Monday, February 25, 2019

The Hârnic Sandbox: Another Twenty Questions

These questions, proposed by Brendan S. back in 2012, followed Jeff Rients' twenty questions for explicating a campaign setting. Brendan's focus more on rules clarifications. The answers here pertain to the sandbox campaign that's just begun on Roll20. Learn more here.

  1. Ability scores generation method?  Roll 3d6 in order for Str, Int, Wis, Dex, Con, and Cha; after selecting a class some scores may be lowered to raise a prime requisite. Conditions apply: read the fine print for your class. There is also a hopeless character clause.
  2. How are death and dying handled?  When your character's hit points fall to zero, they are incapacitated, unconscious, and life is slipping away. (I'm using "they" as a gender neutral singular pronoun.) When it's their turn to act in the subsequent round, make a saving throw against Death Ray. (Any damage taken in the meantime is applied as a penalty to the roll, which in some cases may make success impossible.) On a successful save, the character remains as is;  on a failed save, the character dies. If the PC is still alive, they can make another saving throw against Death Ray on each subsequent round, but at a cumulative penalty of -1. As long as the PC has not failed a saving throw, allies may apply first aid or magical healing to bring the PC's hit point above 0, at which point they are no longer dying. The take-away here is, if your allies are close and provide help, you have a fair chance of surviving.
  3. What about raising the dead?  A 7th-level cleric can help you out, but it'll cost you — and not just gold! Apply at any major temple in a large settlement. Note that for philosophical reasons, the Sindarin (elfs) aren't big on recalling their fallen comrades from the beyond. There are, of course, exceptions.
  4. How are replacement PCs handled?  Your replacement PC will be integrated as soon as they are created — literally the next round, if you're that fast. I recommend Ram's random Basic D&D character generator as the perfect cure for that inopportune mid-session fatality. Alternatively, if you have been grooming a retainer, they can immediately become your new PC.
  5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else? Group, except in special situations.
  6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?  When you roll a natural 20 to-hit, your attack is successful (assuming the target can be damaged with the weapons you wield) and inflicts maximum damage. On a natural 1 to-hit, you miss your target and have a -2 penalty to all actions and attacks until the end of the next round while you recover from the fumble.
  7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?   Helms shall be sundered: lose your helm to avoid taking damage from an opponent's physical attack. You can decide after damage is rolled. You are stunned for 1d4 rounds. Shields also work this way, but without the stunning. Magical helms and shields that are sundered/splintered are irreparable. I know, it sucks, but it probably saved your life! Obviously this won't work against a pixie's dagger, a bee's sting, or a snake bite: it has to be an attack that could conceivably splinter a shield. Only metal helms qualify.
  8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?  It depends.  If you’re fighting a Great Wyrm or a Cloud Giant, it should be no problem.  If all your allies are paired off against similarly sized humanoid opponents, the actual target of your shot will be determined randomly.
  9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?  You will sometimes need to run, which means you will want to be as unencumbered as is reasonably possible. Plate mail armour is great on the battlefield but may be a liability in the dungeon — just sayin'!
  10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?  Yes, but you don't actually lose experience points.  Attacks by certain monsters may cause the character to gain one or more negative levels. If the subject has at least as many negative levels as Hit Dice, he or she dies. Each negative level gives a creature the following penalties: -1 penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, ability checks; loss of 4 hit points; and -1 to effective level (for determining the power, duration, and other details of spells or special abilities). In addition, a spellcaster loses one spell, which is always the highest one they have prepared. Negative levels can be removed through rest and recuperation over a long period or through the intervention of a high-level cleric.
  11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?  Unless you're already at 0 hit points, it will be fairly rare to save or die — always assuming one doesn't do anything absurd (deliberately drinking poison, for example).
  12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?  We use the "encumbrance by armour type" system. 
  13. What’s required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?  You'll need to get out of danger (or the dungeon, or whatever) and into some kind of safe haven, consult a trainer, and spend one game week mastering your new skills. Clerics and elves acquire new spells according to the normal rules (see p. X11), whereas magic-users only acquire new spells by finding them or researching them.
  14. What do I get experience for?  Treasure recovered and spent, defeating foes, exploring/discovering strange lands and secrets, achieving personal goals, carousing. Also: writing session reports or otherwise representing the experience in art, song, dance, etc.
  15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?  A combination; much depends on the circumstances. In dungeon settings, I'll assume you are always on the lookout for traps.
  16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?  (A) Not discouraged but not required and (b) more or less by the book. Retainers are useful to guard your stuff and your person.  If you want to pass as gentlefolk, you will certainly need at least one such servitor.  Their morale will depend in part on your PC’s Charisma score.  Be discerning in your treatment of retainers for your enemies will almost certainly attempt to bribe or subvert them.
  17. How do I identify magic items?  You may be able to pay someone typically, a sage or some other specialist —  to do it for you.  Alternatively, you can experiment cautiously with the item.
  18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?  There are no magical emporia (Wands ‘R Us?) or anything like that, but you may come across rare individuals who can sell you such items, or provide them in return for a valuable service.
  19. Can I create magic items? When and how?  At name level, clerics, elves, and magic-users can attempt to produce magic items. Unless someone is paying you, you will need a stronghold, followers, and considerable wealth to undertake the process. Success is never guaranteed. 
  20. What about splitting the party?  Sure, if you think it’s a good idea ... but see the answer to question 2 above.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Session 67 (6 February 2019)

