In the second session of our Quail Valley campaign, the characters continue on the expedition to the Forradás with Professor Yetemi and his students (or at least the students that had survived so far). After numerous disturbing scenes including (in no particular order) bloody fetishes, ancient skulls, a bloody carnage around a creepy monolith, and the discovery of a student missing after a night’s camp (and taken, apparently, by some sort of burrowing creature), the expedition was attacked just before sunrise one morning. During the attack, the Professor and his assistant, Gonela, were abducted and a third student (of the original four) was slain in the attack (although no one shed any tears over the death of Rikard…he was a jerk after all). We pick up after the break with the aftermath of the battle and the group deciding how to proceed from here.
This recap is from Forest and we had all six regular players in attendance…RJ again played Raspin on Claudia’s behalf. As usual, my GM comments are in [brackets and italics]. Obviously, there are potential spoilers for The Vault of Larin Karr as well as “On a Lonely Road” from The Lost Lands: Adventures in the Borderland Provinces (from Frog God Games) below the break.
±10 days out of the city of Bard’s Gate. Let’s call it Riverday, 11th day of the Warming Light?
[Officially, it is the 12th day of the Warming Light as this session begins. Given the disorienting nature of the prior days, it really wouldn’t be until the PCs return to civilization to truly determine how long they were in the woods…assuming they actually return of course! 😯 ]
Recovering from the battle against the mushroom men of the Forradás, it appears the Professor and Gonela were abducted by the fanged feral fungoids. After Serena heals Thorn and Faelin heals Wink, the party takes stock of their situation and discusses mounting a potential rescue of their missing party members, the Professor and Gonela presumed kidnapped with the fate of Demeter unknown. Curiously, their gear is also missing…
[Demeter was presumed dead from the blood found in his tent a prior morning and when he went missing, his gear was left behind. The fact that the Professor and Gonela’s gear is missing might be a clue about the nature of their disappearance. Who am I kidding? Of course it was related to the nature of their disappearance.]
A quick look around showed no trace of the kidnappers save a large patch of disturbed earth, leading the party to believe the myconids came from underground. Digging through the disturbed area reveals loose, non-compacted soil heading in an upstream direction. A thick, eerie mist settles in.
[The mist couldn’t settle in as it had already been there for days. 😉
This patch of disturbed earth, right under the hammocks of the Professor and Gonela, was also significantly larger than any that had been found previously, including the one under Demeter’s tent. Hmmm…perhaps another indication that this disappearance was different than Demeter’s.]
Brook-stomping up-stream, the party runs into the same mysterious disorienting effect [experienced in their travels through these woods in prior sessions]. After walking upstream for hours only to realize they are heading DOWN-stream! Hopelessly lost in the woods, the party begins experimenting with this strange affect. Siobhan realizes the magic effect is something the party is breathing in, be it the strange mist or unknown spores. Quickly, the party decides to douse cloth in the nearby brook and cover their faces; with the exception of Raspin, who nominates himself as the control subject. Watching Raspin veg out and begin to veer off, the party rejoices in believing they have at last found a way out and decides to rest as it gets dark.
Moonday, 13th Day of the Warming Light [Maybe. 😉]
Crows begin amassing in the trees above the party during the 4th watch. By daybreak, hundreds of them are ominously eyeballing our every move. To make matters worse, the party realizes Maiesse has wondered off sometime in the night (or worse), but her gear remains. Once again Cailana’s tracking skills come into play, quickly identifying Maiesse’s tracks. The crows follow the party. Closer. Closer still. Finally one of them flies into Cailana. Batting the crow aside she is quickly assaulted by dozens of crows, pecking and tearing her mask off. The rest of the party is soon similarly attacked, and Thorn notices that the crows all have weird fungal growths on them.
