All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 11, The Execution of the Drow Job

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought / Session 11: The Execution of the Drow Job
All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought / Session 11: The Execution of the Drow Job

In which blood is spilled at a spirited Doors of Fate gaming table and Kuru disappears with an Aboleth.

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier and what have they been up to?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider
  • From the start this kind of felt like a Blades in the Dark job. Jusko’s player made it feel even moreso by suggesting that they lure the target Matron Mother they had to kill to a poker game. What? Love it.

    We bought in and pivoted. The players at the table were an Aboleth in a containment tank (yes, inspired by the Guild-fish from Lynch’s Dune) named the Dweller in the Lightless Abyss. I quickly looked up Lich names and saw with Harthoon, Ambassador to Orcus. Decided the local Drow Inquisitor was a gambler too and so Jaelryn, High Inquisitor of Embrae was born. And of course the target, Matron Mother Hloima of House DeVir and her consort, Guldor (all from this page of Drow names).

  • We talked about the game we’d play for a while and came up with Doors of Fate, a tiles game where each tile was a door and the palaces those doors were in were like the suits. Rules changed if you had actually been to the palace in question.

  • The Dweller in the Lightless Abyss was the only one who noticed Kuru was cheating, trying to give more hands to the Matron to cause a fight at the table. After some telepathic banter, Kuru tried to explain fun and having a good time through a game to the ancient and cthonic psionic beast. It did not understand, so it mind controlled Kuru. They tried to break the psionic grip but couldn’t do it.

  • When the fight eventually broke out, it was the lich, throwing a Disintegrate spell at the Matron’s consort, which he dodged with a Nat 20. After that, shit got real. The Lich threw a Cloudkill in the room. The Matron tried to open a gate but Bugwump dispelled it. I described the gate starting to open, the Matron’s soldiers and assassins ready to jump through when Bugwump cast the Dispell, lashing the gate with their tongue and swallowing it.

  • The Dweller in the Lightless Abyss mind-controlled the Matron’s consort, who opened a Dimension Door for the Aboleth to escape through. Kuru went with them through the door, trying to stay and finish the mission with his friends but failing another Wisdom save. The Lich had Dimension Door’ed out, calling the whole lot of these living folk dicks and saying the game had sucked (I used the Rich Lich from the Monsters of the City supplement).

  • After a brutal amount of damage, the Matron went down and the demonic spider-tank she had summoned was Banished, against by Bugwump (MVP of the game).

    In the end, it was only the Inquisitor and the group, looking through the sickly green Cloudkill gas at one another. Kuru had gone through a Dimension Door with the Dweller in the Lightless Abyss, under the creature’s mind control.

    “Let’s talk,” Bugwump said.

DM’s Notes: The Drow Matron Mother from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes is one bad mamba-jamba. Dag.

Running lots of high level NPC’s is rough but not impossible, having good book examples and DnD Beyond open for quick spell look-ups.

I like that the game we made up was called Doors of Fate and so much of this fight was the opening and closing of dimensional and arcane doors. Will All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought? Will they even go to Gloomwrought at all?

Next Game: A tough conversation with the High Inquisitor of Embrae after assassinating a Matron Mother right in front of her.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

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All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 10, The Drow Job Prep

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 10, The Drow Job Prep

0All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought / Session 10: The Drow Job Prep

In which Kuru finds trouble in a Drow kitchen and the Sigil 6 prepares for the job.

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier and what have they been up to?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider
  • Quick game tonight, had to cut it short to get a few professional things done but still, a fun session.

  • Kuru’s player was missing last week so he came in and found out about the team getting involved in assassinating a Drow Matron’s rival Matron. He decided he wanted to know more about the political landscape and everyone goes through the kitchen. One failed Charisma roll later (drawing inspiration from Burning Wheel’s Circles roll) and he had a shadow-sword to his throat, having found a Shadowblade Assassin undercover in the gate-fort’s kitchen.

    Trundle caught the assassin trying to get through the gate back into the Drow city of Eambra. He prayed to the God of Gates and I asked for a Wisdom check. 20. Okay, but let’s make it a low-key miracle. The assassin ran into a group of courtiers just on the other side of the gate, giving Trundle a shot at him. He grappled the Shadowblade and held him down until Failed Soldier could drag them both through the gate, back into the Shadowfell. The assassin Shadow Stepped away but the gate-fort’s guards caught him just outside the walls.

  • Had fun with the Drow thinking Kuru was a child and not a Hobbit/Halfling/whatever. As the Matron said, “My grandmother always said it was good luck to have a Halfling in the kitchen. I thought she was being superstitious but I guess she was right.”

  • We’re figuring out how the group wants to jump on this assassination. I’m looking at a Blades in the Dark technique, where we start in the midst of the job, roll some dice to see how it is going and get after it, rather than sit for hours of planning. We’ll get to it next week.

Next Game:

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

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All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 9, The Old Githyanki Gate

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 9, The Old Githyanki Gate

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought / Session 9: The Old Githyanki Gate

In which the Sigil 6 agrees to do a bloody chore for a Drow Matron for use of the Old Githyanki Gate that her House currently controls.

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier and what have they been up to?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider
  • They knew there was a gate up north due to Trundle’s scouting; also, it threw a blue light on the dark Shadowfell horizon. Keeping low so their flying steed’s wouldn’t show their silhouettes. Bugwump could tell that the gate had been created by Githyanki but had been abandoned (Githyanki frighten Bugwump!) and used by many different folk over time. Now it is owned by House Vandree, an innovative Drow house that owns a port city of the Underdark called Eämbar.

