Dungeons &Dragons 3.5 – Avast! – Twenty Ninth Session: Facing the Dragon

In Attendance:    

Player 6/Niema the Aventi Wizard    

Player 11/Voormas the Human Druid    

Player 13/Lionfilas Starwisp the Elf Rogue

Session Writeup:

The party debates resting with Liona vehemently opposes. She points out that whatever force is attacking them is in complete control and to try and sleep in the forest would be suicidal. But Voormas and Niema want their spells back. They continue moving through the woods, using Fuhrer as a disposable breathing trap-detector. They hit another closed off trail and double back, ending up in an open glade. On the other side they can see a chest. They eagerly rush for the chest but Voormas stops short. He’s been playing PnP games with me for over a year and he knows that if it looks too good to be true.. it usually is. He turns around and sees a tree that wasn’t there before. He shouts a warning as the treant attacks. The treant uses its trample ability to steamroll the party initially but Niema and Voormas unleash powerful spells. While Voormas works on summoning a fire elemental, Niema unleashes a lightning bolt and split the corrupted treant in twain, killing it. Liona hovers around the chest and nets the party a few hundred gold pieces.

The party trudges on. Voormas finds a pathway and discovers that the forest has looped them back to the treant’s glade. Frustrated, they start off in another direction and end up back at the Ranger cottage and Voormas transforms back in to his human shape to converse with Gale, now in the reincarnated form of the wolf pup. Gale gives him a basic account of his life and history up until his death at Nessa’s hands in a previous campaign. Gale moves toward a massive wall of thorned vines and works what druidic magic his new body can manage. The thorns respond, their power waning under the assault the PCs have given around the forest. The thorns begin shrinking back in to the foliage and reveal a new path.

They come to a large glade populated by a couple trees. On the other side, a Halfling is rooted to the ground. Literally. A thorned vine seems to extend from each arm and disappears in to the ground. The vines ungulate in response to convulsions of the Halfling. Next to her is a well-dressed Elf. He holds himself calmly as and meets the heroes. He introduces himself as Brilvawk. Slime metaphorically pours from his mouth as he speaks. He brushes off threats from the PCs as Voormas becomes their spokesman to the menace.

Brilvawk senses that the PCs have raided his horde and offers them a deal: They return his horde as well as powerful item, specifically Xander’s new sword. The PCs flatly refuse. Brilvawk shrugs and assumes his true form. His shape elongates and bulges with bristling muscle. A pair of wings sprout from his back as his neck stretches. Green scales cover him. The PCs face down the terror of an adult green dragon.

The fight begins. Xander and Fuhrer both fail their saves and suffer the effects of the dragon’s frightful presence. Voormas calls a lightning storm and Niema begins ineffectually throwing magic missiles while the party spreads out. Xander and Fuhrer move in to engage Brilvawk after he savages Voormas. Brilvawk responds by taking to the air and hitting all three with his breath weapon. Liona moves in a wide perimeter around the dragon, using her bow. Brilvawk retreats back to the Halfling druid and casts shield. The party becomes separated, trying to avoid becoming ideal targets for Brilvawk’s acidic breath weapon. Xander is isolated and Brilvawk drops him with a full attack after flying back in to the fight. Luckily, Xander stabilizes on his next turn and avoids bleeding to death.

Voormas and Niema continue hammering the dragon with spells while Liona makes her way ever closer to the Halfling druid. Voormas abuses his call lightning storm. Niema gets frustrated when she finds her magic missiles are no longer effective after the dragon’s shield spell. Brilvawk’s breath weapon recharges and he unleashes it on Niema, knocking her to two hit points. Niema assumes a gaseous form and begins a leisurely flight from the battle field. Liona has finally reached the Halfling and begun to interact trying to find a way to separate the druid from the thorned vines. Liona uses her cutlass to slash at one of the vines. She cleaves through it and it quickly withers and dies. Brilvawk and Voormas become locked in hand-to-hand combat. Despite this traditionally being Voormas’s weakness, he acquits himself quite well actually. Brilvawk manages several poor rolls and, conversely, Voormas gets in a few hits. The disparities in strength mean they stand toe-to-toe trading damage.

The tension rises as Fuhrer, Voormas’s tiger companion, joins Liona at the Halfling druid. The work together but struggle to cut through the remaining vine. Brilvawk hammers Voormas with another melee combo and drops him. Unbeknownst to the players, Brilvawk is, himself, in the single digits for HP. Finally, Fuhrer finishes the next vine. It dies after being severed. The Hafling revives in a flurry of confusion and regret at her actions. Seeing that the game is up, Brilvawk takes to the skies and retreats at top speed.

The Halfling introduces herself as George, the Halfling druid from the first campaign that was discovered violent and crazed from torture in the second. The experience of being under Brilvawk’s control has helped finally calm the tumultuous emotions of George. George regrets her actions deeply. She is kind enough to heal Xander, Voormas, and Niema. She thanks Voormas directly by giving him a spear named Alroba that, while being a capable weapon, also increases his druid abilities. Voormas thanks her. George explains that she will be joining the Grove the PCs saved and help them repair the damage done to the forest. The party wishes her well and prepares to leave the forest behind them.

