Minotaar's GWJ Overwatch D&D Campaign

Greetings!

As some might be following bhchrist's documentation of his D&D campaign (of which I take part) I'd been noticably absent with the documentation of my own campaign. We'd decided to both begin with running The Sunless Citadel, and after it concludes, to branch off into our own homemade campaigns. Bh has crafted a lovely world that we're taking part in, and I've tremendously enjoyed his recaps. Since I'm not about to recollect everything we've done for the past 2 months, I'll briefly sum up what happened through the Citadel in broad strokes, and then endeavor to continue onward in more detail than the famished summary that follows.

But first, our players -
Apple (halfling monk) : bhchrist
Arlin Elmwood (elven druid) : Amoebic
Azarek (gith wizard) : ErikTheRed
Esh the Bagmaster (half elven fighter/bard) : Skraut
Hector the Well-Endowed (halfling bard) : Chartes
Valka (human barbarian) : 3or4monsters/marshlights

The Sunless Citadel

Our adventurers gathered in Oakhurst. Some wanted to gain gold and glory, some following portents, and some to attend the 41st Annual Oakhurst Music Festival and Jamboree. After meeting at the Ol’ Boar Inn and speaking with Garon, they were sent to Lady Hucrele. Kerowyn Hucrele is the mayor of Oakhurst and also runs the general store. She beseeches them to investigate the Sunless Citadel and find her two lost adventurer children, Talgren and Sharwyn. Her children set off a month prior to the citadel to investigate along with two companions and hadn’t been seen since. She fears the worst, and asks only for proof of their remains in the form of their signet rings with their names engraved on them.

Our party sets off in the morning to the Sunless Citadel – a former temple to an ancient dragon cult that sunk into a chasm in the ground. Crude stairs led them down to a stone structure devoid of light. They met a timid kobold beast master, Meepo, who’d lost his dragon and cowered before them. He encouraged the party to meet Yusdrayl, his queen. Yusdrayl says that the goblin tribe the kobolds warred with in the citadel stole their dragon and they want it back. So the adventurers set off, slaying goblins, finding a white dragon wyrmling, and returning it to the kobolds. In exchange, Yusdrayl gave them a key to a door – a magically sealed door. While intrigued, they pressed on further in search of the Hucrele children instead of being swayed by treasure. They found a gnome named Erky Timbers who was captured by the goblins, and set him free. He explained that he’d seen the people they seek, and Belak the Outcast took them down below to the Twilight Grove. Erky followed them for a short time, but was slain as the party was ambushed. They pressed on, finding a small village of goblins living in the citadel – many fled, many stayed to fight, and were led by Durnn, a hobgoblin war chief who bore Talgren’s armor and signet ring. Durnn pled for his life before the party delivered him to Yusdrayl in exchange for a bounty. Then they made it down the very deep pit to the grove below.

Greeted by skeletons who were tending to a bioluminescent fungi ecosystem, they fought their way through goblins and blighted tree creatures, encountering arboretums designed to engender this odd fungus and even use it as sustenance. When finding the Twilight Grove they saw a large, blackened tree. Belak the Outcast was there with two people with skin of bark and eyes of pitch, one was the paladin the Hucreles adventured with, the other was Sharwyn Hucrele. Belak explained the that this was the Gulthias Tree, which grew from a wooden stake that took root after it killed a vampire ages ago. He now offers supplicants to the tree, like Sharwyn. After the boss battle which saw one Halfling swallowed by a giant frog and the wizard almost killed instantly, they torched the Gulthias Tree and found Sharwyn as a lifeless piece of brittle wood shaped like a person. They sought to bring her back to her mother regardless, so they brought her back up. Belak was being held down by the barbarian and pleaded with them to not destroy the Gulthias Tree, and when the flames burned on, Belak shifted into the shape of a mouse and escaped through the Twilight Grove’s bramble and bush.

They finally got to using their magical key for the dragon door, and after solving an enigmatic musical trap that had their monk and archer continually running away from the room at the sound of the magical globe, they pressed to the tomb of the Dragonpriest – a high ranking elf in this former cult of dragon worship who’d somehow been turned into a troll and kept in a sarcophagus all these years, magically sealed away. The troll was an absolute test of everything our fair adventurers had learned, but eventually they poked, slashed, and finally burned the creature to put it down.

Having explored all they could in the Sunless Citadel they finally saw daylight as they climbed back up the chasm. They were approached by a mage on a floating disk who warned them to get away from the rift as soon as possible, as he was there to simply ensure the destruction of the citadel. From the sky began to fall a swarm of giant flaming stones from the sky – no time for conversation as the mage bid them farewell and teleported away. The Sunless Citadel was annihilated with a resounding boom, heard for miles. Without recourse, they made their way toward Oakhurst, but stopped near a stream to have an actual proper bit of sleep for the night in a forest with some fresh air.

Thanks for documenting this, it has been a blast to play so far and the fun is just getting started. The sessions are definitely the highlight of each week

Before the adventurers got to camp, Hector the bard saw fit that this was time to part ways with the party. He jingle his coin purse now that he'd been paid his share, as he set out to collect an imagined debt from Apple. Little did he know that he'd had the majority of his coin relieved of its purse while he'd been temporarily frozen by a cold spell that struck the party whilst still in the citadel. Apple had left him scant few pieces of coin and supplemented it with pebbles. Poor Hector.

As the party camped out 'neath the stars, Esh took final watch. From a rustling in the nearby brush emerged a trio of goblins, fleeing furiously from furred foes. Esh saw the greenskins running not toward their camp, but rather running upstream from hungry wolves. He chose to not alert this new foray to his presence and not shout a warning - so he sent a psychic assault of vicious mockery directed at Apple, the elderly halfling monk who emerged from her tent, looking only as the gods saw fit, clanging on pots and pans to rouse the rest of the party.

Across the stream wandered an elf in his pre-dawn walk to collect herbs and berries. He heard the commotion and saw goblins running directly toward him - and noticed they were children running for their lives. Arlin is a compassionate soul and seeks to aid wherever he's able, but knows he needs to defend those unable to do so themselves. Best practice? Flame sword. Arlin conjures up a mighty beacon in the pre-dawn forest and slashes at the larger wolf, with a white streaked ridgeback, while telling the child to get behind him in his native language. The other two children were beset by the wolves and struggled to break free from their toothy grip, so our drowsy adventurers went to their aid and ran off the wolves.

After the wolves retreated, tending to the children's wounds were paramount to Arlin. Arlin was eventually introduced to Apple, Valka, Esh and Azarek, who turned their attention and suspicion to the goblin children. Tisa, Folix, and Kivi tell them they're on their way to Oakhurst to trade for supplies that their mother needs to make things. The party is untrusting of the goblins and their story (this trend will continue), and regardless of their mistrust they lead the children back to Oakhurst. However, once they tried to lift the petrified remains of Sharwyn, her husk splintered into unsalvageable tinder.

Kerowyn Hucrele is the party's first stop. They deliver the awful news that her children would not be returning. She mourns, though for a moment, as her attention was directed toward the terrifying explosion they heard the day before. When recounting the tale of the Sunless Citadel, Lady Hucrele shared her fear that with the Darbuluk tribe of goblins destroyed, the goblin warband the Darbuluks reported to would go one the march in that direction, leading them to Oakhurst. She implores the heroes to head to Blackford Crossing, and muster 50 able soldiers to bring and defend her town, offering handsome reward to do so. They agreed to leave in the morning.

Before their rest, Arlin headed to the local temple of Pelor, as he'd been accustomed to helping a community with their maladies and ailments in exchange for quarters and provisions. Esh went to find Arlin and request his help in the defense of Oakhurst. He recounts a heartfelt tale of the loss of his father and wandering around looking for his home as he'd not seen it since he was a boy. Arlin quickly agreed to help, as he is want to do, especially when Esh exclaimed he's been in search of his elven mother all this time as well. They agreed to meet at the town center at dawn.

Esh headed back to the tavern to join in the revelry but spotted the goblin kids speaking with someone and darting off into the shadows. His suspicions still raised, he confronts the children and they explain they still need a piece of fur from the butcher's dog. Esh escorts them straight there, where they head to the back of the shop and are greeted by Belva the Butcher, who tells them her dog ran away. She posted a note about in on the town notice board that she'd pay well if someone found her dog and brought it back. She asked Esh what he's doing helping Iza's children - Esh told her their story from the woods. They all parted ways, Esh to go to the tavern and find half of his adventuring troupe in their cups before they headed off to bed.

During Arlin's elven trance to recuperate his energy, he was roused by Tisa, Folix, and Kivi who had exasperated looks on their faces and explained the town was to be under attack in mere moments. They led him back to the town square and just as Arlin was figuring out the scope of what was happening he heard the town crier yell out that a raid was imminent.

