Dragons of Blackminster

CoS 07 & 08
Half-Orcs in Barovia

In the “domain of dread”

[GM: As these were only meant to be one-shots I wasn’t intending to write them up, but we will have at least one or two more sessions in Barovia, I thought I’d recap briefly]

They arrived at the village of Orasnou and were greeted by Gregori Wurlbach, owner of the General Store and Barbershop “The Hare and Hair”. The village is cut off from the rest of Barovia for the winter (passes should open in 3-4 weeks). The land of Barovia has no magical healing, has only one god and the peasants (everyone except worldy-wise Gregori and Glovia the village healer) are utterly superstitious and fearful of strangers, non-humans, spell-casters.

So, when the half-orcs arrive, “faceless” Mandingo and “eyeless” Revan, Gregori offers to give them free board and lodgings until the passes open. [GM: they were temporarily joined by a couple of other adventurers – “Wiv” the Viking and Thorin the dwarf]

In exchange for his help, he asks them to go and look for his two friends/employees – the Hunters Laslo and Alina. Laslo came here from the Forgotten Realms about 20 years ago (which is why Gregori and Glovia know about other worlds). Laslo’s wife Alina is a barbarian from the Vaduva clan (who live on the far side of the forest). They are the only people in the village who dare to enter the Svalich Woods.

They went out three days ago to fetch a shipment of skins/furs from their hunting base (only half a day along the north-west trail). Gregori and Glovia warned Alina not to go as she was so heavily pregnant, but the woman is unreasonable and stubborn, and flies into a rage quite often. Hopefully having a child will calm her down as she is very soppy with children.

Our heroes went in search of the two hunters (they don’t know enough about the Svalich Woods as the locals so weren’t too terrified to go in).
After a couple of encounters with angry vegetables and poisonous spores, they found the camp site. It appeared that Laslo had been killed by a huge wolf and his pregnant wife had been carried off.

They buried Laslo and tracked the wolf to its lair – a ruined tower, once owned by the Vaduva clan. They were attacked by a huge wolf that they found, licking blood from a roughly-carved baby’s rattle.

During the battle with the wolf, they realised it was a were-wolf and was actually Alina. It was in a terrible rage but they were able to calm it down a bit with the rattle and eventually beat the creature unconscious and it transformed back into a woman. They carried her back to the village but revealed that she was a were-wolf so she was locked-up and was probably going to be executed as son as the Burgomeister got back from his travels.

She was able to tell them how the child birth had gone wrong and Laslo had to cut the baby out of her. Mad with the pain of it, she transformed and killed her husband, and since then she had apparently wandered in a grief-stricken daze. When she learned that a wolf-cub had been found at the edge of the village a couple of nights before, tied to Glovia’s gate, she became desperate to find it, as it might be her son. Unfortunately the cub had escaped and wandered off into the woods. They helped Alina to escape in to the woods to look for it.

  • * * * * * * *

A couple of weeks pass in the village. The fearful peasants start to get used to the hideous half-orcs [GM: and the other two players weren’t available]. They take over doing some of the hunting.

The only thing of note that happens is that a stranger arrives out of the mists. A merchant wearing a turban and claiming to be from Calimshan (in the Forgotten Realms). He somehow made it into the valley from the town of Barovia and is searching for relics belonging to the family of Von Zarovich (ancestors of the current Count Strahd Von Zarovich – ruler of Barovia) or of Tatyana Federovich (historical girlfriend of the first Von Zarovich who died tragically just before the wedding).

Glovia (as Laslo’s closest friend) lets the merchant, Arik, stay in Laslo’s House.

Arik does not drink and so doesn’t come into the tavern, and so doesn’t come into contact with the half-orcs for the first few days. He visits most of the other houses, especially the Trinket Shop (pawnbroker/repair/cobblers) “Eyes of Midnight” asking to see relics. Arik is generally regarded as a bit creepy and smelly.

Mandingo gets interested in him and spots that despite appearing to wear curly-toed arabian slippers, he leaves tracks as if wearing heavy boots. The two half-orcs pay him a visit and he tries to turn them away. His Calimshan accent is clearly a fake and he sounds more like a Barovian. The clincher is that they notice his breath is not coming out as steam – he must be undead.

Realising the game is up, Arik invites them in and then he and three zombies hidden in the closet, leap to attack. In a bloody and horrible fight, Arik loses his magical turban of disguise and is revealed as the re-animated corpse of Laslo! He kills Mandingo, but in a fit of brotherly rage, Revan manages to finish him and the zombies off.

Mandingo comes back to life, even more damaged than before and now has the nocturnal ability to become insubstantial and walk through walls!

They visit the trinket shop (because Arik spent a lot of time there) and intimidate the shop keeper into telling them what Arik wanted. Fillar, the nervous shop keeper, knows that the Burgomeister has a relic of Tatyana Federovich in his cellar, but it is locked and guarded. Arik had offered him a considerable sum (100gp) for the trinket but Fillar could not manage to steal it. He grudgingly revealed he had the power to transform into a Raven and there was a ventilation grille leading down to the cellar, but the ancient powder box (cosmetics) was too big to get out through the grille.

They threatened to burn down his shop and extorted his magic Raven Ring (even though it did not work for them) – they promised to give it back once they had stolen the Powder box. They didn’t tell him that they had killed Arik so there wasn’t going to be any 100gp.
Revan distracted the guards at the Burgomeister’s house while Mandingo walked through the walls to steal the Powder box.

The wall-walking proved to not be as easy as they hoped because when Mandingo became insubstantial, his clothes didn’t, so he walked thru naked and could not carry anything (except for magic items like the Raven Ring!). He had to finish the robbery by picking the lock on the cellar door and escaping through a window. Later he found that by wrapping things in a magical cloak, he could carry them through walls.

They went back to Laslo’s house to examine their stolen property and were surprised when Laslo burst in and snatched the box. Horrified by his reappearance they were unable to stop him from transforming into a cloud of ravens and flying away.

CoS 06 - Jenny Greenteeth
Die Bambi Die!

They stayed in the inn for that night, resting. Aya (the elf wizardess) did not look at La Ruina in the same way. The others were maimed and cursed but she shied away from the handsome elf just as much.


