Whe-hey! Time for another night around the campfire. I remember going to a party in Second Year round about the time my D&D community in Wellington had swelled to its largest active size. It was a simple flat party; the weekend was a good enough excuse to get together for some brews and yarns. Walking through the living room, I passed several groups where people were telling stories, as they do at parties, but each story was about something they'd gotten up to in their latest Dungeons & Dragons session. It wasn't just a select group either. These conversations were happening all over the house without any major prompting. A house party of people talking of elves, dungeons, ogres and magic. I remember thinking to myself that somewhere down the line something had gone terribly right...
So here is a selection of stories collected and arranged for your pleasure. Enjoy.
A Smorgasbard, Chapter 1: If you believe!
Scenario: Wet Dreams - Felicia (The ladyfriend's Elven Fighter), Maverick (Mitch's Human Monk), Michaela (Mike's Human[?] Sorceress) and Willikins (Kennedy's Gnomish Bard)
Firstly, some context. Wet Dreams is a mission I wrote as part of the Baga Yaga Saga campaign for the aforementioned party. The premise of the mission is Enyo, the youngest of the Grey Sisters, sets a Dreameater to feed on the party's mental energy while they sleep. The party is forced to enter the Dreamscape (aka Neverland minus the Disney charm) and kill the Dreameater and find its source. While on the Dreamscape, you can accomplish otherwise impossible things as long as you believe in it enough (accomplished via a Will save against an appropriate DC). While the fighter was limited to less creative endeavors, Willikins was having a ball teleporting around the map in an explosion of doves.
Here we are in the fight against the Dreameater. This thing moves insanely quickly on its native plane yet the PCs have finally managed to trap it. It's Maverick's turn.
'It's your go. What do you want to do?'
Mitch thinks for a moment. 'How far away is it?'
A brief glance at the map. 'Sixty feet.'
Maverick owns a pair of Boots of Inertia that grant him bonus Strength for every five feet he moves. This gathered energy expends itself in a burst on the next action he takes.
'I will a loop-de-loop into existence out of the ground between me and the Dreameater. It's internal circumference equals sixty feet, putting a one-hundred-and-twenty foot path between me and my target.'
I blink a couple of times as Mitch grins at me. The rest of the party start hooting and hollering as they figure it out.
As a level 11 Monk, Maverick can charge a maximum of 120ft.
'Make a Will save for belief.'
Natural 19. The hollering increases tenfold.
The loop rises in front of Maverick who, in a state of elation, kicks his boots into action. The Dreameater squats low to the ground, unsure of what to expect. Before it can react, a blur of red rockets out of the loop and strikes it with such force it literally explodes.
45 damage in a single hit. It's maximum hit points are 43. GG.
A Smorgasbard, Chapter 2: Extra salty.
Scenario: Torchlight - Enna (Mantha's Elven Rogue), Jane (the ladyfriend's Human Cleric), Loramir (Jimmy-jam's Elven Fighter) and Riccin (Mr. D's Halfling Sorcerer)
While exploring the haunted town of Adderton, the PCs had uncovered that to break the town's curse, they needed to use salt and fire. After making this discovery, they immediately went to the only place open at midnight; the Dirty Habit tavern.
'Ughhh excuse me mr barkeep...'
The barkeep has to lean over the counter to find the halfling that's talking to him.
'Hi.' Riccin waves. 'Do you have salt?'
'...A couple of bags. Why?'
'We wanna buy them.'
'...Sure. Eight silver per bag. How many do you want?'
Quick discussion and counting of coins.
'We'll take six.'
The barkeep nods slowly then disappears into his kitchen to retrieve the salt. Sixty pounds of it. With their newest acquisition, the PCs make their way to the town well. They've heard rumours of an illness coming from the water and suspect someone poisoned the well. Classic.
'I'll scope it out first,' suggests Enna and uses the rope to lower herself towards the water at the bottom of the well. Even with her darkvision, she can't make out anything at the bottom apart from rocks. No horcruxes here.
