Monday, April 6, 2020

The Words That Bind Us

“You are never to set foot in the city of Mirabar again.”

The statement, spoken by Rale Cotchen but relayed secondhand since he was sprawled out and bleeding upon the ground during its utterance, assails Zeb's mind as Bonie re-dresses his wounds in the confines of their tent in Dagger's Deep.

An idle threat, surely, for all that the guard captain's doomspeak has ever mattered to Zeb and his allies. Yet the terseness in Bonie's hands as she cuts off a final wrap betrays his thoughts, ere she remarks, abruptly:

I think we should return to the source of all this. Longsaddle. Those were your words. Do you remember? Do you still think that? Now that we're exiled from Mirabar and committed to sailing downriver through orc-infested lands to emerge, if we survive, in the open sea, and then winter over in the Frozenfar? I didn't dare speak my mind against ye when everyone else was decided, but history never told of any ‘Mirabar Run’ that I came to hear of in my life before... before all of this.”

Her gaze, colder than the most frigid winds of Icewind Dale, pierces Zeb to his core.

“I still seek answers,” she says determinedly. “But the longer we go on, I'm fearin' that the only thing you truly seek is death.”

With a huff, she rises and takes leave of the tent, not waiting for any reply. Outside, she makes her way to Audric, newly returned from the Mystran shrine erected at the edge of the encampment. “He'll be ready in a few hours, if ye care to heal him further. Though I'd not begrudge ye if ye didn't.”

The venom in her tone washes over the crusader as he feels its force, though he knows it not intended for him. Since their encounter with Rale Cotchen along the road and subsequent return, the woman has struggled to preserve her normal stoicism. In truth, between them all, interactions have mostly been brief, curt, and matter-of-fact, exchanging details pertinent to their situation but accompanied by few of their usual pleasantries.

Bonie then turns from Audric, heading purposefully in the direction of Seirsha and Edine, who busy themselves tending a pair of young goats whilst Zargon stands idly by, practicing his lute.

In her wake, the tension rests on the edge of a knife.

Friday, March 13, 2020

#37: Kill or Be Killed

Audric resurfaces from the Undercity a few hours later, his face pale, with a wan smile that marks at least a partial success.  He catches us up on the encounter between Corenar and Thrur, and of the tentative peace that was made before Audric withdrew.  While “success” is perhaps too strong a word, we count the task of delivering news of Corin’s demise complete and settle upon a few final arrangements that will take a couple of days before we head back to Dagger’s Deep.

While I cloister myself away in my room with Ethelenda’s tome of arcane recipes, Audric leads the rest of the crew to the other side of Mirabar to revisit Detrius’ Armory and determine the armorer’s disposition on the suit of hide.

On the way, however, the band witnesses the construction of a large vessel, and having heard whispers of what locals are calling “Mirabar Run,” Audric decides to investigate.  The vessel is to be manned by adventurous individuals who intend to push through orc-controlled lands downriver, all the way through the ruins of Illusk and into open waters.  Ultimately, the vessel is bound for a city called Fireshear in the far north, due for arrival before the waters become too dangerous and full of ice to traverse.

Audric and the others are brought to a captain of mercenaries in charge of recruitment for the voyage, and they negotiate rates to determine if it’s a venture worth consideration.  The man introduces himself as Dame Azurris, revealing that he’s more than just a mercenary captain—indeed, he’s to captain the vessel!  “Assuming we make it through Illusk alive, and assuming we reach our destination, most likely we’ll winter over in the Frozenfar.”  He explains how the return voyage becomes more treacherous due to the change in seasons, and discusses some of the options they’ve considered, including sailing south to Neverwinter once the snows pass.

There is a discussion of the skills we offer and how they might benefit such a trip, and the conversation is left open should we wish to return and pursue the venture more seriously.  Audric thanks Dame for his time.  Upon returning to the armory, Detrius greets Audric and shares his assessment of the task, to make a truly quality suit of mail.  The agreement he offers is to produce a single suite of scaled mail in return for the leftover pieces of hide, which he believes can be used for other, smaller items.  Based on his workload, he feels that the task might take several weeks to months, potentially quicker if the project is funded so that he can work on it exclusively.

When we convene later that night, we talk of many things but keep finding the conversation steered back to the Mirabar Run.  Audric catches me up on the details, and the voyage does indeed have an appeal; after some deliberation, we decide to pursue Mirabar Run instead of a journey to Longsaddle and points south, as we had originally planned.  It satisfies our desires to pursue new lands and new opportunities, with the potential to perhaps learn more about the parchment and the strange figure that preceded us on our visit to Thrur.

We return to Dame the next day and explain to the man our intention to appeal to sign onto his Moonmaiden.  Dame looks us over again, asking several details about how we came to know one another, what sorts of deeds we have accomplished together, and what skills we have that would be of benefit to the Run.

Audric, Lom and Zargon introduce themselves, each sharing their various experiences and talents.  Bonie is stoic in her own introduction.  “Born and raised in Mirabar, learned the ways of the sword from my father in…Wes…Mirabar.”  She falters, nearly mentioning Westtower (which does not yet exist), before quickly vouching for the rest of us and our abilities.  I step in when she falters.

“I am Zeb, sworn to Malar.”  At a raised eyebrow, I continue.  “I’ve ripped the tongue from a high priest of Malar and slayed the black beast in his service.  I’ve torn the throat from a priest of Talos with my bare teeth, and together we have slain a 40-foot serpent in the tunnels below Dagger’s Deep.”  I deliver my credentials flatly, without boasting, and bear trophies as proof of my kills that dissuade any doubt.

Finally, Selben steps forward.  “I’m Selben,” the mage introduces himself, a creepy smile visible from within his black cowl. 

Dame asks our price, clearly satisfied with our credentials.  Remembering that the land-based expedition to Icewind Dale commanded rates of 50 to 200 gold and was of comparable danger, Zargon and Audric discuss rates and present an offer to Dame of 250 gold for each of us.

“What cargo do we carry?” I ask, before negotiations get too far.  Dame explains that the ship will be carrying weapons and arms, winter furs and supplies, the types of things that the north needs in abundance.

“This would be my offer to you—1,000 gold to hire you on as archguard of the voyage.  Assuming you fulfill that which you promise, when we reach Fireshear, the entirety of the crew will winter aboard the ship.  There will be suitable accommodations for all.

“We want 1,200 and we each want our own room aboard the ship,” Zargon responds shrewdly.  Dame counters, offering us a private quarter for our company—which is a suitable compromise.

Audric questions the title of “archguard,” and what responsibilities and privileges that title assumes.  Dame explains that there will be additional guard aboard the ship, and all will report to him. We would be considered elevated in terms of rank.

“Any other priests?” I ask flatly.  He replies that there are not, at least not as of this moment.