  • Failed Soldier made a roll to see if any previous Outlands Expedition Teams had left any signs carved into a tree. Perception roll was solid and so yes, someone had a symbol carved into a tree that let them know something was buried under the tree. They found a small chest with a scroll written nearly a century ago by Doro, a blue Dragonblood Outlands Expedition Teamster, “You probably want to get out of this dark shit-hole. There is a gate nearby; carve the keystone like so and it will take you to Sigil.”

  • They approached on foot, sending their friends back with the flying steeds and quickly ran into a Drow scouts led by a ranger on a giant spider. Language problems abounded, making things awkward until they got to the castle where the Captain Firin Falquan spoke common from her experience as a surface raider. She sent a message spell to the House Matron who was away.

  • Jusko played his noble background up and presented himself as a Prince of House Hajek. His family had claimed a young world that Hajek had written his family name on in a previous adventure. They are known as a cross-planar power. I rolled to see if the Matron knew of them and she did. Jusko gave Caita, a wizard courtier, a piece of wax with Strahd’s signet ring.

  • This was all kind of awkward and slow-going. The House Matron Melectix wanted to meet them beyond the gate in her citadel but the party wasn’t having it. Once Strahd’s signet was tossed out, the Matron met them. Failed Soldier (Passive Perception 28!) noticed that someone was near her who was invisible.

    We went back and forth a bit. Jusko tried to ask for reparations if the Devil bounty hunter had come through the gate and tried to harm them. Veiled threats were made concerning the werewolves and Bugwump’s half-trained wizards. Eventually, the Matron offered a deal: Kill a rival Matron who is a guest in her city and she will allow them to use the gate, changing the keystone for a time. “She is evil and you are all renowned monster slayers. You’d be doing the worlds a favor.”

  • When offers like this are made we have to step out of game and have interesting conversations. Are the players interested in this job? Does it sound fun? Are the characters interested in this job? We talked it over and folks were interested.

    I made it clear that I hadn’t planned this and if they decided not to do it, my intricate Lego Drow City wouldn’t become useless after hundreds of hours of work. “There is no Lego Drow City,” I made clear. Talking it over, we decided to do it and that’ll be the next session. The Sigil 6 will kill one Drow Matron for another Drow Matron in order to get the villagers to safety faster.

Question of the Week

Most weeks I put up a question in the Thursday Night Gamer’s Facebook Group.

As we approach the northern gate that is lighting up the Shadowfell’s sky with unearthly blue light…

Dark Elves, the Starless Elves, the Drow.

What has your character heard about the elves of the Underdark who worship the Demon-Queen of Spiders, Lloth?

It need not be true.

Kuru’s Player

They lay spider eggs in the bodies of sacrifices to their Queen

Trundle’s Player

There are hybrids of elves and spiders that live in the deep. Since tunnels take effort, they are not centaur-large, but rather scorpion-sleek pit spiders.

Bugwump’s Player

The are the sad detritus of a once-fashionable demonic transformation craze.

Failed Soldier’s Player

Their Demon-Queen claims their souls, out of greed or for some useful purpose, who knows? This seems counter to the typical elven patterns. There are rumors of a faction that seeks to free the Drow from this fate.

Jusko’s Player

“Listen, I have had three mugs of Invisible Sasha’s Barking Vodka, it has made me devilishly handsome and a sage of all things, I will tell you vhat you need to know about Drow. First, they are all from space. No, I mean it, they live in the lands between the stars. The only difference between Sha..Che? Shoodoo Kai elfies.. yes yes Kuru.. the ones at the bridge, and ‘Drow’, is that Shoobie Dars Elves stayed in space. Space hermits. Worse than mountain hermits, if vou ask me. Air pressure thing.”

Another mug later..

“Leezen, ven Elfs get angry they become Drow. They get angry, they cook in hate’s oven, they go to space, they became Space Elves that ride giant fukking crows, and zen they come back here and are Drow. And then they fuck spiders. No it IZ true, Hellewyn. You come from the moon, how vould you even know?”

A few mugs and a sitar raga for bar fights later..

“Leeeezen, Trundle, this iz impotent. HA! I am drunk. This is IMPORTANT! Drow cheat at cards. They uze spiders to sneak a look at vhat you have and zen they cheat. My Uncle Vors Lost THREE boats in this way. I AM holding up three fingers, you can’t count in Common. Everybody know – dwarves only count in dwarfish. Vors! Smart uncle, mebbe second smartest uncle. He would only play cardz vit Drow on very sunny days because spiderz have terrible eyes in bright light, like the old or fascists. ASK ME HOW I KNOW, Kuru! I know thingz! I had a life before the Maze. Big important life.”

Closing time, his jacket missing for hours, a smear of lipstick on one cheek and drying barf on the other, and Wheatonesque levels of bed head already setting in. His breath is keeping him away from candles.

