Dragons of Blackminster

HotDQ 16 - The Depravity of Bullywugs
The Spawning Pool

It soon became obvious that their captive – Snapjaw the Lizardfolk – Champion of the Scaly Death Tribe, was not leading them to the place the treasure had been heading.
He was not very good at deception and, when Ragnar started to notice the increasing number of frog and bullywug tracks, they got Snapjaw to admit what he was doing.

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“Snapjaw has made solemn vow to Rezmir, Dragon Lady of the Castle.”
“Snapjaw may not reveal location of Castle”
“Scaly Death Tribe may not attack the inhabitants of the Castle”
“Scaly Death Tribe must obey Rezmir”
“Snapjaw rather die than break oath or will not sit with ancestors in the next life”

The lizard man’s face eyes narrowed and he bared his teeth in a cunning smile.

“Snapjaw lead you to bullywug village.(spits) Filthy frog-men also sworn to service of Rezmir but they have no honour. Their leader Pharblex Spattergoo is powerful shaman but all rest are weak and all are cowards. Snapjaw knows Pharblex has been killing warriors of Scaly Death Tribe by treachery but cannot prove it and Rezmir will not listen. Pharblex say warriors have run away, but Scaly Death warriors have great honour, frog-shaman lies and Rezmir pretend to believe him”
“Snapjaw lead you to bullywugs, you kill many easy but capture one and he lead you to Castle, not Snapjaw.”

It was agreed – they were impressed by his honesty and it seemed like a good plan. They even decided to call themselves a new tribe “BullywugsShallDie” Tribe and cut Snapjaw’s bonds to let him help them.

They snuck towards the village but found a bullywug spawning pool a few hundred yards from the village. Half a dozen of the creatures were ****ing in the slimy frog-spawn pool and including three enormous frogs in their debauchery.

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Our heroes sneaked closer under the shadows of Cole’s pass without trace spell. One of the frogs was alerted and wandered into the swamp to investigate. Ragnar jumped a solitary bullywug at the edge of the pool, getting advantage – but missed as it bent over to remove its loincloth and then missed again as it leapt into the writhing mass of blubbery bodies.

Although the creatures in the pool were too distracted to notice them, the curious giant frog spotted them and soon they were deep in combat. The frogs had 20 foot tongues and tried to grapple them and pull them into the pool. Fortunately none of them got hit. The bullywugs grabbed their spears and attacked but they were pretty feeble and soon fell to Sir Vassily’s sword, Cole’s flying fists and the deadly sniper bolts from Ragnar.

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From the pool of slime, the Shaman rose. He had apparently been at the bottom of the pile, the focus of their frantic mating. He cast spike growth so that they were surrounded by razor-sharp vegetation. Snapjaw spotted that he was wearing a necklace of lizardfolk teeth and went berserk, charging at him. The warrior was slashed and torn at every step and collapsed from wounds before he managed to reach his enemy. He lay there and slowly bled to death.

Vassily also ran across the razor grass but his armour protected him from most of the damage. He started hacking at Spattergoo.

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Cole leapt out of the razor grass – using his ki powers to cross the huge distance. Soon he was smashing down bullywugs and attacking Spattergoo too.

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Ragnar stayed hunkered down in the foliage and shot bolt after deadly bolt (after dropping a couple on the ground in his usual style).

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They took one bullywug prisoner – it grovelled, begging for its life and offering to server them in any way – it clung to their legs until cuffed away. Spattergoo was knocked out and tied and gagged. On his body they found an ornate scroll tube, the necklace of teeth (some still bloody where they had been ripped out, each from a different lizardfolk) and a silvery dagger with willow leaf pattern on it.

The scroll tube had Draconic runes on it saying “Presented to Pharblex Spattergoo for services rendered to the Cult of Tiamat” it turned out to contain a scroll of Revivify (can bring a dead creature back to life if cast within a minute). After a brief debate, Sir Vassily cast it on Snapjaw.

They gave Snapjaw the necklace of teeth and he used it to strangle the grovelling bullywug. He wanted to use it on Pharblex too but they persuaded him to wait while they tried to arrange a plan to get them into the Castle.

Spattergoo was willing to do anything to save his own skin. The plan emerged that they could wear purple robes and carry treasure and then they would be welcomed and shown down to the cellars where a portal was hidden. When there was sufficient treasure, the Cultists took it through – usually led by Rezmir, then returned a few hours later.

They had managed to get some rest before Spattergoo regained consciousness and Ragnar attuned himself to the dagger. It was a magical dagger linked to a magic portal. Killing somebody with the dagger provided a charge for the Portal. He had been killing lizardfolk to charge it up for Rezmir to use. Snapjaw had to be held back from gutting him there and then.

Spattergoo offered to go into the Castle to get them some purple robes (but clearly was just trying to get away and his promise to return couldn’t be trusted). Snapjaw offered to go and fetch robes for them – he wanted to go to the Castle and show his people the necklace and then lead them all out to the bullywug village to slaughter their enemies. This would avoid them having to obey Rezmir’s orders, wouldn’t involve him revealing the location of the castle and would not involve attacking inhabitants of the castle.

They agreed to the plan and, despite his grovelling, they let Snapjaw finish off the bullywug shaman – he was strangled to death by the necklace of teeth. Everyone cheered until they realised they had killed Spattergoo too soon and Snapjaw’s oath still prevented him revealing the location of the castle!

DOH!

They cleverly asked him to go and fetch the purple robes before they kidnapped another bullywug. Then Cole and Ragnar followed him (using the pass without trace spell again) and weren’t spotted until they could already see where he was going. It was a huge dense hemisphere of mist. No sight or sound escaped it.

Snapjaw just shrugged and said “I didn’t know you were following so it’s not my fault – honour is satisfied and I will still sit with the ancestors. I will bring the robes out as soon as I can”. They retreated back to where Sir Vassily was waiting.

An hour or two later, shortly before nightfall, Snapjaw returned, dressed in bronze armour and an impressive helmet. He threw a bunch of purple robes at their feet, then raised his spear. From the shadows under the trees 50 lizardfolk warriors emerged!

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Snapjaw bared his teeth and his eyes flashed. Their hands went to their weapons.
“Today we are not Scaly Death Tribe – we are BullywugsShallDie Tribe” – big shout and waving of spears from the lizard folk and then they trudged off towards the bullywug village.
“We will be gone 3 days” called Snapjaw “Don’t be there when we get back, I don’t want to have to kill my new tribesmen.”.

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HotDQ 15 - Into the Marsh

[GM:Lots of characters missing for this session – two new players turned up so we split into two groups again. Coleman the monk, Ragnar the dwarven rogue, Sir Vassily and David the urchin warlock will be staying, but David’s player is missing. In his absence, I reminded everyone that the mission was to “follow the money and find out where the ritual of summoning Tiamat was going to be performed”]

They entered the marsh, following the druidess – Aurelia trying to find the ruined hut where the Lizardfolk and their giant lizard pack animals were resting.

