Saturday, April 21, 2018

Session 60 (18 April 2018)

Note to readers: This is a session re-cap of an ongoing D&D 5th edition campaign set in a loosely adapted version of N. Robin Crossby's Hârn. A journal of sessions 1 through 54, beginning in February 2015, can be found here.

The Dream, part I

FLASHBACK to the night of 2-3 Ilvin 720 TR 

You spent the morning meeting with Aranath the Elf Queen in the palace in Elshavel and have subsequently traveled swiftly to the western borders of her realm to investigate an anomalous zone of wintry weather that is slowly expanding, bringing with it dangerous creatures that threaten elvish lives. As you prepare your camp for the night you recall the queen's parting words, uttered as she looked at each of you in turn, her penetrating gaze seeming to plumb the very depths of your souls:

"I thank you for investigating this threat to my people. Your path will be a perilous one, but I sense that you will find help from unexpected quarters. This you should know: when outsiders first come to my realm, they are frequently visited by vivid and compelling dreams—often ones in which they are required to face terrible dilemmas. Do not be afraid! These visions are not real; they reflect what you have experienced in the past as much as what you fear in the future. But there is more: these dreams may also explain things about the world that your mind has not fully realized. And remember: what we do in our dreams is an important as what we do in our waking lives. Good luck to you."

As predicted, the dreams come. You "wake" to find yourselves no longer in Leomund's Tiny Hut, but in a strange built environment constructed of ice and snow. Your bedrolls are arranged about a pool of water in the middle of which stands a fountain. There are no lamps that you can see, but a pale blue glow emanates from many surfaces. And just as strange: Maslorius is not there, but in his place is another gnome you have never seen before. Not only that, but Klor is with you as well, though you are certain that he is hundreds of leagues distant in Azadmere. The strange gnome identifies himself as Wizdale and seems as nonplussed as you regarding these odd surroundings.

Four corked bottles float in the pool beneath the fountain; each seems to contain a roll of paper. Cade pulls one forth and unstoppers it; inside is a handwritten message:
Help me! I am being held prisoner. Go north from the fountain to find my cell. You will be richly rewarded!
— Baba Yaga
But which way is north? There are seven exits from the room: five passages (one very narrow) and two archways. From one direction you hear howling, as of a wolf; from another, you hear a distant scream. You opt to head toward the source of the scream. As you proceed, Gil'Doren voices the theory that this is some kind of communal dream through which Baba Yaga seeks to communicate with you.

Scouting ahead, Wizdale and Juan (who seem to be forming some kind of rogue-ish bond) discover a pantry; on a table within lie four freshly baked pies. (It was, indeed, the intoxicating smell of fresh baked goods that drew them in this direction.) Without further investigation, a pie is shared: mincemeat, and devilishly good. The sound of singing attracts their attraction, and they sneak carefully up a flight of stairs, motioning the party to follow. Not all the others are as skilled at stealth, however, and their noise causes the singer to pause and call out: "Malevix, iz zat you?" Dracul is stunned to hear his father's name.

The singer is revealed to be a yeti chef (with a French accent), busily preparing some kind of stew in a vast cauldron. With an enormous cleaver, he is hacking pieces from what could be a giant's bloody thigh and tossing them into the pot. His inattention is such that it is no problem for Juan to approach and deliver a mighty thwack from his crowbar to the back of the chef's head. He turns, regards you quizzically, and collapses like a (huge) sack of potatoes.

After binding the creature, you manage to revive him for interrogation. He readily divulges details: he is the head chef in this prison, responsible for feeding both the prisoners and the guards. He serves Queen Elvanna and is aware that the latter's mother, Baba Yaga, is being held here. He does not know the precise location of her cell, but he knows which way is north. (It's the opposite of the way you came.) He is expecting a visit from Malevix, the dragonborn guard captain.

Meanwhile, Wizdale eats another pie and nearly breaks a tooth on a metal object within. A key! But to what lock?

Taking a door that leads to the north, you find another pool, fed by a spout set high in the north wall, and another surprise: Cade! Or rather, a female version of Cade. She looks displeased to see you, and attacks. A vicious druid vs. druid battle ensues, at one point involving two giant crocodiles locked in struggle. The gender-swapped Cade falls to your spells and blades, yet Cade feels lessened, somehow, by the victory. (A greater restoration spell from Klor helps him get over it.)