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Dungeons &Dragons 3.5 – Avast! – Twenty Eighth Session: Have no Fear

In Attendance:    

Player 6/Niema the Aventi Wizard    

Player 12/Xander the Human Fighter

Player 13/Lionfilas Starwisp the Elf Rogue

Session Writeup:

Voormas couldn’t make it but he let it be known he was going to be in bear-form for the session and distributed chalk to mark trees before transforming. The rest of the party dismisses the chalk as less than useful. With the forest moving around them, who’s to say a tree will actually be in the same place it was when they marked it? If the trail markers move, they won’t help them identify where they are in the forest. The party’s reasoning is pretty sound in this regard. As the PCs move down a trail they start to see profusions of colorful flowers in an otherwise dark and eerie forest. Niema is suspicious and whacks one with a stick. It promptly grows back freaking the party out. The flowers become more and more common until they see an offshoot trail that is simply covered in them. They proceed cautiously up this trail before emerging in a clearing that houses three large wooden structures. Upon examination, they see that each structure is a sort of tomb made from a magically altered tree. The tombs house three corpses: That of a dire wolverine, a halfling, and a gnome. Each tomb has an engraving: Rageface, Senex, and Gale. In their searching, the party discovers that beneath each tree is an animal caught in a cage of roots. Beneath Senex’s tomb is a rat. Niema frees it and it immediately leaps in to her clothing, crawling around, and then leaping down and making off with a decent chunk of her gold. Niema curses. Beneath Gale’s tomb is a dire wolf pup. They draw it out with play and it tackles Niema and begins licking her face. Finally there is the dire wolverine pup beneath Rageface’s tomb. Liona cuts out the roots. The pup snarls at snaps her. Liona tries to lunge with a dexterity check to grab the creature by the scruff of the neck. Natural 1. I ruled that Liona suddenly found her arm crammed to the elbow in the creature’s jaws. She pulls it out as it is now quite firmly fixed to her. They pry the pup off and it flees in to the woods. The dire wolf pup, however, sticks around.

After wandering further, the party comes upon  shack in an glade. The shack is locked and seems very disheveled. Liona manages to pick the lock and the party finds three skeletons inside, picked clean of the barest traces of flesh. Liona, searching the shack, finds a small hole in the wall that seems chewed-open. She concludes the Rangers inside were eaten. She opens a cabinet leaning against one wall and a dog slides out. She finds a journal inside and reads the record of the last days of the dead Ranger. The journal writer locked his animal companion in the cabinet hoping it would be given some manner of protection. The dog is emaciated but happy and alive and Liona quickly befriends it.

Making their way further through the menacing wilderness, they finally come upon a ray of hope. They find a clearing that seems free of the dark taint. The source of this resistance is a large tree in the middle which they find to be quite sentient. The tree introduces itself as Winder. Winder is somewhere between a treant and an elemental. A sword is stuck in his bark. Winder is one of the guardians of the forest and it mentions an entity known as Brilvawk, blaming this entity for corrupting the druid that is now feeding the turmoil in nature. Winder has felt all that they’ve done and rewards them for taking largely non-destructive paths in their dealings with the forest. He gives them the sword, saying it is a treasure he managed to keep from Brilvawk. It is a magical sword surpassing that of Xander’s father and Xander quickly moves it to the position of his primary weapon. The blade is named Drinker as it quaffs the life essence of those it cuts, draining their constitution with each hit. The party moves on.

Nearby, they see a wall of trees separating them from a massive pile of treasure. The trees blocking the way are grown closely together and Liona senses a trap. However, Xander has a gold lust that would make a Discworld dwarf blush and orders them to press on. Liona tries to slide between the trees but ends up stuck as they move to stop her – and begin crushing. Xander flies in to action, hacking away with his new sword. Liona takes some light damage but, eventually, Xander succeeds in both freeing her and cutting a way to the gold. They scoop it up eagerly, unaware that such a large amount of treasure in one place can mean only one thing….

Something finally clicks for Niema after they leave the horde behind. Winder fits the description of Living Wood. She rushes them back to greet him but finds the path has been closed off. She begs the party to go around and they acquiesce and Xander reasons it should bring them near the blessed water and he’s hoping for more. As they approach the well their hopes of easy healing are dashed: They have used all that was left of Obad Hai’s blessing. Niema makes it back to Winder and explains Lyril’s dilemma. Winder considers and, in light of their friendly service to the forest, gives her one of his branches to use for Lyril’s replacement arm.

They begin backtracking again, trying to find any places they’ve left unexplored. The forest seems to corral them toward a very dark and narrow corridor. A bit of inspection reveals the hall is being watched by Dire Owls. No real threat by themselves, a swarm might cause some harm. Niema tries to get her dragon to do the work for her, sending it to negotiate. Unfortunately, owls under malevolent influence don’t seem much partial to dragon-based rhetoric and simply comment on how tasty the party looks. The party decides to pick a fight. Liona hoofs it to the rear while Niema uses more spells and Xander hacks a few owls apart. Niema manages to hit a few owls with a web spell which enables Xander to cut them to pieces. The few remaining owls flee as the session ends. Luckily, the PCs do not seek Winder again during this adventure. When he feels the deaths of the owls, he becomes most upset and decides they are not worthy of further aid.


