Monday, May 29, 2017

Wreath of Barbs

Campaign: Scarabae Open table (5e D&D Google Hangouts)


  • Bellicose, gothy human wizard
  • Mortimer, street fightin' human monk
  • Doctor Wiffle, dubiously doctorin' human fighter
  • Viktor, former hermit dragonborn sorcerer

Objective: Put an end to the machinations of the Children of Fimbul in the Redgutter Ward.

The black vines that have been infesting Redgutter Ward had become even more pernicious, spawning vicious bipedal horrors made of black kudzu that were attacking the residents of the borough with alarming frequency. Mortimer and Dr. Wiffle knew that the Children of Fimbul, the apocalyptic cult responsible for the infestation, made their lair in a cavernous underworld beneath the Helveta tavern, so they assembled a crew of crypt-kickers to put an end to the evil druids' plans.

Since their last expedition beneath Helveta, the tavern had closed without warning, its windows boarded up and its doors locked. Under the cover of a distraction provided by Bellicose and company, Dr. Wiffle picked the lock and gained entry. Nothing appeared out of place inside. Using the bucket-like conveyance they had found on the prior expedition the crew descended down the long shaft into the caverns beneath the tavern. The ancient fortress within the cavern appeared to have been pulled out of the earth, revealing a sublevel that the adventurers had not explored last time.

A fissure in the fortress's petrified wood walls was the only visible entrance. Using his familiar to investigate beyond the fissure, Bellicose discovered that the chamber was currently occupied by two animate skeletons busily turning the soil, weeding, and spreading compost. There were also doors at the opposite side of the chamber and on the right-hand wall, and a fissure interrupted the left-hand wall.

The skeletons paid no attention to the adventurers as they entered the chamber. Investigation of the door on the opposite side of the chamber revealed that it opened up into a hallway containing carved pillars and tables strewn with herbs, botanical specimens, and mortars and pestles. However, while exploring the room, two vine-men were spotted emerging from the ground and approaching the hallway.

The party engaged the two vine-men, who were joined in the fray by the two shovel-wielding skeletons. The vine-men were decimated by Dr. Wiffle's swordplay and Viktor's necromantic magic, and the skeletons fell apart under the combined assault of martial arts, magic, and sheer brutality. But before the battle was over, a dark-skinned man with dreadlocks, wearing a patchwork robe of furs, skins, and leather, emerged from the unexplored fissure. He let lose two giant rats from their chain leashes, and they promptly charged the party. The rats were dealt with speedily, and the man was pummeled and then lulled into sleep by a timely spell from Bellicose before he got a chance to strike back with the crowbar he was carrying. The fungus and stunted, pale saplings the skeletons were tending were trashed for good measure.

The dreadlocked man was tied up, questioned, and then gagged when he proved unhelpful. The party went back to exploring the hallway. Snoring could be heard behind one of doors to an adjoining room. Opening the door quietly revealed three figures--a male dwarf, a human man, and a halfling woman--all asleep atop a pile of furs in the center of the room. All three figures wore the robes of Children of Fimbul cultists.

Sensing an opportunity to get information from the sleeping cultists, Bellicose cast an illusion of a cage with inward-pointing spikes around them; the cultists were then prodded awake and made to believe that the party had trapped them with powerful magic while they slept. The dwarf proved especially open to negotiating for his life; he explained that he was the second son of a wealthy guild leader so his aimless life had led him to joining the cult--but he had been having severe doubts about their mission. 

The dwarf told the crew that there were about thirty cultists scattered throughout the lair, that the leaders of this cell of the cult slept apart from the others in a large cavern that was off-limits to everybody else, that whatever was creating the vines in Redgutter was surely within that cavern, and that the most fearful things in the lair was Brunhilde (the cult's spear-wielding champion), Freya (a powerful spellcaster), and Bella (the cell's leader). 

The dwarf also drew the party a map that would lead them to the cavern in question, allowing them to bypass exploring much of the fortress. He and his human compatriot gladly signed contracts drawn up by the crew, swearing that they forsook membership in the Children of Fimbul. The young halfling woman had her hand forced (literally) by the dwarf, who dragged her off in the end, stating that she was too young and dumb to know what was good for her.