In the morning a Gur woman, with a tattered, brightly coloured shawl and big gold ear rings, staggered into the Inn. Her eyes had no pupils, just white and featureless. Her flesh had been torn by claws and thorns.
“The mist is here. It will take us away to the place where it lives… My father knew it. He’s gone to seek help from the most powerful witch in the area but it’s too late. Jenny Greenteeth can’t stop this now. He’s in the Quivering Forest, a few miles south of the Elkhorn treetop town of the elves. We tried to stop the mists, gather powerful defences, allies and bring them here to the Crossing Inn”

The frightened boy ran to her “Mother!” and she collapsed unconscious, her frantic husband catching her. Through tears, he told them “She is never wrong – it makes it hell to live with her, but she is never wrong. My father-in-law, Ozzcar the old sod, he probably thinks he can charm Jenny Greenteeth, sweet talk her into helping but she’s a hag”.

Our “heroes” set out to find the old man – once again the mists carried them swiftly within an hour, to the Quivering Forest 2 days normal travel away. The mists were thicker here, half-glimpsed shadowy figures moved just out of sight.


The road was blocked by four bedraggled elves. At first they asked La Ruina and Maklum for help, but then saw the faces of Revan and Mandingo and they tried to keep them from passing along the road. They said that they were lost and hadn’t been able to find their town – even though it should only be a couple of miles further on. They had been lost for days.
Revan stalked towards them and they broke and ran.

A little way further on they came upon an old woman with a rotten smile, stirring a small pot above a camp fire. She cackled and invited them to join her for a warm drink. The elf stayed hidden while the other approached.


When she saw Revan and Mandingo, she became quite excited “You two look like pretty fellows – you’ve been there haven’t you? And come back – interesting!” She had an old Gur (the grandfather) on a leash. She looked frail but when she yanked the leash it cut into his neck and he seemed to have been badly beaten.

She cast a detection spell and looked at Maklum with interest too – “There’s sommat funny about you too, I reckons – ha ha”.

Revan started bargaining with her, asking if she could give him his eyes back. She said she couldn’t just make eyes, he would have to bring her some (from a living donor) then she might be able to bond them to him. Revan joked about taking them from the boy at the Inn, and when the old man tried to rise in protest, the hag yanked him back down.

“You could take one from this old fool” she said and then reached out with a long clawed thumbnail. “Tell me what you found in the other world and I’ll give you one of his eyes!.
Revan agreed and they described their trip to Barovia. The hag ripped a bloody eye from the old man and enchanted it to bond with one of Revan’s empty sockets.


For the old man’s second eye, they told how they had returned – how they met Von Strahd and were sent back as his heralds. She ripped the other eye from old Ozzcar and left him to bleed to death on the ground. Revan just put the second eye into his pocket as a spare – he liked the power to intimidate people too much.

Next they bargained for a face for Mandingo. This was trickier magic but she agreed to do it if they brought her the heart and tongue of a Golden Elk who lived in the forest. La Ruina came out of hiding and said he was an expert hunter and would do it. She insisted that Mandingo remain with her until his brother returned [DM: Player was absent – too busy playing Fifa to come to D&D!]


After an hour or two, La Ruina crept out of the dense forest to where the Giant Elk, a magnificent golden furred, magical fey creature, was stooping to drink from a pool.
The archer shot, wounding the startled beast which fled away to the north. Mists swirled, blocking the way and a ghoul ran from the mists clawing at the elk, turning it back towards the hunters. [DM: another player turned up so I let him play the part of the ghoul – this turned out to be a much more significant role than I expected!]


Revan and Maklum ran to cut off its escape and La Ruina shot it again, this time with a magical spell that cause his arrow to sprout thorns and vines and hold the terrified creature. The ghoul and the hunters closed on it. All was not lost for the mighty elk, as they realised it was regenerating (not a lot, but enough to make a fight of it). It was clear this creature was no ordinary elk, but some patron spirit of the forest, perhaps the legendary beast – patron saint of Elkhorn town.

It shrugged off the bindings and leapt away. In the battle that followed they got split up. Maklum and the ghoul fought on a small hilltop. The ghoul was slowly regenerating too and needed radiant damage to prevent the regeneration, but kept dodging Maklum’s sacred flame. When it first recovered after having been clearly killed, Maklum failed a fear check, then was easier for the ghoul to paralyse.

Meanwhile Revan and La Ruina pursued the elk back and forth, almost killing it, then eventually knocking it down, but it regenerated and leapt back up, charged La Ruina and took him down.[DM: It needed a silver weapon to prevent its regeneration – La Ruina had attacked it a couple of times but only hit with his normal sword and the creature pulled away so he had gone back to using arrows].

Revan, the barbarian was raging [DM: the player was chanting “Die Bambi Die” at one point] and he failed to stop his friend from bleeding out. La Ruina died the final death – his spirit pulled into the Mists.

Then the ghoul got lucky, paralysing Maklum and managing to rip him apart. While Revan was busy hacking at the elk, Maklum too died the final death. The elk broke away but Revan was then attacked by the ghoul. The elk stood by and watched and regenerated then charged back in with horns and trampling hooves. Revan fled into the water to get out of reach of the enraged animal but the ghoul caught up with him, dragged him below the water, paralysed and helpless and then the forest glade was peaceful once again.

When his brother failed to return, Mandingo’s life was forfeit too and his last few terrifying days will be spent as the plaything of a hideous hag.

I’ve never had a TPK before – never in 33 years of DMing. But never has a party of “heroes” so deserved killing. Despite the horror of it, it was a strangely fun session. I don’t like evil characters so, for once I didn’t feel any remorse for the pc deaths.

Next time we’re going to return to the Tyranny of Dragons storyline, and pick up where we left off after the Hoard of the Dragon Queen, playing the Rise of Tiamat. In this story, the PCs are heroes of the realm who are entrusted with saving the Forgotten Realms from the return from hell of the goddess of evil dragons – Tiamat. [The Realms are F***ed!]

CoS 05 Thorns and Orcs

The elf wizardess, Aya, had told them that the Gur (the “gypsies”) were somehow aware of the magical dangers of the Mists. They are tied to it in some way – especially the boy they had brought back. His fear seems to be summoning the mists so it is reckless of them to goad the poor boy as they have been doing.
Seeing his uncaring behaviour towards the boy, Aya has no further romantic interest in La Ruina.

