Saturday, April 16, 2011

Campaign Notes DL 1-8

Title: Of Gods & Men
PC Level: 7th

Taking place immediately after The Test, the PCs are preparing to head north to Tresvka and locate the neutral-aligned Promise Flame icon. The alchemist, Fane, asks them to stay a few moments longer in the city and speak with some members of the Solamnic resistance movement. He leads the group to a nearby warehouse where half a dozen young men and women are eager to hear about the gods, and Kiri-Jolith in particular, from Gundar.

The cleric provides what information he has and assures the assembled people that, not only did the gods never leave, but that they would help defeat the armies of the Dark Queen if only the people had faith. Gunthar used his medallion of faith holy symbol to magically create more symbols for these newly christened clerics. The leader of the Resistance, also inside the warehouse, briefed the PCs about her group (this woman is Lucinda and she was one of the members rescued by the PCs in Thelgaard in module DL 1-4). Originally, a few citizens of central Solamnia heard of the encroaching armies and decided to form an organization to combat it. Unfortunately, no one knew just what to do or how to do it. After her brush with death in Thelgaard, Lucinda knew someone had to step forward and take command of these like-minded people.

Now, every community from Solanthus to Vingaard Keep was in contact with one another (via hidden message points hidden under specially-marked rocks in each settlement). She has many competent members gathering information about the Dragonarmy with precision reconnaissance. She tells the PCs that if an emergency arises and they need manpower, she can gather a small but potent force to assist them. She is deeply grateful for the group's assistance up until now but requests that Deedra be left in Solanthus. Residents who disapprove of Resistance activities (i.e. those people who don't believe in dragons or the threat of the evil armies) are apt to harass the group's movements but they'll be less likely to do so when a minotaur accompanies important transports. Deedra agrees to help but vows to meet up with the PCs before too long.

Now down to Gunthar, Beam, and Sir Plaxus, the adventurers receive supplies from Lucinda (foodstuffs, a cart and 3 horses). She asks one more thing of the group--look in on her acquaintances at Castle di Caela, which is halfway between Solanthus and Tresvka. The di Caela matriarch usually shops in Solanthus but hasn't been seen in over two weeks. One the PCs check in (hopefully discovering the family is well), they should report back using the message spot in Tresvka.

After 5-6- hours, the PCs come within sight of Castle di Caela and investigate two unusually large haystacks. They are ambushed by two owlbear skeletons waiting inside the haystacks but dispatch them without difficulty. Once at the castle, they notice that the ground level is all that is left of the building, which clearly appears to have had more levels above it (but now only bit of wall remain). Inside, as twilight falls, the PCs discover and slay skeletons and a handful of other zombie-like undead (cadavers from the Dread Codex). A few piles of neatly-stacked stones (removed, apparently, from the upper level walls) lie in the castle's former barracks. Outside, one of the horses whinnies in pain. The PCs rush to the scene and see a humanoid flee around a corner. The monster climbs the outside wall without difficulty and Gunthar uses his turn undead power on it successfully. Beam climbs the wall behind the thing and is treated to its hissing, fanged visage before it becomes gaseous and floats into the castle's lower level.

Beam believes the creature to be a vampire and the group returns inside to find it (after a brief discussion of retreating to rest which is pooh-poohed in favor of pushing on). One last room needs to be explored and this one houses a coffin and a fireplace facade. The group destroys the coffin and discovers a staircase beneath the faux fireplace. A chamber at the bottom has a table with a diary and some jewelry atop it. Gunthar moves to the table when two armored figures emerge from the shadows and attack. Gunthar and Plaxus engage them while Beam prepares spells behind. Unfortunately, the vampire (in this case, the woman is a vampire spawn) creeps out from a hiding spot behind more neatly-stacked rocks in the room and attacks the wizard.