David was proudly wearing the gnome’s ornate purple robes.

Without warning a huge black dragon flapped down and landed nearby. It wriggled between the trees towards them and spoke directly to David. “Wearer of Purple, I want your fingers!”. The terrified boy held up his shaking hands.

The dragon extended a front leg and indicated for the boy to mount. Nobody knew what to do and the dragon leapt into the air. As it began to flap away, Coleman made an insulting gesture at its receding back as it was about 45 feet away. MISTAKE – the dragon has blindsight 60 feet! It turned and swooped back angrily. They all scattered as it breathed a cloud of poisonous fumes, nearly killing Coleman. Some strange magic affected the marsh and the druidess and dwarf paladin became lost in the marsh.

[GM: on the dragon’s back, David heard it say – “What’s this? One of your minions is disrespecting one of us – surely not me – Ebon Death, but still the scum should not disrespect the Purple.”. The boy pleaded with the dragon to ignore it, saying it was just friendly banter and so it only breathed once then flew off carrying the boy to who knows where!]

The others stumbled on and eventually fond the camp of the lizardfolk. The treasure was still piled-up in plain sight but with the enormous lizards sleeping all around it. It seemed the lizardfolk were still sleeping inside, waiting for nightfall before setting off again.

Forgetting the “follow the money”, they decided to try and steal some of the treasure – just a bit.

Coleman cast pass without trace and he and Ragnar sneaked right through the ring of snoring lizards. Ragnar spotted some tripwire trap near the hut and also that there was some kind of tripwire alarm on the pile of treasure, Ragnar attempted to cut the alarm cord without waking the lizards but realised it would be tricky. Coleman decided to drop his pass without trace and cast silence instead. Unfortunately this meant that their +10 on stealth dropped and the Lizardfolk sentry could now see them!

A tough fight followed. These giant lizards were the size of shire horses and were very aggressive – they took a lot of blows to kill.

Ragnar used his hand crossbow [and crossbow expert feat] and then closed to use his rapier.
Sir Vassily charged in and began hacking at lizards, using various Smite spells.
Coleman dropped the silence and began stabbing, kicking and punching.

The lizardfolk woke up and charged across to join the fight.

Coleman was knocked-out just as the last of the lizards went down and then they had a “down-to-the-wire” fight killing all the lizardfolk but Vassily was on his last legs, even after using his Lay on Hands. Somehow they remembered to try and take the last one alive but this one – “Snapjaw” was a decent warrior. He managed to push Vassily into one of the deep pools and dashed away. In order to take him alive, Ragnar had to catch him and use a melee attack. Snapjaw managed to repeat the shove into water and Ragnar went for a little swim too.

Vassily clambered out of the pool on the wrong side but Ragnar chased Snapjaw into the trees. The lizardfolk warrior hid behind a tree and ambushed Ragnar, but the plucky dwarf managed to drop him without killing him and then dragged him back for interrogation.

“Snapjaw will lead you to the castle – we will need to fetch more lizards to carry all the treasure.”
They are sure he is lying, but he is leading them somewhere – possibly to the dragon’s lair.

He tells them that if they were really members of the cult they would have purple robes and would know to sing the “rain song”.

He also tells them that the lizard folk serve the dragon and serve Rezimir, a black half-dragoness warrior who is in charge of gathering the treasure at the Castle in the Marsh.

Where is David ? Why did the dragon want his fingers? Where is Snapjaw leading them to?
These questions, and many more, may be answered at the next session.

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HotDQ 14 - Culling Cultists

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[GM: Aurelia the druidess and Carro the elven monk were absent for this session so I decided that Aurelia hadn’t returned yet and Carro had gone partway into the Marsh to meet up with her.]

Agetul the shield dwarf found it hard to believe David the Urchin when he revealed that her convoy of wagons contained ten “dangerous dragon cultists”. She had to check with the grown-ups that this wasn’t some child’s fantasy. Ragnar (her boy-friend) and the new dwarven paladin (she and Ragnar aren’t exclusive, by-the-way), supported the kid’s story and finally Sir Vassily persuaded her it was true.

The cultists were… the mercenary wagon with Captain Boris, Restogar the elf archer, Redburn the barbarian dwarf and Grey Sally the half-orc/half-drow assassin… and the Calimshite wagon with Wazim, Captain Omar, Ivani and the priestess Sherazad (although Sherazad seemed to not be a member of the cult, she was clearly infatuated with Wazim and would probably trust him and fight on his side)… the two other cultists were Ignator the red-dragonborn and the gnome called Sprocket who was the cultists’ leader.

Agetul was mostly interested in protecting the civilians on the wagon-train she offered to guard the convoy while our heroes lured the cultists away and murdered them.

David’s plan went without a hitch as far as luring the mercenaries away from the wagon train on the pretext that he wanted help killing the two Paladins “Their usefulness is over and they are beginning to get suspicious”. Cole the red ninja, hid up a tree overlooking a small pool. The two paladins pretended to wash in the pool. Ragnar hid in the bushes nearby. David led the four mercenaries along with his new bodyguard – Hareng the half-orc shaman down to meet them.

Boris hated Vassilliy as the paladin had called him a coward.
Grey Sally hated him for having survived her poisoning attempt.
Restogar hated him for stabbing his horse.
Redburn the savage dwarf just hated everybody!

The rest of the plan swiftly fell apart as they had not discussed the signal to start the attack, nor exactly what they would all do when the fighting started.

Hareng triggered the action by casting mirror image, soon there were 4 angry half-orcs standing behind the mercenaries. Seeing this, Cole cast darkness over the whole group and chaos ensued.

The darkness hindered his own people and actually helped the assassin and the elven archer/rogue. Hareng stumbled into the pool but dragged himself out and entered rage and attacked. Grey Sally began to step out of darkness, shoot and step back into cover. Restogar did the same. Ragnar could only shoot at people he could see. Boris and Redburn charged out to fight the paladins the dwarf berserker fell into the pool and dragged himself out..

David (with his phobia about the dark) panicked and fled round the edge of the pool and into the light but was struck as he ran past Redburn, badly wounded.

The noise of the fight drew the attention of the other cultists and soon they were fighting on two fronts. Wazim and Sprocket blasted them with magic missiles. The dragonborn ran in and breathed fire on Hareng, taking down all his mirror images. [GM: not sure you should be able to concentrate on a spell while you are raging, anyway].

Then Sherazad (who David thought was probably charmed) was ordered into the fight. She ran in and cast Spirit Guardians, so a sphere of angry djinni/whirlwinds swarmed around her attacking our heroes.

The spell nearly killed Cole but he broke the priestess’ concentration in an unorthodox manner – rather than hitting her, he kissed her. It worked and her spell faltered. When she cast it a second time Hareng killed her in his unreasoning rage.

