Friday, March 10, 2017

The Alchemist's Baleful Hound

Campaign: Krevborna (open table, 5e D&D)

The Characters:

  • Verdegan, kenku rogue
  • Medrash, dragonborn fighter
  • Erasmus, tiefling barbarian
  • Doctor Skitmeyer, halfling rogue
  • Thane, darakhul wizard

Objectives: to infiltrate an alchemist's abode currently under guard by agents of the Church of Saintly Blood; steal away with both the alchemist and his notes; deliver the man and the notes to the quartermaster of Captain Redmayne, a notorious pirate


  • After observing their deft way of handling themselves in a bar brawl, Jericho Chastain--a lanky, lean quartermaster employed by the infamous Captain Redmayne--approaches the group with a job his boss wants handled. It seems that Amel Alharzac, an alchemist, was working on a project for Redmayne when the Church of Saintly Blood took an interest in him. They posted guards in front of his house at all hours and now he does not ever leave his home. 
  • Redmayne's crew would move directly against the Church, but to do so would upset the delicate underworld ecosystem of Piskaro. Clearly, independent rogues are needed for the task. The job, then, is to get past the guard and abscond with the alchemist, bringing him to the Four Knives Tavern where he can continue the work that Redmayne requires of him.
  • After negotiating their fee, the adventurers spent a day watching the movements at Alharzac's house. There is always a guard posted at the front door and a guard posted at the back door; the guards are armed with maces and crossbows, and wear black tabards emblazoned with an ouroboros bisected by a sword. The guards appear well-trained and alert. At around eleven each morning a child approaches the house and delivers what appears to be a basket of food. One of the houses next door is vacant and condemned.
  • A plan is hatched: Dr. Skitmeyer will ambush the child, take her clothes, and attempt to enter the alchemist's house. The others will provide a distraction using a cart full of cabbage, and then enter the house to find the alchemist, spiriting him away in said cart.
  • The plan...didn't come off without a hitch. Skitmeyer waited for the food-bearing girl in the street, but his attempt to lock her in a trunk was seen by a nearby oyster seller. Recognizing that the girl was clearly the victim of a strange kidnapping, he intervened with a cudgel, beating Skitmeyer badly and forcing the rogue to retreat.
  • The plan...went forward anyway. Skitmeyer, now dressed as a little girl despite any appreciable skill at disguise, walked to the door to gain entrance while the rest of the party hide among the cabbages, hide in the vacant building next door, or waited on the cart itself. The well-disciplined guard took no interest in the "distraction" provided by the cabbage cart.
  • Once inside, the ruse was blown by Skitmeyer's odd behavior--little girls don't often try to hit grown men with crowbars--and the halfling was knocked unconscious.
  • The party outside chose action over waiting for their halfling friend to unlock the door for them. Leaping upon the guard at the front door en masse provided effective: Thane tried to beguile the guard to sleep, but it took the combined efforts of Erasmus, Verdegan, and Medrash to knock her unconscious. 
  • In a fit of rage, Erasmus broke down the front door and threw the unconscious guard inside, taking a bit of damage from the door in the process; they confronted the guard poised over Skitmeyer's unconscious form, and dealt with him as well. 
  • The guard at the back door was none the wiser that the house he was supposed to protect had been breached.
  • The house now cleared of threats, Skitmeyer was revived by his companions. They began to explore the house, but it seemed to hold few secrets: a laboratory that appeared disused, an unoccupied bedroom, a collection of oddities--prosthetic limbs, exotic weaponry, taxidermy, and the like. But no alchemist. Where was he, and where were his notes?
  • A storage room provided the answer. The smell of incense seemed to seep from what proved to be a hidden door set into the floor. Thane recognized the incense as a special sort used to mask the smell of dead and decaying bodies. Lifting the secret panel revealed stone steps doing down into darkness. A lantern was lit, and down they went.
  • The steps terminated in a stone landing underneath the house; the only obvious passage stretched off to the right. Following it culminated in a chamber that had four large pots of incense burning--one in each corner--and for good reason: three tables sat at the center of the room, each one bearing a human corpse. Inspection unveiled that each corpse was in a state of disrepair: one was missing both legs, another was missing an arm, and the third had its head caved in.
  • Wondering at the corpses, the party began searching for hidden passages they may have missed. As they picked their way back toward the stairs, Medrash noticed a strange bluish-green luminescence glide along the wall and settle into a corner of the landing. Shining the lantern onto it revealed it to be a large, slavering hound whose flesh was torn; the thing's ribs could be seen through horrific wounds, and the creature glowed with an uncanny, spectral light.
  • Erasmus attempted to lure the creature to him with rations, but the offered meat simply passed through the creature's half-real substance. It howled an unearthly cry and advanced upon them. 
  • The thing proved difficult to fight; the party's weapons often simply passed through the beast instead of wounding it. It was dangerously real, however, as Verdegan discovered when its bite pushed him perilously close to death's door. Ultimately, Medrash was able to jam one of his swords through its ravening mouth, causing the thing to dissipate into steaming fluid that smelt of the briny deep.
  • The monster dispatched, the crew now saw that a secret door in the wall was open a crack. Following a left-turning passageway brought them to the real alchemist's laboratory: this one had a number of bubbling flasks that evidenced an experiment in progress. They also discovered the alchemist's notes on a shelf in this room.
  • Amel himself was located in the next room, desperately stuffing potions from a rack into a bag. A frail elderly man, he put up no fight when it became obvious that he was going to be abducted by the group and taken to Captain Redmayne.
  • Moving quickly now, because the change of guard was expected at any moment, the group hustled Amel onto the cabbage cart and brought him to Jericho at the Four Knives. They were given rum and their just reward; Jericho seemed surprised that the group was successful, especially since they arrived battered, bloody, and one of the was now wearing a little girl's dress.
  • On the way out of the Four Knives, the party passed the guard who had been stationed at the back of Amel's home. He didn't recognize them, but declared that he was badly in need of a drink because he had failed so badly at keeping the alchemist's house under the Church's control.
Unanswered Questions:
  • What branch of the Church uses the ouroboros & sword insignia?
  • What did they want with the alchemist in the first place? Why was he "quarantined"?
  • What is the nature of the work that Captain Redmayne requires of him?
  • XP: 155 each.
  • Treasure: 75 gp each from Jericho.
  • The alchemist had three potions: two potions of healing, one potion of climbing. Divide this up among yourselves.
  • The shark-tooth longsword that Erasmus took is not magical, but as a rare example of its make in Krevborna is is worth 60 gp if you wish to sell it.
  • You could probably take over Amel's house, but you might want to wait until the Church is done looking at what went wrong there.
  • Also, if you'd like to note some aspect of the adventure that was important to your character as a way to get Inspiration in an adventure to come, feel free. I've written up my Inspiration replacement rules here. Let me know if you have any questions about that.