The sky above the lost city of Thunderholme was gray and crumbling. Massive chunks of granite had been ripped from the sky and thrown to smash the carved homes and markets below by illithid magics and the violence of the stone giants. Rotted carrion worm carapaces blocked the obsidian paths along which ore was brought to the now-silent foundries. The mithril-glow lamps that had once lit the city like a thousand bright stars were now dark, melted by the craven horde. Now the only light in Thunderholme came from fetid corpse-fires that cast flickering green light from between the bodies of the orcs and goblins that crowded close.
Valda Onyxheart watched from one of the hidden tunnels in which her ancestors had long ago fled the dwarven city, once the shining capital of the Thunder Peaks, now the ruin she saw before her. Beside her, her spirit companion, the basilisk Dern, rumbled uneasily. “Not now,” whispered Valda. “Not yet.” The hour to retake Thunderholme would come when her people returned triumphant from their hidden fortresses, their numbers renewed by the workings of Moradin and the blessing of the All-Father.
Trusting Dern to lead her true, Valda walked crouched, but with sure steps, up the cunningly wrought shaft which once brought the heat and smoke from the mighty forges of the city below to the world of the surface dwellers. The gray light of day lit the floor of the tunnel’s exit; below it a tall, sheer drop guarded a grove of thorn bushes. Even now, Thunderholme guarded itself. There would be no return by this path.
Valda chewed on some rat jerky washed down with mushroom beer as she waited for the darkness to return. As the grey sky turned black, thunder rumbled among the mountain peaks as Moradin sought his lost children. It was a good omen. The rain that followed was an even better one. The noses of goblin guards would not betray them. Valda scurried down the rock face before it became too rain-slick for even dwarven hands.
Her mood improved further as she reached the Eastway and started along the road to Winterhaven, but Valda could not allow herself to forget why she’d left her kind’s hidden caverns: the dead had begun to rise once more. Caught between stone skeletons from the deeper tunnels and the occupied ruins of Thunderholme, the priests and warriors of the clans were required to fight to keep the villages safe.
Only outcast Valda, always away communing with the spirits of the stone in some mossy hermitage, could be spared to summon help from the cousins who had fled Thunderholme toward the surface world instead of ever deeper to the threshold of the Underdark itself.
Back-story for my D&D character… whose adventures will all be recorded here :) So you might as well get to know her now. Portrait is taken in front of the bank in Kaladim. I tried to get DDO working so I could make her there, but no luck. Wouldn’t connect. EverQuest, though, always did good dwarfs. After a couple of hours playing her in the Mines of Gloomingdeep, I remembered what I’d gone to EQ to do — get a screenshot of a dwarf….
I exaggerate a little. We probably won’t be slaying a dragon, which I think it a little bit of false advertising, if you ask me. I know darn well there are going to be dungeons. Each dungeon should be equipped with at least one dragon, and that dragon should be informed that its lifespan shall be among the shortest. Not kobold short, but short enough. An ancient dragon should be one that has managed to see two years come and go before the party of steadfast adventurers fed it its own scaly tail.
That’s how I see it, anyway. I guess I’m a little ready for some revenge. You may recall that the final battle with the big boss in the first outing with the Adventure Company ended with the sudden defeat of all of us good guys, and even Brynn’s steady Magic Missile couldn’t pull a win from that cluster.
But the mantle of the Adventure Company will be passing to a new legion of level 1 wanna-be heroes. Pursued across the Forgotten Realms by an army of undead, the army raised by a villain from a different dimension who we maybe didn’t kill last time around.
I was so excited at being able to don armor and sword that I started thinking about my new character the very day the DM announced a new campaign. In fact, I figured it would be fun to make a little app to roll the dice for me. And as long as it was doing that, it could figure out all the little stats you have to fill in. And I might as well expand it a little so that it could suggest classes that could fit the rolls.
There is an ulterior motive to this post, and I hope you will run the app and play around with some characters and get to wondering how it is you could take this character you make and play it with some great people online.
