Thursday, July 2, 2020

Session 13: A New Hope

By Daniel Jolivet -, CC BY 2.0,
Ches 28 dawned gray, with a light rain reflecting the mood of our heroes. Little did they know a new group was coming in to replenish their numbers. Marty and Rasool, the survivors of the Marpenoth Massacre, were unavailable. They were still mourning their friends in their own way, so the green members explored town, looking for Renaer and enjoying the sights. Their first stop was the Yawning Portal, where Durnan suggested they check out the wandering statues. Shortly after leaving the Yawning Portal, the party was attacked by a group of thugs, but Shan talked the thugs out of it. They went to look at the Honorable Knight and then turned north. As they walked north, they were passed by a well-appointed carriage. From the carriage, a lord in a mask peered at them from inside.

After passing the Swordmaiden, they decide to see if Renaer is at Trollskull Manor. There, a surly dwarf tells them that he isn't there, but he might be at the House of Inspired Hands. Seeing the looks on the party's faces, he adds that it's a temple of Gond. On the way to the temple, there is a congested intersection and a city watchwoman directing traffic. Me and Xarca almost walk in the way of a carriage drawn by two okapi, but Parsain is able to keep him from being run over. Parsain cleans them off. Me thinks Parsain is flirting with them, and Xarca is somehow immediately filthy again.

The party arrives at the House of Inspired Hands, and wander the grand hall looking at the exhibitions mounted on marble pedestals. Several stand out:

A 4-foot-tall working model of a clock tower rings at the top of every hour. It is made of wood, iron, bronze, and glass, with brass bells and delicate hands formed from solid gold.
A wooden flying machine has wings that flap when it becomes airborne.
A miniature model of a mechanical dragon turtle has a brass plate affixed to its pedestal that reads, “Big Belchy. Sank in Deepwater Harbor on the Day of Wonders in 1363 DR.”
A functional “waking helmet” equipped with small, articulated metal arms and hands that gently slap the wearer if he or she falls asleep.
A miniature model of a red submarine shaped like a manta ray has a brass plate affixed to its pedestal that reads, “The Scarlet Marpenoth. Lantanese submersible. Launched in 1489 DR.”

The model of the Scarlet Marpenoth looks accurate. Xarca teleports into the flying constraption, but he climbs out sadly when he is admonished by the priests. They try to lecture him, but he gets distracted as they are lecturing and wanders off. Renaer is still nowhere to be seen, so they decide to head back to Trollskull Manor.

On the way back to the manor, they see a carriage careening down the street. It hits some sort of bump and crashes, sending brass instruments scattering across the pavement. A little green woman jumped off the carriage at the last minute, and as she flees the scene of the accident, Xarca puts her to sleep. The goblin is transporting instruments for Xanathar. She tells the party that there are going to be gladitorial games in a few days, and Xanathar wants to make sure they are held with the appropriate amount of pomp and circumstance. The party offers to take the instruments down to the Xanathar guild and she accepts with relief, saying that she hasn't been able to spend time with her husband and children in some time. The party picks up the instruments and imitates a brass band poorly as they head into the sewers.

Wandering through the sewers, they are jumped by a pair of desperate wererats. Xarka casts moonlight, damaging one, while Parsain shoots an arrow through the gut of another one. Parsain's owl superbly swoops through the moonlight, distracting the first wererat, and Parsain shoots him in the fact as Mr. Me finished the second off with his shillelagh. They continue towards into a cellar complex, where Parsain oils a rusty door to enable the group to sneak in. They tell the goblins they find there that they are here to deliver the instruments. The goblins take delivery, and sound excited about the games. Apparently everyone is going to be there, paying very close attention to the games and nothing else. They pay the party 200gp for their trouble, and the party heads slightly further into the sewers, where they find the old hideout where Floon had been tortured almost a month ago. Groot-me and Shan are able to use their sense of direction to figure out where on the surface corresponds with this subterranean locale, and they head back to Trollskull Manor, hopefully to meet with Rasool and Marty and compare notes.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Session 12: Davy Jones' Locker

Upon opening the door and confronting the 3/4 nude pirate deep in the bowels of the ship, Rasool steps into the room and closes the door, but not before Hank can establish a telepathic link with him to let him know when the escape is ready.

