Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Doppelgangers, Mean Dogs, and Bilious Vapors ("Unmasking the Traitor," Session 3)

During our last session, the heroes finally managed to make their way up and out of the hidden shrine to Orcus which they had discovered under the Citadel.  But then rather than being applauded and rewarded for their efforts. they were unjustly thrown into jail!  With the help of Lord Bothwell’s nephew, though, they broke out of their cells and started to sneak around the fortress, trying to find evidence that’d prove which member of Lord Bothwell’s Privy Council is the traitor.  Toward the end of our last session, four members of the party were recaptured, but the still-free Blake discovered evil tomes and whatnot hidden in the temple of Avandra. We ended that session with Blake making his way to the Great Hall and dramatically accusing Halix Breland, the Citadel’s jolly priest of Avandra, of being the traitor.  

Before we get back to the action, let’s review our 4e D&D campaign’s player characters:
  • Gaultis— a goliath warden with the annoying (well, it annoys the DM to no end) habit of always remembering to mark his opponents. Gaultis is played by Chad.
  • Dagon— a watersoul genasi artificer who is always ready to help his wounded companions by shooting some healing their way. Dagon is played by Robert.
  • Blake— a razorclaw shifter barbarian who makes some mean mashed potatoes. Blake is played by Andy.
  • Boojum— a pixie wizard with a fondness for fire spells and shiny stuff.  Boojum is played by Steve.
  • Silas— an eladrin vampire with special ties to the Raven Queen.  Silas is played by Drew.


As Blake’s stunning accusation hung in the air, all eyes turned toward the shifter as he stood defiantly at the back of the Great Hall.  And then several things happened in rapid succession.

The sound of some bones rattling across the stone floor drew all eyes back toward the front of the hall.  As the bones skittered to a stop, they rapidly grew into 2 Ravenous Ghouls (Level 5 Brutes).  Even as he threw the bones across the floor, Halix Breland made a complex arcane gesture with his other hand and our heroes’ confiscated bag of holding (the very same item that Halix had given to the party in Session #1 and in which they had stored the four chaos crystals), currently in Sora Harrowcrown’s possession, suddenly exploded in a burst of flames.  As the gravely wounded mage dropped to the ground, Halix Breland darted toward Sgt Fallek and Lord Bothwell.  When Fallek moved to intercept the traitorous priest, Breland threw a dark globe at the loyal guard’s feet.  The globe burst open when it impacted the stone floor and a shroud of blackness enveloped Fallek and the priest, hiding them from sight.  The sounds of grunting, grappling, and then a “Thud!” sounded from inside the Cloud of Darkness.  As the dark shroud dissipated, our heroes could see that a figure was lying face down on the floor and Sgt Fallek was moving quickly to Lord Bothwell’s side.  All seemed well!

But then the figure on the floor groaned in pain and rolled over… and everyone could see it was another Sgt Fallek.  One of the players at the table half-whispered, “Doppelganger!” and then I said, “Alright, let’s roll initiative.”

Which do you want first? The good news or the bad news?

Then there was a lot of confused combat with the ghouls trying to chomp on people, the PCs scrambling to get their weapons and equipment out of a chest at the side of the hall, Dagon attacking the wrong Sgt Fallek, Blake and Lord Bothwell getting stabbed by the doppelganger, the ghouls chomping on people some more, and the town guards standing around uselessly.

When the doppelganger fell below one-quarter of its hit points, it did something with a ring it was wearing and used a souped-up version of Portal Jump.  After yelling something about Orcus, it jumped through the portal and disappeared.

So the good news was that the traitor had been unmasked and driven off.  The bad news was that the doppelganger had not only snagged the chaos crystals, but had poisoned Blake and Lord Bothwell when it stabbed them.  The poison was some sort of dark toxin that neither Sora Harrowcrown nor Dagon could identify, so they couldn’t concoct an antidote.  They feared the poison was a type of Walking Death, though.  If that’s the case, the poison will lie dormant for hours or days, but when it finally activates, the results will be swift and very likely fatal.  The only sure-fire way to come up with the appropriate antidote will be to find the doppelganger and obtain a sample of the unused poison.

Luckily, Sora was able to use a souped-up version of Trace Teleport to track the doppelganger’s jump.  It looked as if it had escaped to a teleportation circle a great distance to the northwest, most likely a spot well outside of Newhaven and across the Frontier.  Sgt Fallek said that would make sense since a thorough search of the temple of Avandra revealed that the false Halix Breland had hidden some secret correspondence from ‘Kalarel,’ some of which mentioned an abandoned temple at the foot of the Moonsfall Mountains where the Orcus cultists were raising and training a large armed force.  That was the “army” which would’ve captured the Citadel if Thaliost and Deneith’s scheme to use the chaos crystals to scatter Bothwell’s guards would’ve went as planned.  As we all know, our heroes foiled that dastardly plan, but now it looks as if the party will still have to make their way across the Frontier and confront this Orcus-loving ‘Kalarel’ in his lair if they want to save Lord Bothwell and Blake and also recapture the lost chaos crystals.

Nice Doggies, Nice Doggies… Or Maybe Not

After stocking up on supplies at the Citadel, the party set off for the Frontier.  Before heading out, Syradon had gave them a map.  Four days of journeying northwest from the Citadel showed that the landmarks on the map held true, and then our heroes arrived at a narrow pass through densely wooded hills.  On their map, the pass was marked as the beginning of a path called the Black March.  The map was a bit vague about what might lie beyond the hills, farther off into the untamed Frontier.

As our heroes made their way up the Black March, a hoarse baying suddenly rang out through the forest to both sides of the track.  Five canine shapes unfurled from the shadows under the trees.  With their slavering jaws open wide, a pack of Shadow Hounds (Level 6 Skirmisher) attacked the party.

This encounter was noteworthy for Boojum’s use of a new power he’d just picked up with the party’s advancement to Level 5.  As the shadow hounds pounced, Boojum suddenly yelled, “Hey, Silas! Pull my finger!”  Hardly able to control his giggling, Boojum unleashed Stinking Cloud.  The shadow hounds never knew what hit them as a thick cloud of bilious yellow vapors engulfed them.

I picked up a package of these funny little creatures in the toy section at the local Walgreen's.  They're actually the perfect size to use in D&D, so I pull them out when the monsters are some sort of appropriate four-legged animal.  Cute, huh?

After dispensing with the hounds, the party continued to make their way up the Black March.  Our heroes soon began to come across other groups using the path to journey north.  The discouraged, battered bands of people making their way up the path were from secluded forest villages, fierce hunting tribes, or isolated mining towns, but all told the same story: they had fled their homes after being attacked by strange shadow beasts or by bands of armed cultists.  Some of the refugees said that others had not escaped but had been led off into captivity by the cultists.

At the end of the session, the party came upon an unexpected sign of civilization— a fortified town at the base of a huge waterfall.  Many refugees were camped outside the well-defended town’s walls.  The Black March continued on past the town and into the mountains, disappearing quickly from sight.

Tune in next week as our heroes continue their journey deeper into the Frontier.

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