The four of us have all signed up once more, but we really could use someone else. All you need is the ability to voice chat in a Google+ hangout, which is really easy, and the D&D 4e Player’s Handbook — just the first one is all you need.
We used Fantasy Grounds II last time. I’m not sure we’re going to use it again. But we may, and that costs a little additional money. But we may choose another solution, too. Hasn’t been decided yet.
Last time we were all really just learning how to play D&D again, and most of us were bringing our MMO habits along with us. But really, everything we need to know is in that PHB, somewhere, and if you choose to join us for this adventure, we probably won’t die so much.
We’d battled our way to nearly the deepest depths of the measureless halls and caverns beneath the demonic Keep on the Shadowfell. We’d met slimes and jellies and bug-lizards and drakes and gnomes and goblins and goblins of the hob variety. We’d fed Splug to a carnivorous pool. We’d waded through hordes of skeletons and waves of zombies and spoken to a ghost. I got trapped in a room that was filling with water with no escape.
All we had to do was climb down some sturdy chains, map whatever we found below (where a clay golem had escaped us), and our expedition for Winterhaven’s Lord Padraig would finally finish, and we could claim the ten silver and free soup at the inn as our rightful reward.
That was the plan, anyway.
Nobody wanted to be the first to go down the hole. Enough of this. I’m the tank. It’s my job to take the lead. The chains looked sturdy enough, easily able to support us all as we climbed down. I carefully swung myself on to one and — missed my Athletics check — splashed into a pool of warm blood, far below. Wizard Bryn landed, head first, next to me, quite hurt by the fall. Wenner and Sheeoil came down as fast and as safely as they could.
The clay golem who had fled from us down the hole turned creakily and might have smiled if it could have. Bryn, stunned and bleeding, gasping for air and on the edge of annihilation, grabbed his charcoal and bloodied paper and made a quick sketch of the room. “Mapped,” he said. “We’re done.”
Pool of blood in the middle, in which Bryn and I were floating prone; mysterious dark portal to the north, with glowing runes in front of it. To the east, a wight. To the west, Kalarel, guarded by two skeleton warriors and the clay golem. To the south, nothing. I guess we could have gone that way and done something, but getting Bryn alive was something we needed to work on immediately.
The odds weren’t against us. We’d come through situations nearly as bad. It was the wight that did us in, oddly, with its screams that would push us like so many pawns around the room. Kalarel teleported to the portal and I charged after him, slamming him with the wrath of divine Bahamut and my sword, Lifedrinker.
A scream from the wight pushed me into the portal, though, and after that, I knew no more.
Bryn set off all his best spells, but they weren’t quite enough, and he died, and then down went Wenner and Sheeoil and…
That was it.
Ironically, in some future time, some better party of adventurers may make their way down this keep, to this room, defeat Kalarel and free me from the shadow dimension behind the portal. I might be the lone survivor of this all. Or maybe I’ll be freed only to die to the raised zombies of the rest of my party.
But for now — we’re all dead or missing (and presumed dead). We’re probably going to start over with new characters and a new rules system, probably Pathfinder and perhaps moving to Tabletop Forge instead of the Fantasy Grounds II software we’ve been using.
Though our adventure ended badly, I still had an amazing amount of fun, and can’t wait to start meeting again. Maybe we’ll be a little more cautious this time….
The screenshot tells the story. Me and Wenner unconscious, Sheeoil dead, only Bryn alive to finish the fight against the ravenous but somewhat stupid blue slime. And what of Splug? What of the goblin who gained our trust and betrayed us, literally backstabbing us?
What of Splug, indeed?
After we finished scraping off the lizard-bug juice from our boots (Bryn, Sheeoil) and feet (Wenner, myself), we decided to go have a look at the corroded bronze door near which Wenner had discovered some tasty and deadly pudding. The door had words scraped into it, “Do Not Enter!!!11!!! SRSLY!!!!”, but we’re not big on warnings and text speak just enrages Bryn, so we were hot to see just what was behind that green door.
