House rules

Here are some of the house rules I normally use in my games with some additions for my newest one. I am going to try to explain them without using the 5e rules as a base so they will still make sense to people who are not familiar with the 5e rules.

Limited Cantrips
Cantrips are the least powerful types of spells available to most casters. Any Cantrip you know is always available to use (You don’t need to prepare them each day). The number of times you can cast a cantrip per day is double the number of times you can cast a 1st level spell per day (twice your 1st level spell slots).

Resting:
There are two types of rests you can take, a short rest (1 hour) and a long rest (8 hours). You can only take one long rest in a 24 hour period and gain any benefits. You can take more than one short rest in a 24 hour period but you can only gain the same benefit from a short rest once in a 24 hour period.

When you take a long rest you roll to see how many HP you heal (if needed). The dice are your half your HD rounded up plus your constitution bonus. A HD is the die you roll for your HP at each level (d10 for fight, d8 for cleric, d6 for wizard, etc). So a 1st or 2nd level fighter rill roll a d10 + con bonus after a long rest to see how many HP are healed. A 3rd or 4th level fighter would roll 2d10 + con bonus.

When taking a short rest you may roll 1 HD and add your Con bonus to recover HP. You can only do this once per 24 hours even though you can take more than one short rest (you cant benefit from the same thing more than once in a 24 hour period when taking a short rest).

Initiative
I will be experimenting with this initiative system, will probably make some adjustments as we play based on how it feels and feedback.

At the beginning of each round you will declare what you would like to do. Based on what actions you are taking you will roll a different die for your initiative. This system is experimental and will probably be changed after play.

-Lowest roll goes first
-Ties to to higher Dex
-Can delay your action until later
-Might need a way to make Dex more important, could reduce die for each +2 dex (d10->d8->d6->d4->d3->d2->1)
-Roll two dice if taking more than one actions (move and attack is d6 + d8).
-Experiment with when taking multiple actions they happen at different times?
-Maybe cantrips are d6 or d8?
-If you can’t take your action because of changes before you can act you lose your action? Or can change it after everyone else has acted? or add d12 to your initiative.

d4 Ranged attack, drop held item
d6 Movement, Melee attack with light or finesse weapon
d8 Melee attack, swap gear
d10 Cast a spell, Melee attack with heavy weapon
d12 Change action?

Posted in Aneeria, D&D 5e, House Rules | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Thundertree and Cragmaw Castle

We leave Phandelin in the morning to head toward Thundertree, which we know was once a prosperous community until Mt. Hooknal erupted and destroyed the area thirty years ago. Over the course of two days travel the group manages to do a bit of hunting, but not much else.

After two days we come upon a trail heading east into the ruins of Thundretree. A tower on a hill overlooks the village and the majority of the buildings are heavily dilapidated. A sign nailed to a tree reads “Danger: Plant Monsters and Zombies. Turn back now”. Liarel remembers Mirna telling her about an emerald necklace which may still be in her family’s old herb shop in Thundertree.

We cautiously approach a building toward the front of the ruins which appears to be in better shape than the rest. The door is reinforced with iron bands and the shutters are closed. Liarel opens the door and a man calls out. She responds in Druidic, asking if he is Rydoth. He confirms that he is and tells us to come in. Before giving us directions to Kragmaw Castle, Rydoth tells us that a young green dragon has taken up residence in the tower. We decide to deal with that matter another time, opting instead to head directly for Kragmaw in order to save Gundren.

We travel for a day until we come to a rocky outcrop and decide to rest for the night. Part way through her watch Never hears a voice in the distance. She wakes Mella, Liarel, and Droop just in case. Droop says the voices belong to bugbears and we come to the conclusion that they are patrolling the area as they never fully approach us.

The next morning we take a trail up to a crumbling castle consisting of seven towers arranged in a circle and joining together in the middle. We circle the castle and make note of the front entrance, a side entrance, and what appears to be a secret entrance. After much discussion the group decides to send Never to try and scare the inhabitants of the castle outside using Thaumaturgy. Unfortunately, she is quickly spotted and shot in the foot. She tries to recover the situation by making friendly conversation, but is ultimately forced to retreat. We decide to wait until dark before trying again, but hear a gruff voice coming from one of the towers a few hours into our wait and decide to send Mella (disguised as a rat) to investigate.

Mella scurries closer to the tower and overhears two voices negotiating for someone, presumably Gundren. A gruff voice says, “The agreement was for the dwarf. If you want the map you must pay.” The voices continue to argue for a short while before the gruff voice says, “Very well, question him”. Mella decides to climb up into the arrow slit to see inside the tower and finally manages it after some difficulty.

Looking inside the tower, Mella sees Gundren looking badly beaten. He is being prodded awake by a Drow woman. There is a Bugbear sitting in the corner with a wolf. When Gundren wakes the Drow asks him repeatedly who else has seen his map. He insists that no one has and she crosses the room to burn the map before turning back to approach Gundren, rapier drawn.

At this point Mella decides to intervene. He scurries into the room and quickly shifts into panther form, shocking everyone in the room. He lunges for the Drow’s throat, knocking her prone and biting her twice before shifting his stance to protect Gundren. The Bugbear (Grol) and the wolf both attack Mella, causing him to revert to elf form as the wolf drags him to the ground.

Outside, the remainder of the group realizes that it is time to act and Liarel casts Darkness into the room as we all run toward the presumed secret entrance of the castle.

In the darkness, Mella hears the Drow move and the sound of a door opening. He casts Thunderwave, hearing that he has knocked the wolf back, before grabbing Gundren and beginning the move along the wall.

The group comes through the secret entrance into a provisions room. Danak opens the door to the east, revealing the Drow bandaging herself up, Grol, and a cloud of darkness emanating from the corner. Two armored goblins come in through the door behind us. Danak rushes at Grol as one of the armored goblins turns and leaves, presumably to get reinforcements, as the other stays and attacks Danak.

In the darkness, Mella hears the commotion outside as he continues to make his way to the door. He calls out in Druidic that he has Gundren. In the next room over, Liarel cures Danak’s wounds and Never tries to cast Suggestion on Grol, telling him that he is our ally and there is no need to fight us. The armored goblin makes another attack on Danak, who defends, before Grol calls him and the wolf off.

Mella tries to have Grol attack the Drow, saying she is our enemy, but he does nothing. The Drow lunges, stabbing Gundren, who falls, before running off. Never stabilizes Gundren and Danak moves to pick him up, but Grol says to leave him, that Gundren is his. Realizing that Grol took “ally” to mean “our leader”, Elada charges at him with her sword, slashing him in the hip and breaking the Suggestion as five more armored goblins burst into the provisions room.

Mella hurls fire at one of the goblins and picks up Gundren as Elada and Grol exchange blows. In the provisions room, Liarel casts Thunderwave and knocks back three of the new goblins. Danak swings at Grol with his great axe, but misses and hits Mella instead. Danak, Never, and Elada Docus their efforts on Grol while Liarel continues to take on the five goblins in the next room over. Mella cures Danak’s wounds and Droop faints.

Mella gives the now-conscious Gundren his long sword just before the wolf lunges at the elf, knocking him to the ground. Liarel sends out another Thunderwave, knocking out three of the goblins and leaving the other two looking worn down. She notices a dwarf who looks remarkably similar to Gundren sneak out behind the goblins with a sword. He motions for her to be quiet.