'Maybe we won't be able to see it,' says Loramir. 'I vote we pour some in. The priest's ghost was going on about "salt to purify," so let's give it a try.' The others shrug and he empties one of the two bags he's carrying into the well.
Everyone looks around, listening.
'You know,' says Jane, 'I was kind of expecting something to happen.'
'Come on Scott. Where's the puff of smoke and fireworks that spells "You did it"?'
I give her my least-committal shrug.
'Maybe it wasn't enough?' says Riccin, peeping over the edge of the well. 'I mean, we have all these bags. We might as well use them.'
Nods all round. In goes the other fifty pounds of salt.
Several hours later both out- and in-game the party figures out the priest's body is the source and they need to dig up his grave. Cue curse-maddened villager mob as the malignant magic tries to defend itself.
The party rushes its way through the streets as villagers burst from their homes wielding household items as improvised weaponry. They move with a staggering gait as if they aren't fully in control of their bodies and make inarticulate cries of rage.
Our heroes dash through the northern gates of the town, hauling them shut as they pass. Just as they reach the graveyard they hear the first of the locals slam into the palisade. Sparing only a brief look over their shoulders, the PCs weave their way through the tombstones. Pastor Kenneth's is easy enough to find. The earth has been turned freshly enough that the grass has yet to sprout on it.
'Alright,' says Jimmy-jam, who had Loramir collect some shovels on their way out of Adderton. 'I drop my load on the grave. Who's digging with me?'
'Whoa. Do you want to rephrase that in a more respectful manner?' asks Mantha in mock sternness.
'We are literally here to desecrate a corpse,' responds the ladyfriend, perhaps reconsidering Jane's career choice as a cleric.
Riccin starts laying out the tools for the surgical removal of one cursed corpse. 'We've got shovels, flasks of oil, tindertwigs...
Mr D freezes, hands on the table. He's met with wide eyes.
'Where's the salt?'
'It's in the well!'
Enna and Riccin circle around back to the Dirty Habit, avoiding the crowd piling up at the northern gate, while Jane and Loramir each take a shovel to Pastor Kenneth's grave. Enna kicks in the back door of the kitchen and they manage to locate two remaining bags of salt in the pantry.
'You know I rolled for how many there were right?' My comment was met with semi-panicked glares.
The noise of Enna's less-than-roguish entry into the kitchen draws the attention of the villagers, some of which break from the main mob to pursue. The pair race their way back to the grave where Jane and Loramir are setting a record in the undertaker community. Jane's shovel strikes wood and she and Loramir madly clear away the last of the dirty so they can wrench the coffin open. They barely avoid getting showered by salt and oil as they clamber out of the grave just in time to see the population of Adderton break down the gate.
'I hope we got it right this time,' shrieks Riccin as he drops a tinder twig into the grave, lighting up the late pastor's body. The party is rewarded with the immediate dispelling of the curse and an adequate amount of smoke (and fireworks).
A Smorgasbard, Chapter 3: They're coming outta the goddamn walls.
Scenario: Heart of Darkness - Alaric (Lohan's Human Paladin), Daewyn (Kit-kat's Human Cleric), Felicia, Feluria (Levin's Elven Paladin), Ferule (Levin's Elven Rogue) and Geralt (Rosco's Human Fighter/Cleric)
Heart of Darkness is a mission Papa Brebner wrote for 2nd Edition way back when dragons were still alive that was published for tournament play. It is possibly my favourite mission he ever wrote and is full to the brim with puzzles, awesome fights and nasty tricks and traps. I converted it to 3rd Edition and spiced things up to 12th level.
While the mission was full of pain, suffering and drama, there was one character who was having a particularly rough time (and I say that while strategically ignoring the fact that a different character died that mission). Geralt, or 'Geralt the Unstable' as the rest of us refer to him, made a reputation for himself by rolling an astounding amount of 1's throughout his early career as an adventurer. It seemed they were to make a return in the most dire mission of his life thus far.