“You not body me after I die tonight Flo-dor. Am certain to die, yes. NO, no it is not drunk. Speaked of space elves before that misunderstanding with the Aboleth at the bar. She heard EVERYTHING, will tell all her friends. It -is- Anoleth. Barkeep called her Sheila – classic Aboleth name, and Aboleth and Drow? Forever friends. 4 evah. Word already spread, contract sign, assasins outside already likely. Pine box for us, at last. Any things that keen on many arms? They have club. Guarantee. Big door handles, need five hands torque meenimum. And secret knock! Have to knock more times than we can because many arms! Foolproof security. No way to mimic that. Genius. GRELL. Not Aboleth, Grell. Sheila classic Grell name, stupid Grell, need better cover story than ‘celebrate birthday alone and then cry’ NICE TRY SHEILA NO ONE HERE BUYING THAT SHIT. Not sad, bad lie! Grell can’t lie, everybody know that. Indecision loop – mostly brtain, bad design, basically floating neurosis with stupid beak. Fucking Sheila. Bad as cheating spidersexed space elves. Why is room spinning? DROWCURSED! My savings throw, it does nothing. OW The floor BIT ME. I will hold it, you go get city watch, this floor is under CITIZEN ARREST.”

Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Helewynn’s Player

Helewynn regards a drooling and snoring Jusko. She watches him for the span of 10 breaths, and then lets her gaze travel across the sleeping forms of the rest of the party.

She sighs heavily and whispers to the night sky, “Nonsense. All nonsense.”

Helewynn smiles, a secretive expression meant to be seen only by the stars burning silently overhead. “The dark cousins, they cannot turn to the left.”

Next Game: The Drow Job!

Drow Dagger
Sigil 6 Subject Divider

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All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Moments in Actual Play…

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Moments in Actual Play…

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought / Moments in Actual Play…

In which we look at a few moments and decisions in the game, considering the techniques at hand.

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier and what have they been up to?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Let’s look over a few moments in the game and think about choices made. I’ve marinated on these for a while and want to think about them a bit more.

The moment below is from Session 2 of this arc, The Zombie Mob.

  • While Helewynn, Kuru and Failed Soldier took flight to scout out the mob, Trundle, Bugwump and Brinne forded a river. I asked for a DC 10 Survival check and Trundle failed the roll. I decided that meant Trundle didn’t see zombies under the river’s mud lying in ambush. It was less of a failure and more of a complication due to a failed roll. Trundle and Bugwump made quick work of the zombies before they could ever attack. Bugwump’s spell seemed to create some kind of localized black hole (what was that spell?).

Trundle is nearly 10th level at this point. Maybe having him roll to ford the river was a mistake. I didn’t want him to fail to ford the river. In this case, I was using the skill roll to tell me if the greater power controlling the zombie mob (Orcus) had set up a trap beneath the river. If Trundle’s skill roll was good enough, he’d get the carriages ove the river without a problem. The roll becomes less, is Trundle a skilled enough Ranger to get carriages across a river and more of a, Hey, I’m not sure how thoroughly the villain has riddled this area with undead in the Shadowfell. Let’s let this roll tell me what I don’t know.

Even without 7-9 results from pbta, rolls don’t have to be telling you simply, “Is this character skilled enough to pull this off? YES OR NO?” The rolls can unveil things in the setting that you didn’t know were there. Now the table knows that Orcus is an ancient and fell power who leaves cache’s of undead to use centuries later. Cool, cool, cool, cool. Good to know.

As the DM, I don’t have to know everything. Sometimes the dice surprise me and tell me something cool and Trundle’s mystique is untarnished. Yeah, crossing a river is easy but crossing a river in the Shadowfell while the Demon-Prince of the Undead’s gaze is upon you after you and your friends killed Strahd and then announced it to the worlds is not.

Context, Cool Shit and Consequences at all times.

A meme to hammer the point into our brains and then on to the next!

Jason Mamoa (THE DICE) sneaking up on that guy who played Superman (THE PLAYERS’ IMMACULATE PLAN). The frequently ignored follow-up when they embrace and smile (THE CHAOTIC SURPRISE FOR EVERYONE AT THE TABLE).

This moment is from Session 8, The Bounty Hunters.

  •  Trundle, Dwarf Ranger and Kuru, Halfling Arcane Trickster, made their rolls. Trundle came from a dwarven holdfast that was under siege from Devils. I asked him how one could tell when Devils were about to attack – he said that you could always smell the sulfur coming from the stones. Kuru said that he often has a sixth sense before an ambush; I said that for some reason it reminded him of the law coming down on his crew after a heist.

Perception rolls are failed by everyone at the table but 2 characters. Cool! I ask them why they know a Devil attack is about to occur. Even better because Trundle’s character’s back-story is that he came from a dwarven holdfast, Underhome, that was under constant siege from Devils. I’ve been wanting to use that for ages and ask Trundle’s player to flesh it out for me.

Kuru’s criminal background seems perfect for sniffing out an ambush, especially when he is usually the Ambusher and not the Ambushee.

It took two minutes and got added background I can use later if I want to tell those characters something, even without a roll if a failed result isn’t interesting to me or if the would-be-ambushers flub their roll or aren’t good at their trade. Or if I just want to put them in a spot.

“Kuru, you are getting that pre-ambush feeling; it is like a dagger in your skull.”

“Trundle, you know this prince is a Devil under a guise. You can smell it. What do you do?”

Back-story isn’t a process that ends after Session 0. It continues as the players learn about their characters. The stress-testing of adventuring will teach them things about these creations that they didn’t know and asking them questions will help everyone learn more about the cool shit they’ve made up (including the player, who might not have considered the question).

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

For me, good gaming has blank spaces, filling those spaces in with our friends is what it is about – whether those blanks are filled through the rolling of the dice or asking questions, as happened in the above examples.

