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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

    Join Date
    May 2018

    Default Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    *Edit* This campaign is now finished and posted.

    Hello everyone.

    I had created this account in hopes of posting a campaign journal for a 5e Ravenloft game that I am DMing. One of the players has worked to create the journal and the original idea was that they would be joining me on these forums to share and discuss it. Hopefully the others can join as well.

    We normally play on Wednedays and it takes him a few days to type these up. I would love to share this story with the playground and answer any questions or speculation that I can. In advance I would also like to thank these forums for years of inspiration and rules help. Also, if the first he prepped is any indication thse are gonna be long...

    Without further ado!

    Spoiler: Overview
    Show

    Only one of us had ever played in the Ravenloft campaign setting before, so the DM gave us a quick overview. Ravenloft is a world of gothic horror, of monsters and mists, and ultimately an examination of the tragedy of man. He explained that this campaign would take place entirely in Ravenloft, and would end when…or if we ever got home. He wouldn’t dissuade us from playing non-humans but did give us fair warning that they as well as magic were not always welcomed in Ravenloft. He let us know that magic, while allowed, might not always function and certain spells were off the table. Lastly, we had a group agreement that player death was possible. Resurrection was not going to be available and even if we found a way, it might not be the same person who died that came back. The DM encouraged us to do some reading or research on the history of Germany and the Black Forest, as those were some of the major inspirations for the country we would be traveling in.


    Spoiler: The Cast
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    We all started at 2nd level but the DM asked us for our archetype plans.

    Ginko – N Human Ranger (Beastmaster) – Grew up almost devoid of human contact in a dense jungle region called the Koonga. A firm believer in nature, personal responsibility, and the natural cycle of life and death (undead favored enemy). Ginko dual wields a heavy liquor jug and sickle-like fishing hook.

    Sir Edmund of Hank – LG Human Paladin (Devotion) – Sir Edmund is a knight from a rural region in Faerun near Amn. He is a devotee of Torm and specializes in mounted combat astride his horse Dasha. He fights with a longsword and shield. Edmund is an advocate for trust, the greater good, and order.

    Aarin – NG Human Druid (Moon) – Aarin is a reclusive and contemplative Druid. He protected his home forest and its animal inhabitants, but often clashed with a local Ranger with a differing ideology, as well as encroachment from nearby settlers. He is quiet, gentle, and enjoys spending time in animal form for the sake of experiencing the world through different eyes.

    Terminus – CN Halfling Rogue (Assassin) – Terminus was orphaned at a young age and raised by a poor human farming family. He was recruited by a smalltime local gang of thugs, using his small size to aid their activities as highwaymen. An unfortunate turn of events led to a massacre of his family, after which he became a vigilante, often resorting to bloody methods of justice. Terminus fights with short sword, and occasionally dual wields a second one as well.

    Luminor – CG Wood Elf Rogue (Arcane Trickster) – Luminor is a second story man, operating as an independent thief in a large city. He sees himself as a Robin Hood type figure fighting a corrupt system, but at heart is simply an anarchist. Luminor generally hangs back and picks off enemies with his bow.


    Act 1: Strangers in a Strange Land
    Spoiler: Session 1 - A Cabin in the Woods
    Show


    The campaign began with a description of the heavy mists that rolled in on our characters, wherever they were at the time. One by one we awoke to the smell of damp pine needles and earth. We were in complete darkness. As we gathered our senses we met each other and tried to piece together where we were and what had happened. It soon became clear that there was seemingly no pattern as to where we were from our what we had been doing before we arrived. We lit some torches and found were in a dark and creepy forest.

    Terminus the halfling and Aarin the druid climbed up the tall pine trees, only to report that there was forest for as far as they could see in the dim moonlight. More disconcerting was that neither of them recognized any of the stars in the sky. We slowly began to realize that wherever we were, it was not our homes. A quick discussion determined that we were all from different planes (read: campaign settings) and that we were probably going to have to work together if we were going to find our way home.

    Ginko the ranger and Aarin found a deer path going roughly north and south. South was as good as a direction as any so we set off. For an hour or so we clomped through the dark woods, stopping every once a while at a sudden noise or rustling nearby. We weren’t alone in the woods and several times we spied eyes that reflected in our torchlight.

