Monday, June 3, 2019

D&D 5e [Princes of the Apocalypse] Session 5: We were told there would be Crumblecake

Tempest, Blue Dragonborn Cleric Trickery-Domain (played by Jojo, 14yo)
Folax Huntreouss, Human Gunslinger (played by Evan, 12yo)

Warning: This adventure contains a lot of references and spoilers to the ‘Princes of the Apocalypse’ campaign. If you have yet to play through the campaign, be warned that you’re likely to come across the same stuff we did.

I’m making it a habit now to ask the kids three questions before each session; sort of a ‘prep-thing’ to get them into character: What’s your name? What’s your background? What are your abilities? It seems to help them get into the mindset of the characters, especially since we tend to play only once a week.

Jojo starts. “My name is Tempest, I’m a dragonborn cleric who got kicked out of her dragonborn clan for making mischief, and instead of going back to apologize, I had alot of pride issues, so I wandered a lot in the wilderness.” She flips her character sheet over. “I can lightning blast things, burn things, sneak past things, duplicate myself, and cast Thaumaturgy which is-” she goes up a few octaves melodiously. “AWE-SOME!”

Evan goes next. “My name is Folax, I’m a gunslinger, and I point my rifle at things, and they die.”

With that out of the way, we launch into the next session. “A few more days pass. Evan, you’re at Landro’s when he approaches you and asks, ‘Hey-a, Folax.’ He looks a bit worried. ‘I’m meeting with some, uh, visitors tonight, and I’d really appreciate it if you could, uh, be my muscle during the meeting.’”

Folax grunts. “Yeah, okay.”

“Oh, um. It’ll be good if we had more numbers tonight for muscle. Could you, uh, ask your dragon-person friend if she could come along?”

“Draconian,” Folax corrects Landro.

“Dragonborn,” Jojo corrects Evan.

“What do you need her for?” Folax shows off his Belt of Hill Giant Strength. “I’m all the muscle you need! I’m a one-man army right here!”

Landro laughs. “Sometimes Folax, numbers count more than actual strength! I just don’t want any trouble tonight, so it’s best we show up with a good number of people!”

Grumbling under his breath over Landro’s lack of confidence over Folax’s abilities, the gunslinger goes off to find Tempest who is currently finishing up her dinner at the Helm on Highsun. After pocketing another spork from her meal (and earning another ‘Geez, every time!’ exasperated burst from Garl the bartender), the two adventurers make their way back to Landro’s.

“You guys meet Landro in the backroom of the tavern. Not the ‘back-back’ room where his equipment is, but just the normal backroom. Landro is all smiles, but he looks pretty worried. He gestures to one corner, ‘I’ve asked Greenie to be here too, as backup.’ The old shepherd is snoozing in the corner.”

Greenie!? Out of all people, why him!? Why not Ironhead the half-orc!?”

“He was busy. Couldn’t make it.”

Just while Evan is complaining about how he could have done without an old shepherd ‘backing him up’, I tell the kids, “There’s a series of knocks on the backdoor, as if in code. Landro wakes Greenie and gets him to answer the door. Several people enter the room; you recognise some of them - Waelvur the dodgy wagon-dealer, that unfriendly Stone Quarry Overseer Woman who paid you 3 coppers back in session one, and three other guys who are dressed in leather armour. You notice that these guys all have the same emblem on their armour which looks like this.” I draw the symbol for the kids:

“It looks like some sort of butt-triangle!”

I tell Jojo “Roll for Insight!” and she rolls poorly. “You think you’ve seen this symbol before, but you can’t place it right now. You’re sure it’ll come to you later.”

Waelvur looks at Folax, Tempest and Greenie critically, and whispers to Landro, “Landro, are you sure it’s safe to talk in front of.. non-Believers?”

Jojo says, “We can hear you from here, you know.”

Landro answers, “I can vouch for them. Believers or not, they know how to keep things under wraps.”

“Huh,” says Waelvur doubtfully. He pauses a bit before saying, “The Delvers are asking for... another one.”

Landro sighs. “We’ve been listening to the Delvers for what, years now? Don’t you find it weird that they’re suddenly asking for stuff like this recently?” He gestures to the guys in leather armour. “Especially since these guys came along?”

The Stone Quarry Overseer Woman answers sternly, “We cannot question the wisdom of the Delvers! The Delvers care for the good of Red Larch!”

While Landro and the other two argue amongst themselves, one of the leather armour guys looks Tempest over and snorts, “So you guys are the ‘muscle’ that Landro brought in!?”

Jojo says, “I stare at him and say, ‘You’ve got a problem, buddy?’”

The leather armour guy laughs, “Oh, you wouldn’t want to mess with us, sister! Have you not heard of us?”