In the pool, you see a massive egg, apparently made of gleaming silver. Retrieving it, you find it to be non-magical and non-organic.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Battle for Hârn NPCs

  • Aranath, Elf Queen, ruler of the kingdom of Evael
  • Iocaste, ambassador from the king of Melderyn to Evael 
  • The Operator, ancient creature who remembers the primordial age of conflict between Dragons and Giants
  • Cyrkanosh, headwoman of the Deep Gnome enclave of Djebel
  • Reidoth the druid
  • Sister Garaele, cleric at the shrine in the now-destroyed hamlet of Phandalin 
  • Sildar Hallwinter, knight of the Laranian fighting order of the Lady of Paladins 
  • Quellene, Halfling peasant from the now-destroyed hamlet of Phandalin 
  • Mhu, Deep Gnome scout from Djebel

  • Gundren Rockseeker, Dwarf merchant and kinsman of Klor 

  • Nicchidor, agent of the Green Dragon Venomfang

  • Elvanna, Ice Queen and daughter of Baba Yaga 
  • Malevix, father of Dracul. Vampire. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Session 59 (4 April 2018)

Note to readers: This is a session re-cap of an ongoing D&D 5th edition campaign set in a loosely adapted version of N. Robin Crossby's Hârn. A journal of sessions 1 through 54, beginning in February 2015, can be found here.

In-world dates: 5 Ilvin 720 TR [first week of winter]
Moon: waxing crescent (full moon in 9 days)

It's another crisp, bitterly cold winter day in this land. At least the sun is shining. This doesn't please Fangstench who, though blind, seems distressed by the feel of the sun's rays. You locate another exit from the den and deposit him in the shade of its opening along with a supplied of goodberries and rations, then bid him adieu, uncertain what fate awaits him.

Trudging back toward the human village you'd passed earlier, you cross the battle plain, still strewn with the fallen. Just as you approach the forest edge (see regional map), Dracul's eagle eyes spot a shape in the sky. A bird? A dragon? No—a great three-masted ship! From the cover of the trees you watch it glide silently overhead, apparently heading toward Elvanna's tower. It seems to be about 150 feet in length and very broad in beam.

Leng skyship
Cade shapechanges into a giant raven and, with the party made invisible by Gil'Doren, quickly bears Dracul, Gil'Doren, and Juan skyward in turn and deposits them near the main mast, amidships, on the upper deck of the ship. The only creatures you see are nine robed humanoids—the eerie tentacle-fingered beings from Leng you encountered in the Frost Giants' lair. Five are on the quarterdeck, while four others are clustered near the bow.

While Cade flies invisibly alongside, Juan sneaks down into the vessel's hold and explores the bales, barrels, and boxes of goods therein. He finds exotic textiles, a strange grey ash, and an unknown gelatinous substance. He also notes that much of the hold is devoted to metal cages, apparently designed to hold humanoid creatures. You recall that these creatures were rumoured to be slavers...

Elvanna's tower
Artist: Marc Simonetti
The ship glides to a halt near the apex of the tower and guards from the latter quickly lower a broad gangplank of sorts. A gaggle of frightened peasants is prodded into action: their job, it seems, is to unload cargo. Down into the hold they go, back up onto deck bearing their burden, across the gangplank and down narrow circular stairs into the tower. Juan follows and trips one of them, causing a commotion. Now visible, he grabs the dropped item and insinuates himself into the line of stevedores—unnoticed, for the moment.

Meanwhile, Stiepan the crow, perched on Cade's shoulders, has been cawing excitedly: he recognizes many of his friends from the raven aerie in the tower (situated one level below the apex). They call back, alerting the rookery master: she gazes suspiciously out. Still invisible, Cade opens a few of the cage doors and knocks others over. The commotion spreads!

On the ship, something arouses the suspicion of one of the Lengese. It descends from the quarterdeck and begins slowly moving along the length of the ship, its masked face scanning back and forth as if looking for something. Dracul and Gil'Doren can almost feel magical tentacles probing their thoughts...  and their thoughts are of escape! Cade swoops in and carries Gil'Doren over to the tower, then veers back to retrieve Dracul.

