The heroes of our campaign are:
- Boojum—a pixie wizard, played by Steve
- Silas—an eladrin vampire, played by Drew
- Blake—a razorclaw shifter barbarian, played by Andy
- Dagon—a watersoul genasi artificer, played by Robert
- Gaultis—a goliath warden, played by Chad
All the PCs started off this session at Level 4. We’re following a bit of an accelerated schedule of level advancement, since the purpose of our new campaign is to get us up to Level 8 as quickly as possible so we can have a go at Madness at Gardmore Abbey. We’re having a lot of fun along the way to the abbey, though, so we’re actually finding that the journey itself is the reward.
Arrival at the Hermitage
When our heroes arrived at the Hermitage, they discovered that the place had already been attacked, and that its inhabitants had barricaded themselves inside. After the PCs established their credentials as champions of Lord Bothwell, Ofeen Nole —a cleric of Pelor— emerged from her hut. She welcomed the party and provided aid to the refugees from Treewater.
After the wounded refugees were made comfortable and everyone had settled down for the night, Ofeen discussed matters with the adventurers. She told them she was puzzled by the brutal lizardfolk attack since they had never before been particularly aggressive, even though they’re thralls of the Fens’ self-proclaimed overlord, the black dragon Shadowmire. Just before dropping off into an exhausted sleep, Ofeen said there was one more thing that puzzled her about the day’s events: several of the lizardfolk hadn’t taken part in the attack, but could be seen gathering on a nearby island where local legend says some old standing stones mark the location of a long-abandoned sacred circle. From what she had seen, it looked as if they were rooting around, looking for something in the mud and muck on the island.
Attack of the Lizardfolk
After an uneventful night, shafts of sunlight started to pierce the dawn mist here and there. Suddenly, a lookout’s cry rang out, followed quickly by other calls of alarm. All around, hissing tongues shouted menacing taunts as several lizardfolk burst from the mist. As our heroes charged out of the huts where they had spent the night, they could see that a watery monster with only a vague physical form seemed to be directing the vicious lizardfolk with the all-too-familiar black eyes (a sure sign that the creatures had been caught up by the unpredictable and destructive power of a chaos crystal).
- Water Elemental (Level 9 Controller)
- Lizardfolk Shocker (Level 5 Artillery)
- 3 Lizardfolk Mire Scouts (Level 5 Skirmisher)
- 4 Lizardfolk Mire Scouts (Level 3 Minion), did not take part in the assault, but were placed on the nearby island with the old sacred circle
DM Tip: For this chapter in our campaign, I used the published adventure, “Battle of the Witchlight Hermitage” by Sterling Hershey. It appeared in Dungeon 191. The adventure uses the cool swamp map found in Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale. Shadowmire doesn’t make an appearance in the published adventure, but I wanted to make the heroes’ discovery of the fourth chaos crystal a memorable occasion… and, I ask you, what better way to do that than to bring in a wicked black dragon?
Enter the Dragon
After the PCs had gained the upper hand in the battle with the monsters and were just about to drop the water elemental, I brought in Shadowmire. He rose up out of the icky swamp water and roared, “Who dares subvert my minions?”
The players were a bit taken aback at the thought they’d actually be taking on a real, live dragon. Drew engaged in a bit of unrestrained wishful thinking when he said, “Maybe it’s a minion.”
- Young Black Dragon (Level 7 Solo Lurker)
Boojum gets credit for the most audacious action during the party’s battle with Shadowmire. The pixie was pretty pleased with himself when he whipped out Slimy Transmutation and turned the big, bad dragon into a teensy, weensy toad. Everyone (well, except for me) was very excited at this development. There was even talk of popping the poor toad into the party’s bag of holding. Unfortunately for our heroes, the power’s effect only lasted until the end of the target’s next turn… and the dragon just happened to be up right after Boojum. I was just glad I didn’t have to adjudicate what would’ve happened if they’d managed to put the toad in the bag.
Okay, so when building this encounter, I figured that once the dragon appeared on the scene and the battle started to get away from them, the guys would figure out that the key to the encounter was investigating whatever was hidden on the nearby island. If they would’ve done that, they’d have quickly found the water chaos crystal, and easily been able to use it to convince Shadowmire that they’d had nothing to do with subverting his lizardfolk. But they didn’t think of this until too late. By the time they came to the conclusion that something about the island might perhaps be significant, three of the PCs had already been cut down and were taking dirt naps. A few moments after that, Dagon and Boojum also fell. Can you say “TPK,” dear reader?
Fortunately, I’d planned for just such an eventuality, so…
Silas awakened on a cold, stone floor. A hooded figure stood quite close to the disoriented eladrin. The mysterious figure was silhouetted by a bright light shining from somewhere behind it. The raven feather that he always carried on a string around his neck started to feel like it was burning Silas’ skin. And then the figure spoke. “Hello, Silas.”
The vampire recognized the sultry female voice. He had heard it only once before, but he would never forget it. Now it filled him with equal measures of dread and excitement.
“I did not expect to see you again so soon, but from my abode in the Shadowfell I keep watch over all that lives and dies,” said the Raven Queen. “In my eyes, the weave of fate turns, twists, and unravels… but my purposes shall not be denied. Do you remember your debt to me? The debt by which your soul is bound to my will?”
Now Silas was sensibly feeling more dread than excitement, but he still managed to say that he remembered the debt.
“Then know that I still have work for you to do among the living. Return to the Citadel and there slay the agent of my enemy. To help you complete this quest, I give you three gifts.”
And with that, the figure disappeared and the light went out. Silas lit a torch and could see that on the floor where the figure had stood was a beautiful longsword. Gift #1: A ravenclaw warblade.
After opening the door before him, the eladrin vampire found a chamber with four coffins inside it. As he examined the coffins and blew dust and cobwebs off them, he saw that on each was written the name of one of his fallen companions. He opened the coffins, one by one, and freed his friends from the bonds of death which had held them. Gift #2: Restoration of the party.
Gift #3: A bag of holding emblazoned with the symbol of Avandra that Silas found in the chamber with the coffins. Inside the bag? Four chaos crystals.
That, of course, is all well and good, but just where are our supernaturally revived heroes? Tune in next week to find out.