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A Plague of Shadows

Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:43 pm
by ArcticFox
So the new campaign we started on Friday is my first homebrew campaign for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. I wanted to playtest it in order to get it ready, as I'll be running a D&D game at BFGCon this year.

I dunno if people would really be interested in the details, but I'm gonna post a campaign log here as part of my efforts to get feedback to help me tune my campaign for the convention. Later, I intend to try to get this campaign published if all goes really well.

The players (Not real names, for privacy's sake):

(I forgot to write down the character's names, but will use the player names for now.)

Terry, playing an Elvish Paladin of Pelor who has fallen from grace but seeks to redeem himself in the eyes of his goddess (In my campaign world, Pelor is female.)
Jeff, playing a Half-orc Barbarian.
Donna, playing a Plains Elf Cleric/Sorceress
Kyle, playing an Sea Elf Eldritch Knight Fighter
Tony, playing an Elvish Cleric of Odin

All characters were created at 5th Level.

The story began in the Adventurer's Guild Hall in the town of Crystal Falls, located in the northern reach of the Kingdom of Saltara, in the Southern most tip of the Dragonback mountain range. (For anyone reading this who played in our online campaign, that's about 200 miles east by northeast of where you were!) Word reaches the guild hall of a sudden and strict quarantine imposed upon the compound of the merchant Jules the Fair, whose household and staff have come down with a severe and virulent plague.

The adventurers head over to the compound to investigate, where they have found several priestesses of Freya doing what they can to administer to those inside, such as bringing food and conveying messages. They have already used their spells to cure disease on as many as they could, but are still badly short staffed for the number of afflicted. The adventurers use their own cure spells to help as many as possible but still, there are far too many within.

Wishing to gain more information, they ask the City Watch to help them get in direct communication with the merchant, Jules. A wooden stand is hastily set up with a bell, near one of the walls of the merchant's compound where there's a relatively close building. They are able to converse directly with Jules, who refuses to accept any curative magic for himself until his family and staff have been seen to. This, even after he begins exhibiting the early symptoms of plague. The adventurers learn that the plague came in from a trade caravan that had come from a small hamlet called Lentz' Landing, about a day's travel north. Unfortunately, that same caravan has already headed south, and is bound for the much more populous central region of Saltara.

Wasting no time, the adventurers mount their horses and head south to stop the caravan before it can infect any other towns. They catch up to it, about half a day's journey away, to find every last member of the caravan has died, and their remains are being eaten by creatures that appear to be ghouls, but are not, in fact, undead. After a battle with the creatures, two of the adventurers have contracted the plague. Fortunately, one of the clerics had kept two spells in reserve, and is able to cure both members, after watching them for a few hours to learn more about how quickly symptoms begin to appear. The results are disturbing.

The remains of the caravan are burned, and the adventurers made camp. In the morning, they returned to Crystal Falls to find that most of those in the merchant's compound have died, and Jules himself is gravely ill. The adventurers insisted that he be brought to the gate so they can cure him, as he is no longer able to protest. Curative spells are cast, and Jules, along with his immediate family, are cured of the plague and taken to the Temple of Freya to recover along with the others who had been saved. Sadly, the plague has now killed nearly all who were within the compound.

The Paladin wants to go into the compound to try and cure more, himself being immune to disease, but the City Watch is under very strict orders. He travels to the castle of Lord Kriose, who is the lord over the city to ask permission. Upon arriving, he finds that Lord Kriose is merely a 12 year old boy, who finds Paladins and their warhorses fascinating, and agrees to allow him in. Meanwhile, the Cleric of Odin travels to the Temple of Odin to get more help, only to find the curates within bickering and arguing, not helping. He gives a stirring speech, and convinces them to send aid.

The Paladin enters the compound and is only able to save two more before they were claimed by the plague. The adventurers return to Kriose's castle to find that the 12-year-old boy was only a disguise, that Lord Kriose is, in fact, a grown man who uses the disguise as a way of testing those who entreat him for aid. He agrees to provide whatever assistance to the adventurers he can, and they head north to Lentz' Landing to back track the caravan.