Skipping ahead to the second major fight of the mission; the party is engaged with the castle guardians, two of which are functionally androsphinxes. They both roar to disrupt the party and Geralt, true to form, fails both saving throws. Here is a man whose character image is a bold, moody figure who uses the powers of darkness against creatures native to it. Now picture him running for the hills like a deer on game day. As soon as combat started, Geralt activated his Eye of True Seeing as a defensive measure. In this case it allows him (and only him) to see through the illusory wall in the corner of the room. Which also happens to offer the most accessible escape route. Geralt proceeds to spend his turn fleeing into the secret boss area housing a CR 12 death knight. In the chaos of the scrap, only Ferule sees him leave.
Levin lets out a heavy sigh. 'Alright. I'll chase after him.'
'Sorry,' mumbles Rosco, his head buried under his arms.
'I yell at the others to let them know where I'm going.'
The party was deafened by the roars but at least Daewyn sees Ferule run through the wall. By a stroke of luck strong enough to counter Geralt's, Ferule manages to dodge the death knight's attacks long enough for reinforcements to arrive and they take the death knight down. Geralt spent the entire encounter gibbering in the corner but at least he was there for the XP.
Moving forward, the party finds a room full of totally inconspicuous statues (ignore the fact that I'm using enemy tokens to represent them - I ran out of pillars, I swear). In a dramatic turn of events, the statues animate and attack the PCs. However, as the fight develops a number of unholy spells bombard the party from an unknown source. In response, Geralt activates his eye and surely enough, there's an illusory wall with a mummy lord on the other side slinging spells like he way born on Christmas. The battlefield is pretty tight so Geralt decides to use his cape of the mountebank to close the distance.
'You doing anything else?'
'Nah, just teleport and strike.'
'Okay. Geralt disappears in a cloud of inky smoke but no-one sees him reappear in the room.'
'Oh s***, not again,' moans Levin.
'Oh wait,' Rosco laughs.
'There's a guy in the walls,' yells Geralt from somewhere to the east.
'Is it you, Geralt?' replies Ferule.
'No... well yes but I've got company, dammit. Come help me.'
'Fine,' sighs Levin, shaking his head. 'I'll run towards his voice.' He points out his direction of motion on the map.
Ferule charges ahead only to run headfirst into solid stone, dazing himself in the process. The illusion started five feet to the right, as it turned out. He staggers his way through the wall, just in time to see Geralt parry a rod of cancellation and have his primary weapon reduced to little more than a sharp piece of metal.
A look of horror is shared between Rosco and the ladyfriend.
'You can burn us, cut us, crush us and curse us,' says Felicia. 'Do as much damage as you want. But when you go after a fighter's weapon, that's crossing a f***ing line, buddy. One that cannot be uncrossed. F***ing kill him.'
To top off Geralt's roller-coaster of a mission, an extradimensional trap split the party into separate mazes where they were pursued by spectral wolves. The first to escape had to deal with the vampire waiting for them on the other side, slowly being reinforced as the rest of the party found their own way out. The rest of the party excluding Geralt, that is.
While everyone is struggling with the vampire, Geralt's busy finding every possible dead end like he bought the tourist's guide. The party, battered and bruised, eventually manage to force the vampire into retreating. At this point they are faced with a dilemma. Do they abandon Geralt and chase the vampire or wait and risk it regenerating?
Much to Rosco's dismay, the others actually consider leaving him for a good minute or two.
Eventually Felicia steps up with a rousing speech about how you should never split the party and it's better to fight at our full strength. The party that stays together, dies together, amiright? So they wait a good four-and-a-half minutes (literally double the next slowest person) and eventually Geralt stumbles through the gateway.
He wearily jerks a thumb over his shoulder. '...Wolves...' he wheezes.
'Had a bit of trouble did you?' asks Daewyn, carefully stemming the flow of blood from his neck.