The Lengese who was investigating the ship turns abruptly and shouts something to its fellows. In turn, the human guard captain barks an order. Near Gil'Doren, a guard raises a horn to his lips—and is suddenly interrupted when an unusually tall Elf materializes from thin air and cleaves the horn in twain with a pair of swords!

It looks like all hell is about to break loose...

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Session 58 (21 March 2018)

Note to readers: This is a session re-cap of an ongoing D&D 5th edition campaign set in a loosely adapted version of N. Robin Crossby's Hârn. A journal of sessions 1 through 54, beginning in February 2015, can be found here.

In-world dates: 4-5 Ilvin 720 TR [first week of winter]
Moon: waxing crescent (full moon in 10 days)

It is near sunset. As the long shadows of the nearby trees stretch across the snowy plain, you float across the battlefield in misty form. Snowlined craters and scattered bodies tell of powerful explosions. The corpses are those of human warriors clad in the style of armour worn by the sentinel Dracul spotted atop the icy tower. Frozen solid in this frigid clime, it is difficult to tell how long they have been dead. Juan becomes corporeal and applies himself to looting the bodies, only to find that many appear to already have been stripped of personal possessions. Many are also missing limbs that appear to have been severed after their violent deaths.

So many d6s...
Movement near the forest edge catches your attention as the sun dips below the horizon. A half-dozen white-furred gargun — the smallest variety of the species — creep forth from the shelter of the trees and begin picking their way down the slope to the battlefield. Dracul become corporeal and strides confidently toward them, bellowing and brandishing his Searing Sword. Seeing only Dracul and Juan, the gargun bend their bows and loose arrows. Juan returns the favour while Dracul charges, but before the distance can be closed Gil'Doren drops a Fireball on the unfortunate scouts, creating yet another crater in the frozen earth. Cade, still Wind Walking, drifts up the slope even as Dracul's eagle eyes detect more movement amidst the trees. More gargun, it seems, lurk in the forest, uncertain of the nature of the threat. A theatrical breath of flame from Dracul clinches it: they flee. Cade floats behind and soon locates their lair deep in the woods, sending Stiepan the crow to direct the others to the site.

While Juan and Dracul mount guard outside, Cade and Gil'Doren Wind Walk into the warren of narrow tunnels that comprise the gargun lair. Following sound and smell, you emerge into a large cavern where a chaotic gaggle of gargun are loudly debating what to do. Some propose fighting, others flight. They seem to suspect that Queen Elvanna has sent a fire-breathing demon (Dracul) to hunt them. Using Prestidigitation and Thaumaturgy, Gil'Doren conjures a spectral head in their midst and, in a booming voice, calls for them to obey him. There is a minute of stunned silence, then panic. The gargun flee in every direction, emerging from various bolt-holes and scattering throughout the forest.

As you explore the cavern further, you discover a lone elderly gargun, paralyzed and blind, who has been abandoned by his fellows. Fangstench (as he is called) is convinced Gil'Doren must be some kind of god — an impression the elf encourages by providing various forms of miraculous succor to the suffering creature. Fangstench explains that the gargun of this land were once Elvanna's allies, helping her to overthrow the leaders of the human kingdom and take their lands for her own. Once installed on the throne and certain of local support, Elvanna turned on the gargun and had her servants, both human and others, hunt them down. Only a few pockets now remain. Yet the gargun hoped that their fortunes would soon improve, for they knew that Elvanna was a daughter of Baba Yaga and, according to lore, would thus only walk the earth for 100 years. Though gargun timekeeping is imperfect at best, they knew from the local humans that Elvanna's time was up... in theory. They were understandably dismayed when it became clear that Elvanna was continuing to rule well past her expiry date. Several weeks ago, a strange walking hut had appeared in the south and begun moving toward the icy tower. Fangstench's comrades witnessed what happened next: on the plain, Elvanna's forces staged an ambush. Though many of her soldiers and creatures were slain by powerful magics, Elvanna somehow succeeded in overcoming the hut's sorcerous occupant and carrying both off to her tower.

