Monday, April 16, 2018

Monday Recap: Wave Echo Cave

The ACTUAL LOST MINE from the Lost Mines of Phandelver. 
That's right, another week, another campaign completed! I'm burning through my roster of games! Is something new and big on the horizon??

Yes. But more on that later.

Lost Mine of Phandelver: Wave Echo Cave


Cast of Characters
Jon: Dungeon Master
Makayla: Fwip Arda, Gnome Bard of the Blades, born into a long line of musicians, prefers the avant-garde
Shannon: Rune Coldiron, Dwarf Knowledge Cleric, born into a long line of War Clerics, prefers thinking
Will: Valkas Barthen, Human Storm Herald Barbarian, son of a peace-loving shopkeeper, has accepted his new Storm God overlords

When we last left our heroes, they had rescued Rune's Uncle, Bartholomew "Bart" Coldiron, and retrieved his map to Wave Echo Cave from the murderous King Grol. Bart, the heroes, and an old soldier named Sildar Hallwinter were all interested in finding this cave, to find Bart's brothers Harry and Horace Coldiron. But also, by uncovering the fabled Forge of Spells, they could bring wealth to themselves and this area.

Using the map, they traveled to the mouth of a cave less than a day's journey from Phandalin, hidden in the woods. It appeared to be a normal cave mouth, but a soft pulsing sound could be heard from inside at regular intervals. The group wondered aloud what it might be, and Fwip wryly remarked it was probably a wave echoing.

They began their descent, following the rocky tunnel about 100 feet before coming to a open cavern area overlooking a tunnel leading deeper into the cave in two directions. As Sildar cast his lantern about, the light landed on a pile of supplies and bedrolls, and a lumpen form beneath one of them. Fearing the worst, Rune and Bart rushed over.

As they drew closer, the form became unmistakable: It was Harry Coldiron, dead and covered in a bed roll. They said some words over him and moved his body out to their travel cart for a proper burial. While doing so, Rune inspected his body. It appeared he had died from wounds reminiscent of a Magic Missile spell, but she couldn't be sure. Valkas wasn't too concerned, and decided to grab some sacks of flour from the pile of rations instead.

Having temporarily found a safe spot for Harry's body, the party pressed onward, following their map into the entrance halls of what was once a mine. The torch sconces in the walls were long out of use, and the ground was littered with skeletons. Upon closer inspection, they appeared to be a mix of dwarves and orcs, wearing rusted scraps of armor. A battle must have happened here, long ago.

As they inspected the bones, Valkas heard a flapping sound above them. Stirges! The party was surprised as the blood-sucking monsters swooped down and attacked!

The stirges quickly attached themselves to the faces of the party members, but the group had learned how to deal with them since their forays in the forest: squish them! Valkas and Fwip immediately began slapping their faces and killing the offending creatures.

The true villains of the series
Rune and Bart, however, weren't faring so well. Rune had one she just couldn't shake, and Bart fell unconscious as soon as one had attacked him. Fortuantely, Valkas had finished his own stirges off and was happy to help Rune out, which gave her a chance to cast Spare the Dying on her uncle, saving his life.

Valkas administered a health potion to Bart, which brought him back to his feet. Fwip suggested they move Northward, towards a location that seemed like it might house the Forge of Spells. As they passed through the halls, Fwip and Rune noticed a crunching and splintering sound coming from behind a door. They cautiously approached, and saw a trio of ghouls chewing on the skeletons littering the ground.

The group decided it would be better to finish off these undead creatures instead of risking them attacking from behind. Valkas kicked open the door and stood in its frame, blocking the ghouls from reaching the weaker party members (i.e. Bart).

The ghouls looked up, abandoned their meal, and rushed forward, howling and clawing at the prospect of fresh meat. Though they weren't able to squeeze past Valkas, they did crowd the doorway as much as possible, and ended up hindering their own efforts to reach the heroes.

Fwip and Rune launched spells at the undead, while Valkas cracked them in the heads with his hammer over and over. Bart watched their backs, and Sildar shot at them using his crossbow. However, Sildar turned out to be a pretty terrible shot, even accidentally hitting Valkas in the shoulder with an errant bolt.

The fight was over quickly, and Rune finished off the final Ghoul with a dual strike from her Spiritual Weapon and her own hammer. Valkas confronted Sildar about the crossbow bolt, and the old soldier apologized. He claimed it was hard to fight by torchlight, and the group couldn't disagree.

Seriously, dude?! (Art by Shannon!)
They finished their trek to the room they suspected was the Forge of Spells, but it ended up only being a storeroom. They decided to take advantage of their circumstances and take a quick rest to bandage up their wounds from the previous encounters.