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: 9–10 Ilvin 720 TR [second week of winter]
Daylight hours: 9
Moon: waxing crescent (full moon on 15 Ilvin)

Ulassa awakened.
You teleport to Elshavel and spend a pleasant afternoon in that wondrous realm of the Sindarin. Cade consults with the gardner Yar, who has been having some difficulty cultivating the vegetation you brought from the Underdark. The tree he has awakened adopts the name Ulassa and the pronouns "they/them." Gil'Doren explores his new home — the house bequeathed to him by his former mentor in wizardry— and stumbles across a cache containing some interesting items, including a Ring of Resistance, a Tome of Valour, and various financial records relating to his mentor's house and her arcane consulting business. Juan also "explores" other rooms in Gil'Doren's pad and discovers some erotically tinged drawings which pique his interest. He then, with Dracul, ventures forth to party with the elfs. Gil'Doren, meanwhile, meets with one of Queen Aranath's advisors and expands upon the party's request for aid.

On the morrow, the party meets with Queen Aranath. She delivers unto you four Sun Blades (two swords, a dagger, and a spear), heirlooms of the clans of Elshavel, to aid you in your confrontation with Malevix. In addition, each member of the party receives cloaks and boots made by the Sindarin. Eight potions of Water Breathing are also provided should you seek to contact the storm giants.

King Miginath
You Wind Walk to the northeast, covering the leagues to Kaldor with great speed. By mid-afternoon you approach the north gate of the walled town of Tashal (pop. 11,400), the second-largest city on Hârn and the royal seat of the kingdom. The guards and townsfolk alike are astonished by the arrival of such a motley company — claiming to bear a message for the king, no less! There is a short delay as messengers run back and forth (and while Gil'Doren and Cade entertain the gathering crowd with magical displays). But as you obviously bear the favour of the Elf Queen, you are soon admitted to the royal castle for an interview with the elderly King Miginath. As you are ushered into his court, you note the tensions between various factions angling to seize the throne once this childless monarch dies.

"What news from our friends the Sindarin of Evael?" is the question you must answer.

Image credits:
Ulassa: Drawing by Unona on Flickr
King Miginath: Renaissance celebrity photoshopping contest at, now DesignCrowd.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Hârnic Sandbox: A Fortnightly Online Game

Illustration from a Speculum Virginum ("Mirror of Virgins"), c. 1200.
Source: Bibliotheca Augustana via Wikipedia Commons

What: A sandbox-style D&D game set in a loose adaptation of N. Robin Crossby's Hârn, a fantastical analog of medieval Britain. The system is Basic/Expert D&D (Moldvay/Cook & Marsh). It's FLAILSNAILS-friendly! Ideal for PCs of levels 1–4 in old-school systems.
When: Wednesday 13 February and every second week thereafter, 7–9 pm PST
Where: Roll20
Who: All are welcome — no experience necessary.
Why: ...
How to get started: Roll up a new B/X character (or use the random character generator below to get one in milliseconds) and sign up on Roll20 at the link above. (FLAILSNAILers: just bring a PC you'd like to play, bearing in mind the "handicap" table for high-level characters in low-level games. You may, or may not, also want to take into account the extent to which your PC might stand out or blend in while adventuring among the humans, dwarfs, and elfs of Hârn.)

