Monday, October 16, 2017

Monday Recap: The Forests of Garlancia

INTO THE WOODS - wait, wrong game
I know that last week I said this month might not have many Monday Recaps, but it seems like my players pulled through and now I'm running a game every weekend this month. One of the benefits of running monthly games is that I always have a few players who are eager to play, since it's been a while. I rarely run into player fatigue.

DM fatigue is a whole 'nother story, but that's why I occasionally jump into games as a player. Gotta keep it fresh!

This article is part 3 of a series. The campaign was completed.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 |

Lost Mine of Phandelver: The Forests of Garlancia

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

(Note: since I wanted to surprise my players and discourage some meta-gaming, I changed nearly all of the names and locations of the module to places and people from my homebrew world, Ahneria)

When we last left our heroes, they had just finished defending the town of Phandalin from Iarno "Glasstaff" Albrek and his bugbear cronies. Valkas had finally finished defending his hometown, and the players received accolades and offers of quests from nearly every person in town.

The next morning, Valkas joined the group for breakfast at his father's shop, Barthen's Provisions. He was surprisingly calm and mild, compared to the angsty and angry young man they had been fighting alongside previously. He explained that he had received a vision, a dream that now guided his rage. He had completed his personal task of freeing his town, and now his power would serve the God of Oceans, Procan.

This vision had apparently been accompanied by a literal storm cloud manifesting in his room, and Elmar, Valkas' father, was incredibly distraught by the water pouring down from the upper floor. He prayed to every God he could think of, as Fwip and Rune laughed and congratulated Valkas on finding a new purpose.

The group's breakfast was interrupted by Elmar's helpers, Andar and Thistle, arriving to help unload a convoy of goods for the shop. Andar asked the heroes if they had seen the convoy come in, and they said they hadn't. Andar seemed worried about its lateness.

After eating, the party went outside to survey the damage done to the Stonehill Inn by the fire from the previous night. As they looked over the destruction, their ally Sildar Hallwinter joined them.

Sildar told them that the convoy Andar had mentioned had never come in, and unfortunately it had been carrying weapons and armor that the local weapons shop, the Lionshield Coster, would have needed. He lamented that he wasn't able to get new armor or a decent longsword. However, the group realized that the Cragmaw Goblin tribes might be to blame, and decided to look into the caravan's disappearance, hoping to concurrently discover information on the whereabouts of Rune's Uncle Bart, still missing.

They took their leave of town, journeying along Sarria trail towards Cragmaw Hideout, where Bart had originally been taken. Upon arrival, they discovered the cave had been abandoned, and the rain from the previous night had washed away all signs of tracks leading away from the location. The group rested nearby for the night, and in the morning ventured further up the road, still looking for signs of the caravan.

Their search proved fruitless, and they decided to turn back when they had searched a full 35 miles of trail. Valkas was confused and frustrated, and Rune wanted to get back to looking for more concrete leads. At midday, they turned back.

As they returned, they noticed something along the trail they hadn't before: footprints, cutting across the path, heading south. They looked too large to be goblins or humans, and Valkas estimated they might be Bugbears. The group hoped to follow them and track down more members of the Cragmaw Goblin tribes.

Instead, they ended up running into a small patrol of Orcs. Valkas used his new-found Storm powers to blast one of the Orcs over the treetops with a mighty hammer blow. Rune and Fwip provided backup as Valkas brought down the enemy one after another. The fight was over in an instant, and the last two Orcs decided to flee rather than get killed. However, the group pulled their crossbows out and managed to take one down and gravely wound the other.

Too many! Too many Orcs!
The party was surprised that there were Orcs so far East, since according to Townmaster Harbin, the Orcs were supposed to be camped out at Wyvern Tor, a large rocky landmark many miles to the West. They decided to pursue the fleeing Orc, in case he managed to find reinforcements or attack Phandalin.

They followed the Orc's trail of blood and broken branches, but eventually they needed to sleep. When they awoke the next day and continued their hunt, they found that the Orc had used its resting place as an opportunity to bandage its wounds, making the trail harder to follow.

At this point, the party was fairly close to Phandalin again, and they decided to return to town for a good night's sleep. After fending off a pack of flying Stirges, they made it back to Barthen's Provisions and slept peacefully through the night.