In the other room the battle of three-against-Grol continues and Mella Thunderwaves the wolf back into the darkness. One of the goblins hits Liarel, who falls, and the darkness disappears. Meanwhile, another figure which looks remarkably like Liarel (henceforth “Lie-arel”) comes up behind Elada and stabs her. Never notices that something seems off with Lie-arel and attacks her with witch bolt whil Elada finally finishes Grol.

Lie-arel continues to hack at Elada, who falls unconscious, then shifts her attention to Danak. Danak and Never Fight off Lie-arel as Mella heals Elada. Danak strikes Lie-arel and she collapses, turning into an odd humanoid creature. We fight off the remaining Goblins, most of whom run away, and leave out the secret entrance. We hear voices approaching and Droop says there are “nine”. We run for the forest and see several goblins chase after us, but they do not leave the castle.

We quickly feed Gundren and make our way around Kragmaw Castle to have a better view of the exits, in hopes of catching the Drow as she runs away. After an hour we still haven’t seen anyone leave and Mella casts a location spell on the Drow’s sword, discovering that it (and hopefully, by extension, the Drow) is still in the castle. We ask Droop how many goblins are left and after thinking for a moment he says “nine”. We begin to expect that he thinks any number higher than four is “nine”.

Mella and Liarel try to sneak back into the castle through the secret entrance disguised as rats, but are chased off by two goblin guards, one of whom wears a belt made of rat tails and goes by “Rat Slayer”. After a brief scuffle they return to the forest. Danak and Never go off to join them, leaving Elada and Droop to guard Gundren.

Mella, Liarel, Danak, and Never decide to try once more, this time going through the front entrance. We loop around to the front and Liarel casts a fog cloud onto the front facing arrow slits. We rush through the front entrance until we come upon a door. Danak moves to listen at it, triggering a trap which brings stones and beams down upon us.

After a brief discussion as to whether or not this plan continues to be “worth it” we decide to press forward through the now un-trapped door. It opens into what appears to be a shrine to Lythander’s pantheon. Inside are three small goblins, one of which wears a red cloak, and a large, worm-like creature. Mella wants to clear the room and study it, as it was the subject of some of his deceased master’s studies, but he doesn’t quite know what he’s looking for. Against our better judgement we stay and fight.

There is a round of everyone missing before Danak manages to get stabbed multiple times. Mella tries to talk to the goblin priestess about the god Ohgma, but she appears to be a priestess of Magmulyet and otherwise completely uninterested in conversation. Mella lays down a small offering to Ohgma before joining the fight.

There is a brief scuffle during which one goblin is set alight, Danak Splits the Priestess’ head down the middle, and Mella turns into a panther for the second time today, then the door at the opposite end of the room swings open revealing Grol and two armored goblins. Liarel transforms into a wolf and Danak and Grol begin attacking each other, both missing several times. Never takes out the last small goblin with her mace as Grol finally lands a hit on Danak, who collapses. Never stabilizes Danak as Mella and Liarel fend off the goblins. Liarel kills one of the armored goblins and Grol and the remaining goblin retreat, calling out as they do.

More goblins appear and there is another scuffle before the group manages to get the shrine free of goblins and shut both doors. Liarel loses concentration on the fog cloud, causing it to dissipate. Elada notices this and she, Droop, and Gundren begin to run for the front of the castle. Inside, Liarel heals Danak and Mella searches the shrine. Looking behind one of the curtains, Mella finds an altar covered with a bloodstained black cloth and some ritual tools. Still a panther, Mella grabs a knife with his mouth and ransacks the altar.

We make our way out of the shrine, through the altar room, into a storeroom. We hear several goblins in the next room, which we assume to be the landing from which we entered the shrine initially and so plan to have Mella thunderwave them aside so we can make our escape. Unfortunately, when we open the crack open the door to look out Mella is struck with two arrows and falls unconscious. We close the door and stabilize him while we try to come up with a new plan.

Elada and Gundren rush up through the front entrance and kill a goblin each. Droop stabs another and hides. There is another round of attacks and Gundren falls. The group in the storeroom hear the commotion and decide that this is their chance. Never and Danak rush out to attack while Liarel carries Mella and books it. Danak picks up Gundren and Never stabilizes him. We run out of the castle, a small horde of goblins chasing us. Liarel falls and Never carries her out as Elada picks up Mella before she, too, is hit and falls. Danak gets Gundren into the forest before rushing back for Elada and Mella.

In the trees, Danak and Never take the party’s two health potions off of Mella and give them to Elada and Liarel. We make out way back to the rock formation we had camped at the previous night, Gundren and Mella waking on the way. We set up camp for the night.

Our rest is disturbed by an owlbear which appears to be following our scent. All at once Liarel and Mella hurl fire at it, Never hits it with witch bolt and Elada throws a javelin at it. Droop faints. Danak rushes forward and enters into combat with the owlbear, the two exchanging blows until Danak falls. Never continues the witch bolt and the elves keep producing flame, Liarel accidentally setting herself on fire. Gundren slashes at the owlbear wildly and Mella stabilizes Danak. Droop wakes up and leaps at the owlbear, stabbing it with his dagger, killing it. It falls over on top of him.

Mella and Liarel stabilize Elada before they and Never push the owlbear off of Droop. the small goblin looks a little worse for wear but looks up them and says, “Get ’em?” Everyone awake breathes a sigh of relief.

We finish our rest then make our way back to Phandelin, where Gundren pays everyone but Droop twenty-five gold (Liarel takes note of this injustice and gives Droop five of her gold pieces) and promises the group ten percent of the mine.

As we enter Phandelin, Gundren gives us detail directions of Wave Echo Cave. We begin to approach the town master’s hall to reunite Gundren with Sildar, who we meet exiting the building. Sildar is quite relieved to see Gundren safe and they begin to talk as we make our way to the Stone Hill Inn.

Asking around, there’s been no sign of the Redbrands and news has circulated that Mirna and her family are back home safe, which is raising the town’s spirits. Gundren buys a round of drinks and tells us he’s concerned about his brothers. Since they have yet to be seen in town, they are almost certainly at the Wave Echo Cave, where we suspect the Black Spider has a presence. We rest the night at the inn.

The next morning we decide to head off toward the Old Owlwell. On our way we quickly come upon some large rocks, spotting movement behind them. We split into two groups to try and surround whoever lies in wait. Shortly thereafter, a large humanoid figure peers out over the rocks with a javelin. Never tries talking to him, but he largely ignores her greeting and immediately demands that we give him “everything”. Never offers him her excess herbs, but he says he wants gold instead. Liarel gives him five gold pieces, pretending it’s all we have. He takes it and moves on to demanding food. Never again offers the herbs and Liarel eats a handful to prove that they are indeed edible. The giant calls Liarel stupid for eating “weeds” and says he’d rather eat elf, demanding that Liarel step forward.

At this point we realize that we cannot talk our way out of this situation and move to attack. Elada and Danak rush at the giant as Liarel casts Melf’s Acid Arrow, Mella transforms into a panther, and Droop throws his stick. After a brief fight, Droop land the killing blow and we dub him Droop the Giant Slayer. Mella and Liarel stabilize the giant and Liarel takes the time to use the giant’s javelin to write “The elf left you alive” in the ground while Elada steals the giant’s furs.

