The sun was still hanging highly above Castle Caromarc when the heroes gathered their belongings and prepared for the first push towards the gatehouse. Sadly, Aldarion had suffered grave wounds from the previous battle with the trolls, and had to remain resting in the cliffs (yes, the player was ill that night, so no conjurer) Having burned the two troll carcasses, they now noticed the gate had been solidly closed and barricaded once more, and that small footsteps could be heard from the parapet. Not long after, a meek goblin popped up and looked at them.
“Uglies! You are hereby, by the order of mighty Grork, banished from these lands. They belong to the mightiest of mighty. Turn back! And never show yours—“
Grendell immediately hurled an acid splash at the goblin and inflicted 4 damage. The tiny green man screamed in agony and ran for it (this cliché never gets old) but before the heroes had a chance to make their move, three trolls appeared at the small towers and started hurling rocks at them. One of them, covered in tattoos, loaded his enormous crossbow and impaled Mutt with a bolt the size of a dagger.
Pushing onwards with a war cry, Mutt hurled himself at the door and smashed it partially open. Edgar immediately bolstered the barbarian’s power with a Bull’s Strength. Grendell and Vincent attempted to return fire with spells, but nothing really made a dent in the trolls. Instead they all moved as close to the gate as possible, in order to avoid the falling rocks.
On the following turn, Mutt smashed his way through the gate and inside a small guard house. A foul stench hang in the air, not only of troll, but also sweet, rotting flesh hanging from several hooks against the wall. The dim illumination from lit braziers revealed piles of old rubble and furniture used to barricade the entrance as well as another door leading onwards to Castle Caromarc. In front of it, four (nervous) goblins stood, weapons drawn.
Thundering steps from the stairs revealed incoming trolls, so the heroes braced themselves for the impact. The goblins all ran towards them in blind rage and were cut down by the barbarian with combat reflexes. Only one survived and thought “Screw this, I’m out of here!” (He managed to escape the gate house and later settled down and became a successful farmer with wife and kids)
The trolls arrived and Chief Grork hurled himself at Mutt, tearing and rending the barbarian for roughly 30 damage. Standing solidly with his rage hit points, the two started exchanging fierce blows, while the rest of the party dealt with the remaining trolls. Edgar the cleric quickly got stuck on healing duty, while Vincent the sorcerer incapacitated one of the beasts for one round with color spray. Grendell tossed a tanglefoot bag in the face of the other, and managed to buff himself to survive one round of attacks.
Blind with rage, Chief Grork unleashed hell on Mutt, bringing him down to 3 hit points. Carefully retreating, Edgar brought 17 of them back. Vincent stepped towards the back ranks and over two turns summoned two flaming spheres, keeping concentration on rolling both into Chef Grork’s squares. The troll died soon after. Hastily, Mutt threw himself at the remaining two, inflicting a fierce wound on the first. The two flaming spheres made sure none of the trolls could benefit from their regeneration and Vincent finished it off with a scorching ray. The final troll didn’t pose much of a treat, but managed to bring down the party resources to a minimum.
Once they were all dead, the heroes searched the premise. They found a few treasures, such as a golden spyglass worth a 1000g. They also found a tiny amulet, depicting a gagged skull, on one of the goblins. Among the debris they uncovered an old grey tunic with blue stitching around the edge. Mutt recognized this as an old guard’s uniform, though it was torn and in poor condition.
The heroes assumed that the trolls likely had no connection to the grand scheme of things, and likely just stumbled upon the place after it went to hell. Making a quick check up in the towers revealed a grand sight above the waterfalls and the stone bridge below. Grendell, however, noticed a strange creature patrolling the next crossing. It looked like a mechanical dog, covered in pieces of flesh, walking the exact same route over and over again. He decided to inform the rest of the party who quickly agreed that rest was in order before heading further into unknown territory. So they set up camp in the nearby hills and had a good rest.
(I did some magic with the amount of trolls. In the original adventure, I reckon there are four trolls all in all, including Grork. I unleashed two of them at the players when they arrived, but they met three inside the house. My reason for doing so, is that I first and foremost have faith in their abilities, and second; they were behind schedule XP-wise. The adventure assumes the PC’s will be sixth level when they arrive at Castle Caromarc, and my players were slowly crawling halfway through level 5. This if, of course, because they skipped the final trial and thus lost a sum of XP in the process. Therefore, more monsters I knew they could handle early on)
The heroes woke up around 6:00 PM and returned to the gate house. They opened the door to the bridge, and the dog outside immediately growled and stared intensely at them from the middle of the bridge. It didn’t approach them or make any gestures of doing so, merely maintained a threatening pose.
