D&D 5e: Grist for the Mill

Mill map
Mill map

Spend enough time in a kobold suit, and you begin to understand them, a little. The sideways sneers from those who don’t understand. All the gnomes in the lab calling you a “scaly”. But you need to really know your enemy in order to truly ridicule them.

Honor them, I mean.

Really, two sides of the same cognozzle, right?

We’d snuck up to a mill, the mill that the red-bearded dwarf had sent us to protect moments ago, though it seemed like weeks since we’d left the keep and battled the cultists outside the tunnel grate.

Human cultists lurked outside the mill, waving torches around but being careful not to singe the mill itself. We thought that was slightly strange.

Ellwyn, the shadow that walks like a forest gnome, suggested he cast a minor illusion to … but, he had no fleece. The drunken cleric, Dan Cain, smiles, whispered a prayer, and in his place suddenly stood the twin to one of the cultists we’d killed by the river. He asked someone to light his torch; I lit it with a word and a gesture with prestidigitation.

The Cain Cultist walked down the hill to a cultist guarding the east side of the mill. The cultist seemed a little shocked to see Cain Cultist. Cain Cultist learned from the real cultist that the whole mill was an elaborate trap designed to lure in and destroy a rogue band of adventurers. The three cultists outside are a decoy; within the mill are ten cultists and warriors. Any adventurer who steps inside… is dead.

Cultist Cain nodded, held up his hand, and charmed the real cultist. He ordered him to go inside and let the ambush folks know that the new cultist outside had been ordered here by the commander, Althorn, without any explanation as to what to do once here.

Meanwhile, the drunken cleric doused his torch and returned to the rest of us, still on the hill, by the light of his glowing gate key.

Well, Cain Cultist is clearly inspired by the cultist’s news: We should burn the mill and go soothe our parched throats at the nearest tavern. I think that Escobert set up this overly elaborate ruse to trap and kill us all, far from sight of the townfolk.

Zalandrin, our woody ranger, implored the drunken cleric to let him talk to the real cultist, who’d by this time finished in the mill and was back at his post. Down they went. The ranger looked in a window, saw nothing unusual — except a suspicious ladder leading up to a loft, on which he could dimly see, at the limits of his darkvision, some shadowy forms.

The charmed cultist helpfully explained all the death waiting in those lofts. Zalandrin’s prehensile ears suddenly lean toward the river. What is that… noise? The cultist ran to see, unable to stop Zalandrin’s sword from spitting his heart from behind.

The cultist’s last words were: Dude. That’s low.

Well. If we’re killing cultists, I wanted to play. I followed the shadows down the hill, and walked up beside the wall. The poor light, the flickering torches and the idiocy of the cultists let me get close enough to summon a quick breeze to extinguish the torch held by the nearest cultist.

Jig was up. Not my favorite kind of jig. The cultist dropped his darkened torch, yelled THEY’RE HERE! at the top of his formidable lungs, and ran off, taking his partner with him.

Taking that as a signal, Ellryn (the forest gnome monk) and Gina (the dwarf fighter) ran down the hill and joined Cultist Cain by the side of the mill, as Zalandrin passed them going back up the hill, ready to snipe any cultist that dared showed its head outside the mill.

The front of the mill, where I am, was unornamented, except for a dutch, er, dwarf, door. I snuck up and opened just the bottom half of the door, stuck my head inside — incredibly noisy. I heard nothing but the slow grinding of the mill stone. I set a fire burning brightly on a crate near the door. Was the creaking suddenly more creakingly? But… nothing. I stepped back out of the mill.

I really had no idea what I could do that wouldn’t get me turned into a particularly lovely gnome-cushion, but I needn’t have worried. The drunken cleric was on point. He used one of his torches to smash a windo, yelled that any ambushers that might or might not be lurking about leave or be set on fire, and tossed the torch through the window

The torch rolled around on the floor for a moment before igniting the flour dust in the air.

The resulting explosion… why, it reminded me of Introduction to Chemistry back at the gnome-versity. Brought tears and shards of stone to my eye.