“1,200 gold is fair,” he replies, “to be paid upon arrival.”  He explains that this term is non-negotiable, and that prior to departure a contract will be signed and pledged to ensure his side of the bargain.  Dame is requiring that everyone return to Moonmaiden on Midsummer’s Day, just over a month away. 

Audric asks if the Axe of Mirabar is to be present, and Dame explains that this is an independent venture, not sponsored or supported by Mirabar.  That, at least, is a relief.  We part on agreeable terms, and vow to return on the appointed day.

Audric enlists the exclusive services of Detrius to expedite production of the armor, passing over a weighty purse of coin to seal the deal.  Our business done for the day, we return to the inn.

Prior to our departure for Dagger’s Deep, I successfully complete my spell research, and Selben learns a new enchantment as well—though my apprentice, he is able to master magics that remain arcane to me, coming from schools in opposition to my own.

The journey between Dagger’s Deep and Mirabar has started to become familiar, and we reflect on our experiences as we lumber back.  Our reflections are disturbed, however, around midday as we hear the approach of hooves behind us.  We pull aside, making way, hoping that they are just travelers that will pass us by.

The men are outfitted as the Axe of Mirabar, and a familiar voice calls out, “Hold!”  The voice belongs to Rale Cotchen and his contingent of guards.  Rale pulls to the front of his group and his men wrap around to the front of the wagon.  He looks down at us maliciously, focusing his glare upon me.

“Mirabar may not hold you accountable to Laerch Strolgam or Corin Redbeard, but the city does not know you as I have.”

I spit on the ground in front of his horse.  “I’ve bled with Laerch, have you?”

Rale dismounts, stepping towards me.  “My cousin and I did not see eye-to-eye on many things, not the least of which his choice of wife…but blood is blood, and I hold you personally responsible for the death of my kinsman.  I intend to settle that debt.”

“Blades or fists?” I ask, still unsure if it will really come to combat.

“Blades,” Rale responds.  He removes his tabard, handing it over to one of his men.  “This is not a Mirabar matter.  This is…personal.  No spells, no magic…no interference,” he commands, twirling his blade.  He wears a suit of chain and carries an iron-banded shield.

Surprisingly, Audric offers his sword to me and Zargon beings to hum a tune, the Ode to Laerch.  After some discussion over the fairness of facing a fully armored soldier, Rale throws his shield to the ground.  “I understand well the defenses you harbor—this is a fair fight,” he says.  With the blessing of my companions, I raise the maul and with a growl, close ranks and attack.

We square off, and in an instant the mood changes from tense preparation and threats to real danger, adrenaline flowing as we engage, looking for openings.  I swing hard and strike, though his armor cushions most of the blow.  His sword snaps back in retaliation and I duck below it, but he lashes out again, cutting a deep wound into my shoulder.  He follows through with a third strike, this one piercing my side, and my lungs begin to fill with blood.

I spit up froth and bright red blood.  “You’re skilled with a blade, Laerch could have used your help while he was being butchered by barbarians and you were sitting in your castle.”  My usual confidence falters, knowing well that I am outmatched, though I pull myself back to my feet.

Rale makes no response.  “That’s what I thought, coward,” I curse.  I swing the maul again, clipping him, but he turns aside and my aggregated wounds prevent me from causing any serious damage.  He counters with a brutal slash that opens my chest and I collapse, immediately unconscious, bleeding out.  He stands over my body and holds his sword to my throat.

“You are never to set foot in the city of Mirabar again,” he says, addressing the group.  With one quick strike he could end my life.

“Once we are aboard the ship for the Mirabar Run, we’ll be gone and never return,” Audric says, briefly explaining our contract with Dame.

“No, you’re never to return...under any terms.  It’s over.”  He remains standing over me, sword poised at my throat, waiting for any response.  When none follows, he retrieves his tabard from his man, mounts his horse, and rides off.

Audric stoops down to staunch the bleeding, and once I recover enough to choke up another gob of blood.  The priest of Mystra delivers me a kick, chastising me for ruining another opportunity and getting us banned from Mirabar.  I’m too bloodied to offer much of a counter.

Bonie’s concern over my wounds is evident; she doesn’t seem happy with my choice of action, but seems relieved that I am alive, at least for the moment.  Selben, his face unreadable, conjures a mount and offers it to me as I’m barely able to stand.  With no pride, I accept his help to mount the beast, and slump heavily over, barely able to hold up my head.

Our procession continues silently, and we eventually break to camp.  I nearly collapse trying to dismount my horse.  Perhegan remains distant and unreadable, making no comments other than brief statements of fact about the trip or our gear, and we split up into watches for the night.  Bonie spends most of the night by my side or helping around camp before she eventually passes out, and I fade in and out of consciousness.  Fortunately, there are no disturbances; my rest is uncomfortable, punctuated by several bouts of hacking where I cough up clotted blood.

We complete the journey under a somber cloud, mostly silent, but we make reasonable time back to Dagger’s Deep where we are greeted by a throng.  “Ran into trouble on the road,” Perhegan explains when my disability becomes apparent, and he leaves with Kallevir to get the wagon unloaded.  Perhegan’s uncharacteristic silence is a worry to me, though in my current state, I’m in no position to have a discussion about it. 

Though a week has passed since our departure, nothing noteworthy has happened in Dagger’s Deep since we left.  Progress on the village’s structures is evident, the masons having been busy at their labor.  Wearily, we retire to our respective tents to contemplate the encounter with Rale and what the implications of his exile might be for our group.


Standing on the beach, Selben pulls out a handful of items from one of his pouches and lays them in a small pile.  Picking out bits of yellowed finger bones, harvested from some of the dead barbarians that attached Dagger’s Deep, he begins to arrange them into a little family of stick figures, finishing them with other odds and ends—bits of cloth, discarded tangles of hair, and tiny vertebrae he found that may have come from a small fox he found in the woods.

He shapes the bone figures, representing Audric with a tiny bone sword, one for Zargon while quietly humming the Ode to Laerch, then Zeb with a bleached knuckle bone that looks uncannily like his wolf helm. 

Beside them he makes more, one for Bonie next to Zeb, then Lom, then finally one for himself.  Distracted by his work, he jumps to avoid a small wave that washes onto the beach, sent by the passage of an errant river craft.  Selben flashes the boat’s pilot a cold look, but the boat passes without the pilot paying any notice.

When he returns to his bone marionettes, he frowns.  Though he, Bonie and Lom are undisturbed, the wave has ruined the others.  Zeb, Audric and Zargon are in a jumbled mess, missing arms, legs, and Zargon’s head has been displaced, washed away by the receding wave.

Seirsha, passing nearby while about her tasks, stops to examine the young mage.  “Selben?” she asks, having seen the black-robed apprentice jump.  “Everything alright?”  She drops a heavy bundle to the ground at her feet. 

