DGA6.13: Evils of Haranshire – Evil below the mines

The characters for this session, in order of march

Vir, lvl 6 ranger, toting Ulruf-as-reach weapon, and longbow;
Cat, lvl 6 warlock, keeping hands free, and the Omen;
Seck, lvl 6 rogue, holding his hooded lantern at arm’s length, and Chur;
Phoenix, lvl 6 barbarian, holding Mocair, and Piego

The Long Roaders are 16xp from level 7

On the trail of a skilled assassin!

Our heroes the Long Roaders have one last mission in Haranshire – scout the old Garlstone Mine, see what’s really been disturbing the miners further over in the hills. And it seems that ranger Garyld’s killer, the handsome blond man known as Andren, has taken refuge there. Bonus!

The Long Roaders decide to bring three of the five Guild recruits with them as pack-bearers. This allows them to trek up through the summer heat, stay overnight at reeve Carman’s eastern mining village, then tackle the Garlstone before the sun gets too strong. But after reaching the first cavern, Vir’s Primal Awareness alerts him that they have set off a mystical Alarm.

Don’t you know that you never split the party?

They converse quietly, wary, the hooded lantern well muffled. Then trek back out. At a sharp whistle, Chur’s surprised face pops up from cover. Hmm, looks like those baggage guards weren’t doing such a great job.

Explanations over, the baggage is hidden [bit of a comedy, Vir has to succeed in a Persuasion attempt before Seck and Phoenix are convinced that their hopeless effort might be improved] and the sidekicks join their heroes. The morning sun beats strongly on their backs as they enter for the second time.

XP: lvl7-15

The order is the same as before, with sidekick near enough to hero to be of help, except that the Omen hangs back near Seck’s light. Some 40 to 50 feet separates Cat from Seck.

Passive Perceptions: Vir 12, Cat 11, Seck 15, and Phoenix 14

Having not been attacked at the Alarm area, they split the party once more, leave Piego and Chur on guard, and swing hard right into…

The Dream Cave

The walls of this broad cavern are scarred with graffiti – the only thing that tells them is that miners of three and more generations ago were more poetic in their pornography than in these fallen modern days.

The Dream Cave slopes down, and a pool blocks the way entirely. At most points it is so far across that even Cat can barely see the far side, though at the nearest, along one side of the cavern, it is around 80 feet across. Even with the lantern fully open, Vir can say no more than Cat.

Ways and means of exploring further are discussed at length. Cat uses Mage Hand to see if anything more sinister than the tiny blind fish and crustacea that can be seen, haunts the depths.

XP: lvl7-14

Then Phoenix strips down, swims across rapidly thanks to his Ring of Swimming, and fumbles a torch alight. With it he can now inspect…

Queen of souls pillar

Impressive though it be, this mighty limestone formation holds no terrors. Phoenix dutifully checks around, reads the graffiti – finding a rude limerick he can use when next insulted by one of those annoying bards – and returns.

So, with nothing further to find, the party regathers, and treks back out to pick up their guards. Both assure them that nothing out of place has been seen nor heard. So they swing right, further into the upper caverns, headed towards…

The Flitch of Bacon

There are a couple of ledges on the left of the immense cavern, and checking them by means of a mage-handed torch, takes time. There’s a digression for going back, gathering more torches from packs, taking a snack break and returning.

Vir is unable to make anything of the tracks in softer grit or sediment. The abandoned mine is well-used, but not by creatures that leave distinctive tracks.

As they consider how best to investigate the second ledge, where Seck can see some objects that are too clean-looking to be abandoned mining gear, there’s a <ping> as something ricochets off Phoenix’ half-plate.

“It’s a trap!” [Admiral] Piego yells and combat begins

The ambusher is a shoot-and-scoot poison-user, and is eventually joined by more defenders and they are all hard to pin down. They can cast spears or loose crossbows with such effect that limbs are immobilized! And, they have some basic illusory ability, and impressive stealth capability when in dim light on stone. Phoenix takes many wounds – and much to his disgust wastes two of his Shield uses fruitlessly – and has to use the Superior Healing he got from Colrath’s cache.

Eventually four of the defenders are brought down, the last one fleeing. They are a type of gnome, though speaking Undercommon.

XP: lvl 7-12

Loot: one short spear, three regular healing potions which are split Phoenix 2, Vir 1; and 55 gold coins. Cat chips in a gold to round up then the gold is split to seven equal shares. Each body bore a silvery shield-shaped brooch, about 3″ long, with a rune that matches one of the marks on the porcelain-insert iron key from Morchefus’ loot.

Pursuing the line the defenders came from the party explores on, reaching…

The Cat, and the Poached Egg

Vir catches Undercommon again, echoing at a distance [17 on active Perception] and waves Seck forward to listen. Seck [making 27] gestures through the Poached Egg formation beyond the Cat, which seems to be a massive pillar formation.