As the tide turned and the cultists began to fall, the two paladins rushed about healing their companions (particularly David – who took a bit of a pounding as the “filthy little traitor”) and even Hareng came out of his rage to cast healing word to get Cole back on his feet.

When desperation set in and his allies no longer blocking the way, Wazim unleashed a devastating fireball and Sprocket the gnome (after pretending to surrender) let fly with a black cloud of madness, cold and acid. But it was too little too late and they were all hacked down. None were taken alive – sadly not even Sherazad. Still, it was a great victory and they are all still standing.

There is a total of about 1200 gp in coins and jewellery.
A wand of Magic Missiles (from Sprocket) – 7 charges, resets 1d6+1 charges at dawn, casts Magic Missile as an action – 1 charge = 1st level (3 missiles), each additional charge is 1 more missile,
A Spider Amulet – allows the casting of “Freedom of Movement” as an action or a bonus action, by tapping it – once per day, resets at dawn, duration 1 hour (taken from Wazim – he got it from the Drider in the spider forest encounter).
There are two sets of Plate Mail
They could sell all the other equipment to the wagon merchants for another 400gp.
Hidden in the two cultist wagons (now only filled with sand and stones) there are three sets of Purple-striped robes and a “Ming the Magnificent” purple robe with high collar from Sprocket – this will only fit David!

Next Time – following the druidess into the Marsh in pursuit of the dragon-gold.

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HotDQ 13 Stockade in the Marsh
Ragnar gets lucky

[GM: Due to the return to University of one of the DMs, part way through tonight’s session we saw the return of some of the earlier players, boosting the number back to 8 – this is a bit high, but is only for the term time so should be manageable – Hareng the Half-orc Barbarian & Carro the Elf Monk are back, along with new characters Marduk Battle-beard the Dwarf Paladin and Aurelia the Gold Dragonborn Druidess (sorry if I misremembered the name Pippa – I DO NOT HAVE YOUR CHARACTER SHEET

A few days passed uneventfully as the Wagons moved ever northward. Eventually they began following the Marsh Road. It skirts a great, stinking salt marsh that stretches about 100 miles to the sea.

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David re-summoned his Familiar, this time appearing in the form of a Pseudodragon – still called Shoggy, with a dim memory of its former assassination by Coleman, but this time modelled on a fae dragon, and not a hell-spawned demon.

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The young lad also spent some time investigating. He used beast speech to talk to the Parrots on Wagon 11. They lived in a great contraption built by Sprocket the surly gnome. It could gradually rotate the cages, giving each of the 100 birds some time in the open. When David touched the mechanism, one of the birds hissed “Praise the Dragon Queen” revealing that Sprocket was actually the senior Dragon Cultist who knew where they were taking the treasure.

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Later Sir Vassily spotted Sprocket talking to the cultists on Wagon 2 and the arab cultists on wagon 8. It turned out they had been told the next bit of the journey. They were to stop at a stockade, allow their wagons to be unloaded and spend the night there before loading back up and continuing the journey to Waterdeep.

David continued to use beastspeech to get information about the marsh, a bunch of rooks told him not to go far in the marsh because of a great black dragon!

The wagon train reached the Stockade where a squad of men-at-arms and road builders were based. Their leader a huge half-orc called Bog Face informed them that the bridge ahead was damaged. They could wait at the stockade until it was fixed. If he could borrow a couple of the sturdiest wagons, he could get it re-opened the next day. Not surprisingly, he identified the cultist wagons (2 and 8) and got no argument from the cultists.

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Some of our heroes helped unload the two wagons and move the treasure boxes – very heavy boxes – into the thick stone Strongroom. Bog Face locked the two doors with heavy clasps and padlocks, three per door. They all joined the stockade’s occupants for a night of drinking and the wagoneers eventually drifted off to sleep (or paired up and went to bed). Ragnar finally succumbed to the charms of Agetul the shield dwarf.

Colman and Vassily decided to keep watch on the two doors, resting with their heads on the doors. Colman thought he heard some scuffling from inside and raised a hue and cry about it. Bog Face was pretty calm and dismissed their concerns. There was some unpleasantness with Bog Face – a headbutt or two and some intimidation from both sides. Finally David had to calm his companions down and keep reminding them that they weren’t there to prevent the Cultists moving the gold, their mission was to follow the gold and find out where the Ritual of Summoning Tiamat was going to take place.

In the morning, they discovered the boxes were all still there and still just as heavy (well almost as heavy, and there was some loose sand just perceptible on the floor). The gold had been switched for sand but nobody raised the alarm about it. When they had loaded the “cargo” back on the two wagons, David telepathically asked Ragnar to investigate the strongroom, as he saw that the sand was heaviest around a big locked crate propped against the wall. Ragnar slipped in unnoticed to look around.

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He hid when Bog Face came back in for a final look around and then found himself locked inside. He jimmied open the crate, finding it was bolted to the floor and the lid was bolted from the inside. Once in he found a deep well with a ladder leading down in to dark water.

Replacing the lid behind him, he sank into the dark water. Down and down and then along a horizontal tunnel to an iron grate – padlocked. He managed to hold his breath and undo the grate, continued along the submerged tunnel, reaching the point of no return. He chose to press on and found another grate! He was starting to panic and take damage but managed to get it open and drag himself the rest of the way, sloping back up to emerge at the lake side in a copse of trees.

There were lots of tracks here. Lizard men dragging heavy sacks in and out of the water, lots of wet sand and the tracks for several big lizards (probably used as pack animals). The tracks led off into the marsh.

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Back in the Stockade, around lunch time, another wagon arrived from the south, old friends of David and Ragnar’s – Carro the Elf Monk and Hareng the half-orc barbarian and a couple of new friends of theirs.

Marduk Battle-beard a dwarven Paladin of Devotion who definitely caught Agetul’s attention with his muscles and his charming good-looks.

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Aurelia a gold Dragonborn Druidess of the Moon.

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With the help of David’s telepathy and the information from the bedraggled Ragnar, they were all brought up to speed. Marduk Battle-beard also scanned the compound and detected the presence of Undead (but could not pinpoint its source).

The wagons left after lunch and out on the road they formulated a plan to get the cultist wagons away from the civilians and murder them all. A plan that went down very well with Colman and Vassily.

Meanwhile Aurelia was asked to try to follow the tracks and see if she could catch up with the lizardfolk and the treasure and report back on where they were going. Despite the danger and the warnings about “big black dragon”, Aurelia slipped away from the wagons and transformed into a crocodile to swim and scurry along the trail.

It took a few hours out to find they had gone quite slowly and were now resting in a shack with the lizards unharnessed but draped asleep on the pile of chests. Aurelia was not strong enough or stealthy enough to steal a chest from under the sleeping lizards but she hurried back to the road, leaving a clear trail and re-joined the convoy.

