Saturday, August 16, 2014

WH3 The Caves of the Living God

This is the third session of my ongoing home brew D&D 5e campaign. The last time our heroes defeated an evil mage who was organizing the goblins of the Weathered Heath into a fighting force allied with Thoran's deadly enemy Walyra.

Note: This session used the full Player's Handbook and monsters from the Hoard of the Dragon Queen web supplement and the D&D Basic DM Guide.

Cast of Characters:

  • Grandor, male dwarf cleric (acolyte)
  • Khelben, male human wizard (soldier)
  • Sh'razzar, female tiefling ranger (guild artisan)
  • Valrian Liadon, male wood elf fighter (spy)

Khelben and Grandor are on their way to Miller's Crossing from Griffon Rock as the first stop of their way back to Mirena. Valrian is on his way to Griffon Rock to deliver an important and sealed message to the baroness. And Sh'razzar is on her way south from the empire of Irralldon to seek vengeance for the death of her guild master at the hand of the undead. They killed him and stole something precious from him, apparently in the employ of an even greater evil hiding in the Weathered Heath.

Sh'razzar is crossing the Silver Run when Khelben, Grandor and Valrian notice that she's walking directly into an ambush. A bugbear and his two hobgoblin cronies are waiting for her. The three heroes decide to save the tiefling. Together, they defeat the goblins, but only after Sh'razzar is gravely wounded. Grandor heals her, when they notice that bad weather is arriving rapidly. Rain, thunder and lightning make travel a hazardous proposition at best.

Sh'razzar spots the entrance to a cave and they hurry to get there before the storm begins in earnest. Their relief at finding the cave is short lived, as the cave is chest deep under water for the most part. The adventurers have to move deeper into the cave to reach a dry spot. While swimming through the waters, they are attacked by two giant crabs. The group defeates them handily and decides to take one for dinner. In the dry part of the cave, they are surprised by a trio of lizardmen that demands tribute for their god Rashambur. A god nobody has ever heard of. Grandor manages to convince them to take the crab and leave them alone. At least that's what he thinks will happen.

Meanwhile, Khelben examines the cave walls and finds barely visible primitive pictographs about a series of battles between little folk (most likely gnomes and halflings) and some giantish folks. It's unclear who remained victorious. The pictograms seem to be ancient and dedicated to the three northern gods Elissar, Nangaloss and Nitarro [1]. The three are brothers, yet Elissar created Nitarro as a companion, and both together created Nangaloss. Elissar is a deity of wolves, dreams and winter. Nangaloss is a patron of the crafts and smiths, as well as the creator of dwarves and dragons (incidentally, Grandor is a cleric of Nangaloss and Sh'razzar worships that deity). Nitarro is a dark god of lies, trickery and illusion who created the dark elves (who are the predecessors of the high elves in my campaign setting).

The party settles for a long rest. Valrian takes first watch and hides behind a stone pillar. Sh'razzar is having some really eerie dreams. She meets  a man that sits cross-legged at a fire. The flames cast his skin either as pale or extremly dark. His flaxen hair is covered by a deep hood. He tells her that ancient things are moving again and that she should watch for the giants' dances. Then he hands her moonstone [2]. At that moment, she's painfully awakened.

While the party was sleeping, the lizardmen returned. They snuck into the cavern and attacked the three sleeping party members. Valrian did not notice them (Stealth check 25 vs. his passive perception of 14), but they also did not notice him. Sh'razzar is knocked out immediately, the others wake up. A battle commences. Sh'razzar is revived by Grandor and the tide of the battle turns rather quickly. In the end, two lizardmen are dead, the third is taken prisoner. Grandor interrogates him and afterwards Valrian kills it in cold blood. They find out that (a) the "god" of the lizardmen seems to be a living being, (b) the "god" can fly and most importantly (c) that he doesn't look like them. Which is a relief, because the party suspected a dragon. Now Valrian thinks the "god" of the lizardmen is a manticore.

Cautiously, the heroes move deeper into the cave. They do not encounter anymore lizardmen, but they do find more pictographs and the "god" who indeed turns out to be a manticore (good call by Valrian). Again a fight takes place. The party manages to defeat the hungry "god" of the lizardmen. Among the bones of its victims Sh'razzar finds 100 gold pieces and Goggles of Night. She keeps everything for herself, except for one gold piece that she gives rather dismissively to Valrian.

After a short rest, the party continues to explore the caves. Behind an ancient portcullies they find the remains of four small bodies arranged on funeral biers. One is wearing copper bracers that seem untouched by the tides of time. The other three have small bottles tucked in the remains of their belts. Khelben prevents Sh'razzar from disturbing the remains of the little people. He checks for magic and finds lingering traces of abjuration magic around the bracers, and evocation magic in the bottles. Finally Grandor discovers a glyph warning of good magic in the place. The glyph seems to be dark elven in origin. This confirms their suspicions about proud and good warriors resting here, and they finally decide to try another long rest.

During the rest, Khelben figures out the Goggles of Night, and has a strange dream where a spectral halfling hands him the two bracers for the coming hardships. After he wakes up, he carefully removes the bracers from the halfling's corpse. They will turn out later to be Bracers of Defense.

Then they decide to go on exploring beyond the dark elven glyph. After spending some hours in the upper reaches of the Underdark, they narrowly manage to avoid a party of dark elves led by a priestess of Sardyna, deity of death and disease. That convinces them to return to the surface and leave the caves behind. The four heroes continue on their way, carrying with them knowledge of the ancient deeds and a blessing from the moon gods.

To be continued...

Footnotes: 
[1] My campaign setting has a total of three different pantheons. The primordial gods who shaped the world, the lunar gods [3] who found the world, and the mysterious eightfold gods that simply came from nowhere. The lunar gods are mentioned above, Sardyna is part of the eightfold gods, as is Celos the main (and only) deity of Walyra, her brother.

[2] Moonstones are sacred to the lunar or northern gods. They are said to be crystallized "tears" (or some other bodily fluid) of the gods. Swallowing a moonstone enables you to cast a bless spell as first level cleric once.

[3] The setting has two moons: a blood red moon dedicated to Nitarro, deity of trickery and illusion, and a silver moon dedicated to Elissar, deity of wolves and winter. A third moon might have existed, but all that remains are the Shards of Nangaloss that form a ring about the world.

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