Bells rang and woke the tavern-laden party from their brief and, in some cases, inebriated sleep. The town guards were being quickly overrun by a scouting party of the goblin warband! Large, ferocious goblins led by worg-riding goblin bosses were setting buildings of the village on fire as they sowed discord and violence upon the village. Our heroes set upon them quickly in their restless state, with axes, arrows, and quick thinking plots from the githzerai wizard to slow them down. Arlin was running to the town square just in time to notice a second band of goblins coming from the north, having slaughtered the guards already. In the chaos of battle the villagers tried to start putting out the fires, and were met by sword and bow from the goblins. But our brave heroes cracked skulls, put arrows in their backs, and even used simultaneous thunder magic to send worgs and goblins screaming to their doom…all as the village began to burn.

The heroes did not slay them all as a goblin escaped surely to tell his tribe that a meager defense exists in Oakhurst. But after the fires were put out and the madness of battle subsided the heroes finally got their deserved rest, only to surely set out in the morning...

It's a late morning in Oakhurst as our heroes catch the must needed rest they deserved. They meet with Lady Hucrele who gives them a wax-sealed missive to be delivered to Blackford Crossing requesting aid for Oakhurst, by way of 50 able soldiers. She provides them with two horses (on loan - to be returned to the village as they are farming draft horses) to expedite their journey and sells them the provisions they need to make way. Our fair wizard finally is able to summon Hootley, his charming owl familiar now that he has the proper material components to do so (The druid and barbarian are visibly pleased at Hootley's return).

Kerowyn explains that she fears the goblins will return with their horde in a week's time - our heroes have a fierce time limit for their 60 mile journey. They set off, taking turns riding, walking, and keeping a steady pace northwest between the foothills and the woods. The halfling monk takes a well deserved rest in one horse's saddlebag. The first day and night go by without incident, but shortly into the trip on the second morning Hootley detects a pair of griffons is swooping in! Esh the Bagmaster sees these creatures and runs away screaming. Unbeknownst to the rest of his companions, Esh's father was killed by a griffon when he was just a boy, and the sight of these sent him into a flighted panic.

The griffons have eyes for the horses and attempt to steal them away. One succeeds, and begins to take not only the horse, but Apple, sleeping in the saddlebag, as well! Valka the barbarian reacts immediately and in a fit of raging heroism, scrambles up some rocks and leaps onto the horse the griffon is attempting to steal, slashing at the griffon. It releases the horse and Valka with it, who drop 20 feet to the ground. The horse, with claw marks on its side and broken bones from a fall lets out a horrible whinny. Arlin the druid becomes desperate to help her animal friend and makes a furious effort to dash to the horse and heal it as soon as she's able (perhaps at the expense of her humanoid compatriots who were hurt as well).

This left Azarek the wizard alone in the middle of the road facing down the other griffon. He is beset by the avian beast and is nearly taken down in a single assault - but he manages to cast a mental mind spike that dizzies the griffon. Esh has been cowering behind a rock this entire combat, passively plucking yew at the griffons, but then saw his companion in need. He summons the Dissonant Whispers, recalling the sadness and fury he felt from his father's passing, and sends the griffon that was attacking the wizard flying off in fear.

The other griffon comes back to his dropped horse, but is immediately beset by slashes and stabs as the ever stalwart Valka carves the griffon to its demise defending her wounded friend (the halfling monk had a horse fall on her - and she went from asleep to unconscious - yes, that's correct). With the griffons defeated, they turn to Esh to find out the miserable tale of his father, heal the wounded, and get back on the road after a quick rest. Their injured horse, while Arlin did heal it, is definitely a bit slower from the trauma. Yet the persisted.

Later on in the day they encounter a well decorated wagon on the side of the road with a broken wheel. They introduce themselves to Ridaldo the Regal - a wine merchant of some renown in a fine tailcoat and turban who requests they help his driver fix his wagons' broken wheel in exchange for the chance to buy his finery at a steep discount. They attempt to replace their horse with one of his, but Ridaldo is a journeying man and needs his healthy steeds. Valka is immediately interested in this fine man's alcohol, but the rest of the party is looking for...more exquisite items. Ridaldo offers to sell them a potion of healing - but more interestingly a mysterious key. They take the deal and buy the magical items for a song - and more importantly, a repaired wheel thanks to the druid's mending magics.

As they set toward their destination they find that Apple, who's been sleeping the entire trip so far, has literally been sleeping the entire trip so far. Attempts to rouse her fail, and Azarek determines she's been affected by some kind of transmutation magic but they can't seem to undo what's been done to her. It's late on their second day in and now must not only deliver a missive but find a fix for their fragile friend. The bridge-town of Blackford Crossing hopefully will be able to give them answers...

I'm going to dump in some photos from our games. They aren't too exciting, but I figured I'd share.

Reaching the bottom of the well at the Sunless Citadel and being beset by skeletons and twig blights
IMAGE(https://steamuserimages-a.akamaihd.net/ugc/952968258416210234/033B6F91A91A6583C15A34FCFE5DDE34DB2AE770/)

Our final encounter in the Sunless Citadel where the party faces off against the mad druid Belak and his thralls
IMAGE(https://steamuserimages-a.akamaihd.net/ugc/952968258416210580/25412220FB6D3A6E5FBEA86D0D36E8A52982589B/)

Meeting the goblin children after defending them from a pack of wolves
IMAGE(https://steamuserimages-a.akamaihd.net/ugc/952968258416210834/16FAFB997D9755B082DBF2D4C95306C9F813A3D4/)

Defending the town of Oakhurt from a goblin raid
IMAGE(https://steamuserimages-a.akamaihd.net/ugc/952968258416211070/B39151844DDBADDF46ECA6D585747875FB13ACB1/)

After the griffon encounter on the road to Blackford Crossing
IMAGE(https://steamuserimages-a.akamaihd.net/ugc/952968258416211267/77DD9152FCEB13B6A545570F286EA3BB82A5F6D9/)

What is the software that you guys are using for your battlemaps?

No software specifically. I get maps online and then let Tabletop Simulator project a grid on top of them. Occasionally the maps have grids on them already, but I tend to stick with TTS grids because then I can control the size and perspective.

Also, to be clear, TTS has a mod called Drewgo's RPG Simulator which shows the table, the dice rollers and most everything else. Just get maps and minis (many of which are also found as mods to TTS) and you're rolling!

Arrival at Blackford Crossing

Blackford Crossing is town that cropped up around a bridge over the River Mirar. Most of the population grew around the barracks and towers put in place to defend the bridge. Our heroes arrived at the dead of night - cold, tired, and weary.

They found a pair of guards who informed them they can find lodging at the Rusty Lance Tavern, which is across from the barracks by the bridge, and that the town is run by the captain of the guard (who best not be disturbed until morning). Azarek asked if the town has any magical shops or if any of the troops were mages, but the guards replied that there wasn’t. One of the guards, a gregarious half-orc, shooed the other guard away and asked about what they needed. He loved that they were professional adventurers. He recommended they talk to Selma who he saw at the Rusty Lance, since he knew she was “one of those magic types.” And to tell her Ort sent them.

At the Rusty Lance, poor Esh decided to take a room and ensure that he was headed to bed straightaway. The Apple Problem still presented itself as the Halfling was very much asleep in a saddlebag with no means of waking. Selma was easy enough to spot in the back of the barroom. Long flowing colorful robes adorned a jovial woman who was playing dice with the locals in the earliest of morning hours. Arlin, Azarek, and Valka spoke with her and asked her to look at their unconscious friend, but Selma claimed she was no healer – though some call her the Stormbringer. She did know that her compatriots Harrik and Yorda were out running an errand for some noble south of town. She mentioned that this trio called themselves the Coffin Cheaters – but Selma made it very clear it was her day off. She mentioned that they ought to seek out Harrik and Yorda, as they could likely help their friend.
Selma Stormbringer
IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/ziOgTpG.jpg)

With that, they took their rest, rose and set across the road to the barracks where they met Captain Gedrick, a military man through and through. They delivered the missive from Lady Hucrele, but the captain could not deliver on her request. Blackford Crossing is a part of the city state of Luskan, which is directly west down the river. Blackford’s troops are Luskanian, and are set on a rotation. The most recent replacements are delayed, so it’d be weeks before he has any troops to spare. He suggests they look into mercenaries, though he’s not certain they’d want to be paid in food. Lady Hucrele’s letter had promised their bumper crop to Blackford Crossing as means to pay for their defense. The party asked the captain about the noble south of town, he says she’s the Countess Emarque and gives simple directions to get there.

At the Estate Emarque they see the fanciest manor home they’d ever seen – though they were barred from entry by a gate. A snooty servant at the gate informed them that Harrik and Yorda went to the nearby warrens – they were tasked with clearing them of whatever vermin had been stealing the Countess’ servants. He told them where to go and shooed them off.