So despite the tumbles, traps and tragic saving throws, Geralt somehow managed to survive it all. It leads me to suspect that perhaps beneath it all, there is a deeper luck at work. One that fights against the evil of natural 1's. We'll have to wait and see.
A Smorgasbard, Chapter 4: The robe of farmyard artillery.
Scenario: The Crystal Caves - Alaric, Ferule, Maverick, Michaela and Willikins
This mission involved some homebrew monsters of mine that are specifically designed to mess with mid-tier parties. Round about level 10 players generally has access to some really neat buffs but doesn't have enough magic items yet to make these spells redundant, so mid-level characters often walk around with two or three active spells on them at any one time. The aptly-named magic stealers therefore prove to be quite troublesome.
Cutting to the action, the party has reached the buried throne room in the Crystal Caves that overlooks an enormous crevasse filled with glowing crystals. Ferule is currently dangling forty feet in the crevasse trying to mine some of the crystals to meet their mission goal. Unfortunately his activity has disturbed the locals.
'You hear scrabbling and scraping down in the crevasse and look down in time to see several of the curious insectoid creatures from before. They don't seem interested in entertaining. Roll initiative.'
'Michaela, it's your go.'
'Shoot to kill!' cries Michaela and fires two scorching rays at a magic stealer. It reels but doesn't fall. They're getting closer to Ferule, who's dangling helplessly after failing a panicked Climb check.
Without effective missile-fire, Alaric and Maverick focus on hauling the highly stressed rogue out of the monster-infested crevasse.
'Willikins, you're up.'
Having his hastes stolen before, Willikins is wary of casting his usual magics.
'So far they've only taken single-target things,' voices Kennedy. 'I'll try for inspire courage. I apologise in advance if this boosts them.'
Willikins starts spouting his grand pep-talk to get everyone in the mood. They've heard it all before but love it just the same. Especially when he switches up the adjectives.
Most of the magic stealers focus on climbing but the one that took Michaela's rays digs its forelimbs into the wall to anchor itself while it raises its middle limbs to return fire. Two scorching rays. Both strike Ferule while he's helpless to dodge.
'Oh bollocks,' says Michalea. 'They can mimic spells too.'
'Apology accepted,' squeaks Ferule.
Whether its Willikins' rousing words or Michaela's innate volatility, she goes for a fireball. 'They can't copy it if they're dead,' she says with a shrug.
The stealer that was rayed drops whether it saves or not. Another's crispy corpse plummets to the depths. The last two weather it.
'Help me up and I can shoot them before they can copy the fireball,' urges Ferule.
'Yeah, there's no way in hell I can take two of those,' sighs Michaela sheepishly.
Levin glares at him but Mike returns the look with a wide grin and double thumbs-up.
Alaric hauls Ferule to his feet, who quickdraws his bow and lines up a shot.
'Dex bonus to AC?'
'Not while they're climbing.'
Ferule's arrow whistles down the cliff face and straight through the magic stealer's head.
He lines up his second. Shoots and...
'Ughhhhh... 2. Natural 2.'
The arrow chips off a crystal and goes wide.
'Do you want me to throw my fist at it? Who do you think I am?'
Rather than panic, Mike's grin widens. 'Ooooh, were in for it now.'
'Not yet we ain't,' says Kennedy as he scans his character sheet. 'I stop inspiring courage and move to the edge where the bug is climbing.'
'It's twenty-five feet directly below you.'
Willikins reaches into the folds of his Robe of Useful Items and tears off a patch in the crude shape of a horse. He holds the patch over the drop before him and releases it. The patch promptly turns into a very startled mule and as they make eye contact, it dawns on Willikins the full horror of his actions. Shortly after, an equally startled magic stealer receives nine-hundred pounds of horsemeat to the face.
Repressing memories of minesweeping donkeys, Willikins turns from the crevasse and tries to block out the fading whinnies. 'It is done.'