The party set off in pursuit of the boy’s uncle – in possession of a small box of gems. Once again the mists speed them on their way and despite the Gur’s 1-day head start, they catch him in a couple of hours near the edge of Gumpen Marsh. On a causeway across part of the marsh they find him in heated discussion with a gnome Merchant. The hand-cart (with “Relics R Us” written on the side) is on the causeway and the gnome, with four guards (an elf a dwarf and two humans) is shaking his head at the Gur – Rilynin.


“Oh no – only 10 flasks of holy water for the 12 gems, and that’s cutting my own throat!”
Rilynin protests but then our “heroes” arrive and Maklum intervenes in the transaction. “The gems are stolen and this man is a thief”.

The gnome, whose name seems to be Chucky, wants to know if there is a reward for the capture of the fugitive and whether a few of the gems could still be traded. His lead guard is not so keen to get involved – especially with such a dangerous-looking group (pointing at the two disfigured half-orcs).

Rilynin makes a break for it, sliding down into the marsh and trying to duck behind a big gorse bush. La Ruina skewers him with an arrow and Mandingo leaps after him and hacks him in half. The box of gems is scattered. Before they can stoop to pick up the gems, the gorse bush reaches out thorny vines and drags the body into itself, ripping and tearing at the flesh.


Other bushes animate with smaller figures that shoot long thorns like darts.


In the battle that follows, our heroes are victorious, but both half-orcs and the priest are badly wounded and the elf is almost lost in the quicksand. They had fought side-by side with the guards and when they stagger out, Chucky wants to finish them off and take the gems, but his head guard – Alistair, talks him out of it “We didn’t sign up to become brigands and bandits”.
Reluctantly the gnome relents and sells Maklum two flasks of holy water and bids them fare well.

The mists take them back to the Inn in a couple of hours and they decide to rest for the night. They amuse themselves by terrifying the boy and describing the horrific death of his uncle. The rest of the inn’s occupants are becoming pretty scared of these adventurers – especially when Maklum becomes a skeleton again that night.

Aya sends them out again in the morning – this time to track down the cartload of weapons taken by “Papa” – the boy’s father. Through intimidating the boy and by promising not to kill his father, they learn that Papa has gone to recruit some of the Orcs of Thar in a nearby fort.
The Mists thicken and soon they are on the road leading to the Fort. In the daylight most of the Orcs will be asleep but they run into an ambush from two scouts guarding the road.


A snare whips Revan up dangling under a tree while the orc guards shoot crossbows at the others. [DM:two criticals for lots of damage and Mandingo wasting a couple of rounds trying to climb the tree to get his brother down – make this a much tougher fight than it should have been.]
Eventually they kill the two guards and revive Maklum. They take a short rest to recover and then continue to sneak up on the Fort.

They manage to make very little noise as they creep into the courtyard and there they find Papa, in a cage and the cartload of weapons. The orcs are all sleeping in two large barns – there are about 30 of them [DM: and our heroes were nearly slaughtered by just two!]. They release Papa and convince him to give up on hiring orcs and to take the weapons back to the Inn.

They lock the doors or block them with rubble, they drop the portcullis to slow pursuit and then burn the bridge for good measure. Papa tells them that his wife, Sybil had some cloudy vision of terrible happenings. The Mists are coming into the world, full of zombies and a chunk of the world of Faerun (their world) is going to be swallowed up by the mists and dragged to the Domain of Dread.

They make it back to the Inn but by now the mists are getting very scary.

The only remaining Gur on the loose is Grandar. He is a wise man – herbalist who tried to help the Cook. But surges of wild magic must have made the potion too strong and now the cook is in a deep slumber. Grandar went to seek help from the Wise Woman of the Quivering Forest – Jenny Greenteeth – although there is usually a terrible price to pay for her help, they need it if they are to have any chance against the evils of the Mists.

[DM: we finished early as I didn’t want the next section with only half an hour to go. Hopefully next time there will be a bit more heroic behaviour from the adventurers and a bit less intimidation of the helpless!].

CoS 04 The Mists
Heralds of Barovia

When they emerged, panting, from the Death House, into the mist-filled streets of Barovia, the dark, imposing figure of Von Strahd was waiting for them.


“I see you have survived the House… good, very good. Three of you at least bear the mark of Barovia. I believe I shall send you back to the Forgotten Realms where you can be my heralds!”.

Maclum – the only one not from the Forgotten Realms, believed he had been on a Vision Quest and was now already dead and in some strange afterlife. “Are you my spirit guide?”.
Strahd chuckled and said “I might as well be and my advice is to stay with these others and explore the world my mists take you to.”

Then the mists rushed at them, the village streets vanished and they were in a wintery forest of pines with freezing winds and snow. The Elf Ranger and the half-orcs recognised this as a forest a few days from the city of Phlan in the forgotten realms. Although it had been early spring when they left, it was clearly now the depths of winter.

La Ruina spotted the Crossing Inn a mile or so further down the valley on the main road to Phlan. It had twinkling lights, smoke rising from its chimney and the distant promise of somewhere warm and dry to get out of the foul weather.
They pulled cloaks and scarves around the worst of their disfigurements and went into the Inn.

Revan has blackened empty eye sockets (with a badly painted glass eye in one of them).
Mandingo has a bloody face with most of the skin missing and ragged holes where his nose used to be.
Perhaps most shocking is Maclum, who is a skeleton by night!

As they enter, they overhear some discussion about “Filthy Gur”, “Thieves and vagabonds”. It seems that the current residents have had some very recent trouble with a family of “gypsies”. The Gur are a nomadic people, usually travelling in brightly-painted caravans, often involved with circus/carnivals and freak shows. They tend to be entertainers, musicians, acrobats and story-tellers. As nomads, they are often viewed with suspicion whether it is deserved or not.

An elf wizardess was staying at the Inn, she seemed very perceptive and spotted the unusual nature of the new arrivals. She invited them to join her at a table upstairs and filled them in on and quizzed them about their recent adventures.