Dagrim dismantled the magic trap that they had detected on the port side doors. The rest of the party quietly searched the rest of the hold, finding some papers and a chest. Within the room, there was a conspicuous negative space compared to the hold outside the room. Dagrim searched the back wall and found a secret door that led to a hatch in the floor. Around this time, Graycen started to walk towards the fore of the ship to a steamy section of the hold, but was stopped by reminding her what happened the last time she tried to go off solo and thought the better of it.

Beneath the hatch, there was a steel tube with a ladder leading down to another hatch, which meant they had finally found the submarine. Convinced the sub contains the orb the dragon asked them to retrieve, the party started towards the control room that they spotted while waterbreathing the day before. Hank tells Rasool they are in the sub and the party was closing the sub hatch and barring it. If he needs to escape, go up to the Harpers. Proceeding forward on the catwalk, the remainder of the party manages to be just stealthy enough to reach the area above the control room, with two ladders leading down. Taking advantage of the opportunity to ambush the two drow and the rock gnomes working below. Hoping the gnomes are working under duress, Dagrim casts sleep and knocks them out.

The fight turns bad as soon as the drow can react. Graycen climbs down to attack from melee and is quickly stabbed multiple times by one of the drow, and killed outright. From above, the party continues to focus fire on one of the drow captors, but within the confines of the submarine, their arcane tolling of the dead seems less effective than usual. Hank sees the fight going badly, and decides to intuit the controls that are now ungnomed, and attempts to tear the submarine from the ship, hoping to start the ship flooding through the open hatch. Two attempts to incomprehensibly flip switches and turn dials with his mage hand result in nothing of the kind. The wounded drow climbs up the ladder and kills Hank outright before Chip's eyes. Chip is still firmly in the denial stage of the K├╝bler-Ross model when his grief is cut short by his own similar demise. Dagrim angrily attempts a killing blow to the drow to cover Marty's escape, but he likewise quickly falls before the drow who has clearly outmatched the party.

Marty manages to flee up the ladder to the hold and block the hatch, briefly securing his escape.
Meanwhile, Rasool decides to abandon the intimidation tack that was not working, and starts asking probing personal questions of Jarlaxle. Jarlaxle indicates that he was already made aware of the party and their dealings in Trollskull manor from some unknown source. After vicariously telepathically witnessing the demise of Graycen and Hank, Rasool enters the bargaining phase quite rapidly. Jarlaxle offers him his life if Rasool will return with one Eye of Golorr.

Rasool and Marty are somewhat depressed as they head topside to gather the Harpers and limp back home in the rowboat. By the time they pull ashore, they have accepted their losses and are determined to gather some new allies by auditioning prospective adventurers in the tavern that evening.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Session 11: Zounds! Zardoz Zord Zaps!

The beginning of Ches 27 dawns grey and cold, with a light snow, and the Batmen are going to the Seven Masks Theater. There, they are greeted by the ghost of Malkolm Brizzenbright. In the stage manager's office, they find a letter to "J" reading “There have been strange eyes fixed upon the house of Fenerus Stormcastle and flights of black snakes have been seen flocking the skies of the Trades Ward. Greater care should be taken when messengers approach the house, and we may want to find an alternative asset. I leave it to your judgment whether or not Fenerus himself should be warned. -K”
After this they decide to talk to the Harpers to get some extra manpower . They also want to try and get Davil out of jail. Mirt agrees, since Davil is an important counterbalance to Manshoon in trying to keep the city stable.

After meeting with Mirt, the Batmen and the Harpers go to the docks to try and infiltrate the Eyecatcher while the sunlight makes the drow less observant. But their plan goes awry when Chip and Hank sneeze loudly, and Dagrim curses at them in response. The Drow sailors point at the longboat and start firing crossbows. They exchange fire with the party until the boat gets adjacent to the ship and the Harpers storm the decks ending the fight. The Harpers go to secure the main deck while the Batmen explore the Captain's chamber more thoroughly. They find the captain's spell book, and head down to the main deck, which the marines have secured.

The Batmen explore the ship, and it is largely uneventful. Below decks, they find experimental floats from the Sea Maiden's Faire, including garishly colored giant spiders. The spiders turn out to be alive, just standing very still, and they attack. Rasool smashes one of them while Chip and Dagran sling spells at them. Gracyen is a whirling dervish of death, killing two and grievously injuring the third. Marty hit it with a clean shot from her crossbow, and Rasool is able to use his glaive to end its life.