Pressing on, the crew passed through a small room where the cult stored scimitars and short bows--the strings of the short bows were cut for good measure, just in case. Following the map further brought the party to a series of garden galleries in which the walls had been shaped into pictorial narratives; the soil of the floor was sprouting a variety of pale plant life. The second gallery was patrolled by a cult member brandishing a glaive; the party managed to take her down, but not before receiving enough injuries in the fray to give them pause. Their foe had a vial of pale green, mouthwash-colored liquid on her person. The crew holed themselves up in an empty room to catch their breath and tend their wounds before carrying on.

Their rest was uninterrupted, and the party continued following their map to the cavern. They passed an arboretum of toadstools and lichens, and listened at the next door; beyond it they heard the voices of four people arguing about where to put various items. Opening the door slightly and using Bellicose's familiar to scout gave them a view of four cultists standing at a table sorting herbs and cuttings into various piles. 

Dr. Wiffle threw open the door and tossed a bead of force inside. One of the cultists got caught in the blast and had her neck broken as she was slammed against the wall; the other three managed to scramble underneath the table for cover as they drew their scimitars. Their defense was short lived; Mortimer's martial arts and the combined efforts of his fellows polished them off quickly.

Instead of a being fully enclosed, the chamber's right side opened up into a massive dark cavern--far bigger than should have been possible within the fortress's confines. Viktor cast a light spell on the severed head of one of the cultists, and Dr. Wiffle threw it into the cavern to test how far it went--but it stretched well beyond his throw. However, the illuminated head did reveal that the cavern was dotted with nodules of the black vines that had been spreading throughout Scarabae.

Mortimer decided to scout the cavern, but his stealthy approach was betrayed somewhat by the fact that he was carrying a lantern while doing so. Suddenly, a spear sailed out of the darkness--but as a dexterous monk, Mortimer was able to snatch the spear from the air before it could harm him. Clearly, Brunhilde was present. The rest of the party rushed in to aid their friend.

A giant, thorn-encrusted frog emerged from the darkness of the cavern and attacked Mortimer, biting him and holding him in its barbed mouth. Mortimer attempted to kill the thing with a bead of force, but it managed to dodge out of the way, taking him with it. Chanting was heard from the shadows, but the woman (Bella) invoking who-knows-what-horrors remained unseen.

A gaunt woman with bedraggled hair (Freya) also emerged from the shadows, casting a spell that sent three thorns shooting from her outstretched palm and into Mortimer's flesh. Dr. Wiffle moved to engage Brunhilde behind the remains of a ruined wall. The statuesque spear maiden drew her enchanted weapon and the sound of operatic singing filled the echoing space of the cavern. Brunhilde inflicted devastating wounds, but ultimately Dr. Wiffle's rapier was able to piece Brunhilde's armor and sink down to her heart.

Viktor tried to keep at range, blasting his foes with necromantic magic, but a blast of wintry fury from Freya caught him and sent him to the ground. Mortimer finally managed to rabidly punch the giant frog that was holding him until it, err, croaked. Viktor came very close to death's door, but the timely intervention of Mortimer and Dr. Wiffle got him back on his feet in the nick of time. (Somebody killed Freya at this point, but honestly I don't remember who got the deathblow.)

Bella, the leader of this cell of the Children of Fimbul, emerged from the shadows where she had been chanting a profane liturgy to the destruction of the world. She was a blonde woman of middle years, a mad gleam in her eye. She cast a spell upon Mortimer, but the effects were not immediately obvious. 

Low on resources and stamina, the crew decided that taking on the cult's most powerful member was not likely to proceed in their favor. Wisely, perhaps, they ran, and attempted to regroup. They considered making another run at Bella but realized that after checking to make sure Freya and Brunhilde were beyond saving, the druidess had summoned seven of the vine-men to her side. Since the odds were not in their favor, they ran back to the bucket mechanism and began to ascend to the surface.


XP: 313 XP for Bellicose, 396 XP each for Mortimer, Dr. Wiffle, and Viktor.

Magic Items: The "pale green mouthwash" colored liquid is a potion of healing.

Brunhilde's spear functions as a spear +1, and once per day the person attuned to it can use their reaction to impose disadvantage against a melee attack against themselves or another creature within 5 feet. However, when wielded in melee the spear fills the air with the sound of operatic singing. It's really, really loud.