The party vainly presses on, succumbing to the weird magical effects of the Forradás. Just when all seems lost [I kind of thought all seemed lost well before this], the crows suddenly all fly off and Faelin realizes a white raven the size of a pony is watching the party. “Don’t look at it!” he hisses when Serena reminds him that the White Raven is the symbol of his goddess, Metsä the Wild [goddess of nature and druids]. The god disdains Faelin’s sacrificial offering of iron rations, but does lead the party to another clearing. Apprehensively, Raspin, Faelin and Wink approach a large, rather sinister looking tree in the center of the clearing, covered with alien fungal growth. A rotted cleft within the massive trunk is big enough to slip into and the White Raven bobs its head toward the hole…
[The white raven stood about three feet tall…maybe about as big as a small emperor penguin.
Not sure what the “god disdains” bit is about. There’s just a massive white raven who didn’t show any interest in dried tack and the like.]
Raspin bravely lights a torch and enters the crack, followed by Faelin and soon thereafter, Wink who would have preferred to simply burn it. The other party members, largely of elvish descent, hesitate, recalling the scenes of elven sacrifice carved into the strange obelisk. Willow also stays behind.
[Siobhan and Thorn (half-elf and elf) remained behind with Willow but Cailana and Serena (elf and half-elf) did follow the others as they entered the crack.]
Inside the noxious crack, a dark and odious chamber houses five hideous stone statues in its damp bowels: a robed and hooded humanoid figure, a corpselike humanoid whose body is covered in fungal growths [it was a rotting corpse], an amorphous toad-like being [this idol was rather corroded], a completely amorphous fungal blob [not fungal…slimelike], and a bat winged fang toad demon resembling the menacing lurking demon carved into the mysterious stele of Forradás [rat demon not toad].
[Fungus covered the dirt and roots that composed the walls and ceiling of the chamber and all sorts of creatures, insects, snakes, and the like, crawled into hidey-holes as the group entered.]
Two passages beckon on the far side of the interior. Not touching any of the statues, Wink makes his way towards the closest passage only to find the blackened twisted roots of the tree vining together to bar his way! A grey [green] ray emits from the outstretched finger of the fungal corpse and Wink is overcome with violent nausea. Raspin and Faelin are affected with small damage and feelings of intense lethargy by the other statues. Defeated, the three stumble out of the cave. Wink constructs a strong lasso with some rope and harnessing the two mules slips the other end around one of the statues, dragging it out into Paiva’s Warming Light [except the ever-present fog/mist blocked out any sign of the sun]. Faelin and Raspin quickly assist in similarly hauling the rest of the demonic idols despite braving some damage from their cursed effects. Any fears Serena had about desecrating the chamber are quickly allayed as she watches the white raven leave a white dropping on the hooded figure and caw.
[The toad demon “croaked” and that caused the lethargy. The slime thing spit forth acid that damaged what it hit. The winged demon let loose a spray of spores that tore at skin and flesh. Wink was also blinded momentarily when lassoing the hooded figure…just to round out the effects from the idols.
Once the idols were removed, the passageways on the far side were no longer blocked by tree roots.]
Without the damaging effects of the cursed statues, Raspin, Faelin, Wink, Cailana, and Serena enter the tree and begin exploring while Thorn, Siobhan and Willow decide to remain behind, the former to watch the mules and the latter to freely rummage through the party’s belongings.
[Actually, Willow originally volunteered to watch the mules. She did start rummaging through Maiesse’s stuff but that was the DM stepping in to provide the party the two healing potions that were in Maiessa’s as of yet unexamined gear. Willow promptly handed over both vials to Siobhan when asked for them…not just to get them to the party but also because that’s who Willow is. Since this seems to be being interpreted as a rather negative thing, it won’t happen again. 😉 ]
The party discovers the empty barracks-housing of the mushroom men and so moves on, discovering a hideous larder containing the barely recognizable parts of Rickard and Demeter [and numerous other animal corpses in varying stages of decay] before stopping at a cesspool containing the glint of gold and the gleaming hilt of a sword [it most definitely was not gleaming]. Raspin greedily but cautiously enters the pool for the sword but does not make it before he is attacked by a giant centipede [rising out of the muck that was more of a thick pudding consistency than a pool]; which the party is fortunately able to dispatch. Unfortunately, Raspin gets stuck waist high in the garbage and excretions of the mushroom men and is unable to recover the blade. Cailana steps in and lassos it successfully, keeping what appears to be a blade of historic, if no pragmatic military value.