“I don’t think it will be letting us through,” Edgar said. “And by the looks of it, there are no ways around this stone bridge. Quite a fall really…” Below them the roaring waterfall could be heard from above 100 feet to the upper river. Later on, it resulted in a 50 feet free fall down to the lower river.
Grendell immediately stepped forward and hurled an acid splash at the dog, meaning everyone rolled for initiative.
The flesh golem hound came in last, so the heroes unleashed hell upon it. Grendell opened up with another acid splash (level 5 multiclassing, go) and Vincent attempted a magic missile which unfortunately failed due to the creature’s magic immunity. Mutt charged the beast on the bridge, landed a blow, but a significant portion of the damage was shrugged off by the golem’s DR 5/Adamantite. On its turn, the flesh hound took a five foot step, aligning itself with the barbarian, and bull rushed him with its +13 modifier. With the above average dice roll, it was more than enough to push Mutt over the edge of the bridge and into the roaring depths below. Vincent immediately cast a feather fall on him, making sure he would only have to compete with the wild currents once he landed. The rest of the heroes decided to back out and shut the gate behind them, and much to their luck the dog faithfully returned to its post.
To their bad luck, however, Mutt was betrayed by his swim skill and was tossed over the waterfall, for a solid handful of damage. He survived, things looked bright and it was all fun and games. Then the constitution checks started.
And rolling a natural 2 wasn’t a good start. In fact, Mutt was pulled down by the massive waterfall and failed to hold his breath. He immediately went unconscious and two rounds later he drowned and washed up on the nearby shore.
The heroes, taking some time traversing the cliffs, found his bloated corpse, full of water, silently on the banks of the river. And there was much sadness.
Raising friends…and money.
Through calculation the heroes quickly realized they were a few thousand gold short on a raise dead and the mandatory restoration for the accompanying two negative levels. Going on without their barbarian was suicide, so they spent some days travelling back to Lepidstadt, in which things hadn’t exactly improved. The town was in a gloom depression, the festivities removed and several posters of the Beast hang around the streets.
They decided to seek out Judge Embreth and see if they could sweet talk her into getting their reward. After all, they did perform a significant portion of the task given to them.
Ringing the bell at her estate, the butler shortly after told them the reverend judge was waiting in the lounge. Needless to say, the reception was cold at best. Embreth did, deep inside, believe the Beast to be innocent, but she is first and foremost a judge of Lepidstadt who doesn’t encourage vigilantes in any way. While not being on the scene of crime that night, she is not stupid enough to rule out any heroic entanglements from the heroes.
While Vincent attempted to make his way through with bluff (and not getting very far) Edgar instead made a compelling case. Pointing out their heroic effort, he made it clear that even though the Beast did escape, they’d shed much light on some of the wrong accusations he’d suffered from in the past. Both Morast and Hergstag were strong indications of that. Through solid diplomacy rolls, Embreth looked at them sternly and said “I suppose you are right about that. And I am a woman of my word. I will see to it that you get your rightful payment, but henceforth I do not wish to see you people in Lepidstadt for a very, very long time. Do I make myself clear?”
“As crystal, My Lady.”
The players each received a 100 platinum pieces and set out to the local temple of Kelemvor. They ended up spending a lot of money, but through the sacred rites, the priest called out for the Keeper of the Dead, praising his glory and humbly requesting this soul to return to the world of the living. Moments later, Mutt opened his eyes and in shock got to his feet.
Resting at the temple, the heroes prepared their next strategy against the creature. Edgar would cast waterwalk on Mutt as well as himself, and Vincent be prepared with feather fall. To ensure victory, Mutt would also be enlarge person’ed. And thus they set out once more to fight the dog.
Concerning Halflings and bridges
Arriving back at Castle Caromarc, the dog hadn’t moved. The heroes took up residence in the gate house and from the tower, Grendell opened with another acid splash and Mutt with a crossbow shot. None of them managed to wound the dog significantly, but it sure made it angry enough to burst through the gate in an explosion of splinters. Immediately casting water walk from Edgar and enlarge person from Vincent, the large Mutt stepped out on the bridge, taunting the hound. With a howl it threw itself at him and the epic duel began at the top of the waterfall. While being bombarded from the remaining three heroes, it quickly realized that since the bridge was 10 feet wide, the only possibility was to push the barbarian backwards, not over the edge. From the doorway, Edgar and Grendell moved up to cast searing light and acid splash, which resulted in the dog having a Lassie moment. It immediately turned around, ran back to the gate (ignoring all attacks of opportunity with DR: 5/Adamantite) and bull rushed Grendell.