Below decks, the party finds two doors. The one on the left is guarded by illusion magic. They can hear people behind the other door, so rather than explore the unoccupied room, they go to confront the occupants of the chamber. Behind the door, they find Zardoz Zord with two friends. Rasool attempts to threaten Zardoz into submission, but Zardoz is not intimidated.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Session 10: You Can't Not Be on a Boat

Following the dragon's announcement that his mother's crystal ball is on the submarine, the Batmen proceed to investigate it. Sneaking up to the fore windows, they see a control room where three rock gnome engineers keep the sub running under the watchful eye of their drow guards. Dagrim looks around the ship for air bubbles, but doesn't find any. The party tries to chip away at the docking mechanism, but the wood is too hard and it is difficult to get leverage underwater. Hank swims up to the surface and sees that the colors of the ship the submarine is docked to match the colors of the Hellraiser and Heartbreaker attached to the Sea Maiden's Faire pier.

The party swims aft, and Graycie and Essex climb nimbly to the the aft castle where they silently murder the two sailors. Upon their death, the illusion fades, revealing their true identity -- drow! The Batmen rain missile fire down on the two sailors on the aft deck, again killing them swiftly and silently. But their success may have made them overconfident. Essex picks the lock to the captain's chamers, and Rasool attempts to open it quietly. Unfortunately, Rasool was not quiet, and the occupants of the room, the ship's captain and a nimblewright are not taken by surprise. The captain blasts Rasool, Hank, and Chip with a lightning bolt, striking them all down. Dagrim is able to heal Chip, who takes over healing duties from there. Once revived, Rasool is a machine with his glaive, while Marty with his acrobatics and crossbow puts in a number of well-aimed shots. Graycen taunts the nimblewright to lure it from the door, but she is a little bit too successful, and takes a grievous blow to her side. The captain blasts Rasool again with a lightning bolt even as Hank is able to send the nimblewright into the Arms of Hadar. The captain lets loose with a flurry of magic missiles, but Marty Crane lands an arrow through his throat, ending his threat.

Using the ring of keys they found on the captain, the party searches the room. There is a bookshelf and a locked trunk. Opening the trunk, they find gold, pearls, and a bottle of wine with the label "One-Eyed Jax". Essex throws the body of the nimblewright overboard, hoping the remaining crew will assume it went crazy, killed the captain and the sailors, and fled. The party reports back to the dragon, and offer to share the wine, an offer which the dragon declines. They return to land to lick their wounds after dismantling the ship's rudder. Dagrim suggests getting Zhent help to raid the ship, and they walk over to the Yawning Portal. They don't recognize anyone there, so they decide to spend some time looking for nimblewrights before returning to the Manor. There are no 'wrights in the Dock Ward other than those on the ships, but they find one in the Southern Ward. Back at Trollskull Manor, Istrid Horn, Master of Trade for the non-Manshoonian Zhentarim, those associated with the Doom Raiders. She says the guards are running down known Zhents, and Davil was arrested. Hank offers his room to the dwarf, but she says it's creepy until Hank clarified that he'll sleep with Chip.

The next day, the Batmen go to the Seven Masks Theater. It is Ches 27. There, they are greeted by the ghost of Malkolm Brizzenbright. In the stage manager's office, they find a letter to "J" reading “There have been strange eyes fixed upon the house of Fenerus Stormcastle and flights of black snakes have been seen flocking the skies of the Trades Ward. Greater care should be taken when messengers approach the house, and we may want to find an alternative asset. I leave it to your judgment whether or not Fenerus himself should be warned. -K”

Monday, June 8, 2020

Session 9: How's it Hanging

The next day was Ches 25, and the Batmen decided to investigate Yellowspire. The lead was somewhat thin, but they didn't have any others. (They did, however, talk about the need to look into the Xanathar's operations. Yellowspire is a two-story run-down tower covered in scaffolding. The scaffolding would be easy to climb, but loud. They knock on the door many times, and a woman named Amanth answers and tells them to go away. But before they leave, Essex notices that the walls behind her are covered in black hands, which Dagrim recognizes as the symbol of Bane. Bane's priests were allied to Manshoon before the Manshoon Wars.