Dungeons &Dragons 3.5 – Avast! – Twenty Seventh Session: The Great Outdoors

In Attendance:    

Player 6/Niema the Aventi Wizard    

Player 11/Voormas the Human Druid    

Player 13/Lionfilas Starwisp the Elf Rogue

Session Writeup:

The officer of the Falkirk Rangers introduces himelf as Captain Fil’Ario. The group departs north to Falkirk. Niema inquires about Living Wood but the Rangers are tight lipped, paranoid, and focused on the environment around them. After a few hours, the woods break and Falkirk is in sight. Voormas remarks that the city has seen better days and he is not wrong. The presence of Rangers on the wall is obvious. Thick, thorny vines have overground the city walls and have been hacked away from the gate as though they were the invader themselves. Fil’Ario takes the party to Ranger headquarters where they meet a very tired elf: Colonel Nelyon, commander of the Rangers. Nelyon reveals that Falkirk has been utterly isolated by whatever has turned the woods in to a death trap. He asks Voormas for any news. Voormas reveals his visions and eventually the group resolves to take Voormas to the temple of Obad Hai in Falkirk to see if the priests there can illuminate his vision.

While Voormas is taken to commune with his god, Niema fucks around and creates a monument of dirty to Aventernus. For some unfathomable reason.

The temple of Obad Hai is carved from the stump of a great tree and its interior is large enough for about two dozen people. After a quick explanation, the Earth Father’s priests spring in to action. Voormas is slathered with all sorts of awful concoctions (All natural!). The priests begin chanting and a presence invades Voormas’s mind. He makes his will save and stays with it. Voormas sees a representation of Obad Hai showing him a forest not terribly far from Falkirk. A stream runs through the woods and the stream has been poisoned. A small shrine to Obad Hai has been corrupted and is turning the water that flows beneath it in to a thick congealed blood-like paste. Voormas awakens suddenly and reveals what he saw. Fil’Ario tells them that he knows where this glade is and offers to lead the PCs there. The PCs buy provisions and potions while Niema plays with her dirt shrine. Voormas finally tracks her down and asks if she’s quite done. She tells him she will be, “… in a minute.” The party rests, Niema gets serious, and eventually, they depart. Fil’Ario leads them a good half-day’s hike from Falkirk. The thickness of the woods makes horses useless. The PCs enter a narrow trail and Fil’Ario halts them, sensing something is wrong. He retreats behind the party and is eviscerated as thorn-covered vines erupt from both sides of the trail and envelope him. The thorns form a thick wall, blocking the PC’s path back.

With no other option, they proceed. Further up the trail, they find the corrupted shrine from Voormas’s vision. Upon inspection, they see some of the same thorn-covered vines have grown inside the stump. Liona carefully pulls a vine out to find a flesh orifice at the end that constantly leaks blood. A lump travels up the vine and it spits an eyeball in to her hand. A close inspection reveals the eye as having the same blue hue as Fil’Ario’s. Liona suggest burning the shrine but Voormas belays her. He attempts to summon an eagle but, as it travels to him, it is shredded by the forest. Voormas discovers his powers seem to be inhibited here.

The party heads east. Liona finds a pit trap which they circumvent. They stumble in to a clearing and find a shallow well full of clear water. The PCs are curious but extremely paranoid. Niema fetches a copper from her coin purse and drops it in. The PCs watch as the grime and dust are peeled away by the water. The PCs experimentally drink the water and find it heals them as well as a healing potion. The bottle the remainder and head off.

In another clearing the PCs find a tree with largely exposed root structure. The roots are acting as cage for a fawn held there by several of the thorned vines emerging from the ground. Except for Voormas, the PCs move cautiously. Voormas moves brazenly and with each step the vines react, tightening their grip on the fawn. Voormas ignores the obvious warning and draws his belt knife. He begins trying to cut the fawn free but this is the final straw. The vines react violently, whirling about and pureeing the fawn before drinking up the blood of the ruined corpse. Voormas orders his tiger to eat the remains. Liona points out that this is kind of horrible since he got the fawn killed. Voormas agrees and relents.

Exploring further north the PCs ignore many side paths but eventually find another clearing that is filled with bodies stacked in rows and dressed in hides. Voormas identifies them as druids and then tries to get Liona to search them. They find a particularly burly druid and begin prodding. Voormas considers stealing his amulet, a very ornate piece of jewelry. Niema fails to dispell magic so the PCs use the water taken from the well which revives the large druid. He introduces himself as Keppoch, the Great Druid of the Hare Grove. They ask questions and Keppoch explains: The Hare Grove survived Nessa’s mass-murder of the druids they way they survived most violence: Swiftness and hiding. They had begun to rebuild when a strange evil overtook the land. They fell into comas and have been that way for months. Voormas shares a ration with him. They try to get Keppoch to do their job for them but Keppoch explains that months unconscious have left him far too weak. Waking the rest of his Grove could kill him as it is. Reluctantly, the PCs depart.

But things are not as they were. The PCs find routes they had taken are now blocked by trees that weren’t there before. The forest is changing and moving around them. The PCs proceed in the generally correct direction available to them and happen upon a clearing with a black tree in the center. Around the tree in a wide radius the grass has turned chalk white. A cursory touch reveals the grass is long dead and flakes into pieces of ash. The PCs realize heading in to the circle will be damaging to them so Niema uses her dragon familiar to take a dose of the water from the well and pour it on the tree. The tree reacts instantly, cracking and shriveling. Within moments the grass has again begun to show signs of life and corrupted tree has been reduced to nothing.

Continuing on, the PCs encounter a dire bear in a clearing. They see vines pulsing beneath the bear’s flesh. Voormas tries to talk to it, but it proves beyond reason. Xander and Voormas fight the bear and distract it while Niema gets her dragon to pour water on a wound that exposes a vine. It’s a clumsy effort but it pays off. The bear bellows in agony as the thorned vines vacate its body. It turns to the PCs and Voormas talks it in to not killing them. The injured bear limps off in to the woods.

