SC4.05: Dragon Barrow part 2 – What’s got into Richlen?

The level four Silvers for this session

In order of finding traps

Garth, mountain dwarf fighter;
Vernon, human wizard;
Dakeyras, wood elf rogue

Chaotically ensembled by Richlen, high elf paladin

The Silvers begin 25xp from level 5 and end on 15

For those who came in late

A season in the frontier village of Phandalin has turned beginner adventurers Garth and Dak into seasoned tier ones, and during the season they are joined by Richlen, an adventurer out of Neverwinter like themselves. And they earn the sobriquet, “Silvers.”

Spring brings starry-eyed young wizard Vernon to strengthen their arcane wing. And it’s off north to seek a dragon slayer sword in the dragon barrow, then a mystical cloak in Thundertree they go!

After a close encounter of the near-death kind they win Rich the dragon slayer sword, named Alagondar.

A tricky rest

Rich remains frazzled, even after an hour’s rest.

“I’m thinking of busting out a potion” – Rich

“We could retire to the surface” – Dak

“I guess we have time” – Garth

“Yep, I could learn my spells again… I don’t have much left after that last encounter.”

Dak leads and finds the night is cool and clear. The stars are bright, and he can see a good long distance.

The others scramble out.

“I think we should retire east, it’s pretty clear that way” – Dak

“Say look at this guys,” Vern says, paying out a rope, “I have this cool spell named Rope Trick.” He sends the rope vertically up and clambers up it… then disappears!

Nervous laughter, and concerns about leaving Rudolph, and the others bring packs up then clamber up.

“What’s holding us up?” – Garth

“It’s MAGGGICCC” – Vern (who goes on at length but it all just washes over Garth)

Vern’s explanation

“OK but if I fall on my butt it’s on you.”

“And this lasts an hour.”

“An hour!?! Whose idea was this??” – Rich

Or to be honest, the DM, who wanted the players to see Rope Trick was an option, so asked Vern to show it.

They climb down safely after an hour.

“As a night’s hotel, I give that one star” – Rich

“One and a half!” – Vern

“If you offered beer I would have given you the extra half.”

“It’s a new establishment!”

“Dak, I don’t want to be stumbling across country to the woods, seeing in the dark doesn’t mean we can see every detail” – Rich

“We only need to go as far as the nearest sheltered copse” – Dak

“Oh, sure, that makes sense, let’s pack and go” – Rich

Dak and Rich pick a good copse between them and set forth. Vern lights his fourth torch.

The DM has a handy little off-road encounter table…

Vern is the only traveler to notice the cloud of spores thrown out by a bush they pass. He alerts the others.

Vern has made his DC13 DEX SV, everyone else makes only 8. I rule Rich and Dak are immune, and Garth makes his DC13 CON SV.

XP: lvl5-24, this is quite a lethal trap for non-elves but routine otherwise

Night of thunder

They make the copse with no further problems. Garth declares he will take first watch, and Vern declares he will take breakfast. Rudolph is stood below shelter.

As Dak stands his watch he sees the stars being blotted out by swift-gathering cloud. Lightning flickers, playing on the barrow-top – then crashes down on their copse!

Everyone except Dak makes a DC15 DEX SV except Dak, and I rule he has advantage since he was ready at the time

The thunderstorm is brief and even the last few drops of rain dry off before dawn. Rudolph appears little the worse for the thunderbolt. There’s nothing like near death to ruin a good sleep, so the vote is to prolong the rest until everyone has really caught up on sleep.

Long Rest: any damage taken is restored, Vern and Rich restore all spell slots. Rich also tells the party as much as seems relevant about lady Tanamere Alagondar. Since the barrow was erected after her death, she is of no help in that matter.

XP: lvl5-23

An unoriginal pit trap still works

The weather is at least as fine as the previous day. It’s mid-morning by the time they are ready to descend. No-one replaced the turf-and-strake entrance so the narrow stone steps are wet, as is the circular passage at base.

“I think we should be methodical, let’s explore west now” – Dak

Vern lights a fifth and sixth torch, Mage Handing one ahead of Garth as he moves around and west.

Garth uses Investigation with advantage as he examines the zig-zag passage west. He scores poorly.

“Looks safe… gaayaahhh! I should have known!”

The exact same trap as last zig-zag pushes Garth into a pit, and it is filled with sword-blade spikes, like the last one. He is Restrained.

“Don’t worry Garth, I gotcha! – Dak get a rope ready!”

Rich leaps nimbly over the pit (The DM rolling waaay higher than Rich normally does) and turns to help Dak pay a rope down.

Something’s got under Rich’s skin

As Garth is beginning to which himself off the spikes – ow! – he notices Rich stiffen.

“Why’d ya stop?”

“Ah – ah – something’s got me!”

Rich draws his sword and attempts to lance it through Garth’s skull!

Inits: Dak, Garth, Vern, Rich (and ghost)

Round 1: Dak has his hands full of rope, and decides not to simply seize up his longbow. From what he can see Garth can now scramble out unaided. He attempts to use less drastic measures: he attempts a dozy-doe with Garth so that the dwarf can slingshot off him into Rich.