[The blade appears perfectly serviceable to Cailana but would likely fetch more value as a historical object.
Another chamber filled with a maze of roots and pillars of rock was encountered next. As Raspin passed through, a couple creatures similar in appearance to eels struck out from crevices along his path. Serena followed and, essentially, played “whack-an-eel” to kill the creatures and clear a safe path through that the others followed.]
The party cautiously presses on, despite Raspin’s fearsome stench, coming to a broad chamber containing dozens of mushroom men [about two dozen] on their knees in some evil ritual to their dark gods. Maiesse’s limp body lies sprawled across a foul altar. The Professor is pinned to the ceiling by cruel woody vines piercing his flesh, and a foul and sickly green light gestates from his body. At the altar, a bemused Gonela raises an elaborate bone knife and bemusedly wonders if she is sorry to see the rest of the party or glad they are here to witness her triumph.
[The light was from the altar and the roots piercing the Professor’s body.
Bemused isn’t the word I would use to describe Gonela. She was quite triumphant and did the whole villain monologue thing, exulting that regardless of whether she was sorry or glad to see the PCs, they had arrived in time to see the rebirth of a god-king! That’s when the Professor’s body was revealed, hanging some twenty-feet above. She then began her chanting for the ritual.
So what’s her story? Did she plan this all along? Did she manipulate and trick the Professor or was he a willing partner in whatever was happening here? Will the party ever learn the truth?]
A fearsome battle ensues – Cailana races back to fetch the others [Siobhan and Thorn] who speed to the scene, while Raspin falls several times in the fierce fighting. Despite the odds, the party manages to make marsala out of the mushroom men, and Gonela as the last half dozen or so myconids are routed. While the professor is rescued it is clear that he is in bad shape and unconscious. After a while Maiesse comes to, but cannot remember anything.
[The mushroom men were more intent on continuing their chanting for the ritual…as was Gonela. At any given time, only a small number of them were attacking the party and trying to stop their advance into the chamber. Perhaps they needed a certain number to continue the chanting of the ritual.
As the battle raged on and the ritual continued, the Professor’s body started transforming as the greenish light grew more intense. He started to bloat and contract and near the end of the battle, began to sprout bat wings. Fortunately for the party, Siobhan had tumbled past the guarding mushroom men and had taken the fight to Gonela, striking her a number of times. Cailana and Wink were able to join in on the attacks as well. The roots of the chamber tried to protect Gonela as they moved to block attacks or knock away ranged weapons.
I believe it was Siobhan who got in the killing blow on the crazed woman and it was just in time actually. Another round or two and the Professor’s transformation would have been complete and then who knows what would have happened…
The mushroom men that fled left through a small tunnel at the opposite side of the chamber from where the party had entered. It was simply too small for any of the PCs to squeeze through…even if they had actually wanted to pursue.
The last thing that Maiesse remembered was having gone to sleep in camp. She had no idea how she had gotten to this place. Very similar to how Rikard responded when he had been found after wandering off on his own days prior.
The Professor was given one of the potions that Willow had found in Maiesse’s gear…or was it both?…which was really all that kept him alive given the grievous and extensive nature of his wounds and what he had just endured.]
An extensive search of the chamber reveals some of the professor’s notes, now scattered throughout the chamber in loose-leaf pages, which are scooped up by Wink and Maiesse. A chain shirt is found and provided to Serena, who in turn donates her leather armor to Maiesse. Thorn scoops up Gonela’s dagger and Wink finds a carved wooden ring. Plentiful coin is found as well: 40 CP, 569 SP, 135 GP, and 10pp.
[It was a bone ring that was found, not wooden. It had leaping stags carved upon it.
Perhaps now it might be a little more clear why the Professor’s personal gear and notes were missing, along with Gonela’s. If you were planning on conducting some ritual to transform someone into some sort of demonic god-king thing, would you leave behind notes that might help others thwart you? Or would you make sure any documents about the area, its inhabitants, and the like did not fall into the hands of some “meddling kids?” 😉
Maybe Gonela had the mushroom men take the notes and such and get rid of them or maybe they’re in an unexplored part of the compound under the tree. Maybe the few papers found simply fell out as the gear was transported elsewhere.]