In the morning, they got an update on the convoy: Ander told them that supplies for Barthen's Provisions had come in, so the shop would be alright. However, the Lionshield Coster had been counting on this particular shipment of weapons and armor, so they would have to wait for a messenger to make it back to the city of Eastcliff before more supplies could be ordered. The group decided to go to Townmaster Harbin and give him an update on the convoy, as well as the Orcs they had found so far from Wyvern Tor.

There was thankfully no wait to see the Townmaster. Harbin seemed a little apprehensive about meeting the group, as Valkas had punched him in the face a few days ago during the Redbrand attack, but since the party had also saved the town, he seemed to overlook the incident. He was shocked to hear about the Orc patrol's increased range, and decided to deputize the group as official Orc Hunters.

The heroes impatiently waited while Harbin made an official, wax-sealed document granting them the title of Deputy Orc Hunters, then waited further while he made an official, wax-sealed document granting them permission to speak to a miner who could confirm the location of the Orcs at Wyvern Tor. The group decided to skip the confirmation and just keep following the Orc's trail.

After leaving town and traveling a ways, the party was ambushed by the Orc, who had brought friends this time! Valkas, ever-alert, immediately leapt into the underbrush and shook off the javelin attacks coming his way. Fwip ran up beside him, facing down four of the five Orcs together. Meanwhile, Rune had her hands full dealing with the last remaining Orc.

Much more reasonable.
Valkas began destroying Orcs once more, using his lightning magic to finish off any he didn't quite kill. Fwip had more trouble fighting, and even with her Staff of Defense, kept taking hits from the enemy. Meanwhile, Rune fought cautiously, slowing winnowing down her opponent.

Valkas and Fwip finished off their final Orc with a one-two rapier-hammer punch, then Fwip rushed over to deal the killing blow the Rune's enemy. The group was battered and exhausted, and decided to rest and eat to make up their strength.

They realized they were close to Thundertree, an old ruins that had been abandoned over thirty years ago when a strange hoard of undead came through. They remembered that there were some quests they had been given that they could complete at Thundertree, namely finding a necklace and a druid named Reidoth. Also, Fwip pointed out, there might be a building they could rest in for the night.

The party reached the ruined town as the sun was setting. Valkas found a sign posted near the edge of the town reading: "DANGER! Plant monsters AND zombies! TURN BACK NOW!" They decided to ignore its warning.

The first building they found seemed like it might make a good resting place: an old garrison. Inside, everything was old and rotting, and the party decided to explore it to make sure it was safe. In an old barracks filled with bunk beds, they discovered a group of zombies that rose from the group to attack them!

Rune immediately brandished her holy symbol, hoping to turn the creatures. However, only one succumbed to her magic, the rest advancing without pause. Valkas decided to run past that one and take it out with his hammer before it could recover. Meanwhile, Fwip and Rune faced down the remaining four zombies.

When Valkas struck the zombie with his hammer, it caused a large puff of ash that threatened to fill his lungs with toxic soot. Fortunately, he was able to hold his breath in time, but less fortunately, the zombie wasn't quite dead yet. Rune, knowing zombies would die easier to holy damage, finished it off with a Sacred Flame spell.

Meanwhile, Fwip blasted the remaining zombies with a Thunderwave spell, causing them all to puff their ash at once. The group realized they could only expel the soot once, and now they could be attacked freely. However, the zombies proved quite resilient to Fwip's spells.

With her armor and shield, Rune fended off the zombie attacks, but Fwip kept taking damage as their fists and claws struck her over and over. Valkas and Rune worked to take out the zombies, Valkas striking them hard and Rune using holy magic to finish them off. However, just as they were fighting to take down the last zombie, Fwip succumbed to her wounds and was in danger of passing out in the middle of the fight!

Yeah, yeah, weed joke, got it
With a roar of fury, Valkas destroyed the final zombie. Rune rushed to her friend's side, healing the bard with holy magic. As Fwip got her bearings once more, Valkas checked the rest of the thankfully empty garrison.

The group took another short rest here, causing it to grow even darker outside. They decided to check out more of the town before they slept for the night.

