It's a new year, but the same ol' campaign, and it started out with a doozy! Though a few players didn't make it, there were just enough to keep everyone from dying horribly. Barely.
- Rig Bigny, Gnomish Beastmaster
- Flit, the bat familiar
- Clench, the
- Faufe Yitaw, Dogwere (Badgerwere?)
- Rawf, Wardog familiar
- Caranthir, Human Leader of Men
- Rhea Trueheart, Elvish Nightblade
- Lucille "Luce" Burwood, Fighter
- Elenora Garrard, White Mage
- Gróin of Norston, Dwarven Sapper
- Zarc, Thrassian Gladiator
- ???, Priestess
- Llarm Paphyra, Elvish Polydoctorate
- The Metal Man, construct
- Airsen Birdmaster, Airwalker (stayed at Falach a'Bhaile)
- Erik Stein, Dwarven Vaultguard
- Loriel Straight Arrow, Elven Ranger (temporarily away)
As the group was finally leaving Falach a'Bhaile, they were stopped by a pudgy, panting gnome, who handed them a letter; they quickly read through it:
To Whom It May Concern:
We, the Undersigned Lords of the Western Plains, bid you Greetings. We require the services of an Investigative Party, one capable of protecting itself, while also discerning the Truth. We have set out Barrister to select a group of cunning and capable adventurers, such as yourselves.
Should you accept our offer, we are willing to pay handsomely: not only may you keep any goods attained during your investigation, but we are willing to invest G5,000 in your preparation, and at least double that amount upon the completion of your duties, and depending on the outcome of your efforts.
The task we set forward is this: The surreptitious investigation of Lord Dracull of the western Wild Plains. His actions have begun to disrupt the smooth political operation of land neighboring his own. Furthermore, his life has been suspiciously long, and though he has been married a number of times, he has yet to produce an heir. Several lords suspect his success has been fueled by Dark Magic. If it is found to be so, the Church would be pleased with the destruction of such a reprehensible creature - as would we all.
The letter was signed by Lord Vincent Aldervat, Lord Evan Elpus, Lady Christiana Vascelles, Lord Tomas Cordova, and Lord Dunstan Kirkhill.
Additionally, there was a second letter, and a sealed envelope. The second letter was from Lord Cordova, and read:
To Whom It May Concern:
I beseech you, whatever comes of Lord Dracull, see that no harm comes to my daughter, Lady Dracull. Please deliver the sealed letter to her; it is for her eyes only. And spare no cost in protecting my Consuela; I will gladly refund any expense you incur. Money means nothing over the safety of my family. Respectfully, Lord Cordova
Unfortunately, as Rig was reading the second letter, Caranthir tore open the envelope, realizing his mistake half way through. After some discussion, the party decided they might as well finish opening the letter, as long as it was already damaged, and hope to repair it later. The letter, written by the same hand as the second letter, read:
My Dearest Consuela,
If you can find it in your heart, please forgive me. I pray daily that no harm comes to you because of my own hot-headed, stubborn pride. I know that our last interaction ended in harsh words; I am afraid our passionate Majastan blood prevails over your mother’s clear head far too often. Nevertheless, I beseech you to trust these adventurers; I have instructed them to protect you at any cost.
Your loving father, Tomas Cordova
The barrister - as that is who the gnome really was - asked if they would consider the offer; after a bit of discussion, they decided they would, and were given a bag of 5,000 gold pieces. The barrister added that they would be paid double, or possibly triple that amount, depending on the outcome of their efforts.
After four days' travel, they reached the farms and ranches of Lord Dracull. The house was very large, with trimmed hedges and a sparkling fountain out front. Gróin wondered if the fountain was filled with blood; somehow, everyone was convinced that the Lord was, in fact, a vampire. I'm sure I have no idea why.
As they pulled up to the front door, a man stepped out of the shadows and offered to put up their cart and horses. They stepped into the large foyer, where they were greeted by Lady Consuela Dracull, Lord Dracull's wife. She read the letter from her father (cunningly disguised as an unopened letter), and decided that she would, indeed, trust the adventurers. As it turns out, while she was smitten by Lord Dracull before their marriage, he was a different man now that he had returned home. He was caught up in his business all day, speaking with farmers and servants, and going over his books tirelessly, from sunrise to sunset. Consuela pointed them to their rooms on the second floor, and told them that dinner would be served at sunset - causing more significant looks and muttering among the party members.