The Halfling fell over the edge with a shriek, Vincent immediately popping feather fall and Edgar:
They watched Grendell fall slowly to the river floor below and disappear into the water. The battle went on, Vincent caught the dog in a Web spell (which I still wonder why he didn’t cast earlier?) and from thereon it was hammered down by Mutt. Quickly they ran towards the bank. After all, they knew where it was.
Grendell instantly failed his swim check, was swept over the waterfall for solid damage and rolled a grand total of 8 on his constitution check. Long story short, he drowned a few rounds later. Struck with sadness and frustration, the heroes fished the cold halfling out of the water and carried him to the shore. When they discussed what to do next, they quickly agreed that they couldn’t possibly gather enough money to raise him. They also realized that Grendell was in fact a Faithless without a patron deity, which according to Forgotten Realm lore meant he couldn’t be brought back from the dead. Instead, his soul had departed to the Wall of the Faithless.
So in a silent ceremony, they buried his remains at the shores of Castle Caromarc. Edgar carved a tiny tombstone in his memory, and they slowly gathered their belongings before pressing on.
(The player of Grendell hadn’t filled out his ‘Patron Deity’ slot on the sheet, which I after five levels interpret as a Faithless. Not that it mattered much, since the PC’s really didn’t have any money left. The dog can be one mean ass encounter, provided it gets to roam unopposed. The situation could also have been avoided, had the players instead enlarged Mutt from the start and letting him march towards the dog, instead of backing out on the bridge thus giving it full access to the rest of the party. It may seem cruel, but I like to make this a reminder that heroes should never grow careless. Grendell’s player spent the rest of the session looking over new classes to play and didn’t partake.)
Crossing the first bridge
The remaining three heroes crossed the first bridge and found a solid iron door. Ringing the tiny bell next to it, they were spoken to by an invisible servant. It made it strictly clear that they were not expected at had to disappear. As the heroes were, at this point, quite stressed they didn’t put up with crap and began smashing the door open. This immediately resulted in the triggering of a trap, summoning an air elemental above their heads. It whispered and hissed angrily and they ran for a more favorable position back at the guard house. The elemental attempted to engulf Mutt in its whirlwind but failed. It then moved on to Vincent, caught him, and stormed back towards the edge of the bridge (releasing someone in whirlwind is a free action). Luckily, both Mutt and Edgar had landed enough damage on it to slay it before it got that far.
(This is the nice part of me, really. As written, this trap summons as huge air elemental, CR 7, which can seriously kick the player’s asses if you wish. It’s as easy as engulfing them in whirlwinds and tossing them off the bridge one by one. But since they were only three of them at level 5, I decided to settle for the large version only).
Forcing their way through the door, the heroes were greeted by the now friendly servants who were busy cleaning and lighting candles. They politely told the heroes not enter the Count’s chambers upstairs, which of course goes against the mandatory PC-ADD-rule. They were quickly stopped, though, by a mechanical abomination making its way down the stairs, shambling and hissing with steam, wrought in pieces of flesh and three screaming human heads on its front. Recoiling in disgust, the heroes watched it as it awkwardly made its way down the last step and attacked.
During the fight pieces of flesh were torn off rapidly, some of the faces screaming “Kiiilll meeee!” became animated and crawled with long tentacles towards them, all in all for a very gross and horrible battle (for an otherwise very anonymous monster with no indication of a picture). Searching through the Count’s bedroom they found a trapped chest that stung Mutt with wyvern poison and drained him for a solid handful of constitution.
And with that, the heroes decided to call it for the night, and wait for reinforcements this Wednesday.
(A thing I didn’t comment on in this blog, which I should, is the fact that we did indeed handle Swim checks a bit differently. It’s pure personal ruling on my side, that the players falling from a waterfall would indeed make constitution check to see whether they’d even get as far as holding their breath. Strictly according to rules, Mutt would likely have survived, since he had hit points left, but I’m not really sure about Grendell. In either way, it’s part of my personal philosophy of partly dealing with the HP-save-you-from-everything dogma. If you want to go more gently on your players, of course just use the standard rules. In this case, falling of is more of an inconvenience).