We did a reconfiguration of the tables this session to account for players who have dropped out. There is one fewer table now; our numbers are generally stable around 30 players each week, which seems more sustainable into the future. My own table is nominally at six players, although Lewis couldn’t make this session so we only had five players this session.
My table is the furthest advanced of any at our store and, this session, we progressed into Episode 7. (The other tables are spread between Episodes 5 and 6).
This episode is unusual. The characters entered the portal at Castle Naerytar and emerged near a hunting lodge in an unidentified forest in the mountains – not in the black dragon lair, which they greatly feared would be the case!
They cautiously approached the lodge, but there were no cultists on guard and so they were able to enter it unobserved. The guard post was unattended, but the party’s entrance wasn’t completely unobserved: Gargoyles watched the main hall! The gargoyles weren’t attacking visitors who weren’t holding bared steel, however, so the party could pass undisturbed.
In fact, the ground floor had no cultists, only a few servants who were busy in a noisy kitchen. The group observed the kitchen without drawing attention to themselves, and chose to bypass it. Instead they ended up in a parlour, where their curiosity triggered an attack by a helmed horror, one of the more iconic magical constructs of the Forgotten Realms. It was a bit challenging to face, but the group were too far from the cultists on the upper level to raise any alarm. Another parlour held various trophies; my players were about to leave when Josh started looking in the mouths of the stuffed heads on the walls. No, they didn’t attack him – instead he found treasure: a pair of potions of healing. He was very pleased with his find.
The group headed upstairs, where they discovered a number of bedchambers. Most were empty, but the last was the bedchamber of the head cultist. They immediately investigated a chest near the foot of the bed, only to find it locked. The group is completely without the services of a knock spell (something that Jesse, who is playing a bard, is realising would make things a lot easier). They also don’t have a rogue, but they do have one player who is proficient with thieves’ tools – he rolled really well and the group were able to take the items from the chest, including a set of magical chain armour. (I don’t know if anyone is using it, though!)
The next room they explored turned out to be a barracks; one sleeping guard there was roused by their entry and called out an alarm. It was at that point that Talis the White, leader of the cultists in the lodge, confronted them.
Talis did not immediately attack, and what could have been a dangerous combat turned into a negotiation session (a parlay, if you will). Talis saw the party as useful tools for improving his position in the cult and causing great embarrassment (and perhaps worse) for Rezmir, her superior. Luckily for Talis, the group were more than happy to sow discord in the cult, especially if it meant stopping the Greenest shipment from reaching the Hoard the cultists had been accumulating.
Talis was able to give the players directions to the great flying castle that the cultists would be using to transport the treasure, along with passwords and a banner to aid them in their infiltration. The party happily accepted, assuring Talis that they’d cause a lot of trouble for Rezmir. Talis then entertained them in the lodge before they left on the next morning for the village of Parnest, and the flying castle there!
This was quite a short session, but as the final episode of the adventure looks like it will be massive, I was happy to pause things here. The group had engaged in very little combat, but they’d gained the aid of Talis the White and they’d find that invaluable. I’ll be interested to discover how other groups approached this episode. Did you fight your way through? Or did you negotiate?