You decide to rest in the gargun warren, after spending considerable magical effort to eliminate or mask the most loathsome smells and filth. Keeping watch from within the safety of Leomund's Tiny Hut, you detect creatures creeping into the cavern. They look like gargun, but move in eery silence and with unnerving malevolent purpose, their eyes bottomless black pits. Frustrated by the magical barrier, they slink into the passages to wait. When the protective spell ends, Gil'Doren Dimension Doors to the surface with Fangstench while Cade, in giant badger form, rushes through the tunnels to the surface. But the undead gargun are upon him before he can make it! A desperate struggle in confined dark spaces ensues, but through liberal doses of fire and the transmuting of earth to stone, Cade manages to keep his attackers at bay — though several of their claws rake his legs and leave him feeling dangerously weakened and drained.

Safe on the surface in the harsh sun of a wintry morn, you pause to consider your next steps.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Session 57 (7 March 2018)

Note to readers: This is a session re-cap of an ongoing D&D 5th edition campaign set in a loosely adapted version of N. Robin Crossby's Hârn. A journal of sessions 1 through 54, beginning in February 2015, can be found here.

In-world date: 4 Ilvin 720 TR [first week of winter]
Moon: waxing crescent (full moon in 11 days)

As the pale winter sun climbs to its zenith, you sprint through the fresh snow toward the line of the forest, seeking cover before the flock of black birds reaches you. Slipping into the shadows of the tall conifers, you conceal yourselves well as the birds swoop amidst the trees. They are ravens! Cade the druid has hidden himself poorly, and soon the birds swirl about him, cawing menacingly. He listens to their speech: they are seeking the intruders spotted from the tower. Find them! Find them! Suddenly a great mass of spidery webs appears between the trees, netting more than a dozen of the birds: Gil'Doren has deployed his wand. As the trapped birds struggle to free themselves, the unrestrained ones seek to escape, but volleys of well-aimed missiles (loosed, thrown, and magical!) from Galindo, Juan, Dracul, and Gil'Doren bring them down. None of these ravens will report your existence to the tower.

(One of the ravens thus killed was in fact Cade, who had shapeshifted into a raven in an effort to insinuate himself into the group. Juan was so unnerved at having killed his comrade that he fumbled his next shot badly.)

Through Animal Friendship Cade coaxes one of the trapped ravens to stay by his side and share what it knows. The raven, Stiepan, and its fellows serve Queen Elvanna as messengers and spies. They live in an aerie atop the icy tower and are cared for by a human named Jairess. Stiepan remembers seeing an odd structure with bird's legs being carried into the tower a few days ago. Baba Yaga's hut, perhaps? He advises the party to submit to Queen Elvanna, for she is powerful and wont to cruelly punish those who thwart her, as the ravens know well.

Meanwhile, blasts of Dracul's fiery breath dispatches the other ravens still trapped in the webs.

While Galindo keeps watch from atop a tall spruce, others rest in Leomund's Tiny Hut. Galindo sees a massive winged shape emerge from the forest near the base of the tower — a white dragon spirals into the sky and begins a zigzag course over the forest and the plain, moving ever closer to the portal. Seeing your tracks in the snow, it follows them back to the treeline. From within the hut you hear the trees creaking as the dragon pushes its massive body between the close trunks, peering and sniffing for signs of your presence. Wary, it backs off and takes flight, returning to the tower.

From the treetops, you spotted several columns of smoke several miles to the east: a forest village, perhaps? You decide now to investigate further. Wind Walk-ing across the distance, you discover a frontier settlement, a score of dwellings at most. The inhabitants are human, hewers of wood and drawers of water. Their speech is strange to your ears. A fortified wooden storehouse dominates the western edge of the village, and a strange icy statue of an imperious queen towers over the village square. The villagers lower their heads and stop talking whenever they pass near it.

 Pursuing your course, you follow a well-trodden trail leading south through the forest and back toward the plain. It is not long before you discover a strange sight: signs of a massive battle fought recently with sword, arrow, and spell. You stop to investigate.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Session 56 (7 February 2018)

Note to readers: This is a session re-cap of an ongoing D&D 5th edition campaign set in a loosely adapted version of N. Robin Crossby's Hârn. A journal of sessions 1 through 54, beginning in February 2015, can be found here.

