Cast of Characters
Meryl "Wiggy" Wiggins - Gnome Chaos Sorcerer
Sophia - Half Elf Valorous Bard
Tavar - Deva Retribution Avenger
Tordek - Dwarf companion character (defender)
The Wizard's Cellar
After killing one dark drake and routing the other, the party was free to explore the rest of the basement. The first room that they investigated appeared to be the scene of a magical experiment gone awry; there had clearly been an explosion in the room, and there were pieces of destroyed implements everywhere. Nothing of interest in there. The next room contained a stone face on the opposite wall, with a jaw that appeared to be moveable. When the PCs entered the room an iron door slid shut behind them, with 3 locks automatically latching shut. The mouth opened, and water poured out of it and began to fill the room (this was the Water-Filling Chamber from DMG2, p. 67). In each corner of the room, magical turrets that shot force bolts also appeared (this was a trap of my own devising). Without Bruce the party was at a loss for strength checks; one failed attempt to close the statue's mouth in an attempt to slow the water flow was all it took for the party to abandon that tactic. Wiggy was able to successfully pick the first lock, but when I randomly decided which character took 2 turret hits (4 turrets, 3 PCs) Wiggy was the unlucky one and ended up bloodied due to 2 high damage rolls. He was also soon swimming since he was small, and the room was filling up quickly. Not much progress was made in the escape attempt the next round, though Wiggy was able to use Arcana to disable 2 of the turrets for a round (by suppressing the magic of the glyphs that were powering them). Next round another lock was picked, and Wiggy failed to sustain his hold on the turrets but managed to pick the last lock. Tavar then slid open the iron door and the turrets deactivated when the water rushed out of the room. The stone face animated, and in a booming voice yelled "You are worthy of my counsel and my master's greatest secret. Step forward and I shall look into your future." A niche also opened up in the wall, which contained a magical mirror, though layers of enchantments hid the mirror's true function (into Wiggy's top hat of holding it went for later). When Sophia stepped forward to have their fortune read, the statue simply stated: "Start by going where you struggle to breathe. From there, follow the wind into the fire. If you succeed, prepare to be a careful judge of character." The face then returned to normal, and the PCs left the room. The only other room in the cellar contained a half-dissected Vrock, and some fungus growing in a corner which Wiggy (through a successful Dungeoneering check) informed the party improved vigor if eaten (it would restore 1 healing surge). Wiggy had the fewest surges so he at the mushroom.
The party left the cabin and re-discovered the trail of the goblin scouting party. Soon they smelled a strong, sulphurous odor as they descended into a wide valley. Discerning that the source of this odor (a thermal vent in a bog) was where they would "struggle to breathe," the party headed toward it instead of continuing to follow the trail. They reached the vent, and then followed the direction of the wind (which happened to roughly correspond to the direction of the airship). So far their fortune seemed promising. When they reached the top of a small hill they saw a large clearing below them, in which was parked the airship. A bonfire burned in front of it, but they couldn't discern how many goblins there were. Tordek, though still injured from the battle and crash on the original airship, volunteered to help capture the goblin ship. The party came up with a pretty ingenious plan to approach the ship, which I honestly didn't expect when I designed this adventure. The non-combatants were all shoved inside of the top hat of holding with the Deepfarer's Pouch as a reliable source of air. Tordek, Tavar, and Wiggy all got into the bag of holding while Sophia chugged the potion of mimicry to gain the appearance of a hobgoblin. Though Sophia didn't speak goblin, when the hobgoblin leader addressed her as she approached the ship she convincingly appeared to be in a bad mood, merely grunting disgustedly (very successful Bluff check). Her failure to speak eventually aroused suspicion though, and several goblins and bugbears moved their hands toward their blades. She quelled their suspicion with a surprisingly successful Diplomacy check (despite a hefty penalty for using only body language and casual grunting), and moved forward between the leader (a magic type) and the airship, as if to come talk to him. Her surprise round was spent dumping the combatants out of the bag of holding and into an advantageous position in the clearing. After several more goblinoids