After a quick walk guided by the watchful eye of the druid, they made their way to the warrens’ entrance. At the bottom of a rocky slope was a large cave mouth where a dwarf and a human were taking a short break from the slaughter of hyenas that were littered about, bloodied and defeated. Harrik the Harried is a dwarf with graying hair, a close cropped beard, an eye patch, and well used heavy armor and battleaxe. Yorda was adorned in robes of red, burned and tattered along the edges but wearing a shimmering breastplate with the twining red flame sigil of Kossuth.
Harrik the Harried
IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/B9lGptk.jpg)

Our adventurers explained to Harrik and Yorda the plight of their soon-to-be-besieged village and said they're looking to hire them - oh yeah, hey, and also we have this here sleeping Halfling and your friend Selma said you could fix her. After some negotiations Harrik takes a sum of money to keep him as a retainer, and he swears he'll be able to find more warriors for their cause. Yorda examines Apple, does a quick prayer, and lifts whatever ailed the woman - she swears there was something in a drink that she took with her from Oakhurst, but she can't quite remember who made it.
Yorda the Unclean
IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/n3Ejjj0.jpg)

Part of the deal meant helping Harrik and Yorda clear the warrens of gnolls - large dog-like creatures that infested the cave and were likely the cause of the servants disappearance. Our brave heroes took up the challenge mightily - and after some quick maneuvering in the dark with alarm traps and scrambling up some sheer rock faces, the party is confronted by gnolls. Like, a lot of gnolls. A concerning number of gnolls.

After an opening salvo of arrows to and fro, Harrik quickly dives into the middle of the fracas with his axe and shield. He is beset by hunters, flesh gnawers, and a Pack Lord directing the gnolls to attack harder. A trio of gnolls come over a rockalanche and encounter our party head on, Apple, Arlin, and Valka defending themselves while Azarek, Esh and Yorda defend the other side from even more. Sometime in the battle a humanoid and very robed figure steps toward the ledge and unleashes a fireball devastating the morale, humidity, and general levels of levity the party was previously enjoying.

Arlin saw his moment and called forth an ancestral spirit healer, and a mighty bear totem appeared that healed anyone nearby it. Yorda, desperate for respite all her own retreated to Arlin's bear spirit and cast her own healing spell that brought their bowpiper Esh back to his feet.

The warlock then unleashed a wicked spell that changed brave Harrik into a rat, though that was quickly nullified by an arrow from Esh, disrupting the mage's concentration on the spell. Azarek saw the trouble Harrik was having from a multitude of gnolls around him and cast an entangling growth beneath their feet - but due to the wizards' clever portents, he knew Harrik would be unburdened by the plants.

With their strength reinvigorated they pressed forward, felled many gnolls (quite a concerning number of gnolls) and cornered the warlock and giving no quarter. Arrows, axes, javelins and spears were thrown at the retreating mage, leaving him oh so very very deceased. They found his ritual chamber, where he was eviscerating the hearts of the servants in some bloody sacrifice to the gnolls demon god Yeenoghu, and while there were several servants deceased already, there were a few still locked in cages that were incredibly grateful to be rescued. The party came across the warlocks hoard of magical items, including scrolls, potions, magical horseshoes and a...jug of water?

'Til next time...

Here are some screenshots from our last session.

Hootley scouts ahead (and is promptly turned into a pincushion).
IMAGE(https://steamuserimages-a.akamaihd.net/ugc/952969063437358848/CD9EEF03D89D8B246FE65B88F1B5A2ECA1DCA71A/)

Azarek wisely stays out of fireball range.
IMAGE(https://steamuserimages-a.akamaihd.net/ugc/952969063437359334/40F405AF58491A8B8A2E284C3ED0F68D64416B93/)

The Flourish of Salt and Shade: A Wayward Equestrian Tale

With the gnolls and warlock defeated, our heroes split the treasure with Harrik and Yorda, giving them the magical horseshoes in exchange for the Decanter of Endless Water. A supply of water now always at hand, they venture back to the estate of Countess Emarque, once again greeted with disdain by her head servant, who takes his time in retrieving Harrik's pay for the service of clearing out the warrens. In their travels, Harrik asks the name of the town again, and asserts that his nephew lives there as a smith. He wants to head back into town and gather up Selma.

Taking the newly named pack horses Elmer and Buddy back to Blackford Crossing, the party splits to tackle the tasks in town. Azarek takes a private moment to re-summon his familiar, Hootley. Esh and Apple go to two different shops, The Golden Pick and The Plucked Yew, the former a smithy and the latter a leather and woodworker. They exchange coin for a brace of javelins for Valka and a rapier for Esh. The sales-elf at The Plucked Yew offered to sell them magical arrows, but their coin was insufficient. Apple showed the merchant the agate-made statue of the elven god Corellon Larethian that the merchant was enchanted with and bartered a deal for the arrows in exchange for the statue and a bit of coin.

Arlin and Valka headed to The Rusty Lance Tavern with Harrik and Yorda, and came across Selma, the colorfully adorned sorceress still at the tavern having exchanged her dicing for cards, and looked like she'd not yet slept. Harrik asserted that they'd need to gather up the remainder of the Coffin Cheaters in Luskan. This would not fit into the estimated timeline, as Luskan is in the opposite direction of Oakhurst and Lady Hucrele had estimated seven days time for the warband of goblins to arrive. Yorda reminds the sloshed Selma that she can teleport people to and fro, thus the plan is to have Selma go with the party to Oakhurst, while the Coffin Cheaters head east to go round out their numbers.

Conversation on the road gets swept in talk of magic, the nature of it, brewing, and drink composition. Apple tried to encourage Arlin to assist them with creating a new drink based on Goodberry juice. The intent was to create something that doesn't leave one with the after-effects of alcohol consumption. Arlin informs them that Goodberries have a short magical life, after which they're just berries. So they workshop ideas and come up with nothing short of brilliance - a glass of fine beer or spirits that then has a small additive of fresh Goodberry juice that gets you feeling good with an explosion of flavor, like some kind of...Druid Cart Bomb.

Hootley spies a horse well off the road, hitched to a tree. The party investigates and finds the horse all alone - bootprints lead away from the horse for a short while and then vanish without a trace. The saddle on the horse is exquisite, bejeweled and with a horn of ivory, the finest leathers for the seat. It shows an engraving - IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/zVdgHsUt.png) - of a symbol they do not know. Arlin speaks with the horse, calming it and finding out what happened. Horses don't speak, but with her magic she can discern that it's been here for some time, and it's rider just...disappeared. It knows it's name, but since it cannot speak it's tough to describe...something with flair, and panache...it sounds like "Piz'Az." The group decides to get an early rest just as the sun sets so they might be able to wait for Piz'Az's rider and sleep the night through, though no one shows. So as to not let the horse wander without care, they take Piz'Az and Arlin decides to take first ride, though Selma definitely wants a turn.

Time goes by on the road back to Oakhurst but the adventurers are halted by an overturned wagon ahead of them. Azarek's winged companion sees the cart broken, beset by tree trunks and boulders, and a pair of fallen commoners ahead of the wagon. Out of the back of the broken cart came a nasty pair, a human in a red overcoat and a brace of daggers and a goblin who looked up and saw Hootley. Eyes locked from the bandits to the party, and the bandits announced that they're collecting a toll from the road. Not ones to fork over gold (or let murderers go unpunished) the fight ensued.

The goblin came forth with an attempt at mental magics on Arlin, trying to get him to relinquish their valuables, but innocent as he is, his mind is still quite sharp. The bandit captain summoned more bandits from the east, and a large ogre bearing the trunks of trees as thrown ammunition. Azarek teamed up with Selma with a devastating magic combination - he ensnared their footsteps to ensure the could not escape from a storm of ice that hailed upon the bandit reinforcements heads, smiting them all. Valka took straight to the ogre, slicing and dicing even while getting punched in the face from one of those gigantic fists. Esh fired at the bandit captain, and eventually put him unconscious with magical sleep. Arlin came at the goblin with his spear, but when he did the goblin transformed into a vicious canine fiend!
IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/dP9vceym.jpg)

The fiend clawed and scratched at Arlin who retreated to tend to his wounds. Apple had attempted to assist Valka with the ogre but came back when the creature transformed. The ogre saw his bandit friends dispatched, and being assailed by many he chose to hurl one last tree trunk and flee, and was struck down by Valka. That tree trunk impacted poor Apple square in the back, incapacitating her. Arlin and Esh were quick with those healing words, keeping the party on their feet, as Selma - astride Piz'Az, no less - charges the creature, running it down with the horse and firing lightning blasts at it ceaselessly. She warns the heroes it's a barghest, and to strike it with magical weapons! Sure enough our adventurers rally themselves and coordinate the defeat of the remaining bandit captain who was swarthy enough to cut and slash his way toward the group before he was eventually felled, and the barghest not long behind.

When we return they will no doubt investigate the cart and make their way back to Oakhurst, bringing only a sorceress and a promise...