B/X Essentials, a rationalized compilation of B/X rules by Gavin Norman (including free text-only versions)
Labyrinth Lord, a B/X retroclone by Daniel Proctor (free no-art version)
Basic D&D random character generator by Ramanan Sivaranjan
The FLAILSNAILS conventions at Jeff's Gameblog
Hârn map and primer from Columbia Games (free)
Principia Apocrypha, a primer for "old-school" gaming (also free)

The Original Twenty Questions

as proposed by Jeff Rients
  1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?  There are ten major deities and hundreds of minor ones. The former run the typical thematic range from truth and virtue to chaos and death. Pick one!
  2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?  Any of Hârn's cities or towns will have most standard items; remote rural villages will only have a limited range of goods.
  3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?  You could try any one of the eight walled towns but your best bet would be the Khuzdul (Dwarfish) capital, Azadmere. The Khuzdul know something about smithing.
  4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?  Check with the Shek-Pvar, or Guild of Arcane Lore; their chantries are scattered throughout the land, mostly in the towns. Whoever they are, there's a decent chance they're from the kingdom of Melderyn in the southeast — its nickname is the "Wizards' Isle."
  5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?  It's always changing, of course, as the pool of candidates is constantly renewed due to frequent injuries and deaths. There are any number of famous knights gadding about, but there are also an unknown number of barbarian heroes that aren't really known outside their tribe. The Orbaalese petty kingdoms in the north produce a regular stream of Beowulf types.
  6. Who is the richest person in the land?  Difficult to say. The Thardic Republic in the west is a plutocracy that efficiently channels wealth to its ruling families; a lot of its senators are pretty loaded. On the other hand, some of the leading merchants from the kingdom of Melderyn do pretty well for themselves with trade to the nearby continent. And the city of Tashal in Kaldor is the hub of trade for the entire island.
  7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?  Ordinary folk rely on the Guild of Apothecaries and/or the Society of Physicians for help with ailments; special folks like yourselves may be able to get divine healing from a powerful cleric, assuming you are in good standing with one of the local churches. Maybe in return for a favour ...
  8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?  Apothecaries and physicians might be able to help with poisoning and some kinds of diseases. For supernatural problems, the Guild of Arcane Lore is your best recourse. Death is not necessarily final, but the powerful magics required to reverse this state are not easy to access. You will have to pay dearly — and with more than mere gold.
  9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?  Yeah, the Shek-Pvar or Guild of Arcane Lore. Wizards keep their secrets close, however; usually you need to find someone you trust to trade spells with. 
  10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?  Look in one of the eight walled towns. Across the water to the east, the continent of Lythia has many marvellous cities teeming with all manner of talented professionals. Hârn is actually kind of backward compared to many of the Lythian civilizations.
  11. Where can I hire mercenaries?  Sell-swords abound, mostly in the eight walled towns. You can find Viking types up north in Orbaal. Rare and exotic mercenaries from Lythia can also be found here and there, especially in Melderyn.
  12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?  In principle, wizards everywhere are regulated by the Guild of Arcane Lore, but in practice this mostly applies in the towns; in the countryside, hedge wizards/witches/shamans operate largely without oversight (but are at the mercy of the communities they serve). Universally, the use of magic to cause harm is a crime. Infractions are investigated by the guild but punishable by systems of royal justice, which typically deal harshly with the criminal use of magic. Everyone has heard of at least one tongueless or fingerless ex-wizard/cleric who will cast no more after a run-in with the law.
  13. Which way to the nearest tavern?  It's pseudo-medieval fantasyland Britain: taverns are everywhere, even if it's just a peasant hutch serving days-old ale.
  14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?  Have you heard about the Ivashu? They're monstrosities created by the god Ilvir that pop up unpredictably. Some are captured for use in gladiatorial arenas in Rethem and Tharda, but others rampage across the countryside and wreak considerable damage. (Many, however, are simply harmless unless provoked.)
  15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?  The kingdom of Rethem is famous for its bloody political intrigues and its king is itching for a war of conquest with his neighbour, Kanday. News from Melderyn is that giants and gargûn (orcs) have sacked several towns.
  16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?  The games are called the Pamesani and they're held twice each month in the western cities of Golotha, Coranan, and Shiran. They're organized by the clerics of Agrik, the fiery god of cruelty and destruction. (In decent places like Melderyn and Kaldor, the worship of Agrik is outlawed.)
  17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?  Yeah there are, mostly relating to cults of various kinds. There's also the Lia-Kavair, or Thieves' Guild, but they're not really that sinister: they're mostly into limited wealth redistribution — at least, that's how it appears to most people.
  18. What is there to eat around here?  Everything you could eat in medieval Britain, plus the potato.
  19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?  The forgotten secrets of the Earthmasters, an ancient civilization whose wondrous ruins dot the land, are totally what you're looking for.
  20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?  Head out from any town and, after a few days riding away from civilization, ask the local peasants what's eating them — figuratively and literally. Go from there.  