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The Plan For Next Time – David lures the cultists into the woods on the pretext of “It’s time to get rid of the Paladin(s)” and then ambush the hell out of them!

The cultists known are…
Boris – leader of the Wagon 2 – veteran warrior – plate mail
Redburn – Dwarf Barbarian – looks like he is a bit of a savage, frenzied attacker rather than a single big hit
Restogar – half-elf archer
Grey Sally – half-drow, half-orc – assassin – sharp-shooter, can deliver a massive amount of damage from a single crossbow bolt
Wazim – leader of the Arabian cultists – a Sorceror with Firebolt and magic missile (probably a few other spells you haven’t seen yet)
Sherazad the Arabian priestess – not strictly-speaking a cultist but infatuated with her boss – Wazim so might end up siding with them.
Omar – veteran Arabian Bodyguard type – looks like an excellent wrestler and very strong
Ivani – average-looking Arabian guardsman
Sprocket the Gnome – a senior member – great at deception – seen using magic missile wand – probably a multi-classed wizard / rogue
Ignator – red-dragon-born fighter

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HotDQ 12 Inn Trouble

[GM:The player of “David the Warlock Urchin” was missing for this session, so his “Family” gave him a little task to do to get him out of the way. I brought him back into the Inn at the end of the session and there was an unfortunate incident!]

The wagons stopped rolling when night fell. They were still about 30 minutes ride from the Inn but it was up hill and would take the wagons a few hours.

The lawyer, Urmspoleshurst asked Vassily to accompany him to the Inn as he had an appointment with a hobbit who should be able to give him all the papers he needed to assume his new life (sort of witness protection) when they reach Waterdeep.
“The hobbit will respond to a pass phrase – ‘Do you come here often?’ with the answer ‘Only when there is a Y in the month’ so we can check if it is really him. If the thieves guild has sent a hit squad after me, they may have gotten ahead of us and be waiting”.

Although Vassily thought the lawyer deserved protection for free, Coleman and Ragnar both asked for 20gp each for their protection.

David the Urchin had more important things to do. He had been muttering and communicating by telepathy with something (probably a figment of his imagination!) for most of the day and now stalked off into the twilight woods to collect some mushrooms.
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The Inn was busy, all the stables were occupied with horses and there were an lot of people staying at the inn. Our heroes peered in through the windows and spotted a few tougher-than-average people, including an elf woman (maybe a scout or rogue?) and a lot of mean-looking guys in leather armour. They also saw a hobbit and a local vicar in a quiet room to one side.
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Ragnar made a deal with the proprietor (stable-man) and sold his new war pony. The crafty ostler tricked him into paying for a night’s stabling first.

Vassily stayed outside with Urmsy while Cole and Rags skipped merrily hand-in-hand into the Inn. All eyes turned to them and they noticed an older chap, definitely a wizard, seemed to be in charge and a few of the tough guys waited for his nod before settling back to their drinks. The barman cleared a table for them and brought drinks. They noticed the only hobbit was eating his tea in the side room, but they didn’t try to make contact straightaway.
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There were a couple of local militiamen in the pub, so it seemed relatively safe.
Another guest “Pugh”, wandered in from outside and spoke in whispers to the Wizard (he had been outside with the horses and spotted Urmsy). The wizard “Grub” immediately got up and went outside to “smoke his pipe”. The toughest-looking of the thugs, “Dibble” got up to follow him out and blocked the doorway.

Grub looked around outside and saw Urmsy and Vassily and it all kicked off.
Vassily realised the wizard was trying to cast a spell at him and got in a quick headbutt. He hit but didn’t stop the spell “Tasha’s Hideous Laughter” which had the poor paladin ROFLing helplessly, finding everything hilarious. The wizard stepped over him saying “If he stops laughing, kill him” to the menacing figure of “Dibble”.

Inside Coleman and Ragnar tried to get out but were blocked. Coleman decided (nobody really knows why) to headbutt the unsuspecting hobbit and managed to knock him out. The vicar protested but didn’t dare interfere. Ragnar tried to push past the thug in the door way and was knocked back.

Another thief, “Cuthbert” came up behind Coleman and stabbed him, then “Dibble” struck too, using the flank to his advantage. Behind him the two militia began to rise but Pugh dropped a bag of gold on the table and encouraged them to relax and take another drink “No need to concern yourselves with a simple matter of guild business, officers”.
The fight was brief but bloody. When Vassily managed to shake off his attack of the giggles, Dibble nearly gutted him with vicious stabbing and the wizard firebolted the proprietor (killing him).

Vassily fought well, activating the power of his sword to cast the “Evard’s Black Tendrils” spell, pinning the Wizard and the unconscious Urmsy and Dibble in the tendrils. But the wizard grabbed Urmsy and used “Misty Step” to teleport out of the tendrils (badly injured but free).

Coleman leapt out after them in time to see the Wizard a couple more thieves, including the Elf woman “Magrew” and “Hugh”, bundled the body onto a horse. Dibble got a couple of lucky hits on Vassily and took him down.

Ragnar robbed the unconscious hobbit, taking a rucksack full of papers and then started shooting the gang of thieves. He had to run out to save Vassily from bleeding out and got very lucky with his medicine check, bringing the paladin back awake. In the room behind him, the vicar healed the hobbit.

At this point the Wizard and the thieves managed to take down Coleman and he started to bleed out too. while he was unconscious, the hobbit sneaked over and robbed him of about 120 gold, leaving him a single gold coin. Then David emerged in the shadows and skewered one of the thieves with his Witchbolt spell, whispering “Get him Shoggy” (and something small and dark stabbed the guy in the back while the urchin kept the crazy lightning on him).

Coleman luckily stabilised while Vassily and Ragnar thinned out the thieves a bit. Coleman was healed they just managed to kill Dibble. The Wizard and a couple of his henchmen were galloping away with the unconscious Urmsy but Ragnar shot the horse out from under the lawyer. The wizard and his cronies galloped into the night and Pugh and the hobbit slipped away too, but Urmsy was saved.

The folks in the inn where grateful to the heroes for driving off the bad guys and they were offered plenty of food and drink. There was even some trinkets on the fallen thieves and Ragnar got paid another 50gp by Urmsy for the bag of papers he’d stolen.

While Ragnar and Coleman were getting hammered in the Inn, Vassily (a Teetotaller) noticed that David was acting strangely, chatting with the barman and distracting him while some small invisible creature was adding flakes of mushroom to the barrel. Vassily grabbed some flour from the kitchen and dumped it on the “creature” it was a hideous little demon.
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Reacting before David could stop him, Coleman shot it through the head with a crossbow bolt and the foul creature died and its body dissolved with a horrible stench of brimstone and corruption.