After a day's journey north, the adventurers find Lentz' Landing, a small village with a river crossing. The village is completely depopulated, but a large group of ghouls drive the adventurers into the empty inn where they fight a pitched battle against the creatures. They are victorious, and the next morning they investigate further to find the roofs of several structures near the plaza at the center of the village to have been damaged by some sort of large creature having used them as a perch. The well in the center of the plaza is coated with a layer of thin, dry mucus, and the water within emits a terrible stench. What sort of creature caused this? They look skyward, and in the distance, see a very large rocky outcropping, jutting at a steep angle skyward. The peak is enveloped in a thick, green fog. Is is there they shall go.

Re: A Plague of Shadows

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:52 pm
by J.K. Riki
Sounds like fun! I love a good game of DnD. Hope your players end up going where you plan for - mine never did. :P


Re: A Plague of Shadows

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:32 pm
by ArcticFox
J.K. Riki wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:52 pm
Sounds like fun! I love a good game of DnD. Hope your players end up going where you plan for - mine never did. :P

haha thanks!

Actually, the secret to getting the players to go where you want them to is to actually give a little bit of room so you can gently direct the story back. For instance, I never planned for them to go to the Temple of Odin or to the Castle of Lord Kriose, but by letting them do it I could have the people there suggest the party take the actions I had planned for, and since Kriose was likeable, they were disposed to take his advice.

There's nothing wrong with railroading the game, as long as the players don't realize you're doing it :P

Re: A Plague of Shadows

Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:25 pm
by Sstavix
I always enjoy your gaming stories. Keep us informed, please! :)

Re: A Plague of Shadows

Posted: Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:49 pm
by ArcticFox
Sstavix wrote:
Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:25 pm
I always enjoy your gaming stories. Keep us informed, please! :)
Brozilla! Long time no see!

Re: A Plague of Shadows

Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2019 4:45 am
by Sstavix
I've been around. Just busy. I'm hoping things will calm down enough that I can be around more frequently.

But this is your spotlight. Carry on. :)

Re: A Plague of Shadows

Posted: Sat Jan 19, 2019 4:44 am
by ArcticFox
A new player joined us tonight, but the party was still 5 members strong, as one player was working and couldn't be here. The new player had a half-orc Paladin.

The party left Lentz' Landing for the misty crag, about two day's journey through the mountains. Along the way, they met a dryad who offered them some information about the crag in exchange for a kiss form the Cleric of Odin, who obliged her and fell charmed. It seems there was a tunnel that led through the rock to the peak, and was the only way to reach the summit. The party continued, and as they settled in to camp for the night, they encountered a small group of faerie dragons, who taunted them mercilessly but in good fun over their failed efforts to hunt down some dinner.

The next morning, the faerie dragons led them to the tunnel entrance, and the party started the long, arduous climb up the tunnel to the peak of the crag. The barbarian led the way, which was good because halfway up the tunnel they encountered giant spiders that nearly ended the brave warrior, but he defeated them and they continued, pausing only at an alcove containing the remains of a previous adventurer who had fallen in this tunnel a few weeks earlier. They gathered his belongings.

At the top of the tunnel, they discovered a wyvern, magically enhanced with a breath weapon that spread the plague. They battled the creature and slew it, and discovered a glyph branded into its flank.

They cut the brand off, and returned to Crystal Falls where they returned the personal effects of the fallen adventurer to his family and once again met with Lord Kriose. He directed them to the library, where a young scribe identified the glyph as the mark of an exiled wizard who had presented the king with a plan for a massive army of thralls - undead who were not dead, taken as conscripts to be used as perfect soldiers. The king, disgusted, had exiled this wizard to the northern reaches of the kingdom. It was now clear where all these warm ghouls had been coming from.

She provided them with an ancient map that showed the location of an abandoned fortress, where this evil wizard is believed to have made his lair. The party now prepares to seek him out and confront him.

Re: A Plague of Shadows

Posted: Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:25 pm
by ArcticFox
Now knowing that their foe resided in a place called "The Inverted Tower," the party set off to confront him.