As when battling the owlbear skeletons earlier, Beam uses his rod of the python to good effect in this battle while Gunthar turns the undead with his Kiri-Jolith divine power. The vampire spawn is slain here and staked for later disposal into the sunlight. Gunthar and Plaxus move into a nearby chamber and discover a pile of bodies, mostly human but some dwarven (the latter presumed to be excavators). In the meantime, Beam peruses the diary of the di Caela patriarch (Richard) who notes at the diary's end that the family was excavating beneath the castle for a new wine cellar when they discovered a man-made seal and broke it. At this point, Beam believes that a ("super") vampire still lurks in the area (or something worse).

After walking through another tunnel, the PCs emerge into a gigantic chamber wherein skeletons labor to rebuild the castle they are deconstructing from the surface. Gunthar recalls that one of the early di Caelas (Semmitt) was a vampire and, for some reason, could not be slain at the time. Instead, he was sealed into a crypt of his own making (for he was quite old at the time). This tale is pre-Cataclysm.

Inside the chamber, the skeletons are goaded into attacking by the PCs. Beam levitates Gunthar and he destroys all of their number with the turning power of Kiri-Jolith. The group then investigates the new foundation of the castle (which is empty) and soon discovers a seal centrally located in the massive chamber. It read in Solamnic, "Here lies Semmitt di Caela" which only confirms the group's fears that somewhere around them lurks the ancient vampire. The group moves to the doorway back into the tunnels and Beam finds that the entrance is laced with magical runes but that they are malfunctioning. He asks the group to move just into the tunnel and reform the door from the blocks that were cast to the side upon breaching the chamber. As he turns to explain the spell he wants to try on the entrance, he notes that another person has joined the group in the tunnel--Semmitt di Caela!

Gunthar takes the first blow (in this case a touch) which sucks physical energy from his form. A furious melee ensues. Beam backs away and recalls his python (who is a short distance away guarding the staked vampire spawn) while Semmitt uses the clerical power of Chemosh to cast a shatter spell on Gunthar's holy symbol and destroys it so he cannot turn the vampire. Plaxus ineffectually tries to stake the vampire. Soon, the evil creature assumes gaseous form and retreats after Beam's python grapples it. The PCs regroup and Beam casts a modified hold portal spell on the entranceway in an attempt to restore whatever magic kept the vampire in the chamber. The spell works but Beam is not sure how long the jury-rigged magic will hold.

The group retreats to the surface, disposes of the vampire spawn into the sunlight, and rests (also creating a new holy symbol from the one Plaxus possesses). After spells are used to bolster the PCs, they return to the crypt-chamber but Semmitt has also had time to plan. He has taken refuge in a nook near the ceiling (some 100 feet above the floor) and gives the PCs one chance to simply leave him in peace. They refuse and the vampire begins the attack by successfully casting silence on the wizard. He then drops a darkness ball in the group's midst. Gunthar summons a celestial eagle to take the fight to the vampire. But just before he can attempt to turn the evil undead creature, Semmitt once again shatters the cleric's holy symbol.

In a fit of anger, Gunthar leaps from his eagle into the vampire's hole an grapples with it. The two tumble out of the hiding place and hurtle toward the ground. The vampire manages to shapechange into a giant dire bat and break the grapple on the way down. Gunthar grabs for the bat's feet but misses. The cleric lands with a loud smash and is knocked unconscious, now mortally wounded. Beam, though silenced from traditional spellcasting, is able to use an innate power to inflict fiery bursts upon the vampire while his python attacks from behind. Plaxus, meanwhile, has discovered the vampire's coffin and is destroying it. The vampire finally falls to the constant attacks but is not finished for good as it can heal very quickly from most injuries. Beam grabs a stake after trying to unsuccessfully stabilize Gunthar and sticks it into Semmitt's breast. Plaxus tries to stabilize the cleric as well but without effect.

In a final desperate gamble (Gunthar now reaching -10 hit points), Plaxus tries to use the healing power of Kiri-Jolith to save his friend (for while Plaxus was teaching Gunthar about knighthood since they met, so too has the cleric been teaching the knight about divine matters). To everyone's relief, a healing cantrip is granted and the cleric is saved. The PCs then move the vampire's staked form up into the sunlight, giving the di Caela a final farewell, and see to their friend's recovery.

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