If you have any moments where the dice told you something interesting that you did not know or where asking the players questions was rewarding, please share them in the comments if you’d like.

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All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 8, Bounty Hunters

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 8, Bounty Hunters

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought / Session 8: Bounty Hunters

In which bounty hunters attack the Sigil 6 from the darkness.

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier and what have they been up to?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider
  • The town is camped with the merchant caravan, to the east runs the Salt Road, to the north, somewhere in the forest, a portal bathes the dark horizon in blue light.

    The party was looking over magic items, deciding if anything was worth purchasing with the gold they grabbed from Castle Ravenloft. I asked everyone to make a Perception check before the oncoming ambush. Trundle, Dwarf Ranger and Kuru, Halfling Arcane Trickster, made their rolls. Trundle came from a dwarven holdfast that was under siege from Devils. I asked him how one could tell when Devils were about to attack – he said that you could always smell the sulfur coming from the stones. Kuru said that he often has a sixth sense before an ambush; I said that for some reason it reminded him of the law coming down on his crew after a heist.

  • The crossbow bolt hit one of Bugwump’s Firebolt Apprentices in the chest. Kuru and Jusko failed their saves and were unable to see for a round. Then Bugwump was hit with a crossbow bolt/lightning bolt that paralyzed him for a minute. It was a rough opening salvo. Things were looking grim.

  • Three things happened that turned the tide of the battle – Failed Soldier hit Bugwump with a Lesser Restoration and Helewynn Misty Stepped to the tree-line where Failed Soldier had noted the bolts were coming from. Helewynn lit up her firey blade, a beacon for the rest of the group. Trundle tracked down on the invisible Devil bounty hunter who had gone invisible.

  • Turned out it was an Orthon (bounty hunter to Archdukes of Hell), a Deathlock Mastermind (undead warlock) and Shadar Kai Shadow Dancer (stealthy elf with chains). The party turned the tide, killed the Deathlock and hunted down the Orthon; the Shadar Kair surrendered.

    Orthons usually will themselves to explode when they are close to death but Bugwump knew this with a 28 Arcana check and hit the Orthon with a psychic attack that left it reeling. Then Jusko beheaded it with his vorpal blade, leaving the Devil’s Brass Crossbow and Infernal Knife.

  • The surrendered Shadar Kai’s name is Halda of Gloomwrought, where she had been hired by the Devil. Turns out, the Red Court of Innistrad has a bounty out on Helewynn’s head. The dead apprentice’s family sought Bugwump’s guidance in how to deal with Halda. In the end she was given to the Squires’ custody to see if she could earn her keep on the roads to Gloomwrought.

    The fact that the merchant caravan’s guard captain is a vampire has not escaped the Sigil 6’s notice.

DM’s Notes: I tried using my Context, Cool Shit and Consequences note sheet and it was alright. I’ll post the sheet when I’ve used all of the material there. Honestly, what works for me when trying to come up with ideas is the ole, looking through the Monster Manual, or in this case, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

This week the Facebook Group question was:

The goat-head the zombie was holding told you all the eyes of Orcus are upon you and after defeating the latest zombie mob, you can feel this more than ever.

What has your character seen or felt that makes them think that Orcus is watching them with intense interest?

Kuru’s Player

Usually when you look out into the darkness and see the reflections from the eyes of animals in the darkness they shine back a bright white…when Orcus is using the creatures to spy on them, the reflected light is a blood red.


Jusko’s Player

You’re not supposed to be able to read in dreams. Scribbles, or blurred entries, or even books of blank paper betraying their gold bound leather clad covers are the rule. Jusko, a not-uneducated man, knows this and takes some comfort in it: No matter how dark his dreams descend he never again has to suffer the pages under the withering glare of House tutors. There is that, at least.

Until the f’ing Shadowfell.

Now, his boyhood tutors return – Dame Magda the Sword of Crones, and cataracted Uncle Aram the eyeless overseer of the lectern devils – grin too wide in maniacal glee when once-again young Jusko opens his primers and words appear for him to memorize and sing back in plainsong.

And as if this wasn’t torment enough, the words themselves are nightmares:

I am Orcus, and I will rut with your ancient ghosts as you tread my lands with your insipid toed feet. Their minds break under my weight. Your dead will never know you again.

I am Orcus, and have laid my hand upon your organs, your get will be birthed with my mark forevermore. This is repayment for the foul droppings and excretions you leave dotted across my domain.

I am Orcus, and I will break the thundering drums you name as Hearts and Lungs and Blood. It is deafening and obscene to me, and I will put those instruments inside out. My domain shall be one of silence eternal, a law writ in your entrails for all to see.

I am Orcus, and your words to Soth are meaningless wind.

I am Orcus, and I know the sound the boy made when your knife opened his liver to the air.

I am Orcus, and your lifelong lies are poetry.

I am Orcus, and I see you clearly, like no lover nor mother ever has.

I am Orcus. And I am coming.

