Carrion Crown - by Nicolai Grunnet

Broken Moon pt. 5

(This session involved Mutt the Barbarian, Edgar the cleric, Galfur the Inquisitor and Vincent the Sorcerer. They were 8th level.)

 Catching their breath from the fight with the nasty hangman tree, the heroes surveyed the challenge laying before them. Not far away in the distance they saw the sore ruins of the once cuddly town Feldgrau. Now nothing but a forsaken ghost town that was once slaughtered bestially by passing troops and since then abandoned. Up until now, that was. The Whispering Way had taken residence now for unknown purposes and right on their heels was the pack of demon wolves led by their anti-paladin tyrant. It was a race against time as the heroes knew they had to locate the heart of Kvalca Sain, the former packlord of the werewolves, before the demon wolves did.

They visited an old farmstead at the edge of town, in which they found a butchered cultist on a demonic shrine. Moving on, Mutt and Galfur sneaked into town from the northwest, quickly locating what seemed to be a blacksmith.  With no one around to be seen, they entered the building and realized it was, not surprisingly, long abandoned. Searching around for a bit, Galfur was suddenly ambushed with a blade to his neck, although its owner hesitated. He spoke with a weary, nervous voice, calling them out. He was surprised to see Mutt and a second later, their old ally Duristan stepped into the light. He looked battered and torn, with a confused gaze in his eyes.
He told them he had escaped the demon wolves as he arrived in Feldgrau and that he was trying to make his way out as the heroes arrived. He praised them for showing up, saying there were more prisoners inside the middle of town. He could show them the building the demon wolves resided in, and he was sure that together they would make up a strong challenge for them.

The heroes suspected him and somehow felt a certain hunch of something not being quite right. (I hate and always will hate Sense Motive / Social Perception checks and therefore they only provide players with very vague results, such as the feeling that something is wrong or the person seems ‘a bit quiet’ or ‘doubtful’.) They decided to bring him along but not go directly to the lair of the wolves before they had explored the town a bit. And so, Mutt and Galfur stealthily made their way to the next building, the Chandlery.
There was an intense silence which was abruptly quenched by a drooling roar from two massive, undead beasts. Sprinting on four legs, these monstrosities hurled themselves at the duo and a fight erupted.

(I’ll level with you right from the start; I can’t find enough synonyms for ‘a battle began’ to make this blog entry interesting. There was a lot of battle in this session, which had to do with the way the final part of Broken Moon is written. Basically, whenever the heroes move between buildings in Feldgrau, they have a 50 % chance of bumping into a patrol of either cultists or werewolves. There is no guarantee that either group will actually notice the other, but it often happens. I had the patrol roll perception checks every time to see whether they spotted the heroes.

It makes sense, in a way, and provides a good workaround rule wise on how to portray the density of activity in Feldgrau at the moment. On the other hand, I couldn’t help feeling a little bit like playing Final Fantasy, with those encounters that simply start with a FLAAAASHHHHHHH zoom in. The heroes are supposed to go all from level 8 to 9 during this segment, which made me fear it would be one long grind fest. And somehow, it felt like it.)

The creatures were Menadoran Festrogs and quickly began feeding on both heroes. Galfur decided to take up a more strategic position and arranged for both him and the barbarian to move closer to the shop and then into it.
As they did so, they suddenly heard a chilly whisper through the air and visions raced through their minds of a chandler hiding below the desk as soldiers barged into the shop. They eventually found her and slammed her head into a pot of boiling tallow, and just as the vision ended they had a strange feeling of ghostly hands tightening around their throats. Galfur shrugged the strange feeling off, but Mutt instantly dragged himself through the room in an unworldly spastic rhythm. He then slammed his head into a burning copper kettle for a massive amount of damage (8D6 to be precise) which almost dropped him.
Outside, Edgar, Vincent and Duristan arrived to finish off the remaining Festrogs. They quickly entered the shop to heal up Mutt, but one minute later the haunt angrily manifested again, attempting to make them all burn. Luckily, Edgar reacted in time and banished it back to the abyss with a channeling of positive energy.
(I liked this haunt. I’ve missed them ever since Harrowstone.)

Wolves at our heals
Their next destination was a strange old building to the immediate south, and as Galfur and Mutt moved closer, they heard a low snarling conversation originating from the front of it. Hiding in the bushes, they noticed two fiendish werewolves talking, their fur black as the deepest night. They didn’t manage to overhear much talk, however, before one of them caught their scent and they both moved closer, managing to avoid a surprise round.

The rest of the party soon followed and battle erupted. Both demon wolves used smite good on Galfur and Mutt and ruthlessly began slaughtering. On his turn, Duristan turned to look at Edgar with a wide smile and said; “You remember that scar ward I told you about? Seems like it didn’t work at all…” after which he howled and transformed into a furious werebeast. With a growl he hurled himself at Vincent and grappled him.
(In the original case, Duristan waits till the heroes arrive at the demon wolf headquarter before jumping them, but seeing as they were about to take really long before getting their asses in motion, jumping them at this time with other werewolves of his kin seemed prudent. Duristan doesn’t hit hard by any means, at least not when compared to his smiting colleagues, but through grappling and tripping he is okay at keeping casters busy.)

Vincent escaped the grapple through the use of a still spelled Grease on himself and managed to kite Duristan around for some time, through various uses of Mirror Image and Invisibility. There was a lot of damage going around from the demon wolves, especially with their smite skills. Edgar managed to keep up both Mutt and Galfur for enough time for them to down one of the wolves, but sadly it also nearly killed the inquisitor in a final blow. He stabilized, though, near death’s door.
The rest of the fight became somewhat trivial. By the time Vincent reached 5 hp left, he turned invisible and made his way towards the rest of the group. Duristan relied on his scent to counter this but made some really bad concealment rolls, meaning Mutt was soon at him with a silver halberd and tore him a new one.
The heroes investigated the destroyed building but found nothing.