The party’s contract provided for 1gp a day plus equal shares of all treasure found in the Professor’s side trip to the Forradás, so this works out to 6 PCs + Raspin + 2 surviving NPC’s (Professor and Maiesse) = 9 shares total for a per share equivalent of 4 CP, 63 SP, 15 GP and 1 PP per survivor, with the remaining indivisible 4CP, 2SP and 1PP held in common Party funds. As the Professor is unconscious, I suggest Maiesse hold his share and the common funds until such time as additional treasure is secured to divide or if they are needed for expedition expenses.
[Doesn’t Willow get a share? 😉]
Leaving the tree, the party finds the irrepressibly irresponsible Willow has unpacked and rummaged through all their goods [it was the gear that had been on the mules], which now lay strew about the pasture [and she was lying in the middle of it all as some sort of performance art…she thought she was entertaining the White Raven…silly halfling]. Quickly packing, the party follows the White Raven, which leads them back to river fording before flying away. Exhausted, the party makes it back to Hawk Shadow’s Inn, where proprietor Bernat is none too pleased to see Willow, and his daughter runs from the party upon seeing us return.
[It took days to get out of the forest and reach the river that the party had forded when they initially entered the forest to find the Forradás. However, the group faced no other dangers on their travels out.
Bernat had offered the party some coin…I think it was 50sp…to take Willow with them. Her irrepresible irresponsibility may have become too much for him so I suppose it should be no surprise that he was less than happy to see her back.
Marta, Bernat’s daughter, was not spotted for the rest of the group’s stay at the Hawk Shadow’s. Her prior fear of the Forradás apparently reached new heights of terror at seeing folks who presumably returned from it.
After being settled in a room upstairs, the Professor spent about 15-20 minutes of screaming in utter terror, completely inconsolable. It turned out that Willow had slipped him some of her special mushrooms, that she and Faelin and both been partaking in now that they were back in a safe place.]
Godsday, 14th day of the Warming Light [Actually the 17th of the Warming Light]
Party awakes and discusses what to do. While the professor has awakened, he remains incapable of intelligible conversation and seems plagued by horrific nightmares. Grasping Wink closely, he is only able to whisper “it’s so empty”… Serena and Faelin feel that he needs care far beyond their capabilities. Wink suggests they would be better off taking the Professor and Maiesse on to Presov, presumably the largest city in Quail valley, as if the party returns the Professor to Bard’s gate, we may never learn what happened with Gonela, the secrets the Professor may have been keeping from us, as well as not recovering our promised payment from the University for finding the missing professor Arnek. Besides, there may be healing beyond the capabilities of Serena and Faelin in Presov. The party unanimously agrees to continue the quest they began, and take Maiesse and the Professor to Presov, accompanied by our mascot, Willow. Leaving after breakfast. Bernat’s daughter remains in hiding from the party.
[Faelin credited Willow and her magic mushrooms with the Professor’s improvement…I’m not sure anyone else quite saw it that way. 😉
As had been said multiple times previously and multiple times in this session, Presov is not a city. It is, at best, a town.]
Stormday, Evening of the 16th day of the Warming Light [Actually the 20th of the Warming Light]
The three-day journey from the Hawk Shadow’s Inn to Presov passes uneventfully, thanks in part to the shelter of the mysterious stone watchtowers built along the road as wayfarer shelters. The professor’s nightmares continue. Wink and Maiesse put together what little they were able to recover of the professor’s notes but sadly they reveal nothing in the way of new information.
[There is nothing mysterious about the travel towers. During the first session, it was noted that the party had been staying in them as they traveled to the Hawk Shadow’s Inn. They are normal. A post has been made on the forum describing just how non-mysterious they are to help disabuse everyone of the notion that they are spooky or mysterious.]