Aya Glenmyre was a beautiful elven woman, flirtatious (with La Ruina) but clearly very knowledgeable about the mists and about magic. "I’m here because of the Mists – I heard they had started appearing around Phlan and this is as close to the City as I dare to go as long as the Dragon – “The Maimed Virulence” – is still around, spreading its rule of terror. Hopefully in a few weeks the rebels will have re-taken the city. I can tell you have been into the Mists – to the world on the other side?"

Slowly she extracts their story, using all her feminine wiles on La Ruina to get him to brag and disclose everything. She is very interested in their tale as it seems to tally with her own studies.

She asks them to go hunting for the stolen items. In exchange she offers to direct them to a “Wise Woman” in the nearby area called Jenny Greenteeth who may be able to help them with their curses. Aya performs some kind of spell to locate the stolen items and they agree to go after them. She explains that the family of four gypsies came to the inn and were friendly entertainers – she is a good judge of character and does not think they had evil intentions.

When other travellers arrived and started talking about the Mists – they became agitated and the next morning they had vanished along with …
Aya’s magic wand (a wand of fireballs) – carried off by a young boy.
The Inn-keep’s cart load of weapons (waiting to be collected by the freedom-fighters) carried off by the boy’s father.
A Merchant’s bag of gems carried off by his uncle.
Also the oldest of the Gur (the grandfather) had provided the Inn’s cook with a potion to kindle his … well to strengthen his.. well anyway, they had found him asleep and could not waken him at all.

  • * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    The Wand of Fire
    They set off in pursuit of “the boy”, guided by Aya’s divination. He had a day and a night start but the Mists came down and time and space seemed fluid for a while. They soon found themselves on a frozen hillside, dotted with impossibly bright thistles – the thistle’s burrs were glowing bright red. The floor of the steep slope before them was slick with ice and a patch in the middle, devoid of thistles, was even slicker as if newly glazed.

Maclum (no longer a skeleton – by day he seems normal enough), tried to climb the clear area to avoid the strange flowers, but slid back down again and then slowly picked his way to the top, carefully avoiding the burrs. At the top of the slope he ran into a bunch of Ice Cats – cats (about the size of leopards) but made of transparent ice, with glittering crystalline eyes. He quickly slid back down the slope as the cats attacked.


La Ruina tried to run up the slope between the flowers but ended up with three of the bright burrs stuck to his cloak. They started to smoulder and looked ready to explode [DM: At the START of his next turn so he would need a friend to help him get rid of them!].

Revan and Mandingo were soon hacking away at cats. La Ruina’s flame thistles exploded. They managed to stick a flame thistle on one of the cats and it exploded. Eventually they defeated the cats and stood smouldering on the slope. Only a few flame thistles remained.
The cats had been hiding in a cave and they went in to explore. From deeper in they could see a pulsing red glow and caught sudden glimpses of a flock of fire bats, circling the inner cave.

A young gypsy boy was huddled in the corner with his knees pulled up. He was gripping Aya’s broken wand and concentrating hard. A red glow seemed to emanate and the firebats swooped in but seemed to be repelled. The boy’s face was white and he looked terrified and exhausted.


As they entered the firebats swarmed at them and clung to them, draining heat from their bodies. They fought and, when the boy tried to run past them, they hung onto him. Eventually they killed all the bats and then interrogated the boy roughly. With the faceless Mandingo and the eyeless Revan, he grew even more afraid than before. Maclum noticed that as he became more fearful, the Mists grew thicker and swirled nearer.


The boy’s story came out between wide-eyed sobs.
“When we ‘eard about the Mists, we waz proper scared. Me mum az done prophesies and stuff and Grandad said this waz it – the big one! Any how ’e tol me ta snatch the elf woman’s magic wand and take it to …. well to a place I know where we cud of used it to hold back the Mists. But the mists come down and I got lost. Ended up here in the ’ills. An ice cat jumped me and the wand broke and all this magic streamed out making fiery flowers and that. I grabbed the broken bits and some of the power wrapped around me an I got into the cave. Then some bats came and they seemed to be drawn to the power and set alight. I ’ad to concentrate all night and half of today to keep the red glow going and it waz fadin fast. I fort I waz a gonna.”

They took him back to the inn and left him with Aya (and to face his punishment for his crimes). Aya sent them back out looking for the stolen gems – taken by the boy’s uncle. It seems that the Mists warp time and space and seem to be helping them catch up to the fugitives.

CoS 03 - Death for the Devourer

[DM: when they went up to 2nd level, I let them prepare their additional spells without needing a long rest and La Ruina the Ranger and Maclum the Cleric both prepared Cure Wounds – very wise]

They carried Mandingo’s corpse, with its shredded face, to a room with a table and sat around waiting for him return from the dead. After about an hour, his body began to twitch and regenerate and he gasped back into consciousness. His face is hideously maimed.


The two half-orcs needed a long rest to recover but the nightmares persisted and Revan was driven to the edge of madness. La Ruina and Maclum didn’t dare to sleep. [to discourage long rests and to keep the mounting tension, the nightmares gave them Fear Checks every two hours]

Later (having no idea of the actual time) they continued exploring the basement, finding a chamber containing a statue of Strahd holding an Orb. They were too scared to steal the Orb (at last showing some sensible caution!).

Next they came to the chambers that must have been used by the cult leaders – Mr & Mrs Durst. There was a book describing more of the fake rituals. The book told them that 666 ritual murders were needed to summon Strahd and force him to grant a boon. 665 names were written and crossed through on the next page.

Then they went into the bed chamber to find the Dursts “sleeping”. When Maclum made to steal something from their room, the ghastly undead figures of the Dursts attacked.

Mr Durst started to deliver some “boxed text” about how the Ritual must be completed or the intruders would be trapped here forever too, but then La Ruina shot Mrs Durst through the back of head. Nobody succumbed to the foul stench of the two creatures and soon both were cut down.

They looted the bedroom – taking a magic cloak (but not wearing it) and a spell book and some alchemist’s fire and 4 potions of healing.

Then they started down stairs to a lower chamber and the chanting of “Another Death. Death for the Devourer! Another Death!” could be heard from hundreds of voices.

[DM: I switched to a big map of the Ritual Chamber – I used a poster map from an earlier game with a big bloodstained central section with blood trails to four 10ft gratings]


From the books they had studied, they knew the ritual wanted them to sacrifice somebody on the altar but they also knew it was fake and even though there seemed to be a chance they would be brought back to life, they refused to make the sacrifice.