SHOGGY!” the urchin was tearful and explained the creature was his familiar. He hadn’t revealed it because it looked like a demon and they might not have understood [GM: David doesn’t judge a book by its cover (one of his Traits) and was convinced Shoggy was only a bit mischievous and was part of his “family”]. When they pressed him to find out what the demon was doing putting mushrooms in the beer, he explained it wasn’t anything dangerous. "My family asked me to do it. The spores make people a bit more receptive to the voice of the “family” so that they should be able to communicate while they sleep. The spores aren’t dangerous at all."

By the time this was spotted most of the people in the inn had already drunk some of the beer and found it to be even nicer than usual. Our heroes escorted Urmsy back to the wagon train. Coleman and Ragnar had terrifying nightmares and gained no benefit from their night’s rest. Judging by the screams from the top of the hill – the guests at the inn were plagued by nightmares too.
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[GM: David will be able to cast Find Familiar again – it only costs 10gp for components and Coleman handed over his last remaining 1gp (because he felt a bit guilty for killing the thing)]

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HotDQ 11 - Spider Forest

Sherazad, the Arabian priestess, had been pounced on by giant spiders and carried off into the forest. Wazim – the Arabian Merchant Prince (also a Sorcerer and a Cultist) wanted volunteers to go after her.

The brave adventurers going after her were…Wazim, Restogar (the Elf Scout from wagon 2), Sir Vassily, Ragnar, Colman and the urchin, David.
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The cultists all seem to believe that David is a senior member of the cult. Eventually Wazim lets slip that he thinks David is a disguised gnome. They have all been expecting a gnome to contact them and tell them where to take the treasure. It’s possible that the gnome is the surly “Sprocket” from the parrot wagon.
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Our heroes are led by Restogar into the pitch black woods. The sharp-eyed elf is following spots of blood from Sherazad.
David explains to the cultists that Colman (the ninja) is a fellow cultist but that Ragnar and Vassily aren’t. Wazim tells him that Sherazad isn’t a cultist either but that his other guards – Omar and Ivani are, and all four of the guards from Wagon 2 and also the fire dragonborn (Ignator).
As the only other person with night vision, Restogar convinces Ragnar to climb up a tree into the shadowy canopy. As the plucky dwarf pushes through a layer of web, huge black shapes drop on him with vicious fangs. Three giant spiders!
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A fight ensues and a huge Drider emerges (a giant spider body but with the upper body of an elf). David tries to use Beastspeech on the spiders but they are enraged and controlled by the drider. It turns out to be a spellcaster and is soon surrounded by spidery spirit guardians. Ragnar falls and is still being devoured by the millions of mystical spiders. The others struggle to break the monster’s concentration before it kills him. Wazim and Restogar are pretty competent warriors too but it is touch and go for a while. They manage to kill all the giant spiders and focus on the Drider.

Finally they hack it down, just in time to revive Ragnar. Then there is a general hunt for treasure and they find the drider’s lair and rescue Sherazad from a cocoon. They find some jewellery on other victims but Wazim, using Detect Magic, finds a magic sword (picked up by Vassily) and a spider amulet (which he takes for himself).

Later there is much debate (via David’s telepathic power) as to whether to ambush Wazim and Restogar on the way back to the camp. David and Ragnar mamage to convince the more blood-thirsty Paladin and Monk to chill out a bit.

Back at the wagons there is much rejoicing at the rescue and Lewel the gypsy elf woman helps Vassily understand his magic sword – it has the power to hold two spells (one of up to 4th level and one of up to 2nd level). It currently contains an “Evard’s Black Tentacles” and a “Cure Wounds” (cast at 2nd Level). To charge it with spells, a spellcaster can cast at the gem on the pommel and it then becomes stored, ready to be released by an attuned wielder. It takes one hour of concentration to become attuned to the blade. Only one person can be attuned and when another does it, the first is disconnected.

wag05_Urnpoleshurst.jpg
The nervous lawyer – Urmspolehurst approaches Sir Vassily asking for his aid. At first he tried to offer vassily money 20gp to protect him for a meeting at an Inn (tomorrow night). When the paladin pressed him for details the lawyer reluctantly explained his predicament…
Urmspoleshurst had upset the Leader of the Honest Johns – a crime guild in Baldur’s Gate. The lawyer had managed to get the leader’s younger brother executed on a legal technicality. “Urmsy” had then had to flee from Baldur’s Gate and is hoping to start a new life in Waterdeep with a new identity. He is meeting a hobbit in the Inn with details of his new identity but fears that, with all the recent delays, some of the guild might have overtaken them.

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HotDQ 10 - The Stag
The Crone, the Mother and the Maiden

Our heroes had joined the convoy and helped repel an attack by Wraiths and Spectres with only a few casualties. The action had brought a sense of camaraderie among the wagons except for Vassily’s harsh words to Captain Boris of Wagon 2. It was clear from his scowls that this was unfinished business.

A couple of days later, Vassily suffered from some sort of bug and was feeling pretty sick. Old John, his faithful retainer had to nurse him through the worst of it, cleaning his “smalls” as he had done since Vassily was a nipper. The paladin managed to fight off the poison with the help of some herbal remedy from Sharazade (the Arabian priestess) who went into the nearby woods to fetch herbs for him. He was pretty sure Grey Sally – the assassin from Wagon 2 – had slipped something into his food.

David sent his invisible “brother” to investigate the barbarian furs in wagon 4 – all furs, no treasure and then to investigate Wagon 2. He couldn’t get in but had got close enough to overhear them chatting in Draconic (perhaps like Dragon Cultists?). Ragnar snuck close enough to hear them too, snickering over Vassily’s discomfort.

Agetul – convoy captain – called them all together at breakfast for a warning about the up-coming Spider Forest. It was more than a day’s journey so usually they would have to camp at the roadside somewhere in the middle of it. As long as they stuck together and lit plenty of lanterns, the spiders should keep away. They would enter the Spider Forest about 3:00 that afternoon.

However, as they were about to break camp a magnificent stag was spotted on the road ahead. It was such a fine example that Agetul agreed to keep the convoy here for an hour or two while any that wanted to pursue it, did so. The two barbarian Cossacks from Wagons 4 & 5 immediately galloped off in pursuit. Vassily and Col had both spotted a glint of silver from the beast’s chest and thought it might be magical.

Col and Ragnar decided to go after it, led by the wise old ex-gamekeeper, “Old John” all on borrowed horses. David decided to stay at the camp and chat to Beyd the chef from the refreshments wagon. He got on very well with Beyd, who gave him free ice cream and cakes and the old chap knew all the gossip from the convoy.

Just to split the party up completely, Sir Vassily started goading the mercenaries from Wagon 2, particularly the obvious half-elf hunter, Restogar, about why he wasn’t out hunting. The upshot was that Vassily offered to go with him and then Capt Boris “allowed” Grey Sally to tag along too “as it might not be safe” [nudge, wink].

