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Sunday, 29 January 2017

5e D&D - The Chronicles of the Backbiters: The Eye of Death

Now as a preamble to this instalment I should talk about the party's first adventure - The Master's Vault. This concludes with them getting into the vault, having a showdown with a necromancer and some skeletons, and learning that there erstwhile teacher was actually a different character who had found an artefact called "The Eye of Death". They had a journal which described the Eye's location and how to destroy it, together with a Pearl of Power and a magical longsword.

Now thinking long-term, I knew the party would be doing The Hoard of the Dragon Queen next, and after that probably Rise of Tiamat. They would then be in a position to do an epic Lord of the Rings style quest to destroy this evil artefact. Also, rather than introducing another faction, I had the necromancer at the end of the adventure be part of the Cult of the Dragon, interested in the Eye to help create their undead Dracoliches.
So I created a powerful evil artefact, and rather than have it as another quest in the future, decided that it should replace the Pearl they had found with the journal - the Eye appearing to be such until activated (the artefact needed attunement to use as a Pearl of Power, at which point the character would lose weight at the rate of 1lb/day until they reached their racial minimum. They have bloodthirsty thoughts and enjoy watching things die, and their dreams are full of nightmares about death. It also confounds the bearer as to any clues about it and its method of destruction).

After the character had personally killed 50hp worth of creatures, the Eye enters its first level of activation, and the character can cast the Chill Touch cantrip, favouring it over other methods of attack - the Eye would grow to the size of a large rounded grape, and the character would be aware of this power and become secretive about the item - at this point the character cannot be released from the item by anything short of a Greater Restoration. They gain immunity from Necrotic damage, their touch kills normal plant life and those that stay within 100' of them for 24h or more risk contracting Sewer Plague....

In addition, the Eye requires death constantly, and the bearer is unable to benefit from hit dice, short or long rests unless they have killed (something with a CR, not just a spider or an insect - I know how player's minds work!) within the last 24h. They are obsessed with killing, so much so that their Charisma is lowered by 2 and their Wisdom by 1 whilst they possess the artefact. Their alignment also starts to slide towards Neutral Evil.

Let me now add that the character who picked up both the journal and the Pearl was Darrien - the halfling Bard...this meant he couldn't read the journal (as the Eye confounds its bearer as to its origins etc), so he reported it was written in some sort of code - I was imagining parallels to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings at this point - one of the great joys of being a DM are these little secrets as they unfold!

ooo o o o OOO o o o ooo

So, preamble done, the last time the party had been beaten by the Cult after seriously depleting their human followers left in the cave system. Frulam had escaped off North to warn Rezmir of the threat, leaving Landregosa to watch over the eggs - a task he felt more than capable of doing having met the party before and hardly being troubled with their advances.

The party had a bit of internal reflection at this point, and talked about planning more and being less impulsive. This half worked on their re-entry to the caves, where the Dragonclaw guards had been replaced by slightly less capable kobolds, who were stealthily eliminated. The party explored to find the bodies of cultists gone, but little else changed, and so went through the mushroom forest - at which point their discipline started to break down, and they proved that wet surfaces and climbing were not their strong point (this was also historically true, with falls being more dangerous in their past than monsters!)

Now I had prepared for the next part with some more 3D printing...they were entering a cave full of bats and piercers (I had replaced the Stirges in the book for these as I felt they tied in with the Roper later on, plus I felt Stirges would attack cult members travelling through here). It turned out they were also easy to print...and here they are.

The party ended up with a few piercers in the back, but some curing later and they got through this, though they managed to lose the Wizard in the process. It was at this point when Darrien reached the 50hp threshold for pushing the Eye of Death into its first level of activation. Anyway, Kylantha the wizard had become disoriented in the swarms of bats flying around in the cave, and ended up going into the foul-smelling Troglodyte area. I could have used Lizardmen for these, but I wanted the Troglodytes to be different, so I ended up printing a bunch of these too. Kylantha cast Thunderwave at them, the noise disturbing the bats again and bringing Sirethnis, Alonna and Lander to go looking for her and bring her back.

Landregosa finally met his end after an epic battle which Landregosa himself ended up doing a lot of damage to kobolds and a guard drake, being the recipient of a Crown of Madness cast by the Warlock Uro. This meant that by the time he was really into fighting the party he was already somewhat down and didn't have the support he should have had. He was finally finished off with a Spiritual Weapon blow from Lander. The party then spent some time smashing his head with a maul and then cutting it off, just to be sure! They weren't out of the woods, however, since the remaining kobolds and beserkers did a substantial amount of damage - to the point where they needed a short rest in the reeking kobold barracks.