The Return to Oakhurst - Part I

After looting the looters and finding gems and fancy magical boots of false tracks, the adventurers press on into the night and arrive at Oakhurst. Exhausted, they opt to rest for the night in comfortable beds and see the mayor in the morning.

Lady Hucrele greets them the next morning with enthusiasm when they arrive in her shop, though she is immediately distressed that the troops from Blackford Crossing did not arrive. When she hears that the mercenaries the adventurers hired could be counted on less than one hand, she asked for other ideas to defend their home.

Valka opted to take people to get lumber and create fortifications and barricades. Azarek scouted to the east with Hootley and poured over his historical texts to get a better mind for where to prepare defenses and when best to strike. Arlin went to the temple of Pelor and met with Corkie the priest to create a triage station within the temple grounds and set up medical services. Esh met with Rurik the blacksmith to see about creating more weapons for the people to defend themselves with.

Apple talked to Garon at the Ol' Boar Inn, and between figuring out what works best as a flammable solution for the battle to come, she pried Garon accusingly about whatever it was that she drank that knocked her out for two straight days. Garon remembered that Belva the Butcher brought a homemade brew the night of the festivities, of which Apple took for the trip and then made her slumber. Apple got caught up before she could seek Belva, however, as Esh recruited her to go hunt boar in the Neverwinter Wood. Apple knew that boar fat was to be a primary ingredient in creating those flammables she'd just been discussing.

A few villagers armed with bows came along with Esh and Apple, but as they'd entered the woods they found a very large and foreboding blood trail. At the sight of glowing red canine eyes in the brush, the villagers turned tail and ran for safety - Apple and Esh did not do the same. Theirs was a tactical retreat.

Having rounded up the rest of the party (save Selma, who was busying herself with making the teleportation circles she'd need once Yorda magically messaged her that they were ready), our heroes went back into the woods, as night began to close in. They followed that same blood trail for quite some ways, and it led to an alcove where they saw a very large wolf standing guard over a few other wounded wolves.

Arlin used her druidic beast speech to communicated with the wolf, and to his surprise, it spoke back in clear words and phrases, rather than the signs and emotions she normally hears from wild animals. The wolf warned her of the impending charge as a group of angry boar looking to finish off the wolves that had been hunting them came crashing through the trees!

Arlin and Apple made it very clear that they'd assist the wolf, in a hope that it'd help them in the future. The fight began and the wolf breathed a wild frost breath that froze one of the boar immediately. Azarek entangled the charging boar, slowing their approach, as Apple bravely positioned herself before the boar's charge and in front of the wolf, knocking the poor halfling down in the process. Esh piped out arrows and bardic combat inspiration and Arlin saw to Apple's wounds. Azarek showed off Hootley's new trick, bestowing him with a magical breath weapon that, just like the wolf, blasted the boar with magical cold, freezing more of their numbers. Apple and Valka finished the assault on the last giant boar as it attempted to flee, but Valka's quick reflexes would not let it escape.

The wolf turned to Arlin, asking why they helped her. Arlin explained that she came from a town and was hoping the wolf would help in its defense since he healed the wolf's fellow packmates and helped defeat the boar. After a bout of convincing (and relinqueshing the majority of the boar) the wolf agreed that she and her pack would scout out for the impending goblins, in exchange for taking them north to the mountains.

Accepting the wolf's deal, they crafted a makeshift litter to haul their giant boar back to town on the heels of their shape-changing druid (who took on the image of Buddy the Horse).

Only two days remain until the horde arrives...

The Return and Departure from Oakhurst

Our valiant heroes return from the Neverwinter Wood, boar in tow of Arlin's wild shape. While the party heads to the Inn for much needed rest, Arlin takes the litter to Belva's house. Changing back to elven form and leaving the carcass out front, Arlin goes about the business of finding Belva in the back of her house. Belva is amidst play fighting with the same large wolf they'd departed but a few hours prior, laughing and carrying on. She stands and thanks Arlin for finding Lucy, her lost dog. Lucy responds in beast speech to Arlin, telling him that she was asked to find goblins, and indeed she already has - he must come with her at once. More on this story as it unfolds...

The rest of the party wakes, none the wiser of what transpired the previous evening. They return to their work of creating defenses for Oakhurst, each aiding and leading the villagers in useful tasks before the goblin warband arrives.

During a short break for lunch at the inn, four goblins enter the barroom and create a hush over the conversation. Tisa, Folix, and Kivi run up to our adventurers with smiles, and their mother behind them introduces herself as Iza Ficklebolt. Iza tells the group that she's spied a scout of the warband in the forest and hills to the east, and came as fast as she could to warn them. She tells them that if they dispatch the scout, it'd likely mean they'd bought the town more time to prepare as the warband awaits the scouts intel. The group decides this is a good use of their time, but right as they were to set out, Selma Stormbringer shoots up from her seat, her eyes flashing with the crackle of lightning. When she comes to, Selma says she was just getting a magical message from Yorda, who said they'd been taken captive in Luskan. Yorda was about to tell her details but the message just...stopped. Selma was insistent that she go to Luskan immediately and rescue her mercenary friends. This left the group with a very difficult decision - do they head to the hills and forest to eliminate the scout and buy the town more time? Or head with Selma to Luskan on a rescue operation for the Coffin Cheaters? This decision needed to be made quickly as Selma was storming off to the temple of Pelor where she'd created her teleportation circle. It should be noted that this decision was a real stumper for the table as they each had their minds swayed a few times (and delighted the GM to no end).

They opted to catch up with Selma as she strode toward the temple, and leave word with Mayor Hucrele about the scout and hoped that Arlin, wherever he was, could deal with the scout with Iza's help. He's outdoorsy. He's got this.

Selma takes them to the temple's unoccupied room where the teleportation circle she'd carved was, and shifted them through a portal to a room...that looked exactly the same. They'd gone to the temple of Pelor in Luskan, which must have had the same architect. Selma leads them out to the streets of Luskan, a port city that had fallen into ruin in recent years. The buildings and dockside areas were sparsely populated, the normal hustle and bustle of a town seemingly absent. Some ships were in port, some goods being moved, but it was obvious that this was now a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

Selma mentioned they head to a local tavern the Coffin Cheaters used to frequent called The Opposite River, right near the water. The barkeep, a salty half orc man was somewhat tight lipped when Selma asked about Harrik & Co, so Azarek magically suggested he be more forthcoming and he said he'd seen them head to pier 14. A quick word of false thanks and they headed out to the pier.

Upon the arrival to the pier, Hootley spied their allies tied up on a ship, which was about to head out. Pirates were on the deck of the ship, which was captained by a haunting creature - IMAGE(https://media-waterdeep.cursecdn.com/attachments/3/904/merrenoloth.png) - that told them not to interfere, as Wu Lan paid for their delivery.

They interfered.

Our fair heroes came out swinging, and the pirates shot back with their crossbows. The hollow-eyed captain muttered something from under his breath and summoned a swirling vortex in the nearby water, nearly sucking in Esh the Bagmaster! Selma saw her friends captive and figured there was one way to free them ever so quickly - throw the barbarian at it. She told Valka to go save them as she blessed her with wind-rushed flight. A soaring Valka quickly crossed over the vortex and landed on the boat, surrounded by pirates and swords dashing everywhere.

From the depths behind the heroes rolled a living wave of water that came crashing down around Apple, Selma and Azarek - an elemental of water that was slamming into them and even engulfed Selma inside it, leaving her gasping for air! Over and over it came, consuming all who would enter its wake, the heroes in turn trying to pull each other free from its watery embrace. The sea captain cast his frightful gaze toward our heroes but a quick thinking wizard Greased the gangplank the captain stood on and sent him falling to the sea. Valka and Esh dispatched the remaining pirates and Valka began to untie the rest of the Coffin Cheaters but poor Selma had been trapped inside the water elemental for far too long, her gasps for air simply futile as she tumbled inside the aquatic nightmare. Azarek attempted to free the wizard and made a fair assumption about her being resistant to electricity as he commanded Hootley to breathe a draconic line of lightning at the water elemental. This backfired, however, as Selma went limp, shocked from the watery amplification of water. Valka returned to the fight with her magical sword Shatterspike and Esh launched his magical arrows at the creature, beginning to really lay harm upon it. The sea captain erupted from behind the ship, starting to lay upon our heroes with its deadly oar, but Esh sent it back to the bottom of the sea floor with an arrow to its heart. Valka was able to wrest Selma free from the elemental, and Esh cast his magical healing upon her, forcing the water from her lungs as she gasped for life, and shot the elemental with a torrent of lightning that dispatched the creature, its watery body dispersing to the waves once more.

Newly freed Harrik, Selma, and Ort (who they'd previously met working as a guard in Blackford Crossing) tell them that they'd be almost shanghai'ed and delivered to Wu Lan, a pirate lord who believes the Coffin Cheaters double crossed them on a job some years ago. But all that is old news, as they still need to find the rest of the Coffin Cheaters and get back to Oakhurst before the goblins arrive!