We were stunned to see something in front of the door — Splug. Splug, the goblin we saved from the hobgoblin torturer (who apparently was moonlighting as a goblin torturer, just for Splug). Splug, who offered to carry our stuff and heroically guard the rear of any battle. Splug, who stabbed our faithful wizard and ran off. Splug, who has had his name mentioned in this post enough to be the number one search result on his name from now until eternity. Let this be a warning to any future adventuring parties — Splug is Bad News.
Now, I’m a paladin. Lawful good, totally crazy about Bahamut, hate Tiamat with a passion. If you behave honorably to me and my companions, I will defend you to the death. But if you betray me… well, justice demands you pay for your crime. When Splug decided to sink a dagger in Bryn’s back, he made my list. My short list. We could map this place or not, but Splug was not going to live to spread his treachery.
When Splug saw us, he spun, ran through the metal door, slammed it behind him. We could hear the pitter patter of goblin feet stumble down some wooden stairs, a muffled scream, and then — nothing.
Wenner listened at the door and heard nothing more. He opened it — slightly — slipping through and hiding in the darkness. We could all have hidden in that darkness, the only light was a dim blue phosphorescence coming from the water of an underground lake that cast no light by which to see. Even Sheeoil’s keen elven eyes could not pierce the gloom.
Wenner tracked the footprints in the disturbed fungus to the bottom of the stairs, where it met the unmarked stone of the natural cavern floor. He calls the rest of us down. I lit a sun rod to illuminate the room.
In the sun rod’s light, we could no longer see the glow from the lake. It looked just like plain water. Nonetheless, we decided not to go swimming just yet. Wenner followed the cavern wall south… and then let out a yell.
Sounded like he yelled “SPLUG!”
We all rushed that direction. Wenner wasn’t going to have the honor of killing Splug alone. Some kinds of fun must be shared!
When we get there, Splug was gasping and gurgling and obviously terrified, as he should be. His day of judgement had come. However, it wasn’t us that frightened him. He begged our protection, he threw himself at our mercy, he stole glances at the water and tried to shrink back further into the nook in which he’d squeezed himself. Wenner deftly tied the goblin fast with his rope.
“Good,” I said. I drew Lifedrinker from its scabbard. “Splug,” I said, “You have lost your honor. You have come to the end of the path you have chosen; make your peace with whatever gods you worship, for you will soon meet them. Wenner, hold him still.”
Wenner nodded curtly.
Splug didn’t seem aware of his fate. Looking out past we who’d come to kill him to the water behind us, he let out a shriek and fainted.
Soundlessly, the dim blue glow of the lake coalesced and surfaced — a blue slime appeared. With a gurgling sigh, it burped an explosive orb of acid at us all; the acid began to burn Wenner and Sheeoil.
We all turned and made a mad dash for the stairs, Wenner dragging Splug behind him. The blue slime was faster than we were. It formed two pseudopods, hit Wenner with one and curled the other around Splug. The goblin was slowly being dragged toward the slime.
I could not abide that. Splug deserved an honorable death. Wenner shrugged away the slime’s acid and tried to stab Splug. I tried to decapitate the goblin. Sheeoil, burned by acid, seared Splug with sacred flame. Still he lived, awake again, screaming. It would be a mercy killing.
Bryn’s force orb went wild, disappearing into the darkness. The slime slammed Splug to the ground and burped another stink bomb at us all. All except Bryn, who smartly stood well out of range on the stairs, casting from safety. Splug flailed desperately against the slime.
Wenner saved again against the acid, drank a health potion and ran away to the south, no longer part of this fight. Who does Wenner look out for? Wenner looks out for Number One.
That’s our rogue, and we love him for it. Love him!
With Splug trying to fight the slime, I thought we should accept the help. If Splug survived, we could still kill him later.
Sheeoil and I, unhappily within range of the slime’s pseudopods, do our best to bring the slime down, but it only seemed lightly damaged. Bryn hurled spell after spell from the stairs, but the slime just had too much health. This just did not look like a fight we were going to win.
