DGA9.07: Stronghold of the Wood Giant Shaman, finale

The Long Roaders for this session

In order of initiative

Cat, with Dis his familiar;
Vir
Phoenix
Seck

Saying farewell to their Haranshire ally Kuiper

The Long Roaders begin 115 below level 10 and end on 25

Part One: What Happened in the Compound

Whilst the freed prisoners hold his spine straight as they can, Gwen administers her last healing potion: Kuiper can feel his legs again!

“You back with us?”

“Yep just about…”

From above, where he has climbed to “be lookout” the Maw yells:

“Watch out! Something’s pulling on the rope!” He cuts the rope with his handaxe, and looks down outside:

“Hey ugly… yeah you! Ain’t so tough now are yer?”

Kuiper has no idea who the man above is, nor the emaciated wrecks around him, but yells:

“Get back! Those things have weird curse-eyes!”

The Maw rolls a nat20 to resist…

“Haw! That’s s’posedta hurt or summat?”

They all hear a giantish hoot from the south-west, and from the lodge roof, Vir hollers:

“Hoi! Anyone? I’m going in!”

“Well if he’s in… I’m in!” Kuiper regains his feet and looks around for weapons. It takes him a couple of rounds to politely retrieve his shortsword from the Maw, who tosses it down begrudgingly.

“I’m gonna need some help! That giant’s reach is about tower height!”

“Look! I’ll be up there in a minute and back you up,” Gwen snarls. “We’ll just chop each time it grabs.”

Kuiper wastes no more time, merely glancing around the compound to check that he’s not about to be ambushed, arranging bow and quiver, and setting out as fast as possible. As he races past the fallen giant and squatches and veers around the stench of the privies, he sees Tastra signaling urgently from the south corner of the lodge!

“They’ve opened the gate!”

Vir descends by way of the kennel, then down to rally with the other pair. He’s nearly out of arrows and is glad to see that Kuiper has his near-full quiver.

“I discouraged that giant with the whip, but she’s getting the gate open. Any moment now we’ll be under attack. But Seck and Phoenix went inside not long ago, and I think that’s where the big bad is.”

They look at one another.

“Jahia told Gwen and I to live at all costs. It’s an order. I’ll stay with the prisoners east, and be ready to cover you if… when you return.”

Vir and Kuiper ease inside the noisome great hall as Barkala organizes her minion giantesses. Kuiper concentrates and feels the draw of a planar portal!

“Yes, you are right Vir, time to head north to that glow.”

They make their way through the fug of giant stench mixed with smoke, and from the fire-pit, view the battle area. A sweet persuasive voice calls to them:

“Over here! I can tell you where your friends have gone!”

Vir rolls a 4 and Kuiper a 7 as they speak to the Roweena fiend in the circle.

“So… we just tie our last piece of rope to the chain, then yank on it as we head down the ladderway, and you’ll leave?”

“Absolutely, I’m sure that you agree that’s a fair price for explaining where your friends are.”

Vir rolls a 12 but Kuiper a nat 1 on WIS

“Hmm ya know Kuiper, this doesn’t seem like such a good idea now we are about to be helpless with a large creature in the next room…”

“Pah! Faint heart never won fair hand…”

As Kuiper yanks the rope lustily Vir yells:

“WHAT ABOUT THAT CREATURE MAKES YOU WANT TO HOLD ITS HAND???!!!!”

But it’s too late, and the pair quickly race through the frozen tunnels, to where a frozen dwarf marks the entrance to the red-stained cavern. Almost immediately they find Phoenix!

He is resting, and looks up from where he has been studying a belt. They recognize the thick, heavy, metal-trimmed band as the same that Jahia wore.

“Better rest up old timers, we’re going to need to bust through some undead giants.”

“Less of the ‘old-timers’ stuff” Vir snorts, pacing about to get his bearings. Kuiper thumps gently down and makes himself as comfortable as possible.

As they rest (and mock Kuiper for his poor dating choices then give each other a hard time for their own) they construct a plan.

XP: nil, this was all handwaved

Part Two: Shadowfell

At the great table below the black, dripping portal.