Selben smiles up at at her, unblinking, holding her gaze just beyond the point of comfort.  “All is well,” he says, stirring the bones into the sand with his boot, kicking the last few into the river.  “You look pretty today.  Can I help you carry that?” 

Seirsha stirs uncomfortably, but without waiting for a response, Selben stoops to lift her bundle, giving Seirsha another thin-lipped smile.  As they walk into the village, he resumes humming, his steps in time with the lilting notes of the Ode to Laerch.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Map of the Dessarin Valley

Map of the Dessarin Valley, purchased from a local merchant in the city of Mirabar in the Year of the Raging Flame (1255 DR).

Click to enlarge

Friday, February 21, 2020

Mirabar Run

Over the course of the day and through normal rumormongering at The Rusty Sword, the party becomes aware of a three-masted caravel being constructed by a makeshift shipbuilding company along the north bank of the River Mirar, inside city limits. The endeavor is significant because, in addition to river travel, the vessel is said to be equipped for seafaring, even reinforced to test treacherous waters where seasonal ice floes are abundant.

Hearsay is that, when ready for launch, a bolstered crew will cast off downriver and attempt to press through and beyond the ruins of Illusk, which various orc hordes are known to yet occupy. If successful, the ship’s cargo of furs, armaments, and winter goods will be trafficked to the mining town of Fireshear, north along the coast amid the Frozenfar.

A highly dangerous but potentially highly profitable undertaking, the prospective voyage has been monikered “Mirabar Run”; until recently, it was not believed that the capital to fund such an effort would be achievable, but the combined investments of a conglomerate of local merchants have turned what may once have been little more than a lofty vision much closer to reality.

With the landbound expedition to Icewind Dale nearly stocked and set for imminent departure, tavern-banter has become aglow with talk of Mirabar Run, and the aftereffects that success (or failure) might yield.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

#36: A Father Scorned

On the day before our planned departure, a skiff with two men arrives from upstream to the east.  The men were fisherman that had passed through earlier in the week and had moved on past Dagger’s Deep to seek out prime fishing spots upriver.  While fishing at night, with one of the fishermen on watch, they heard a sound like something getting ravaged or torn apart coming from the shore.  Unable to see that far with the light of their small lantern, they rowed slowly away from the disturbance towards the opposite shore.  Not more than 50 yards from the skiff, something splashed into the water and was coming quickly for their boat, so they started rowing frantically downriver.  At least once, they felt something under their boat jarring it, so they rowed in a panic and didn’t stop until they reached Dagger’s Deep. 

Perhegan is concerned over the revelation, but we explain that Dagger’s Deep is no more able to defend itself with him present than not, and that we can’t derail our plans every time there’s a potential threat.  If a town like Dagger’s Deep is to survive, it must weather these kinds of dangers.

The following morning, we set out for Mirabar.  Perhegan has allowed the use of a wagon to cart the scaled hide of the creature we killed beneath Dagger’s Deep and has plans to return with goods for the settlement’s use.  The first leg of our journey is uncontested, and we decide to camp early as opposed to pressing on with no good reason.

As we begin to set up for camp, we hear approaching traffic.  A pair of men on foot are walking next to a cart being pulled by a mule, piled high with hides.  Not feeling threatened, we hail the men and greet them.  The leader of the pair is a tanner, traveling with his brother from Mirabar to Xantharl’s Keep.  They are young, perhaps in their twenties, and don’t appear to be too well off.

“We’re just from Dagger’s Deep on our way to Mirabar, have you heard of it?” I ask the men.  They both nod, saying they’ve heard of “some goings-on up that way”, but nothing beyond that general recognition.  They ply their goods along this route three or four times during the season, typically having little to fear from robbers due to the mundane nature of their haul.  We invite them to share our camp and they accept gratefully, the night passing uneventfully.

When we wake up the next morning, we find Perhegan having a few quiet words with the men, likely trying to steer their trade towards Dagger’s Deep, our tanner having perished in the barbarian attack.  We part ways amicably and continue our trip towards Mirabar.  A few hours before sundown, we arrive at the gates of Mirabar, having made good time.  Perhegan announces our purpose, telling the guards that we are from Dagger’s Deep to buy goods, and they let us pass.

As the first order of business, Audric attempts to find a craftsman who would be willing to work the serpent’s hide.  Before long, we wind up at a stall called “Detrius’ Armory.”  It’s not a grand structure, but it contains a smithy, a large courtyard with several anvils worked by men covered in soot and grease, and a small building with a large hearth and fire.  Before they close shop for the day, we win an audience with Detrius himself.

Audric explains our burden and his intentions for the hide, and Detrius hops onto the wagon to inspect it.  He takes a good look at the hide, feeling several of the dried ends, a rather fetid stench emanating from the wagon.  Detrius takes it in stride, however, and seems impressed with the trophy.

“Is it a dragon’s hide?” he asks with a raised eyebrow. Audric explains that the creature was large and serpentine, but wingless so perhaps not a true dragon.  He listens intently.  “The scales are strong,” he remarks, and while he thinks it would take a fair effort, he believes we have enough material to craft a suit of mail.

As long as we level our expectations, he explains, knowing that much of the hide will be unusable or waste, he thinks he can craft a suit of armor, but that it will take all of the hide we have to find enough quality pieces to work into the armor.  He needs a few days to determine the labor cost and how long it might take.  Audric agrees to a modest fee for Detrius to assess the task, and we leave the hide with the craftsman and his apprentices.

We decide to pursue rooms at The Rusty Sword, as it’s an establishment that Zargon is familiar with, and start to realize how expensive this trip could be if we decide to stay too long.  Rooms are procured without much issue, Zargon trading a few performances to cover his own costs; lodging is scarce due to heavy trade traffic in Mirabar at the moment, but we find a set of rooms that suit our purposes well.  In the morning, we decide to head to the Undercity and meet with Arion to tell him of Corin’s fall.  After some discussion, we decide that as it was Selben’s initiative to seek out Arion and contract Corin’s services, he should be the one to deliver the ill news.

The entrance to the Undercity is familiar, but we can’t help but notice how eerily similar the construction of the dwarven tunnels are to those that lie beneath Dagger’s Deep.  When questioned by the guards at the Undercity entrance, Selben speaks up.

“We have business with Arion,” Selben states, his voice shaking a little.

We are granted passage to board the lift, and we are taken down below into the tunnels which lead eventually towards the Hall of All Fires.  One of the dwarven ushers accompanies us, and along the way, asks us why such a large group of outsiders would have business with one such as Arion.

“Our business is grave, and for Arion alone,” Selben responds flatly, putting an end to the line of questions.  The dwarf grunts, unsatisfied, but troubles us no more.  After several twists and turns, he stops again and states that we will have to leave our weapons if we’re to continue.