Presov turns out to be smaller then Wink had expected, with a single forlorn inn appropriately named the Lonesome Drake, and a tavern called the Green Table. Immediately making their way to the temple of Talu to seek healing for the professor’s mysterious mental ailments. The woman at the temple does not seem all that eager to be of service, at least to strangers. Still, she cannot dismiss us without learning all of the details of how the professor came to be injured or where we have been adventuring before revealing she cannot help, suggesting the professor would be better served in the larger city of Bard’s Gate. Her reaction to learning we had been to Forradás does not seem favorable and Wink suggests perhaps we better keep that part of our history to ourselves, recalling the reaction of Bernat’s daughter.
[Again, Presov was never portrayed as a city; it is a rural town. The Lonesome Drake Inn and Brewery isn’t forlorn nor was it described as such.
At the Talu Temple (which is a temple of Päivä the Warming Light, the goddess of the sun and agriculture), Wink simply went in and demanded that the priestess fix his friend. No introduction, no request, no please, just a rude, flat-out demand. I know a lot of D&D players think that NPCs just exist for them to (ab)use (or kill) but that isn’t how I run games. The NPCs are “real” people with their own personalities, motivations, and the like.
Cailana suggested that perhaps it be would better for Serena, her being a cleric and all, to speak with the presumed priestess. When a less asinine and less rude approach was taken, the presumed priestess asked what had happened. Is it really that surprising, mysterious, menacing, or sinister that someone would ask what had happened to the very person that they’ve been “ordered” and then asked to fix? If I was taken to the hospital and couldn’t speak for myself, I sure hope that whoever took me could give the medical staff some idea of what had happened so the staff didn’t have to try and figure it out from scratch. Especially if the source of my “injury” wasn’t readily apparent as is the case with the Professor’s “broken” mind.
Serena did provide some information but was not all that forthcoming about their recent activities beyond saying that they had traveled to the Forradás with the Professor and had then found him in his current state in, I believe she said, a cave. I don’t recall anything being shared about the ritual or really any other details at all. All details weren’t revealed and certainly no one was “dismissed.” It is correct, however, that the presumed priestess indicated that she couldn’t do anything to “fix” the Professor. Again, giving it a sinister bent that she somehow demanded to know everything before she would share her inability to assist is, at best, simply inaccurate. Someone can’t help you if they don’t know what is wrong.]
The party repairs to the Lonesome Drake to arrange for rooms and supper when suddenly 6 men-at-arms burst into the inn. Their leader, a menacing one-armed man, informs us that the Baroness desires our presence. Somewhat apprehensively, the party is herded to the Baroness’s keep only to find a dinner has been laid out for them! As the party begins to ravenously eye the table’s delights, the Baroness is announced – and a small girl enters the room…
[The party did return to the Lonesome Drake, obtained rooms, settled the Professor and Maiesse in a room, and had sat down for supper when the men-at-arms came in. They didn’t burst in. They simply came in, went directly to the party’s table, and informed them that the Baroness wanted to see them. Certainly more of an order than a request but gosh, isn’t that the kind of thing that a Baroness can do?
The walled manor of the Baroness (not a keep) was a mile or two to the northwest of Presov. After turning over their weapons at the manor’s gate (thanks for suggesting that RJ), the group was escorted inside to a dining room with a dinner laid out on the table. The Baroness Andrea Varga was announced and a young girl entered the room.
That’s where we ended the session and the end of the typical daHeadRat “introductory” adventure…something that is, admittedly, a bit railroady and intended to provide something to, hopefully, bring the PCs together via the experience. In this case, a horrifying experience to bond a group. Given that there was discussion about going their separate ways and not even continuing on to the Quail Valley, I guess it didn’t work as well as intended.
Beer Log: Back to posting the beers shared during the session using, as always, our hit, miss, crit, and fumble rating scale.
- Toppling Goliath Sosus: Thanks to RJ. Another Toppling Goliath Mosaic IPA with a clever historical name and that means I’m about to drink something tasty. I wasn’t disappointed. Solid hit!
- The Rare Barrel Supermassive (Blend 1): Rare Barrel is turning out great sours/wild ales! This is one of my favorites so far and a crit in my opinion.
- Drew Curtis/Wil Wheaton/Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton W00tstout: Always try to pick up one of these and share at gaming. Solid imperial stout…a hit.