Vir pumps 12 temporary hp in using his Deft Explorer – Tireless trait, and Cat regains a slot. Moving swiftly so as to catch the defender before it can prepare, the party lights torches and sweeps in to…

The Grand Cascade

It’s over 200 feet around to the lone defender! The first hundred is taken at a quiet run! Then Seck rushes to range, hurls Maelsauga, and manages 10dmg – a severe wound! Vir moves up to defend Seck. Cat also moves up to get range and a violet arc of energy knocks the gnome solidly, 9dmg. Phoenix charges, swings, but the gnome hurls himself backward to a shaft and slides down a pulley-rope.

They have found the entrance to the lower chambers!

XP: lvl7-11 including the cue-for-rush above

The descent

Peering down, Cat can see that the pulley workings and cage at the base have been hoodooed and may not be safe. The party begins overhand-knotting lengths of their own rope together. Three lengths are required for a good safe doubled rope over the top pulley.

Then all ease themselves down.

“I am used to gazing into the void… ooer!” – the Omen

As they fan out at the foot, Vir chances to step under the piercing effect of a dropping-spike type of critter. He takes a scrape, the creature is dealt with.

They find themselves at the end of a broad natural limestone passage, thirty or so feet across along most of its length. A short distance away, rotted or rusted mining tools lie about. Having tied off their own rope above gnome-jump reach, and left the safety cage be, they reassemble order and set off for…

Ambush!

Swinging left towards the great Blue Garl Cavern, the line of march is halted as Vir takes a crossbow bolt through a leg then someone drops on Cat from above!

Vir is close enough to use Sentinel as a reaction, but is at disadvantage thanks to only having one leg to stand on: Ulruf tears through Andren’s jerkin but does not penetrate his armor!

“Assassinate” Andren hisses, driving his poisoned poniard deep into Cat’s chest. Then Misty Steps away.

Cat misses both attempts at a CON SV, taking two levels of exhaustion

Vir takes a final spear in his other leg and is immobile. Alarums and excursions! Seck bravely brings up the lantern, and makes a good guess as to where the gnome defender is lurking among stalagmites. Phoenix rages, charges, and kills the already-wounded wretch.

XP: lvl7-9, though there is an xp in the offing depending on future decisions

Loot: A fifth shield-brooch and 5 gold coin. Cat has his previous donation restored and each of the Long Roaders gets a gold.

After Cat has swigged a couple of potions and Vir is back on his feet, they finish the trek into…

The Blue Garl Cavern

Seck opens his lantern and raises it high. This is such a vast cavern than only one quadrant can be explored at a time. In the pool of light, tiny chips of garlstone gleam back like mica. To the right, the party finds a structure built up against the wall, of solid timbers angled in a kind of massive lean-to effect. The door is not as strongly angled, and opens outward. An empty but intact bucket outside, and the faint scent of food, suggests this has been used for mealtimes.

Vir prudently checks around for traps then opens the door. Sure enough, lengths of sausage are suspended from the ceiling, other simple supplies and cooking gear are arranged tidily, and the right number of gnome-size cots nestle among much older, dust-covered crates.

XP: lvl7-9

Loot: five oil flasks (Seck tops up the lantern)

Then it’s away and farther along that right wall, finding a set of cut stone steps rising and turning up onto a higher shelf above an underground lake.

Cat can see flecks of gold in the lake, and a mage-handed torch sets gilt flecks shining on the ledge. He pushes the Mage Hand into the lake temptingly:

A vast eel lunges up! Fangs gape! It is, if not the same, then fully as large as the giant that swallowed a man whole.

Cat makes his DEX SV and is able to skip clear

And as those with range-damage-spamming ability think about what to do with the eel (with witticisms like “if you kill it Seck you’ll get a tattoo like a ringworm”) and the others think about a short or long rest, the session ends.

DM Notes

A number of changes are present when compared with the original. Some are factual, and consequences of earlier victories and decisions around hooks and personalities. One is about culture and power balance. Another relates more to the vote to go neither to the Underdark nor to the Feywild. Without spoilers the main changes are thus:

  1. Since ‘Andren’ is an agent of some kind, and I don’t want to drag him into a possible future season, he has retreated here to link to the cavern occupants, so as to best use his talents. This is the Long Roaders’ chance!
  2. The upper defenders are gnomes not halflings, because gnomes best suit Dimgaard’s “Gnomes are wicked magical critters” culture and plot-key back to both Old Grizzlers warning and Titania’s warning. The gnomes are raised to a 2-xp threat by adding various Dimgaard-gnome, 4e-gnome, and Sverfneblin traits.
  3. An enemy from a part of the Odill arc that will almost certainly not get used is co-opted, replacing the other original defenders.
  4. The caverns are no longer a boss-level challenge for Tier-ones, more of a mildly challenging way to complete Haranshire for the Long Roaders.

Next Monday we celebrate the boundaries of a long-defunct map by having a day off work! And on that day the Long Roaders, in all likelihood, will clear the Garlstone, complete Titania’s bargain, tidy up affairs in Milborne, and decide ways and means for their super-secret Heist Job! Odill awaits! Level 7 awaits! Stay Tuned!

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