Maclum managed to summon “The Devourer” by hitting a gong in the fake magic circle and they intended to kill it, whatever it was.

It seemed they had summoned some kind of ghostly apparition as a rusted helmet and a few scraps of rusty armour floated towards them with an eerie undulating motion. The two with high passive perceptions could see it had some sort of distortion around it – like an aura or heat haze.

It was only when the aura tried to engulf Maclum that it was revealed as a 15 foot cube of transparent acid jelly. The figure inside was the rotting remains of a previous victim.


[DM: For some reason, I felt there was more shock and horror with the Gelatinous Cube than with the suggested Shambling Mound.]

The fight was very close. Revan was engulfed and likely to die La Ruina risked his own life to pull the half-orc out. He succeeded, but the damage from the acid knocked him out. They all worked together to keep their companions alive and tp eventually defeat the monster.
Unfortunately Maclum was engulfed, couldn’t be pulled out in time and died of massive damage.

When “the Devourer” eventually died, Maclum’s fleshless corpse rose to its feet – the Death House had brought him back as a Living Skeleton. Then four grates burst open and the 665 previous sacrifices began to shuffle out as zombies 16 per round 4 through each of the 4 grates!

[DM: This seemed like a reasonable way to get the desired effect of a mad dash to escape through the Death House!]

Firstly they crowded into the fake magic circle but it was ineffective and they were almost surrounded. Then they disengaged and fled for the stairs. It was touch and go but they managed to get away.

When they got back to the house with the tide of zombies close behind,they found all the curtains closed and the doors replaced by scything blades in seemingly random patterns.

They could study the blades to work out a pattern and then leap through. The difficulty of the leap was based on how many tried to go through in the same gap. The Mandingo and Revan leapt through together.

[DM: I made the study time one action with a DC of 13 and jumping through alone DC5, with a second person DC10, with a third DC15. This gave them interesting tactical choices to make compared to the approach of the Zombie horde]

Maclum threw open the curtains intending to go through the windows – they were bricked-up! The first zombies got into the room as he and La Ruina leapt through the blades. The blades passed harmlessly through the zombies.

Then there was a door into the entry hall and one more before the final door which was open, as the dead children had promised,

The orcs didn’t manage to work out the pattern but Maclum did and he told them when to leap.
[DM: I gave him the opportunity to lie about the timings but he didn’t and they went through safely]
They trusted him and made it through the next one and watched in horror as bricks covered the outer door!
Then the small hands of the dead children began to tear away the bricks and there was only the final blade trap left.
The half orcs made it out leaving La Ruina and Maclum. This time the priest couldn’t see the pattern but the ranger did. La Ruina offered to tell Maclum the timing and they could leap together but Maclum didn’t trust him and let him jump alone.
[DM: Maclum was right as La Ruina was going to lie to him, just to see what happened!!! Sometimes the players are more horrific than the scenario!]
With zombies at his heels, Maclum made It through and they were back in the Mists.

They had escaped from the Death House.


When the mists cleared they were in the Forgotten Realms.

[DM:There isn’t meant to be any escape but I have no more Ravenloft adventures suitable for 3rd level characters so intend to use Adventurer’s League adventures from earlier seasons for the next few sessions. The characters have hopefully bonded now. Three of them have died and returned with Dark Gifts – Revan has no eyes, Mandingo has his ruined face and Maclum (like the Pirates of the Carribean) is a Skeleton at night.]

CoS 02 - Death House
Terror, Death, Possession, Madness

We re-join our heroes on the second storey of the house. They heard a thump from the next floor and three of them crept up to investigate. La Ruina had decided to stay in the library reading the books while the others went upstairs. On the next landing they saw a few doors leading off and an ornate suit of armour resting its hands on a sword.
As Maclum led the way onto the landing, he spotted silver smoke flowing into the armour. He paused to watch and the figure sprang to life, swinging the sword.

[DM: In case anyone later reads the adventure and wonders why this is a slightly non-standard encounter, I decided that a better explanation for animated armour and then an animated broom in the next room, would be if there was some sort of poltergeist bound to a body in the bathtub. I made it visible DC15 which two of the PCs have, and had it waste a round animating to give the players chance to either pre-emptively hit it or move away – I gave it only a 15 foot radius from the bathtub so it would be easy to get away from. I decided that it would animate the armour first, if that was destroyed it would animate a flying sword and if that was destroyed it would animate whatever else it could reach. If they did any magical damage to it, such as sacred flame, the damage would carry over to whatever the next form was and, if they destroyed the body in the tub, the poltergeist would dissipate. As the armour had a sword, I had a single longsword attack instead of the usual two slams]

The armour struck at Maclum wounding him, but not quite taking him down. For some reason, he did not have any cure spells prepared!
Revan and Mandingo (the half-orc barbarian brothers) leapt to the attack – raging. Manding hit it pretty hard but found it was resistant to weapons. He hacked off its head, revealing the horror of the suit being empty. This caused a Fear check and Revan and Maclum became frightened. The armour cut down Maclum before the barbarians chopped it up. I told them that soapy water poured out of the armour’s boots and wet footprints began to appear in the dust – the silvery mist flowed into the sword it had dropped.
They managed to stabilise Maclum just before he bled out, but he was unconscious. They watched while the sword floated into the air and then the fighting started again. Revan was badly injured before he and his brother managed to grapple the blade and La Ruina scrambled up to smash it to pieces. Revan picked up Maclum and put him over his shoulder while Mandingo pushed open a door to discover the bathroom, with a stained shower curtain around the tub. He pushed aside the curtain to reveal the bloated corpse of a man. It was so shocking that it provoked another Fear check and he was soon screaming again and getting disadvantage.

The unconscious Maclum was the next thing to be animated by the poltergeist and he struck Revan, knocking him out but then Maclum was dropped and began bleeding again. It was a close thing but Mandingo managed to smash the bloated corpse, banishing the angry spirit while La Ruina just managed to stabilize both his fallen companions.
They moved into the bedroom and put the sleepers onto the bed. They decided to try and rest – Revan and Maclum woke after about 2 hours. The ordeal of being knocked out triggered another Fear check but they all went up a level (to second level) at that point so they all got one Fear score reduction.