The books cannot be closed, and the Hajek boy cannot wake up. The Library grows, the threats double in number and putrescence, then triple, then factorial into time bowl-warped by the ineffable collapsing star that the thing Orcus orbits. It will not let Jusko awake, It will not let his sleep be restful, It can be heard laughing as thunder, Its fingers spread closer like shadows – formless, massless, but present and unavoidable, all is hopeless all is -*

Failed Soldier’s Player

Failed Soldier does not sleep. They have learned to lie still for several hours to help others feel a bit less creeped out…maybe. During the times of quiet reflection, they feel a probing, prodding, and tugging at their essence, as if something is trying to find a way in. Since the latest zombie horde encounter, this has become more pronounced. To try to learn more, Failed Soldier put all thought into that point of light or force or whatever it is that is their self. This returned a vision. Their essence a shiny orb, being gnawed on by a goats head. Watching over this with dispassion are a raven and the eyes of the angel who made Failed Soldiers current body.

Next Game: The portal to the north is in need of some exploring.

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All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 7, On the Salt Road

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 7, On the Salt Road

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought / Session 7: On the Salt Road

In which the Sigil 6 save a merchant caravan from a zombie mob.

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider
  • It was a slow start tonight. Jusko’s player missed last game and I had said he had a common Shadow Flu, in which one’s shadow tries to kill them. It was quickly deemed the Shadow Shits, a nickname for the sickness, turning it into a shadowy poop joke. 😛

    Jusko’s shadow asked him to go into the Mists and take over Barovia and Jusko was having NONE of it. With a few Shadar Kai War Corvid riders, they met back up with the rest of the Sigil 6. Kuru started a conversation with the Shadar Kai riders about their strategies in fighting a dragon.

    “We run.”

    “But what would you do if you saw us getting attacked?”

    “We’d help those who were running.”

    Kuru is now discussing turning a cart into a mobile ballista platform.

  • They found a magical Cudgel of St. Cuthbert, a girdle dedicated to Kord, god of Storms and Strength and a mirror with a cityscape across the border. Kuru quickly used the mirror to scry on a thief ally from Sigil and watched him play a tile game with the thief’s grandmother. Trundle took up the cudgel (+2) and the Girdle of Kord (21 Strength). I need a way to make up magic items and treasures on the fly. I got inspiration for these on this table:

    Shrines in the Outlands
  • Failed Soldier had the 3 Who Are 1’s skull, the 3 skulls of the cursed paladins, fused into one undead abomination skull. He used his shiny new spell, Legend Lore and learned that the 3 siblings gained the attention of the Shadow-God Triumvirate that made the Demi-Plane of Dread. They put a bounty on their heads and Vecna, at something called a Lich-Moot, took it up, cursing them for their hubris in hoping to bring light to the Shadowfell. The 1 skull will become 3 again if it is blessed by three angels.

    The Three Who Are one
  • I asked Helewynn how she was getting her werewolves together. She described taking the out for a run a bit ahead of the caravan and I rolled to see what there was to see and there was a merchant caravan getting attacked by a Zombie Mob.


    Shadowfell Encounters
  • Helewynn described the werewolves putting pressure on the zombies to give the almost-overwhelmed caravan guards some breathing room. I wasn’t sure what to roll for that. Drew described how he uses the D&D skills and so we asked Helewynn what her approach was and we decided Survival was the skill to use for her approach.

    The battle with the mob started off rough but Trundle shielded Failed Soldier from a rough crit, Kuru let loose with his wand of lightning bolts and Jusko came across with an attack from the back of his pterodactyl, Stupid Dragon, using a Fighter power that got the zombies’ attention and got them to concentrate their attack on him.

  • Failed Soldier looked among the caravan for undead and they quickly discovered that the guard captain was a vampire. Captain Simon was Gloomwrought-born; the caravan is heading to a Shadar-Kai citadel to the south.

    I rolled on a table in the DMG that I wasn’t wild about and got a Wand of Magic Missiles, a Ring of Water Walking, a Staff of the Adder and Pipes of Haunting. The group is deciding if they want to purchase any of their arcane stash.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

DM’s Notes: This week I posted the following in the Facebook Group: “Things in the Shadowfell are strange. What has your character noticed in this land of undead, darkness and shadow? Strange dreams? Shadows behaving strangely? Sad thoughts of home?” The players responded with the following awesome and inspirational stuff:

I think Shadowfell trees bloom in black – fragile purple-black flowers, inkwet black leaves in summer, autumnal leaves blowing in the wind like scattering fibers of scorched mummy wraps – both particulate and weave somehow.

Player of Jusko

I think the autumnal imagery is a constant; despite a cycle of “growth,” the season always seems like late fall, when things are dying. But there is no winter to prepare the world for spring. Bugwump has started to notice the sameness of things: temperature, “sunlight,” the unmoving shadows with sharp edges. In fact, his own shadow has started to unnerve him, because every day it seems more separate from him.

Player of Bugwump

Failed Soldier’s Dreams, or the equivalent for those who do not sleep, are full of ravens cawing and looking intently at them as if to convey some truth that lies just out of reach.

Like Bugwump, they have noticed something odd about their shadow. The bright spot in the shadow that can often be seen by those who notice things, a common telltale of a corpse flea is shifting. For Failed Soldier, this has always shown in the head of the sleeve’s shadow. They have not seen it move, but notice it from time to time in the chest, the hand, sometimes nearby, but separate from the sleeve, as if it does not know where to nest.

The cycle of decay and rebirth is strange here in the Shadowfell. Like the town, many things are not complete. Nothing seems new, yet nothing really decays completely either.