    Finally, the deer path came to a slight clearing in the woods. In the dim moonlight Luminor the elf was able to make out a ramshackle cabin. We called out, but heard nothing but rustling and movement in the forest and in the trees above us. Somewhere a crow cawed and fluttered off. With trepidation, we approached the cabin. Sir Edmund our paladin went first, and avoided stepping in an old rusty beartrap that was in the field. The cabin was two stories tall, with a stone chimney but otherwise build out of wooden beams, the windows were dark. The whole thing smelled like dust and earth. One of our rogues, Luminor, was able to pick the lock on the front door after a knock was met once again with silence. As soon as we opened the door, a tripwire that was rigged to the door set off a crossbow trap, hitting Luminor square in the chest and knocking him prone on the porch. Whoever lived or used to lived here was certainly not a fan of strangers. A cocky Ginko laughed a Luminor, much to his chagrin as the first step into the darkened cabin put him right into another beartrap. Edmund left his horse outside, and Aarin, stayed back to watch the clearing from the porch.

    Carefully now, we brought in some light and had the rogues look out for any more traps. The first floor was one big room, mostly empty with a stone fireplace on the north end. The first thing we noticed were several nets hanging from the ceiling. Upon closer inspection, it turned out that they were full of hand. Some were skeletal and falling apart, some were still covered in rotting flesh. Above the fireplace was a wooden sign, with words painted in what we seriously hoped was just old red paint. “Those who fought back”

    At this moment, we heard something skittering across the floor near the staircase to the second story. It was one of the hands, animated and rushing towards us. Edmund gave it a good hit with his longsword. Terminus the halfling said something along the lines of “that was gross”, when all of the sudden the nets split open and dozens of hands swarmed across the floor. Our first combat!

    We fought several swarms of animated hands, and they actually messed us up pretty good. A few rounds into the combat we started hearing loud thumps coming from underneath us. The DM pounded the bottom of the table every so often and described the dust outlining what appeared to be a trapdoor to a root cellar shaking with every thump. The battle went back and forth and we lost a great deal of health from the swarms clawing and scratching us all up. Aarin went around the side of the house and broke a window to use his spells, only to have the swarms crawl through the window and attack him alone outside. The cellar door broke open and a half-rotted zombie looking woman pulled herself out. She was grimy and gross, with wiry black hair, long jagged fingernails with dirt under them from trying to dig her way out of the locked cellar. She started to scream. We needed to take out this screaming zombie lady or she was going to bring whatever else was in the woods here, and we were already pretty ragged from the fight. We eventually bested her and finished up the last of the crawling hand swarms.

    Panting, we wondered what was upstairs. Terminus the halfling rogue was able to stop us from stepping on a false step on the staircase, he punched through with his shortsword to show us a grim set of spikes under the step. At the top of the staircase was another closed door. Aarin, by now wary of traps, asked us all to stay back and he used thorn whip to try and open the door from the landing. He did and on cue a ribcage stuffed with alchemist fire hit the ground and burst into flames where we would have been standing. We put the fire out and had Aarin, Ginko, and Terminus investigate the second floor while the rest made sure that there were no more surprises on the ground level.

    The second floor was also bare, a long hallway with three doors. One by one we checked the rooms. The first one was completely empty. The next room had a bedframe, but no mattress. A skeleton was bound by the wrists and ankles the frame, and was missing a head. The last room had a bit of stuff in it. It appeared to be a workshop of some kind, we found bits and pieces of traps in various stages of assembly, including some alchemist fire and beartraps which we pocketed. On a workbench was a large black crossbow bolt. Further inspection revealed that the shaft was lined with tiny black barbs, and that it was designed to penetrate but not exit the victim. The bolt head was hooked back to prevent easy removal. Anyone shot by this would be in agonizing pain if they moved, and removal would be a grisly affair. Ginko had a heavy crossbow, but didn’t feel like he was comfortable using a bolt such as this. It was also strangely large, even for the heavy crossbow. He used gloves to place it carefully into his pack.