After this, the party goes to the Yawning Portal and meet with Davil and one of his associates, Istrid Horn. Dagrim wants to know about the Gralhunds' commercial contracts, to extract revenge through economics. Hank asks who was selling nimblewrights, and Istrid says she'll look into it. They ask about Manshoon and the Baneites. Davil doesn't know about Manshoon, but says it makes sense that Urstul was working for someone. As far as religion, "Tying oneself to a specific religious cult tends to have consequences that are less than helpful."

Next, Essex and Graycie go to the Harpers. There, Graycie asks about her father, and Mirt tells her he died on a mission for the Emerald Enclave. Mirt also tells them three further things. First, there are drow spies in town, and they should check out the Seven Masks Theater. Second, the entertainer Zardoz Zord has been selling nimblewrights all over town at a loss. Finally, there's a wererat/doppelganger gang in town.

The party reconvenes, and decides to save the theater for tomorrow, and investigate the docks that night. The festival normally marking the Sea Maiden's Faire's pier is subdued, most of the attractions being carted uptown for the Shipwright's Ball. They check out the Heartbreaker first and ask for a nimblewright. The ship's mate says he doesn't know anything. But they have better luck on the Hellraiser. There "Montague Fauntelroy III" discusses buying a nimblewright from Fergus Crabwater. They cost 25,000 dragons each, but he also finds out that the Gralhunds bought one. After some defamatory remarks about that family, he leaves. Meanwhile, Graycie snoops around, and notices that a lot of the crew speaks with elven accents and seem to talk with their hands a lot. On the way back, they have to duck down an alley to avoid getting caught up in a mob of 10 people protesting in favor of single-decked carriages.

On the next day, Ches 26, a representative of the Emerald Enclave comes to Trollskull Manor looking for Yinrick. Apparently, there's a bronze dragon in the harbor, and it's making people nervous. The druid wants them to talk to the dragon and ask what its intentions are. He gives them potions of water breathing, and wishes them luck. The dragon, Zelifarn, has been seeking a crystal ball that belonged to his deceased mother. The ball is in a submarine attached to the bottom of a boat in the middle of the harbor. Dagrim asks how the mom was killed, and Zelifarn says that it was a group of drow adventurers. Zelifarn promises to richly reward the party if the crystal ball is returned to him.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Session 8: Where is the Stone?

The day that would later go down in infamy among the Batmen began ordinarily enough. Ches 24 began with gray skies and a steady wind blowing across the city. Lord Essex, having been away negotiating with the Carpenter's Guild for a set of new stools, wanted to reinvestigate the Gralhund manor, in the hopes that they could find more clues. When they arrived, the villa was closed up tight, with no activity inside, not even a groundskeeper patrolling the grounds. Going around to the back, they found two doors. One led to the stables, so they used the other one, and entered into the pantry. The richly-appointed bottom floor was empty, though blood stains soaking the carpet of the great hall hinted at some sort of recent violence. Next to the library, the party found a locked door. Essex was able to pick the lock, and inside they found Lord Gralhund's study, and his notes on the Grand Game.* In the library, they found a sheet of paper discussing the second Eye, held by Manshoon's Zhentarim. They explored the servant's suite, and finding nothing there, went up to the master suite.

In the master suite, they were met by four guardsmen wearing Gralhund livery. The guards simply tell the Batmen to leave, and they pause to decide what they want to do. They tell some transparent lies, and while Marty attempts to persuade them to let them in, he is unpersuasive, and so the party decides to attack. They open with a huge blow from Rasool, and Chip uses his divine blessing to cast an aspersion upon the guards. But the guards move towards the gang in response, baiting Rasool to attack too early, and cutting at Hank and Rasool. Rasool responds with a glaive drop kick to get his revenge, and several members of the party call upon dark powers to toll the dead.

Meanwhile, Graycie was sneaking around to come at their adversaries from behind. But as she enters the master bedroom, a large half-orc bludgeons her with a series of powerful blows from his morningstar. Rasool, suspecting something is wrong, charges at the barred door blocking his access to the bedroom. He bounces off the door, splintering it somewhat but unable to blow it open. Graycie, sensing that she is not a match for Hrabbaz, tries to flee, but his weapon rends the life from her body. Rasool rushes downstairs, but in the meantime, Chip blows the door to the bedroom off its hinges with a well-placed firebolt, and a sleep spell from Hank gives Lady Gralhund a small nap.