Zargon reminds us in a whisper that he can’t relinquish the magical pick, and we decide to split the group, not wanting to press the matter of Zargon’s apparent compulsion, and not wanting to start a riot over keeping weapons.  Selben, Audric and Perhegan decide to go forward while the others stay behind.  The dwarf grunts again, apparently satisfied, and we are allowed access to the Hall of All Fires, our escort remaining behind with the rest of our party.

After Selben, Audric and Perhegan depart, the usher turns towards me and the others.  “So you’re the allies of Thrur Dalgin?” he asks suspiciously.  Having not actually met Thrur, we all look at one another, and it’s actually Lom that answers.  “We’ve made his acquaintance,” and another practiced dwarven grunt is earned in response.

* * *

When we enter the Hall of All Fires, we are once again taken aback by the sheer massiveness of the underground structure.  Yet another dwarf asks our business, and upon providing Arion’s name, he leaves to go fetch him.  Arion arrives a short while later with grease in his beard, apparently having been in the middle of a meal when called.  “Pleased to make your acquaintance again,” he says in greeting.  “Have you returned with Corin Redbeard?”

My response is flat, emotionless.  “Our news is grim.  Corin Redbeard perished in the tunnels beneath Dagger’s Deep.”

Arion’s eyes go wide, the dwarf stuttering as if struggling to force out words, and asks, “How?”

I explain our breach of the tunnel entrance, our brief exploration and of Corin bravely leading our group into the dark tunnels beyond, and finally of our encounter with the serpent.  I tell the tale of Corin’s demise, having been struck down by the creature’s electric discharge.

Arion is taken aback, nearly speechless, and asks what proof we have.  Audric steps forward and produces Corin’s pouch, handing over what was taken from the dwarf’s body.

Arion examines the contents briefly, then turns to a dwarven runner.  “Tell Corenar Redbeard that his son is dead.”  The dwarf nods and leaves quickly back down the tunnel from which we entered the Hall of All Fires.  We wait in silence for whatever comes next.

“Wait here,” Arion instructs.  “You’ll have to answer to his father.”

Audric asks who Corenar might be—besides the obvious—and what standing Corenar might have among the dwarves of the Mirabaran Undercity.  Arion answers, “Will ‘stature’ matter when a father learns of his son’s death?”

I cringe a little at the statement, ruthlessly delivered, and an indeterminable amount of time passes as we wait in silence.  We can’t help but feel the scrutiny of other dwarves passing by who are curious at the activity we’ve stirred up.

* * *

A dwarven runner comes down the tunnel, passing us by quickly, and a short while later another party of dwarves returns, this one led by a particularly staunch dwarf with a brilliant crimson beard and hair, his resemblance to Corin obvious.  While anxious, I decide not to intervene on Selben’s behalf and let them pass unimpeded.

The dwarves are in conference as they march through the tunnel, before the lead dwarf, Corin’s father, cries out in pain and anger.  “My son is dead!  I demand to know who is responsible!”  The runner rapidly tries to explain the situation though we are able to overhear little before Corin’s father roars out, “Thrur Dalgin, blasphemer!  I’ll kill him!”  They rush past us, passions stoked to a frenzy.

While worrying, this kind of reaction was not necessarily unanticipated, so we let them pass, trusting Selben and Audric to handle matters within the Hall of All Fires.

* * *

“Dagger’s Deep bears full responsibility for Corin Redbeard,” Perhegan explains to an irate Corenar Redbeard, sharing details about the tunnel, the expedition, and ultimately his son’s death.

“How did you come to know Thrur Dalgin?” Corenar roars at the end of Perhegan’s explanation, the dwarf’s emotions obviously raw.

Audric steps forward, explaining his connection with Thrur through his faith in Mystra.  In response, Audric catches a face full of spit as Corenar rages, drawing up his axe in anger and pounding the head onto the ground.  “This goes deeper than blood and honor!” he calls out, rushing off with his contingent of dwarves deeper into the hall, presumably towards Thrur’s chamber.

Arion turns towards us gravely.  “I would advise that you leave the Undercity while you can,” he says.  “And that’s the last piece of advice I’ll offer you.”

Selben turns to Audric.  “We have accomplished what we came here to do, we should leave.”  Audric doesn’t seem so sure, hesitating, and I add, “If we don’t leave now, I’m going to get Zeb.”  I don’t know what else to do.

* * *

Selben, Audric and Perhegan return, escorted by Arion, and I breathe a sigh of relief.  While trusting Selben and Audric to handle matters, that hasn’t made waiting any less tense.

Audric explains his intention to remain in the Undercity and try and defuse the situation, feeling responsible for all that has occurred.  While I hate leaving a member of our group alone in such a foreign environment, I can tell from the set of Audric’s jaw that he intends to stay whether I agree with his plan or not.  “We will wait for you above,” I tell him, patting him on the shoulder.  Audric withdraws the ring, the bloodstone and his coin purse, passing it off to me, and we part ways.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

#35: Loose Ends

In the wake of our battle with the serpentine creature in the tunnels beneath Dagger’s Deep, we are presented with a decision over how to handle the corpse of Corin.  We discuss the possibility of returning his body to Mirabar but it is quickly dismissed, as we have no way to preserve the remains.  Instead, Audric collects the dwarf’s effects to return to Mirabar when we can, and we decide to bring him back above ground for a proper burial.  The dwarves of Mirabar, if we are failing to adhere to their customs, can arrange to exhume him if they desire.  Our way back through the tunnels is uncontested, and we begin discussing plans to keep vigil over the entrance overnight.

We decide against blocking the entrance with boulders again as we plan to reenter the tunnels the next day, so instead we intend to camp in the river keep itself, at the top of the stairs leading to the cellar.  With that plan set, we leave the river keep and head back into Dagger’s Deep, bearing the body of Corin. 

There are still crowds around Odesia’s tent as the excitement over her child’s birth has not yet waned, and we use this welcome distraction to inconspicuously carry Corin from the river keep, not wanting to stir a panic.  In a quiet moment, Audric addresses the group, speaking of his concerns over the enchanted footman’s pick, and how he felt compelled to use it when I asked him to remove the serpent’s head with his axe.  He casts a divination upon it and the longsword recovered from the tunnels, finding a faint aura of indiscernible magic on the footman’s pick and powerful aura of evocation magic on the longsword.

“I’m glad you’re able to discuss it, because I had half a thought of murdering you in your sleep tonight, thinking you might be possessed,” I say dryly.  Our history with mysterious magic items is not easily forgotten.

Audric tries giving the pick to Zargon to see if he’s able to part with the weapon—but he feels a mental resistance to relinquishing it.  After a few moments of concentration, however, he conquers the feeling and passes it along.  Zargon expresses a desire not to keep the pick and tries to place it on the ground, leaning forward to drop it, but finds himself unable to give it up.