We make our way to a river to clean the furs and rest, then travel for the rest of the day and set up camp. Near morning we hear the sound of rustling leather approaching. We spot a handful of small flying creatures coming toward us. Liarel shoots one before Mella Thunderwaves them all out of the sky. Droop eats one and Mella buries the rest. Fifteen minutes later we hear a squawk followed by the sound of arrows. Liarel is hit thrice and Never once. We are surrounded by a small group of goblins. We make short work of them and raid the area for arrows before finishing our night’s rest.

The net morning we continue on our way to the Old Owlwell. We eventually come upon the crumbling ruins of an old watchtower, a colorful tent in the courtyard in front of it. A rotting smell is coming from the tower. As we approach, a horde of shambling corpses pours out of the tower. We begin to attack them but are quickly stopped by a man in a red robe with a necromatic symbol tattooed on his forehead stepping out of the tent.

We talk with the Necromancer (Kost) for a bit and learn that he only keeps the zombies about as protection against the Orcs nearby at Wyverntor. He says We are welcome to return to investigate the Owlwell if we take care of the Orcs for him. He then points us in the direction of Wyverntor and we head on our way.

Once at Wyverntor, a rocky high point in the area, we spot a cave entrance. As we approach we notice a guard hiding behind a rock. We stop to plan our approach and decide to send Elada to talk to the guard and set up a meeting. She does, telling the guard about her village of half-orcs which was destroyed by evil humans. The guard says to come back at nightfall. We quickly realize that Elada’s story complicates our association with Danak and so we decide to disguise him as Elada’s slave when we go back that night.

Around dusk Elada, Danak, Droop, and Never approach the cave entrance as Liarel and Mella hide out nearby, keeping watch. The guard calls for “Brogor” and an orc comes forward introducing himself as Brogor Axebiter of the Clan of Many Arrows. He is accompanied by another giant humanoid. We try to convince them to leave and never return by telling them of a mythologized version of Danak who recently came into Phandelin, but they are unperturbed and reveal themselves to be scouts observing the area for an army of thousands. Brogor says he will let us leave for our information and we head out.

When we regroup we acknowledge that we can’t scare them off and begin to plan for a fight.

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A dark figure approaches on a steed of Fire and Smoke, of shiny black hair; its mane, hooves, and tail ablaze. Ireena stands in shock at the sudden explosion of lightning, standing over the pool where her ostensible former husband and lover Sergei’s face once shone; we realize, too late, that Sergei may in fact have been the same Sergei who was mentioned in Madame Eva’s tent at the turning of the 5th card, the Broken Man. Strahd, we believe, envied the most his brother, who we suppose is this same Sergei. Ireena calls for Sergei desperately. Corrina tries to oust her from her stupor, but to no avail. She remains unresponsive, Corinna struggling to pull her away, until Mondross and Elmer join in. We drag her to cover in the trees nearby the pool, and spread out in as tactical a fashion as we can, caught off guard as we are.

Strahd, for indeed it is he atop the Night-Mare, lands by the pool and alights gracefully. He is dressed nobly, as if to welcome a Queen. Elmer takes the lead and starts walking towards the pool, calling out to the Vampire as he goes. Strahd ignores him, examines his handiwork in the pool, and is nonplussed by whatever it is he sees in the water. He turns to meet Elmer as he approaches, parlaying all the while, and interrupts, speaking to all of us.

“It appears I owe you my gratitude. Please, do not cower, come forth.” Elmer holds his hand out and introduces himself for the umpteenth time, and Strahd, as if he finally recognizes Elmer’s presence, greets him.

“Ah, Elmer Von Doot, we meet again. The appropriate greeting for your Lord would be a kneel.” Elmer complies, smiling and giving his most gracious kneel.

“Why do you still travel with this group when you could be so much more? Come with me, and not just for dinner. Come to my castle, and rule by my side.”

As the group begins to protest, Elmer turns and, with permission from Strahd, begins proselytizing to the group the virtues of working for such a man. Among such virtues he posits that in such a position of power we may influence Strahd to take pity on the common folk and create one day a week where they may be merry, he suggests calling in “Sunday.” Of course, he says, every other day would still be Strahd’s domain, and he begins listing off “Strahderday,…”

Olana, thinking herself concealed, casts Tasha’s Hideous Laughter upon Elmer in an attempt to break him from Strahd’s influence, at the least physically. He falls to the ground laughing, and Strahd turns to glare directly at Olana’s hiding place, shaking his head in disappointment.

“This is what I speak of, Elmer, these piteous creatures are beneath you.” He takes a moment to look at Elmer writhing with laughter on the floor, and around at each of us.

“And to whom do I owe my gratitude for saving my dear Tatyana?” Ignoring his question, Corinna asks if Ireena is the wife of his brother, Sergei. His placid face betrays naught to her, but Mondross recognizes the smallest and subtlest of cringes at the mention, as if she had struck him.

“Hrm. She will be my bride,” and looking at Ireena, calls “come with me!” Corinna attempts to negotiate for a trade of Ireena for Elmer, but Strahd takes little notice, and speaks almost to himself. “Yes, the pool… Eva warned me there was a way, and that you all would lead me to it…”

Ireena, crying, stands and begins walking towards Strahd. It is unclear whether she does so by his command, or simply out of defeat. Mondross and Corinna attempt to stop her, but she is strong. They slow her enough for Mondross to cast Calm Emotions upon her (and, incidentally, Elmer), and she stops. He tries to rouse her from her trance, and she seems more responsive than before, yet still distraught. We hear a growling behind us and turn to see a pack of wolves encircling us, nearly 15 in total. They stand, awaiting orders from their Master.

“I thought you owed us your gratitude?” Corinna asks Strahd, motioning to the wolves.

“Ah, yes, of course. Join me, for dinner.”

“We still have some obligations we need to take care of.”

“Then I will give you a choice” Strahd says, “Keep either Ireena or Elmer. The other comes with me.” At the mention of his name, Elmer finally stops his fitful laughter. He rises and appeals again to us, saying he thinks Strahd’s castle is the “Dizzying Heights” that Eva’s card referred to, and that he might be able to discover its secrets should he go with Strahd. Though it is overcast, Elmer’s Shadow creeps towards Ireena, greedy arms outstretched and ready to grasp her, but it retreats when we notice it.

Elmer volunteers for the mission he created, and goes to Strahd. The team is at a loss for what to do; lose Ireena, the woman we’ve kept safe for so long, or certainly lose Elmer, our friend. He mounts the Hellsteed, and Strahd mounts behind him. Corinna tries to block their exit and tell Strahd to take Ireena, but he ignores her pleas and begins flying away.

Struck by the sudden realization of what was happening, and the consequences of a world without Elmer, Olana sprints forth as Strahd ascends, and using Misty Step teleports between Strahd and Elmer in an attempt to grapple the latter off of the horse. Elmer holds fast, and Strahd tries to swat Olana off the horse.

Below, Elgian tries, in vain, to get Ireena to the pool to reunite her with her lover. Corinna attempts to attack Strahd with a bolt of flame, but it bounces harmlessly off his shoulder. Olana casts an explosive spell behind the horse in an attempt to dislodge either Strahd or herself and Elmer, but to little effect. In response, Strahd grasps Olana and suddenly drains her of her vitality, leaving her unconscious. Elmer, realizing his chance, calls forth the Lord of Morning Lathander’s light onto Strahd, casting Daylight. A beacon springs forth from Strahd’s clothing. He is startled, but the light does not otherwise faze him. Ada and Corinna shoot arrows at Strahd, but they bounce off his back. Mondross and Elgian still try to get Ireena to the pool, but she resists, still stuck in despair.