Folax and Tempest exchange a look and shrug. “Uh, no?”

I tell the kids, “Immediately, the guys gather themselves up, and say in unison, ‘We are... the Bringers of Woe!’. In fact,” I say, getting inspired. “They start a whole motto routine, similar to Team Rocket from Pokemon!”

Team Rocket blasts Off at the speed of light!

The kids decide that their characters just stare blankly, unimpressed. I tell them that Folax and Tempest do just that, while Greenie bursts out laughing behind them.

Meanwhile, things seem to have reached a conclusion between Landro and the other two. The Stone Overseer Quarry Woman sternly tells Landro, “Your job is to find another one, and let us know where and when. We will handle the rest.” With that, she and Waelvur leave the tavern, with the ‘Bringers of Woe’ following them.

Jojo says, “Okay, Landro. You’re going to have to clue us in here. Another what?”

Landro shrugs. “Look, I can’t say much, but just know that there’s a number of us in town who act for the good of Red Larch. Things have been getting a little intense lately, especially since those ‘butt-triangle guys’ showed up. That’s all I can say. Thanks for helping me out here, it was very much appreciated.” With that, he ushers everyone out of the backroom. Folax goes back to his lounge couch in the tavern, while Tempest goes back to her room at the Swinging Sword.

I tell Jojo, “The next morning, you are woken up by a knocking on your room door at the inn. You open the door, and you see Zoey the caravan guard half-orc!” Tempest greets her half-orc friend enthusiastically, and Zoey tells Tempest, “You haven’t been here long enough to go to Market Day, have you?”

The dragonborn cleric shakes her head, and Zoey declares, “Then we must go to Market Day together! If there’s anything you must do in Red Larch, it’s to go to Market Day and find the thing that makes Red Larch truly famous in the region!” She leans closer and says fervently, “Crumblecake!”

I tell the kids that crumblecake is a Red Larch speciality, and read out the description from the campaign book. “It sounds like a sort of shepherd’s pie with chickpea mash on top.”

“That sounds amazing!” says Tempest, “I’m getting hungry just listening to it! Let’s go!”

The two of them go outside and I tell Jojo, “Although it’s quite early in the morning, you’re surprised to see that the main street is pretty busy with wagons and farming folk coming in from all over! You even spot a few other adventurers roaming around! Everyone seems to be heading towards the open fairgrounds to the south east of town.”

I ask Evan if Folax wakes up due to all the traffic noise outside Landro’s tavern, but the gunslinger just turns over with a “Neeaggh” and goes back to sleep.

The Red Larch fairgrounds is already almost packed with market stalls and wagons and people. There are stalls selling farm produce, fresh vegetables, farming implements, and freshly cooked food which smells amazing. “This is mainly a farmers’ market,” I tell Jojo. “You do spot a few stalls selling magical trinkets, but these are just simple things that glow by themselves.”

As Zoey and Tempest wander through the crowd, they are suddenly confronted by a small girl. “It’s Pell, the little girl who told you she touched the tomb door on a dare!”

“Oh, um, hi?” says Jojo. The last time she saw Pell, she had cast Disguise Self to make herself look like a human.

The little girl squints at her and points, “You’re the same lady, aren’t you? I recognise your clothes!”

“Um, she’s pretty perceptive for a kid, isn’t she?”

“I like your scales!” declares Pell.

Jojo relaxes. “Aww! She likes me!”

The little girl admires the dragonborn’s blue scales. “Have you tried my mother’s crumblecake? It’s the BEST in the world!”

Zoey looms over Pell. “Human girl-child, you will bring us to this crumblecake of your mother’s, otherwise I will-”

“What she means to say is,” cuts in Jojo hurriedly. “We’d love to come try some of your mother’s crumblecake!”

With that, the little girl happily takes Tempest by the hand and leads them through the market crowd. I tell Jojo, “Pell brings you to a market stall, and she doesn’t look like she’s kidding about her mother’s crumblecake, because there’s a long queue of customers at the stall! However, Pell leads you both to the back of the stall where an elderly lady is baking with a makeshift oven while two older kids handle the customers.”

“Whoo! Backstage pass!”

Pell introduces the elderly lady as her mom, who tells them to call her Minny. “You make such interesting friends, Pell,” says Minny. Pell shrugs and commandeers two freshly baked crumblecakes for Tempest and Zoey.

“Oooo.. this tastes A-MA-ZING! Like a hot chicken pie with lightly baked mash on top!” Zoey is in crumblecake heaven, while Minny says to Tempest, “I know what you’re thinking. I’m rather old to be Pell’s mother. Well, the truth is that Pell’s parents died in a raider attack, and I took her in. The other kids are all orphans too, and they all call me their ‘mother’. They help me run the poultry where we rear chickens.”