Disclaimers and disclosures

The setting is not canon Hârn, nor is the game intended to be especially Hârnesque in the sense of striving for medieval realism. This Hârn merely provides a fund of geographical and sociopolitical details that serve as the backdrop for good old D&D shenanigans. I roll on lots of tables, only some of which have anything to do with Hârn.

Finally: this game is all about player agency. Be whomever you want, do whatever you want. But it's also about a safe space for the exercise of your imagination. If it were a movie, I'd suggest a PG-13 rating in the MPAA classification — that is to say, in the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ballpark. In our exchanges, I look forward to exemplary civility and respectfulness as you and your comrades plot how best to slay monsters and take their stuff. Or save the world. Or achieve spiritual enlightenment. Whatever turns your crank!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Session 66 (23 January 2019)

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: 8-9 Ilvin 720 TR [second week of winter]
Moon: waxing crescent (full moon on 15 Ilvin)

Swept up in a furious mêlée with the vampires, you deal significant damage to six of them, reducing them to clouds of mist that float away, seeking their grave in hopes of regenerating. Malevix, Dracul's father, escapes from the fray carrying the still-breathing body of Sildar Hallwinter, knight of Melderyn. Galindo and Juan follow in mist form (the Wind Walk spell is still in effect for them) while Dracul and Gil'Doren battle the bloodsucking undead with sword and spell.

Malevix's flight ends at the end of a passage that opens on a vast underground chasm. He shouts, "To me!" and his vampire cronies — at least, those still in corporeal form — instantly shapechange into bats and swarm in his direction, joined by other (normal) bats that suddenly appear. As Dracul, followed by the somewhat slower elf, rush after them down the passage, Malevix turns and holds Sildar's limp form out over the chasm.

"Dracul, my son — join me! Take up the sword I gave you and claim your birthright!" he commands.

"I will not!" replies Dracul.

"Then your friend shall die," declares Malevix, changing into a bat and releasing his grip on Sildar, who plunges into the great bottomless rift. A parting Fireball from Gil'Doren slays many of the normal bats, but the vampires escape into the darkness.

After ensuring that the bodies of Sildar's slain companions will not rise as vampire thralls, you teleport to Cherafir, capital of Melderyn, and give your report. Androkles, the head of the king's council, listens to your tale of woe: Sildar's death will bring dismay to many in the realm. He has bad news of his own: Melderene ships, sent to scout the coasts for signs of the giants, have been disappearing; sailors and fishermen report seeing Storm Giants riding great sea creatures, and one claims that he saw a kraken destroy a naval vessel. Androkles is not sure whether to give credence to such tales, but the fact is, the kingdom is blind, especially now that Sildar and his rangers are dead.

You speak to Queen Aranath of Evael through one of the crystals she gave you. She has no news, but declares the Sindarin ready to march agains the giants. She offers you elf-forged sun blades to help you against the vampires, and suggests that if you wish to make contact with the storm giants, you needs must sail to a location far out in the western ocean.

You consider three courses of action:

  • travel to Kaldor to convince that kingdom to lend its support to the struggle against the giants
  • contact the Storm Giants to discover why they are helping their lesser kin, the Hill, Frost, and Fire Giants in their unjust war against the free folk of Hârn
  • try to enlist the help of Venomfang the Green Dragon, and through him perhaps other dragons, in the fight against Giant domination

You decide upon the first option, planning first to teleport to Elshavel, collect the sun blades, and then to travel overland to Kaldor. You rest, gather supplies and intelligence, and set out on the morrow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A calendar of events thus far in TR 720

Hârnic date Corresponding Gregorian date Event
22 Azura Late October Leave Thay.
24 Azura Arrive Phandalin.
7 Halane Early November Spellforge explodes in Wave Echo Cave.
10 Halane Murder Hill Giant.
12 Halane Fight Venomfang.
20 Halane Explore abandoned Khuzan mine.
21 Halane Mid-November Giants destroy Phandalin.
26 Halane Late November Rescue of Hill Giant captives.
9 Savor Early December Arrive in Azadmere.
15-17 Savor Raid on Frost Giant rift.
20 Savor Mid-December Giants take Thay.
24-25 Savor Explore Telumar (Earthmaster complex).
26 Savor Meet Deep Gnomes of Djebel (Underdark).
28 Savor Raid on the Fire Giants' mountain.
30 Savor Arrive Melderyn.
2 Ilvin Late December Arrive Elshavel.
5 Ilvin Defeat Elvanna.
6 Ilvin Defend Elshavel vs White Dragons.
8 Ilvin Early January Fight with Malevix.