So that’s how Vassily found himself lost in the forest with two people who were probably going to ambush him. To put them off he casually mentioned that he was a great warrior who could also heal people – including heal himself! In the end he got so worried about them getting the drop on him that he frightened off their horses and galloped off on his own. He’d never been in the forest without faithful Old John and he had never listened to Old John’s good advice about which side of trees moss grows on. He wandered for a couple of hours before finding a clearing with the signs of recent battle.

Meanwhile Col and Ragnar followed their tracker – Old John, deeper and deeper into the wood. For an hour they followed the deer and then followed the pony tracks of the cossak hunters until they reached a clearing where OoVarVoo, the huge male barbarian was struggling with the enormous stag while his sister IrarNoo, lay gutted on the forest floor. Not only was he fighting the Stag, but hidden in the shadows of the trees were three women, a wizened hag, a matronly middle-aged woman and a beautiful and naked girl of about 19.
Old John succumbed to a charm spell and dismounted and staggered towards the beautiful maiden.
OoVarVoo succumbed to a Hold Person spell cast by the ancient crone.
Ragnar leapt from his horse and hid.
Col cast his Pass without Trace and snuck nearer to the fight, intent on stealing the amulet from the Stag and ignoring the other opponents.
Old John, stupefied by the maid’s magical charm didn’t fight back when she kissed him and bit him with vicious fangs. As the only member of the group visible, he was also hit by a ray of sickness from the middle-aged woman. He soon fell and began bleeding out.
Col and Ragnar pretty much ignored him, focussed purely on the glittering prize at the Stag’s throat. It was a triangle of silver, inscribed with an eye. Col got close and cast a Darkness spell, engulfing himself, the stag and the paralysed OoVarVoo.

Ragnar took advantage and leapt into the dark, somehow managing to clamber onto the Stag’s back. With Ragnar distracting it, Col managed to rip the silver amulet free and ran off with it. Instantly the stag transformed into what felt and sounded like a wriggling goblin with Ragnar collapsed on top of him. “Ger Off me! S’not my fault yer idjit. I waz enchanted. It’s the ’ags ya want, not me – not Zarg the Scrofulant, ambassador to the Goblin King”. At the same time as the amulet was snatched, the three women screamed and the youngest one fell dead.

OoVarVoo snapped out of the paralysis and killed the crone and between them, they killed the third one too. They bickered for a while over who deserved the magical amulet as the pool of blood widened around Old John and the goblin sneaked away (Zarg was clearly a spellcaster as he teleported away once he got out of the cloud of darkness).
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By the time they remembered Old John, it was too late. They left him and the three hags where they lay (Although OoVarVoo reverently carried the body of his sister away to be cremated) and returned to the wagons, having not even searched for the hag’s nearby lair [GM: which had magical treasure in it! Zarg will have made off with that].

An hour or so later, Sir Vassily rode into that same clearing and came upon the abandoned corpse of his faithful retainer – the man who had raised and guided and served him all his life. Grief-stricken [GM: at least he should have been!], Vassily rode through the forest for another couple of hours, carrying Old John with him. Eventually he found the road and made it back to the wagons. All the others had returned by then – Grey Sally and Restogar scowling their hatred and chuckling at loss of Old John.

Col and Ragnar took the amulet to the beautiful Elven Gypsy woman. She made a gesture to avert the evil eye and told them to take it away and destroy it. “Thou hast found a Hag’s Eye. Through that accursed item, the hags can see and are drawn to it. I assume thou hast burned their bodies already so that they shall not be re-born, but even so their sisters will know where the Hag’s Eye goes and will come for revenge”. [GM: for those who care, these were not standard hags – they were both weaker and more mysterious than usual – I often change the monsters, especially when players might otherwise know too much about them].

In the fire that cremated Old John and OoVarVoo, they melted the amulet into a blob of silver and Col sold it to Lewel the Elven Gypsy for 60 gold pieces. He claimed to have gotten only 15 for it and split it with Ragnar and OoVarVoo, pocketing the rest himself. In gratitude for his rescue, OoVarVoo gave his sister’s pony to Ragnar. Now the dwarf has to pay for fodder for the beast for the rest of the trip which will cost 10gp.

All the time his friends were chasing magical stags, David continued searching for clues about the cultists. He used his telepathic ability to chat to the mute Elf Selvek (not very talkative but seems to be honest and kind). He also discovered that Ivani, one of the Arabian guards had had his tongue cut out a few years back and did not appear to speak common anyway. He chatted telepathically with Ivani and tricked the man into revealing he was a cultist – the urchin tried to leave Ivani with the impression that he was a member of the same cult but there is some doubt as to whether Ivani believed him.

The Urchin went on to trick Grey Sally into revealing that she and the other mercenaries of Wagon 2 are also cultists. His clever use of the “secret” hand-sign convinced her and he told her that Vassily was useful as a cover, being a dumb paladin, nobody suspected his youthful ward. He told her that Col was a cultist too and that he was evaluating Ragnar to see whether to enlist him. Grey Sally appears to be completely taken in and, to David’s surprise, even seems to think this scruffy little boy is a senior member of the cult– almost as if she was expecting it!

They camp in the Spider Forest and because she felt sorry for Vassily (for the sad death of his friend) Sharazad the arabian warrior-priestess, went a little way into the forest to find more herbs to settle his fever. [GM tip #321 – make the players to blame for everything ].
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Suddenly the alarm was raised. Sherazad has been poisoned (paralysed) by giant spiders and carried off (still alive) into the dark forest.
Wazim, the Arabian merchant prince (sorcerer or warlock) asks for volunteers to go with him in pursuit. He will leave Omar and Ivani to guard the wagon but asks for help rescuing the girl. Agetul agrees “She is a healer and therefore worth the risk”. The Spiders are big and scary but not so tough or brave if you whack them hard enough. They might be able to overpower a lone girl but a few tough warriors should manage a rescue."

[GM: Let’s hope the whole party, or at least most of the party will volunteer. Sharazad has helped and healed a few of the travellers so Restogar, Wazim and Toxa are up for it. If David doesn’t fancy a trip into the DARK to fight spiders, Toxa the dragonborn lady is available to be played for this fight.]

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HotDQ 09 Wagons Ho

The red wizard opened a portal to Baldur’s Gate.
Quite a crowd of people went through…
• Cole the monk of shadows
• David the urchin warlock and his familiar Shoggy, the imp (disguised as a rat familiar)
• Ragnar the dwarven rogue
• Sir Vassily the paladin knight and his retainers…
• Dave the Squire – an aspiring knight but from a poor family, a few years older than Vassily
• Old John – family retainer, woodsman, cook, odd-job man
• Sarah the pretty young maid, cook and mender
• Lady Natalie Froome (just accompanying them back to the safe house)

The Wagons

Ragnar and Cole managed to impress the veteran Dwarf Shield-maiden, Agetul Isambard and were hired as guards – assigned to Wagon 10 – Verther’s Silks. Agetul seemed to take a liking to Ragnar, after some rough sparring – she squeezed his butt.
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Vassily had to buy passage on the wagons for himself and his entourage (David, Dave, Old John & Sarah). They were scattered across different carts. Vassily and David on Wagon 1 with Lewel the beautiful elf merchant and Agetul. Onthar Froome and the Order of the Gauntlet had provided enough expenses to cover the costs.