After bit more wandering, the PCs end up right back at the corrupted shrine. Niema uses the last of the water on it but finds the evil is too concentrated and it has no effect. Liona pulls a vine from the stump again and Voormas burns it, a severed end falling to the ground. One of the PCs reaches for it and the severed end of vine comes to life, thrashing around in an attempt to cause damage. Niema kills it with a magic missile. An inspection of the shrine reveals a new vine has already grown in it to replace the one they cut. The PCs ponder this as the session ends.


Dungeons &Dragons 3.5 – Avast! – Twenty Sixth Session: Terror in the Woods

In Attendance:    

Player 6/Niema the Aventi Wizard    

Player 11/Voormas the Human Druid    

Player 12/Xander the Human Fighter

Player 13/Lionfilas Starwisp the Elf Rogue

Session Writeup:

Feinn talks with the PCs at length on the way back to Culloden, giving them back story on how things have been at Redheim and the Gulag over the last thirty years. Feinn tells them he intends to savor Moat’s suffering when the Empire responds to his treachery. Eventually, Feinn gets down to business: he believes he could get 2,000 troops just asking for volunteers. However, if he were to impress Gulagers he could make the militia about 3,000 strong. Niema is immediately against this even after Feinn notes that the Sverfneblin magic users won’t turn in strong numbers without impressment. Niema is unrelenting on this and Feinn concedes. Niema offers to find some way of settling them near the Aventi village from which she came. Feinn prefers for his Gulagers to take over the Harlowe settlement. During the Abyssal War covered in the 1st campaign, Harlowe was destroyed by the summoning of the Obsidian Cathedral. In the intervening time, it has not been rebuilt. Instead, a sort of tent city has been erected with traders still coming and going. The area is currently known as the Great Bazaar. With this niche open, Feinn seeks for his people to take stewardship of and rebuild Harlowe. Niema asks if he’d swear fealty to the Empire and Feinn hesitates. Ultimately, Feinn gives no response.

The caravan makes it to the Culloden gates unmolested. The guards give the PCs an easy entry. However, they refuse to let the Gulagers in. Voormas and Niema disagree about how to handle the situation. In any case, the temperatures are falling and the Gulagers might risk exposure camping outside the city walls overnight. Voormas wants to force their way in. Niema points out the monumentally bad consequences that could have. They eventually compromise. The Gulagers will have to camp outside but Feinn will be given entrance to negotiate for them. Voormas summons a raven and has it take a message to the temple district in Culloden to try and find some sympathetic clerics that might give aid to the Gulagers. He finds a group who worship Ehlonna willing to bring food and blankets for the beleaguered refugees. With darkness encroaching, the PCs decide to camp with the Gulagers overnight before going to the admiralty the next morning.

The next day they head to the Admiralty. Grand Admiral Onatrius is not kind to Feinn, but Feinn is used to this reaction. Niema stands up for the Gulagers, making an impassioned plea for them. She also reveals Redheim’s treachery. Ontarius is hesitant, the Gulagers are asking a lot. He settles for giving them some kind of settlement, probably not Harlowe however and agrees to move the Gulagers in to the slums for the coming winter. Indeed, the slums being peopled largely by half-orc and dwarf laborers, the Gulagers should fit right in.

A messenger arrives, carrying a communication from Captain Marsh who is leading the efforts on Carillon. He tells them that the Loudon forces have taken Port Arelius, the primary settlement on the island. Marsh ordered two fire ships made which crashes in to the gates around the port and were sunk, sealing several Loudon ships inside and inhibiting their ability to bring any reinforcements in. Ontarius tells the PCs that a 2,000-strong Gulager militia will not be enough to retake the island. The Senate has refused the request for additional troops and it is unlikely they will reverse this decision in light of Moat’s actions at Redheim. The PCs plan to leave wagons behind to speed up travel to and from Falkirk, but they demand property as a reward. Ontarius tells them that, in the event of victory, playing such a key role will certainly result in lavish rewards.

The PCs head north. A few days away from Culloden, the forests of Falkirk come in to view. But, they seem dark and foreboding. They seem overgrown and untended, having forced their way on to the trail until the road is entirely obscured. Voormas feels a terrible presence in the woods itself. Voormas uses detect magic and finds faint traces everywhere. Voormas reveals that part of what put him in Culloden at the beginning of the campaign was sensing a great evil in Falkirk. The party replies that they are ready for “All kinds of shit.”

Night is descending and party must stop. Voormas finds a cave for them to dwell in for the night. Voormas struggles to explain the taint on Obad Hai’s power that he feels. Niema asks if it is the work of evil Druid’s. Voormas can only reply that it feels terribly close to the same powers Obad Hai grants him. They bed down in the cave and debate resting at all or if a fire is a good idea. They recall that Niema has cast continual flame on her clothing. Voormas rests first and has his attention drawn by a wolf that lurks just outside the light of the flame, it’s eyes reflecting. The wolf delivers a warning from something known as The Watcher. He tells Voormas that they are not wanted here. The wolf leaves and Voormas turns the next shift over to Liona. Voormas wakes up screaming after a vivid nightmare showing a corrupt forest and other disturbing imagery. Voormas fills the party in on the Watcher, as much as he can glean from his vision and the wolf. Liona and Niema suggest shouting at the woods. Liona then does so, swearing vengeance on the forest.

