SC8.05: Thunder Cliffs, part one

The level 8 Rusted Silvers for this session

In order of initiative

Dain Frostbeard, hill dwarf bard, wielding spells;
Vernon von Longsington, human wizard, wielding spells;
Richlen Ilineiros, high elf paladin, wielding his longsword Alagondar

Ably supported by Garth Ironhewn, NPC this session

The Rusted Silvers begin 110xp below level 9 and end on 50

There’s a plot afoot, and those feet are hairy!

Vernon steps his way to the bar across the warm taproom:

“A drink for myself, the dwarf and the pointy eared big fella here.”

“His ears aren’t pointy,” Garth bickers.

The three settle down, piling packs near their settle. They have a long wait ahead: Saltmarsh won’t open its gates until dawn.

Garth seems out of it “Pyramid of gems… pyramid of gems,” he keeps repeating.

But their ale is interrupted after barely a tankard: a familiar-looking, white-bearded, gangly dwarf enters, looks about, and heads over.

“Vernon? Richlen? Ye may remember me, we met outside West Harbor. I caught up with the wee girl Silla, she warned me that there Roscoe is plotting some mischief! I follered him to the docks then I lost him.”

“What about Dak? The elf he was with?”

“He was talkin’ there to a rough type, seemed to be getting bad news.”

“Let’s be off… but Garth, we need someone to mind the gear.”

“I’ll guard the loot – eh, gear.”

XP: lvl9-105

Halflings have long memories!

Though slightly muddy the way into town along the Kingfisher is easy, and within a quarter-hour Dain leads them to a fish-smelling waterfront tavern. Numbers of halflings are slowly creeping closer and closer, getting set up for an ambush!

Dain opens the ball without further ado, dropping three halflings with Sleep and racing toward a fourth:

“Drop it laddie boy, we want a wee word with ye!”

As Vern sees the halfling about to skedaddle he hurls a very accurate Firebolt at the little fellow’s feet – but he flees anyway!

Rich swivels, locating another halfling drawing down on Vern! The huge elf steps into the line of sight and glares:

Intimidate! 20+!

The halfling lowers his bow, squeals: “ya ain’t heard the last of this! The Dale Gang will not be forgotten” and flees.

Dain paces after the fleeing halfling and murmurs Enthrall! Spinning about his victim nearly swoons with rapture!

“Let’s get him inside and see what this is all about,” Dain proposes.

Long story short: Dakeyras has had to accept a mission from his guild and must leave. Roscoe has been conspiring with relatives of the Dale Gang: seeking a chance to get a party member alone and murder them. Roscoe is nowhere to be found!

I’ll be back

“We best be getting back to Garth, Roscoe just might be thinking of a second chance.”

XP: lvl9-100

Kristoffen or Stands in Tar, the choice is yours!

The Rusted Silvers’ path has been prepared by efficient Valdi Estapaar and Saltmarsh town council assembles at an early hour. There are two main factions, a “shipping” voting duo of the mayor Eda and old Gellan, another “merchant” duo of Mani and Eli, with young, sharp-featured Anders seemingly a swing vote. The council has invited priestess Rio (judging by her oakleaf-motif attire, of Silvanus) and an old-timer named Marciano “from the Point” is also here, to represent the offshoot community out there.

The adventurers (and Taba) learn that:

  • Unnatural weather has made seas north hazardous. Storm clouds, unseasonal king tides, timber-springing waves, and mysteriously-shifting reefs!
  • This mysterious aquatic alliance of Sahuagin, Koalinth and (until recently and maybe still) Lizardfolk has placed the seas south out of bounds!
  • As a result, ships crewed by normal folk are bound up in port. Masters are finding excuses to have them careened or drydocked and laying off crews early.
  • Only two captains are brave enough to take on the challenge. They are here to be interviewed. The Rusted Silvers’ decision is final

Kristoffen, the white dragonborn Talos convert, steps in first. His reasoning is that once the Silvers see how powerful Talos is they will convert, like he did.