This rest gave them enough to go exploring again, and they found the kobolds guarding the eggs (after being glued and burnt by their grenades), followed by the guard drakes and finally the roper - which the party named "Mighty Mike". After some dialogue and some meat trading, the party avoided combat with this creature, which I had used a Reaper mini for that I already owned previously.

The dragon eggs were all extracted and smashed, and other than getting some acid damage from the chest trap in the dragon temple and some poison from the trapped meat chamber curtain, the party did little more before a lengthy debate on what to do next - chase after the cult immediately or go back to Greenest to report and restock. Eventually they decided on the latter course, and went back to see Leosin and Governor Nighthill. Of course Leosin had already gone, and Nighthill equipped them with horses to ride up to Elturel.

On the way to Elturel, the party was ambushed during the night by orcs, including an Orog and Eye of Grummsh from Othrod's old clan. The attack was not only rebuffed, but completely slaughtered. Still, I had no doubt the figures I had bought for the purpose would be used for other fights!

At this point various members of the party started falling ill - something the party traced back to their resting in the filthy kobold barracks back at the cave system. Lesser Restoration seemed to do the trick, however, and remove the effects. This set them up to meet Leosin and Onthar, and give them the opportunity to join the Harpers, or the Order of the Gauntlet. Some joined both organisations, some joined none, so the party had a real mix of outlooks - a good thing overall I felt.

Come the morning they were due to set off, some of the characters were again ill, and they found that Othrod's horse had been killed in the night - something he was very unhappy about and made something of a scene outside the stables about. Of course this was actually Darrien's doing, he killed the horse in the night to sate his bloodlust - driven by the Eye.

Nevertheless, the party set off to Baldur's Gate by boat, and in an attempt to insulate themselves from further disease they separated into infected and non-infected groups, taking the prow and stern. Mid journey they heard cries for help, and decamped in rowboats into the shallow waters of a swamp to investigate, only to find a fair maiden chained to a rock, prisoner of three ogres and their pet crocodile.The maiden was another purchase (at the same time as the orcs), whereas the monsters I had printed

The party dealt with this, but the highlight was Thor being pulled from his rowboat by the crocodile, and Uro casting Witch Bolt, which fried both crocodile and Thor over several rounds. During this time Thor had been unable to break the crocodile's grapple, and afterwards was unable to climb back into the boat, even with lander's help. Eventually Lander and Uro managed to pull his still-smoking, sodden form out of the water, but it did become something of the focal point for the fight!

The Ogres put up a fair fight, including one who was casting Vicious Mockery on various party members. in the end, however, brute force and ignorance couldn't delay their despatch, and the maiden managed to set herself free from the shackles during the fight. She then told the party how her party was ambushed and killed as she was on her way to Elturel, but she'd be grateful of carriage back to her father in Baldur's Gate to get more guards to pick up the two cases of exquisite jade figurines she was taking as a gift. The party offered to take the statues too, but she refused, saying there was no point taking them back just to haul them out here again.

That night, back on the boat during the first watch, Uro cast Vicious Mockery on Othrod. Despite denying it, he did it again, and Othrod was prepared to fight - this woke others, including Darrien, who also cast Vicious Mockery on the half-orc. Sensing something wasn't right, Sirethnis stepped in, saying this was very suspicious when they'd just picked up a passenger. The maiden was confronted and she tore into Sirethnis, revealing her true identity as a Green hag. she had been using her natural abilities to cast the cantrip, imitate others and cast her voice to cause the mayhem. A fight ensued, but she turned invisible and jumped off the boat.

Next day, as they approached Baldur's Gate, a one figure was spotted on some rocks ahead. She cried out and Fireballed the was Myrdinn, their former colleague and friend, who blamed them all for her brothers death. After a couple of long-range Fireballs she vanished, leaving the party shaken and bemused. They were also somewhat down in cleric and druid spells as the cycle of infection each morning was countered by Lander and Thor's Lesser Restorations, leaving their spell slots depleted.

Finally they arrived at Baldur's Gate, their boat somewhat burnt and slightly depressed - they had learned of an old friend that was a new enemy, couldn't seem to shake the cycle of infection they'd picked up and still had a long way to go to track the Cult. What would Baldur's Gate - the largest city in Faerun - bring them?

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