Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dark Legacy of Evard, Session 5: "No soup for you!"

Session 5: Vistani marked the beginning of the second chapter of D&D Encounters: Dark Legacy of Evard. In the previous week’s session, the characters made their way to Duponde’s graveyard and battled restless undead. They discovered that Evard’s Tomb had been opened, but the skeleton was still in its coffin. No sign of Nathaire could be found, but it was clear to our heroes that Duponde’s current Shadowfell-troubles began when the scholar triggered some kind of magic trap at the pillaged tomb.

For Session 5 at Total Escape Games, the players at my table ran Arturo (human warpriest), Brandis (human paladin), Eldan (elf necromancer), Enzio III (human assassion), Roth (dragonborn blackguard), and Traytin (elf fighter). Between Sessions 4 and 5, the party took an extended rest, so everyone started this off this week with full hit points and healing surges, as well as 1 action point and access to his daily powers. They were locked and loaded, and ready to rock and roll.

After their battle with the undead in Duponde’s cemetery, our heroes saw the first rays of dawn begin to glow dimly in the east. Suddenly, they experienced the same dizzying jolt they felt hours ago at the Old Owl Inn. After a moment, the feeling passed and they noticed that the world seemed brighter, colors had returned, and the oppressive dread they’d felt all night had faded away. Duponde seemed to be returning to the normal world!

With the arrival of dawn, Duponde had indeed shifted back from the Shadowfell to the world. The question is how long the respite might last, and whether the PCs can unravel the mystery of what happened at Evard’s Tomb. Eldan, not surprisingly, wanted to entirely bypass solving the mystery. He proposed instead that the party take the golden holy symbol that Brother Zelan had given them, sell it, and then use the proceeds to move the inhabitants of Duponde to a new location that wouldn’t have these bothersome Shadowfell-troubles. Not a bad idea, but if I let them do that, I’m not sure what we’d do for the next 8 Wednesday nights, so I told him we better just play out the adventure like Wizards of the Coast had written it.

Nathaire’s Journal

During their extended rest at the Chapel of Peace, the characters managed to decipher Nathaire’s journal. It took hours to work out the difficult arcane lore, cryptic symbols, and the tricky code the scholar had created to protect his notes from snooping eyes. Successfully reading the journal, though, allowed the party to learn:

  • Nathaire is a talented wizard and a student of umbral (shadow) magic.

  • He is extremely ambitious and impatient, seeking shortcuts to true power.

  • He has created a ritual he intended to use to summon the soul of a dead spellcaster so that he can drain it of arcane energy, storing the stolen power in an orb or similar vessel.

  • Nathaire has been searching for Evard’s Tomb because Evard is famed as the discoverer of shadow magic. Nathaire dreams of making himself just as powerful as Evard was.

Valkan’s Summons

Shortly after the characters finished their extended rest, a human boy named Valkan came to them to deliver a message. He bowed to them and said, “Forgive me for troubling you, masters. I am Valkan of the Vistani. My grandmother told me to tell you that you must come to her house today, before the night falls again. She peers into the unseen world, and she says that you must know what she sees. I can take you.”

With a successful History check, Eldan recalled that the Vistani are a clannish people who are known as rovers, mystics, and troublemakers. They’re said to travel into the Shadowfell from time to time. The characters were a bit reticent about following Valkan, but Brother Zelan suggested it might be wise to hear what the elderly soothsayer had to say. The priest didn’t fully trust the Vistani woman, but he knew of Grivelda’s reputation as a seer of that which is hidden.

Mother Grivelda’s House

Valkan led our heroes along the road south from Duponde into the countryside. After a walk of a mile or so, he turned down a lane leading to a lonely farmhouse that had a large, painted wagon parked in its fenced yard. He showed the characters to the house’s front door and knocked once before going inside.

“Grandmother, I have brought them,” he called.

Through the open door, the PCs saw an old woman in a colorful shawl sitting by a fire. “Good, Valkan, very good,” she answered. “Be a good boy and put the teapot on the fire for me. Our visitors and I have much to talk about.”