Player of Failed Soldier

The Shadowfell food is bland. No matter how many spices are added to it everything ends up tasting…grey. Like shadows. Helewynn has started to eat less and less, and started to sleep a little more. Because her dreams are colored brilliant shades of red, and filled with the tastes of raw meat and iron rich blood. In the morning she turns away from whatever breakfast is offered with a wistful sigh born of half remembered phantom feasts of flesh.

Player of Helewynn

I need to use this good shit in game.

Next Game: Deeper into the Shadowfell – I need to spruce up the random encounter table. I also get to lore-drop some shit that is happening in Gloomwrought that is a direct result of their actions and I can’t wait…

Ygoni Exodus Map
Sigil 6 Subject Divider

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All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 6, The Three Who Are One

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 6, The Three Who Are One

In which 5 of the Sigil 6 destroy the Three Who Are One.

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought / Session 6: The Three Who Are One

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider
  • Jusko’s player was sick (just the flu) and so when Jusko and Kuru evaded the dragon and arrived at the Dread Bridge, Jusko had the Shadow Disease, in which someone’s shadow tries to kill them. Kuru paid the bridge-warriors for some aerial support while the villagers travel. They will escort Jusko back if he should defeat the Shadow Disease.

    “It is common when Prime Material folk come to the Shadowfell. Coin flip if he defeats it or his shadow devours him…”

    Feel better, Drew!

  • Helewynn’s newly bitten werewolves divided into 3 packs and scouted the 3 castles where the Three Who Are One could have been. I had Helewynn’s player roll a Perception check, acting through her packs. It was a solid success. They knew where the undead abomination, a conglomerate undead of 3 siblings who wanted to carve a Kingdom of Heaven from the Shadowfell’s darkness.

    I grabbed a beautiful map from Dyson Logos’ site and threw it in our Jamboard. The map I chose was a Dwarven castle, so yeah, the Paladins took on a ruined Dwarven keep when they settled here. I am really enjoying giving the players the maps as often as possible. We did a little entryway planning, took our hour-into-the-session break and got to it.

  • The Three Who Are One
  • I grabbed a Skull Lord from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes and a Zombie Clot from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. They are fun monsters and it was a fun, challenging fight for 5 level 8 and 9 characters.

    The Three Who Are One opened with Finger of Death and took Kuru the Halfling Rogue down to 4 hit points. That set the tone as Bugwump messed up the Three Who Are One’s plans by creating a gravity well that sucked the monsters into a hallway that the Three was going to make a kill zone.

    The players had a rough dice night. The Three bought itself a round with Mirror Image, forcing Helewynn to swing at illusions for a round. When they destroyed the Zombie Clot and had the Three Who Are One down to 2 hit points, it cast Dimension Door and got outta there.

    Failed Soldier found it with magic and they ran through (or Misty Stepped) through a Cloudkill and made their way through an Ice Storm and Trundle missed twice (the d20 was cruel to Trundle tonight) and Kuru jumped on the monster’s back and finished it.

  • As it fell, its skulls splitting into pieces, Trundle said, “We will watch over your people; you can rest now.” Failed Soldier offered a ritual to put the dead to rest. Trundle took on a Cleric level and has begun to worship a God of Portals. He is going to make his way through the keep, getting to know the place by learning about its doorways and doors. Kuru wants the magic items. We were a half hour over time to finish the fight. We’ll get to all that next game.

DM’s Notes: That was a fun fight, and in some ways, a tougher fight than Strahd. But as we discussed after the game, not everyone was there and they charged right in and took the monster on head-on, something they worked hard to avoid with the First Vampire.

Next Game: The village heads northward along the Salt road towards Gloomwrought, City of Midnight. We’re call it Shadowfell Oregon Trail.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

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All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 5, Recruiting Villagers, Scouting Ahead and Evading a Dragon

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought / Session 5: Recruiting Villagers, Scouting Ahead and Evading a Dragon

In which the Sigil Six recruit the villagers, scout ahead and meet a dragon in the skies.

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider
  • Everyone had a thing to do while the village prepared to leave. Hellewynn was gathering elders to offer them lycanthropy. Bugwump was gathering those who were interested in changing reality with their mind and will to teach them the Firebolt cantrip. Failed Soldier gathered those who could mend broken bones. Trundle scouted the road ahead. Kuru and Jusko had a roadtrip back to the Dread Bridge to see if they could recruit any Dire Corvid riders.

  • Failed Soldier cast a spell to see what the local gods thought – did they need to hunt down the Three Who Are One or would the undead abomination leave the villagers alone as they made their exodus? A raven-winged angel appeared on a worn gravestone and told Failed Soldier that the Three Who Are One would certainly attack…

    The 3 Who Are 1, Skull Lord
  • Helleywnn is blunt and her offer to the older folk of the village was as matter of fact as an offer, suggesting that without the Moon’s gift of lycanthropy they would be obvious targets. She changed into her werewolf form, bones and sinew grinding, the Moon Elf Barbarian didn’t scream due to her discipline.

    Of the 200 who came to hear her offer, 170 told her that they would mark their doors with a moon sigil so she knew to enter and bite them.

  • Trundle jumped on a pterodactyl and looked at the road ahead. In the forests there were griffons hunting a herd of unicorns. A ghostly village was along the road, having been decimated by some Shadowfell threat. Somewhere in the distance was some kind of portal to another world, spilling light over the horizon and a lake had some houses nearby.

    Also, the zombie mob they evaded in a previous session had been moved through this route; someone was moving it and hiding it.