closed the distance to attack them, Sophia used Shout of Triumph to knock 2 Bugbears into the bonfire. The leader, who was a modified Daggerburg War Mage (from Monster Vault 2) used his icy stream attack to slide Tavar into the bonfire. Later in the battle Sophia was also slid into the bonfire (and was actually knocked unconscious there!). This was a textbook example of a terrain effect being utilized by both sides, which added a fun dynamic to the encounter. Reinforcements came bursting out of the airship in round 2, and overall the party handled the encounter quite well. I should mention that this was a level 9 encounter (level +4), which I was unsure about given the difficulty that level +2 and +3 encounters were posing to this party (and the fact that Tordek was a companion character, and thus weaker than a normal PC, seemed like it might make matters even worse). Surprisingly, the first half of the encounter was practically a breeze. I was rolling really low for monster attacks (they missed more than half the time), and in one round Wiggy hit 5 creatures with a lucky Chaos Bolt (3 of which were minions!). Again, the Wild Sorcerer proved to be much more effective than I'd previously given them credit for, though they're admittedly swingy and at the mercy of the dice. At some point the battle took a subtle turning point though, despite the fact that most of the enemies were down (only the war mage and 2 Bugbear backstabbers were left). Focus fire is a lot more effective when the monsters aren't missing all the time (and the backstabbers were utilizing heavy undergrowth to remain practically perma-hidden), and soon almost all healing resources were used up (both Majestic Words, all second winds, and 2 of the 4 potions), and most of the party was bloodied. Sophia's Stirring Shout was also a boon, albeit an unreliable one (I'd given the War Mage an ability from Monster Vault's Goblin Hex Hurler, where ranged attacks could be deflected onto adjacent allies. This made up for the Daggerburg traits that I removed from it). One of the backstabbers was finally killed though, and the War Mage brought down to only 4 HP. Even though the remaining backstabber rushed to his aid, the hobgoblin threw down his staff and surrendered, begging for mercy. Since the PCs needed someone to pilot the captured airship anyways, they let him live.
After verifying that both the hobgoblin and remaining bugbear could indeed pilot the ship, the hobgoblin tried to convince the party to inventory a bunch of supply crates that were sitting in the clearing, claiming that they contained many useful supplies. The party was smart enough to instantly recognize the stalling tactic, suspecting that there were still goblin patrols in the forest that may have heard the sound of combat. Therefore the PCs loaded their captives into the airship quickly and forced the goblins to take off (as they gained altitude, looking down they saw that there were indeed several goblins that rushed into the clearing in vain). The airship contained 2 prisoners that the goblins had manacled to the wall - an insane kobold chief named Tiktag and a human sage from Winterhaven, Valthrun. Tiktag was mostly muttering in Draconic, but would occasionally let slip a few curses in common. He would also occasionally shout things like "those idiot goblins will feel the wrath of Vestapalk!" Valthrun informed the party that Tiktag's tribe frequents the hills northwest of Winterhaven, and that Vestapalk is a green dragon who has shared visions with Tiktag and has thus allied himself with the tribe. Partially out of fear of the dragon (who could potentially be in pursuit of the ship, the PCs reasoned), but mostly because they were still pondering the final words of the stone face in the Wizard's cabin --"prepare to be a careful judge of character"-- the PCs unbound Tiktag in addition to Valthrun, and gave them both some rations (they had been mistreated by the goblins, suffering beatings and going days at a time with no food, if you can even call what the goblins did give them food). The PCs explained to Valthrun that they were heading to Ostengard, but that they would return to Fallcrest after completing their mission. They also attempted to explain this to Tiktag, and some of the malice seemed to disappear from his eyes at the news, though he still crouched by himself in a corner muttering in Draconic. Valthrun had no information about why he or Tiktag was captured by the goblins; he had been tending a shrine just outside of Winterhaven when they captured him for no apparent reason.
As the PCs had overcome their predicament and escaped the foreign wilderness, it was determined that this would be a good stopping point. Next session will conclude my adventure, and will likely see the start of the next DM's adventure.