Monday, July 19, 2021

DM Report of Play: Into the Northwest!

 A quick session on Sunday was a ton of fun. The players and characters were:

Jack - Lenard, 4th level nobleman

Sam - Ludwig, 4th level nobleman

Nick - Akira, 7th level monk

Theo - Sir Dredd, 5th level fighter

Daniel - Sanguinius, 5th level cleric

Henchmen - a religious brother, a hedge mage, a bushi, an wu-jen/ninja, and a man-at-arms, all 3rd level

  The brothers Ludwig and Lenard were returning from the royal tourney in Seaward and stopped at the Shining Keep, home of the Knights of the Starry Banner. There they met with Akira, a senior member of the Company of the Dark Moon (which the brothers had recently joined), Sir Dredd, a brand-new member of the Company, and Sanguinius, a cleric from the capitol.

  As they were getting to know each other a request came from Gladdenstone. The leaders of Gladdenstone and Karag were requesting aid from the Knights. The letter explained that merchants were vanishing from the caravan route between the two lands and that their own troops, depleted by the recent battle with cultists, had failed to return from the patrols sent to root out evil.

  The players set out the next day and traveled over a week in near-perfect weather to the edge of Gladdenstone, the gnomish realm. The made it to the city of Gladdenstone itself and stayed in the Outer Ward. After questioning locals, merchants, and more the party suspected that about a year previously a cultist had been driven off ino the wilderness near the trail in question. For various reasons a critical trade route between Karag and Gladdenstone is in the wilderness without nearby towns or garrisons. Between the recent cult activity, battles with orcs, and the vanished patrols Gladdenstone's guards were at half strength.

  The party then used Speak with Dead to talk to a corpse recovered just 2 day rior and learned it was ghouls from a copse of trees along the route, narrowing it down to three locations. The party set out 3 hours before dawn.

  The first day the party was ambushed by a pair of starving mountain lions. Sir Dredd cut the large one down instanly, but the other mauled him for two rounds as the party helped kill it. They healed Sir Dredd and went to the first Copse, which was obviously frequently used as a camp for caravans. They carefully scouted, then camped nearby. Overnight a giant skunk wandered in to eat their rations. The wu-jen used a subtle spell to encourage it to wander off to nap.

  The next day they made it to the second copse, which was over 2 miles off the trail. This copse had obviously been abandoned for a long time and had grown into a maze of twisting paths cut off from the sun. The skirted the edges and the cleric could not sense evil, but felt something was blocking his spell, then felt a flicker of evil. That became malevolent evil charging towards the party. He warned everyone and the party fell back and prepared.

  Four ghouls erupted from the trees, all shielded from the sun by magic. They were closely followed by a cultist branded with the symbol of the Hungry One. Sanguinius felt the commanding aura of the cultist and knew Turning would not work here.  The noblemen, mounted, charged with lances and obliterated two of the ghouls instantly. the other two closed with Sir Dredd and Sanguinius as Akira moved to the cultist. The cultist hurled a knife at Ludwig and Lenard was drained of a level, dropping him to only 5 h.p. after the damage!

  Once more Dredd mowed hown his foes and Sanguinius did the same with help from the bushi and man-at-arms. Akira engaged the cultist, disrupting his efforts to raise up 4 more ghouls, and stunned him! The cultist was tough enough that Akira needed the help of the wu-jen, Ludwig, and 2 more rounds to put him down! The hedge mage cast Cleanse Wound on Ludwig and the drained level was restored.

  Carefully exploring the copse they found fresh bodies set aside to replace losses, a midden full of bones, and and ghoul nest. At the center they found a large cage with a unicorn trapped within by a magical halter. Investigation showed the cultist was trying to transform it into a black unicorn, an evil version of the noble creature, to use as a mount. They destroyed the poisons and tokens that were part of the process as well as the book of direction and freed the unicorn.

  The party recovered about 2,000 g.p. of loot, a +1 dagger of life draining, horseshoes of the zephyr, 6 doses of ghast salve, and a periapt of would closure from the cultist. The unicorn gave them an ioun stone for rescuing her. Akira spoke with the unicorn and she set off to settle in the Briars now that the evil forces blocking good creatures are thrown down.

  The party returned to Gladdenstone, received more rewards, and settled in for the 2 noblemen to level up.

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