The drunken cleric staggered out from the wreckage still largely intact, aside from his eyebrows.

Half the rear of the mill was blown away. The waterwheel collapsed into the river. The mill wheel shuddered to a stop as its mechanism was turned to tinder. Three dead humans fell from the destroyed loft, dead, and there was a hue and cry as the others jumped from the loft to the floor and started running for the river, through the new hole in the mill where the back wall once was.

One clever guard who tried for the front door, didn’t notice that only the bottom half was open and slammed into it, knocking himself out.

While Gina and Ellryn joined me at the door, Cultist Cain tried to douse the flames with flasks full of river water. Those guards that are neither dead nor unconscious made it to the river and floated or swam away. I hoped they took a moment to remove their heavy armor.

Finally, the cavalry came! Except, not really cavalry, because none of them had horses. A guard commander, a squad of militiamen and a patrol of archers showed up from nobody knew where, alarmed and aghast. We were supposed to PRESERVE the mill, not blow it up!

Zalandrin explained how the cultists had, faced with certain death at this band of first level adventurers, had blown up the mill themselves to cover their cowardly escape.

The militiamen form a bucket brigade with their helmets as they try to extinguish the still-burning mill. I do my part and extinguish the small crate fire I started.

The guard commander cursed the dark fate that left him no cultists to question. Well… as it happened… we had a guard knocked out in the mill, still, only a little worse for wear.

Finally, the guard captain said, a bright spot! We should rush the cultist back to the keep while the militia stays behind to save the mill.

Cultist Cain seems reluctant, until we remind him that if there’s going to be ale anywhere in this town, it would be at the keep.

That does the trick.

Cultist Cain took a look at me still in my kobold costume and promised to burn it off me. I promised that if he did, every ale he drank would taste like piss. And that would not be a metaphor.


I’d worried how we were going to handle such a superior force. None of us really wanted to burn down the inn — since the mission objectives were pretty explicit about not burning it down. In the end, though, it worked out. The mill is damaged, but most of the supplies they’d had stored there survived. Luckily for us, the militia were all too willing to believe that the cultists would try to destroy the mill.

It’s clear we’re not going to be a lawful good group :-)

After the adventure, we discussed choosing a leader for the group and settled upon Zalandrin as the best choice. We succeeded tonight, but everyone was still pretty much acting on their own. In a roleplay sense, perhaps it’s understandable that we are only now coming to know and trust each other and to understand what each of us brings to the group. But, now it’s time to coordinate.

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2 thoughts on “D&D 5e: Grist for the Mill”

  1. In my latest session, we wrapped up saving the citizens (a feat we found to be impossible to accomplish without plenty of creativity and effort, considering that our party consists of a loner druid, a walking Cabela’s, an angry militant and a pyromanic elf) and got back to the Keep. We just started for the Mill, so it seems that I’ll be commenting a little bit behind. I’ll read this entry next week, as not to spoil anything to myself.

    But I did notice one thing in your pictures, something I had glossed over before in favor of enjoying the rich voice in your posts: The setup looks to be 100% online. Are you playing D&D online with others? Are they people you know or are they random? Do you all chat via mic or via typed chat? If you’ve posted about this system, I’d love to learn more about it, just to see. I play at a live table and all this online shininess is awfully interesting.

    Good rolls! Can’t wait to read this one.

  2. I don’t know what our next encounter will be. We’re off to the keep with a prisoner, but the DM was grinning evilly when he said it, and I don’t think we’re just going to get there without any trouble.

    You’re right — I haven’t talked about the setup, and I should. Maybe when I write up tomorrow’s session. It’s an online thing called Roll20.Net, and it’s entirely online. Well, we all have the real PHBs (or at least, I do). Last time we played Keep of the Shadowfell with 4e, we used something called Fantasy Grounds II.

    They’re both the same sort of deal — they host maps, character sheets, and let you roll dice. Roll20 supports voice and video, and that’s how we communicate.

    I haven’t played in person with anyone since college! But I looked up Adventurers League — I don’t know if they have anything like that here. Sounds fun :)

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