Seck focuses on the well-tanned skin on the table, running his eyes over the designs. The main idea is simple enough: a group of beings clasp hands and move through the portal. For his part Cat listens and looks. Against the wall of this giant nook, a makeshift bed of furs. Around the walls, leprous red splotches and the normal drop and trickle of moist cavern. Far back beyond, for whatever reason, the skinless horrors have stayed at the far end whence Phoenix’s light fled. There’s a good chance that they believe all three intruders fled that way…

Until there isn’t!

“They’re coming!” Cat mutters as he senses snuffling and footfalls. The skinless horrors have spread out and are searching ever closer!

“I’ve worked it out – we grab hands…”

Both adventurers get to feel what dying feels like as the portal sucks them in!

When they blink back to life they are floating with no sense of up or down. And the other adventurers, Vir Phoenix and Kuiper, are doing the same!

I use a d10 and d00: d10 points to orientation, 1-5 is lower hemisphere and 6-10 is upper hemisphere. The d00 is how many feet from the red sphere the PC floats.

They all study what appears to be a dull red sphere of substantial size, and beside that, the vaguely piranha-like things, crepusculating themselves about and beginning to pay attention to the new arrivals; and a noticeable pulsating red glow coming from a large vial. A massive lamprey-like thing, with three eye-stalks, appears to be supinely guarding this vial. Its tail, like those of the piranha-like things, glows softly. And now they have a few breaths to study the latter, those do appear to be glowing a little brighter and making their way towards their guests!

Kuiper, who has the lore of the planes, can pick out an island, outlined against the general background radiance, floating impossibly. It doesn’t make him want to go there: that’s probably Thultanthar.

Cat can feel Dis in full telepathic communication, but that means he can’t see those red skeins at present.

“Let’s group up,” Seck calls down to Cat, whom he can see, about 50′ closer to the orb than he but in roughly the same arc of space. A piranha-like “fish” lazily makes its way to attack!

Kuiper is only about 20′ down from Phoenix, and right next to Vir. But he can’t see Seck and Cat at all.

Phoenix attempts to breast-stroke. Luckily, no-one can currently see him. He gives up. Next, he fishes out his sling and a silver bullet.

Cat attempts Puff of Wind. It fails to propel him.

Vir can just peer past the great red orb, and spots Seck. He readies his bow. Looses – but the arrow wobbles about as though underwater. Kuiper has no better luck.

Seck attempts thinking his way around. Failing that, he draws Maelsauga, takes Cunning Action Aim: and hurls it at his attacker. Crit! The thing evaporates. Seck gently spins on his own axis as Maelsauga returns.

Vir works out that the fish are propelling themselves by means of their tail fins, and the fin is glowing. He says as much to Kuiper.

Kuiper manages to contort enough to grab a torch and light it. He begins moving away from the torch’s flare; Vir grabs him. They decide to link with Phoenix.

Cat uses Repelling Blast to deter an approaching fish and rockets backward away from his target! He attempts to slow his escape from the area with showers of sparks, but it has so little effect he tries Repelling Blast at nothing. It works! Are they in the gut of a fabulous universe size beast?

Vir is helping Kuiper navigate. During the Phoenix-ward maneuver they pass perilously close to the giant slug lamprey. Its maw gapes and Kuiper feels weaker. By this time Phoenix is using his Light ring to pulse his way to them. They unite in a tangle.

Seck deals with another fish and readies his hooded lantern.

Cat returns (slowing with sparks). He ends about 80′ from each ally, though the trio tangle is much closer to the red orb than Seck.

There’s an approaching scream, from the quadrant where lies, far above, the island:

“wwwaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaahhhhh”

“That’s not Shaz is it?”

The figure is about the same size as the halfling, but Dis immediately supplies the identity: it’s either the same Redcap or a twin of the one that guided them through the rock in Haranshire.

“my Lady threw me doWN THIS BOTTOMLess pit to say…”

“…use light to MOVE YOURSELF TO the…”

“…orB It’s…”

Having essayed and failed with a flung torch they pay the event no further mind.

More piranha creatures approach and despite arrows not being of any use, Seck is within Aim range and deals with each.

Cat (with the aid of Dis) assesses the situation. What’s going on?

A WIS check with advantage for Cat to “see” what’s going on.

“The pulsating vial is the source of the problem. The red orb must be the exit,” Cat announces, urging Dis to come out and look around. She declines.