Walking amongst the ruined houses and shops, they noticed a dilapidated herb and alchemy shop. Remembering that a Phandalin citizen, Mirna Dendrar, had asked them to retrieve a family heirloom from such a shop, they explored the ruins and found a box containing the necklace.

They pressed onwards, coming to a section of path blocked by massive strands of spiderweb. Valkas threw a torch at the webbing, causing some of it to burn away. However, that quickly lead to the owners of the webbing, two ox-sized spiders, to crawl out of a nearby shop and attack. One spat webbing at Fwip, causing her to be stuck fast to the ground.

Valkas charged, while Rune pulled Fwip free of the webs. The spiders teamed up on Valkas, who was quick to receive bites and more webbing. As he fought, he realized the poison from their attacks wasn't being shrugged off as easily as normal attacks, and he began to feel weak. Rune ran up to join him, striking at the spiders with her hammer as well.

Fwip stayed back cautiously, firing off enchanted insults and crossbow bolts at the beasts. The monsters were beginning to pull back, but with a shot from Fwip and a leaping stab from Valkas' magic sword Talon, the group was able to finish off the pair of spiders.

They explored the shop, discovering an elven adventurer bound up in a cocoon. After repeated poking, they determined the elf was actually dead, and decided to salvage his armor and a potion of healing from his belt pouch.

Both Fwip and Valkas were completely drained at this point, and the group decided to head back to the garrison and barricade the doors. That night, while Valkas was taking watch, he heard the rooftop trapdoor creak open and fall shut, as if something had slipped inside. He woke up the others and lit a torch.

The torchlight fell on a small grey squirrel that had made its way into the keep. Valkas fed it a small handful of nuts from his rations, and it seemed friendly. Fwip sleepily asked if she should cast Speak with Animals, and the squirrel said it wouldn't be necessary.

The squirrel transformed into a naked old man with a white beard, who they realized must be Reidoth the druid. Fwip went back to sleep while Valkas spoke to the druid. Rune stayed up to talk, but used her shield to block the sight of the unashamed old man's nether regions.

Like this, but less clothing. Like, no clothing.
Reidoth confirmed that he could help them find Cragmaw Castle, even giving them its general location so they wouldn't get lost. Rune asked if he also knew where Wave Echo Cave might be, and he said he did. However, he had a favor he wanted done in exchange for leading them to the cave.

Apparently, at the top of a hill in Thundertree, a young green dragon had taken roost in a long-abandoned tower. Reidoth could deal with plant monsters and zombies, but dragons were a different issue. He said if the party could scare off the dragon, convince it the area was protected by powerful fighters, he would lead them to Wave Echo Cave.

His offer made, the old druid transformed back into a squirrel and left. The group went back to sleep, pondering his offer.

The next morning, the party fiercely debated if they were up to the task of fighting or even scaring off a dragon. Valkas was unsure, Rune wanted to get back on her Uncle's trail (at Cragmaw castle) and Fwip was eager to fight the dragon. In the end, they decided on returning to Phandalin, leaving the dragon to be fought another day.

Back in town, the group returned Mirna's necklace and received her deepest gratitude, as well as a delicious home-cooked dinner. They retired at Barthen's Provisions for the night.

That night, Fwip couldn't sleep. She ended up pacing outside the shop, practicing an odd song on her lute. The sound of the music woke Rune up, and the dwarf decided to check up on her friend.

Fwip was upset that they hadn't fought the dragon. Adventures were supposed to be about risk, danger, and bold action! Fwip also regularly prayed to Nebelun, the Gnomish God of Luck, and was sure their fight would have been watched over by the fates.

Rune wasn't sure what to say, except that they could go back and fight again. There was still time. What she left unsaid was that she wasn't sure the same was true for her Uncle, as they spent another day unsure of his whereabouts.

Meanwhile, Valkas sleepily walked past them, peed in a bush, then went back to bed.

It's the cover for the adventure, though...
We stopped there for the night. I really enjoy this group, I felt like everyone had a chance to contribute to the story in a good way. I'm hoping that keeps up as we move towards Cragmaw Castle! Whenever that happens...

Thanks for reading!

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