Stands in Tar, breath heavy with rum and weaving slightly, boasts that her Lively Dancer will romp in over reefs and shoals and be away before cultists can react!

The Rusted Silvers are a little concerned about what seems to be their only choice, Vern having vetoed shipping with Talos. “Ha! My crew are as brave as lions, they will dare any hazard I dare!” Stands in Tar brags.

Falsely, as it turns out.

XP: lvl9-95

More factions – who or what is Umberlee?

As the decision is made, Marciano fixes Rich with his gaze. He wants assurance that the Rusted Silvers aren’t just going to let the big picture wash the Point away with the tide – he’s worried.

Rich says sure, they will swing by later. Rio signals with her eyes that she has something to tell him.

“I don’t know that I trust the priestess out at the point – I’m not saying she’s betrayed us, but Umberlee is a cruel mistress. Watch yourself.”

XP: none but up to 5xp for possible future repercussions

Off Thunder Cliffs: Mutiny!

Rich proves a bad sailor, Vern is reading, but Dain has his wits about him. The body language between Stands in Tar and a dark, tattooed woman has him backing the captain up. The others listen in as best they can.

Vern makes 20+ on Perception and Richlen 18 even with stomach heaving: they can easily follow this exchange!

It seems Stands in Tar lied to the crew – she told them she would never sail where they need fear the Ghost Ship, a giant galleon, skeleton giant supporting the bowsprit. So it’s mutiny!

“You’re sailing with the Rusted Silvers – and let me tell you, if we meet the ghost ship it’s the Silvers that will take the prize, not the other way round!”

I make this an Intimidation check, because Mutiny, also bragging up power. Dain makes 18 with the Advantage the others give him.

XP: lvl9-90 including bonus for no bloodshed

Off Thunder Cliffs: The way in

With that sorted out, Taba says farewell for now, dives into the sea with his spear, and is seen swimming strongly away north-west. (He had previously seemed to want to use the ship to get closer to his mother’s home, but has since lost confidence in that idea.) Now comes the time to decide how to approach: The Lively Dancer is as close to the fierce storm around the cliffs as it can get.

Taken from Sunday Magazine of 1890.

“My god Ilmater will give you Aid,” Richlen says, casting that on his three comrades.

“I have Underwater Breathing, and that will last us a whole day and night,” Vern proposes.

“We may as well just walk along the bottom then,” Garth nods.

“There could be big swimming things… last time you met a shark… but it’s so stormy I think that is the safest way,” Vern agrees.

Making a very ordinary Nature check, just enough to remember the obvious.

“Anything that doesn’t involve bobbing up and down would be great, at this point,” Rich confesses.

There are still hours of daylight: they ditch all unnecessary gear and plunge in!

XP: lvl9-80, an excellent decision that Vern has prepped for

Assault! Cult leaders down!

The current and roiling waves push Vern and Dain further along than they planned, quite close to where a smallish ketch is being slowly stripped. The noise of the sea and sky is overwhelming and no-one notices them anyway as they reassemble.

Party order: Rich, Vern/Dain, Garth

Meanwhile Rich peers in a high-tide sea-cliff then clambers up and peers down at a loot cavern. Ignoring the chest chalked “gold” he paces down a natural ramp, and deeper in. Up ahead, a sea-cave has some kind of tidal surge-pool. He walks up to examine this natural(?) phenomenon – and is struck by Lightning Bolt!

