Cast of Characters
Shaun - Lanstaf the Realmstrider, Human Wizard
Ed - Adrik Flamebeard, Dwarf Fighter
Liz - Finduiloth of Winterhaven, Half-Elf Cleric of Avandra
Pete - Erdan Woodsinger, Elf Ranger
David - Ulmo Brownbottle, Halfling Rogue
Sunday evening, Mother's Day here in the US, we had ourselves a late night session since most of us were spending time with our moms during the day. We gathered and recapped the last session, which, for those of you who need a refresher, ended after the heroes rescued Douven Staul from the gnome skulk and sold some sort of relic to Ninaran, who promised to keep it safe (that greed may come back to haunt them... mwahahaha). The heroes were in the tavern of Wrafton's Inn in Winterhaven and we would have started the adventure with the following day if Pete (Erdan) hadn't thrown me one hell of a curveball.
Instead of going back to his room, Erdan decided to sneak off by himself when Ninaran left. His suspicions regarding the elf had been growing steadily, though he hadn't yet voiced his opinion to the others. So I had to improvise a short scene in which Ninaran headed back to her home with Erdan stealthily following.
It was shortly after midnight in the game world, and, since there are no electric lights and the people of Winterhaven generally start their work early, most people had already gone to bed. Erdan took up a position on a hill where he could see Ninaran's home from a respectable distance and when she emerged from the back, hooded and cloaked, the entire group moved onto the edges of their respective seats.
Erdan followed her as she went off toward Shadowfell Keep. After about a mile, Ninaran comes to the top of a hill and picks something up from the base of a large boulder. Then, she puts something (the relic she purchased from the heroes, but it's too dark to see and is bundled up in a cloth at any rate) down beside the boulder and produces a bullseye lantern. She flashes three times toward the nearby line of trees and then leaves.
Now, Erdan doesn't know what to do. Does he follow her home? Confront her? Or wait to see what happens. He chooses to wait. After Ninaran is out of sight, several hooded/cloaked goblins emerge from the woods and take whatever it was that Ninaran had left behind. Though he desperately wanted to, Erdan realized that by himself and outnumbered there was little chance that he'd be able to take on the goblins, even with the element of surprise on his side.
Upon hearing my narration of the events everyone, except Pete, of course, was furious that they had trusted Ninaran. I gently reminded them that, though THEY saw what happened, their CHARACTERS were still unaware, quietly sleeping off a night of tankard raising and ale guzzling.
Erdan rushed back to Wrafton's and woke his companions, relating the story of the evenings events to them. They decided to wait until morning at which point they'd confront Ninaran as a group, reasoning that as long as she didn't see Erdan she has no reason to flee. So, they took their extended rest and awoke with a purpose the next morning.
What was I to do? I hadn't planned on this happening yet, but, there I was, fumbling through my notes, looking for an answer. I decided that Ninaran couldn't possibly talk her way out of this; or, rather, I couldn't think of a reason that she could give as to her actions of the night before. So, I decided to move the "Third Interlude" ahead.
Instead of finding Ninaran at her home, the PCs are told by Valthrun that he saw the elf heading down toward the local cemetery, near the Temple of Avandra. They tell Valthrun all that has happened and he grows pale. He prepares to tell them all he knows about the Keep and more, but they tell him to go back to Winterhaven and raise the alarm. There's no telling what will happen next.
Then we played out the cemetery battle with plenty of roleplaying between rounds. In the end, Ninaran was defeated and the heroes once again managed to help the people of Winterhaven. Valthrun then offered his friendship and services to the heroes, with Lanstaf taking special advantage of the old man's knowledge of rituals to add a few to his own spellbook.
Now they know the secret of the Keep on the Shadowfell and suspect that a cult of Orcus has moved in. However, upon searching through Ninaran's home they discover evidence that she had been in contact with a creature named Irontooth. This name rang a bell with David immediately.
"That's the guy who wrote the letter to Szartharrax!" he excitedly shouted. Now the heroes' curiosity was piqued, and they decided to tackle the Keep itself after they had dealt with Irontooth.
Back on Track
The PCs headed out to confront the kobolds at their lair, telling the people of Winterhaven to keep a watch and expect their return within a day. This encounter was rather epic, because it was really two encounters that kind of got mashed up together. The players were pretty crafty, though.
Before any combat broke out, Shaun asked me how much noise performing a ritual would make. I didn't really know, so I looked at my table for Perception and decided it would be somewhere between "battle" and "normal conversation". This seemed to please him and, looking at the battle grid, they decided to discuss their plans.
Lanstaf performed the Silence ritual and then lured the most isolated kobold guard into it using the ghost sound cantrip while everyone hid. Once the kobold was in the area of Silence, Ulmo and Erdan took him out with a quickness, dealing both sneak attack and massive arrow damage. The other kobolds were none the wiser, as all the battle took place within the Silence zone.
The heroes then crept into the inner lair and all hell broke loose. By the end of combat (I'd give you a round by round analysis, but haven't the patience to type it all out), three heroes (Lanstaf, Adrik, and Erdan) were dying and both Ulmo and Finduiloth were bloodied. But the kobolds fared much worse. Not one was left alive, and, again, the name Kalarel was dropped. As for the loot, Finduiloth took the +1 Dwarven Chainmail, though Adrik really wanted it. They drew straws. Liz won.
That was as much as we had time to get through. That last battle, though my description of it fails to capture its essence, was pretty gruelling, taking more than an hour to finish up. We were tired, and the players realized that the next step could only be the Keep on the Shadowfell itself. They needed another extended rest, and I was only too willing to let them have it.
I anticipate at least two (maybe as many as four) more sessions before the adventure is completed. It all depends on the amount of roleplaying in which the players decide to engage, and the attention to detail I put into the dungeon-crawl aspect of the module. All in all, I'm pretty excited to see what happens.
Thanks for reading,