I’ve been sitting on my notes for a few weeks now, so I figured it was time to type them up and post them.
Due to only having two players, this session gave me a chance to break from the published material and start laying the groundwork for my own campaign. I think it went well.
- – N’idera – Half-elf Ranger (Beast Master)
- – Sirath – Dragonborn Paladin (Vengeance)
The PCs were woken by a loud, insistent knocking on the doors of their rooms in the tavern. Sirath opened the door in her own unique fashion and stood in the doorway, looming over the 6 year old girl with her greataxe at the ready.
N’idera, sensing the potential for the situation to head south quickly, caught the girl’s attention and tried to calm her down. Having rushed from bed, this was the first opportunity for any members of the group to see her unnaturally white hair. She managed to calm the girl down and was told that Linene Graywind, the woman who runs the Lionshield Coster in Phandalin, needed their help and had sent her youngest to find them.
A few moments later, the party were following the little girl across town and found Linene staring blankly at a wall. Managing to calm her down and get her focus, the party learned that Linene’s husband and son (Roark and Rogir, respectively) had been ambushed as they returned from trading along the Triboar Trail. Her eldest child, Lucille, was missing. All she knew was that they had ridden hard to escape (one of the horses had almost been lamed) and that the only place they would have stopped for definite along the Trail was an old hunting lodge used by traders as a refuge during bad weather.
N’idea did what she could to help the Graywind men heal and she and Sirath bargained with Linene for the use of some horses. Torvak and Ara’tak remained behind to help where they could and both PCs set off, their sellable items stored in Linene’s safe. Whilst depositing their items, a small wolf with fur the same colour as N’idera’s hair jumped out of her bag.
Having been shown a map of the Trail, N’idera knew how long it would take to get to the hunting lodge so the party rode hard for the first few days and then slowed enough to notice a road off the Trail about a day before they reached their destination. N’idera scouted it out and found an abandoned quarry before they resumed their journey.
N’idera and her wolf, Sasha, managed to sneak up the lodge’s drive and got quite close to it before Sirath’s armour clinked loudly. N’idera saw the two goblin guards the moment they loosed arrows at Sirath as the dragonborn rounded the corner and came into view of the lodge. She felled one and then entered the crawlspace under the lodge as Sirath dashed around and came up behind the other guard.
It was then that Sirath tried to grab the goblin and felt its flesh give way under her hands. A brief scuffle later and it was evident that the goblins were, in fact, animated goblin corpses.
[DM Note: I ran these using the goblin stat block but with the undead keyword and half their speed.]
Sirath relayed this information and N’idera took a minute to focus on her connection to the primal energies of the world and sensed 10 undead nearby, as well as a larger force moving slowly towards Phandalin.
What followed was a lovely example of what happens when one PC (Sirath) tries to sneak, gives up on the idea and proceeds to stride through every room of the house.
The PCs started in the courtyard in the middle of the building, reached through the crawlspace. The 4 undead goblins (alerted by Sirath’s failure to move sneakily) ‘hiding’ there posed no threat and the PCs were quickly able to follow the obvious drag marks on the ground.
The first two rooms were empty, a bookshelf in one decorated with the Tresendar crest and stores in the other showing signs of age.
The next room had two hob-goblin corpses in it. Sirath, entering whilst N’idera was searching the stores for signs of ownership, caught sight of movement behind a crate and decided to move it. Two things happened; she found a fireplace and she dropped the crate. Loudly. Before she could investigate the fireplace, she was interrupted by the hob-goblin corpses animating behind her.
After that was taken care of, N’idera noticed what seemed like a button hidden in the carvings on the mantel piece and proceeded to discover a shaken, manacled Lucille hiding in the chimney. After calming her down, N’idera pressed the button but was unable to find where the muted click came from.
Sirath wasted no time in spotting the hidden alcove in the chimney and grabbed the oilcloth package hidden within.
[DM Note: With N’idera’s absurd Perception score, I was figuring on her noticing the items. It threw a spanner in the works when she didn’t. But hey, that’s how the dice roll.]
The rest of the house posed little problem to the PCs. Sirath walked noisily across a poorly maintained nightingale floor and alerted everything left in the house, before walking boldly through every door without regard for the consequences. Fortunately, the PCs proved more than equal to the undead in the house and they were quickly in the clear. They paused briefly in one of the last rooms to loot a scroll case and a few items from a secret compartment in the bottom of a chest.
As they began to stock the Lionshield cart pulled up in front of the lodge with what they could carry from the house, N’idera noticed some strange runes carved into the wooden porch and main doors of the lodge. She could sense the weakening necromantic energy emanating from magical symbols and began to destroy them.
As she did so, she had a vision of a phoenix rising from a sea of blood. Sirath, seeing what she was doing, joined in and accidentally destroyed the master rune of the ritual. She was saw the same thing and received the message ‘Netheril will rise again.’.
As she recovered from this, they noticed a swiftly killed (but definitely not undead) bugbear. The bugbear had a map pointing them towards Cragmaw Castle, as well the key to Lucille’s manacles. It was around this time that Sirath opened the package from the chimney to examine the bow (decorated with a charm to Malar) and dagger (whose pommel was carved in the shape of a pawprint inset with starmetal) within. She gave the bow to N’idera and didn’t tell her about the dagger.
Both PCs could tell there are some qualities to the items they don’t currently understand or know how to access.
[DM Note: My attitude to magical items is that an Arcana check can determine whether or not an item is likely to be magical (Detect Magic being the only way of determining if an item is definitely magical), but an Identify spell is required to learn what properties an item possesses. Attunement is enough to learn the basic properties of something, but plot related items need the Identify spell casting on them. At the same time, because they are plot related, their magical nature is likely to be more obvious.]
They realised that they could outpace the undead force moving towards Phandalin and headed for the quarry (which lay directly between the lodge and the town). N’idera’s ability to sense undead revealed that the large force was considerably smaller and they began to worry that most of it had split off, or sped up, from the few that she could still sense.
They planned their ambush well and dealt with the undead easily. From her position at the top of the quarry, N’idera was perfectly placed to find the Halfling cleric she accurately deduced was involved in controlling the undead.
The session ended as she clapped him in irons and they began the journey back to Phandalin.
Due to a few factors, these APs are probably always going to feel a bit rushed and note-like. I felt this bears pointing out now, rather than later.