While we discuss potential ways to deal with questions the townsfolk will surely have, both about Corin’s death and the serpent’s severed head, which I have been dragging behind me, the conversation proves pointless as Perhegan comes to greet us, curious about our endeavors.  He’s remorseful over Corin, but relieved that the rest of us are unharmed.  He expresses concerns over what the dwarf’s demise might mean to authorities in Mirabar, and we do our best to allay those fears, letting him know that we intend to deal with it.

His greater concern, however, is over the beast itself and its proximity to the settlement.  We tell him we intend to further investigate the tunnel complex, determine the scope of the potential danger, and then decide on a plan of action.  He is clearly more distressed than he has ever been, and the urgency of danger to the settlement and the potential reaction from Mirabar is great.  Perhegan has no objection to our plan to bury Corin, and after some consideration, the settlement’s leader shares his intention to address the guardship of Dagger’s Deep with the others in town.

We keep to ourselves for the next couple hours, having little need or desire to interact with the townsfolk, our thoughts instead focused on the tunnel and the threat of the coming day’s adventure.  Later that night, Perhegan hosts a town gathering, and shares the details of our encounters and findings with the rest of the settlement.  He explains that the settlement must remain on alert, but that we intend to guard over the river keep and see to the tunnels tomorrow.  A few townsfolk and guards offer to assist with Corin’s burial, and he is interred by twilight in a somber ritual.

We prepare our camp in the river keep, setting up a defense both practical and magical, laying caltrops on the stairs as I place a magical ward at the entrance of the tunnel to alert us of any intruders.  We settle in for the night, and it is both crowded and uncomfortable, though our rest is undisturbed.

We acquire a lantern from Dagger’s Deep to provide light on our return trip to the tunnels the next morning.  Lom sees no sign of disturbance at the tunnel entrance, so I climb through the rubble back into the chamber beyond.  We return to the first branch in the catacomb system, and Lom examines the earthen passage that branches off to the left.  He doesn’t find anything noteworthy.  We decide to continue down the worked tunnel to see if the beast’s corpse is still there, hopefully undisturbed.

We don’t hear or see any signs of danger at the following intersection, and again don’t find anything noteworthy.  We follow the second worked tunnel back to the site of our encounter with the creature and find it apparently untouched.  We decide to devote time to skinning the creature, with both Audric and Zargon interested in fabricating a suit of scaled armor.  Dividing the work between us while Bonie watches over the group, we commit to our bloody task.  The skinning and hauling takes the bulk of the day, but it is an effort that we think worthwhile.

Upon returning to the surface, Audric consults with Tarrsh about constructing a suit of armor, but the smith admits that it is a task beyond his abilities.  Unfortunately, the settlement’s tanner perished in the battle against the barbarians, but we are hopeful that we can lay the scales out in the sun to preserve them well enough for a trip to Mirabar.

Zargon shares an awkward gift with Seirsha, giving her one of the beast’s scales.  She seems to be overwhelmed by the transition to Dagger’s Deep, and while the gift isn’t greeted with the eagerness that Zargon perhaps hoped, he smooths it over and they part on a positive note.  Audric cleans a scale and presents it to Odesia’s child, explaining that the beast was slain on the day of young Laerch’s birth, and that it is a good omen.  The gift is well received, Odesia having a strong belief in such things.

We pass another uncomfortable night in the river keep, and it again passes without interruption.  We return to the tunnels, with me in the lead.  At the first fork, and Audric looks to me to decide on a plan of action.  I decide to investigate the earthen passage, the others following behind.

The tunnel’s height is inconsistent, and we are at times forced to crouch.  The texture of the walls is rough stone, and we’re not able to tell if it was dug out a long time ago or if it is a naturally occurring cavern.  I decide to scout perhaps a mile, not wanting to delve too deeply.  The rough nature of the walls and floor makes it difficult to discern any notable details, but near the end of my patience, we are rewarded with a trio of branching tunnels, all also of rough-carved stone.  Unwilling to attempt an unmapped cavern, we decide to return to the dwarven passage and continue our exploration there.  There is yet another fork not far past the site of our encounter with the serpent, and similar to before, one is rough stone, the other carved dwarven handiwork.  Zargon refers to the dwarven-made tunnel as “Dwarf Avenue,” a moniker that fits very well.

We pass another pair of forks, eschewing them to continue along the dwarven passage.  After a brief discussion we decide to follow it for one more hour before turning back, not wanting to risk needing to sleep underground.  The corridor finally leads to an opening in the floor—a mineshaft, apparently.  The tunnel ends abruptly, and there is a gaping hole in the floor perhaps 20 feet across, a dead-end except for down.  Looking into it, we cannot see the bottom.  There appears to be the remnants of a pulley system with bits of chain or rotting ropes, but nothing we can use now.

We are in agreement to abandon our expedition and return to Dagger’s Deep.  Upon our return, we spend the few remaining hours of light at the tunnel entrance, piling boulders and rubble to block the opening.  The toil is hard, and the release from the tension of the tunnel exploration leaves us exhausted.

We describe our findings to Perhegan, and he seems relieved that we didn’t encounter more danger.  While that does not mean the settlement is necessarily safe, we think the chance of a new threat surfacing remote.  Perhegan expresses concern over what the dwarves’ reaction may be upon learning of such a sizable tunnel complex, fearful for what it may mean for the burgeoning settlement.  The way we present this information to Mirabar needs to be discussed.  He doesn’t want to invite a “platoon of dwarves” to invade the town and investigate the catacombs.

He is supportive of our recommendation to more permanently seal the opening, and in that time, he asks—not demands—for us to stay in town while the masons work.  We commit to stay for a week, allowing time for us to train and resupply, after which we can reassess if the construction is not complete.

Audric asks if Perhegan will accompany us on our trip to Mirabar, not feeling completely comfortable speaking on his behalf.  He seems agreeable to the notion, and while he may not have necessarily been planning a trip this soon, he tentatively agrees to the plan.

We spend the following days in training and preparation for the journey.  In my free time, I work with the serpent’s skull, burning what remains of the flesh off it to reveal white bone beneath.  It will make a worthy trophy to the shared shrine of Mystra and the Beastlord.  From the beast’s claws and straps of leather, I fashion two pairs of claw bracers—the followers of the Beastlord refer to these as “Claws of Malar,” their use being restricted to members of the priesthood.  The first set I make for myself, the second I intend to keep for Selben until an appropriate time to gift them to my apprentice.

With the remnants, I use bits of twine and leather to string them together in two rows, jointed at the middle, creating a decorative bone breastplate which I gift to Bonie.  Combined with the various fetishes I have given her in the past, she makes a striking and intimidating figure.

On the third day of our training, a contingent arrives in Dagger’s Deep overland—a small band of humans, Mirabarran guards, led by Rale Cotchen.  A second soldier we recognize from the last time we met Rale, the group totaling a half-dozen in all.  Audric, Zargon and I stand to watch their approach, Selben a few steps behind me, and my heart begins to race in anticipation of the possibility of spilling Rale Cotchen’s blood.

