The ninth session of our Scourge of the Sword Coast campaign saw us down a DM: Paul is on holiday, and his replacement (which we’d organised weeks ago) couldn’t make it. Thankfully, we were able to run just the two tables, with six players on each table. Strangely enough, seven of the players had played most of their sessions on my table, but as Harry has missed a lot of this campaign due to other commitments, it was easy to shuffle him onto Ben’s table.
On my table were Tait (rogue), Sondra (ranger), Troy (fighter), Danielle (rogue), Josh (bard) and Lily (mage).
Last session we’d cleared out most of the gnolls in Phylund Lodge. This session saw the group continuing to explore the lodge for any further gnolls that might be hidden somewhere. And the crypts below the lodge.
They spent a fair bit of time exploring the rest of the upper levels. The gnolls had left some traps on the exterior doors that weren’t so difficult when reached from inside, and so Tait and Danielle were able to disarm those. The general run-down nature of the lodge was readily apparent, as were the changes the gnolls had made to make it fit for their habitation: bookcases with the shelves knocked out and filled with fur and grass proved a handy bed for gnolls! More refined touches were proof of their human master – the Red Wizard of Thay, who had been slain at the end of the last session.
His bedchamber proved the most interesting of the lot, and Lily went straight to his spellbook. Unfortunately, she didn’t detect the presence of magic (or, more correctly, magical traps) first, and so was caught by the Explosive Runes spell he’d scribed on the first page; Lily threw herself to the ground and survived, but the book was incinerated, along with all the clues it gave to the plans of the Red Wizards! Surviving the blast was a bowl and a magical lodestone, although none of the characters could work out what they were for. They were happy to find a few baubles to add to their loot.
No more enemies were left on the upper levels, but a staircase in the northern building led down to the wine cellar and crypts. There, they met a gnoll chieftain, possessed by the same type of flame entity that both the hobgoblin shaman in Julkoun and the elf woman in the Floshin Manor was possessed by. It had the ability to cause fear at will in addition to attacking each turn, and soon enough three of the party were fleeing. The gnoll had two wolves aiding him, but Sondra used her magic to charm one of the wolves, although it proved reluctant to attack its former master.
Eventually the group rallied and slew the gnoll; its body exploding in a flash of fire. For once, no-one was standing in the blast. Tunnels led away from the gnolls chamber, which, the group discovered, led to various crypts. The first ones they discovered were empty with no sign of the lords who once were buried there. Heading southwards, the group discovered a pair of secret chambers. The first held a fine bronze bowl filled with holy water, which the group were happy to take. The second held a magically-trapped skull, which shot flame at the group as they attempted to enter. Troy rushed in and destroyed the skull with a pair of good blows. For his trouble, the group found a potion of mind reading and a strangely-shaped incense burner.
Continuing south, the group reached a shrine to Tempus, god of war. There, three dread warriors, made from the corpses of the Phylund lords, awaited them. The party made short work of them, although they were quite concerned that the statue of Tempus was about to come alive and attack them! They retrieved a magical longsword from the undead, and then discovered a secret door behind the statue.
It led to another shrine, this one to Malar, an evil deity dedicated to the savage aspects of the hunt. While interesting to devotees of Realms lore, it didn’t really pertain to the quest.
We were now out of time, and upon scanning the rest of the crypts, I noted some rats and a few skeletons, but nothing more of import, so I informed the group that they found nothing more of interest. Back to Daggerford they went, where they hoped that Sir Isteval had discovered where the prisoners from Julkoun had been taken.
The pacing in this session felt wrong to me; all the big combats happened last week, and there was only one “important” combat (against the gnoll) which happened at the beginning of their trek into the crypts, not at the end. I’m not entirely sure what the dread warriors were doing in the shrine, either. So I came away from the session feeling slightly disappointed, although the interactions between the players were a real highlight of the game.
We’re approaching the end of the adventure now. Due to the way the scheduling works for us, we’ve got three more weeks before Dead In Thay begins, that adventure continuing on from this one. Ben’s group has been moving faster than mine, so they should get through all of the adventure sites; I’ll leave out Harpshield Castle unless the unthinkable occurs and we get through Firehammer Hold in a single session!