They chat about the recent unusual weather. Tempest asks Minny about the going-ons in Red Larch, and whether she knows anything about Waelvur the wagon-dealer. Minny shakes her head, “Sad to say, every town has a seedy side, and Waelvur along with a few others seems to be Red Larch’s seedy side. They are pretty close-knit, and they always say that they do things ‘for the good of Red Larch’. Personally, I keep out of politics, and stick to what I know best, which is baking crumblecake!” She hands another two cakes to Tempest and Zoey who accept them gratefully.

Meanwhile, Evan’s gunslinger has finally decided to get out of bed, and he wanders into the busy street. I ask him, “So, do you want to head off to the fairgrounds to meet Tempest and Zoey?”

“Naah,” he says. “I want to check out that other wagon place. Not Waelvur’s. The good one.”

The gunslinger makes his way to the other wagon place. I tell Evan, “‘Thelorn’s Fine Harness’ is famous for making the best quality wagons in the region. The place is busy with carpenters, people with hammers. There are three sheds, one with workers, another with wagon parts, while the last is a sort of wagon showroom displaying at least a dozen finished wagons. Thelorn’s favourite saying is, ‘A dozen spare wagons in stock, ready to go!”

Nodding appreciatively, Folax wanders around the wagon showroom, checking out the fine wagons. There is a polite cough behind him, and Thelorn the owner greets Folax and asks if he’s interested in purchasing a wagon. When Thelorn reveals the prices of the wagons (most of them about 100 gold with horse), the gunslinger is disheartened. That was more money that he had in currency.

I tell Evan, “As you leave Thelorn’s, your ears perk up to the sound of arguing! Across the street, you see Kaylessa the innkeeper arguing with Constable Harburk!” The innkeeper waves her hands angrily, “My niece Savra should have been here by now! Her family in Waterdeep has written to me about her, and the letter is already here, but she isn’t! I’m telling you, she’s missing because of the evil at Lance Rock!” When the constable mutters something about all the troubles he’s had to deal with in town lately, Kaylessa throws up her hands, “I’ve given up on the police authorities in this town! If you won’t send someone to Lance Rock, then I will!”

Then, in a much calmer voice, she starts ordering some haunches of meat from the constable. Constable Harburk notes these down in his book, “Yup, uh huh, some really nice sides of ham came in this morning, do you want some those? Yes?”

Evan says, “I come up to them and say, ‘I’m here to do whatever mission you have - for money!!’” Yes, this should be every adventurer’s motto.

Kaylessa and Constable Harburk regard the gunslinger for a few moments before the constable says, “You know, he might just be your best bet, Kaylessa.” The innkeeper nods and says to Folax, “Okay then, you go to Lance Rock and look for my niece Savra, I’ll pay you for it!” She heads off to her inn.

Evan suddenly remembers, “Wait a minute! Don’t we have some other loot from the previous session!? It says here that we picked up a golden locket with a half-elf lady picture inside! I wonder how much that’s worth!?” With that, the gunslinger heads back into Thelorn’s, who inspects the locket. The wagon-dealer says, “Yup, this should cover a new wagon and a horse! Perhaps even some customisations!” The gunslinger orders some walls and a roof, a bunk on one side, and a small cabinet. “I’m getting out of Landro’s,” he says. “This is going to be my caravan!” Thelorn says that they work night-shifts in his shop, so this should be ready latest by the day after tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Tempest and Zoey are wandering around the fairgrounds when Zoey says, “I think there’s someone following us!”

Tempest looks, and sees another half-orc clumsily following them as discreetly as he can, ducking in and out of market stalls. Jojo says, “How many half-orcs are there in this town!? I approach him and say, ‘Who are you and why are you following us!?’”

I tell them, “Half-orcs aren’t common in human towns, there’s probably about half-a-dozen in a town of over a hundred people, but they do tend to stick out. They usually have a grayish skin-tone due to their orc heritage. This one’s skin-tone seems to be turning into a bright shade of pink though!” The half-orc stammers, “Uh hi, um. My name Grund. Um.” He seems too shy to make eye-contact, but he keeps looking at Zoey.

Evan says, “Oh, I think he’s got a crush!”

I tell Jojo, “You smell the distinct odour of pickles on this half-orc.”

Jojo sighs, “You’re the pickle-seller, aren’t you? From the covered wagon in the fairgrounds.”

Grund perks up. “You want pickles!? Grund have plenty of pickles!”

“Um, no. Look, just go away and leave us alone.”