Rale leads them straight into Dagger’s Deep on horseback and dismounts.  He exchanges a few words with his contingent, instructing them to stay back, as he walks directly into the center of town alone like he owns the place.  At our questioning glares, he speaks his intentions.  “I have come to pay respect to my cousin’s grave.”

Audric throws me a look, as if we should leave him about his business.  I look around for Odesia, not wanting an unwelcome encounter to occur between the two, and as she seems to be cloistered in her tents, I defer to Audric’s lead, and hold my tongue.  Perhegan escorts him to the site of Laerch’s rest and, nearby, the freshly dug grave of Corin Redbeard.  Selben and I wait near Rale’s guards, my apprentice staring at them with a slight knowing smile, my posture inviting conflict.

“We can set up our camp here.” Rale calls to his guardsmen upon his return.  “We are likely not to stay more than a day.”  Audric anticipates my response, trying to calm me.  “If he’s going to be reasonable and civil, we will let him do that.  We will remain civil.”  I disagree, and Zargon seems to share my feelings on the matter.

“Why are you staying at all?” I ask.

“Our party has been on the road and need a place to rest,” he responds.  “This place is as safe as any.  We have not the time nor inclination to attempt Mirabar before the sun sets.”

“Let the men make their camp,” Audric pleads, “they are weary from travel.”  Zargon (the traitor!) joins Audric, attempting to convince me to avoid escalation.  I confront Perhegan later, and he explains that he doesn’t know much of Rale, nor were any ulterior motivations for Rale’s visit discussed.  Rale did make a remark over the fresh grave, but Perhegan explained it away as an untimely death.  I decide to drop the matter, as my allies clearly do not share my eagerness to flay Rale Cotchen.

Rale’s men keep to themselves, sharing a watch over their small camp.  The night passes, and in the morning, the soldiers pack up and make to head out.  Perhegan seems relieved, but I can’t help but feel like an opportunity to do violence on Rale Cotchen was missed.  I look to Selben and sense the young mage’s own lust for the Mirabarran captain’s blood, and I am proud.

The masons get the stonework into state where Perhegan feels reasonably safe leaving, and there have been no other signs of disturbances in the days since.  He has requisitioned a wagon so that we can haul the serpent’s heavy hide with us, and will use the empty wagon for a minor resupply.  We spend the last few days in final preparations for our departure.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

XP awards for sessions 34-35, revised

This post is a reissue of the XP initially awarded here. In discussions with the group since we played earlier this week, there are two issues I’d like to correct in favor of the party.

The first is that XP was not originally awarded for the magical longsword and military pick. These were intentionally omitted because they were discovered under circumstances where “there was no real danger associated with obtaining them.” In truth, that shouldn’t really matter: the party still plundered them and we’ve also had at least once previous instance where XP was awarded for items acquired in non-combat situations.

The second is that the XP total was divided evenly among all party members prior to halving the henchman’s share, instead of dividing the total into shares that would consume the entire allotment. This, too, was intentional, and I’ve actually been divvying XP this way for some time. Philosophically, it equates to a henchman requiring two of the group’s points to earn a single XP; the math is also much simpler.

After further research and deliberation, I’ve decided to revert to the approach where the entire XP allotment is used, with no “XP waste.” Either method can be argued as canon, but I’d rather err on the side of the party. Further, I don’t feel that the “divide first, then halve” method scales fairly with multiple henchmen. For example, in a situation where 6,000 XP is earned by a party of four PCs and two henchmen, the “no waste” method awards 1,200 XP to each PC and 600 XP to each henchman (1,200 + 1,200 + 1,200 + 1,200 + 600 + 600 = 6,000), however the “divide first” method gives only 1,000 XP to each PC and 500 XP to each henchman, with an effective “loss” of 1,000 XP (1,000 + 1,000 + 1,000 + 1,000 + 500 + 500 = 5,000) - an entire share!

This definitely feels wrong and, as we now have more than one henchman in the party, I can’t rightly defend the use of the “divide first” method going forward.

In light of these changes, the total XP earned for the last two sessions is 11,500 (10,000 for the behir and 1,500 for treasure plundered). This is divided into sevenths, with two parts going to each of Zargon, Audric, and Zeb, and one part going to Lom. Individual allotments:

  • Audric - 3,286
  • Zeb - 3,614
  • Zargon - 3,286
  • Lom (h) - 1,642
Revised updated totals:
  • Audric - 19,689
  • Zeb - 3,000/40,162
  • Zargon - 14,789
  • Selben (h) - 11,101
  • Lom (h) - 2,892
In addition to Audric and Lom, Zeb also advances, becoming the first PC in the campaign to reach level 6! Hopefully this is agreeable to everyone. While I'm still considering options to improve the way the XP is allocated in our game, I'll plan to continue using this approach until any change is made official.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

XP awards for sessions 34-35

Edit: this post is no longer current. See the revised version here.

The entirety of the XP award for the last two sessions is vested in the slaying of the behir in the catacomb below Dagger’s Deep. The sum is a whopping 10,000 points, divided five ways (Selben was not present) and with Lom’s share halved due to henchmen status. Updated totals:

  • Audric - 18,403
  • Zeb - 3,000/38,748
  • Zargon - 13,503
  • Selben (h) - 11,101
  • Lom (h) - 2,250
Lom inches over the minimum needed for 2nd level, while Audric crests the hill of reattaining level 5 after a long journey back from his setback against the wights. Level ups have already been administered and hit points rolled, so everyone should be good to go next time we play!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

#34: Beyond the Cellar

After patching our wounds at Orcdoom and settling affairs with Mycleth, the priest of Lathander and Serrus, captain of Post South, we make our way back to Mirabar to collect our hard-earned bounty.  Though the battles with orcs were exhilarating, the near-death experience has made me thankful to leave the plains and mountains full of orcs behind.  The fortress walls of Mirabar are a welcome sight.

We reconvene with Zargon at The Rusty Sword and recount our tale to the bard.  We have a few errands to finish before we depart for Dagger’s Deep—Audric pawns some of the captured orc weapons and gems collected from our previous endeavors, and I shop around for components needed to research a new spell.  We meet Corin Redbeard, emissary of the Mirabarran Undercity dwarves, as well as a pair of families referred to us by Daegahr, who the fisherman thinks will fare well in the settlement.  Finally, I am surprised to hear that Seirsha has decided to accompany Zargon, and when we are finally ready to depart, it is with a sizable party.