After the door was blown open, Dagrim runs in at Orond Gralhund, and the lord of the house lets out a yeep, drops his rapier, and wets his pants. Dagrim ties him up. Meanwhile, Hrabbaz reenters the bedroom and attacks Essex, knocking him unconscious. At the same time, Dagrim calls upon the ancient power of his ancestors and grows to the size of an ogre! He grabs the Gralhunds and threatens to kill them if Hrabbaz refuses to drop his weapons. Hrabbaz considers his options, but will not surrender, not trusting the party to spare his life. Dagrim moves towards the staircase, and Hrabbaz follows. Seeing his pursuer near, Dagrim attempts another sleep spell, but it fails, and the morningstar of Hrabbaz ends his life. Hrabbaz yells at the party and tells them to leave, and the Batmen scatter, grabbing the corpses of their compatriots as Hank briefly distracts the half-orc. Upon returning to the Trollskull Inn, they are met by Davil, who offers to raise their fallen companions for free, as long as the Batmen are willing to owe him a favor...

*I posted a copy of the Gralhund Report on the Grand Game on the game's Discord and sent it to the party's emails, but here are the most important bits:

– Until recently, Xanathar held the Stone of Golorr — the key to solving Neverember’s Enigma! But it was stolen by one his trusted lieutenants, a gnome named Dalakhar who the Gralhunds identified as an agent of Lord Neverember

– Xanathar has the First Eye, having murdered the Zhentarim delegation who came to negotiate with him and stealing it from them.

– The Zhentarim are suffering from an internal schism, with someone claiming Manshoon dividing their loyalty. The Manshoonian Zhentarim stole the Second Eye, but (according to this report) the Gralhunds aren’t certain where it’s being held.

– They do not know where the Third Eye is.

– They know that Xanathar’s Lair in Skullport can be more easily accessed from teleportal sites in the subterranean hideouts he keeps hidden throughout the city. They also know that each teleportal has a unique key which someone must carry in order to use the teleportal.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Session 7: Walking in the Dark

Ches 23 dawned gray and rainy. The Batmen had a few leads that they wanted to follow up on. The Cassalanters, a powerful noble house, had asked for some help in dealing with a threat to their children. They had asked Davil Starsong about Urstul Floxin, and Davil told them he'd help them out if they completed a mission for him -- deliver some potions of mind reading to a woman in a purple cloak. And they still had a nimbleright to find with the nimblewright detector.

The group decided to take care of the mission for Davil first. Graycen went to Weirdbottle's Provisions to meet with Davil's colleague, Skeemo Weirdbottle. The decrepit gnome was creepy, but gave her the potions. Using her stealth, she avoided an ambush set by the Xanathar, and delivered the potions to a woman in a purple hood, who thanked Graycie and handed her a velvet bag with fifteen platinum coins. The woman banged on the roof of the stagecoach she was sitting on, which took her away. Returning to the Yawning Portal, Davil filled them in on the intrigue currently plaguing the Zhentarim. Recently, another group of Zhents led by Urstul Floxin came to Waterdeep. Where Davil wants to play things slow, keep it under the radar, and mostly use the trade in weapons and mercenaries to build influence, Floxin has bigger dreams, wanting to use violence and fear to control the city more directly. He's interested in the money because there's a group of Zhentarim trying to rebuild Zhentil Keep, and with a large donation to the effort, they could get a seat on the Zhentarim Council. The party asked if there's anything they could do, and Davil said he was keeping an eye on it, but he'd let them know. He also said they should talk to Dalakhar, and sent a priest with them to cast speak with dead.

The priest was quite taciturn, but his name was Flint, and he seemed to have an in with the people at the morgue, as they let the group in without the usual formalities. There they learned that Lord Neverember had ordered him to infiltrate the Xanathar's gang to steal back the Stone of Golorr. He intended to give it to Renaer, since he was a servant of Renaer's father. But unfortunately, he was ambushed by the nimbewright and killed.