They decided to start looking for secret doors as there was no sign of how to get into a basement or into the attic. They found a secret stairwell, but smashing through a wall to get to it released a swarm of rats. At the same time, Maclum (only on 1 hit point) wandered into another room to find a woman in a nurse’s uniform standing in the middle of the room.
She was semi-transparent and as she moved towards him he could see through her flesh to the worms inside – Fear check! Then he tried to sacred flame her and she struck him, easily knocking him out again and this time draining some of his life-force [DM:Reducing his maximum hit points until he gets 8 hours rest]. The elf and the two half-orcs managed to destroy her and the rat swarm but Revan (also only on 1 hit point got hit for a lot of life-draining damage – despite being a 2nd-level barbarian his new maximum hiptoints was about 3!).

They decided to leave Maclum sleeping on the bed while they went to investigate the sound of a child crying in the attic – up the secret stairs. They found a room with a padlock on the door, smashed it open and found the two children from the street – Rose and Thorn – standing crying in the middle of the floor. In their torch light they could tell the children were ghosts and that they were standing next to two pathetic skeletons curled up on the floor.
There was a large dolls house in the room, an exact replica of the building they were in – including showing the remaining secret doors – a trapdoor to the basement on the ground floor and a secret stair leading down to the basement from the attic.
When Mandingo started rummaging through their toybox, the ghostly little boy swatted him with his teddy bear (for no damage). Mandingo decided to snatch it from his hand and the ghosts went berserk. La Ruina fled in terror while the ghosts both vanished (unknown to him they had both possessed the two half orcs).

[DM: To move the game forward I had the two barbarians carry the remains of the children down to the family crypt and lay them to rest]
As they were un-possessed they heard the departing children say – “because you helped us, ven everything goes crazy, ve vill open ze front door for you”.
La Ruina had followed the half-orcs down to the cellar, Maclum woke and found himself alone but tracked them to the attic and then followed them down into cellar too.
All together again they continued to explore the basement, finding sleeping pallets for minor members of some cult of ritual murderers and then slightly posher bedrooms with odd bits of treasure.
La Ruina spotted a horrifying snake with four tentacles for a head, lurking in the shadows.
They managed to kill it but not before it KILLED Revan and he bled out before anyone could stabilise him. [DM:very unlucky timing in the initiative order and very mean of the Grick to keep attacking him after he went down!]
Mandingo was distraught at his brother’s death and laid him to rest in one of the coffins in the crypt. They took a short rest (1 hour) and La Ruina sneaked away to harvest the dead half-orc’s scalp [DM: God knows why!]. He was part way through hacking it off when Revan’s eyes opened, revealing empty black pools of despair and the half-orc tried to throttle him. Revan had really died but the House would not let him escape so easily!

Despite the continuing animosity between the adventurers, they pressed on and ran into a bunch of ghouls who scrabbled up from the muddy floor and pulled themselves out of the walls.
They defeated the ghouls (or might have done if we hadn’t run out of time) but one of them took down Mandingo and dragged him away. The others could not get to him and the ghoul killed him and ate his face before they could get to it and kill it. Revan is now praying his brother will come back to life like he did.
[DM:This was a pretty gruelling session but it could have gone much, much easier if La Ruina had stayed with the others, if Maclum had prepared a cure spell, if Mandingo had not chosen to grab the teddy bear, if badly injured people didn’t wander off alone, if they had focused on helping each other and if they had backed away when things were going badly.
There is only one more session of the Death House left and it should be pretty spectacular
I actually enjoyed the session, despite some of the in-fighting, I hope the terrified, maimed players did!]

CoS 01 Into the Mists
Intro to Ravenloft

In the world of Urth, in the 6th-century, just off the North-west coast of Albion, the Storm Priest – Maclum was on a longship, bound for his first raid and undergoing a Vision Quest. A mysterious Raven (possibly one of Odin’s harbingers) had landed on his family heirloom (an ornately carved scabbard for a shortsword) and the high priest interpreted it as an omen that Maclum should accompany the warriors.
Less than a mile from the coast a dense fog fell and the ship had struck a hidden reef and split apart. Most of the warriors were unable to swim (having just donned their armour ready for the raid). Others were lost in the fog, not knowing which way to swim.
Somehow Maclum dragged himself up onto the stoney shore and the faint cries of his kinsmen grew fainter and he may have drifted into unconsciousness. When he awoke, the wet stones beneath him had turned to pine needles and mud. He was still drenched from the sea but the sound of waves and smell of the ocean had gone. He could hear angry voices so began to creep nearer. The mists swirled around him and in the distance he heard the tolling of a bell, ten times.