When light breaks, they move out. Niema sends her dragon familiar up and it reports that they are nearing Falkirk. They come to a clearing filled with several dire wolves and a huge man-like creature. The creature deals incredible damage and seems immune to magic, cluing Voormas in that it is an earth elemental. The PCs manage to take down the dire wolves after suffering heavy damage but the elemental is bearing down on them, its damage reduction making their efforts futile. Suddenly, dozens of arrows rain down from the forest around them and the elemental crumbles to dust. A cadre of Rangers emerge from the shadows and offer to escort the PCs to Falkirk.


Dungeons &Dragons 3.5 – Avast! – Twenty Fifth Session: Reunions

In Attendance:    

Player 6/Niema the Aventi Wizard    

Player 11/Voormas the Human Druid    

Player 12/Xander the Human Fighter

Player 13/Lionfilas Starwisp the Elf Rogue

Session Writeup:

As the players pass through the gate, Voormas sarcastically asks if the guards want to file down Fuhrer’s claws. They look at each other and, after a brief conversation, elect to do so. Fuhrer is not happy about this. Once inside, the players are at a loss. Voormas asks Lyril. Lyril tells them that, though he hasn’t been back in many years, the logical place to begin would be the Triumvirate Council building. Lyril leads them there, slowly gaining some confidence as the familiarity of the streets pours back in to him.

The Triumvirate Council building is a dead end. It is old and abandoned. Since Lyril was last in Redheim, the Triumvirate Council was dissolved leaving Knight-Protector Moat as the sole governing force. He moved the government building subsequently. Of course, the PCs don’t know this. Liona picks the lock and they enter to find a mostly cleared out structure. Broken furniture and scattered papers lay about. The PCs go through what papers on the front. Mostly minor ordinances but they do find a bill authorizing significant increases in the size of the Redheim Regiments,  expanding their size to 2,500 troops per regiment from the normally established 1,000 and the implementation of a draft to fill the ranks. Lyril quickly snatches the paper and expresses a great deal of horror and mystery. The PCs search the rest of the building. Liona, searching with Voormas and Fuhrer, finds a loose floorboard on the second floor. She pulls it up without checking for traps. A very loud and very bright explosion occurs. Though they are not burned by it, Liona finds she is deafened. Fuhrer is completely unharmed. Voormas finds himself both blind and deaf. Xander heads upstairs at the sound, takes the treasure under the floorboard, and laughs at Liona and Voormas. Liona is lead by Voormas and Voormas uses Fuhrer as a seeing-eye cat. The party makes their way out and begin to wander the street.

The sun is setting and it isn’t long before they are stopped by a pair of Peacekeeper soldiers. They inform the party that is nearly curfew hour and they must settle in for the night. There are VIPs in town so there is a strict zero tolerance policy in place for breaking curfew. Voormas feels the stopping of movement and assumes trouble is about. He spins a false story about his blindness. The guards react with a great deal of pity but Voormas responds by screaming, “I CANNOT HEAR YOU BECAUSE I AM ALSO DEAF!” Niema changes topics, asking about the VIPs. They awkwardly skirt away from the subject simply saying they are from afar. The soldiers offer to escort the PCs to an inn as well as take them to Moat’s new seat of governance the next day. The PCs agree and the guards lead them to Da’Bar. On the way, Liona and Voormas recover from their deafness. Voormas remains blind. Upon reaching the bar, Fuhrer informs Voormas that they have reached a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Voormas responds, “So, we’re near the boat?” The PCs enter the inn.

Liona is first and, upon opening the door, she sees a glass flying straight for her head. Liona ducks, successfully. Unfortunately, Voormas is directly behind her and, being blind, is not entitled to a reflex save. The glass hits him square in the face, shattering, dealing some damage, and putting the players in to hysterics. Niema tries to gather information but fails. She starts drinking and prepares to try again. Voormas gets up on a stool and pontificates about how Redheim doesn’t support the blind. When she tries again, Niema finds a half-elf in the bar who claims to be an aide to the Knight-Protector. He is drunk and muttering about poor deals. Niema needles him for information, showing a developing sly nature. He reveals that a diplomatic envoy is meeting with the Knight-Protector. She asks for information about the VIPs. The aide makes an outrageous french impersonation and Niema realizes Harmonious Blithe is part of this envoy. The party retires for the night.

In the dead of night, their window is jimmied open and a Dark Elf slips inside, waking no one. The Drow, Raelyra, wakes Voormas who screams, but Raelyra silences him. Raelyra asks Voormas to rouse the rest of the party. Voormas takes this as an opportunity to work out some aggression. He throws water on Xander. He then wakes the others slightly more gently. Raelyra tells the PCs of the plight of the Gulagers. They live in squalor and even the fruits of their labor are taken from them to enrich the merchants of Redheim. Raelyra says that Moat would never meet with a Gulager and thus gives the PCs a scroll. He tells them he knows they are meeting the Knight-Protector and asks them to take the note to Moat as it contains their grievances. Liona takes the note and the PCs promise to deliver it.

