SC4.04: The Dragon Barrow

The Silvers for this session:

In order of entry

Garth, level four fighter;
Richlen, level four paladin;
Vernon, level four wizard;
Dakeyras, level four rogue

The Silvers begin 40xp from level 5 and end on 25

A fresh new wizard

Winter festival over, Phandalin prepares for spring. For most of the inhabitants it’s business as usual. Miners and prospectors finish gearing up, check the condition of their mules or donkeys, and handshake deals for cooperation. There’s a greedy feeling of first in, richest find, and even before snow has left the hollows, the road north and trails south are busy.

The same turn of weather brings a newcomer from Neverwinter: Vernon von Logsington, fresh-faced, dewey-eyed, eager to catch all the spells in the world and keep them safe in his spellbook!

After he meets Linene Greywind (judicious town councilor and owner of Lionshield Coster) she introduces him to a sturdy mountain dwarf, Garth by name, with a view to replacing the previous wizard.

“As long as you don’t try to make me wear a uniform or cute clothes, we’ll be OK,” Garth growls.

Next up is a wood elf, conspicuous in black cloak and clothing but trying to stay in the background. This is Dakeyras. He proves easy-going despite his somber garb, and with a similar proviso to Garth.

Finally, emerging from a shrine with a local wise woman named Addie, is the third member of the Silvers. Richlen is a tall powerfully-built high elf, well dressed a groomed, with a lock of gray hair on one side, and like Garth, heavily armored.

Potions for ever! And Magic Items!

It’s a good time to meet. Rich is finalizing a larger deal on potions than the Silvers initially expected. As Dak has said, “I have plenty of money – we’ll take everything you have.”

The Silvers make a deal with Vernon to advance him the money on his share of potions. They purchase two healing potions per member, and a Potion of Heroism, which is given to Rich.

I really thought I would leech that potion away from the party right away but as we’ll see, Rich manages to avoid using it!

Note to players: My understanding is that Vern owes the others appx 175 gold coin and has some copper and silver remaining. I may be wrong, because Dak proposed the existing Silvers cover the entire cost. Clarification welcome.

We’re headed north… and this is Rudolph

Barthen the grosser, with the help of Bensen and the four youngsters from store and stables, is refitting the sleigh back to its wagon format. But that does not stand in our heroes’ way! Linc may have gone but Rudolph his summoning remains, transparently loyal!

Vern witnesses a sturdy ox, made entirely out of what seems to be ice. As he focuses he senses both Conjration (his own specialty) and Illusion at work.

“This is gear Linc handed back, you are welcome to use it,” Rich states, rummaging in a bag and producing:

“Set yer pack up on the frame,” Garth explains, “we’ll be headed afoot.”

“Our first leg takes us up the road back to Neverwinter,” Dak maps out, “then we hit the landmark I’ve been told of, turn due east, and that’ll take us to the dragon barrow.”

“Dragon barrow?”

“It’s something Linene – you met her, runs the Coster – put me on to. I need a sword that isn’t cursed, and does real damage to unspeakable horrors,” Rich elucidates.

“Of course, Linene did say ‘from whence no adventurer has returned'” Garth adds with a grin. “So piece of cake.”

Night on the coast road, and a storm’s delay

Setting forth in exactly the same washed-out dawn as in wintertime, the Silvers make quick progress to the cross-trail. With a wave or two from others heading east towards Mountain’s Toe or the like, they swing west to the coast road.

That’s a long march, in the teeth of a chill westerly, but weary and with muddy boots, they reach the crossroads and its gibbet, which still holds a few bones of a long-dead highwayman.

“There’s a place out there,” Rich tells Vern, pointing a handspan south of the horizoned sun, “Tower of Storms. We have a mind to go there… come better weather.”

“We need to think about camp, Rich,” Dak breaks in, “I don’t like the idea of being a sitting duck if the manticore or dragon flies over.”

Vern’s hair stands on end as once again the other Silvers speak so casually of deadly peril!

Rich agrees, the party makes its way as deep into the westward gullies as it can bring Rudolph, and camps under a cutaway, above what would be a raging flood if it rained heavily.

During the night, the watch catches the sound of feet and mule-hooves on the road, probably headed north. Rich and Dak bound over the sandstone ledges and down to see who’s about in dead of night. Judging from the tracks in the road’s loose mud, a small party. Just visible as a bump against the northward stars. The pair decide to leave well enough, and head back.

There’s no chance to examine tracks by daylight, for a wet storm hurries in before dawn. The ravines below their camp fill, and they shelter for a day.

XP: lvl5-39

Is Rudolph on a crash diet?