Our progress is slow due to the size of the group, but our journey during the day is not harassed and we find a place to settle in for the night not far from Minstrel’s Glade.  We divide the group into three watches, and I’m given the opportunity to observe some of our new comrades.  Seirsha keeps mostly to herself, eschewing even Zargon’s company.  Abram is quiet and thoughtful, though kind, and Corin is stoic, not the type to initiate conversations.  Seeing his dwarven-crafted axe and suit of chain is comforting, should anything decide to contest our travel.

Late in our second day of travel we reach Dagger’s Deep and are greeted by Perhegan, who is eager to meet those we have brought with us, and all are welcomed with open arms.  I give a cautious nod to Zeb as he approaches with Bonie, sensing something behind the priest’s dark eyes, but fortunately Audric steps in to share our tale before I am forced to, and I welcome the interruption. 

I don’t relish the thought of speaking alone with my master.  It’s difficult to tell if Zeb will approve of our decision to pursue the orc bounty in Orcdoom, and he will almost certainly hold Audric to task for taking such rash action without him.  Zeb is impossible to read as Audric recounts the tale of our deadly encounters, and when the story is finally finished, the group disperses to their tents.  I seek the solace of my own tent quickly, avoiding any direct encounter with Zeb.

* * *

I hold my breath as I watch Audric and his large party approach, uncharacteristically nervous, and I squeeze Bonie’s hand hard until I finally catch sight of Selben, who has taken on the affectation of a black mage’s robe.  She squeezes my hand back and smiles as I finally exhale, obviously relieved to see my young apprentice again.  Selben’s eyes are sunken and his skin pale, and he seems nervous at meeting my gaze—from what I can tell he and Audric are still recovering from wounds or bruises, though Zargon seems characteristically chipper and gregarious.  I am sure there is a story to be told.

Before I have a chance to talk with Selben about their journey, Audric speaks over the young mage and relates their tales of Mirabar, of their decision to hunt orcs at Orcdoom, and of the nearly deadly encounters that ensued.  I find myself excited by their recounting of the attack on the orc camp, proud at the efficacy of Selben’s use of his powers, and my heart nearly drops at hearing of Audric and Lom’s fall, and of Selben’s hard journey back to Post South with two unconscious warriors in tow.  Selben’s voice wavers as he finishes the story, and when the tale is finally done, the group erupts into claps on the back and congratulations on a successful hunt.  Once finished, Selben dismisses himself quietly and returns to his tents.

We show the acolyte of Gond, young Abram, to the shrine, inviting him to contribute his own addition to our construction or to build a shrine of his own.  I’m confident he’ll find a following among the various craftsmen and women of Dagger’s Deep.  Perhegan’s daughter, Edine, welcomes Seirsha and tries to befriend her, and I throw a questioning eyebrow to Zargon, who explains a little bit about the woman, though I can feel he’s barely scratching the surface.  Corin Redbeard is a welcome visitor, and I’m eager to show him the cellar of the river keep, as it has been difficult to restrain myself from investigating on my own in their absence.  Fortunately, Bonie has allowed for little idle time, and has made sure there were enough distractions to keep me from the cellar.

Excitement over the newcomers quickly returns to matters of business as the sun sets on the horizon, and tents are found for the newly arrived families.  The following morning, our first task is easing the dwarf Corin’s curiosity about the tunnels beneath Dagger’s Deep.  Bonie agrees to let me go as long as Audric promises to make responsible decisions, and slaps my rump playfully as she heads to Edine’s tent, leaving me, Zargon, Audric, and Corin to investigate on our own.

We escort Corin into the cellar, showing him the hidden door, and I watch as he examines the stonework carefully, ere we strike torches and crawl through the tunnel and into the room beyond.  The musty scent encountered before is gone, though the lingering odor of char or ash remains.

“This chamber was indeed constructed by dwarven hands, though it was not originally part of the main keep,” Corin imparts.  He knows that both the keep and cellar are centuries old, the former made by humans and the latter by dwarves, though he cannot determine which was built first.  As we continue forward, we investigate the collapsed catacomb entrance, relying on Corin’s knowledge to tell us more about it.

He explains that it was likely a cave-in, though cannot tell if it was done on purpose.  “The Undercity of Mirabar has no record of this,” he says with some surprise, explaining how rare it is for a construction so close to Mirabar to be unknown to the dwarven scholars.  Discussing options, to the best of or estimation, it would take hard day of work to unblock the entrance, though Audric questions whether it’s a good idea.

Corin intends to document the finding, having already started a crude map with dimensions that he intends to return to Mirabar to discuss with his kin.  His eagerness to learn what lies beyond the collapse is evident, and after some discussion, we decide to put the matter to Perhegan.

The nominal ruler of Dagger’s Deep trusts our judgment and agrees to assign Ailbeart Stonehand, the lead mason, to oversee the excavation, and once given leave to commence our work, we head back into the cellar to begin.  The labor is tedious and hard, and before breaching the opening, we decide to rest for the night and finish our excavation in the morning.

As we emerge from the cellar, we are confronted by Bonie who calls to us urgently.  “Come quickly!” she says, gesturing towards Odesia’s tent.  During the day she has given birth, and with a weary smile Odesia introduces us to her newborn boy, young Laerch.  There were no complications during delivery, and a small celebration breaks out, with Laerch being the first baby of Dagger’s Deep.  Audric holds the child, and I can see Zargon and Seirsha in hushed conversation nearby.  I withdraw one of my knives and gift it to Odesia, a present to be kept until the child is old enough to wield it.

On that glad note we retire for the evening and arise refreshed and ready to confront whatever waits in the catacomb.  On our request, Renwal agrees to bestow a magical light spell upon a small rock for us once we breach the opening so that we may potentially see what lies beyond before fully unearthing the entrance.  Corin agrees to enter first, gifted with the ability to see in the dark, and we hold our breaths and listen as he disappears into the black.  We hear the scuffle of rocks on the ground before he finally calls back.  “This is interesting indeed,” he says, and indicates that no immediate threat waits beyond.  One by one, we struggle through the hole.

As we step beyond the wreckage, our magic bauble illuminates the tunnel, which continues past the blockage.  The ceiling is low, somewhat confined for humans but perfectly suitable for Corin.

Searching around us, we see skeletons—dozens of skeletons—and Corin identifies them as goblins.  Scorch marks can be found on the tunnel walls, and one skull appears as if it may have been immolated.  We also find the remains of a larger skeleton, mostly intact, appearing to be that of a human.  Shards of broken javelins and spears, sharpened stone and fractured blades, litter the floor.  Near the human skeleton, we see shattered glass and a few unstopped, empty glass vials.  Covered in dust is a fully intact longsword, and not far removed is a similarly untouched footman’s pick, weapons surviving the ravages of time.  Audric takes both items.