    The hexes Trundle scouted out on the back of a pterodactyl…
  • After decimating the unfinished cathedral with a spell that summoned up a little arcane black hole, Bugwump told the crowd who came to see his offer that few if any of them would ever be wizards but some could learn a cantrip that might help the village survive if they had the will to change the world. Bugwump’s magic was always very amphibian/biological, so we decided that the cantrip would cause one of the Fire Bolt Brigade’s bones to glow like a coal in a fire.

  • Failed Soldier gathered folk and offered to teach them to bandage wounds. After Helewynne’s offer of lycanthropy and Bugwump’s offer to teach a mighty fire cantrip, the villagers were hoping for some kind of oath to a Death God. Failed Soldier’s player said something interesting about how of all of the people who answered their call, one or two might have the call to be a cleric. Interesting!

    I asked them to roll and they saw a flock of ravens who were, in fact angels, whispering about a little girl. Failed Soldier approached Mavetta, a little girl who had some Shadar Kai blood somewhere in her ancestry. Her auntie didn’t like people talking about her links to the Raven Queen. This is a cool seed planted for later.

  • Kuru and Jusko headed back to the Dread Bridge, a Shadar Kai stronghold that guards the Shadowfell from the monsters in the Demi-Plane of Dread. They were hoping to recruit some War Corvid riders to help the exodus.

    A failed Survival roll led them to being hunted by a Green Shadow Dragon (not yet named but I’ve got a name in mind). Kuru covered a cave they were hiding in with a simple spell but failed his fear save. There was a close call but they made it to the Dread Bridge due to Jusko’s amazing riding and Kuru’s invisibility wand. They evaded the dragon and learned about one another in the process.

DM’s Notes: For some reason I was initially hesitant to have dice hit the table concerning the recruitment efforts but I did and I’m glad. Failed Soldier’s player suggested that the information the dice would offer would be interesting and useful and those rolls really were.

The group was spirited and maybe a bit randy tonight. Despite the cold, spring is in the air and that spring air brought lots of goofy sex jokes.

Next Game: We’ll start off with the Sigil Six hunting down the Skull Lord known as The 3 Who Are 1.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

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All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 4, Somewhere Between Lord Soth and the Moon

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 4, Somewhere Between Lord Soth and the Moon

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought / Session 4: Somewhere Between Lord Soth and the Moon

In which the Sigil 6 comes face to face with Lord Soth and begins to plan moving 2000 villagers across the Shadowfell using every tool at hand.

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider
  • The Squires (what they call the village guard) called the town together to hear out the great heroes who are said to have killed Strahd. Everyone who wanted to speak was able to say something. I didn’t ask for a roll because I want the adventure to happen and don’t want the village not to agree to it because someone rolled a 2 at the wrong time. There wasn’t an interesting result for a failed die roll, so no dice were rolled.

    The villagers were given a day and a night to think it over.

  • Failed Soldier detected undead, a ghast hiding in the unfinished, unconsecrated shell of a cathedral. Failed Soldier and Kuru followed the ghast and its chained ghouls to an abandoned farm where a family who worshipped Orcus had been driven out years ago. Kuru followed by stealth and Failed Soldier went back to gather the whole party.

    Kuru watched the Ghast report to Lord Soth, who was sharpening his blade while his banshee host floated in their sleep-meditation among the rafters of the old barn. Kuru found a good spot to snipe should he be called upon to turn the tide of an upcoming battle.

  • Bugwump burned the ghouls into ash with a fireball as they approached and nearly killed the ghast as well. Then Jusko asked for a parley, hoping that Lord Soth’s knighthood would mean that the Death Knight would respect another knight. They met on a nearby family barrow.

    “Don’t do anything stupid unless I come running down the hill. If I do, bring all of the stupid.” Jusko left his sword with the group (I think he left it with Hellewynn) and Soth left it with his nightmare steed, despite the banshees telling him that it was surely a trap.

  • “How heroic.”

    Lord Soth upon hearing about the Sigil 6’s plan to relocate the villagers.
  • Having a cool conversation with a powerful evil creature is one of my favorite things in fantasy gaming. I call it Tea with a Lich. It started to drizzle as Jusko met Soth on the top of an old overgrown barrow. Soth was talking to the spirit of an ancestor of the folk who were forced out of town when Jusko approached; he got there in time to hear Soth dismiss the spirit of an Orcus disciple.

    They played Outlands Chess, played on a circular board with Sigil in the middle and the Lady of Pain occasionally floating across the board wreaking havoc. We rolled not to find out who won but to find out what they learned about one another. Jusko learned Soth’s hit point total from a class power (180HP) and also learned that he was Chaotic Evil but was the worst kind of CE; Soth thought he was Lawful Evil and the reason he had to break oaths was because of others lack of faith and grace. Asshole.

    Soth learned why Jusko had killed his apprentice, the evil act that turned him towards banditry and got him put in the Maze where he met the Sigil 6. Jusko gave Soth back the chestplate he had found in Strahd’s castle and Soth agreed that he would stay out of this affair with the town marching north for as long as he could and would give warning if he had to get involved. Awesome stuff was said. It was a really fun scene.

    The Death Knight suggested that they kill the Ghast, a guide to the Shadowfell assigned from Orcus’ court. Bugwump did so with a shiny new daylight spell.

    Jusko’s player does this cool thing where he gives bad-ass NPC’s weight. The player described Jusko taking a drink when he got back from talking to Soth and his hand shaking.

