As the large, formless black ooze and its smaller spawn attacked the party, Blake raised his cowbell. “Gunter, glieben, glauchen, globen,” the barbarian intoned in a loud voice. Then he started to rhythmically strike the cowbell. “Alright, I’ve got something to say. It’s better to burn out than to fade away!” Although just mindless pieces of monstrous pudding, the oozes nevertheless recognized the song Rock of Ages from Def Leppard’s kick-ass Pyromania album, and they trembled, shook, and jiggled with fear.
Encounter 11: Bell Tower
Our sixth session of Madness at Gardmore Abbey started off with the continuation of the battle at the old bell tower. Our heroes managed to fend off the displacer beasts while keeping the unconscious eladrin maiden safe from the stirges attempting to drain her.
Once the monsters were slain, Blake set to work skinning one of the displacer beasts (to be used to drive off the owlbears at the groundskeeper’s cottage) while the rest of the party attended to the young eladrin. Analastra awakened, blinking. “Thank you,” she said in a voice bright as silver. “You have saved my life, and I am deeply in your debt.”
The eladrin maiden was glad to hear that the party had already met her brother, Berrian. She said that against her brother’s wishes, she had been patrolling the Feygrove alone, hunting for orc intruders, but instead she stumbled upon the displacer beasts.
The party escorted Analastra back to the eladrin camp. Bringing his sister back safe and sound earned the party Berrian’s gratitude. He gave them the Donjon card from the Deck of Many Things. The eladrin knight explained that he had claimed it from an orc that ventured too far into the Feygrove several years ago. Pleased with our heroes’ work, and trusting that they earnestly wanted to help him discover the fate of his father, Berrian asked them to return to him with any evidence they discover which sheds light on his father’s destiny.
Encounter 12: Groundskeeper’s Cottage
- 2 Owlbears (Level 8 Elite Brute)
When the party arrived at the groundskeeper’s cottage once again, the owlbears were still there. As Blake donned the displacer beast hide and pretended to be a large fey magical beast, I started to run the skill challenge found on page 20 of Book 3. The skill challenge is presented in three parts: the party covering themselves in the scent of the displacer beasts, sneaking up on the owlbears, and finally scaring the monsters away from the cottage. Obviously, by actually wearing the slain displacer beast’s skin, Blake went above and beyond simply covering himself in the scent.
Anywaaay, after successfully frightening and driving off the owlbears (it’s too bad the party never started a fight with the owlbears since the nasty beasties have an attack called Beak Snap, which does 4d8+22 damage when it hits a creature grabbed by the owlbear!), our heroes searched the remains of the groundskeeper’s cottage. They found some ancient books and journals, including the original plot of the grove and gardens with detailed information on each plant variety and the secrets of its cultivation. The first groundskeeper’s journal described a friendship with Siravus Ardonnelle, an eladrin who donated plants from the Feywild to start the abbey garden. The paladins of Gardmore, in turn, dedicated a portion of the grove to Siravus and his descendants forever.
When the party turned over the first groundskeeper’s journal to Berrian, they completed the “Establish a Claim” quest (page 13 of Book 2).
Encounter 10: The Whispering Grove
After leaving the eladrin camp, the party decided to follow the path past the bell tower and head back up to the Dragon’s Roost. On their way, though, they unexpectedly arrived in the Whispering Grove, a haven for secret-loving autumn nymphs.
As our heroes entered the grove, soft music drifted on the air, its strains combining happiness and melancholy. Beautiful and otherworldly voices accompanied the melody, singing of golden summers and the bitter loss of winter. Five gorgeous women dressed in gowns of autumn leaves were singing beside a clear pond. They giggled and whispered to each other as the party approached. “Welcome, mortals,” one said. “Will you play our game?”
- 5 Autumn Nymphs (Level 8 Skirmisher)
No one thought it was a very good idea to even talk with the nymphs… well, no one except Boojum. The pixie wizard boldly asked about the game the nymphs wanted to play, and found out they wanted the PCs to tell them a dramatic secret. A character who shared a secret that satisfied the nymphs received a useful piece of information in return.
Boojum was up for the game, so he told the nymphs a secret. In return, he found out that in order to enter the old watchtower (see the post for Session #5), the party would need to touch the ‘door’ with a card from the Deck of Many Things. Silas chose not to follow Boojum’s lead, though. The eladrin vampire instead decided to attack one of the nymphs. This brought down a barrage of Whisper Game psychic attacks upon the party as the nymphs responded to Silas’ hostile action.
After a while, the other players realized the nymphs weren’t really interested in fighting, but instead were starting to slip away. Before the nymphs left the Whispering Grove, the party managed to exchange a few more secrets for information & clues about the adventure… but then the nymphs were gone.
Encounter 14: Watchtower Entrance
Since they now knew how to gain entry to the watchtower, the party decided to scrap their plans to go back up to the Dragon’s Roost and pay a visit to the tower instead.
Once inside, our heroes found the inside of the watchtower was a warped reflection of the outside. In place of a column of stone was a twisting conical dimension of unnatural shapes. Instead of walls, a thick, globular slime slowly oozed up, then down. Sometimes the goo strained inward in clusters of wriggling strands whose bright colors mocked the pennants that once hung there long ago.
The floor was elastic and membranous, bowing slightly beneath the characters’ weight. Large, bubble-like nodes resembling flagstones shifted beneath the filmy surface and gradually slid toward a dark crevice, at the bottom of which oozed a sinister black lake. From time to time, the lake would emit globules that drifted up through the still, stinking air.
Set in the membrane on the opposite side of this twisted realm was a luminescent door in the shape and design of one of the cards from the Deck. The card-shaped portal opened and closed, morphing at intervals to resemble an oaken door. The floating globules slowly slid up to disappear into the opening. The chasm was spanned by a footbridge composed of two more large glowing cards, somehow joined end to end.
Oh, and a high, barely audible screech rang constantly from everywhere and nowhere, and nothing seemed able to silence it.
After taking in all of this weirdness, and realizing that they weren’t in Kansas anymore, the party discovered the “lake” was a black pudding spread thinly across the bottom of the crevice. It oozed up to attack our heroes. During the ensuing combat, each time the pudding was hit by a weapon attack, it spawned a little pudding ooze in an adjacent square.
|Fortified by oreos, the party takes on the Black Pudding!|
A bit later, the party found out that the bridge consisted of two object mimics.
- Black Pudding (Level 8 Elite Brute)
- 4 Black Pudding Spawn (Level 8 Minion Brute)
- 2 Object Mimics (Level 8 Lurker)
After dispatching the monsters, the party pressed onward (not that they had any choice in the matter, since the ‘exit’ had disappeared and couldn’t be recreated, no matter what the party tried).
Encounter 15: Far Realm Sojourn
As soon as our heroes passed through the card-shaped portal, it vanished into a diaphanous, pulsating wall. Black globules steadily permeated the membrane and drifted up through the column in which the party stood. The globules vanished into a vast star-filled sky.
Everything in this strange area seemingly was drawn toward that sky. Even the walls flowed upward, their surfaces randomly broken by enormous eyeballs that boiled through the walls in spiral patterns, staring madly at the party before being reabsorbed. The place still seemed to retain some semblance of the old watchtower, but as though it was trapped somewhere… beyond.
The weird keening rose in pitch and intensity.