Upstairs, Caranthir and his henchwomen opted for naps, while Rig and his henchbadgers looked for anything out of place. Gróin wandered the area, slowly, concentrating on a spell of Detect Treasure. And indeed, there was a very large treasure to be found! Somewhere on the east end of the building, below them, was treasure, and lots of it! He wandered towards the Great Hall, but found only basic stuff - swords, armor, and paintings. Eventually, he found the stairs down to the basement, and located a locked door, which surely guarded the treasure. After a quick tour of the servant's quarters (and many questions to the staff about garlic), he returned.
|Is that... an escargot fork?|
Supper began, a lavish affair; it was obvious that their host was well-traveled and well-off. Gróin's priestess managed to communicate "Start with the outside forks!", though oddly, Zarc the lizardman seemed to know exactly what to do, and looked quizzically at Caranthir and his barbaric dinner manners. After soup, then salad, then a light palate cleanser, everyone was served the main course, with each diner served a custom plate. The lizardmen and Faufe were served juicy, very lightly served steak; Rig was served various finger-food, fried things, and other traditional gnomish food; Caranthir and Luce were given hearty meat-and-potatoes; Gróin was served a thick loaf, gravy, dark ale, and roast; the priestess had a traditional Mejastan course (think mainland Spanish); the nightblade had a rich salad, with creamy dressing and seared meat. Dracull ate a pair of roast fowl, while his wife had braised duck and rice. Overall, everyone was impressed with the quality and quantity of food, especially after weeks of trail rations. Throughout the meal, Lord Dracull spoke with the adventurers, and they shared a few of their adventures with him. He, in turn, gave a brief overview of his own adventures - none so exciting, of course, as he mostly did books and met with farmers. Near the end of the meal, after more palate cleansers and wine (of which the lord had a glass of thick, red liquid), they finally ate dessert and ran out of forks and spoons. Dracull lead everyone to the Conservatory, where he enjoyed a pipe of fresh tobacco - his own crop. Eventually, he declared that he had to retire to bed, and would be leaving early in the morning.
|The book's symbol|
His wife, meanwhile, caught Caranthir's sleeve, and asked if she could speak with him. She took him to the library, and told him about the comings and goings of her husband. Llarm and the priestess walked the halls, looking for magical and evil items; apart from a knife in the Great Hall, and a book in the library, there were no evil items found, at least as far as they could tell. There were a great number of magical items, however. Rig spoke with several animals - some hunting dogs, which told him about their weekly (or so) hunts, and how they had fought a large boar once; the horses, who admitted to being a little skittish around Lord Dracull; and an owl, the pet of the bird-keeper who looked after Lord Dracull's homing pidgins and hunting hawks.
Gróin, using his new eye, scryed on Dracull, but only found him going over taxes and crop reports. He decided instead to annoy the butler, and knocked on his door in the servant's quarters. The butler was not pleased to see him, and while he maintained an implacable air of civility while being asked vague, strange, and downright invasive questions, he never lost his cool. He did, however, think quite a few rude things about the prying dwarf. Eventually, he managed to convince Gróin to go annoy someone else, and went to bed.
Gróin next spoke with Chef, a large, jovial man, who was just preparing a few hot toddys. A bit of spices, a bit of tea and milk, and mostly whisky. Good whisky, too; he seemed to be fairly inebriated when Gróin found him, and only got worse as he downed his mug of "tea". The only valuable information that Gróin was able to obtain from the man was that the butler carried the key to the wine cellar on his person at all times, because of an instance where someone urinated on several bottles of wine. Which, as the chef thought, was hardly cause to lock him out of the alcohol, since he hadn't even managed to get any of them open at the time.
The party made a full sweep of the house, apart from the locked doors; during Gróin's search, he uncovered a secret door, a passage from the study to the conservatory, opened by pressing the wings of a winged serpent.
Eventually, Consuela produced an oddly shaped key - one that matched the lock on the door in front of the treasure! However, she begged them not to open it just yet, but to wait until her husband left the next day. They agreed, and retired to bed.
|Dracull Manor floor plan (click for full scale)|
The only thing that disturbed anyone's sleep was a shadow that flitted over a window - just a flash, but nothing they could see.