The following day is far better, a pleasant spring one, with only occasional scuds of showers, and plenty of sun between.

Garth runs a critical eye over Rudolph.

“Hey boy, have you been losing weight? I swear this harness is looser…”

Yes, the rainstorm has damaged Rudolph, beating a layer of ice off his flanks. And the warm weather sweats more ice away as they travel north.

“Well… I think he’s lost a little. But only a little,” Dak judges. “We’ll easily get to Thundertree with him, so let’s not worry.”

XP: lvl5-38

Xanth the fearful centaur again

The following dawn bids just as fine. The Silvers push about five more miles north then swing east, off the road and pushing along at a much slower pace. Stands of woodland grow in profusion, and there are hidden folds of ground. Outcrops offer many ambush points. Here and there, tantalizing glimpses of worked stone suggest buried ruins.

The irregular shape of the dragon barrow comes in sight towards evening. Dak signals the others and they stop for a briefing.

“I’ll use the Sending Stone, and let you know if all is safe.”

“Good plan!”

The others wait, readying packs and tools, then Dak’s voice sounds:

“Come ahead, I have met a friend who has some information for us.”

Dak stands just south of the barrow’s slope, and a mighty but ill-equipped centaur stands a dozen feet back from him. The creature bears only a crude spear of fire-hardened wood.

“Greetings, any friend of Dak’s is a friend of mine,” the centaur says in a deep-chested yet nervous tone. “You may call me Xanthos, or Xanth.”

“You didn’t meet Xanth, I rescued him from the shrine’s gatehouse before you got there,” Dak elucidates.

Xanth tells them that the spirits of the dead haunt the barrow and dance like lights atop it, each night.

He also tells Dak that the goblins of the black feathered arrows seem to have leagued with the half-orc cultists. He could lead them deep into the forest, to the half-orcs, should they choose to help him against the goblins.

XP: lvl5-36

A way in!

As far as the Silvers can tell, the barrow is laid out in a sprawl rather in the shape of a dragon with its head south and its wings outspread east-west. The series of stony spikes atop it, running north-south, give the appearance of dragon spines.

They decide to explore up the spines. It’s not a steep climb. They discover that the spines are in fact boney, not stony! Was this once all one vast dragon?! In any case each spine bears years of graffito or scrimshaw. Most are common messages such as recording the names of the party of adventurers that set foot there, and the date. They go back a long time!

“Let’s head up to the top…”

A fine Investigate check later…

“This spine – marks saying… ah! Got it!”

Unturfing heavy boards, a narrow counter-clockwise series of stone steps down is revealed!

“Well, one thing’s for sure, no dragon has stone steps in it. This is a barrow, not a dragon corpse.”

XP: lvl5-34

Spirits of the dead are unsympathetic

Garth squeezes his way down and edges sideways, making room for Rich. Judging by wall curvature, his back is to a central core, and a passage runs around that, with a number of passages branching out. Garth picks out north, for sure.

While the others assemble, and Vern lights a torch, Garth studies the rock.

Garth has Stonecunning, which provides more information when I ask him for Investigation

He can pick out the nicks and grazes of tool or weapon as intruders have explored. No real clue as to who covered the entrance up.

There’s a distraction.

“Garth! Lights are hovering!”

“See if you can speak to them!”

As Rich tries some simple Common phrases the hovering lights send images into his head: these are the souls of previous adventurers that have dies here. And they aren’t friendly: Rich feels the life draining from him!

I slightly modified the Electrical damage of the base monster, Will o’Wisp, to make it more like a dead soul. Just damage though, no attribute drain.

A third wisp joins the others as – with great difficulty – they prevail over the first. Now Vern is under attack! Luckily he is very tough, and skedaddles away. Then is followed and attacked again!

In desperation Rich thrusts his fine cavalry sword through one and into a wall, damaging the blade.

This is a pretty severe example of ‘fail forward’ as Rich only misses by 1. With the prospect of a genuine magical sword nearby Rich takes the offer!

After crashing the Ungart Hammer off the passage walls a couple times Garth finally ends Rich’s tormentor and Dak’s longbow shafts have dealt with the others. Time for a

Short Rest – Vern and Rich each roll 2HD and are full health or pretty much so

XP: lvl5-31

Strange ambushers

Having patiently kept watch all this time, Garth and Dak are agreed that Garth’s first instinct should be followed. Vern raises his torch again and the party sets out.

“Yep, we go north – I was just looking at something a mite sus when you called. Vern, can I borrow that staff?”