  • * * * * *
    In The Misty Forest, in the Forgotten Realms, La Ruina (pronounced Le-RUNE-er), a wood elf ranger was in pursuit of a white stag. His arrow had hit it but failed to kill it and the poor creature fled into the depths of the forest. The ranger followed it for hours, even when a thick mist descended. Somehow he got lost (a thing that had never happened before) and he found himself pushing through pine forests. The blood trail of the stag was gone and ahead he heard the guttural voices of orcs and in the distance he heard the tolling of a bell, ten times.
  • * * * * *
    Revan and Mandingo, half-orc brothers in an Uthgart barbarian clan in the north of the Forgotten Realms, were being pursued by their own clansmen. As half-orcs, they had never been fully accepted, despite both being strong warriors. Their own anger and resentment had flared up after a night of drinking and they set fire to the Great Hall and locked the doors. Many of the tribe had perished and the survivors were hunting the brothers through the snowy mountains that surrounded their home. The tribesmen were baying for blood and the brothers cowered in a wooded valley, thanking the gods when a heavy fog descended. Using the mists for cover, they managed to get away from their enemies but somehow got lost in dense pine forests (even though they knew the lands around their homeland very well). They were still arguing about where they were when, in the distance they heard the tolling of a bell, ten times.
  • * * * * *
    La Ruina climbed a tree to wait for the orcs. They spotted him and approached. They might have attacked each other but at that moment a scrawny arm burst out of the mud and pine needles to grab Mandingo’s leg. The half-orc shrieked and was freaked out by it. [DM’s notes: This introduced the FEAR SCORE as the sudden grappling from below was sufficiently startling]. His brother hacked at the arm. A zombie emerged from the ground and a second one wriggled out from nearby. La Ruina tried to lasso the grappled half-orc and pull him up the tree, a tactic misinterpreted by the brothers as an attempt to lynch Mandingo!
    Nearby Maclum heard the fight break out and the cry of “Undead”, lit a torch and came to help.
    There was a brief fight against the Zombies. Mandingo finally shrugged off his fear and hacked off the head of the zombie that held him – despite the beheading, it continued to attack him and sent him into another screaming fit [DM’s Note: FEAR SCORE the first time a character “kills” a zombie and it uses its ability to refuse to die when it clearly should, this is shocking enough to require a Wisdom (Fear) Save]
    They killed the first couple of zombies, stood around arguing a bit and then more zombies lurched out of the mists. There was another brief combat and then they decided on a truce while the made a run for it towards where the bell had sounded.
    They reached an ancient muddy, rutted road and a road sign “Welcome to BAROVIA” and emerged from the forest into the strangely-quiet town as the mists rolled down from the hills behind them following them into the grey streets.
    The houses had their windows shuttered and boarded up but there was candle light within and frightened eyes staring out at them. Muffled terrified voices with strange accents “Go Avay, Ve cannot help you. You will bring the curse of ze mists upon us”
    As they pressed on they saw a pair of young children standing in the street outside a tall forbidding house. As the travellers approached the oldest, a girl of about 9 said “There is a monster in our house”. The younger, a boy of 5, clutching a foul and filthy teddy bear, said “Our mother and father are in there. We’ve heard screams in the basement”. There was something odd about these children, something very odd but at least the house offered some sort of shelter from the mists!
    La Ruina climbed to the roof of the porch and peered in through a stained and grubby window into a room of fine furnishings and a harpsicord and a harp. He gestured to the others “You guys go in, I’ll stay out here and watch the children”.
    Maclum and the brothers entered the porch, pushed through the open door into the hall and began moving through the house, looking for stairs to a cellar. The house was “modern” nothing like the rough huts and castles known to the Viking and to the half-orc barbarians it looked like the sort of house only found in the finest cities of the Realms. Yet it was clearly an ancient construction and now full of dust and cobwebs as if it had not been occupied for a hundred years.
    On the porch roof, La Ruina heard the sound of the harpsicord playing “chopsticks”. He turned to look and when he turned back the children were gone and there weren’t even footprints in the mud where they had stood.
    Revan made his way up to the music room and let the wood elf into the building and they searched the first couple of floors. There was no way down, only a wide circling staircase going further up.
    In one room – more books on shelves than any of them had seen before – they found a secret door and books about Summoning Rituals and a writing desk with a strange letter in it.

David had promised the Cloud Giant that they would get the magical sword from the lair of Ebon Death and use its power to resurrect the giant’s wife – Esclarotta. They had learned Ebon Deaths great secret – that there were twin black dragons.

Blagothokus was so pleased with their help that he told them the destination of the trasure – the place where the Ritual of Tiamat was to be performed. David used Sending to communicate this news (and Ebon Death’s secret, and everything else they had learned, summed up in a couple of 25-word communications to the Monk who set them on this mission all those months ago.


All they had to do now was risk everything in a desperate battle against one (or two) black dragons to gain a Luckblade with two wishes in it.

David had seen the layout of the dragon’s lair a couple of weeks ago, when one of the Ebon Deaths had kidnapped him (while he was disguised as a dragon cultist) to help decipher some books and scrolls. The terrified urchin had seen the layout and seen where the Luckblade was positioned (high on the wall above a mound of treasure).

They waited until one of the dragons was out (lured to attack the Sky Castle)

They sneaked to the edge of the lair using Cole’s Shadow Monk ability to pass without trace. Their plan was pretty direct. Cole would dash in, grab the sword and run for it with the others covering his retreat. David cast Spider Climb on Cole and in he went.

Unfortunately, nobody had filled in the dragon on his part in the plan and nobody had suspected a magical trap on the treasure.

Cole got close to the treasure before the dragon could react, but then a Thunderwave exploded from a Glyph of Warding, sending the monk sprawling at the dragon’s feet. With one massive bite, Cole was bleeding to death on the floor.

Bravely each of the heroes leapt across the acid-filled pit into the lair. Sir Vassily fell in but dragged himself out on the other side. Ragnar and David rode across on vassily’s magical steed.

David dove into the pile of treasure and found a potion of greater healing.
Ragnar began trying to pull the Luckblade from its scabbard, mounted to the wall with heavy bolts. [GM: it was only a STR DC of 12 to pull the blade out but he just kept failing to do it].

The dragon breathed acid onto Ragnar to protect the Blade, but the dwarf dodged and uncanny-dodged and kept tugging.

Vassily tried to compel the dragon to duel him but it managed to resist the effect.

David poured a potion into Cole and then continued to look for more goodies in the pile.

Cole attacked the dragon, then teleported to the Luckblade, still spiderclimbing so he just appeared on the wall above Ragnar ,and snatched the blade in one clean jerk. The gleaming golden blade sliced off Ragnar’s beard as it came free.

David found a scroll of Protection from Energy and used it to protect Vassily from Acid. They continued to fight the dragon until they could see it was just too powerful. Each round it shook its wings and hurled them away. The Lair itself attacked them with sudden waves of acid from the pools trying to pull them in.

Cole Shadow Stepped out of there, carrying the Luckblade. Vassily and Ragnar tried to prevent the dragon pursuing but were knocked aside. and the fight moved to the outer chamber.

David hexed it – reducing its wisdom save, Ragnar shot it, Cole pummelled it and then ran off into the marsh.
Sir Vassily bravely cast Compel Duel and the dragon’s reduced wisdom made it fail its save. It tried to pursue Cole but was drawn back to fight Vassily as the others fled. Vassily had a magic ring that could instantly summon a magical dome of force (Leomunds Tiny Hut). He cast that so the dragon could not get to him but the Compel Duel forced it to stay nearby. Unfortunately the dragon shrugged off the spell after a couple of rounds and pursued the others into the marsh.

Cole’s very last Ki points were spent on Pass Without Trace and they escaped and got back to the Sky Castle. While they had been away, Blagothokus had had his own encounter with the second Ebon Death and managed to kill it with Lighting Bolts.