In the morning, they met the count for breakfast, and asked him about the evil book in the library. He shrugged it off, admitting that while he liked to collect old and expensive things, he didn't always read them. The book may be evil, but is not cursed, and worth a good deal of money. Eventually, he bid them good day, and left in his black carriage.
Immediately, they went to work opening the locked door. Inside, they found a veritable horde of treasure; rich pelts, exquisite playing pieces, and clothing hung or folded. In the center of the room, they spied a glowing amulet; though it was obviously magical, it had no aura upon it. Looking for traps, they located not one but four traps, designed to protect the amulet, but destroy anyone who moved it. A careful search revealed a hidden keyhole that disabled the traps. They removed the amulet, and Llarm inspected it carefully. From his study of theology, this was likely an object of dark power - a phylactery! Dracull was no vampire - he was a lich! On the one hand, not having to deal with level drain was a welcome relief, but on the other hand, a lich would have very powerful magic. Still, having his phylactery would surely give him pause.
After some more searching, they found a hidden door; a methodical search for traps revealed a pressure plate, which they avoided. They located a second hidden entrance, but elected to come back for it later. They found another trap, and another; the last was a thin tripwire. Caranthir decided to trip it by poking it from around the corner; it triggered, and apart from a few thumps, nothing seemed to happen. Well, until they rounded the corner. Ahead of them, nine cells had opened up, and a crowd of skeletons and zombies shoved out! Thinking fast, Gróin put up a Major Trap; one after another, the skeletons and zombies were blasted to ash. Only a single zombie managed to land a blow, for a single point of damage. However, behind the zombies were four lizardmen, clad in plate; they did a bit of damage, and two of them slipped away. After dispatching the first two, the team found they had gone up some stairs. Following them, they entered another secret room - a trophy room, filled top to bottom with the stuffed heads of countless creatures. From mundane bears and wolves to magical monsters like a medusa, the room showed that Lord Dracull enjoyed the hunt.
They continued up the stairs, eventually reaching the roof, through yet another secret door. There on the roof were the two lizardmen... cowering before Lord Dracull!
Caranthir, hoping to perhaps intimidate Dracull, held out the amulet, and yelled, "We have your phylactery!"
That was the plan, anyway. instead, Dracull laughed, and said, "...My what?"
This caused a bit of consternation. A lich, usually, would try to protect his phylactery; a vampire would have turned to dust in the bright morning sunlight. Lord Dracull... did neither. Instead, he laughed. And laughed. And... began to change. His face lengthened; his broad shoulders grew broader, and wings erupted from his back. Soon, a huge dragon stood before them, still laughing!
Caranthir and Luce charged, while Llarm cast a shield of protection on those around him. Gróin, meanwhile, quickly dug in his pack, and pulled out a tiny bottle - a mini potion of dragon control! He gulped the potion, but the dragon shook off his control easily. Gróin tossed two more potions to those nearest him; the second was enough, and the great dragon was ordered to kill the two lizardmen, which he did with ease, though one of the lizardmen managed to knock out Luce.
There was a pause, as the group tried to decide what to do. Caranthir suggested turning the dragon into a newt, and just stepping on it; Rig worried that, perhaps, the step might miss, and the dragon would retreat out of range. Dragon Control was powerful, but would not allow a dragon to put itself in harm - and getting stepped on would surely count as harm. Perhaps a caterpillar, or other small animal? Or - a fish! Completely helpless! Rig agreed, and the order was given: "Turn into a fish!"
The dragon began to shrink, its wings turning into fins and its legs vanishing... but it didn't shrink much. In fact, it had turned itself into a giant sturgeon, barely smaller than it was in the first place! They quickly hacked at it, but now that the dragon was no longer a dragon, the control was lost! Enraged, the dragon shifted out of fish-form. A few managed to get blows in, but the elf was splashed by the dragon's poisonous blood; thankfully, the fish was only half-way through changing into a dragon, and the poison's effects were delayed to a turn, instead of immediate. Meanwhile, everyone was panicking - the dragon was free of control! It had hacked through the two plate-wearing lizardmen with ease; that was a lot of damage it could do, and most of the party was squishier than those critters.