The gang, slowly uniting, begin throwing out possible methods of breaking a mystical vial. There’s a small digression as Cat brags about his magical arrow* and leaving a magical halberd lying about. They discuss moving out using the Rod of Vines. Too indirect. And who knows how long each downtime would be?

*He didn’t, but Vir mentions it, so this explains how Vir knows.

The giant lamprey of sucking life force is eventually dealt with. Eventually.

A bored DM ups the ante

Round 1: Vedarkalesh, the demon that exists through time space and across planes, manifests (partially) around the vial. It is vaguely humanoid, with pincers, spines, and massive fists.

“I suppose, since I was freed by your predecessors I should introduce myself.”

“Yes, please, monologue,” Cat baits.

In response Vedarkalesh crits Phoenix and he is down!

The giant lamprey has come with Vedarkalesh as he has the vial clutched in one fist. It attacks Cat, who feints it out with a fine (nat20) Performance check, drawing it close to his allies.

Seck crits an eye-stalk off the creature as it buys Cat’s feint!

Round 2: Cat uses Shocking Grasp to zap Vedarkalesh, and – as the flash of lightning energy impels him back out of reach – gets an insight into the eternal existence of Vedarkalesh, its manifestation in the womb of the fiend-saint Roweena, its imprisonment in the mortal plane. And what happened subsequent to its escape thanks to the green hag Yazol and the adventurers that meddled at Lightwatch Tower!

Yes, other than not making it clear that the Dragon Cults are a major foe compared with tiefling cults, everything was in the very first adventure – hobgoblins, a fiend-saint and a trapped demvil, and hags behind everything!

Yes, ’twas Vedarkalesh that conspired to bring the infecting slugs into being, using hags’ cauldrons. (Although to be fair ’twas only a side-essence that infected the cavern of St Osthenes thanks to a previous contract with that fallen saint.)

And then the master-touch – corrupting the peaceful wood giants by using their shaman!

In this plane attacking the vial will be useless – it must be brought into the mortal plane, which will force the demon itself to manifest and be finished for this cycle.

“Pound this thing! Pound it with everything! We have one chance!”

Seck Cunning Action aims, and plugs the lamprey. Bits of it fray away into the dark.

“Aaah – not the thing I meant!” – Cat

Kuiper maneuvers gingerly and cuts at the lamprey with both weapons, poorly. It slides away.

Round 3: Cat uses Spare the Dying on Phoenix: Dis (nat20) discovers some bravery, emerges, and begins speed-casting an Evanescent Spirit!

Vir closes on the demvil, which, as he himself slugs it with both weapons, slams him then crits him. As a reaction Vir uses his Brooch to spite-damage Vedarkalesh! The pincer-arm that chomps through the brooch explodes as radiant damage erupts through it! Vir is still in the fight, drifting away from the blast. Vir calls Vow of Enmity as his Bonus Action.

As his Legendary Action Vedarkalesh sends two fiery spines jetting across the dark into Seck, who uses his rogue abilities to reduce damage.

Phoenix fails to revive. Seck yanks the burning spine out with a grunt of pain, and focuses on the lamprey. He Cunning Action aims and hurls Maelsauga again, further fraying the lamprey. Only two disembodied eyeballs remain in action!

Seck makes a CON SV against lamprey eye, Vir also shakes off an eye attack

Kuiper maneuvers to no effect. On the other hand no piranha attack him.

Round 4: Dis finishes her spell!

This is a straight up Wild Magic roll, luckily it’s favorable and butterflies of light and flower petals will be under Dis’ management, moving around the battlefield offering support!

Cat bounces off some petal-lights and drifts unconvincingly towards Vedarkalesh.

Vir, relying on his high defenses, evades the two attacks Vedarkalesh has left, calls Hunters Mark, slugs the demon again. The Hunters Mark manifests as the spirit of a strong beast Vir has hunted: Vedarkalesh is staggered and fails to notice Cat’s approach.

Phoenix fails (narrowly) to revive. Seck – as he hurls and destroys the second-last lamprey eye – makes a WIS SV with advantage but Vedarkalesh’s Legendary Action succeeds: Seck is charmed and decides to start killing off these worms that dare challenge master! Kuiper drifts to combat range, activates his Planar power into his sword, and strikes deftly. Vedarkalesh’s leg shatters in two places!