The Luskanian Rescue Operation, Part 1

Harrik says he wants strong words with Weston, the barkeep from The Opposite River as he's the one who told them where to go and what to do, and believes he's the reason they were waylaid. A short march back to the bar and they came bursting in. Weston the half orc knew the jig was up and proceeded to beat feet toward the back room. Valka and Apple ran after him and Azarek sidestepped to get a view of the door he was about to exit and magically kept it shut with his invisible mage hand. This allowed for instant intimidation from the monk and barbarian who cracked Weston like a walnut. In short order he was spilling his guts that he sent Coffin Cheaters to the Southend because he was paid off to do so by a weird, short, foul smelling person that handed him a sack of gems (which were quickly "recovered" by our heroes). They tied up the lying barkeep and shoved him in the basement as they followed directions toward the Southend, and made a right turn at the Lamb's Head Tavern.

Both Apple and Hootley spied a hooded figure headed into the sewer grate in an alley across the street, so it seemed obvious that this was their point of investigation. Harrik suggested they split up, the Coffin Cheaters taking the close sewer grate and our fair heroes following the robed figure across the way. There's a lot of sewer to cover...

Our heroes agree to meet up with the Coffin Cheaters in an hour at the nearby tavern to check in and report back, then they head down into the foul smelling depths below. Darkness, murk, and mire await them as they begin exploring and find a pile of bones hastily made into a mound. The bones were cleaned of every bit of flesh, and no items or belongings left behind. That horror was punctuated as they continued to explore but ran over a tripwire alarm, bottles and cans clanking about. Suddenly they were beset by the sewers defenders, horrific ratmen armed with daggers, teeth, and a ravenous need to utilize pack tactics!IMAGE(http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ecywZyDdCPg/T3EAnzRWutI/AAAAAAAAA9g/ODH-nxrs3gE/s400/Skaven+Slaves.JPG)
Outnumbered, our heroes bravely fought back the flashing steel, but not before Valka being cut by a poisoned shortsword, weakening her. Esh used his wits and magic upon seeing the poisoned blade and heated the sword to a burning rod, forcing the ratman to drop his blade. Once Apple and Azarek secured their rear flank, one of the ratmen made a dash to get away. After persistence by Hootley and being harried ever still, the sneaky rat assassin managed to escape. But the rest of the rats were not so lucky, as our heroes took one alive, simply knocking it out and then interrogating it. The ratman didn't know the Coffin Cheaters, but told them they've always got more people to feed to the Machine. It chittered away about the Machine that creates their salve of life, it makes them strong, and it needs people fed to it to work. Disgusted, they tied up the creature and force it at swordpoint to lead them to this Machine, hopefully finding and freeing people that don't deserve such a fate.

The ratman complied, and led them further into the sewer. Apple keenly spied the rat carefully stepping over another tripwire and began to warn everyone not to step on it. The ratman seized his moment and leapt forward, tugging the rope Valka held. Caught unawares, she inadvertently lurched forward and tripped the wire. Our brave party's cat-like reflexes saved themselves as poison darts shot across the sewer! Esh grabbed some of the unbroken poison darts for safe keeping. Then the skittering ratman squealed as best he could in his last ditch endeavour, which caught the ear of a hulking rat ogre, who turned the corner and looked to charge!IMAGE(https://d1u5p3l4wpay3k.cloudfront.net/vermintide2_gamepedia_en/3/3f/Enemy_rat_ogre.jpg)
Azarek whipped out his trusty wand of Entanglement and began to create a thick blanket of vines and thorns in this dank sewer, continually wrapping themselves around this monstrosity. The beast howled in rage, ripping the vines and thorns away time after time, closing the distance down the sewer tunnel. Our adventurers capitalized on the beasts frustrations and launched javelins, throwing darts, and arrows at it as it continued to charge.

From behind the rat ogre appeared its handler, oddly dressed in a mask and wielding horrible gas filled globes, that it launched toward the heroes making pockets of deadly gas! IMAGE(https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/warhammerfb/images/e/e7/Warhammer_Skaven_Globadier_Arts.png) Apple and Valka deftly managed to fortify themselves against the noxious gases but then the rat ogre had finally closed the gap and struck Valka with a series of mighty blows that even would give a barbarian pause. Esh then sprang into action with a moment of absolute inspiration - he dashed forward, pulling the recently acquired poison darts from his satchel and loaded them into the top of his trusty bagpipes, aimed them at the ogre and played the loudest note he could muster. Sheer luck and fortune on our heroes side as the rat ogre was pelted by this makeshift Dartpipe, weakening the creature. Apple capitalized on this extraordinary turn of events and pummeled it heartily with a Flurry Of Blows™ knocking it out of the fight, while Valka carved the globadier into submission and Esh polished it off with an arrow. Once it expired, the ratman fell and all its noxious globes burst at once, creating a field of poisonous gas that threatened to close off their access to further explore the sewers. Tired, wounded and exhausted our brave heroes chose to dash through the gas cloud and press on...

The Luskanian Rescue Operation, Part 2

With our intrepid heroes trapped off from easy escape due to poisonous gases flooding the hallway, they realize they have no time to rest and press onward through the sewers.

Before a corner is turned they hear the skittering of feet from down a wayward hall. Azarek thinks quickly and projects an image of the globadier that they’d just dispatched, and imitates a ratman voice as best he could with Minor Illusion. One ratman comes closer and our party rushes onward, dispatching him quickly. They follow the footfalls of the other one, which leads them to another series of tunnels. On the way, Apple proposes that their adventuring band gain a name, since it’s so easy to identify the Coffin Cheaters, they ought to have one as well. She says that there’s the ever present owl Hootley, and that several of their party are musicians with bagpipes. Plus, Azarek is a gith, so really it’s all about Hootley and the Blowgish.

The party murmured. (and the players/gm lost their gorram MINDS)

Following their rat-lead, they wind up at a cross section of tunnels, the ever present darkness a constant issue. Ratmen begin to swarm from the darkness, quickly felled, but a large, flopping mass of acid slowly creeps toward them – IMAGE( https://media-waterdeep.cursecdn.com/avatars/thumbnails/0/409/1000/1000/636252786406028958.jpeg) – a gelatinous cube! Darts, javelins, arrows – they all pierce it but dissolve quickly in its acid-filled mass. It’d been stripping the flesh from humanoids down in the sewers and came from a pile of skeletons that it’d been dissolving. Entangle slowed it for quite a bit while our heroes took out the oncoming ratmen, until one from down a far tunnel chittered and screamed “Retreat from here or DIE!” Adorned in robes and sickly blades, it rushed at our heroes, slashing with abandon, moving from hero to hero, ensuring its poison-coated blades took purchase on each. IMAGE( https://www.games-workshop.com/resources/catalog/product/600x620/99800206006_SnikchNEW01.jpg) Arrows struck it, blades hit it, but this Pestilence Priest could not be felled by a simple strike. Finally its poison took hold in Azarek, who became immediately ill with The Fever. His eyes streaked with redness and sick he went berserk! He lashed out at the closest thing to him, poor Apple! Apple looked at Azarek askance and deflected the blows with ease, but it still took Azarek from the fight, and allowed the gelatinous cube to come ever closer.

Our heroes were now in dire straits. Their abilities exhausted, their energy all but gone, they needed to rally and coordinate, and save each other the best they could. Healing potions were shared, the Dragon’s Breath spell placed on Apple, and constant maneuvering led to the priest and the cube getting pummeled with swords, arrows and fire. The cube had even engulfed Apple whole, doomed to disintegrate within the cube but valiant Valka risked her life (and arm) to get Apple to safety. Azarek broke free of The Fever for a short time to cast some devastating bouts of Toll the Dead on both the Pestilence Priest and the cube.

But it was Apple's newly found fire-breath that caused the Pestilence Priest to stand tall and shirk his flaming robes, swords aloft. She then delivered a swift kick to the ratproduction organs that made him fall. With the Pestilence Priest defeated it was short work to continue to pummel the slow moving gelatinous cube to its demise.

In the tunnel from where the priest emerged was The Machine previously mentioned by their rat captive. Strapped to it was a human, its blood flowing into the machine which whirred and ground, and out its other side streamed a slow-moving, glowing, and viscous liquid into a cask. Next to the machine was a group of people bound and gagged, their eyes as red as Azarek's, and still prone to fits of random violence. When the name of the Coffin Cheaters was mentioned, one of the captives perked up. Red eyed and delusional, they could only affirm they knew Harrik before returning to The Fever's madness.