Inits: Dain, Gadrille the Reef-Reaver, Vern, Talos fanatic, Rich, drow mage/smugglers, Garth/Koalinth

Dain leaps off the ramp past Vern, landing clumsily but getting a little closer to Rich so as to support. Gadrille attacks Rich with Sleet Storm – but the big paladin keeps his feet! Vern hurries down the ramp and towards the cavern that Rich is in. He fails to spot darker shadows creeping out of side-tunnels…

Rich charges left into the sub-cavern the three foes are using, pushing the Talos fanatic back, and slices down, cutting deep with Alagondar while using Mage Slayer techniques and an Inspiring Smite to recoup some health! The dark elf mage Disengages and flees across the tidal-surge cavern, yelling for help! Dain catches up to Vern and peers round trying to understand what Rich is facing, then uses another higher cast of Sleep, dropping the Talos fanatic. Gadrille begins Summoning, Rich cuts with Alagondar, and although something bestial forms it fades away just as quickly.

Mage Slayer really pays off here

Vern levels a fiery finger at the prone fanatic: “I’ve Slept that one!” Dain exclaims. Vern swings 180 degrees and torches the drow, accurately but not extensively. Rich cuts at Gadrille but she has a Shield reaction ready. Well out of sight, smugglers drop what they were doing and begin hustling forward. Meanwhile:

“We’re not alone! This is looking bad here” – Garth, pulling back closer to Vern and Dain, defending against unlimited numbers of Koalinth.

After some further jockeying for position the clang of weapons striking a dwarf’s shield and armor can be heard. Reassured, Dain attempts a Slow on Gadrille, which doesn’t work. For her part Gadrille blows an entire Wand of Magic Missiles on Rich, and misses with the Spiritual weapon again. Dropping the wand she reaches for a forward-curved cleaver type of sidearm. Vern lines her up and tries Magic Missile in return, but she still has a Shield. Rich manages to cut past it and deliver a Thunderous Smite, since there’s no point being subtle any more!

The drow seems to have moved out of sight but smugglers, wet to the waist, are beginning to rush forward. Dain attempts Confusion: it barely works. Gadrille misses with Spiritual Weapon and crits with the cleaver. The drow pops up unexpectedly, throwing Lightning Bolt at Vern and Dain: they both dodge its worst effects, and Dain keeps his Confusion going. Inspired, Vern returns Lightning Bolt with Lightning Bolt, killing virtually all smugglers and the drow as well!

Dain gives Rich his Bardic Inspiration and Rich uses it to cut Gadrille: she’s looking pretty beaten down now. She returns to the attack though, and Rich takes a cut from her Spiritual Weapon. But at the same time, Dain has called up his Spirit Guardians, fey creatures that skip and gambol as they slice the last smugglers down. Dain moves to immediately behind Garth, putting down the koalinth warrior Garth has wounded and heavily wounding more.

As Rich and Gadrille wear each other down, and the cavern he is in is cleared by Dain, Vern steps near the blowhole to get a line of sight on Gadrille. He hurls three Scorching Rays, hitting her twice and Rich once.

“That felt good!” – Vern

Dain keeps an eye over his shoulder at Garth but watches Rich’s epic battle: he hurls Cutting Words at Gadrille, preventing her final attack as with a flurry of cuts Alagondar finally puts her down! Vern races over to hand the Superior Healing potion they bought with Dak’s gems, to him.

“Are we winning? Do we move forward?” Garth hollers and as he is not present in person, we find out the answer next session.

XP: lvl9-50

DM Notes

I think the major points to note for those considering using Saltmarsh elements, is that I made the decision to keep things close to the Leilon-Saltmarsh axis. Besides the Wayside Inn being between the two, Thunder Cliffs is so little distance north that only supernatural high seas would justify needing a ship. I’ve kept Leilon Point in play by introducing Marciano. In terms of the journey to Thunder Cliffs, a few minor points…

  • I don’t think the writers gave any thought or research to how sailing ships actually travel.
  • I don’t think distances on any Sword Coast map are particularly helpful. You should decide if this is a full multi-session journey or a simple one.
  • For my compressed version, I merged the “ghost ship” mutiny with the plot-related undead galleon. But since the adventure is about Thunder Cliffs, no encounter, just foreshadowing.
  • I dropped the whole silly “you meet another ship” encounter since I had already loaded all the exposition needed, earlier.

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