Sessions 65 through 68 (Sept. to Nov. 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: 6–8 Ilvin 720 TR [first week of winter]
Moon: waxing crescent (full moon on 15 Ilvin)

6 Ilvin
  • Alexandria takes Heidi to return her to her village.
  • The party murderates the vizir and guards who discover Leomund's Tiny Hut inside the treasury.
  • Cade, a prisoner aboard the skyship, is interrogated by the Lengese, who seem principally interested in maximizing their profit from trade in slaves and gems.
  • Cade escapes by shapeshifting into a bug; unfortunately, many of his the pets he had about his person were destroyed when he was thrust into the Amphoron's crushing mechanism. The Lengese appear uninterested in recapturing him.
  • Reunited with the party, Cade uses Transport via Plants to bring the group back to the Lengese skyship. (He had planted moss there before escaping for good.) Sneaking into the hold, the party locates Baba Yaga's hut and releases Baba Yaga from her magical prison.
  • Baba Yaga invites the party into her hut — it is, astonishingly, much bigger on the inside! — and teleports back to the portal leading to Evael on Hârn.
  • Baba Yaga
  • Baba Yaga gives Juan an unbreakable crowbar; she also gives Cade several gems. The party agrees to loan her the Well of Many Worlds and the Prison of Zagig so that she may better track down and capture her daughter Elvanna. She also warns them of two flying creatures rapidly approaching from the west.
  • Dracul's eagle eyes notes that the flyers are two white dragons. The party hastily passes through the portal.
  • Back in Evael, the wintry storm seems to be subsiding. Cade uses Wind Walk to bring the party swiftly back to the Sindarin capital, Elshavel (his mentor maintained a teleportation circle in her house there).
  • Queen Aranath welcomes the party, who recount their adventures and the vanquishing of Elvanna. Aranath rewards them with gifts: Boots of Speed for Juan, a shirt of fine elven mail for Gil'Doren, a Horn of Blasting for Dracul, and a Staff of the Woodlands for Cade.
  • The white dragons attack Elshavel! In the ensuing battle, Cade and Dracul land on one dragon's back, while the other is attacked by a flying Gil'Doren and potent incendiary spells.  Juan mans a ballista and wreaks havoc.
  • The dragons are destroyed, though many Sindarin fall in the course of battle. Queen Aranath thanks the party for their valour and bestows a blessing upon them. She also gives them some crystals that can be used for scrying, to distribute to the nations of the alliance that is forming against the Giant-Drow-Lengese coalition.
  • The party rests.  Gil'Doren inherits his mentor's old home in Elshavel— she left some years ago and deeded all her possessions to him — and proceeds to scour her grimoires for new spells.
7 Ilvin
  • Using a teleportation circle within his former mentor's home, Gil'Doren brings the party to the capital of the kingdom of Melderyn, which they find well fortified.
  • After receiving an update on the strategic situation from the kingdom's ministers, the party decides to prioritize finding Maslorius. Scrying the gnome, you find he is moping in some kind of prison cell. Using Transport via Plants (there is moss on the wall or something) you drop in and rescue him.
  • Back in Melderyn, the party scries upon Malevix, Dracul's father: he is seen interrogating a prisoner in a castle that you think is Gythrun, an important Melderene port on the Hârnic mainland.
8 Ilvin
  • The party Transports via Plants to Azadmere and meets with the kingdom's spymaster, Fjola. After some rest, you scry on Malevix again: this time you see him in bat form, flying in a swarm toward the south. You Transport via Plants to a nearby tree and Wind Walk, tailing the bats to an abandoned tower on on the coast across from the island of Melderyn. The bats fly down into the depths of the tower where a group of Melderene knights, clad as rangers are resting. The bats revert to vampire form and attack! You shift out of cloud shapes yourselves and take on the evil undead...