Vern uses his staff as his Arcane Focus but hands it over promptly. As Garth probes around a zig north, he sees ahead of him a kind of Y-junction formed by a rock pillar, with a burial niche on either passage.

The staff breaks through: a floor pit is revealed: the male side of the zig collapses, rushing any soul passing the trap down onto the spikes!

The stone face becomes difficult ground and requires a DEX: Acrobatics check to perform functions such as loosing an arrow or walking over without slipping.

Before he can do more than register bones of previous victims, two figures concealed in those burial niches beyond leap out and hurl canisters of some type, following up with flung short spears or darts! The figures are muffled in dark cloaks and stand dwarf height or a little shorter.

Garth easily makes his CON SV – incurring only half damage from the ‘grave dust’ type poison – and his steel shield of Axeholm turns aside the darts!

Rich charges, grabs the first of these two cloaked figures, and heaves it to the pit. With a despairing grab it clings onto the rim!

Garth runs to the edge and kicks its hand, and with a choking scream it falls onto its own spikes!

As the cloak flops open, Rich and Garth observe that its features are vaguely dwarven.

The second creature retreats no further than the pillar as Dak’s heavy longbow shaft slams it back. The two front-liners follow up and the battle is short.

“I wonder if they have loot,” Vern muses like a veteran.

“Let’s check those tombs, too,” Garth agrees.

The creature in the pit screams dully.

“Hey it’s still alive, should we do something about that?”

“It’s not bothering me,” Garth tosses back over his shoulder.

XP: lvl5-29

Loot: See finale

The final defender! Alagondar revealed!

As Rich heads left and Garth right, Dak and Vern begin negotiating the treacherous loose rubble. Garth forges past the tomb.

“There’s some kind of chamber…”

Vern casts Mage Hand and passes his torch to it: the Hand carries the torch past Garth. Then there’s a cry of agony from Rich!

Something has attacked and slammed Rich so hard he barely keeps his feet! And – it cannot be seen!

The fight is desperate! Rich saves himself from certain death by using all of his holy powers of healing, while Garth helps Shield him. Despite that, the creature – which moves about and can barely be detected, even in the torch-light – hammers Rich again and again, as though hating his holy radiance. The cavalry sword tip snaps off, then another few inches, leaving Rich with a useless dagger length.

“Rich! Here!” Dak yells, tossing his magical shortsword across the darkness.

To judge if Rich is aware of this I allow Dak CHR+Proficiency+d4 fame. DC13 Success! Rich has a spare Interact with Object so that is not contested.

Garth scoops a fistful of grave-dust up over the creature, allowing it to be picked out. With a magic blade, and a magic warhammer, real damage is done. But the real difference of the fight is Vern’s Magic Missile spell as he unleashes ALL the slots, ending with a level 2 cast!

As the creature wavers on the edge of extinction Garth smashes it with the Ungart Hammer and it is no more!

“Huh! Another… rest… I think,” gasps Rich, then:

“Say! Where my blade broke off – there’s a niche in this pillar!”

Sure enough the dragon slayer sword has lain concealed here in the “tail” area of the barrow since first interred!

Time for another

Short Rest, during which Vern brings back 2 levels of slots, and Rich rolls his remaining 2HD and attunes:

Alagondar

Longsword, unique, requires attunement.

This sword contains much of the personality of lady Tanamere Alagondar, paladin of Glory, who perished slaying the mighty demi-dracolich Venomfang two centuries ago. Lady Tanamere offers the bearer of her sword the Pact of Glory, as per standard rules. Even if not taken up, her voice will encourage the beater in the right paths, as she sees them.

Other powers: Proficiency-1 bonus to attack and damage; +3d6 damage against dragon kind.

Other note: Alagondar’s scabbard is not magical and has perished. It cannot be restored with any normal art or spell.

Cold-iron shortsword, x 2 – each of the strange dwarflike ambushers bore a shortsword of beaten cold iron.

Properties: will cause an extra 1d4 damage to fey, undead, and fiends if it hits them. It also counts as a magic weapon against these creatures for purposes of immunity and resistance.

Strange coinage: There are 8 larger, thin gold pieces, similar to Waterdeep dragons in design if not size. There are also nine other coins, of a silver alloy perhaps, rather like a Waterdeep harbor moon coin in style. They are all obviously old, but a spider theme can be glimpsed in the traces of relief.

XP: lvl5-25

DM Notes

This is not quite Dragon Barrow as written. A little easier. A little more interactive. Also connecting more to the idea that this has been around for ages and no-one successfully looted the sword yet. And maybe to some later campaign threads? If you are interested, tune in next session to see the remaining exploration!

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