Ahh, Fresh meat!
Moving further to the south, the heroes found the butcher shop. It looked abandoned like so much else in town, but Vincent didn’t take any chances. He walked up to the door, kicked it in, and surprised two skeletal champions, a festrog and a Whispering Way curate busy searching the premise. Vincent nuked the room with a powerful fireball, destroying the skeletons and bringing the festrog and the cultist to their knees. From there on it was quite smooth sailing for the inquisitor and barbarian to mop up the rest.
(There is this strange thing going in Feldgrau of fielding creatures with severely low CR’s against an 8th level party. The skeletal champions are examples of such. I suppose this is an attempt to make the heroes truly feel epic and powerful, and whereas I truly intended to run this by the book, it did become rather tiresome placing them on the map when the sorcerer or cleric would any blast them on their initiative.)

The heroes then went north towards F12, the Gravedigger’s Shed. They could barely see something going on in the town square far to the south, but decided to investigate the small building first. They noticed a large group of dormant and armed skeletons inside, and decided to blast the shed for good measure.
(Again, this is an encounter, but since it consists of 8 CR ½ and four CR 2 creatures, I’d be damned if I didn’t have anything better to run in this adventure. So I decided to simply award them the XP for annihilating them. The heroes anyway decided to leg it from here, in case they brought unneeded attention to themselves.)

Heading closer to the south and the town square at F13, the heroes found a sinister gathering of plenty of skeletons hoarding together. In between them were two cultists, busy issuing orders to the digging skeletons. The heroes decided to run in, guns blazing, and assaulted the group with a fireball and channel positive energy, instantly destroying it. The cultists didn’t have long before the melee’s were upon them, and so the party walked away from another well deserved victory (I again point to previous blue entry).
Before moving on they decided to return to the small shed they just nuked, in order to see what they could salvage. Upon arriving, however, they were jumped by 12 burning skeletons and a whispering curate. (This time I really wanted to run it by the book, putting up every single model since fireball wasn’t as much of an option). The heroes entered from the far corner of the battlemat and moved closer to the shed. The burning skeletons charged with a reckless furor and hurled themselves at them blindly. (If you have players who remotely love tweaking their characters, you have to either accept that the burning skeletons will likely need a buff, or simply aim for a lot of crits in order for them to hit something at all. Even with the desecrate spell in effect, two of my players field an impressive AC of 22+.)  

As Mutt began slicing them down with attacks of opportunity the heroes realized the undead creatures detonating in their faces, inflicting a moderate amount of damage to the clumped up party. Sadly, this resulted in Galfur the inquisitor dropping to negative hit points, as they’d been so busy nuking skeletons they forgot about healing (Nemesis, thou art a bitch). Instantly, the Whispering Way Curate moved up and cast an unholy blight on the party, slaying the inquisitor. Sadly, she never made it to the corpse in order to cast animate dead and was slain subsequently. (Fun fact; if she had succeeded, this would’ve been the third time I’ve turned this player’s character into a zombie in my campaigns : D )

Bring out yer dead!
The party thought long and hard about what to do, but seeing as they were outnumbered already, they decided to take the long journey back to the small forest outpost of Edgewood to raise Galfur in the Shaundakul-temple. At this point, their wand of cure light wounds was also empty, so they needed to shop.
They returned there 7 days later (I’m frankly not sure whether that’s entirely correct, but a 14-day travel back and forth seemed reasonable. Also, if you run the adventure as written here; there is actually no way the players can raise anyone from the dead as Broken Moon seems severely absent of any clerics? I wonder what they’re intentions were?). They handed over the gold, restored a negative level and rested for a day. They then began the long journey back. (After Vincent previously attempted to charm person a merchant there into selling his goods at a lower price, all prices were elevated by 25 . You might call it cruel, but in a sense this death was deserved as it was the result of careless thinking. Not healing up between an encounter is asking for trouble, and my players were punished equally by the improved pricing thanks to previous mistakes in town. Since Edgewood is also some of a central trade-hub slander had started spreading, resulting in a +10 increase in prizes all over Ustalav from hereon as the party’s bad reputation with merchants spread).
Upon arriving the undead activity in Feldgrau seemed somehow denser and the sounds of projects all over had increased. The heroes had the feeling that they really needed to hurry from here on and set forth against building F14; the armory.

It looked empty and abandoned, but also devoid of anything of interest.  Upon closer inspection, however, the heroes noticed an old stone vase with a faint bubbly, humming from the inside. Eager and curious, they went closer and opened it, only to find an big, well kept werewolf heart. The heart of Kvalca Sain. Happily they retrieved it and turned around to get the hell out of there.
But then it happened;
From the darkness above, five shady figures cloaked in black robes descended in a long jump. They wore mask concealing everything but their burning red eyes and hissed at the heroes; “You shall never leave this place alive!”
And thus, the final fight awaits this Wednesday in what will likely be the final chapter of ‘Broken Moon’.
Stay tuned.

(As an end note; I was puzzled by the sudden situation of so much time passing. Ideally one would argue against it, I assume. The players are against the clock, and taking such a huge amount of time out of their schedule would ideally give the cultists plenty of time to finish their projects and move on, effectively letting the heroes lose the campaign. Alternatively, they could leave and the PC’s would find some clues to their next destination, meaning they would only miss out on a truckload of XP’s.
I decided to rule the war with the werewolves had gone intense from thereon, keeping the cult pressed. Instead this also meant the Whispering Way had plenty of time to bolster their ranks, so that the final fight will feature more adds and troops.)



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