Once they had rested up (thankfully, undisturbed), they pressed ahead to a large connecting room that could lead them to other locations they suspected could be the Forge of Spells. As the light of their torches filled the room, they heard the sound of more ghouls rushing towards them from the darkness.

Valkas decided now would be a great time to unleash those sacks of flour he had picked up earlier. He had heard flour was flammable, and just for good measure he added a flask of oil to it to make it burn better. He threw the mixture forward and watched it splat on the ground, before telling Bart to light it up with a torch or tinder.

Unfortunately, flour is only explosively flammable when it is in the air, and all that resulted was a pile of burning oil and flour that smelled vaguely of bread. The ghouls were bearing down on the group, and Fwip realized what Valkas was trying to do. She opened up another sack of flour and threw it at the fire, spreading the fine powder into the air.

Everyone ducked behind a rocky outcropping except for Valkas, who was too busy fighting the ghouls to retreat. A small explosion rocked the room, scorching the Ghouls and Valkas alike. However, it wasn't enough to slow down the Ghouls' advances. Seeing that the party's plan hadn't worked well enough, Rune leapt from hiding and presented her holy symbol.

A deep voice emanated from the jewel in her amulet. "Disturb not the secrets of the mountain!" The ghouls, presented with holy magic, turned and fled. Valkas and Fwip picked off a few of them as they retreated, but the group decided to move forward before the effect wore off.

Fwip shows off her flour power (art by Shannon!)
In the next area, they discovered a large waterwheel-like contraption over a long-dry channel. They immediately noticed a small, floating skull wreathed in green flames, looking down on them with sharp red eyes. Valkas waved hello to it.

Rune and Fwip talked to the skull, asking it what it was and why it was here. It told them that it was guarding the entrance to the Forge of Spells, and wouldn't move for anyone. It even zapped Valkas with a ray of fire just to prove its point.

The party didn't like the idea of fighting a creature unnecessarily, so after a bit of joking with it they went in a different direction, hoping to find an alternative route. Unfortunately, they came up against a door with the sound of several bugbears behind it, and they didn't like their odds on fighting them. So they decided to go back to the dry channel and follow it until it came out somewhere.

They came out to a room with a large chasm in it, the waterway spilling out into the chasm itself. Searching the chasm were three bugbears, lead by a dark-skinned elf: a drow! This group seemed connected to the Cragmaw goblins that had been terrorizing Sildar and Bart, and the group decided to attack.

From their hiding hole, they flung javelins and spells out at the Bugbears, who began to climb up the chasm walls to reach them. One of the creatures finally managed to get up on the ledge, only to be knocked off again by a powerful blow from Rune's warhammer. However, as they finished off the bugbears, the drow turned and ran further down a dark passage.

The group gave chase, climbing up the other side of the chasm wall. They passed a small room, but after confirming it was empty, pressed forward.

They ended up in a large chamber built to Dumathoin, the Dwarven God of Secrets and Rune's patron. Standing in the center was a different Drow, this one dressed in dark robes and holding a staff with a spider on the top. He was holding a knife to the throat of Horace Coldiron, who was struggling against the elf's grasp. The group also noticed dark shapes in the corners of the room, too large to be human and moving unnaturally.

The dark elf introduced himself as the Black Spider, the villain behind the Cragmaw attacks and the Redbrand ruffians. He was curious about the party, but they had little to say to him while he was threatening Horace. He even offered to work with them, but the group turned him down.

Finally, Valkas had seen enough, and rushed forward to attack. The dark shapes lurched out of the corners and crawled forward, turning out to be giant spiders. one of them shot web, restraining Valkas in place, but not before he brought his hammer down on the Black Spider.

The Black Spider turned invisible and tried to flee, but was met with another swing from Valkas' hammer. He used a Shield spell to save himself, but became visible and was targeted by Fwip's Heat Metal magic. Under the stress of the fire and pain of the hammer blows, he collapsed.

Horace, now free, turned and punched Valkas in the stomach. The group was shocked by this, but Valkas responded in kind (as best he could with the webbing holding him back). However, once the Black Spider was dead, Horace ran towards another exit to the room.

Meanwhile, the party was fighting to drive back the spiders who were attacking them. Fwip nearly fell to their bites, but managed to press it back just in time. Bart helped Valkas get free of the webbing, and together the group drove the spiders back into their corners. Without their master, it seemed they had little reason to fight.

Horace managed to slip away, despite the group's efforts. There was a table full of interesting materials in the room, but they decided to retreat rather than fighting off the spiders. As they pulled back, Rune whispered a prayer to the statue of her God.

Surprisingly, as she spoke, the room began to shake, and rocks fell from the ceiling into the corners of the room, crushing the spiders hiding there. Dumathoin apparently wasn't pleased with his temple being used by spiders. The group grabbed the items from the table and the Black Spider's body, and retreated into the small room they had passed to rest up a bit.