The next morning, they set out for the Knight-Protector’s building, called Marsh Keep. The guards give them trouble but they produce their orders and are allowed entry. They enter a grand meeting hall. Moat, 34 years older, sits on a simple wooden chair hearing the address. They see Harmonious Blithe in attendance with Dr. Marceau, the Loudon agent who tortured Niema while they were captured. Moat demands an explanation for this intrusion. Liona attempts, clumsily, to slip the Gulager’s scroll in to their own papers. Niema confiscates it and says she can have the notes back after class. Niema explains the state of war between Loudon and Ainlean Empire. Moat immediately chastises Blithe for keeping this information from him. Moat takes the PCs in to his private room and they explain the situation. Moat is reluctant to release the Redheim regiments as it would weaken Redheim and leave many Redheim citizens to die far from home. Niema comes up with a clever counter-offer: They could take a militia from the Gulagers. Moat considers this, then takes them back to main audience chamber. He calls the Loudon delegates forward for debate. Despite her earlier gusto, Niema gives a surprisingly lackluster defense. The Loudon delegation pleads for Redheim to remain neutral in the war. In exchange, it will be left unmolested. Moat rules in favor of the Loudon delegation as Niema’s defense is unspirited. However, he does give her permission to take as many Gulagers as she needs for her proposed militia. The leave the Gulager note with Moat.

The PCs head to the Gulag. Upon entry, they mention Raelyra and are taken before the Gulag’s leader: Feinn Orlean himself. Feinn was a prominent NPC who appeared quite often in the first campaign. His Drow longevity has enabled him to still be leading the surviving members of his army 34 years later. Niema reveals her plan: After seeing the plight of the Gulagers and Moat’s obstinancy, she never intended to recruit Redheim regulars. She got Moat to agree to a Gulager Militia and was overjoyed when he gave her carte blanche for it. She can take as many as she needs and she has decided she needs all 10,000 Gulager inhabitants. Feinn smiles, the clever ploy impresses him. He quickly draws up plans to get them out, hiding much of the population in wagons. They will have to leave almost all of their possessions behind but it is workable. Feinn believes he’ll be able to get 2,000 soldiers out of the inhabitants for use in the war. Feinn wants the PCs to put in a bid for them to be able to settle their own city under their own governance. The PCs agree to try.

Within hours, the PCs are on their way back to Culloden with the entire population of the Gulag in tow. Feinn hiding much of his population in wagons keeps the Redheim Peacekeepers unawares and they managed to slip off, marching at a fast pace to put as much distance as possible between them. On the ride, they ask Feinn about Raelyra. Feinn tells them that Raelyra is one his most resourceful agents and is likely making his way through the countryside. Indeed, he probably left Redheim the day after the PCs handed him the note. It did not, in fact, contain a list of grievances. It was a scroll written in exploding runes. Niema asks if Moat is still alive. Feinn responds in the affirmative, noting that he tries to kill Moat, “Oh.. two or three times a month.”

Notes: Niema’s player is truly coming in to her own here. This move was completely unexpected and caught me well off guard. But I think I rolled with it well.
Feinn’s feud with Moat goes all the way back to the first campaign. Moat single-handedly routed Feinn’s army during a battle near Redheim. Later, when the Tanar’Ri army had emerged, Feinn was negotiating to fight alongside the Imperials. During these negotiations, he insulted the half-elf party member Nessa Whisperwind. In response, Moat punched him and broke his nose. This was an offense Feinn has never forgotten.

My goal with Moat was to show how he’s changed over thirty years. Moat, as a PC, cared deeply for the city of Redheim more than anything else. Despite this, it was twice threatened under while he was acting as ruler (First by Baz, his trusted aide, who sold the city out to brigands. Second by the Tanar’ri army). This has made Moat understandably paranoid and over the last three decades he has increased the city’s defenses, consolidated power (he trusts no one but himself to run the city), and generally become a benevolent tyrant. It didn’t make it in to the session but the subversive elements of Redheim still bubble. Now they plot against Moat instead of with him. Things have come full circle and Moat, in taking authority, has become the thing he hated even while doing what he believes is best for his city.


Dungeons &Dragons 3.5 – Avast! – Twenty Fourth Session: Onward to Redheim

In Attendance:    

Player 6/Niema the Aventi Wizard    

Player 12/Xander the Human Fighter

Player 13/Lionfilas Starwisp the Elf Rogue

Session Writeup:

The Harbinger is moored in port at Culloden. Kargash reports to Xander that all is done and gets permission to disperse the crew for shore leave. Xander assents. The surviving Imperial Marines quickly disembark and make a beeline for the Admiralty. As the order is given, Lyril appears from below deck, holding his bagpipes under his sole remaining arm. He walks to the side of the Harbinger and looks over into the water of the bay. Liona makes fun of him. Lyril sighs and casts his bagpipes in to the bay. Niema dives overboard, retrieves the pipes, and returns them to Lyril. She chastises him for discarding them so haphazardly. Niema vows to look in to finding a solution to Lyril’s predicament. Lyril asks the party if he can accompany them to Redheim. It’s his home after all and he doesn’t see much else for him. A one-armed bard is about as in demand as.. well.. a one-armed bard. Niema says they’d be happy to have him with them.

The party heads to the Admiralty building of the Imperial Navy. The guards stonewall them at the gate, Xander keeps the details of his mission so vague that the guards can’t help but be extremely suspicious. The PCs remember the Imperial Marines who disembarked early and invite the guards to go check with them. The two guards discuss this briefly and one goes to inquire. Time passes. Niema gets the remaining guard talking about his mother. Which he does. Awkwardly. For minutes on end. Just before things get Oedipal, the other guard returns. He relays that the Marines confirmed the need or Xander’s presence and they are ushered inside the Admiralty.