Strahd finally finds himself bored of his charges, and pushes Elmer and the unconscious Olana off his mount. We fall, and Elmer lands heavily, letting out a startled grunt. Olana seems to take the fall much better and is silent. Elmer heals Olana, all the while cursing Lathander for the God’s betrayal of him, for his light did nothing but annoy the Vampire Lord. Strahd circles on his horse above, and his wolves do nothing as the scene plays out.

Mondross and Elgian finally get Ireena to the pool, and Mondross jumps in to seek the light that formerly graced the waters; he finds the pool dark and murky. Corinna tries to push Ireena in, but Ireena repels the assault. Elgian shoulders her in, in a desperate attempt to undo what we did when we separated the two lovers, and she falls in ungracefully. This wakes her somewhat from her stupor, but still she simply begins climbing out of the pool. Strahd lands next to her, and offers his hand. She takes it, and mounts the horse. Without a word the horse begins to fly away, and the wolves slink back into their woodland asylum. We hear Strahd’s ethereal invitation again, “join me for dinner at my castle soon, you are always welcome…” as the image of the flame-wreathed couple disappears into the mists and clouds.

The silence which follows is reflected on the faces of the Company. Those by the pool sit forlornly, some staring into space, others at the water where Ireena’s redemption lay, not moments ago. Olana, drained and bloodied from the fall, slowly and methodically labors to clear the statue of Lathander of detritus, and rights it with Mondross’ help. She begins to pray, ignoring Elmer as he urinates on the statue, calling Lathander the sorts of names normally reserved for sordid lovers, and neglectful family. He rants about the Morning’s betrayal, and asks why his Lord would ignore his pleas for sunlight so.

Mondross ponders the encounter and realized that something magical must have kept Strahd safe from the assaults they levied against him. Elmer, in understandable frustration, ponders quitting the life of the adventurer and starting a bakery. The suggestion is thrown about that now that Ireena is in Strahd’s possession, we might recruit Izaak to our cause. After a long while, the group stirs and mournfully heads towards their original destination, the Abbey on the hill.

They walk through the town, and ascend the switchback road approaching the abbey. The air cools, and the walk is steep. Emerging through the mists they find the abbey, a light dusting of snow covering the area. The graveyard overhangs the ridge, and below we can see hints of the town, 400 feet below. We approach the gates to the Abbey, and call out. Two creatures emerge from the guard-posts abreast the gate, they are strange amalgams of humans and other creatures, not sewn together but fused. The ear of a cat, the hand of a monkey, the wing of a bat. We ask to see the Abbot, and they lead us inside. They introduce themselves as Siegfried and Otto. The guards at the battlements of the curtain walls appear from afar as men, but as we approach we realize they are but scarecrows, equipped with mail hauberks and spears, cowls covering their nonexistent faces. The group approaches the Abbey proper, screams filling the air from sheds nearby, emanating other chimeric creatures, surely. We spy a copper placard with the inscription:

“The Abbey of Saint Markovia”

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We leave the winery with a cart and one of the cleansed barrels and head for Kresk. Not long into our journey we come to a T in the road and stop as Mondross hears voices up ahead. Mondross sneaks through the trees and stops as he comes upon a human who appears to be sneaking toward us. The man confronts Mondross, who says we are entertainers. Corrina sneaks into the treeline as Elgian starts juggling. The man identifies himself as Anton, says his group is out trapping. They notice the wine and suggest we drink it with dinner together. When Olana says that we can’t give them the wine they imply that they will eat us and transform into werewolves.

Within seconds both Corrina and Elgian are bitten. Mondross hums a discordant tune causing one of the wolves to scream in pain. Ada shoots at a wolf and Elgian stabs at it with silvered arrows. Olana hurls magic missiles at the same. Corrina casts Thunderwave, knowcking two wolves back, before hiding in the treeline. In short order both Mondross and Elmer are bitten. There is a great deal of rather undignified attempts at fighting until the wolves eventually run off. Elmer casts a much needed prayer of healing and we continue on our way.

We eventually cross an old stone bridge into another forested area and come upon a town on a mountainside. We reach the gatehouse where four guards tell us that no one may enter Kresk. Corrina explains Ireena’s situation and the guards bring forward Dmitrit Kreskoff who demands an explanation for our presence. Corrina explains again, this time making particular note of our wine shipment. Dmitri allows us entry in exchange for the wine.

Once inside Kresk Ireena begins to walk up the road without us. She says she hears someone calling to her, that they sound strangely familiar. She leads us to a shimmering pool with a gazebo and a statue of the Morning Lord nearby. As she approaches the pool the image of a handsome youth appears in the water, his face filled with joy. He calls out for Tatiana and Ireena responds, calling him Sergei. They run through a brief bit of exposition, stating that they were married and that Sergei was a prince and a man of faith. Ireena reaches for the image and a hand reaches out of the water toward her.

Panicking, Corrina and Ada pull her away from the water as a dark peal of thunder rings out and a voice calls, “She is mine” before lighting strikes the water. We see a dark horse with hooves of flame and a familiar rider flying toward us.

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Elgian has run out of sight to the north. Damien Martikoff calls for the group to help put out the winery’s fire, saying that “the boys” will find Elgian. Those who need healing are healed and we join the bucket line, Elmer using thaumaturgy to reduce the flames. Within ten minutes the fire has largely been contained. There has been damage, but at least the ceiling hasn’t collapsed.

Another ten minutes passes and one of the children (Martin) comes running back, saying that they followed Elgian but a group of Vistani caught him first. They seem to be heading to the winery. Olana, Elmer, and Corrina immediately hide nearby. Corrina tries talking to some ravens nearby. They seem uncomfortable when she asks about wereravens. Mondross hides the Sunsword under his shirt and Elmer picks up the Druid’s quarterstaff and wraps it up in some cloth as the ravens squawk uncomfortably.

Five minutes pass before Arrigal approaches on a horse accompanied by two others on wolves. Elgian is slumped over the front of his horse and Arrigal holds a sword to his throat. He demands the Sunsword in exchange for Elgian’s return. After a few ill-fated attempts to mess with Arrigal, Mondross takes the Sunsword out and Arrigal lowers Elgian to the ground as he hops off his horse. He tells his companions to shoot the halfling should we try anything.

As Arrigal approaches Mondross, Corrina smacks one of the wolves with mage hand, disorienting the rider, and Elmer casts scorching ray on the other rider, lighting her ablaze. Mondross rushes past Arrigal and slashes at the first rider with the Sunsword, the wolf biting down on his arm as he tries to follow up with a stab. He manages to break free.

Arrigal calls us foolish and calls for the wolves to attack Elgian. As they do a large raven flies down and turns into a Martikoff lad, guarding Elgian. The wolves bite him instead. Arrigal turns to attack Mondross, but Mondross throws some serious shade, causing Arrigal to miss.

Desperate, Corrina drinks one of the potions we found in Argynvosholt. Her skin turns to an iron-like substance as she runs toward the fight. Elmer jumps down the rope from his hiding spot on the second story, screams at Arrigal, and shoots him with his crossbow. Olana casts ray of sickness, but Arrigal manages to avoid it. She flips him off as he chuckles and says, “so this is where you’ve been hiding.”