Dave the Squire & Old John on the Wagon with the friendly Elf Bard and his silent brother.

Sarah on the refreshments wagon with the fat half-elf chef Beyd and the bright-green-skinned woman, Imsa.

David hired a gang of local urchins to try to find dragon-stamped coins in the wagon train. The gang-leader, Travis, was a few years older (15?) and agreed terms. It was fairly risky work as the wagons themselves were well-guarded but the urchins managed to pickpocket several of the guards (including Cole and Ragnar!) but found no evidence of dragon-stamped gold.

When they met up to report, the gang tried to mug David. Much to Shoggy’s delight, David’s Arms of Hador spell (cast in self-defence) brutally murdered two of the children. The leader scampered away, cowering and wet himself. David sent Shoggy to follow the lad who turned out to be related to one of the thieves guild leaders.

Rumours of magical evil monsters killing children were passing around the city when they left. Shoggy is very pleased with his master – after a slow start, he seems to be getting into his evil stride with the murder of a couple of children. Shoggy is hoping for great things from this one!
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David managed to telepathically communicate with the Gargoyle on Lasfelro’s wagon. It had been ordered not to talk to anyone, but decided that telepathy didn’t count so was glad of the company. It was magically enslaved to the merchant Lasfelro, won in a card game. It told David that Lasfelro was concerned about the rumours of dragon cult attacks and had hired an additional guard – the wagon was apparently carrying bric-a-brac. It still seemed odd that security was so tight.
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Vassily managed to get the story of Green Imsa – after an accidental affair with a young wizard, she was cursed by his older, more powerful, wife. The wife was sufficiently known and feared in Baldur’s Gate that no other wizard would remove the spell. She was hoping to have better luck in Waterdeep. They were chatting quite amiably until he told her to get back in touch once the green had faded.
wag06_Imsa.jpg

They became suspicious of Wagon 2 – a group of 4 grey-tabbarded mercenaries
• Capt Boris – human veteran warrior
• Redburn – dwarf berserker
• Restogar – half-elf ranger type
• Grey Sally – half-drow, haf-orc, assassin type
No real reason for suspicion other than their general appearance, uniform, disciplined guarding of the wagon and the fact it was a sealed freight container, not accompanied by a merchant.
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The other suspicious-looking person was the lawyer – Urmpoleshurst. He kept clutching his briefcase and looking nervously around. When they stopped near an inn, he hid in a tent next to the wagon rather than go for a drink.
wag05_Urnpoleshurst.jpg

On the second night the wagon train was attacked by spectres and a couple of wraiths. The spectres killed one of the two dragonborn guards from wagon three – Scorch. His brother Ignator breathed fire on the spectres but they seemed resistant to almost every kind of damage. Scorch was raised as another Spectre by the wraith. Fortunately the combined forces of the wagon train guards (and Vassily and David the brave passengers) managed to gang up on the wraith and bring it down before it could raise any other spectres.

Angesstun, the dwarf merchant from Wagon 3, showed himself to be a pretty poor combatant, fleeing from the spectres and getting knocked out. He was lucky not to be killed and turned into a spectre. His wagon turned out to be full of vats of Cooking Oil and perfumes.
wag03_Angesstun.jpg

After the fighting David recommended to Agetul (Head of Wagon Train Security) that the remaining dragonborn guard on wagon 3, Ignator, was swapped for Cole and Ragnar as it didn’t seem safe to have a fire-breathing guard guarding a wagon full of flammable oil! Agetul was particularly pleased to move Ragnar closer.

Further back down the wagons, the two peasant labourers from wagons 4 & 5 also perished and were transformed into spectres, but the other wraith and spectres were killed fairly easily by Wasim, warlock or sorcerer, and Sherazade, soldier-priestess (both from the distant deserts of Zakhara). They were able to do force and radiant damage while the other fighter types kept the creatures pinned down. The surly and belligerent gnome – Sprocket – also cast some magic missiles. also Esseren – young female guard was killed.

The elven bard and the zakharan priestess were able to grant some healing. The bard also told stories (sang sagas) that granted temporary hitpoints.

Our heroes noticed that the mercenaries from wagon 2 had hung back a bit, defending their own wagon and using ranged attacks on any monsters that weren’t directly on them. To Vassily, this seemed like cowardice, despite being excellent tactics. After the fight he muttered something about “cowardly hanging back” to Boris who almost lost his temper. Cole noticed Grey Sally urging Boris to remain calm and leave her to deal with Vassily later.

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HotDQ 08 The Paladin's Decision

The Paladins’ impromptu Festival continues with Sir Sebastian just managing to defeat Sir Vassily in the sparring. It was not an unexpected result as Sebastian was one of Elturel’s best knights.
Ragnar went off to drown his sorrows (or at least float them a bit) in one of the city’s taverns while David took part in the footrace around the city walls.

As Ragnar had done so badly in the earlier events, Lord Commander Froome asked one of his own people (his “ninja” spy) to get to know them with a view to accompanying them (or replacing them) on the mission.

The ninja was considerably faster than David and the faster than the young squire Jonathan (son of Humprey the Chamberlain). However, it wasn’t all about speed. At various points the runners had to climb down stairs and back up or risk a dangerous leap. Jonathan fell badly and had to be healed by the Paladins and Priests stationed around the walls. In the end David was just overtaken by the ninja but demonstrated courage and also didn’t cheat so impressed Froome considerably.

Sir Vassily found Ragnar brooding over his beer and managed to talk him into competing in a chariot race, from the city gates, round a maypole in a village a couple of miles away and then back. The dwarf’s tough constitution shrugged off his drunkenness and his chariot headed out taking an early lead. He had to decide whether to stick to the road (a long curve around a small marshy wood) or risk a shortcut across the marsh. He decide to try to cut the corner and ran his chariot into a mudbank.

One of the other three racers followed him into the marsh but took a different path. He was one of the locals and smirked as he passed close by. Ragnar leapt onto the passing chariot and pushed the startled driver out into the mud. He reached the Maypole closely followed by the other two. His muddy rival managed to drag the dwarf’s chariot out and also caught up to the pack. They all raced back to returning through the marsh, neck and neck – but the muddy guy – perhaps driven by anger began to pull ahead.

Ragnar made another leap, pushing the driver out at the last minute and raced back to the gate in first place, and back in the wagon he originally started in.