The Admiralty is a large building for a growing service. They have left plenty of wall space for paintings of future victories. The party heads in to a large meeting room where an aged man commands the room. His wig is powdered and his uniform reflects the best tailoring money can be. He is Grand Admiral Ontarius, the highest ranking officer of the Imperial Navy. Niema takes the lead and gives the report for the party. The Admiralty is stunned. The news of Cartwright’s crushing defeat is not taken well. Niema forgets a few minor details like how many ships survived the battle, but she does well. She informs the Admiralty board of Captain Marsh’s plan. Grand Admiral Ontarius tells the party he will be in touch.

The party leaves and Niema begins searching for some solution to Lyril’s problem. She first thinks mechanically, seeking out a clockmaker and inquiring about making a mechanical arm for Lyril. The clockmaker informs her that anything he could make would not be useful and would be constrained by its clockwork. He points her to an enchanter instead, saying that a purely magical solution might be more in line. Niema finds a shop run by an eccentric gnome named Garhen. Unfortunately, Garhen’s shop is in the wealthy district of Culloden. A large gated area, gaining entry would be difficult. Niema is, of course, initially turned down. Niema is forced to offer a stiff bribe and she says she hopes the guard has a family to feed. Liona asks her if she wants to take them out for an expensive dinner. Niema finds Garhen’s store: A gaudy establishment whose door is flanked on either side by fire-breathing dragon statues that breathe actual fire. Niema explains the situation to Garhen and he tells her that he can do this. However, he will need a piece of living wood, a particular kind of wood cultivated by the druids near Falkirk. Unfortunatelty, no one has heard anything from Falkirk in some time. Additionally, Garhen tells them this enchanting will cost Niema 10,000 GP. She agrees and says she will be back when she finds living wood.

The next day, the PCs are brought back to the Admiralty. Onatrius explains that they will be petitioning the Senate for regular troops but the Peacekeeper brass has the ear of the senate and they doubt they will commit their troops for Navy use. However, they are not without options. The handful of Redheim Regiments are considered under control of Redheim itself and its leader, Knight-Protector Moat (PC from the first campaign). Moat has the authority to put them to use on this mission. Additionally, Falkirk’s famed Rangers are also autonomous, answering to the ruling powers of Falkirk. They too could be recruited. Between Marsh being Moat’s son and Lyril, the PCs opt to head to Redheim. Ontarius presents them with travel papers that will get them through city gates and allow them passage on the roads.

The PCs draw provisions from the Harbinger’s stores and get the Admiralty to loan them horses. Niema explains to Lyril the plan to get him a prosthetic limb. He hugs her. Liona makes fun of Lyril’s handicap, deciding her purpose in life is to ruin anything Niema cares about. Lyril replies that, when his arm is restored, he intends to write a ballad detailing the myriad ways in which he hopes Liona dies. The party attempts to leave. They find the Admiralty only gave them travel papers in duplicate when triplicate is required. The PCs grumble all the way back, get the paperwork updated, and then proceed on.

The first day of travel is dominated by a hilarious argument. The PCs begin laying in to Niema for being scaly, gross, and smelly. Niema replies that she is considered a great beauty by her people. Xander laughs so hard he nearly falls off his horse. He then calls bullshit, noting that he’s met her people.

On the third day of travel the PCs see a caravan coming from the direction of Redheim. The party slows, wary of these strangers. The caravan master is a half-orc named Krone. He asks the party for news. Liona says nothing. The two groups talk for a bit before Niema let’s slip that there is a war on. Krone instantly reacts with interest, asking the other PCs to confirm this. They do. Krone reveals he has food and arms shipments from Redheim. He orders his caravan to ride hard as their goods will sell quickly and at over-market prices if the Empire is preparing for war!

On the fifth day, the party is stopped by a Peacekeeper patrol. Xander immediately orders them to stand down and do as ordered. Despite his love of money, Xander does respect his country. Especially when a 100-soldier company is facing him down. They are from the 23rd Regiment of the Peacekeepers and the officer who talks to them is Captain Winfall. The PCs find they have been selected for a random search. Xander immediately presents their paperwork. Xander plays the loyal patriot well and gets them a commendation from Winfall. Niema breaks in to the Imperial national anthem with Lyril. Winfall is reduced to tears of patriotic love as he joins them. He shakes Xander’s hand and wishes them on their way.

After 7 days of travel, Redheim is in sight. But they come a large settlement a half-day’s travel from the city. A large earthen wall surrounds it and the buildings inside are cobbled together from rubble and seem to barely stand. The PCs watch as a force of Peacekeepers marches up. A group of listless people emerge from the mudwalled settlement: Orcs, Drow, Duergar, and Sverfneblin. The remnants of the Exercitus Liberatur from the first campaign. After they were decimated by the Tanar’ri army, they joined forces with the Imperials. Moat offered them a place near Redheim in exchange for their help. The settlement they got does not seem to be a paradise.

The PCs inquire with the Peacekeepers and find that the Gulag, as the settlement is called, is escorted, under guard, to Redheim every couple weeks so they can sell their goods. The Duergar manufacture exquisite products and laws regulate the prices such that Redheim merchants buy them for bottom dollar and resell them at huge profits. The Peacekeepers offer to escort the PCs as well.

The PCs watch in silence as the Peacekeepers flank the Gulag delegation all the way to Redheim. Redheim has changed. It now sports the tallest walls in the Empire. Moat has spared no expense in making his city defensible. The walls also bear heavy-grade naval cannons. The soldiers and Gulagers enter, leaving the PCs to get through customs. The lead soldier at the gate is rather appalling racist at Niema which makes Xander laugh. The soldier then orders the PCs to hand over all their weapons. The party groans but Xander orders them to do so. He knows that arguing this point will not end well. The magic users in the party are given magically treated sashes that will change color and glow if they do any offensive spell casting. The gates to Redheim open as the session closes.

