a low-lying islet. This is where old Windler raised his mansion. A howling nor-wester wind whips across their path, flattening the grass around them and swaying the overgrown shrubs across the ford. The entire island must once have been landscaped with ornamentals and the like. A decaying dock squats in the reeds opposite.

It’s a grue feeling that suggests to Jer he should use his Awareness to get a read on the area. He chuckles and reports plenty of fey about, and a vague undead presence. Dis investigates and explains: on the near shore behind them neutral bogles like tommy-knockers are present, and she finds barely-sentient river-bogles around the ford. Cat checks the baggage for a trinket to leave the tommy-knockers, and finds they are down to their last piton hammer.

Jer knows the area well enough to describe the Camp, a semi-permanent place about a mile downriver. In theory, the place is for miners and prospectors to winter over. But that’s where the Pack will have at least a presence.

With everyone happy for him to at least check, Jer goes into spirit-scout mode again and after about a quarter hour reports two decent-size boats, maybe several kayaks under shelter. Cat wonders aloud if they should sort out the Pack in the camp. Ioanna moves her horse so her back is to him: perhaps she has not heard, or is making it clear she is out of the discussion. They decide to shrug and push on.

A merry blaze is built

Gaah! It’s really cold! Phoenix’ nads jump up into his chest but he forges across, stamping his feet on the islet’s sandy shore to restore feeling. Jer has trouble with Brownie and has to slip down to manage its bridle. He’s not bothered by the cold but his leggings get sopping and clumsy. The others cross without difficulty.

Jer looks about and suggests a campfire.

“Yup, something to warm my balls a bit,” Phoenix agrees. Without going too far into the gardens Jer gathers firewood and Dis orders the river-bogles about and bits of driftwood start being pushed up onto the bank. It looks as though this spot is used for a campfire by folk fording: rocks are placed in a good circle and old ash sits within. The campfire soon burns bright and hands are warmed.

A brush with exotics

Leaving Jer and Ioanna to mind the mules and horses the three Long Roaders push into the overgrown tangle, following a game-trail that shows the slot of a pig here and there.

Cat is already aware that some of the foliage is exotic. Just how exotic? Well, some of it comes to life and tries to eat Phoenix! The shambling mound of vegetation is a big bag of hp, and it stays in the fight long enough for a yellow musk creeper to put forth its cloying scent. Phoenixx is engulfed and Seck is restrained by the creeper. Cat is forced to pull out the big guns, dropping two Blight effects on the mound!

XP: lvl9-7

A one-star review of the weird old mansion

Staff: attempting to be helpful, but they may as well have been ghosts

Facilities: running hot water, but unable to turn off, also, don’t like sharing bath with snakes

Entertainment: if you call a crystal-shooting-chandelier and wire-puzzle of pain entertaining, then sure

General: as though nothing has been dusted this past 20 years

Overall: simpler to just pass on by

XP: lvl 9-6

Loot: some maps drawn in a difficult fashion, a silver rat-trap, one pair of clockwork boots of jumping

Beatrix: the paladin approaches

For the islet to north bank stretch, Cat uses Control Water and Jer for one certainly appreciates not having to coax Brownie across. Ioanna seems impressed.

As Beatrix told them back south of Hagsjaw, there’s a fork in the trail. The team discuss what may lie west towards the pass, and Ioanna has more to say than at other times, about the barrow. She says (privately, to Phoenix) that there’s a weapon there that may help against the giants, or the pack.

It’s an hour’s travel along the right hand trail through the Gloam Woods to Beatrix’ cottage. The two non-party members gaze with nervous energy at the “obvious witch’s cottage” in a clearing. Dis tells Cat that the cooshee is on watch.

Beatrix greets them kindly and invites them in for a cup of tea. She’s been nosing about as is her wont, and updates them a little on the pack and goes further: she scries up a view of Jahia, advancing north, somewhere around the Oakvale area.

Beatrix at first suggests Cat rely on his patron. Seck mentions that Himmelganger intends to send a mannikin. At which – this being news to Beatrix – she suggests they rely on that noble patron.

With more definite information about the mountain pass to what Beatrix terms the Old Highlands, they finish paying respects and move on.

Young friends again

With the clock well and truly ticking, the plan is to forge over the north hills Beatrix described, overnight at the goblin village, then return south and make west along downriver to either intercept Jahia or confront the pack. If need be.