After meeting Davil, the Batmen head to the Sea Ward to meet with the Cassanlanters. Along the way, they notice a villa that Dagrim recalls belongs to the Dezlentyrs. Hank talks his way in, but without a plan to get Lord Corin Dezlentyr to talk about the nimblewrights, it goes nowhere. However, Chip sneaks a look in the backyard and sees young Hermione sparring with a nimblewright. Unfortunately, the nimblewright doesn't match the description of the one that killed Dalakhar, and they continue to the Cassalanters.

The Cassalanter villa might just be the most spectacular in Waterdeep; it is certainly the most spectacular the party has ever seen. The majordomo leads them to the entrance hall. It has a magnificent harpsichord to the side of a plush crimson carpet. Light from a crystal chandelier refelcts of more than three dozen holy symbols of Siamorphe, creating an almost divine glow. Ammalia Cassalanter stands waiting in the center of the hall. She greets them warmly, but before she can continue, two eight years old run into the hall. She chides them gently, and tells them to play in the butterfly garden, but when she turns back to the group, her face looks sad. "I hope you can help us save our children."

Lady Cassalanter leads the party through their library, which in addition to an enormous collection of books includes the sizeable head of a black dragon. Against a wall stands a portrait of the Cassalanters with their three children. They proceed into the reading room, where Lord Victoro Casslanter meets them. The room features a lovely view of the gardens, where the Cassalanter children are chasing butterflies. Lord Cassalanter thanks the Batmen in his deep voice, and pleads for their help. The children were cursed by Asmodeus at birth. Fortunately, like everything with Asmodeus, there is an out. The Cassalanters discovered a ritual where, if they sacrifice one million dragons to him on 11 Tarsahk, their children will be saved. As rich as they are, they haven't been able to raise that kind of cash -- however, Neverember's enigma would enable them to save their children. The Stone of Golorr is key to solving Neverember's Enigma. They understand that the party doesn't work for free, but they don't need all the money, and could pay the group 10 percent, 50,000 dragons. Chip thinks that isn't quite enough, and they also add that they'd certainly owe the party a favor. The Batmen agree to help the Cassalanters. Lord Cassantler thanks them, and says they should get in touch once they have acquired the Stone of Golorr.

The party decides to spend some more of the afternoon looking in the Sea Ward for nimblewrights, and a block north of the Cassalanters, their rod vibrates again. There is apparently a mechanical man inside of the Temple of Mystera. Dagrim goes inside the House of Wonder, and gives the priestess there a story about how he's here to study and would she show him to the library? Unfortunately, she doesn't buy his story, and he's seen out. After this failure, the Batmen give up on searching the Sea Ward, and return to Trollskull alley. Back at their tavern, they decide to spend some more time in the evening looking for nimblewrights. This time, they head east, the same direction the guilty nimblewright went after killing Dalakhar. In just a few blocks, the rod goes off, right in front of Gralhund Villa.

The first thing the Batmen do is send Rasool up to the wrought iron gate to see if he can get them inside. Feeling safe behind the thick iron bars, the surly groundskeeper is not intimidated by the man with the glowing red eyes, growls at them, and walks away. Rasool considers bounding over the front wall on a busy street in broad daylight, but the rest of the party convinces him that they don't need to deal with the Watch in addition to everything else. Dagrim digs up what he can recall about the Gralhunds -- they are a minor noble family who had hoped to ascend to the upper nobility on the strength of their service some years ago, but were disappointed. The team decided to wait until night, and then see if they could infiltrate the villa.

Once night had fully fallen, the party went around to the east side of the complex, and Graycen climbed the wall and lowered a rope to help everyone else up. Marty pointed out the groundskeeper and his two mastiffs below, and Dagrim hurled a charm of sleep at them. To his surprise and horror, nothing happened. He decides he wants to burn the large complex of stone buildings to the ground. After dissuading him from this idea, Hand and Chip circle north. There are a couple copses of trees they think could be used to sneak up to the main building, and avoid the preternaturally strong groundskeeper. But they decide it's too much, and they'll come back later. As they regroup before heading back to the manor, they see the nimblewright they were chasing climb up to the roof of the villa, and run away too the west. Hank casts longstrider, while Graycie uses her knowledge of the back ways and alleys to keep up for a while. They see the nimblewright turn south, but the mechanical man does not tire, and they lose him in the night.