Returning to the North Road, the adventurers passed Lentz' Landing once more, but this time took the East road deeper into the mountains. The way was clear, at first, until they were ambushed on a mountain ridge by more warm ghouls - only this time, the creatures were led by a powerful mage who opened up hostilities by detonating a fireball in the midst of the party. The adventurers were grievously wounded, but were able to fight on, and put two arrows into the mage, forcing him to retreat before he could strike again. The rest of the warm ghouls were dispatched, though it was noticed that one of them was dressed in a tattered city watch uniform, bearing the crest of Lord Harbek of Freya's Reach, a city on the road ahead. Grimly, the adventurers proceeded.

They encountered a band of Elven Rangers the next day, who were peaceful, and agreed to assist the adventurers by giving them a ride on their horses, as most of those ridden by the adventurers had been immolated in the battle against the mage. By the next day, the party had reached a small trading post, and bid farewell to their Elven friends.

The trading post was not as it seemed, however. Upon closer inspection, the party discovered a large pit with the still smoking burnt bodies of people who had died of the plague. As they began to search the town for survivors, they were suddenly attacked by five angry trolls. The battle was fierce and the adventurers nearly met their fate then and there, but righteousness prevailed, and they were able to use the post as a refuge for the night.

After another day's travel, the adventurers reached Freya's Reach, a large town with a palisade wall. A tent city had grown up outside the town near the gates, as those afflicted by plague had been forced out. The party managed to make it inside the town without inadvertently letting the desperately ill victims inside, but their offers to help were accepted with rather more enthusiasm than they'd have liked... Lord Harbek summoned them to his palace and immediately conscripted them to the defense of Freya's Reach.

The party obeyed for the time being, as Harbek's orders included using their curing magic to help as many of the afflicted as possible, but his forceful nature and insane ramblings put him on the wrong side of the Half-Orc Barbarian, who slew Lord Harbek. Being that this action was somewhat in self-defense, as Harbek had ordered his men to slay the barbarian because of the way he'd looked at him.

The adventurers installed a temporary governor to maintain the peace and stability of the town, and resumed their quest.

As they neared the lands of the Inverted Tower, signs of decay and ruin were increasingly evident. Along the road, an ancient ruined watchtower silently held vigil over the road. Silent, until a small band of brutal Mountain Orcs stormed out of the tower and attacked the party. These orcs were far more dangerous than the usual orc they'd seen before, and once again it was a close battle, but once again the heroes prevailed.

Onward, to the Inverted Tower...

Re: A Plague of Shadows

Posted: Mon Apr 08, 2019 6:46 pm
by ArcticFox
At last, the party crested the final ridge and saw, in the valley below, a massive and ancient fortress. This was the home of Desiderius, the banished mage...

... and yet, nothing about the fortress suggested a tower, inverted or otherwise... except for a tall, slim watch tower rising form the center of the walled structure.

The party decided to send th ebarbarian to recon around the valley, to see if there was a way to slip into the fortress through another, smaller gate. He waited until dusk, and began to make his way over the ridge, when he slipped, causing some deadfall to roll away and making a terrible noise.

In moments, an Overseer telepoerted to the site with a group of dayghouls. This was the same Overseer who had struck the party on the road days earlier, and the adventurers wanted vengeance. Combat was brutal and swift, but the noble heroes prevailed... for a few seconds. Then, a second Overseer arrived, and used his fell magic and a fresh group of dayghouls to attack the party. Combat was again brutal, but they again prevailed...

...for a few more seconds before a third, far more powerful Overseer arrived with a band of dayghouls. This was Culexa, and she commanded the fortress. She had arrived personally to rid herself and Desiderius of these troublesome munchkins. The battle raged, and the weakened party took severe wounds, some almost fatal, while battling this vile mage. Eventually, after much magic, blood and sweat were expended, Culexa fell dead, and the adventurers took her head...

... as well a strange, seemingly magical key...

Re: A Plague of Shadows

Posted: Wed Apr 17, 2019 1:56 pm
by ArcticFox
The party spent the night recovering from battle and keeping watch on the fortress. No further attacks were forthcoming, and so the cleric used the power of his deity (Odin) to speak with the fallen enemies. From them, he learned key information about the fortress, including the fact that the magical key recovered after the battle would open the fortress gates.