Debates were held on how to extract the Coffin Cheaters, maligned with violent outbursts. In their debates, Valka looked to The Machine with disgust and slammed Shatterspike into it, over and over, annihilating the exsanguinating contraption. Apple looked to the cask of glowing red liquid, and curiously took a sip. Though it tasted absolutely foul, it made her feel completely refreshed, "like when you take a really memorable sh*t in the morning." -Apple, the sewers of Luskan

Considering how amazing it made her feel she posited that this solution might help those infected with The Fever. Before much opposition could be asserted, Apple sucked up another sip and laid a large smacker on Azarek, spitting the unknown liquid straight down the gith's throat. Though the sight might sicken some, the solution wound up clearing up The Fever almost instantly.

With the Coffin Cheaters administered some of the magical blood healing juice, they freed them from their bound and gagged states, recovered their pile of weapons and used every spare empty flask they had to take the cask's morally ambiguous potion of wonderment and vitality. Then it was back to the surface to meet up with Harrik for what should prove to be a tearful reunion...

Wonderful. I don't want to think about the outcome without Azarek deciding to cast Firebreath. Was that his last spell available as well? Appropriate guilt to get my long overdue recap updates posted.

Blowgish, assemble!

bhchrist wrote:

Wonderful. I don't want to think about the outcome without Azarek deciding to cast Firebreath. Was that his last spell available as well? Appropriate guilt to get my long overdue recap updates posted.

Blowgish, assemble!

It was my last spell of the day. Though I wonder how things would have played out if I had lost my concentration on it. I'm glad we didn't find out.

Arlin Elmwood's Super Sidequest Team-Up GO!

Meanwhile, back in Oakhurst...Arlin had just delivered the boar carcass to Belva the Butcher's front door, and found out that she was around back, greeting a very familiar wolf. They seem to be playfighting, Belva laughing on the ground. She recognizes Arlin and thanks him for returning Lucy to her! Lucy comes to Arlin and attempts to communicate, so he casts his beast speech spell and Lucy tells Arlin that since she was tasked with finding goblins, it's best he comes with her quickly as she's found some, and she begins to run off. Arlin shouts a quick explanation to Belva before he runs off to the woods after Lucy.

Once it becomes apparent Lucy is much too fast, Arlin uses wild shape to also take the form of (an albeit somewhat smaller) wolf, and runs after her. She leads them to a spot where she'd last seen some. It looked like a few tents were pitched in the woods hastily. Arlin searches the area with his newly keen wolf nose, and pokes around for signs of where they might have gone. It's evident that they went to great lengths to hide their tracks leading away from their camp, but not the camp itself. Arlin finds the necessities in each tent - bedrolls, supplies. The biggest tent has satchels of freshly picked herbs placed in some kind of order on a rickety makeshift wooden rack. Another tent has wood-carved figures of humanoid creatures, the other a stitched doll. Arlin takes the satchels, figures and doll for study later (or to potentially keep them from use against him or the town).

At this point, it was quite late. The day's pressure on him, the nocturnal Lucy offers to stand watch for a few hours while the elf takes his meditative trance. Arlin makes his own lean-to away from the camp, magically masking his location to stay less vulnerable - a trick he's used to survive many times in the forest.

In the earliest of mornings, Lucy comes to Arlin and tells him that while she hasn't seen them come back yet, their scent has returned, and it appears they are headed into town! They immediately follow the scent and backtrack. As they approach town, the tracks muddle together with the footsteps of the muddy streets, but before they enter the town proper they spot goblins retreating from the town! Assessing them closer, they can see the biggest one making somatic movements as they begin to scamper back to the woods.

A spellcaster! Arlin plans for an ambush with Lucy and follows them back, closing the gap. He's mindful to ensure they're away from the town before launching his attack, but one misstep and one of the goblins sees him! Little Kivi shouts Arlin's name with a smile and runs to him. Lucy, unaware of the situation, pounces on one of the goblins. Arlin realizes his mistake quite quickly and at his and the larger spell casters insistence, Lucy backs down from the goblin children and their mother. Arlin speaks to them in their native goblin tongue and says that this town is to be beset by a goblin horde. His suspicions on these goblins, however, do not fade easily.

The spellcasting matron explains that they came to town to warn them of scouts, but the heroes back in town didn't want to come with them. Some other pressing business to attend to (see the last two posts, above, Dear Readers! Excelsior!). She then explains that the scouts camp during the day, they'll wait until nightfall to move, and she knows where they're hidden.

Young Folix pipes up, saying he wants to come with them and fight, but his mother tells them to head back to their camp while their tracks are still masked. Sheepishly Arlin pulls out the dolls and figures, telling the children that someone needs to bring them back home - as she also hands the herbs back to their mother.

Arlin asks the matron to show them the way, and if she's ever ridden a wold. He shifts into wolf form right after, and the matron doesn't bat an eye as she affirms she surely can but would rather ride the larger one. Riding onward into the dawn-breaking light, they exit the forest and head to a more hill covered region. They eventually slow as they get to a large hillside. The smell of campfire kindling is in his nose, the sound of a waterfall on his ears - Arlin skulks forward to spy on these scouts.

Closing in he sees a dull campfire burning on some rocks in a cave behind a waterfall. Arlin heads back to make plans with Lucy and the matron on how to approach them. Arlin plans to have the matron and Lucy flank the cave, as he enters and delivers an immediate thunderclap spell, in the hopes of disorienting the foe.

Arlin sneaks up to the cave in wolf form, and at the last possible moment reverts to elven form. He sees inside the cave a singular resting goblin adorned with leather mail and a headdress made of teeth and feathers. Trying to peer inside further before devastating this goblin Arlin sees from around a corner a giant spider! As it skitters toward him he unleashes the spell sending the unfortunate goblin reeling toward the spider.

Arlin retreats a moment as the goblin looks to clamber up on the back of the giant spider, and the goblin begins to ride forward toward the cave mouth and Arlin. Quick thinking allows Arlin to cast spike growth on the cave floor, slicing up the spindly legs of the spider. It makes an awful chittering noise and just as its rider looks to prepare a spell, the spider leaps to the cave ceiling to avoid the spike growth, sending the goblin to the floor below! The goblin calls out for help to someone or something outside the cave.

Lucy jumps into action and breathes her icy breath at the spider, forcing it to retreat further into the cave, and the matron clutches at her bone necklace as a lance of dark energy leaps from her hands at the goblin, sending him back to the brambles.

From behind Arlin through the forest brush comes a beast he’d never seen before!IMAGE( https://www.clipartmax.com/png/middle/174-1747318_test-pathfinder-displacer-beast.png) Cat-like, but with long barbed tentacles coming from its back it stalks Arlin with far-too-many legs. When he looks at it, it seems blurred, like he’s seeing double. It leans in, but wallops Arlin from a distance, slamming him with the tentacles like a spiked club.

Arlin grabs some loose stone from the cave floor and has Mielikki bless them with power, and scatters the magical stones in the beasts’ FACE. Some of the array is misjudged by the odd visual nature of the beast, but some still connect, forcing that displacement away momentarily.

Inside the cave, the thorns are crawling all over the struggling goblin mage, who clambers away from them, slashing at them with his knife. He calls to his spider mount and they retreat further into the cave. Lucy and the matron give chase. The displacer beast finally looks like one whole creature, and Arlin and the creature traded some glancing blows as it chased after Lucy. Arlin made up the tail end of a cat and mouse game entering the cave mouth, finally able to get a good spear thrust into the displacer beast as it concerned itself with Lucy.

The goblin mage turned to his pursuers and sent a torrent of flame out at the matron and Lucy. The wolf easily hopped from danger but the matron is not so lucky, batting the flames away from herself and casting a familiar druidic healing spell on herself also.

Arlin has some fire tricks as well, as he produces a flame blade and slashes at the displacer beast, while Lucy breathes her winter attack on it at the same time! The displacer beast begins to dart away, and Arlin calls for Lucy to give chase as Lucy nips at the beasts many heels.

The goblin and spider now cornered, the spider launches webbing at Arlin, beginning to wrap him up! The matron sees Arlin’s plight and launches herself bodily at the mage, transforming into a lizard to snap at him with great teeth. The mage retaliates with a series of magical missiles, pummeling her away. The webbing wrapping Arlin up catches fire from his flame blade, inadvertently setting him ablaze!

Arlin fights past the burning pain and also launches himself bodily atop the spider at the goblin mage, swinging his flaming sword, and his flaming body lighting the spider’s thorax on fire. The beast quickly thrashes everyone off of it. Arlin, *still on fire*, ensures the spider takes off by casting his own flame spell at the spider-butt so the spider dashes for freedom from the cave. Arlin then finally takes a moment to stop-drop-and-roll-and-cast-cure-wounds.

The giant lizard is still snapping at the goblin mage giving Arlin the perfect opportunity to slash him across the back with that blazing sword, loosing him from his mortal coil. The matron reverts to her own goblin form and slouches to the cave wall, exhausted. Arlin asks if she wants to be healed, but the matron tells her to save her own strength. So Arlin sets forth as all good adventurers do, and loots the dead. He finds a lovely spellbook from the mage with spells written in goblin, along with some unappealing rations and the staff he’d once wielded.