“He’s weakened! Let’s get out of here!” – Kuiper

Round 5: Dis spots the danger from Seck! Cat closes on the giant hand with a nat20 Athletics, Shocking Grasps the mighty demon fist that clasps the vial. And yoinks it free!

“To the sphere!” – Cat, getting a head-start with a fine DEX SV to push off in the right direction.

Vir briefly wishes Sentinel was useful in this situation and slugs Vedarkalesh again. The giant pincer breaks away with one blow and the other arm with a second!

“On the material plane you will feel my revenge!”

Seck Cunning Action aims, hurls Maelsauga at Vir, who falls unconscious! Then as Vir’s Brooch gives Seck radiant damage he realizes what he has done and (making the DC18 required) snaps out of the Charm. He propels himself towards Vir (badly, moving slightly the wrong way) and grabs out a potion.

Kuiper intervenes to maneuver towards Vir, manages to grab Ulruf, has to ignore the magical shortsword, kicks Vir’s longbow towards the sphere, and is ready to evacuate.

Round 6: Cat Mage Hands the vial into his pack, and comes under attack from a Piranha and the last eye. He is slightly hurt and takes a level of exhaustion, and is ready to finish moving to the sphere.

Vir makes his first Death roll. Phoenix fails to revive. Seck rounds Mocair and Phoenix up and rearranges his lantern to head towards the portal sphere. Kuiper has Vir with him now, and he too moves to the sphere.

They drop through, an experience as of being birthed!

Part Three: Battle of The Wood Giant Shaman’s Cavern

Falling onto a packed-dirt floor by a great table on which lies a tanned leather sheet bearing series of diagrams, the conscious trio orient themselves. Seck finds that he has two charges in his boots. Cat has had a few seconds to study the skin, and as he makes DC19 on Arcana the vial attempts to take him over. He avoids slug soul transference but begins speaking Shadowfell Gibberish.

As Kuiper and Seck wonder at Cat – and Cat receives a medicinal wallop upside the head from Red Whisper – the vial falls to the floor with a clang. Vir receives Spare the Dying, Phoenix has a potion poured on him.

“FEE FI FO FUMMM” comes from a distant-sounding part of the caverns and Vedarkalesh, forced to manifest, brings with him the skinless huge horror, the skinless squatch, and the revived corpses of the half-nothic and the other squatch – and the demon dog, yet again, this time fully manifested!

Reeking red skeins escape the vial and draw slugs from the further cavern!

Round 0: Vedarkalesh kicks off with Mirror Image, and a number of matching huge demons appear!

Inits: Cat, Vir, Phoenix, Seck/Kuiper, Demon Dog, Vedarkalesh

Round 1: Cat slams the demon dog with twin Repelling Blasts, hurling it back! Cat then hastens back to some cover behind the table. Vir fails to revive. Phoenix Disengages, and readies a potion. Seck focuses two of huge and large foes with Intimidate, and loops out under their wild swings, into the poor light of the cavern. Slugs creep towards him. He fishes out a potion. Kuiper throws his last slot on Protection from Evil (fiends) on Cat: “you’re our best option here – you need to stay up!” he gasps, then readies his weapons.

The demon dog resets Vir’s health to zero and gives him one autofail as he chows down on the helpless ranger! Vedarkalesh and its minions swing and miss.

Round 2: Cat hurls Eldritch Blasts into the demon dog, seriously hurting it. He readies his potion of Heroism and brandishes his Rod. “I’ve put my eggs in the wrong basket,” Kuiper mutters. Vir fails his second death roll. Phoenix is swigging a random potion: he power-vomits as it proves toxic! Moving as far as he can away from the three huge creatures paying him attention, he falls, but has a vague feeling that it may not be real.

“Hey Mocair, is this real?”

“Cast out your totem and I will help you!”

“Sorry what??? Ahhh… OK then…”

There’s a surge of Radiant energy…

Phoenix leaps to his feet with 54hp, yelling “brave men go forth expecting not to return!” and Mocair glows: tiger eyes glow on its blade.