  • Trundle’s player is a craftsman and wanted to know if there was any interesting material to utilize to make something now or later. I pulled Hellewynn in and some stone-carvers showed them a block of stone from the moon. Trundle chipped off a hunk of moon stone to carve something later.

    “We were going to carve a warrior like you, one of the Moon’s Chosen so that even in the Shadowfell, we would have a moon in the sky.”

    “A nice gesture but far from the Bright Lady’s glory. How did you get this here?”

    “When the original siblings came here from the Heavens, they were powerful paladins and many thought their plan to bring light to the Shadowfell had merit. Angels brought us this stone, commanded by gods.”

    When Helewynn is within 50 feet of this hunk of moon-rock she can turn into a werewolf.

  • Jusko asked questions about the fighting capability of the town; it wasn’t great. Failed Soldier asked about the original 3 knights, who have become an undead being (Skull Lord) called the 3 Who Are 1. A squire talked about how they pointed to a bandit leader and that bandit died and came back as a zombie.

    The Sigil 6 got together and had dinner, just the player characters. Jusko suggested that Helewynn turn some villagers into werewolves. We talked about Bugwump teaching those who could learn the Fire Bolt cantrip. The table is affectionately referring to this campaign arc as Oregon Trail.

    We ended the game discussing infecting villagers with lycanthropy and deciding if the group wants to jump on the 3 Who Are 1 before the sibling paladins turned undead abomination jumps the villagers as they try to leave.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

DM’s Notes: I fucking love Tea with a Lich. There needs to be a name for when players take all of the different elements at the table and make something amazing that you never expected.

Next Game: The map…

https://www.patreon.com/thomasno/posts
Hex Art, not token art

We’ll start in the Ygoni Valley, Hex 071, headed northwesterly on the Salt Road, through the Bone Forest.

To the north you can see the Queen’s Mountain, a dark shape where black basalt is said to be quarried.

To the Northeast you can see the Lych-Fingers, mountains that seem to reach to dark sky like undead claws, where none dare mine.

As we scout and see more, I’ll unveil more.

Me, in the FB group
Sigil 6 Subject Divider

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All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 3, “What would the best version of yourself do?”

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 3, “What would the best version of yourself do?”

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought / Session 3: “What would the best version of yourself do?”

In which the Sigil Six find an aborted city in a valley without hope and decide to save these people from the Shadowfell’s grasp.

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider
  • Drew, who plays Jusko, posted his favorite moments in our FB group. These are posted with his permission.

  • Bugwump’s casual cruelty towards his apprentice hints at the life he led in his youth – we emulate what we know, in the begininng.

  • Kuru casting invisibility on Brin, the player realizing this is a pointless tactical act but saying “It’s the roleplay, it’s how he’s protecting her in the moment.” Playing to fail is awesome.

  • Trundle reporting what happened last game, Kuru’s fear .. and then outrage.. and then back to fear. Trundle utterly unphased by the events, doesn’t even roll his eyes.

  • Judd’s description of headless and armless angel statues was particularly creepy after having met an angel in Ravenloft.

  • Knight puns , all knight

  • Whatever the Ygoni knights are now sounds awful.

  • Judd remembering that Chesteropheles exists and playing him to the hilt as a corrupt sinister little f*ck.

  • Hellewyn the shining silver knight, getting heroic attention from locals. That’s what bling gets you.

  • he ‘are we doing this?’ conversation over coffee. Everyone signs on to this ludicrous mission for reasons of their own, but also because their comrades are doing this. It was a good conversation.

As a DM, I can draw up a map and daydream up a story of angel-blooded knights coming to the Shadowfell with swords of light, hoping to bring the shining hope of the Heavens to a hopeless place. The Ygoni Clan, chosen of the Heavens, came to this valley with big dreams. Their cathedral remains unfinished, still covered in decrepit scaffolding and statues of angels are incomplete, without heads or limbs.

Ygoni Knights Shadowfell holdings / May Our Swords Be Lights in the Shadow

I can write this stuff up but I never really know how the players will react to it. I made it clear that this was not Barovia, where killing one vampire would change the Land. The Shadowfell is a Plane of Shadow. Yes, the three siblings of the Ygoni clan became the Three Who Are One (a Skull Lord) and Lord Soth is in the area, recruiting this fell undead monster for the Death Knight’s Host. But that doesn’t mean killing either of those monsters would change the reality of the Shadowfell.

I had no idea what they would do with this situation, a city inhabited by the faithful who followed holy knights from the Gates of Heaven and the craftsfolk who came to build a Cathedral of Light in the Shadowfell. They talked it over and decided that they would lead the city of 2000 souls north to Gloomwrought and from there get them to the uninhabited lands Jusko’s family vacated.

I put them in an unwinnable situation and they shook their heads and said, “Fuck that.” They are going to try and find a win in an adventure that is going to be part Battlestar Galactica, part Oregon Trail with heavy dashes of Orcus and Undead Mobs and Lord Soth’s host in the mix.

I have no idea how this is going to turn out; I have no idea how this table will surprise me every week, only that they will and when they do think outside the box and surprise me – that it will be delightful.

DM’s Note: Usually I go over the most dramatic scenes and while this game did have a petulant apprentice, a Shadow Demon and an Orcus Cultist in a crow’s cage – the decision felt like the thing to write down and commemorate.

Next Game: The city of Chiaroscuro picks up and heads north.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

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