The bruised and battered rival was not very happy but the crowd had enjoyed it and Froome (despite pretending to a Paladin’s disdain for “cheating”) could not hide a twinkle of amusement.

The final event was the Grand Melee, three teams of four, no rules except for not leaving the compound and not killing or maiming each other. Our heroes (joined by the Ninja) formed one group. The other groups were led by the Paladin Natalie Froome and a dwarven war priest.

Natalie’s cleric put up a spell of Spirit Guardians, swirling angels attacking all enemies within 15 feet of the caster. David clambered onto a roof, straddling the ridge and managed to hit the cleric with an Eldritch Blast, breaking his concentration before the swirling angels did too much damage. The Ninja cast a shadowy spell to aid Ragnar in his stealth and the dwarf managed to hide and shoot from cover, finally getting some good shots in, while Vassily charged in and struck the enemies with his various Smite spells. The ninja and a rogue from Natalie’s group had a close battle until the ninja was knocked out. The one of the clerics struck David with a Sacred Flame and the poor lad toppled off the roof, failing to catch the gutter on the other side and rolled off “out of the compound” and out of the competition.

David returned to offer advice and encouragement as his remaining team mates mopped up the rest of the opposition. They had worked together, they had taken risks and shown resourcefulness. Froome agreed to send them to Baldur’s Gate and have his agents there assist them with joining the Wagon Train.

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HotDQ 07 - Elturel
The dice officially hate Ragnar

It was a sad Ragnar that trudged back to the waterfall, carrying the unconscious urchin, David. The truth was that David had woken a couple of hours ago but feigned sleep to avoid having to face the long hike and the deaths of Marcel and Salty.

When they reached the waterfall, Leosin the half-elf monk, met them there.

He was upset by the loss of Sodium Chloridius and offered his condolences for the brave dwarf, Marcel too. He had been hoping to enlist Salty to undertake a quest – perhaps Ragnar and David might help?

David had seen frightening images of the cultists plans as the face-hugger had tried to possess his mind. The gathering of treasure, new-minted coins bearing a five-headed dragon, the summoning of Tiamat, the destruction of the world in fire, ice, lightning, acid and poison.

They agreed to travel to Elturel, the city with a second sun – Amanataur’s Gift, blazing constantly in the sky over the city, banishing undead.

Leosin, an agent of the Harpers had overheard much of the dragon cult’s plans while he was a prisoner. They were raiding all over the land, forging gold coins from their loot and gathering it all in a secret location ready for the Ritual of Summoning. The first wagon(s) would be in a wagon train heading north from Baldur’s Gate, bound for Waterdeep and the North (approx 40 day journey).

The monk gave them a letter of introduction to Lord-Commander Ontharr Foome, leader of the Paladins of Elturel and also a senior member of the Order of the Gauntlet. It asked Lord Froome to send them “with all haste” to Baldur’s Gate and assist them in getting hired by the Wagon Train. The primary mission should be to work out which wagon or wagons were carrying the cultist gold and find out where it is going.

Leosin warns that Froome might wish to test them before endangering his own organisation and in order to judge whether to send his own people on the mission instead of entrusting the fate of the world to unknown heroes. Leosin believes that the cult have infiltrated all the other factions. He can only trust the Paladins and he doesn’t think a mission like this “plays to their strengths”.

Although David, having witnessed the images of future apocalypse, is keen to help, Ragnar demands some kind of payment! Leosin adds to the letter, asking Froome to advance them 250gp each to cover their expenses. He bids them good luck as he heads south to consult with members of his own organisation and promises to be in touch with them via a Sending spell in a couple of weeks.

It takes a couple of days hiking to reach Elturel. David is delighted with the place, as the second sun blaze all night too, banishing the darkness.

Tired, and still in shock from the loss of his friends, Ragnar stomps up to the gate of the Paladin’s Chapter-house and demands to see the Lord Commander. When the Chamberlain (Humphrey) advises them that the charity dispersals of food are in the morning, Ragnar responds with curses. It is an unfortunate start – from Humphrey’s point of view a very ragged-looking dwarf and an urchin are not the typical heralds who call on Lord Froome with a letter.

They are brought to the scullery and offered food and drink and a chance to freshen up. Ragnar refuses to hand over the letter “it is to be delivered in-person”. They catch the attention of Sir Vassilly, a paladin of the Lord’s Alliance, currently on secondment to Lord Froome’s regiment. Despite outward appearances, Vassilly sees something in them [GM:he better had as he is a PC, replacing poor Marcel]. When they are ushered in to an audience with Lord Froome, Vassilly is allowed to accompany them (possibly in case they try to assassinate Froome!).

Froome is a jovial old man who greets them warmly, offers food and drink. Ragnar gives him the scroll and he pauses before taking it. [hidden in the next room is a wizard casting Detect Magic, the delay is to allow a warning to be raised – it also allows Froome to study the two vagabonds with his own powers]

After reading the letter, he tells them he can help – magically transport them to Baldur’s Gate in time to join the wagon-train and even assist them in getting hired as guards. However, he wants to know if they have “the right stuff” for such a dangerous and important mission. The only way he can get to judge this is through some tests of skill and character. They agree to take part in sparring knockout and other competitions – a foot race around the city walls and a horse race and finally a team Grand Melee event.

Froome has the services of a Red Wizard of Thay – an exile claiming Sanctuary after betraying his Red Wizard masters. This wizard is hiding in Elturel, never leaving the hallowed grounds and casting spells on behalf of Froome. Although he is clearly evil, Froome is willing to make use of him and is bound by the law of Sanctuary.

David discusses with the wizard to prove he is a competent spell-caster, hoping to avoid the need for taking part in the competitions. While this does prove his “level”, Froome still wants to see some evidence of “back-bone” and resourcefulness.

Meanwhile Ragnar and Vassily have a practice spar. Perhaps Ragnar isn’t over the death of his friends [GM: or the dice gods continue to make sport of him]. Despite the use of sneaky tactics (such as shooting the paladin before he had his shield ready, and attempting to clamber onto a roof) Ragnar is beaten. Sir Vassilly is so friendly and noble about it that Ragnart gives him Marcel’s old shield. It appears Marcel’s protective spirit is bound into it and the battered shield is now magical.

Next morning, Ragnar barely manages to defeat a lowly guard – Trevor, while Vassilly takes on and defeats Natalie Froome, daughter of the Lord.

In the next round of the knockout tournament, Vassily and Ragnar compete but Ragnar [GM: once more cursed by the dice gods] is defeated (knocked out and set on fire!).

Next Time – Sir Vassilly will face Sir Sebastian, one of the senior knights, in the Individual Sparring Final, David and Ragnar may choose to take part in the foot or horse race and then they all get to take part in the Grand Melee – last man standing wins for his team. Unless they can impress Froome, it won’t be them getting sent to Baldur’s Gate and the fate of the world will rest on a bunch of noble knights instead!

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