The slime slammed Splug against the wall. Splug went limp. Freed by the slime, his still body fell to the ground.
Meanwhile, Wenner explored the rest of the cavern, as much of it as he could see without actually getting into the water. He could faintly hear waves lapping against the rear wall of the cavern, but it sounded as if there were a closer shore than the far wall.
Back at the slime, things were steadily going from bad to worse. I was knocked unconscious, but a miracle saving throw vs death brought me back to semi life. I crawled up the stairs to safety with Bryn. Sheeoil joined us, and it was clear the slime could not leave the water. We sat and discussed our task, Splug’s fate and other cheerful subjects while Bryn cast various magics at the creature. I tossed a few javelins in the slime’s direction.
Finally, the slime was bloodied. It disappeared into the water and into the darkness.
We couldn’t just let it escape like that. I crept to the shore and splashed around a bit. The slime returned with incredible speed, knocking me nearly unconscious again. Bryn hit it with another spell and it disappeared. Bryn cast magic missiles blindly into the darkness without effect. Wenner returned from his explorations and made sounds in the water.
Again the slime came, knocked the thief into oblivion, left when fired upon by Bryn. I used my heal skill to stabilize Wenner, then made a noise in the water. The slime came back and knocked me out for good this time. Sheeoil stabilized me, then was knocked out by the slime. Unfortunately there was nobody to stabilize him.
Bryn used Cloud of Blades to churn the water and lure the slime back to the shore, then burned it with magic missiles. This was not a fast way to kill it. Unstabilized and with bad luck in saving throws, Sheeoil died. Eventually, so did the slime.
With the encounter ended, Bryn was able to get Wenner and me conscious again. There was nothing we could do about Sheeoil. Wenner and I cautiously explored the lake and discovered a small island, on which was a half-dissolved corpse, a small amount of gold, a goodly amount of silver, a shield that hummed with power and a sealed scroll case.
I claimed the shield… of course. I don’t crave wealth, but I do feel a responsibility to keep the party safe, and to do that, I need better gear. We were no longer just fighting kobold minions.
I got Sheeoil’s corpse on my shoulders, and we headed back to Winterhaven.
We met Splug, but his death was empty. Was justice served? We had our first death, due mostly to impatience. We figured out early on that the slime wouldn’t leave the water. We could either just let Bryn kill it, or try to lure it into melee range and unleash hell on it. The result was 3/4 of the party out of the fight, and Bryn killing it anyway.
We played healing entirely by the rules, which was a problem. Back when we first started with D&D4E, we kinda thought Healing Surge was a kind of self heal you could pull out whenever you needed it. We were wrong. Healing Surges are a counter; it represents the number of times you can be healed between rest periods. It’s not itself any sort of heal. Everyone gets Second Wind — a heal they can cast on themselves. As a paladin, I get a second heal in Lay On Hands, which I can use a number of times per day as my Wisdom bonus, which is +1 — so once a day. In earlier encounters, before I read this, I figured I could Lay on Hands as often as I liked as long as I had healing surges left, which was totally not the case.
Most of Sheeoil’s attacks generate temporary hit points, which are useful but not real heals. He only has a few real heals. He ran out of those, I used both Second Wind and Lay on Hands just keeping myself alive, so basically, even with 1 1/2 healers, we can’t really take the kind of damage long fights put out. Both the pink pudding and the blue slime couldn’t be affected much with bladed weapons or acid spells, which took our DPS down quite a lot.
We did make it through — barely — but now we’re forced to return to town, rest up, then head back to the Keep and finish the adventure. I kinda have to call that a bad ending. I don’t know what the penalty for a resurrection will be for Sheeoil, but back in AD&D 1.0 it was a permanent loss of a constitution point, which is really nasty.
While in town, we’ll have to figure out how we’re going to survive other fights where we can’t use bladed weapons or must fight from range. And deal with the wrath of Lord Padraig, who will likely wonder, loudly, why it has taken us so long to map the Keep.