We decide to continue, and Corin indicates that the tunnel descends slightly.  We pass for nearly a half hour before encountering a fork; to the right, the dwarven stonework continues, but to the left, the tunnel is earthen and unfinished.  Questioning Corin, the dwarf looks rather nervous about the discovery of the undocumented complex and offers no insight on the nature of either path.  Turning to Lom, I ask him to examine the dust on the tunnel floor to see if there is any sign of passage evident.  He investigates carefully and doesn’t note any footprints, but indicates a strange pattern of score marks at various points along the edges.  They are swept away easily if the debris is disturbed, but none of us can discern what may have caused them.  We make note of the curious marks and continue down the dwarven tunnel.

We advance for what seems to be another half mile before all of us stop at once, hearing a faint noise ahead, an erratic tapping that echoes through the catacomb.  The sound begins to grow louder, and we get the sensation that it is approaching, the tapping or scuttling noise increasing in volume and speed.  Finally, glittering in the darkness ahead, we see a brief reflection of our torchlight: two red slivers, on what appears to be a pair of eyes.  We brace for a confrontation.

The tunnel suddenly illuminates with a brilliant flash.  Everything goes white, and in the space where we saw the eyes, we see a long, serpentine body with several sets of legs and the head of what appears to be a dragon.  A current of electricity erupts from it, striking Corin, and the dwarf is instantly incinerated, his body crumpling to a heap.

Bonie looses an arrow from behind us which sails into the cavern beyond as Audric utters a conjuration, filling the tunnel ahead with glittering motes of light, illuminating the creature and revealing just how massive it is, easily 40 feet long from snout to tail.  I finish an evocation that summons the hazy form of a wyvern between us and the creature as Zargon fires an arrow that penetrates the creature’s hide.

Bonie and Lom unleash another volley, both striking the serpent.  Audric completes a second incantation, this time summoning a small, whirling tornado of dust and air in front of the beast, while I blind it with a blessing from Malar, its red eyes turning a glowing white.  It roars in defiance and charges forward, opening its great maw full of hundreds of sharp teeth, lunging towards me…and stops a mere handful of feet away.  The ephemeral wyvern springs to life, triggered by the beast’s charge, and its magical sting paralyzes our enemy.

Immediately, we rush forward and rain attacks onto the creature, Audric dropping his axe in lieu of the discovered footman’s pick, using it to strike deadly blows.  Lom, Bonie and I do the same, a final blow from Bonie cutting deep into the serpent’s neck and its writhing stills, having succumbed to our vicious onslaught.

I ask Audric take up his axe and sever the creature’s head, but he appears to have a moment of indecision before ignoring the request, instead beating on the dead creature with his pick, almost as in a berserk rage.

“Are you alright?” I ask the warrior, clearly concerned.

“I’m fine.  Everything’s fine.  We’re all fine.”  Audric briefly explains that he felt compelled to use the pick instead of his axe, a potentially troubling revelation given Audric’s history with items of magic.  I ask Bonie to complete the deed as I sever tendons to remove the creature’s stunted legs.  Meanwhile Audric loots Corin’s body, explaining his intention to return anything found to the dwarves in Mirabar.  Unfortunately, the notes being kept by Corin pertaining to the tunnel’s discovery were destroyed in the dwarf’s conflagration.  Zargon and Audric take scales from the serpent as trophies, and I nod at the with approval.

With the immediate threat gone, we scout ahead.  Slightly beyond the skirmish, the tunnel forks again, and once again the dwarven stonework continues to the right, though this time a pair of earthen tunnels branch off to the left.  We decide that any further investigation should wait, and after some discussion regarding harvesting the serpent’s hide, we determine the task too great for us now, and agree to return the next day.

I take the serpent’s head with us, dragging it and the brace of severed, clawed legs behind me as we turn back towards Dagger’s Deep.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Short bows and arrow types

Henceforth, I’ll be correcting a rules error that we’ve been making for several years in allowing “sheaf arrows” to be fired from short bows. Despite the 2e PH not explicitly stating (to my knowledge) that short bows are limited to using “flight arrows” only, I think we have enough suggestive data points to know that it’s not intended for short bows to deal 1d8 damage:

  • The “Missile Weapon Ranges” table on p. 69 lists both arrow types under “Longbow,” but no specific type under “Short bow,” implying that either the arrow ranges for short bows are indistinguishable or that only one type of arrow can be used.
  • The “Bows” section on p. 73 states that “Arrows for long bows of all types are divided between light-weight flight arrows and heavier sheaf arrows. Flight arrows have longer ranges and are normally used in hunting. Sheaf arrows have a stronger metal head but a reduced range. They are often used in times of war.” It makes no distinction with regards to usable arrow types for short bows.
  • It simply doesn’t make mechanical sense for short bows to be able to deal 1d8 damage in the context of the available weapons in the PH.

From this point forward, characters and NPCs using short bows will deal only 1d6 damage per hit. Any preexisting inventory of sheaf arrows on record sheets may be freely converted to flight arrows. Short bows can be “traded in” for longbows in Mirabar or Dagger’s Deep for an “upgrade cost” of 45 gp (the cost difference between the weapons in the PH). Note that certain classes are permitted to use short bows only (the Thief class, in particular), but I don’t believe that any current PCs are subject to this restriction.

Monday, January 13, 2020

XP awards for sessions 31-33

I’d like to make sure that XP is shored up prior to heading into tomorrow’s session, when the full party is set to reconvene. There are three sessions to cover; the first of these was the foray into the hidden cellar below Dagger’s Deep, where the party discovered the parchment and bloodstone (among other effects), worth 1,000 XP for each primary PC and half that amount (500 XP) to Selben.

The venture to Mirabar and subsequent investigative work there garners a nominal award of 500 XP to each of Audric, Selben, and Zargon, with half that amount (250 XP) awarded to Lom.

The orc-hunting expedition at Post South reaps a lofty 2,000 XP to each of Audric and Selben, and 1,000 XP to Lom. This is fairly generous awards, by the book, but in addition to enemies slain, reflects both relationships forged amid the outpost and knowledge gained of the area west of Mirabar.

In total, the awards for the three sessions sum to:

  • Audric - 3,500
  • Zeb - 1,000
  • Zargon - 1,500
  • Selben (h) - 3,000
  • Lom (h) - 1,250

Adding in Zeb’s 10% prime requisite bonus, the updated party totals now stand thus:
  • Audric - 16,403
  • Zeb - 3,000/36,548
  • Zargon - 11,503
  • Selben (h) - 11,101
  • Lom (h) - 1,250

This puts Selben solidly over the threshold for level 4 (for which he’ll need to train), a fitting reward for Jason’s choice to elevate him to a full PC for a short stretch and surviving the excursion from Orcdoom. Audric is also now reasonably close to reattaining 5th level.

Recovered Items

Not a ton to review on this front, but I’ll remind briefly that the bloodstone radiated a faint magical aura, while the parchment did not. The coinage found among the orcs was minimal, but a 120 gp bounty is awarded to the party by the city of Mirabar upon their return.