Dumathoin is watching...
Going through their loot, they found a partial map of the mine, a sack of valuables, and a healing potion, as well as the Spider staff and a key to the room they were staying in. Rune attuned to the Spider Staff, learning she could use it to walk on walls and shoot webbing.

Rune and Bart were both sad and confused about Horace's behavior in the fight. Bart didn't think that Horace was that skilled of a fighter, and there must be some magic or trickery afoot. Unfortunately, they didn't have any means of tracking him down, and decided to leave the matter be.

After healing up, the group managed to piece together a route that would bypass the floating green skull and lead them to the final location they thought might be the Forge of Spells. They traveled back to the chasm room, picking up a buried pair of Gauntlets of Ogre Strength that were marked on the Black Spider's map as they did so. They climbed up an old obscured passage and into a large cave.

The cave opened up onto a huge underground lake, and the rhythmic pounding of the water was causing the pulsing noise they had heard all over the cave. This was the echo of Wave Echo cave! The lake was huge, and possibly lead into the depths of the Underdark. They had no way of knowing how vast and deep this underground lake could go.

Minor geographical revelations aside, the party followed a stairway up into the eastern half of the cave and into the final area they suspected the Forge of Spells might be. They discovered a room with an ajar set of double doors, the handles burned open, the floor still littered with skeletons. Gently, they opened the door, and a voice spoke in their heads: "Hello there!"

They saw a workshop of sorts, with weapons and armor hanging from the walls. In the center of the room was a brazier with faint green fire coming from within it. And behind that was a large, spherical creature with four eye stalks and a large central eye. They feared it might be a Beholder, but in fact it was a related creature: a Spectator.

They spoke with the creature a bit, and learned that it had also been summoned here to guard the Forge of Spells, which was the green fire brazier. They tried to convince the creature it should leave (since the original owners of the mine had died), but it said it could only be released by a descendant of the original owners - which nobody present could claim.

Bart and Valkas suggested they just kill the monster and take the Brazier, but Fwip stopped them. Their research on the map had shown this site had been lost for at least 300 years, and she had remembered that Spectators are only supposed to guard a location for 101 years. The Spectator confirmed this, but insisted it had only been a few days since its summoning.

They tried to convince the creature that its guardianship had long since expired, but it refused to listen. After an increasingly frustrating series of arguments back and forth, they decided to give up on changing the insane monster's mind and attacked.

A perfect picture of sanity
The Spectator, being a floating monster, immediately lifted itself up to the ceiling, out of reach of Valkas' hammer. Rune summoned her Spiritual Weapon, but before she could use it properly the Spectator shot her with an eye ray and paralyzed her! Valkas, Fwip, and Sildar all began firing crossbow bolts upwards, hoping to bring the monster down before it could unleash another volley of paralyzation.

Fortunately, the Spectator wasn't terribly strong, and Fwip finished it off with a well-placed bolt. As it sank to the ground, it vanished, and the party took comfort in the fact that they had ended the creature's curse of servitude. Their task of finding the Forge of Spells was complete.

Valkas grabbed some of the weapons and armor, while Rune shook off the paralysis. Valkas and Fwip (the latter now wearing the Gauntlets of Ogre Strength) slowly and carefully dragged the brazier all the way back through the tunnels, eventually making it back to the very entrance they had come into several hours ago.

It was near dark now, and the group camped outside the cave before returning to Phandalin in the morning. The townsfolk were grateful to see them return, especially with such a powerful and valuable item in tow. Bart and Sildar we quite happy to have succeeded on their quest, and began the process of installing a magical weapons shop in the town.

Valkas decided that he would stay in Phandalin, since the forge would need a guard and he could have access to better magical weapons. Bart told Rune that he would help her get a position as a knowledge cleric, as she had proven her interest in lore and magical secrets, but Rune didn't feel her quest was quite over yet. She chose to continue her search, perhaps to find Horace or to discover why her God had sent her on her mission. And Fwip, having learned that bold action isn't always the best path, decided to go with Rune.

The three parted ways, but the town of Phandalin began to grow, always remembering the trio of brave adventurers who brought life back to their town.

Until we meet again...
And that's the game! I can finally say I've run a group through Lost Mine of Phandelver.

I think the group really made it fun. All three of them were interesting characters with good motivations and fleshed-out conflicts, both internal and external. The dungeon was really just a dungeon, it was how they faced the challenges that made it fun and interesting.

That said, I like the fact that these characters are departing. It's sad to lose cool characters, but they did what they came together to do. I think it helps the world grow when characters can simply retire. Who knows? Perhaps Valkas, Fwip, and Rune will keep growing and become patrons of future adventures!

Anyway, overall, I'm happy with the campaign.

Thanks for reading!

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