Arrigal slashes at Mondross, knocking him unconscious and causing him to drop the Sunsword. He picks it up and hops on his horse, calling for the wolves to guard him. Corrina casts Thunderwave, killing the remaining wolf rider and knocking Arrigal off his horse. Elmer takes out the quarterstaff and whacks Arrigal with it. He immediately feels a pulse of energy, starts cackling, and wanders off. Olana casts chill touch on Arrigal and shouts “How do you like me now, bitch?” Ada slashes at Arrigal as he hops back onto his horse. He returns the attack as he rides off and her arm immediately starts to burn. She collapses as the sensation spreads.

Corrina rushes after Arrigal and shoots at him. The Martikoff lad turns into a half-raven half-human creature and flies after Arrigal. Four more raven creatures fly out of the winery building and give chase, pecking at him with their monstrous beaks. Olana hurls a fire bolt at Arrigal. Elmer cackles. Arrigal orders the wolves to kill Corrina, but she dodges both of their attacks and manges to shoot Arrigal once more, causing him to fall off his horse, dead.

After making one more round of attacks and being attacked in return, the wolves run off after the horse. Corrina runs up to Arrigal’s body and takes the Sunsword and his poisoned sword. The raven creatures turn back into Martikoffs. Olana really wants that horse, but cannot catch up to it. She slaps Elmer to try and stop his cackling. Corrina snatches the quarterstaff from Elmer and breaks it. An inhuman scream echoes through the land. After about ten minutes Elmer finally calms down.

Olana and the Martikoffs build Arrigal a funeral pyre in as disrespectful a manner as possible, then the Martikoffs take us into the building. After a few hours Elgian, Mondross, and Ada wake up on their own. Damien Martikoff says, “Your intentions are good. Perhaps not your methods.” He goes on to tell us that the Martikoffs are the Keepers of the Feather and confirms that they are indeed Wereravens. He then tells us about three magical gems which they need to grow the grapes for wine. One was stolen by Baba Lasaga, another by the druids of Yesterhill. They do not know what happened to the third.

We learn that the remaining wine has been poisoned and we decide to stay the night so that Elmer can purify them in the morning. When the wine is purified it is given to us to deliver to whomever we decide. We load up a wagon and decide to take Ireena to Kresk. Before we head out we decide to help the Martikoffs repair some of the damage to their home. As we do the winery is once again attacked, this time by scarecrows. We make short work of them, again with the aid of fire. We rest the remainder of the day.

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Glassstaff’s Laboratory

The large creature and the last Redbrand run off in opposite directions, leaving the group alone in the barracks. Mella heals Elada and Never moves the small goblin to one of the beds, waking him in the process. Danak takes Patches’ eye patch, it is black leather set with semi-precious stones.

Liarel and Never stand watch at the stairs while Elada listens at the door at the end of the hall. She doesn’t hear anything, so she opens the door. The goblin has come to stand by Liarel and Never, holding a plank. The door opens onto a large room with a table and chairs at the center. We enter.

Never talks to the goblin who introduces himself as Droop. Never gives him a dagger to defend himself with. Mella gives Droop two gold coins, which he promptly eats. Droop is very excited to “get ’em” and seems more than willing to join our group.

The next door leads to a hallway, another door straight ahead, and stairs to the side. Mella hears stone scraping stone from the stairs. Danak hears a bubbling sound from behind the door. We carefully open the door onto what looks like an Alchemist’s workshop. We pile into the room and close the door. There is another door to the right which leads to a bed chamber with a writing desk. We thoroughly search the two rooms for Glasstaff’s correspondence and anything else that could be helpful. Never finds some gems and two magic scrolls, Liarel finds a book about invisibility potions and a journal with historical references to the lost mine of Phandelver. On the desk, Danak finds a letter from the Black Spider.

Danak finds a secret door in the wall of the bedroom which leads to stairs climbing to a small landing and another hidden door. This door leads to the supply room just before the cavern. We re-enter the cavern just to verify the layout and Mella enters the crevasse to find the chest from before missing. We make out way to the southeast corner of the cavern and follow a path which leads to yet another hidden door which opens onto the flour-covered store room.

We backtrack through the cavern to the locked door in the hallway before the supply room. We manage to get the door open to find an armory. Mella and Liarel take long swords. Having found no sign of the creature or any remaining Redbrands, Never asks Droop where they might have gone. He says he doesn’t know about the humans, but the bugbears probably went to Kragmaw Castle. We decide to finish our search of the hideout anyway and Droop indicates that there are four rooms we haven’t seen. After a bit of wandering on our own, we ask Droop to show us the four rooms. He takes us to rooms we’ve already seen, but seems very proud of himself.

We make our way back to Glasstaff’s room to finish looting and rest a bit. Once there we notice a rat scurrying about. We think it might be Glasstaff. Liarel turns into a cat and chases it. Droop follows and manages to hit the rat with a stick, at which point it falls and vanishes into nothing. Back in the lab, we read the note from the Black Spider. It is addressed to Irno Albrech (who we recognize as Sildar’s contact in Phandelin) and asks for Dwarven maps.

Mella wants to burn the building down. Danak obviously opposes this. They fight for a bit and Danak manages to swing Mella over his shoulder. Mella realizes that Danak is planning to move in and apologizes.

We head back to town and talk to Droop a bit more. He says he’s originally from Kragmaw Hideout, which we come to realize is the cave we happened upon on the Tribor trail. He says he likes us better and Liarel gives him some silver, which he pockets.

Once at the Miner’s exchange we give Hollia the letter and she pays us. She tells us Irno was a wizard who came to town and then just disappeared, it appears to become Glasstaff. We go to leave, but Hollia asks Mella to stay behind. She asks if they’ve heard of the Zhentirim, an organization similar to the Lord’s Alliance who value wealth, power, etc. They have strict rules, but they could use Mella’s help, if they would like to work with them. Mella says they’re interested and Hollia tells them to check in with her in a week or so and to not say anything about this to the others.

Once Mella rejoins the group we head to Daran’s. On the way we run into Sildar. He doesn’t seem to know that Irno was Glasstaff. He tells us to pop by his office at the townmaster’s later. Once at Daran’s we pass along our new information and get Daran’s opinion on the Lord’s Alliance. He says they’re good folk, just a bit too structured for his liking.

We head to the townmaster’s hall, passing an Orcs Wanted poster. Never tries to block Elada’s view so she won’t see it, but she notices it anyway and pockets it. We settle down with Sildar and share our new findings with him. He pays us for getting rid of the Redbrands and we talk about rescuing Gundren from Kragmaw Castle. Sildar says we also need to figure out the location of Wave Echo Cave, that Gundren had a map on him but it was taken when they were captured.

As we start to leave, Sildar pulls Danak aside and asks him to join the Lord’s Alliance. Danak promises to think about it and come back later with an answer.

Back at the inn Liarel reads the journal she found. It rehashes the history of Phandelin and the Wave Echo Cave. It seems to have been written when the mine was operational. It tells of a mace named Lightbringer, which was ordered by a priest of Lythander but never delivered as the mine was lost.

We plan to head to Thundertree in the morning.

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The Redbrands Last Stand

Danak and Never still unconscious, the group delves deeper into the forest. Mirna, Nilsa, and Nars are eager to get back to town, but Liarel convinces them to be patient. Once we’ve settled into a small grove, Mella casts goodberry to wake Danak and Never and heal Liarel and themself. Mirna tells the group that she and her family were taken several days ago and she thinks they were to have been sold into slavery. Danak asks some insensitive questions about Thel. Through his hysterical sobbing Mirna confirms that he was killed in the street.