David used the Luckblade to wish Esclarotta back to life, fulfilling his deal with the Giant.

Back in the lair, Sir Vassily ran off int othe marsh too, while Ebon Death was searching for the others. He was “captured” by a tribe of lizardmen – fortunately they were allies of Snapjaw and declared they were of the Tribe “Bullywugs will Die” so he was welcomed.

Eventually the Sky Castle passed over the marsh (looking for Vassily) and they were reunited.

David is now attuned to the Luckblade and knows there is a second Wish in there.
Blagothokus is grateful and offers to drop them off in Waterdeep to continue the fight against the Dragon Cult.

We agreed to leave this campaign “on hold” for a while and start next time with new first level characters in the “Curse of Strahd” storyline. As some of the players are fairly new to D&D, it’s better to get a grounding in various classes and skills before tackling the higher level games. Rise of Tiamat is for 8th to 15th level players.

We hope to get the “Stores Only” adventure called Deaths Door in time for the next session, but if we don’t I’ll run an introductory adventure set at a Carnival.

For information about the Curse of Strahd Storyline, take a look at http://dndadventurersleague.org/curse-of-strahd-adventures/

HotDQ22 - Kings of the Castle

After a desperate fight with the Vampires in the Control Tower, our heroes were forced to flee back to the Barracks and lock themselves in for the rest of the night. They had accidentally killed too many people and there weren’t enough living sentient creatures to block the Portal squares. Eventually the vampires got into the tower and they had to abandon it.

At daybreak, they headed back to the Tower, along with Blogothokus the Cloud Giant.

David and Ragnar teleported up into the tower but some of the teleport squares were occupied by a charmed Ogre so Sir Vassily and Cole and the Giant, stayed down below. The Vampires and the Ogre attacked, but our plucky heroes managed to trigger the teleport again to get the Cloud Giant into the fight. His lightning bolts and Morningstar mace were more then a match for the Vampires by day.

The Lesser Vampires died and the master vampire fled, leaving the Sky Castle altogether and soon falling away as it accelerated off among the clouds.

[Apologies if this is too short or too inaccurate but I didn’t get time to write it up immediately and I’ve played or ran 13 games of D&D since then]

HotDQ 21 - Vampires!

By the time the others returned to the Sky Castle, the great battle was almost over.
Blagothokus had only two of his Ogres left alive – Laurel and Hardy. The White Dragon had fled, almost killed by Blagothokus’ Lightning Bolts. The giant could cast a lot of those and was immune to Cold Damage.
On the Cult’s side, the only survivors were the Vampire “Wearer of Purple” – Sandevaal Morghul, his two beautiful concubines (Elven Vampire Spawn) and the Red Wizard.
At some point in the battle, Blagothokus had been forced to leave one of his Ogres in charge in the Control Tower while he came out to try and save his people. The Red Wizard and the Vampire had snuck in and taken over, and were using the Ogre (presumably charmed) to block the teleport.

Blagothokus had underestimated the Vampires – they weren’t entirely helpless in daylight – it only prevented them from regenerating. They had now fled back to the control tower to wait for night fall (only 5 minutes away). Blagothokus had used all his healing spells and was dreadfully injured.

Fortunately Ragnar had been trussed up and hidden somewhere. He was still badly wounded but Sir Vassily used the last of his healing to get him on his feet.
The options were to press on into the Control Tower now, or to try to hold up somewhere and wait for morning. They chose to barricade themselves into the barracks room with the Giant and his two Ogres.

They blocked the little gaps around the two doors and barred them. The blocked up the keyholes too, knowing that the vampires could stream in through gaps in mist form. Then they tried to get some sleep.

An hour passed, so they had all had a Short Rest (except for David who had remained on guard). They spent a few Hit Dice to recover.

Then one of the Vampire Concubines tried to break in through the main door. She rattled on it, tired to seduce them to come out and then started poking at the gum blocking the keyhole. They were so distracted by this that they didn’t notice the other concubine seeping through the other door – guarded only by the sleeping Cole.

Cole was nearly killed by the savage attacks of the vamp – during the hours of night her bite was draining his maximum hitpoints and almost turned him into another vampire in their service. The other charged over and nearly killed her, but she was regenerating 10hp a round and she fled back through the door as mist when she was close to death.

Cole was enraged and opened the door to follow her out despite everyone else saying it was a trap. They were right, the Master Vampire was out there, much more powerful and with the ability to enslave by his terrible gaze. Fortunately Sir Vassily had an aura of protection that prevented the charm.

They managed to “kill” the concubine but found she just kept getting up again. Blagothokus was shouting at them to get out of the way so he could shoot lightning at them. The fight in the stairwell of the Gate Tower was frantic as the Vampire drained much of the life from Ragnar and from Vassily. Eventually they retreated, just as Laurel the Ogre managed to circle around to join the fight. Blagothokus reluctantly slammed the door when they all got back inside and wept as they heard the ogre succumbing to the Vampires. Vassily was down to only 2 hit points (his new maximum!).

David, at the urging of Blagothokus ran off with the other ogre – Hardy to try and break into the control tower now the Vampires were away.
There is a teleport 3×3 squares in the ground floor of the tower. It is connected to another in the room 100feet above.
From the “Lobby” you say “Esclarotta” (the giant’s dead wife’s name) and, everyone on a square that isn’t occupied in the control room, teleports up.
From the Control room, you say “Lobby” and everyone teleports down, with everyone on the downstairs teleport being transferred up out of the way.
As Blagothokus is a 3×3 monster, a 2×2 ogre in the tower room, blocked his attempts, but human-sized creatures should be able to find somewhere to stand.

Fortunately for David, he teleported up first time, arriving next to the Ogre as expected. The red wizard appeared to be sitting in the throne concentrating. David turned into Gaseous Form to move away from the Ogre and get behind the throne.

As soon as the boy materialised the wizard magic missiled him and the Ogre shuffled off the portal to defend him. The wizard ordered it back but by then Hardy had teleported up and the fight was on.

Outside the others (except for the injured Vassily who decided to cower in the barracks with Blagothokus) raced up to the Lobby and prepared to teleport up. The Vampires (including the new Ogre Vampire) will be hot on their trail.


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