She waited for the party to enter, and then gave them a chilling smile. “Now, sweeties, answer my riddle: Who is buried in Evard’s Tomb?”

In the discussion that followed, Grivelda shared that she knows that Evard was the one who survived the wizards’ duel fifty years ago. Evard disguised Vontarin’s body so that the priests from the monastery who discovered it would think that Evard was the one who had been killed in the duel. Clever and cunning Evard did this so that his many enemies would believe he was dead. Grivelda has no idea where Evard is now or whether he is still alive. However, her gift of second sight has shown her that Vontarin’s ghost possessed Nathaire when the rash scholar disturbed the tomb.

Mother Grivelda said that what Nathaire put wrong must be set right. She told our heroes that because of Evard’s curse Duponde will again fall into shadow at each sunset, and there it will stay until sunup comes again. For a few days and nights, it will stay like that, but soon Duponde will not return from the dark side. Grivelda said the characters must find Nathaire and wrest Vontarin’s soul from within him, quieting Evard’s curse in doing so. She suggested the party begin by looking in Vontarin’s abandoned manor.

When she asked if there was anything else she could help them with, Eldan asked if she had any of the Vistani’s famous cabbage soup. The old woman looked surprised and said, “You know of our cabbage soup?!?” Before anything more could be said, though, a bone chilling howl arose just outside.

Howling Wolves

Three lean wolves bounded through the trees outside Mother Grivelda’s house. Alongside the beasts were two humanoid wolf-creatures with long claws, running swiftly on their hind legs. Drawn to the outskirts of Duponde by the dark curse that has settled over the town, a pair of werewolves and their pack of gray wolves were on the hunt!

By an odd coincidence, just a few moments after we got to this part of the session, “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon began to play on the radio in Total Escape. Weird, huh?

Okay, so anyway, at the beginning of the fight I had a Leeching Shadow creep in through the back window of the farmhouse and attack Brandis. There was actually no leeching shadow in the encounter as written, but I’ve grown quite fond of the critters over the course of the adventure and so I used my DM’s prerogative to insert one into the fight. It missed Brandis anyway and was promptly killed by Arturo, I think.

Since there were six players, I also added a second Frenzied Werewolf to the monster mix. The two werewolves had an at-will power called lycanthrope fury that allowed them to use both their claw and bite attacks, but at the expense of taking 5 damage. The tactics sections of the encounter material said that the werewolves ought to use this “power recklessly,” so I had them use it every round. Hey, you only live once. Well, unless a necromancer gets a hold of you, of course. Whenever a character was hit by a bite attack, he took 1d8+5 damage and at the end of the encounter he had to make a saving throw. On a failure, he contracted werewolf moon frenzy (stage 1). Brandis, Enzio, and Roth all got hit by bite attacks, so they had to make their saving throws once the fight was over. Brandis and Roth both failed their saves, so they found themselves experiencing the fever which every adventurer knows is the start of werewolf moon frenzy. (In stage 1 of the disease, the character takes a -2 penalty to Will. At the end of the party’s next extended rest, Brandis and Roth will need to make Endurance checks to see if they recover or if the frenzy progresses to stage 2.)

Once the fight started, Grivelda grabbed Valkan and her broomstick, thumped her broom on the floor, and magically jumped into the rafters of the house with the boy. Eldan once again threatened innocent bystanders (during Session 3’s encounter, he set the townspeople’s house on fire when they wouldn’t let him come into their home so that he could escape the dusk beast that was stalking him) when he cursed Grivelda and told her that if she was a magic user, she ought to be down on the ground zapping wolves. The old woman gave Eldan a dirty look and snapped, “You’re the big hero, you take care of it.” Once the fight was over, Grivelda came down from the rafters and passed out healing potions to everyone… everyone except Eldan, that is. All she gave him was another dirty look and said, “No soup for you!” She also retrieved a bundle from beneath loose boards in the kitchen floor and gave Brandis a +1 vicious longsword.

With Mother Grivelda’s advice to guide them, the characters have a daunting task ahead. They need to find Nathaire and put Vontarin’s ghost to rest again. Since they have few other leads at this point, next week they’ll check out Vontarin’s old manor house.

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