The group decides to take the family to Daran’s for safe keeping until we’ve dealt with the rest of the Redbrands. We walk around town to avoid drawing attention to ourselves. On the way, Danak talks to Nars about the “adventure” he just had. Nars says he knew several of his captives from around town, that they were ruffians before they organized. Mirna says it seems like Glasstaff stays in the hideout.

Daran comes out to meet the group and ushers everyone inside. As Daran begins to care for the family the rest of us rest and clean up. Liarel keeps watch out the window to make sure the Redbrands don’t sneak up on us. Mella opens the leather bundle to find a cloth wrapped sword. It’s hilt is in the shape of a bird with outstretched wings and it has the word “Talon” written on the sheath. We remember hearing about a knight named Aldith Tresender who died fighting orcs. He was also known as The Black Hawk and we wager that the sword could have been his. Never detects magic and the sword glows purple with transmutation magic.

Liarel notices someone coming and warns the group. Daran says he put up a post in Neverwinter and that the person approaching could be coming in response to that. Daran goes out to meet the approaching half-orc, confirming that she is from Neverwinter looking to take a job. Daran rushes her inside and the group is introduced to Alada. Daran tells her that he was looking to send someone up to the Old Owl well, that that we could use her help in town first. Alada tells us she was a sailor and that her old boss was a real asshole. She’s up to anything as long as she gets paid. Mella gives her the Talon.

After a bit we leave Daran’s. Danak and Alada head to the Lion Shield to sell the extra short swords we picked up in the hideout and Liarel, Mella, and Never head to the general store to sell Liarel’s rubies and stock up on supplies. After running errands the group reconvenes at the Sleeping Giant. Once inside, Alada immediately buys a keg and downs it. Grista tells us that no one else has been by yet and Danak pays her to clean up the blood on the floor.

We make our way back to the Stone Hill Inn where Danak buys two additional rooms so the whole group can rest. As the rest of the group retire to their rooms, Mella decides to hang around the common area to see if they can overhear anything important. Once it gets sufficiently late and everyone else has left, Mella hears a voice in their head, “Where is my sword? You gave it away? you gave away my sword! It’s here in this inn!”

Mella, wanting to avoid getting in trouble with Danak, decides to go upstairs and consult with Never before doing anything. As they make their way to the stairs the voice continues to nag them for the sword, telling them to bring it outside. Mella thinks “Ooh, is the sword your weakness? Can I kill you with it?” and they promptly see a green beam coming through the window toward them. They feel a pull at their lifeforce but resist. They eye at the window disappears as they head up the stairs. The voice gives Mella ten minutes to come out with the sword.

Mella wakes Never up and explains the situation to her. Never tells them to wake the rest of the group but Mella refuses, not wanting to deal with Danak. Mella tries to suggest an alternative, but Never ignores them and leaves the room to knock as loudly as possible on Danak’s door. Liarel overhears and comes out into the hallway as Never says that the Eye Monster is back. The whole group (including a thoroughly sloshed Alada) heads downstairs to fight the Eye.

Alada hears “You have my sword”, thinks it’s just the alcohol. A green beam then comes through the window and attaches to her. She feels freezing cold and slumps down, her skin starting to sag before the beam disappears. Liarel unbars the front door. Anther beam comes through the window, this time attaching to Danak, who weakens. The beam disappears and Danak hurls a dagger at the window the monster appeared in.

Liarel and Never run outside and around opposite corners of the building, neither sees the monster. At the open door, Alada brandishes the sword and slurs something meant to draw the monster out of hiding. Mella follows Liarel and Danak follows Never. Around the back end of the inn Never notices that the door to the stables is open and calls for everyone to come around back before peering in. The horses are noticeably agitated. She spots the monster hiding and misses it with a witch bolt, scaring the horses as a green beam comes toward her. She shakes it off and the monster runs out the stables’ side door onto the street.

Liarel seem the monster run out and misses it with an arrow before confirming its location for the rest of the group. Danak rushes up behind the monster and Alada comes up to its front, raging at it. It lashes out at her with its claws. Mella turns into a panther. Danak strikes the monster with his axe. Never hits the monster with an eldrich blast as Alada, still completely hammered, swings wildly and takes a chunk out of a nearby post. The monster runs past Danak and Mella gives chase.

Danak catches up to the monster and swings his axe down upon its shoulder as Liarel runs around and blocks its path. Alada tries to jump over the panther, but stumbles leaving both herself and Mella prone. Danak slams into it once more and it collapses. Mella makes sure it’s dead and buries it. We make our way back into the inn, re-bar the door, and sleep until noon.

The next day we can’t find Ornella anywhere. Danak offers to pay for everyone’s breakfast and Mella vehemently rejects the offer, saying they don’t want to owe anybody anything. After breakfast we head to the Sleeping Giant to find it closed. We knock, but there is no answer so we decide to make out way to the thicket. We make our way into the cavern where Danak promptly runs right into a guard. Without wasting any time the guard runs down a passage to the left calling out “They’re back!” Danak follows downstairs to a hallway and into the leftmost door. He sees a barracks with the guard, a small, abused-looking goblin, and three large, furry humanoids. The goblin sees Danak and passes out. One of the large creatures has a jeweled eye patch.

The rest of the group catches up as Danak hits Patches with his axe. Alada flies into a rage and slams into Patches as Never hits him with an eldrich blast. Patches barks something in a language we don’t understand. Mella turns into a rat and scurries into the corner of the room. One of the large humanoids bashes Danak on the head with a club. He collapses.

Liarel hears the door at the other end of the hallway open and sees three cloaked figures come out. She shoots one, causing him to stumble back into the others. Liarel casts thunderwave at the Redbrands in the hallway, knocking them back. Never hits one of them with eldrich blast, causing him to fall.

Mella returns to elf form and casts sacred flame on the Redbrand in the barracks. Alada strikes one of the humanoids with her great sword, cutting through his shield and hitting him in the chest, causing him the stumble back dead. The Redbrand grazes Mella with an attack.

In the hallway one of the Redbrands manages to hit himself before the other strikes Liarel with his short sword. Liarel rushes into the barracks to cure Danak’s wounds. Alada slashes at another of the creatures with her broad sword and the Redbrand hits Mella twice with his short sword. The creature swings at Alada, making contact. In the hallway one of the Redbrands slashes at Never.

Danak gets up and hacks at Patches with his axe. The Redbrand stabs Mella, who falls. The two creatures strike at Alada, who barely manages to stay up. Danak swings at Patches, killing him. Liarel produces flame, hitting one of the hallway Redbrands. Never trips trying to avoid Liarel as she swings her mace at the Redbrands. Alada strikes the remaining creature and it promptly slips in a puddle of blood. Danak kills the Redbrand in the barracks as Liarel heals Mella. Never finally bashed one of the hallway Redbrands with her mace, killing him.

The remaining creature runs out of the room, taking off up the stairs, and the remaining Redbrand turns and runs through the door at the end of the hall, closing it behind him.

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As the druid in the doorway chants, grass and roots begin to rise up, trapping Mondross and Elgian. Blights burst out onto the veranda, but Olana casts Shatter, destroying twelve of them and hitting the druid. Elmer casts Fireball, killing the druid, the rest of the blights near the veranda and setting the blight debris alight. The entire veranda is engulfed in flames.

Corrina runs up to the loading dock and shoots at the remaining shrubs before hiding behind a barrel. Elgian rushes to the loading dock and begins climbing up the rope hanging down from the loading crane, heading toward a hole in the ceiling. As Elgian comes up to the room above the loading dock he sees another druid.

