Friday, 12 February 2016

[Actual Play] Cruth Lowlands Campaign: Session 5 - Do not come between the growlfin and its mules

Session 5 of the Cruth Lowlands took place yesterday. I took the opportunity to mix in part of the old B1: In Search of the Unknown module, to mixed effect - more on that later.

PCs present:

  • Luke, playing Andy, a 3rd level fighter
  • Jason, playing Mixaham, a 1st level magic-user
  • Dan, playing Diogenes, a 1st level fighter; then Evangelios, a 1st level fighter; then Brother Ambrose, a 1st level cleric
This session began with the PCs back in Riverfork, about to set off in search of the tower of the Three Faced Wizard. They needed his help to freeze or purify an underground lake containing "water demons", in order to satisfy the kobold kolony of The Worm's Mouth, who were keeping the ex-river pirate henchman Hector hostage. Who swallowed a spider to catch a fly, etc.

The Three Faced Wizard apparently lived three days to the North across very rough terrain. The party decided that it would probably be more trouble than it was worth to take their wagon, so they set off on foot: the party had now been whittled down by death and absence [Patrice, playing Dragosta, couldn't make it this week] to Andy and Mixaham, with the hireling Christina and two henchmen river pirates, Diogenes and Evangelios. A new player, Dan, took over Diogenes, who he quickly christened 'Diog'.

On the second day out, they came across a wagon some distance away, with camping equipment around it. After being challenged by whoever was inside the wagon, and threatened with crossbow fire, they executed a pretty effective raid, with Diogenes sprinting forward under cover of Andy's heavy crossbow, while Mixaham unleashed a darkness spell. This resulted in the capture of two prospectors, who seemed willing to give up their gold. Andy was in the mood to just take half of their treasure, but Diogenes slit their throats for 'banditry'. [I think Dan was taking the whole river pirate business seriously.] 

The party took the mules and wagon owned by the prospectors and continued on their way. But that night the scent of the mules attracted a griffon through a random encounter roll; since this was at night, I decided that the griffon was instead a 'growlfin' - a griffon but with an owl's fore-body instead of an eagle's. This resulted in quite a fight. The growlfin went for the mules, and killed them in short shrift. The party took the opportunity to do some serious damage to the monster while it was distracted - but then it killed Christina and badly savaged Andy. Diogenes then attempted to distract the beast from his friend but was likewise dispatched by the growlfin's beak. It was looking seriously bad for the party, and things got even worse the next round, when the growlfin unceremoniously slaughtered Evangelios. (Once Diogenes had died we decided Dan could 'be' Evangelios - he was killed instantly. I'm not sure Dan even had the chance to roll the dice. Good times.) 

This left the badly wounded Andy and Mixaham. We were staring a TPK down the barrel. But the growlfin was badly injured by Andy in the next round and I let Dan roll for its morale check to build suspense: he rolled badly (or well, depending on your perspective) and the beast decided enough was enough and fled. 

Andy and Mixaham were in no position to continue. Three of their comrades, plus their mules, were lying hither and thither amidst scattered blood and entrails. They spent that night in nervous fear of the growlfin returning, but the next morning came across an apparently friendly cleric, Brother Ambrose, who was tracking the growlfin in order to smite it as a demon. (What a coincidence!) He agreed to team up with Andy and Mixaham to get revenge on the creature. 

They rested for a day, during which they spotted a gold dragon flying far off in the distance. Hardly being in the mood for another entanglement with anything, they kept out of sight. The following day they headed off following the trail of blood left by the wounded growlfin. They tracked it to its nest, in a huge hollow cypress tree; Brother Ambrose managed to creep closer...and closer....and closer....throwing it chunks of meat, until he was close enough to 'smite' it in the head. With the beast dead, Mixaham proceeded to dissect it, as is his wont, in order to try to gain alchemical materials. He was now in possession of a growlfin's internal organs, with plenty of blood and bile too.

The party continued their journey and reached the tower of the Three Faced Wizard without incident. The tower of the Three Faced Wizard lies at the foot of high mountains. It is made entirely from silver. As the party approached, they began to hear a grinding, squelching sound underneath them that grew louder and louder; they subsequently learned that this was the work of giant earthworms whose noise prevents spell-casting in the area - except by the Three Faced Wizard, who is used to it. 

At the tower they were met by the Three Faced Wizard's three apprentices - a beautiful red-head, brunette, and blonde, known as the First, Second and Third. These apprentices agreed to let Mixaham have an audience with the wizard. After passing his baboon servants and giant lizard guards, the party reached the top of the tower and the Three Faced Wizard's solar. The wizard agreed to provide Mixaham and Andy with a potion that would freeze an underground lake, but he needed a captive "ice spirit" in order to do this. The party would need to go to a nearby glacier in order to try to get one, and the wizard gave Mixaham a magic ring in order to capture such a being. In return, he wanted any magical or interesting treasure the party came across inside the glacier. He also agreed to teleport the party to the kobolds' cave afterwards, in order to meet the one week deadline for freeing Hector, which would otherwise pass before they could get to him; in return they promised to give him a considerable amount of treasure. Mixaham was also able to ask for some alchemical training in return for handing over his accumulated wealth, some thousands of gp-worth of gems. 

The party set off for the glacier. Here they found a series of caves [DM's note: this is level 2 from the B1 module] and began to explore them in search of an 'ice spirit'. They didn't do this before the session ended, but they did manage to kill two ice zombies and a carrion crawler, and flee from an ochre jelly and some crab spiders. Brother Ambrose also almost died from a poison gas trap on a chest, but survived with 1 hp remaining.

A very enjoyable session, but I wasn't particularly happy with the way B1 worked in play - it was, I think, a little bit dull. I will have to spice it up a bit for next week. Dan almost managed the considerable feat of having three separate PCs die in a single session, but Brother Ambrose proved a bit luckier than Diogenes and Evangelios had been. The perils of wilderness travel as low-level characters in D&D was strongly in evidence here. 


  1. The whole story has a very "Lyonesse" feel ...

    1. You are absolutely right. I wasn't thinking it at the time but in retrospect the whole Three Faced Wizard thing in particular is really Vancian. Which is fine by me. I also think the matter-of-fact amoral tone of proceedings is very reminiscent of Vance.

    2. Yes, your recap tone is very Vanican, which is a good thing.

      I like the change of the griffon to a growlfin. Sometimes stats are stats regardless of the skin they wear.