**EDIT** Corrected typo. Lyril wishes for Liona to die.


Dungeons &Dragons 3.5 – Avast! – Twenty Third Session: From the Wreckage

In Attendance:    

Player 6/Niema the Aventi Wizard    

Player 11/Voormas the Human Druid    

Player 13/Lionfilas Starwisp the Elf Rogue

Session Writeup:

Things begin to calm down aboard the Harbinger. Voormas drags the Antelope’s treasure chest with Lyril, the crew’s bard. Lyril is using only one hand to pull and seems to be heavily winded. They take the chest in to Kargash’s quarters. Niema begs the Harbinger’s crew to haul Mercedes up on deck. A sailor angrily tells her they are busy. Voormas introduces his new animal companion, a tiger named Fuhrer, by having it threaten the sailor. The intimidation check succeeds and the sailor quickly set up block-and-tackles to haul the camel on deck.

Voormas then takes notice of Lyril’s injury. His clothes on his right arm as ripped and blood has begun seeping through. Voormas approaches and inspects, despite Lyril’s protests. He finds a large splinter lodged just below Lyril’s shoulder. Thick blood seeps around it in rivulets. Voormas recommends that Lyril see Pollock, the Antelope’s surgeon, but Lyril tries to downplay his wound. Voormas leaves him be.The sailors of the Harbinger managed to land Mercedes on deck. Voormas heals her.

The action begins to settle and the characters find a brief respite on deck. Pollock busies himself seeing to the wounded. They take stock. Olaf, the dwarf who kept the books, died as the Antelope pitched on her side. Bill, the overweight assistant ship’s cook, is missing and presumed dead. Bernard, the simplistic half-orc crew member is also missing and presumed dead. Stephen Dorland, a crew member distinguishable for his wearing of heavy armor and use of a longsword, survived. Pollock was almost entirely uninjured.

In making his rounds, Pollock finds Lyril’s injury. He begins yelling for a table and his surgeon’s tools. Lyril begins protesting and backing away, knowing the monk intends to amputate his arm. The PCs rush to help (why they didn’t care before, I’ll never know). Voormas orders Fuhrer to tackle Lyril. The grapple check, surprisingly, goes in Lyril’s favor despite heavy penalties. Liona and Niema join in and they pin the bard to a table. Lyril struggles again and manages to throw off all three PCs. Pollock punches the bard back down. He applies a tourniquet to Lyril’s arm and gives it to Liona to hold. Lyril, still somewhat dazed, makes one more effort to throw the PCs off but they hold him. Pollock takes a knife and begins the operation. The PCs succeed at one further opposed strength check against Lyril. A few moments later with Pollock’s saw and Lyril’s arm is removed just below the shoulder. Once the saw makes contact, all struggling from Lyril ceases. It has become a foregone conclusion. Lyril retreats inside his own mind and becomes virtually catatonic.

Back to business, Voormas summons a bird to carry a message to the Might of Sevicus to Captain Marsh. Voormas asks where he is leading their small flotilla of surviving ships and when they’ll regroup. Marsh replies that they’ll having a meeting in a day or two once the wounded have been tended two and the dead consigned to the sea. Kargash gets Voormas’s attention. Some gold was lifted from the Antelope’s chest. Kargash has the suspects but cannot determine who stole what. Voormas suggests blood-curdling torture. Kargash suggests simple interrogation first. The suspects are a mix of Antelope crewmen and Imperial Marines. Voormas zeroes in on the Marines after the friction between them and Xander. He promises amnesty to the first Marine who implicates his fellow soldiers. What Voormas doesn’t realize is that the Marines (and even the Antelope crew) have far more loyalty to each other than they do to the party, especially after the loss of the Antelope.  Voormas then begins interrogating them all one by one. The matter is complicated by the fact that they all had some money to their name beforehand. The results are mixed. Voormas catches some in a lie but not others. He even eventually discovers that Kargash himself pocketed 500 gold pieces. All in all, the West Kraken Trading Company suffers a loss 250 gold pieces to theft.

That night, they all take stock. Liona sharpens her cutlass. Voormas plays with his tiger. Lyril sits by himself on one of the ship staring off in to space. Niema goes and stays with him for the entire night. There is little sleep to be had by anyone. The sun rises and Pollock, exhausted from working all night, presents Voormas with the list of dead and wounded. The outlook is not good. Voormas then goes to Mercedes. The camel is nearly as depressed as the bard. Voormas shows a great deal of humanity and reconciles with his former animal companion.

That day, the survivor flotilla joins up and an officer’s call is held aboard the Might of Sevicus. Commander Antioch tells Voormas he’s glad to see him. Captain Marsh explains the options: They know the Loudon fleet is heading for Carillon. As many ships as can be spared should sail for the island and prepare its defense. However, they cannot hope to hold the Loudon forces off. Not without regular soldiers from the mainland. They need one ship to head to Culloden, the Imperial capitol, and try and secure more naval ships as well as regular reinforcements. Niema thinks they should volunteer for the job but Voormas wants to go to Carillon. The PCs vote and opt to head to Culloden. The flotilla breaks up with the majority sailing on toward Carillon while the Antelope turns westward and sets course for Culloden. The trip takes 21 days.