Back by the veranda, shrubs from the fields launch thorns from all sides, hitting Mondross and Ada. From her hiding place on the loading dock Corrina hears a sound similar to brush blowing in the wind coming from a nearby door. Above, Elgian’s druid runs out of the room. Mondross casts sleep at a cluster of blights, causing three of them to root into the ground, motionless. Olana runs toward the loading dock, destroying another shrub with firebolt.

Elmer walks toward the field shrubs in as stately a manner as possible, loudly witnessing to them as he channels divinity, destroying twelve. Ada cuts one of the remaining blights in half before being struck by another, then runs to the loading dock. In the room above the loading dock, Elgian runs after the druid, following him down a spiral ramp. At the bottom of the ramp he sees an open door on the left, past which there is yet another druid, several more blights, and two vine monsters. Elgian wildly stabs at one of the druids and trips him before being riddled with thorns.

Outside, Elmer, Olana, and Mondross are all hit with thorns. Mondross heals himself before finding a new hiding spot under the walkway. Olana runs up to the door by the loading dock and sees the scene with Elgian. Elmer casts burning hands on the remaining exterior blights, destroying two and setting the third ablaze. Ada runs up alongside Olana and hits the standing druid with an arrow. Elgian stabs and trips the other druid. The druid stands and hits Elgian lightly with his staff. As the staff makes contact it starts to bleed slightly and Elgian feels his life force drain. The druid’s wounds heal.

Modross strikes up through the floorboards of the walkway, causing a blight to collapse. Elmer destroys the remaining field blight with his mace. Corrina climbs the rope, entering the room above the loading dock, then follows Elgian’s path down the ramp. Ada stabs the druid with the Sun Sword and he collapses. Elgian grabs the fallen druid’s staff, hits one of the plant monsters, and feels a sudden surge of energy. His eyes then go wide with fear, he drops the staff and runs off.

A blight strikes Ada with thorns as vines grab at her face and drag her to the ground. Outside, Elmer hears a door open behind him, revealing another druid who hits him with a thunderwave. Mondross makes his way up to the loading dock door and kills a blight with his rapier. Olana casts shatter into the room, injuring several monsters but also hitting Corrina, who collapses. Elmer strikes his druid with his mace.

Elgian continues to run.

The vine creature lets go of Ada and tries to grab Mondross, who avoids its grasp. Mondross picks up the Sun Sword and attacks a blight, destroying it. He then stabs the vine creature with his rapier, killing it.

Elgian keeps running.

Outside, a flock of ravens burst out of the open door and attack the druid fighting Elmer, killing him. Elmer takes a moment to mock the druid’s life decisions. Ireena rushes through loading dock door and stabilizes Ada as Mondross heals himself. Olana casts ray of sickness on the remaining vine creature and it withers and melts into an ooze on the floor. Elmer destroys a blight with sacred flame as Mondross slices through another with the Sun Sword. The area seems clear of enemies.

Elgian runs.

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As we make out way out of Argynvostholt’s backmost tower we notice that the door leading out onto the roof has been closed behind us. We throw the beam which would have been used to lock the door off over the roof. We make our way to the last unexplored portion of the mansion on the third floor. We open the door onto a spacious chamber containing a large table, around which are six chairs. In five of the chairs are skeletal figures who ask, “Why do the living disturb the dead?”

Corrina steps forward and asks how we can help them, to which they reply that we cannot. They say they await commands from their leader, Vladmir Horngrad (who we assume to be the gaunt figure with the broadsword) and that if we truly wish to help them that we will first hep the restless spirit of Argynvost. They say the battle took place in the valley below but they don’t know if the bones would still be there. They also ell us that Strahd was not a vampire when they fought him. When Strahd became a vampire they rose from the dead to fight him.

As we talk to Sir Godfried Gwilyn, Olana notices that there is a shield-shaped patch above the mantle. She asks about it, but Sir Gwilyn says that he had not noticed it was gone. We are given permission to check the next room over, it is a bedroom with a stuffed bear and direwolf. We thank the seated figures for their time and leave. Ireena gets the impression that its impossible for spirits to leave Barovia.

We decide to make out way to the Wizard of Wines. On our way we come across the same broken signpost from before. This time we head in the direction marked “Kresk”. As we walk we notice a leather wrapped bundle buried under some leaves. We investigate to find it packed with a set of clothes and we put it back as it was. Ada finds a black feather under a leaf nearby and pockets it. It occurs to Corrina that the ravens she spoke to in Villaki seemed much more intelligent than the ravens in the tower.

We come upon a trail veering off the main road, horse and wagon tracks traveling down it. There are also several large wolf tracks going in both directions down the trail. Olana makes us a magic hut to rest in which comes out in the shape of a mausoleum. Inside are several crypts, each marked with one of our names. Elmer notices that Olana’s spellbook looks oddly like a necronomicon and is bleeding slightly before crawling into the cubby marked with his name.

As we rest we notice that Elmer’s shadow is moving on its own, coming up out of the cubby and peering at us. When we notice it it quickly returns to its rightful spot. This happens a few more times before it finally comes up and reaches for Elmer’s throat. Corrina startles it and it returns to normal.

Leaving the mausoleum, we continue down the main road, eventually coming upon a signpost. We head in the direction marked Wizard of Wines. On the way we notice a tattered yellow flag caught in a tree. Olana recognizes it as a merchant flag from a ship outside of Barovia. Elgian wears it as a cape.

We eventually come upon a huge vineyard and see a man in a dark cloak and cowl. He motions for us to be quiet as we approach and he asks who we are. We say we met Myrel Vinsha in Berez and that we know the Martikov’s from Villaki (for whom he shows some disdain). He leads us into the forest, out of view of the building by the vineyard and says he is Davian Martikov, the owner of the vineyard. He says the building was overrun by four or five evil druids and their blights. He speculates that the want to stop him from making wine as it is one of the few joys available to the people of Barovia.

We decide to investigate before continuing forward. Elmer uses a scroll to turn Ada invisible and she follows Corrina who stealths ahead to the vineyard. Once they are about 100 feet away from the group five plant creatures move out from a row in the vineyard and fling thorns at Corrina, who collapses.

The rest of the group rushes forward, Elmer hitting the creatures with fireball, destroying them. Ada stabilizes Corrina, who wakes. Mondross heals Corrina as twenty-five more plant creatures approach the group. Corrina hurls a firebolt at a cluster of creatures and Olana cast shatter on another before the entirety of the group rushes towards the side of the building. Once closer to the building we can see the loading dock which contains three large wooden tubs, a set of sliding doors and a smaller door. The sliding doors open to reveal a crazed looking druid and a room full of small woody shrub like  blights.

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How Not to Bake an Apple Pie

Back at the inn, Danak rents a room and to leave his things in. Ornella stays behind as Never and Liarel head off to watch the secret passageway to the Redbrands’ hideout while Danak and Mella go to meet Hollia Thorton at the miners’ exchange.

At the miners’ exchange Danak and Mella meet Hollia, who seems largely uninterested in them until Danak boasts that we have already faced off against several Redbrands and (he says) sent them running. She tells them not to bother with the rest of the Redbrands and to instead go directly for Glasstaff, their leader. She believes that without their leader they will cease to be an issue. She also tells them that if they happen to find any correspondence of Glasstaff’s and bring it to her after he’s been dealt with, she’d be willing to pay them 100 gold. She is unable to give them any new information about the Redbrands besides mentioning that they have a goblin minion with them under Transcender Manor’s ruins.

