The adventurers had rested after their fight with the scoundrels in Wormford, and were now ready to head upriver. The inhabitants and travellers in Wormford avoided the adventurers, well aware that they had slaughtered the crew of a keelboat the previous day. As their spoils, the adventurers took the keelboat and sailed it upriver, seeking the marked location on the map. In this they were led by Ivan, who had once been a pirate, and knew how to sail a ship – even a keelboat!
On the first day upriver, they were hailed by a merchant keelboat who had made their way through the Sumber Hills unharmed, and were interested in any news of pirates downriver, to which the adventurers gave the tall tales of many pirate vessels and entreated them to keep an eye out for trouble. (Strangely, this advice was mostly good…) The merchants thanked them, somewhat alarmed, and sailed on.
A couple of days later, they discovered another vessel approaching them. Although the sailors claimed to be more merchants, Ivan was quickly able to identify them as pirates and battle commenced. Throughout the battle, Ivan used his skills as a water genasi to knock the pirates off the edge, then hold them underwater until they drowned. It was a most unusual combat! Once the pirates were defeated, the adventurers chose to commandeer their vessel, and transferred their equipment onto it; they then sunk their original craft, leaving the surviving pirates to walk home.
That night, those on watch observed a pair of giant vultures flying overhead, possibly with riders; the vultures did not stop, but the sight intrigued the adventurers.
The following day, the adventurers reached a keep not marked on their map, with a couple of keelboats tied up at its dock. Guards watched them curiously from the ramparts, and the adventurers requested permission to dock. This was forthcoming, and they were met by a moustached fellow named Reash as the pulled up at the dock. Ivan took the lead in the negotiations, and soon the adventurers learnt that the Keep was being rebuilt to provide a base for river patrols that could deal with the rising piracy on the river. Reash explained that his captain’s name was Grimjaw, and that he was working in the great hall. The adventurers expressed an interest in seeing Grimjaw, and so they were taking before the man.
The negotiations did not go well. It didn’t help that the adventurers – and Ivan in particular – were particularly rude, demanding to be allowed to inspect the keep. Grimjaw, never the most hospitable man at the best of the times, was enraged at this effrontery and demanded they leave. The adventurers – chaotic neutrals for the most part – considered the wisdom of starting a fight, but eventually left, with the men of the keep watching them warily.
As the adventurers continued their journey upriver, Ivan ordered that their next stop be at that point marked on the river pirate’s map. Everyone else looked at him, before Krovis explained that they’d just been there: the mark represented Rivergard Keep, which they’d just left.
“Well, we have to go back!” he announced, but while the rest of the adventurers agreed, they decided to try to find the Vale of Dancing Waters, just to the north, first.
It took some work to actually find the entrance to the Vale, which proved to be up a narrow offshoot of the river, but once there they quickly discovered that the Vale contained the remnants of an old dwarven palace, now a shrine to the dwarven gods. The group were greeted by a priest of Moradin, who offered them shelter and food. The dwarves knew little about Rivergard Keep, but upon being asked, they confirmed they had also seen vulture-riders, flying to the south-west.
The adventurers left the next day and returned to Rivergard Keep, this time by land. Their attempt to enter the front gates proved equally unsuccessful, thanks in no small part due to their continuing undiplomatic stance. Faced with this failure, the adventurers decided to abandon their investigations of the Keep for the time being, and instead go south-west in search of the vulture-riders…
The Players and their Characters
- Michael is playing Krovis Thorn, a LN human fighter/paladin (soldier) working for the Lord’s Alliance.
- Danielle is playing Thumbalina. CN dwarf barbarian (outlander) working for the Emerald Enclave.
- Dean is playing Zed Lepplin, CN human warlock, an entertainer working for the Zhentarim
- Josh is playing Ivan, CN water genasi, a pirate working for the Lord’s Alliance.
- Jesse is playing Jandar, CN human fighter, a criminal working for the Zhentarim.
- Mikey is playing Diablo, N gold dragonborn warlock, a sage working for the Lords’ Alliance.
- Noah is playing Gimbel, CN forest gnome rogue, a criminal working for the Zhentarim.
The tagline for this storyline season is “Unearth the Deception”, and it was notable how badly the group did at unearthing anything. It must be said that I take great pleasure in thwarting their plans, which are typically less than well thought out! I typically give my players a lot of slack in how they do things, but if a group is extremely undiplomatic, it tends to be reflected in the results they achieve. Good rolling won’t help you when your approach is wrong!
I’ve printed out a copy of Mike Schley’s map of the Dessarin Valley for the players – the player version, not the DM version. This is making the wilderness adventure a lot easier, as they have a proper idea of where everything is and how far everything is apart. It should be noted that the last few maps of the region have been quite inconsistent in scale. The folk at Wizards have noticed there has been a fair amount of “scale creep” over the years, and apparently they’re still refining the scale. My original maps (the ones that came in the 1E box set) suggest it is about 370 miles between Neverwinter and Waterdeep; the 3E maps at 240 miles. It’s quite likely the map scale changed between the adventure being written and when it was printed, which explains why a few of the distances in the adventure seem a bit wrong…
A large part of this section of the adventure is driven by the random encounters in the wilderness. The trick here is to not treat all of them as combat encounters. Indeed, if the group meet cultists, perhaps they’re in disguise – it isn’t yet time for them to reveal themselves, after all! The appearance of the vulture-riders I used to inform the party of other options that were around; if they became frustrated with one approach, they could try another. The river pirate encounter was just fun, especially when Josh started grabbing people and throwing them (and himself) into the water.
Some of the other groups in our store have played a few more sessions than my table, and they’re discovering that the deeper dungeons can be extremely dangerous; it will be interesting to see how this group does when they find those sections. Will they retreat? Or will they press onwards to their doom?
A reminder: this campaign is being played as part of the D&D Adventurers League. I’m running this game in Encounters-like mode: 2 hour sessions every Saturday evening from 5:30 pm-7:30 pm at Guf Sturt St (Ballarat). We play D&D Expeditions from 8pm-11 pm, and I’m also running another group through Hoard of the Dragon Queen in our proper Wednesday D&D Encounters sessions.