High country travel check! These are not well-travelled passes with way-stations, they are deep in the Gloam Wood and Mountains. Phoenix manages the animals OK.

As Beatrix allowed, it is four hours of tough travel, laboring for breath in the high country passes, before they descend to the point that lights can be seen in the trees ahead, and what sounds a little like a barker telling his wares.

And, that’s what it is! Off left of the simple beaten-earth village market a long wood-topped stall has been set up, bar-style. A goblin trader has a wide array of wares displayed. Ahead and left, and high overhead, the twinkling lights of peaceful forest goblin homes.

Cat announces them, referring to Beatrix. This is a good note to strike: the goblin grosser relaxes and tucks something back in its place under the counter.

Cat buys candles and a piton hammer – a couple of silvers are a good exchange for cordial relations – and as Phoenix inspects eight ill-assorted and dubious potion bottles, two small figures come charging across the market! The lead one bears a holy symbol.

“Ah – hello Filigree” Seck calls.

“And, ah, the other one,” Cat adds.

The two goblins dance about in excitement until they recall that they are responsible adult scouts, and settle down. Of course, Negus has a bit to say, and Filigree very little to say. But they both want an update on Jahia, and Elderberry.

Phoenix hands over a small sack of gold for the potions – a total bargain unless they are as dodgy as they look – and they all turn in for a

Long Rest: Phoenix takes Totem Pact, Jer sticks with his travel/scout range of spells, Cat with his offensive barrage.

Loot: 8 dodgy healing potions: d12: 1=Superior, 2=4d4, 3=Greater, 4=3d4, 5-7=Regular, 8-10=2d4, 11=toxic (DC=2d12 CON SV), 12=Orla has managed to get a hag potion past Beatrix.

We have no choice – war with the pack!

The weather is worse than the previous day. It’s a tough slog with both weather and altitude against them.

Group travel check! Luckily Jer and Ioanna make fine animal handling checks, and with Phoenix, that’s a majority. Five hours rather than four to make the journey to Beatrix’ cottage.

After politely calling in on Beatrix with a much-needed Short Rest for the mounts and general tiredness, they push on to the fork just north of the Rime, and head west. The weather remains unfavorable: squalls of cold rain again, with sleet.

Beatrix has guessed/scried that the mannikin will be waiting at the barrow.

Not far along, peering into the foul weather through his furs, Seck recognizes ambush terrain. A high bluff, with rough ledges providing ideal firing platforms, and cover down left towards the river.

With their agreement, Jer swings Brownie off the trail and dismounts. The others gather round – save that Phoenix stays guard – and with the comfort of a horse-flank windbreak, Jer sends out his spirit scout again.

This time it’s about 20 minutes before he comes to. He has unwelcome news. Ambush! Big tattooed chief with spear up on a bluff just north above a meadow trail, with a massive wolf in calling distance. 12 to 15 wolves and men in hiding around the cover south, well spread out.

Cat comes up with what he hopes is a very cunning plan, and runs it out for the others to work around. He’ll port ahead, drop Maelstrom on the wolves, then head back as fast as his legs will carry him.

Interlude: Politics

Cat: You know we’re running into so many hags it’s a wonder they don’t just use the democratic process and run by a plurality.

DM: Yep and if I included all the hagspawn of the original that would actually be practical.

Phoenix: Make Hags Great Again.

Seck: Hag Life!

Blood on the rocks

Inits: Phoenix, Seck, Vortimir, wolfpack, Ioanna, dire wolf lord, Jer, Cat

Round zero: gauging his distance to a nicety Cat Dimension Doors into range and drops Maelstrom on what Jer’s landmark, a tall rock, suggests will pay dividends.

Five creatures are caught, one gets clear. A swirling pool catches the others, two are dragged off their feet. Cat turns and runs back!

Perception checks for everyone except Cat and Ioanna: Seck and Jer get good checks.