In the morning, the party marched up to the gates, knowing that the defending garrison was leaderless and probably terrified of these warriors who had defeated Culexa and the other sorcerers. The party used the magical key to open the gates, and inside was pandemonium. The garrison were scrambling about, fleeing the fortress. Most of them had been mercenaries and were no longer employed, as they saw it.

The adventurers did manage to stop one grizzled veteran and convince him to work for them by keeping watch over their horses in the fortress stable while they searched.

In the middle of the courtyard was a large circular area of gravel with a single iron post rising from the center, about 3 feet high. Before it, there sat an illusory stone archway and heavy door. Could this be the entrance to the Inverted Tower? In the top of the post was a keyhole. While the magical key did fit the lock, nothing happened when the adventurers tried it.

They searched the fortress, finding rare, even magical tomes, weapons, treasure and even Culexa's personal quarters. There were monstrous guardians in the chamber, which were dispatched with ease. In one locked chest, the party found a small gem, which appeared to perfectly fit the ring on the magical key. With the gem installed, they went back out to the iron post and once more inserted the key and turned the lock. The illusory doorway solidified into a solid structure, and the doors swung open, revealing a dark stairway leading down...

Re: A Plague of Shadows

Posted: Thu May 16, 2019 3:41 am
by Sstavix
Finally caught up to the story. I look forward to reading more. :)

Re: A Plague of Shadows

Posted: Fri Jun 21, 2019 10:09 pm
by ArcticFox
The party slowly descended the stairs, realizing that they were in the belly of the beast. First, a staging area for dayghouls. Below this, a charnel house of plague victims, most of whom had dies but some... some had converted into dayghouls. Yet another level down, a feeding pit.

The adventurers began to realize that this was indeed the Inverted Tower, an immense stalactite hanging from the top of a vast cavern below the fortress. This was the place where dayghouls were made, and certainly this must be the lair of the mad wizard. They descended further.

A workshop, a storage room, the place where anti-plague amulets were made... The plan was becoming more and more clear. They met very little resistance, but they did find several plaques on walls, bearing strange metallic arrowheads with fell runes upon them. These the party gathered as the descended deeper.

They came to a large laboratory where mountain orcs were being converted into even larger and more powerful dayghouls. Was this the next generation of the mad wizard's army?

Next, living quarters but still no sign of the necromancer himself. They continued to descend...

...into a large shrine... here, they at last found Desiderius. He was distracted however... speaking to some sort of winged creature, magically represented standing on an altar. The party braced themselves, prepared, and struck...

... the battle was... over quickly. Desiderius fell to a single blow and the illusionary demon vanished. What was happening here? Could the mad wizard truly have been so easily dispatched?

They descended again, and discovered the lowest chamber of the Inverted Tower, an elevator room with a large lift operated by a winch and pulley system, descending deep into the darkness of the cavern. They all gathered on the platform, and descended.

At the landing far below they found they were on the shore of a vast underground sea. Nearby was a stone podium with arrowhead shaped depressions in the surface. Before they could do anything, they were attacked by a group of giant spiders. These were dispatched easily, but were followed by a pair of vicious Bone Devils, which had come from somewhere over the subterranean sea. With these foes out of the way, the party placed the arrowheads they'd found into the depressions on the podium.

A deep rumble resonated throughout the cavern, and in the distance, barely visible even to the darkvision of the demi-human party, an island rose from the surface of the black waters, with a strange, white mausoleum upon it. At the same time, the water level in the cavern receded slightly, revealing a sunken dock and a boat, lashed to the submerged dock but perfectly usable.

They rowed out to the island, and there they met Desiderious again... only this time he not only bore the wound from their previous encounter, he was now emitting the stench of a dayghoul. This battle was not nearly so easily won, but the adventurers prevailed... or so they thought.

As Desiderious died, he seemed to melt away, replaced by the demon from the earlier illusion. This time, it was massive, with a vast wing span, four arms and vicous weapons. This battle was tough, it was long, it was glorious. The adventurers stood victorious at last.