It’s a good idea, unfortunately Dak makes a feeble Acrobatics and is unable to offer the Help action.

Even at disadvantage though, Garth is plenty strong. He boosts himself up to the vertical and tackles Rich – who seizes him, and hurls him back into the pit!

“Rich! What are you – aaahh!” – Garth

“I can’t… I can’t… stop!” – Rich

Rich prepares Thunderous Smite, ready for the next attack!

Round 2: Dak sighs and swings up the longbow, and as Garth wrenches himself into threat range punches the longbow shaft narrowly past Rich’s shield. The paladin grunts in pain, bloodied.

Garth wrastles Rich again and this time the Ogre Power gauntlets are no help! The paladin topples into the pit.

“Sorry my friend, this is going to hurt me more than it is you!” – Garth, using Action Surge to hurl himself onto Rich, wedging the spikes deeper. Rich falls unconscious!

An eerie essence oozes from the rents and orifices of the paladin’s body and begins seeking a new victim!

Vern attempts reason. WIS SV! He feels a cold dread as the memories of a long-dead wizard flood into his brain. Though he attempts to understand the memories of John Towerfall, wizard companion of lady Alagondar, he fails. He is Frightened.

Vern takes 9 necrotic damage and ages 10 years: his hair turns white with fear.

Vern hurls Magic Missile! The creature is visibly badly damaged!

Rich makes his first Death Roll

The ghost fails to recharge and hovers towards Dak, whom it perceives as the next most useful possessee!

Round 3: Dak drops bow, draws shortsword, and using Vern for assistance, slices the ghost viciously. Seeming to have no defense, it is partly in tatters! Dak stays where he is.

Garth fails to pull Rich back off the spikes with a feeble Athletics check, but does get a Greater Healing potion ready.

Vern has the reassuring presence of Dak beside him and doubles down on Magic Missile, slamming four blue-violet power darts into the thing. It is barely there…

Rich makes a nat 1 on Death Roll and is on 1 yes, 2 no

Round 4: The ghost rolls its recharge, and attacks Dak: but he Disengages, moving around the central pillar with a weather eye back

Garth gets a firm grip on the rope he has and this time secures Rich. With a second STR check Rich is hauled up off the spikes and can be healed.

Vern skirts the pit across the scree, grabbing the potion off Garth’s hands and makes a good Medicine check, managing to get the full benefit of the potion down Rich’s gullet!

Rich is at 15hp

“Where’s my sword? What’s going on?” – Rich

The ghost circles widdershins to Dak’s clockwise but the nimble elf simply zips back the other way

Round 5: Dak continues his chasey chasey policy, letting the others know what’s going on.

“You got possessed, gotta go, ‘bye!” Garth charges across the pit with twin nat 20s, and takes the Ready action.

Vern checks that Rich is just looking for a sword and not faking it, skirts the scree again, heads to cover near Garth.

(The sword skidded deeper into the tomb, Rich makes a near-miss Perception check and is still closing in on it)

The ghost attempts to possess Garth: he has the Ungart Hammer ready and slams it into the ghost, extinguishing it!

Victory!

“Rich – you threw me in a pit!”

“Dude – I’m so sorry! Also how come I have so many holes I feel like a colander? I feel like I got thrown in a pit then someone elbow-dropped on top of me!”

“Ah… must be the after-effects of possession…”

“But say if that ghost was John Towerfall, he used to have some sweet items – let’s check his tomb!”

The four sarcophagi have been looted, but it seems that none of the parties that came here to die recognized or was willing to tamper with the seven-bead Necklace of Fireballs the wizard’s skeleton still bears around its neck!

Garth and Dak back well away as Vern casually unhooks the necklace. It does not go off!

Loot: seven-bead Necklace of Fireballs

XP: lvl5-18

Short Rest: Rich rolls 3HD, Garth rolls 2, Vern rolls 1, Vern reclaims one slot

A long-dead horse and a downward course

The next logical area to search is south.

“Vern can I borrow your staff?” – Garth

It’s an identical trap. It seems these dwarf-type creatures have but one idea.

They trigger it and set up a humanoid chain, pass rocks along from the previous scree, and after a quarter-hour can just cross as over difficult ground.

The “head” of the dragon barrow has the dried mummified body of a richly-caparisoned horse, and a small tunnel back north-east.

Dak examines the body, Garth the tunnel.

The horse: the skin is more or less intact over bones, the harness is useless with age but has gold and tiny gem ornaments.

“Lady Alagondar’s faithful horse, Meteor. Well, Meteor Shower in full,” Rich supplies, from his position at rearguard.

“There’s a really deep hole back here,” comes Garth’s muffled voice. “This must be where those Underdark dwarf things came from.”

“I have a feeling we should probably not go anywhere near that,” Vern advises.

“Yep, let’s just loot and scoot,” Dak decides.