Seck readies to hurl his potion at Vir then realizes he is about to be caught by giant foes. He sprints (tiredly) at Vir, dive-rolls past the demon dog, and plants the potion down Vir’s gullet.

Seck tries disadvantage Medicine and the demon dog tries to swallow the potion. Seck wins! Vir gains 5hp!

Seck attempts to look like tempting demon dog food but it decides to keep chewing Vir. Kuiper two-weapons, threads his way through the battle, and charges the undead nearest Seck. It doesn’t even notice the light nick. Demon dog chomps Vir again and he is unconscious.

The DM apologizes, very insincerely, for laughing at this point

Kuiper is picked up from behind and as pincer and fist smash him, loses consciousness.

Round 3: Cat has lost his Protection, and has not really seen what happened to Kuiper out in the cavern. He hammers at demon dog with Eldritch Blasts, missing, and as he advances notices two foot-long slugs creeping to Vir.

Vir misses his first Death roll.

Phoenix has picked up the fact that Kuiper was attacked by true Vedarkalesh, and has found a rage. He charges the true demon (the nearest undead misses) and Mocair chops deep twice. As the Radiant damage sears him, Vedarkalesh spews blood, and rage coats him with acidic ooze, giving him resistance to slashing weapons. But, as the cuts sink in, Seck activates his boots, ports onto the demon, and sinks Red Whisper home! Vedarkalesh screams as its knee gives out!

Reappearing where he began, Seck hurls Maelsauga, sinking it into the demon’s throat and making it spew more black demonic spume. Seck taunts Vedarkalesh! Thanks to Mocair Phoenix resists a soul attack! “Your soul belongs with me brother, let us strike again!” Kuiper fails his first Death roll. Demon dog loses its grip on Vir. Vedarkalesh buys Seck’s taunt, crits him, and its fists pummels him away, unconscious.

The two undead squatches close in on Phoenix, one manages to break through his defenses and bruises him.

Round 4: The remnant of the half-nothic rears out of the dark by Cat and he hurls himself aside, bends down to activate the boots of leaping quite high or fairly long, and leaps atop Vedarkalesh! As he athletically slides down, he grasps a spine, and rams his rod up its nethers! Shocking Grasp! Vir resists a slug infestation. Phoenix runs in, slams Mocair deep despite resistance, and the radiant damage takes a bite out of its flank. Vedarkalesh is quite wobbly now. Kuiper and Seck miss their death rolls.

Undead and demon dog attack again, Phoenix takes another slam and demon dog latches onto his arm. Phoenix resists poison. Vedarkalesh slices Cat but fails to connect solidly.

Round 5: Cat slides down safely and Disengages, getting to Vir and ready for Spare the Dying. Vir makes a Death roll. Phoenix cleaves through demon dog and races on into Vedarkalesh, and hits him again as he falls. He breaks apart, cursing them all from beyond, and Cat avoids the falling giant pieces. Phoenix does not and is somewhat squashed. He begins extracting himself from under…

All slugs, undead and other foes fall permanently dead or vanish.

Round 6: Vir is given Spare the Dying. “Throw my ashes into the lake in Haranshire” Kuiper croaks as he dies. Seck makes a nat20 Death Roll as players vote that he should stay alive!

Victory!

XP: Long Roaders are lvl10-25

Loot:

Vir has LOST his shortsword+1. Phoenix has LOST his mace+2 (Disruption for Paladins).

Jahia’s belt is a Girdle of Hill Giant Strength, Phoenix is attuned to it. His STR is 21.

Kuiper has no close relatives and his Ring of Free Action (requires Attunement), dagger+2, and longsword+1 are available. His armor is ruined.

Chain of St Osthenes: Unique item, requires attunement.

The magical chain used to bind Roweena’s fiend form is constructed from the reconstituted plate armor of Osthenes the Holy—an ancient lawful scholar of renown. The chain is 10 feet long and appears exquisitely crafted with large links of silver. Spellcaster, non-warlock PCs who meditate (Attune) while holding the chain for 1d6+1 hours receive divine insight from the lawful Saint Osthenes:

1. Once per week it provides the caster advantage so that an opponent is at disadvantage resisting clerical abjurations (also applies to paladins).