Friday, July 13, 2018

Session 64 (11 July 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)

Opening the door, Juan and Dracul discover within a wizard's study and laboratory: the walls are lined with shelves full of arcane jarred or dried ingredients (eye of newt, toe of frog, etc.), some utterly unidentifiable. In the middle is a large workbench with alchemical apparatus and a variety of instruments. On one end of the table sits a small, ornate birdcage containing a mouse. Beside it, lying open, is a large book. On the visible page is an illustration depicting a birdcage that closely resembles the one nearby. In one corner of the room, there is a 10-foot-diameter raised dais of ice with low steps leading up to it; in another, an extremely lifelike ice statue of a female human warrior. The latter looks strangely familiar...

While Juan ransacks the room for things of value (after taking care to wedge the door closed), Dracul examines the statue and realizes it's Alexandria, the Amazon warrior you had encountered previously, both in waking life and in the odd collective dream you had of a labyrinthine ice tower. Activating his Searing Sword, the dragonborn warrior carefully thaws out the frozen Amazon. Meanwhile, Juan hears movement outside and takes measures to secure the door. Peeking through the keyhole, he sees a slim figure robed in white approach the door, try the handle and, finding the door barred, bend down to peer through the keyhole. He thus comes eye to eye with a pale woman whose emotionless expression is as cold as the aura she exudes. She straightens abruptly and leaves.

Released from her icy prison, Alexandria explains that she was captured while investigating the tower and imprisoned in ice by the ice queen herself several days ago. Though unable to move or speak, the Amazon was nonetheless able to perceive, dimly, some of the activity around her. The ice dais, she notes, seems to be a teleportation device of some kind through which the ice queen occasionally enters and exits the laboratory. She also observed the ice queen repeatedly speaking to the mouse in the birdcage, but the latter never replied.

Image result for birdcage metal exoticDracul sets about performing the ritual magic that will allow him to Speak to Animals while Alexandria and Juan make preparations against attack, either via the door or the teleportation dais. As a precaution, Juan unfolds the Well of Many Worlds and spreads the silken fabric atop the dais. Sure enough, moments later, the ice queen materializes on the dais... and promptly plummets through the Well!

Meanwhile, Dracul engages the mouse in dialogue. It is (as your dream suggested) none other than Baba Yaga herself. She does not know how to free herself from the birdcage; presumably Elvanna, her daughter, knows a command word. The cage itself appears to be indestructible. Baba Yaga inquires after her hut, but you do not know its whereabouts.

There is hammering at the door: guards and wolves! Time to go. Leaping onto the teleportation dais, you speak the command word — Alexandria and Baba Yaga have heard the ice queen using it – and are instantly conveyed to a sumptuously decorated bedroom: a vast ornate bed draped in the finest white silks, fine tapestries, and a large locked chest occupy the space. In the corner stands another ice statue, this one of a young girl in peasant garb. While Dracul sets about thawing the girl, Juan picks the lock on the chest, inadvertently setting off an icy explosion! He is rewarded, however, by discovery of several scrolls and a superbly crafted arrow within. Alexandria searches for another exit, and finds one in the form of a secret door. Unable to figure out how to open it, Juan resorts to hacking at it with his crowbar. The girl, it turns out, is named Heidi, and asks to be returned to her mother in the village. Baba Yaga, however, tells you Heidi is very likely Elvanna's daughter (and thus her own grand-daughter).

Two hundred feet below, at the base of the ice tower, Gil'Doren lands softly (thanks to Feather Fall) and finds himself confronted by two very confused guards at the tower entrance. Snaring them in a magical Web, the tall elf races inside and begins a hasty search for a route leading to the upper levels whence he fell. Bypassing several doors, he notices a secret door which he succeeds in opening: it leads to a securely locked vault and to some kind of administrator's office. Realizing that he is being hunted by the guards, he Dimension Doors to the tower's parapets and, seeing no one, begins to descend the stairs. He passes a section of wall through which come sounds of chopping and hammering, notices a secret door, opens it and.... finds himself face to face with Juan, Dracul, and Alexandria.

Reunited at last (but without Cade, who was last seen being processed by a mechanical monster), you return via stairs to the lower levels and duck into the passage leading to the vault. Juan succeeds in picking its three locks, but is jabbed by a poisoned needle. Inside, you discover a great deal of wealth – all mundane items, but of considerable value. Safely ensconced within Leomund's Tiny Hut, you settle down to rest and plan your next move.