Meanwhile, Liarel and Never make their way to the thicket hiding the secret entrance to the Redbrands’ lair. Once there they settle into hiding spots in the tree line. Never tries desperately not to chat and Liarel tries not to be distracted by bunnies.

Danak and Mella decide to go “sight-seeing” at the Transcender Manor ruins. As they approach they notice several sets of human-sized tracks coming and going from the manor, implying a front entrance to the hideout. Wandering around a bit, they happen upon a set of stairs heading downward to a door. Mella opens the door onto a cellar with a cistern, several barrels, and two doors. Mella and Danak each listen at a door, Mella noticing a slight cough sound behind theirs.

Danak decides that they’ve completed their goal in touring the manor and that it is time to return to the rest of the group so we can proceed together. Mella, however, is insistent that they check out the barrels, believing that the Redbrands are smugglers. Danak says they can check out the barrels later, once the whole group comes back. Mella grows increasingly impatient with being told what to do and pulls a spike from their bag to try prying open a barrel. Danak tries to grapple Mella but Mella (barely) breaks free and busts open the top of the closest barrel with a loud crack. Three Redbrands come out from behind the far door. Danak notices them and tries to pretend to be drunk. Mella remains focused on the apples, thinking perhaps there are gems inside. They take a big bite out of one of the apples. It was real delicious.

Realizing they’ve been seen, the Redbrands attack, first striking Mella who retaliates with their staff, then barely scratching Danak who strikes back with his axe. Mella casts thunderwave, knocking back two of the Redbrands and breaking open several barrels. Rations spill out of the barrels including, incidentally, flour which bursts out into the room, filling the air and covering everything and everyone. The third Redbrand is knocked into the cistern and does not move again.

One of the Redbrands slips on a stray apple, missing Danak, but another rushes up and strikes Danak twice. Danak wildly swings at his assailants as Mella backs up to the cellar entrance. Danak blocks an attack from one Redbrand as another strikes him in the head. Mella rushes outside, not seeing Danak fall. They wait outside for a bit before calling for Danak as loud as they can.

By the thicket, Liarel and Never hear Mella call for Danak and immediately get up and run in the direction of their voice. Mella, meanwhile, runs toward the thicket looking for help. As they all approach each other Mella begins shouting about what happened. Liarel smacks Mella in the face with a cure wounds as aggressively as possible and Mella leads the way back to the cellar.

Back in the cellar the small group notices one Redbrand floating face down in the cistern and drag marks heading through the rightmost door. We open the door onto a hallway and Liarel leads the way inside, being careful to walk as close as possible to the footprints already in the room. Never, oblivious, doesn’t follow the tracks and as she makes her way down the hallway the floor collapses out from under her, landing her in a pit. Never climbs up out of the pit and rejoins Liarel and Mella at the end of the hall.

Opening the door at the end of the hallway we see a room with sarcophagi and three humanoid skeletons clad in rusted chain-mail. Never pokes at the skeletons with mage hand as Liarel begins to walk into the room. They don’t react until Liarel make it to the center of the room, at which point the come to life and attack.

A skeleton grazes Liarel’s arm with an old sword and she strikes back with her staff, bones crumbling away from the attack. Mella smashes another skeleton in the eyesocket and it completely shatters. The remaining skeletons strike at Liarel and Never before Never destroys one with her mace and Mella takes out the other with their staff. Liarel makes a point of shattering the skulls with her staff before we proceed to the next room.

Liarel leads us through the next door, which opens onto a dungeon. To the right are a pair of women in a cell, to the left is a boy in a cell and a slumped figure on the floor. hiding against the wall are two more Redbrands. They attack and two more Redbrands covered in flour come from behind the door.

One of the Redbrands slash at Liarel and Never retaliates with Witch Bolt. Liarel casts entangle, capturing the Redbrands, and ducks at Mella hurls a handful of fire at one of the Redbrands, hitting them squarely in the face, causing them to collapse. Another Redbrand tears at the vines around their feet and stabs Liarel twice. She falls and the vines begin to recede. Never sends out a second wave of Witch Bolt, killing one Redbrand, as Mella strikes the one standing over Liarel with their staff. Liarel wakes and throws fire upward, taking out the Redbrand. Mella hit the remaining Redbrand with their staff and he falls.

Liarel searches the Redbrands’ bodies for keys to the cells but finds none. Never somehow manages to pick the lock on the cell holding the two women with a fork. They cower in fear of her, so she backs away as Liarel enters the cell to try and comfort them. They speak of a big furry monster with large ears. There are Thel’s wife (Mirna) and daughter (Nilsa). The boy is their son and brother (Nars), respectively.

Trying to pick the lock to the other cell, Never breaks her fork and Mella breaks a sword they picked up from the Redbrands. Never tries Eldrich Blast, but this also fails damage the lock enough to destroy it. Mella hears voices coming from outside. We disguise ourselves, the women, the boy, and Danak’s unconscious body in red cloaks and Liarel goes off to investigate the voices. She finds them in the cellar, at least six voices, one of which was scruffy and inhuman. They are arguing about going to investigate the commotion coming from the dungeon. Liarel sneaks back. Mella finally breaks open the lock with a spike and the boy rushes out. We grab Danak as we hear four voices begrudgingly approach and we leave the dungeon, heading further into the hideout.

We enter another hallway. There is a locked door to the right, but a well-traveled patch of ground heading into the left wall reveals a secret door. We open it and head through into a room with barrels and empty crates. Mella starts trying to collect stuff as the rest of us proceed without them, but they manage to catch up as we head through the open wall to the south.

Never leads the way into a cold natural cavern, a rough wooden bridge spanning a crevasse. The smell of decaying flesh fills the air. We begin to head south, but Never is stopped by a voice in her head. “Yes, demon one. What are you doing here? You bring me flesh? Give me the little one…you’re no demon. You’re good. I hates you!” As Never stops we notice a hunched figure with a large green eye across the crevasse. Never mentally asks “is that you?” and the eye vanishes.

Mella then hears a voice in their head, “Why are you here? You came to feed me? Give me flesh.” Mella tries to bargain with the voice, offering it freedom instead. “I’m already free. Free to feast.” Mella tries to negotiate giving up the boy for safe passage fro the cavern, but the voice doesn’t make any such promises. The eye monster appears again, this time green energy emanating from its eye. Mella feels their energy drain, but shakes it off. The green glowing energy disappears.

Mella and Never fill in the group and we all ready our weapons. Liarel looses and arrow and Never strikes the monster with witch bolt. It rushes across the bridge and slashes at Never, who falls unconscious, then it strikes Mella. Mella and Liarel hurl fire at it as it again emits green energy from its eye at the boy Nars but he also seems to resist. As Mella hits it with another burst of flame it runs back across the crevasse and disappears behind a pillar. Mella tries to follow, but the bridge gives way beneath them. They fall into the crevasse and the bridge lands on their head, knocking them out. Liarel hears voices coming from the dungeon and throws flame at the monster again. It runs off.

Mella wakes as Liarel and the women collect Danak and Never and begin to proceed across the crevasse. Mella spots a chest which contains coins, scrolls, potions, and a leather wrapped bundle. They pocket the potions and bundle before catching up with the group. We hear a general commotion coming from the dungeon as we proceed. We continue through the passageway out through the thicket. Liarel leads the group into the forest to hide.

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