So they set to return to town, shortly joined by Lucy who had chased the displacer beast but chose to tactically retreat once she battled the beast since she was just too hurt.

Once they arrived back in Oakhurst, Arlin asked Belva to speak to mayor Hucrele to let her know that the scout was eliminated and continue pressing forward with the town defenses. Arlin asks the matron if she'd be willing to fight to defend the town. The matron asks her children be protected during the coming fight, and doesn't want them alone in the woods. Arlin thinks of the temple of Pelor, and how he'd already gotten things set up as a triage and wayshelter with Corkie the priest.

Corkie is plain with Arlin - she doesn't like the idea of goblin children camped up with the rest of the villagers seeking refuge in the temple. So Arlin does the next best thing - buy them some safety by renting a room at the Ol' Boar Inn. Garon is much more used to seeing the goblin children from their times in town trading with the common folk, and doesn't mind taking a few silver to accommodate some goblins in the town's time of need.

And right as Arlin gets the family settled in their room and walks back downstairs, an entourage from Luskan enters the bar...

The Defense of Oakhurst, Parts 1 and 2, Abridged

With our Luskanian rescue operation concluded, and the goblin scout scuttled, our party is reunited once again in Oakhurst at The Ol' Boar Inn. Stories and spellbooks exchanged, they set out with the extra time garnered in making more defenses and fortifications. Kerowyn Hucrele is a bit disappointed that in the search for 50 fighters to defend her town she's ended up with a dozen Coffin Cheaters, but she is pleased that the party returned with an array of arms and armor they purchased from from Luskan before they returned. She sets the villagers to work, but our party needed to take the time to eat, and clean themselves. The majority of the party had just exited a sewer system. Azarek quickly cleaned himself with a cantrip. Apple, seeing the usefulness here, pestered him to do the same to her, to the point of his utmost annoyance and decided to spike her dinner with ill-flavors before he'd ever magically cleanse her. Those two are getting along famously.

Apple and Valka reminisce that this feels like a chance to redeem their ill-fated absence in defending a homestead, and vow to ensure this place stays protected as they taste what’s left of drinkable alcohol in the Inn.

They spent the rest of the day scouting the eastern field and setting up their defenses. Dear readers, bear in mind - this DM wanted to tackle something grand in scope, and shoved a new ruleset on his players just to live out his wargaming fantasy. So the rest of this "part 1" is really a strategery session laying out their defenses as seen below.IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/CsWDfIH.jpg)

Due to their prior work with the villagers in crafting fortifications, barricades, and tons and tons of distilled alcohol, they had a set amount of pieces for difficult terrain and flammable tiles. They also had several units of troops on the battlefield representing themselves, the Coffin Cheaters, and three groups of villagers (archers, spearmen and defenders). Our heroes could choose to "zoom in" on any battle with their own party if they choose to take things to a traditional approach to combat instead of the mass combat system.

They decided to create a funnel of barricades and flame traps, guiding the enemy along a path that would lead the enemy into a log trap. They positioned their defenders out front, the archers (to be hidden) along the hilltop to ignite the flame/log traps. The spearmen backed them up and the party/Coffin Cheaters were to stay hidden as well. They had one final chance to rest as the day closed and the snows began to fall.

They were awoken to the wolves barking, the owl hooting, and the bells the villagers rang. The moon was still in the sky, as bright as could be, illuminating the snows below giving the fields a well lit presence. They rushed out to meet the enemy, a field littered with goblins and hobgoblins. The north and south parts of the field saw worg riders and spider riders, respectively. But in the middle of the field was a Great Horned Beast
IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/jfj4DRt.jpg)atop which was a cadre of hobgoblins bearing
marks of the Fang Rippers, the leader clad in solid plate mail and wearing a giant headdress made of teeth and feathers.

As the battle began the defenders held ground but were quickly pushed back and annihilated by the swarm of goblins, their titanic warbeast finishing them off. This baited the great beast toward the flames, and the archers set the beast alight, but it did not seem fazed. The party, archers and spearmen held down the swarm of the goblins and the worg riders, while the Coffin Cheaters lashed out at range at the leader’s warbeast to tempt it along the log trap path. The spider riders to the south were left untouched, skittering along through the light woods and headed out around the barricades to ransack the town directly. However, Lucy and her pack of wolves darted out of the woods and chased down and harried the spider riders, freeing the party for more pressing problems, as they chose to zoom in on the leader and his retinue for a more focused battle.

The Great Horned Beast and its howdah of hobgoblins had been harried by fire, log traps, and the Coffin Cheaters before our heroes charged them in a pincer move. They charged in from a cliff's edge to see the Great Horned Beast lumber to face them. It was easily the most massive creature they'd ever faced, and it bore down on them immediately at the behest of its hobgoblin masters. Valka valiantly threw herself forward to intersect it from the rest of the party, paying the price as it nearly knocked her over and squashed her flat, but she stood her ground and retaliated. A few hobgoblins were already on the ground and came forth with longbows, but not before Iza Ficklebolt, the matron of the goblin children, stamped her Staff of the Python and summoned a giant constrictor snake behind the goblins, which began to crush them one by one.

Arlin took a different approach, and decided to try and communicate with The Great Horned Beast, telling it that if it decides to leave its goblin slavers, it could be free and unshackled to roam the fields as it pleased. The hobgoblin captain and his warlord saw what went on here and hopped from the howdah to face them on the ground, where their swords and shields would do the best work.

Esh saw the hobgoblin warlord's arms and armor and thought to use an old smithing spell - Heat Metal. Cast upon the warlord's plate mail, it began to singe the goblin and district him from his attacks. The goblins atop the howdah responded with a hail of arrows at the party (but mostly at the steadfast barbarian who was tiring of being shot at). Azarek cast dragon's breath on Apple, who began to breathe flame over and over at the goblins, as their armor was quite tough to overcome with mash paddles and arrows.

Betwixt the fray of battle Iza came through and cast Beast Bond on the confused giant beast. It was considering the words of Arlin, and how its mistreatment by the hobgoblins could be at an end. Iza simply said, “You should listen to this elf. You can trust him.”. The Great Horned Beast stepped back, its legs spread, and shook ever so violently, throwing the remaining goblins from the howdah and strode off to meet the morning, as Arlin breathed a sigh of relief.

The hobgoblins had no choice but to fight to the death since their protective mount just betrayed them. Howling in fury (and in pain as the smithing spell kept up the heat), the warlord lashed out at Valka over and over, doing damage despite the increasing pain over his heated armor. The party responded in full force - flames spun, swords swung, bells rung - and eventually the warlord was overcome by the fright from Esh's dissonant whispers, halted by Valka's Shatterspike through the knee, and cooked alive by the ever rising temperatures of the heated plate armor.

With their leader dispatched the hobgoblins broke and ran eastward toward the newly risen sun, and the pitched battle came to a close. Our heroes helped the Oakhurst residents pick up the pieces and carry their deceased back to the temple for a proper burial. It was sadly discovered that Garon, the innkeeper of The Ol’ Boar Inn had died in the fighting. Apple questions if they need a new brew master, and ponders thoughts of creating some kind of base for the party in Oakhurst.

Lucy the winter wolf comes loping to Arlin, singed, stung, battered and broken. She explains that the spider riding goblins murdered her pack, and was able to get away, but only just. She and Arlin share a quiet moment of sorrow before he guides her to the rest of the wounded and calls forth a healing spirit. As it washes healing magics over Lucy, she reaffirms that she still wants help heading north to the mountains to try and find others like her.

A familiar face happens upon the town amidst its misery - Ridaldo the Resplendent and his fine wares of wines and tinctures is selling at a discount to relieve the war weary ones of Oakhurst. The Coffin Cheaters offer up their help with the town, but once the work is done they do depart. They buy bottles of Ridaldo’s finest to take and to share with our heroes before they set off. Ridaldo says he’d traveled to Oakhurst from the south, having gotten news from some roaming Goliaths that Oakhurst was in some form of peril from goblins.
IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/jg2Vhv0.jpg)
Apple inquires about the Goliaths he saw, and while Ridaldo cannot remember specific names or faces, he does confirm that one of them wore a tabard with Kord’s symbol emblazoned on it. Apple goes to Valka with this news that clues to their destroyed homes might be with those Goliaths. But having promised to escort Lucy back to the northern mountains, they can only hope they can also find clues if they head back home.

Oakhurst's Defenders catch their breath

Still recovering from the massive battle they spearheaded defending Oakhurst, our party takes some time to collect themselves. Since Garon, the innkeeper of the Ol' Boar Inn has passed, Kerowyn Hucrele and Apple had a conversation about who's to run it, and whether or not it can still be used. Lady Hucrele tells them that even though no one's running it, she's offered Ridaldo the Resplendent a room to stay in while he's here selling wares. The party asks if there's anyone in town that would take up the job, but seeing as how Garon had no relatives, and everyone in town has a job and family already, there's no one clamoring to become an innkeeper in a small town. Kerowyn tells them that while she thinks about what's to be done with the inn, they're welcome to stay in it also.