And that's when the priestess drank the third potion of dragon control. The dragon again failed its save. This time, they ordered it to use its breath attacks; it spat a 100' line of acid out onto the front lawn, melting bushes and grass. Somewhat relieved, the party discussed what they should do. If they ordered the dragon to change again, it would just as easily change back. If they just attacked, the dragon had a good chance of fleeing. If they ordered it somewhere else, it would run out of control in only three rounds - barely time to get anywhere!
Suddenly, inspiration struck - have Dracull turn himself into a tiny dragon! With the impressive shape-shifting power of an elder dragon, Dracull should have no trouble turning into something tiny and squishable, yet still under control! They crowded around, and commanded the dragon to shrink to a mere dragon spawn. Second later, Caranthir plunged his sword into the beast, killing it. Dead, the dragon resumed its true form, a large, black-granite swamp dragon. While the nightblade was treated for poison and Luce was restored (sans 5 teeth, unfortunately - poor Luce! She really needs a ring of restoration!), Caranthir smashed the phylactery. The dragon slain, they returned to the final treasure room, uncovering 21,000 gold pieces and 1,000 platinum pieces, piled up for the dragon to rest upon.
They told Lady Dracull of her husband's demise; she took the news well enough, though the party missed an odd look on her face...
Victorious, the party counted their wealth; Lady Dracull allowed them to keep it all, as it was only a fraction of the wealth tied up in investments, but Caranthir gave her a double share of treasure.
That night, as everyone rested, Caranthir was awakened in the middle of the night; there, curled up inside the room, was the dragon! Or, rather, the ghost of the dragon, as well as the ghost of the lizardman he killed. After a bit of an uneasy silence, the dragon finally congratulated him on a fair fight, well won. It had been a long time since the dragon had fought any real adventurers. The two spoke at length, as the lizardman tried to eat Luce's face. Luce, however, slept on. The next morning, the lizard and the dragon were still there - bound to the sword.
When they reach civilization and sell their spoils, the party will get a significant amount of XP!
- XP from Encounters
- 8 skeletons (13 xp each)
- 8 zombies (29 xp each)
- 4 lizardmen (35 xp each)
- 1 very old dragon (7200 xp)
- XP from Treasure
- bundles of rare fur pelts, worth 1000gp (10 stone)
- 7 ornamental jars of rare spices, worth 2,500gp each (4 stone each)
- 3 crates of fine porcelain, worth 500gp each (2 stone each)
- alabaster and jet game pieces with jeweled eyes, worth 4,200gp
- 24 jade carvings of heroes, monsters, and gods, each worth 200gp
- rich capes, coats, and clothing, worth 10,400gp (104 stone)
- 80 2HD monster horns (8 stone), worth 240gp
- 1 alexandrite (500 gp)
- 1,000 Gold in stacked piles
- 1,000 Platinum
- 20,000 Gold in a large heap
- 5,000 Gold as payment (non-xp)
- Total XP from encounters: 7,676
- Total XP from treasure: 63,140
- Total XP: 70,816
- XP Per PC (Rig, Gróin, and Caranthir): 10117 XP
- XP per henchman (including Llarm): 5058 XP
- Gold/treasure per PC (Rig, Gróin, Caranthir): 13,628
Additionally, there are the following magical items:
- 4 potions
- Scroll of Arcane Spells (Written in New Elven): Water Breathing (3rd lvl), Magic Jar (5th lvl), Sleep (1st lvl), Charm Monster (4th lvl)
- Scroll of Divine Spells (Written in Nobiran)
- Scroll of Divine Spells (Written in Draconic)
- Scroll of Ward against Undead
- 2 Uncursed rings
- 1 Cursed ring
- 1 Staff
- 1 Wand
- 1 Crystal Ball with Clairaudience
- 1 Pair of Boots
- 1 Horn
- 5 Swords +1 (one with a fanged hilt)
- 16 Arrows, enchanted
- 23 Crossbow Bolts, enchanted
- 1 Chain Mail Armor +3
- 2 Shield +1
- 1 Shield +3
- 1 Hide Armor +2
- 1 Knife +1
- 3 books positive for magic:
- 1 with a spiral shape on the cover
- 1 with a pair of eyes on the cover
- 1 that is very heavy (6 stone)
- 1 spell book, written in draconic
- 1 "evil", but uncursed, magical book with an odd Z-like symbol on it