Round 1: Phoenix, now raged, keeps moving forward with Totem speed and takes the Dodge action: he is beneath the bluff, in a zone where the Dire Wolf could potentially land. Seck decides to move up again. He angles towards cover closer to Cat, and slips his hood up. Tattooed Vortimir howls a dire howling warcry, answered by the Pack! He makes a terrible Concentration check and that’s all he does. The two wolves caught firmly in the Maelstrom are in trouble, but the others fan out further and begin a double-horn advance. One is on Cat’s scent, and snaps at his heels! Ioanna moves forward purposefully, towards the bluff: her eyes glow yellow and her form seems more lupine. But she’s temporarily stymied by a sheer face. The Dire Wolf leaps down agilely: lands atop Phoenix, whose Shield effect and half-plate prevent damage. The beast rolls past the Coaster a little. Jer races towards a spur that will give him height for longbow work, and scrambles up. Without pause he looses at the wolf nearest Cat, and one arrow slams deep! Cat keeps running with a quick goose-step to stay out of jaw-snap! – he is unaware of Seck, of course, but Seck yells for him to draw them over, and gives away his own position to the wolves.

Round 2: Phoenix loads up and hammers at the dire wolf, but its savagely thick fur deflects Mocair’s first swipe, and the wolf ducks the second. Seck confidently eases into the thicket he’s reached, and hurls Maelsauga at Cat’s tormentor. With the arrow wound, that’s enough to finish the wolf: with a dreadful howl it falls, thrashing and biting at the wound. Seck summons Maelsauga back and eases back somewhat.

Up high above a storm-cloud circles and lightning thrashes down on Seck and Cat! Vortimir leaps down, apparently without damage, brandishing his spear: the wolves howl in admiration. Cat’s Maelstrom is still in force and one remains trapped. All the other wolves are now racing forward left and right: and thanks to scent and yelling at Cat, the right-hand column is in the copse hunting Seck! Only a couple of branches save him from a bite!

Ioanna bounds up the rocky outcrop below the bluff, and keeps climbing, her body becoming more animalistic. The dire wolf returns to the attack and as he burns a second Shield, its fangs score his half-plate. Jer switches aim – terrible! Jer summons his spirit-beast again as a Bonus Action. Cat is on his own exposed on the meadow trail and turns, summoning Plant Growth! The pursuing wolves – and Seck – all have their movement dropped by 3/4.

Round 3: Mocair hammers into the dire wolf twice, its second swing splitting the narrow skull. The beast bites the ground in agony as it dies! Phoenix raises Mocair on high, pointing at the leader with it! Seck draws Red Whisper and rams it into the pursuing wolf’s jaws. And turns tail, uses his Skirmisher boots to get out of bite range, and keeps struggling out of the Plant Growth field. Vortimir’s lightning field blazes around Phoenix: he avoids the worst of it. Then the tattooed chief aims his mighty spear and leaps straight down! Phoenix uses a Luck point to change a crit to a merely good solid hit, and burns a Shield for the last time. The spear still strikes home! Lightning courses up and down the tattoos. Wolves keep hunting forward, the left flank column getting increasingly close to the meadow trail. Ioanna works her way up the bluff. Jer misses with two arrows, and his beast spirit fails to contribute. Cat Repels a wolf and hurls it back 10′ into the growth.

Round 4: Phoenix faces off against Vortimir, who shortens his grip on his massive, long-bladed spear. Mocair scythes into the tattoos, which fling off the blade sending massive discharges of electricity into the barbarian! Realizing he may be best tackling wolves, Phoenix detaches and dashes away to block the left-flank wolves. “The big guy has lightning protection – bespell him!!” he yells.

Seck works clear of the growth and runs around its edge towards Cat as fast as he can. Vortimir’s lightning strikes Ioanna and Jer, and both disappear from view for a moment. Wolves in the plant growth work rightward. Three wolves on the left flank fling Phoenix to the ground, and follow up with bites. Ioanna appears again, but she’s now a full wolf. It races across the rocks and leaps atop the leader. He crumples to the ground: lightning arcs through her and she crumples. Jer reappears and looses two arrows: crit! The leader has lost his lightning protection. Cat hurls Repelling Blast to try to free up Phoenix, but they are poorly aimed. He gains ground towards Jer using the dire wolf body for some cover.