Loot: 90 gold coin worth of tiny gems and gold bead and bells. If the party wants to set up alarm wires with very expensive component bells, reduce loot by 10 gold coins.

XP: lvl5-18 (but DM goodwill for not going down the Underdark)

Mold of uncertain solutions

Where the probing Garth would expect the next pit trap, he finds instead a corpse. It’s one of the Underdark dwarfs, blackened from exposure to some weird fungus.

“That’s… terrifying. We need to be really careful here” – Garth

Vern and Rich deduce that the semicircle of black around a sarcophagus that has been opened, in the chamber east and south, is the fungus-spore source.

There is one more sarcophagus, unopened.

Garth spots unshod tracks of the dwarf-like creatures from a matching narrow tunnel leading back to where the deep shaft down must be.

The idea of bottling evil death-dust is so attractive the adventurers fetch the empty Greater Healing potion flask, and spend quite some time thinking of ways to safely open the sarcophagus and at the same time control the exit of spores.

They all agree that a rope would do for opening the sarcophagus at a distance, but make no headway on the second half of the puzzle. Wisely, they decide to leave it for now.

It’s time to go.

XP: lvl5-17, a wise decision indeed

Northward! With a storm at our backs!

The day is just as clear, as they scramble out and replace the turf-and-board entrance. Dak points north to where a low scuff of hills breaks the skyline.

“We go due north… we should be able to make those hills by night.”

Rudolph, a number of pounds lighter from the thunder-shock and sunshine, resumes his pack duties and without needing to carry gear, they make good time. The general lay of the land is across their path, but the small creeks and such like aren’t sufficient to slow Rudolph too much.

Vern studies his Hat of Wizardry and decides to try his hand with cantrips he’s heard of. Useful! Maybe super-useful!

Night is uneventful, aside from a flyover Dak’s sharp ears catch on his shift. The shape against the stars reminds him of the Manticore, or possibly a Griffon.

The wind picks up towards dawn and reaches storm force – but it’s mainly at their back, and dry. They decide to push on.

From the north slopes of the low hills, they spot glints of stone shapes and colors that suggest where the ruins are. With that as a guide, Dak keeps their course straight as an arrow.

As they draw near, they note that Thundertree lacks a tree landmark – those all seem quite small – but does have a ruinous small tower or keep, atop rising ground, dominating the ruins.

Another square watchtower stands off just east of that, though why two towers would be needed is unclear.

Reidoth and a few tidy-up chores around Thundertree

They make Thundertree’s south verge by mid-morning, picking a beaten path quite near an intact building. Its door is iron-reinforced and sturdy.

“Well, we wanted to find a crazy old druid named Reidoth, maybe we should just try knocking” – Dak

He suits action to word.

“Haaawhoisit??”

“It is I, Dak. We have been sent from Phandalin. And we are looking for a druid.”

“The only druid here is me”

“Then we are friends. We have been sent by Linene.”

“Haaasoyousay, so you say.”

“Can we talk face to face?”

Unbolting or bolting sounds can be heard.

A classically crazy looking druid, Reidoth, appears. Dak explains. Reidoth spares little ear to Dak’s explanation until he has commented on elves and a dwarf. Once on the same planet, he realizes that they have come in response to last year’s messenger to Linene. And he seems to recognize Garth’s hammer. Or maybe not.

Seated in a very sparely furnished bedsit, and over a nice cup of herb tea – he has no sugar but does have wild honey – Reidoth explains the problem. Not without digressing into crazy town a few times. He skips over the root of the problem to the main issues:

  • Evil tree growing inside the keep tower
  • He can’t ethically burn it but adventurers can, so yeah go do that
  • Controls blights, which are hiding all over the place (Reidoth thinks that if the evil tree dies the blights die)
  • Controls zombies, which are all over the place
  • Zombies used to be cultists
  • Cultists are camped off in a solid building east – dragon cultists he thinks? Maybe they are trying to bring back an evil undead dragon. Too many cultists!

Dak mentions Cryovain. Reidoth scoffs: back when he was a youth dragons were real dragons, not mere scaly puppies. But he is willing to send out his flying servants and they will spy where Cryovain roosts. He’ll call that a reward for clearing out the cultists.

As for the reward for getting rid of the deadly tree, he shows them the Cloak of Season. It has powers and spells built into it. Pass Without Trace, and Goodberry, for example.

There’s a potential safe-house for the party: the tower north-east. Reidoth doesn’t know if it has anything evil in it. And as the party begins to lay plans, the session ends.

XP: lvl5-15

DM Notes

If you plan to run Dragon Barrow you can see my reasoning for changes to the other chambers, here. I did not like the conceit of an undead horse servant. I previously decided that the tomb is defended (by more than will-o’wisps), so giving the grimlocks or duergar or whatever those dwarf-like creatures are an Underdark retreat point also provides a useful known passage down, should future adventures take us there. And finally I believe the loot in all six of the sarcophagi needs to reflect past disturbances but balance a threat with a reward.

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