The half-orc looks crestfallen as he slinks away. Tempest goes back to Zoey who says, “Geez, he’s just so weird!” They wander around the fairgrounds a bit more before they say goodbye and part ways. Tempest goes off to find Folax, and is alarmed to hear that he’d traded in the golden locket for a wagon. “Jojo, it’s a good deal! Look, we BOTH can share the wagon!”

Just then, Kaylessa turns up. “Folax! Thank goodness you’ve not left yet! Here, take these before you go.” She hands Folax and Tempest two Cure Light Wounds Potions each. Tempest takes these courteously, and looks at Folax, “Okay, what else have you gone and done without me!?”

It takes the rest of the day for the adventurers to travel to Lance Rock. Night is falling by the time they arrive at the rocky monolith. I tell the kids, “Lance Rock is visible from miles around - it’s a single rock tower slanting at a 60 degree angle. Legends say that it was dropped here hundreds of years ago by a dragon. On top of another dragon.”

The adventurers explore the base of the rock tower, and find a trail leading into the brush which comes to a cave. “There’s a sign next to the trail, which says, ‘Come no closer, lest you catch the disfiguring plague that afflicts me! - The Lord of the Lance Rock’” Shrugging, the adventurers enter the cave.

“It’s dark, but Tempest sees well enough with her darkvision. About 60 feet in, you see a human corpse stripped down to its breeches lying on the ground.” The adventurers decide to carefully step over the corpse and continue their way. They eventually come to a round, high-ceilinged cave with exits to the right and left. “You hear shuffling sounds above you! It seems to be coming from a ledge about 10 feet up!”

The kids discuss their options. “If only we could fly up!” says Jojo. I tell her, “One of you can, you know.” The kids look at me blankly before I say, “S'il-vous-plaît? You know, that specter sword you have that flies around?”

“OHHH!” We imagine that the adventurers are musing out loud, “If only one of us could fly!” while S'il-vous-plaît is hovering impatiently in the air next to them.

S'il-vous-plaît goes up to the ledge, and then the kids hear him shout, “LOOK OUT!” and a cascade of rocks and stones fall from above! The kids fail their Dexterity saving throws, and both Tempest and Folax are battered for 2d6 damage. “Then, there are two squelchy flops as two zombies land face-first from above in front of you! They start to rise!”

Tempest immediately snaps out her holy symbol and turns undead, causing one of the two zombies to flee, stumbling away into the right exit. The other one claws ineffectively on Folax’s armour before the gunslinger’s war pick bashes its brains out.

S'il-vous-plaît hovers back down. “They were shuffling around up there holding a crate full of those rocks! They tipped the crate over before jumping down themselves! This doesn’t seem like dumb zombie behaviour!”

“Hmm.. I was just thinking the same thing,” ponders Jojo.

The adventurers decide not to follow the other fleeing zombie down the right exit, and take the left exit instead. “Eventually, you guys come to a another cavern with two more exits, right and left. There are three zombies shambling around here; one dressed in a bear suit, another in a woman’s dress and a wig, while the last one is in a jester’s costume.”

Wait, where have I seen you guys before!?

The scene causes a considerable pause. “What if they are intelligent zombies!?” wonders Jojo. In the end, the kids decide that Tempest should pretend to be a zombie and lurch out to them.

“Tempest puts on her best zombie impression and lurches out to the three zombies. She goes, ‘Urrrrrgggh!’. The three zombies look at Tempest, then at each other, and then stagger towards Tempest, their arms out clawing. ‘URRRGGHHH!!’”

It’s a short fight. Folax wades into the zombies with his war pick, while Tempest does another ‘Turn undead’ which causes the bear costume zombie and the jester zombie to flee down the right exit. The zombie in a dress gets a few claw attacks in before Folax manages to take its head off with his war pick.

“Why are they always fleeing to the right!?” This time, the adventurers take the right exit and come to a small square room with no other exits. “There are two iron chests in this room, and you can see the two zombies in here cowering in the corner!” Evan decides to open the chest, and I announce, “Suddenly, you hear a voice booming, ‘YOU DARE PIT YOURSELVES AGAINST THE LORD OF LANCE ROCK! DEATH IS YOUR REWARD!’ The ceiling of the room caves in!”

Evan succeeds in his Dexterity saving throw, while Jojo rolls a natural 20. “Springing to one side to avoid a crashing rock, and then backwards to avoid another one, the dragonborn cleric leaps out of the room! Folax dive rolls out!” Once the dust clears, the adventurers can see that the two zombies have been completely squished, and the rubble has smashed the iron chests, revealing them to be completely empty.

“Gah! Now I’m really getting annoyed with this Lord of Lance Rock,” mutters Evan vengefully.

Adventure Notes:
The adventure continues! After dinner...

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