Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Shadows of the Black Feather VI: The Grave Ghouls of Gallows Hill

We finally got together after a month-long hiatus to play some more D&D on Fantasy Grounds, and got a fourth player from the old school to join up!

To recap last season's finale, the adventurers had discovered that the Devil Strahd's mystic connection to the land is empowered by three sacred runestones scattered around Barovia, which must be rejoined with their sacred relics to break Strahd's hold over the land. Upon the party's return to the village of Barovia, they stumbled across and banished a strange vampire who was trying to kidnap the Burgomeister's daughter, in broad daylight!

Just another day in the quiet vampire-infested hamlet of Barovia.

To start off this new season, we find the adventurers resting at the Blood O' the Vine Tavern discussing what to make of last season's events, when they see a female elven Bard singing tales of high adventure up on the stage. After her song is over, she introduces herself to the companions as the traveling minstrel Namara, and asks to join the party as she has heard tales in town of their valorous exploits. The adventurers nod their heads and agree to her penning their tales of glorious heroics for the future of mankind, and ask if she wants to join them in heroically digging up graves north of town. She agrees to accompany them in this courageous and noble deed.

In a previous side exploration, Garsim discovered a partially dug up grave in one far corner of the graveyard, and decided that the grave needed further investigation later when he had more hands to dig (and clerics). Sure enough, the adventurers found that the grave led to a hand-dug tunnel, just large enough for them to crawl through. After requisite oils and insense is burned to bless their passage, and with Garsim's darkvision leading the way, the tunnels opened into a large cavern, with bones, half-open coffins, and a dead bodies strewn about. Suddenly, the adventurers realize that atop one of the coffins sits a hooded priest, unmoving but clearly not dead! Before anyone can think to question the robed man, or ask him why he's there, or try to discover any clues about the surrounding area based on this obvious opportunity for role-playing...Garsim springs into action, axe in hand!

But the robed man was preternaturally quick, and dodged Garsim's axe with a swiftness born only to the devil himself! As the monk attempts to claw at Garsim, an undead harpy (of all things), springs out from a hidden alcove, and begins singing a song of longing and desire. Fortunately for the party, Cedric Finalrest, Cleric of Kelemvor, had cast magic circle of protection on Garsim's beard, protecting the party from being controlled by the captivating song! For her trouble, Milo stabbed the harpy a couple quick times with his silver dagger. Namara began singing a song of courage and valor, such that the party was invigorated and struck doubly hard at the undead beasts!

Two ghasts jumped down from hidden holes in the ceiling and attempted to claw at the halfling and cleric, but they were too quick and armored, respectively. Then Cedric cast a protective spell on Garsim to protect him from death magic, and called on the power of Kelemvor to smite these undead beasts from afar, and a blinding light of holy destruction flared from the priest's holy symbol as all four creatures were seriously burned! But the day was not yet theirs, as the undead monk lept onto Garsim, getting him in an arm-bar stranglehold and refusing him the use of his heavy axe, just as the harpy clawed at Milo and injected her paralytic poison into the halfling's veins!

As you can see from this screenshot, this campaign is a little note-heavy.

With the halfling paralyzed and the dwarf in hand-to-hand combat with the monk, things looked bleak for the party. Namara put down her lute and fired two quick longbow shots into a ghast, hoping to free up the priest for more spellcasting. Just then, Garsim reached into his pack and pulled out the Sunsword*, and stabbed the monk through the chest with the glowing glassteel weapon. The monk's undead form was destroyed, and pulled into the blade of the weapon, setting the creature to rest for eternity. Then Cedric called on the awesome that is Kelemvor once again and blasted the remaining two ghasts and harpy into cinders.

The Destroy Undead alternative turning rules tend to slightly change the dynamic of a cleric's turning ability.

For their trouble, the PCs found some magic bracers, a wand of magic missiles, and some gold jewelry. They also found coffin-sized holes in the walls, apparently where the ghasts and ghouls were digging to nearby graves and pulling the bodies to their lair. Cedric sprinkled some holy water and said a few words of consecration.

The adventurers were puzzled, however, as they assumed Madam Eva's previous fortune telling them they'd find the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind in a place of death where the dead are put to rest would be in the graveyard of the village. So rather than leave the graveyard, they did an extensive search of the village. Eventually they narrowed the possible graves that hid the Holy Symbol, if it were in this graveyard, to three recently-dug graves: Anna Winslow, Zander Barcalow, and Henry Von Sprecken.

Unfortunately for the DM, Garsim went to high school with me, and so immediately realized that Anna Winslow refers to our friend's high school rock band Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup, and Zander Barcalow is a name from the Starship Troopers Chronicles. So the only possible choice was the last grave, Henry! I shook my head at my sad attempt at thinking up names and called it a successful gather information check. Inside Henry's grave they found a trapped black coffin. Milo disarmed the trap so professionally he was able to retrieve the trap itself, which he found was a chemical trap that would spray some sort of garlic-smelling mixture. Inside the coffin laid a golden starburst symbol, which Namara was able to identify as the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, from descriptions she had heard of it (bardic knowledge check). The adventurers had indeed found the legendary Holy Symbol!

But the Holy Symbol's power had waned, and it was clear it needed to be activated, much like the sunsword, before its full strength could be brought to bare against the Devil Strahd.

What will the adventurers do next? Find out in the next exciting installment of...

Shadows of the Black Feather: Expedition to Castle Ravenloft

* The Sunsword is a bastard sword that, for good characters, counts as a light weapon, allowing it to be used in a grapple.