In-world date: 4 Ilvin 720 TR [first week of winter]
Moon: waxing crescent (full moon in 11 days)

Winter wolf
Credit: Unknown
After a hurried council of war, you plunge through the glowing blue portal... and emerge in a sunny but bitterly cold wintry landscape. Though there is no storm here, the cold bites even more deeply than before. You are in the midst of an open plain. As on the other side, a circle of jagged columns of ice surround the portal from which you have stepped. To the north and east, a forest of snow-draped evergreens lines the horizon. Rising above the treetops you can see a distant pale tower, its icy flanks reflecting the sun's rays like a mirror. You have little time to examine your surroundings further before another ice devil rushes toward you across the plain. As Dracul rushes to meet it in battle, the sound of howling reaches your ears through the crisp air as the first members of a pack of white lupine creatures emerge from the forest and lope across the plain in your direction.

The battle is fierce, but you prevail in the end. Loosing well-aimed arrows from atop an elephant (Cade), Juan and Galindo inflict devastating damage on the devil, equalling the mighty blows from Dracul's Searing Sword. Badly wounded, the ice devil attempts to flee but is brought low by a final arrow from Gil'Doren, whose fireballs had also decimated the pack of winter wolves.

"Crows in winter" by N. C. Wyeth
As silence descends over the battlefield, Dracul's eagle eyes zoom in on the parapets of the ice tower: an armoured figure, its features obscured by the gleaming metal helm on its head, stares in your direction. A flock of dark flyers spirals about the tower and peels away in your direction: crows. Servants of the tower, perhaps?

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Session 55 (24 January 2018)

Note to readers: This is a session re-cap of an ongoing D&D 5th edition campaign set in a loosely adapted version of N. Robin Crossby's Hârn. A journal of the previous 54 sessions, beginning in February 2015, can be found here.

In-world date: 4 Ilvin 720 TR

(Session re-cap by Takeda)

Ice Devil
Credit: D&D 5th edition Monster Manual
We encountered the source of the ice tempest as a six-piece Ice Henge that is a gateway to another realm that was guarded by an Ice Devil. Gil’Doren Nat20’d on Initiative, Dimension Door’d Maslorius and himself 500’ away, with the intent to DD everyone to safety. In the meantime Juan & Dracul were going to try to trip the Ice Devil into the Well of Worlds. Juan threw down the Well, the Devil (14’ tall), failed its Dex save and tripped in. It grabbed onto the ground around the Well as if it was like a person falling into a manhole. Juan had so offended it it risked attacking him with one claw and Juan was hit. Dracul slashed down upon its other hand with his flaming sword. The blade sunk into its hand and it pulled it back reflexively and dropped through the Well to an unknown destination. Gil’Doren DD’d back to find Dracul & Juan celebrating their win. Gil’Doren was disappointed he had missed the action and began sulking immediately.  He started walking back to get Maslorius. A dark-armoured humanoid stumbled out of the gate pierced by a large icicle/crystal. It falls to the ground reaching out its hand to Dracul and Juan croaking a plea for help. Uncertain about this individual’s identity and feeling weary Dracul and Juan hesitated to lend aid. After some thought and another plea for help Dracul abandoned caution and approached the person. They removed the helm and found a man, an old grizzled man, impaled by a crystal of ice. They called Gil’Doren back to heal him. Gil’Doren seeing an opportunity to be heroic rushed back. The stranger told of his story: He is a Knight of Baga Yaga, pledged to her service. Her daughters reign in her stead for 300-years at a time. Her current reigning daughter does not want to abdicate her rule and is instead reaffirming her power and beginning an invasion of Hârn. He stated that the only way to permanently close the gate was from the other side and then the one on Hârn. He wasn’t going to make it (scripted) so Gil’Doren hiked back to Maslorius. Juan and Dracul continued to guard the Ice Henge.
Dying Rider of Baba Yaga

Adds Gil'Doren: "Unfortunately, it is dangerously presumptuous to assume that the Ice Devil is deceased. It may be able to return unimpeded in an undetermined period of time, depending upon where the Well sent it. We must be exceedingly careful going forward as without a tremendous amount of luck we might have been all flash-frozen for an eternity. Now that we know what we are opposed by, which threatens not only this realm but our world I would suggest we return to convey this to the Queen. She may be able to communicate a need to rally to the defence of our world. These devils are very powerful and if they are serving as merely guards to this despot than we are truly in trouble!"