Round 5: Phoenix uses his mass and rage to pull free! Mocair scythes a wolf in half with a crit, then another wolf with a crit follow-up! The battle begins to look winnable! Leaning heavily on a DM hint Phoenix heads back towards the Ioanna-Vortimir pile. Seck can see a wolf getting close to him, and Phoenix, reeling slightly, appearing through the rain. He doubles towards the Ioanna-Vortimir pile and hurls Maelsauga. Vortimir bellows in agony! He rises, flinging off Ioanna and hurling lightning down again. Phoenix falls! Seck manages to take the pain. The survivor from Phoenix’ onslaught shakes off lightning damage and leaps on Phoenix – but his armor saves him. Ioanna misses a death roll. Jer slams two good shots into Vortimir. Cat spots enough through the rain to get the gist of the fight. Things are not going well! He scrambles up the rough ground near Jer and hurls Repelling Blast at Vortimir, knocking him back: he stays agilely on his feet but looks very ragged: he glances up for an escape route, but howls to signal the pack on!

Round 6: Phoenix makes his death roll. Seck weighs up saving Phoenix versus getting bragging rights on killing Vortimir. He runs at the wolf, uses the boots to port behind it, and slices Red Whisper shallowly into it. Seck undoes his savior rep by using his Bonus Action to run clear. Vortimir leaps up the cliff, scaling the bluff rapidly and gaining some cover to those below. The dire wolf menacing Phoenix gives him two automatic death fails. Other wolves advance, one getting close to Cat, another leaping up at Jer, who kicks it away. Ioanna misses a second death roll. Jer hammers an arrow into the wolf menacing him. (Note that no-one has updated Jer on either Phoenix or Vortimir.) Cat manages one Repelling Blast on Vortimir – who falls out of sight – and runs nimbly down the rough ground, yelling and screaming at the dire wolf on Phoenix. Cat and Seck are now together.

Round 7: Phoenix makes his death roll. Seck draws out a potion, races to Phoenix, and empties the potion – down the dire wolf’s throat as it snaps at the new object! Maximum healing! It wags its tail in appreciation!

Seck is asked for a Perform check, dismal roll!

“I’m gonna kill your ass!” Seck yells. The dire wolf wags its tail again and playfully tries to pull him down and kill him. He avoids the worst of that!

A wolf reaches Jer and pulls him down. Another reaches Cat and bites him – Misty Escape! He ports up the bluff and catches sight of Vortimir again. Ioanna makes a death roll. Jer’s owl spirit blinds the wolf that’s about to kill him! Cat hurls Repelling Blast at Vortimir – he tumbles down, bouncing off the bluff face and falling far down in a crumpled heap. His spear likewise bounces clangs and spins down, ending point-first in the earth below.

The wolves howl dismally and turn tail, and the session ends.

XP: lvl9-2, generous. The scene was originally supposed to be a puzzle for them to use their items intelligently, but no such thing. That’s what happens when you leave it to one player to do all the thinking.

Loot:
Knife of Fenrir: These heavy knives, snarling-wolf design on pommel, are both weapon and tool, and are balanced for throwing. They are curved with a broad blade at the end which can be used for slashing, stabbing or even chopping wood. Wielding these knives symbolizes rank in the Pack. +1 to attack and damage.
Healer’s kit, 10 silver sling bullets, hardened leather component pouch, tinder box, one gem (~75 gold coin), Golden Torc of The Undying Queen (bestows the Inspiring Leader feat), Amber Ring of the Rose (cast Light 2x day), and 15 silver coin.

Special loot details

Beast Slayer
Unique weapon: requires attunement

Beast Slayer is long, heavy and not balanced to be thrown (use as a glaive). Its 7 foot long oaken shaft seems stained with blood that does not come off. Its rune-marked silver-iron spear head is long and broad, and can be used for slashing and stabbing. It was forged by drow smiths an age ago, and its wielder is proficient with drow dialect and smith’s tools while attuned.

Beast Slayer allows Proficiency-1 against most foes, full Proficiency against fey, Proficiency+1 versus Shape Shifters. (These do not stack – just take the best that applies.) Damage is 1d10 damage versus medium or smaller, 2d10 versus Large, 3d10 versus larger.

Beast Slayer detects any type of shape shifting (lycanthropes, dopplegangers, polymorphed beings, and druids) within 90 feet by the bluish eldritch fire erupting from the silvery runes on the spear tip.

Props: this session is a balance between Ragged Hollow Nightmare and Of Beasts and Men (op cit both) though I felt free to adapt the latter to suit the drama I’ve built up, and bulked up Vortimir to make him more pack-leader and less hostile druid. I dropped out one of his main weapons and added a reskinned Armor of Agathys, which made him a real challenge.

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