Meanwhile Esh sought a nearby tree, giving himself a chance to reflect on the horrors of war. Apple took the time to find him and offer her wisdom, reassuring him that while he may not be with the dwarves and doesn't know where home is, that he has a place with them and is a Defender of Oakhurst. Back at the inn, Valka sat at the bar, a bit oblivious as to why she wasn't being served. She she got her own beer, put silver in the till, and then proceeded to start serving others as they wandered into the bar, making small talk and ingratiating herself with the people. Suddenly Ridaldo comes rushing down the stairs, offers a smile to Valka and rushes off out the door and down the path. Valka's curiosity is piqued and she heads out after him. The rest of the party follows, arriving from various locations to find out what the fuss is.

Ridaldo went directly to the stable, and was admiring the saddle on Piz'Az. He admits the horse is nice but he thinks the saddle is exquisite. He's immediately told that they're not for sale - though there's some dispute over this. Ridaldo invites them to his wonderful wagon of wares, and shows off fine magical potions as well as a pair of boots of elvenkind and a rope of climbing. The prices are hefty for such rare goods, though, and the party's pragmatism comes to bear when potentially trading the saddle, as they won't have much use for a warhorse in rocky terrain. They then trade the saddle for the rope, and as Ridaldo went to remove the saddle from Piz'Az, the horse began to disappear. He quickly re-saddled the disappearing horse and it reappeared - but this substantially changed the worth of the saddle of the cavalier - Ridaldo was able to part with both the boots and the rope for the saddle and a share of coin. With a deal struck, they headed back to the inn.
IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/e6wvp3c.jpg)

Apple had a moment of clarity to foist the inn upon Iza Ficklebolt and her children. Given the right persuasion, it might just take. The fact that the town was just assaulted by goblins was not lost on them as they proposed a goblin take over running the local inn and watering hole. So they went to Mayor Hucrele and reminded her that Iza helped defend Oakhurst and while she didn't live there, she traded with them quite frequently and her and her children were not a completely foreign presence.

Our heroes convince Mayor Hucrele that this is a good idea, and to help the town get on board they decide to throw a party at the inn filled with bagpipe music and a stunning illusory magical rendition of the massive battle with the Fangrippers and the Great Horned Beast. Free booze and a little schmooze goes a long way to help the townsfolk warm to Iza, who delivered an honest speech in remembrance of Garon, one of the first of Oakhurst to pay her a kindness.

With plans to head north to deliver on their promise to take Lucy back to the mountains, Iza tells them that now is the perfect time to strike at the heart of the Fangtooth tribe, as destroying their leadership will make them crumble and allow the this region to live free of their terror. Confused, our party asks Iza more about this leadership and she explains that she's aware the goblin bosses are merely puppets for a coven of witches that actually run the tribe, as she used to be a witch in the same tribe that had lived at the Sunless Citadel, before she abandoned goblin culture.

So our heroes make a plan to head northeast toward the Dwarven mining city of Mirabar where they can cross the River Mirar and head north into the mountains, but not before finishing what the Fangrippers had started...

Over the Hills and Far Away

Late at night in the outskirts of Oakhurst, a wolf howls.

It howls…poorly.

As the night wears on, Lucy comes to investigate the braying sound coming from the woods. Arlin Elmwood is there, fuzzy and noisy. He casts his speak with animals spell, and is chastised for his attempt to howl appropriately. Lucy immediately starts instructing Arlin on the nuances of a proper howl, though only by demonstration, and this is a foreign tongue to Arlin. It doesn’t stick, but he tries his best. Eventually Arlin delivers the news that the party will be ready to set off in the morning. These two break off, Arlin returning to Oakhurst exhausted and throat sore. But in the light of the day, Arlin yet again goes to the town’s tiny river bridge and begins howling once more. Lucy immediately shows and barks to try and shut her up, still disappointed that the previous night’s lessons did not stick.

Northeast they trek, through hilly forested regions of the inner Sword Coast North. They’ve many days to journey, and begin by easily finding the ground tread by the goblin warband that came this way, in search of the Fangtooth encampment to destroy the witches that covertly run the conglomeration of tribes. Esh delights in playing his shawm, rusty as he may be. Azarek’s portents foretold Esh would be at his worst when playing this woodwind, but Esh proves competent all the same. Azarek remarks on his talent (a true first, indeed). Conversation over the course of their journey turns personal. Esh is asked about his past, he reiterates that he doesn’t know where his home is, but Oakhurst gave him a form of déjà vu for his hometown. He also mentions that he’s been all over with the dwarven performance troupe, and while they never talked specifics, he’s fairly certain they’re not welcome wherever they came from which helped them form a kinship with Esh. Apple spoke to Valka about Azarek, concerned that he’s still doesn’t quite like anyone in the party. Azarek overhears this and reaffirms the reason that he’s still with the party is because he’s on a vision quest – he’d seen Valka’s face and the name of Oakhurst in his divinations and knew that they’d lead him to…something. He recounts the story of his Gith people – once enslaved by a race of creatures called Mind Flayers, they’d broken free of those bonds and now hunt them down wherever they find them. Valka immediately gets on board with the idea of revenge, and together they forge a bond in vengeance, to find those responsible for the destruction of Valka and Apple’s homes, and hunt down the horrifying creatures that had abused the Gith so long ago.

With the warband’s trail beginning to wane as the days go on, the party starts to lose the trail. They enlist the help of Lucy to track them. It’s at this time they fill her in on their plans for the goblin’s destruction, and sway her to their cause for justice and to rid the region of this menace. Her sights are intent on getting back to her kind in the mountains, but she eventually agrees. However, even with her help they eventually lose sight of the trail after a week of searching. But shortly after this, Azarek’s owl familiar Hootley spies the Great Horned Beast off in the distance. They find it eating the remains of the trees and branches in a wooded area. Arlin approaches first and talks to it, unsure if it’s even the same creature, but asks if it remembers him. It turns, and evokes feelings of genuine curiosity and familiarity.

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/lvA2zk9.jpg)

As it turns around, a command in goblin is shouted from the trees. Bugbears and goblins descend from above and ensnare the beast in a massive barbed net that has weights on the corners. It starts to cut the creature’s skin and it makes a terrible whistling whine as it struggles to break free. Our heroes act fast, and Azarek tosses his newly crafted fireball spell beyond the beast to annihilate a large group of goblins, setting the trees ablaze. Arlin washes away more with a tidal wave spell, Lucy freezes a bugbear with her winter breath, and Valka finishes it off with Shatterspike destroying it utterly. Arlin takes the brunt of the retaliation from the goblinoids getting struck and pierced by spears and arrows, forcing him to eventually retreat.

The trapper’s leaders come riding forth, their hobgoblin captain astride a worg, and another hobgoblin mage on a giant spider. Lucy has her eyes on vengeance as she charges the giant spider, but after snapping at it is wrapped up in its webbing. The captain dashes forward on his worg but quick-as-silver Apple assaults and pummels the canine so ferociously she knocks it out in short order, forcing the captain off his mount.

The mage retaliates in kind, lobbing a fireball of his own to roast the heroes, the captain and bugbears advancing again on Arlin, slashing with greatswords and bludgeoning with clubs. Azarek takes down the captain by sending him into an uncontrollable fit of hideous laughter, but a mage can spot a mage and Azarek is taken down by a lightning bolt from the hobgoblin sorcerer.

Apple heads to assail the sorcerer, taking bites from its spider mount and club attacks from a bugbear trapper in return. Arlin comes back into the fray and launches a magical ice knife that destroys the bugbear but the explosive icy shards drop Apple to the ground as well. Esh quickly looses the final blow to the enemy mage with an arrow to the eye and casts his healing word to wake up Azarek. Valka quickly dispatches the last of the bugbears and hacks up the giant spider as well.

The commotion concluded, the Great Horned Beast is finally able to free itself from the giant barbed net, bleeding and fearful. Arlin feeds it rations to help it and tells it he can help it, while Valka uses the Decanter of Endless Water to put out the rapidly growing forest fire from the magicks thrown around. The party attempted to convince the beast to stay around, but it seemed more interested in fleeing the scene. It certainly wouldn’t be too difficult to track…

Minotaar wrote:

Esh delights in playing his shawm, rusty as he may be. Azarek’s portents foretold Esh would be at his worst when playing this woodwind, but Esh proves competent all the same. Azarek remarks on his talent (a true first, indeed).

Minotaar: "Make a performance check"

EriktheRed: "And I'm going to use one of my portent dice, so you get a 1"

Skraut: "Ok, Esh gets a 10 on his shawm performance"

No critical failures on ability checks!