2. Provides the spell Divination, requiring 14 minutes, once per 14 days. After meditating 14 minutes, St Osthenes gives a Divination reading.

3. Acts as Mantlet of Spell Resistance: Advantage on saving throws against spells while you wear this chain. It weighs 4lb including the weighted heads.

4. Exotic weapon: Attached to the ends of the chain are weights enabling it to be used as a magical +1 weapon inflicting 2+1d4 Radiant damage (q.v. kusari fundo) although becoming proficient with such an exotic weapon may require a new quest created by the DM to locate an expert with such a weapon.

Halberd “He Who Extinguishes the Flame”: unique item, requires attunement and great weapon proficiency

In regular size humanoid hands the axe of the Frost giant He Who Extinguishes the Flame is a halberd+1, +2 against fire-types (fire giants, salamanders, fire elementals, etc.). Additionally, twice per week, the wielder can invoke the spirit of the axe to cast Ice Knife as per the 4th-level version of the spell. On a hit, the target takes 1d10 piercing damage. Hit or miss, the shard then explodes. The target and each creature within 5 feet of it must succeed on a DC12 Dexterity saving throw or take 5d6 cold damage.

St Solonor’s Shaft of Tactical Redeployment: Unique item

Longbow shaft, a 500′ gold thread is wound about it.

Range: 500.’

Usage: 1/month, recharge with a ceremony to St Solonor.

The wielder and Proficiency Bonus+1 of allies (including familiars, constructs and pack creatures) vanish from an area 20′ in diameter about the wielder and reappear within 10′ of the first arrow-strike point. If the strike-point is sentient, or near-vertical, then they appear on the nearest non-living, reasonably-level surface within a 20′ radius of that point.

Other loot: minor gems etc looted from giant heads, enough to cover expenses getting people back to where they want to go.

Downtime

Vir, Seck and Phoenix all have debilitating curses that do not go away just because Vedarkalesh did. They all need Greater Restoration. Phoenix wishes to plight his troth to Aleena Ironsky in the New Town, Mooregate, so that is where the trio heads, with Kuiper’s ashes.

Downtime activities

Phoenix has a social progress sequence to roll against Aleena, beginning with a d8. Result: He gets a couple of successes but hits d4 and out. Aleena has a paladin career to consider, and Phoenix is friend-zoned.

Jovial Lord Vorn Jackalham has been tithing for the remaining payments owed, but we will need a d% to determine whether that covers the Greater Restoration costs. Phoenix rolls 25.

The trio can purchase more potions with a 20% discount there, too. This uses their personal wealth pools, Seck begins with a 1d6 pool.

Seck will also roll d% to determine the scale of disaster at the warehouse. Result: 50 even.

Vir can roll a d% for random family/GF progress, getting 76+ allows a social progress sequence, getting 0-25 will mean a setback.

Gwen and Tastra head to Dalton’s peak under the sure and trusty guidance of Mawmin “The Maw” Grampus, escorting Ramdor the emaciated dwarf, Fichte the shepherd, and Lady Beula of Dalton’s Peak. From there, they head back along Jahia’s liberation path, celebrating her life. Seck stays with them for a time as he makes marginal social progress with Gwen. He also advocates but does not pay for a shrine to Jahia. Then he explains he has to cut away east, oh hundreds of miles. Frosty silence as he bottoms out at d4.

Elderberry wanders lonely as a cloud downriver to Baetulo.

Cat appears at Gold Hill, where he finds the next season waiting for him. Stay tuned!

Props

Other than using Vedarkalesh multiple times rather than once, and turning the wood giants and squatches into huge bags of hit points, some of which are fomorians, this is pretty much the titular DCC adventure as written. I kept a balance between the demvil as written in Lightwatch, and Veedarkaleesh as written in the DCC adventure. They both had spell abilities, but given the situation I did not over-use those. I like the adventure, though some details on the compound scale, and a side-view scale of its walls, would really help. The lodge map kind of skips over where the youngsters bed down, so I skipped them entirely in favor of “hill giants warred on us, we won, but we are the survivors.” It fits slightly better (than the as-written justification) with the shaman being desperate enough to call in a demon. Either solution requires some type of reveal to be meaningful. I chose the “Hyborian” reveal where the PC that touches the vial gets exposition.

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