    The last thing in the workshop was a metal lever built into the ceiling. We debated for a while whether we should pull it or just leave the damned cabin. Aarin decided the throw caution to the wind and pull the lever as Ginko and Terminus were heading back into the hallway. There were a few clicks and those on the first floor who were near windows saw flaming crossbow bolts fired from some sort of mechanism on the rooftop. The bolts were perfectly aimed at tall metal poles with torches, about eight that ringed the clearing. We must have missed these on our approach, as they were pretty tall and skinny. With proper illumination, we were able to get a better view from inside the cabin at what was outside. We saw dozens of gibbets, metal cages hanging from the trees. Many of them had bodies in various stages of age and decay in them. Some of those bodies began to start shaking, moaning, and tearing at their cages.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Session 2 - Thornwall
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    After a quick recap, we picked up exactly where we left off. The party reconvened on the first floor, took a quick look at the creatures writhing in the gibbets outside and decided that it was best if we all just leave. Not even a short rest, we just booked it.
    There was no longer a path to follow but we continued south. It was still in the middle of the night, and the dancing shadows of our torch played off of the thick pine forest.

    Luminor’s elven ears perked at the snapping of stick, but we didn’t stop to see what it was. After another hour or so of wandering vaguely south in the forest, our more perceptive party members got a sensation that we were being watched… and followed. Several somethings were doing their best to be quiet in the forest, but had been tailing us for almost a mile. Edmund, astride his horse Dasha, pulled to a full stop and demanded that whatever it was reveal itself.

    Seven heavily armed and armored humans emerged from cover. Men and women in dark colored armor, with spears, swords, and crossbows trained on us. Those with shields had a split heraldry, a black field with two white x’s on one side (xx), and a dark green field with four brown triangles in a row (^^^^) on the other. Sir Edmund rolled to see if he recognized the heraldry but expectedly did not recognize it. He did roll high enough to understand the significance of the symbols. The two x’s represented a double cross of some kind, strange to advertise in heraldry, and the row of four symbols represented a wall of some kind, likely in a forest or grassland.

    There was a moment of tense silence, broken with Edmund demanding to know who they were and why they were following us. An apparent leader stepped forward, lowered his spear, and raised the visor on his helm. He introduced himself as Sebastian Cross, the leader of the Night Patrol out of Thornwall. He was a dark-haired man who looked to be in his early thirties. He questioned us about who we were and where we were from, or going. He also asked if that was our blood we were covered in or someone else’s.

    Everyone lowered their weapons and we got a bit of exposition and explanation. We were in the country of Aambrust, in a forest known as the Tottenwald. Sebastian provided us with a map and gave us directions to his home town of Thornwall. We were to continue south until we came to the first road we came upon, the Breakneck. We asked why a road was called this and he said that one had better be moving at a breakneck pace on it, or you may never reach your destination. His unit was composed of some of the best fighting men and women out of a nearby town called Thornwall. Their jobs were to clear away the monsters, beasts, and undead of the forest, at least within a day’s journey of Thornwall. He said that if we followed his directions and moved quickly we could reach Thornwall just after sunrise.

    Furthermore, we got some answers as to what had happened to us. Apparently, it was somewhat of a local phenomenon that “outsiders” would suddenly appear in the forest. It was fairly rare, but happened often enough that they recognized the pattern. Sebastian did not know of a way back, he said it sounded like our homelands must be very far away, for the sounded much different than conditions here in Aambrust.

    We asked Sebastian about the cabin that we had encountered, and told him of our encounter inside. The whole Patrol grew tense and they said that we were lucky that nobody was home and that they should probably leave it at that. Areas such as the cabin were given a wide berth. Outsiders and townsfolk alike were best served by avoiding places like that. We tried for more info, but stern glares told us to leave it alone.

    Before we departed Sebastian told us that those guarding the gates were going to be very suspicious, strangers were not exactly welcomed in Thornwall. He scrawled quick note vouching for us and said that we should ask for Odric if the sun was up or his older sister Victoria if we arrived during the night.
    Those two were the captains of the respective watches and he trusted that his word would grant us passage.

    We followed Sebastian’s direction and map towards Thornwall. It turned out that we were fairly close to the Breakneck road, and followed it west. Just before sunrise a solitary rider on a brown horse road past us going east. He lifted his hat in greeting, but did not stop to converse. We looked on the map to see what would be in that direction and saw that there was a small settlement roughly in the middle of the large forest called Brombeere. The Breakneck roughly bisected the forest going east to west with the Tottenwald to the north of the road and the Fells to the south.

    At last we started seeing signs of civilization. The forest thinned a little but not completely. We started seeing small homesteads and fences, and little pathways breaking from the road. We then arrived at our destination, Thornwall. True to its name it was surrounded by a massive wooden wall, maybe thirty feet high. The tops of the wall were spiked, and wiry black brambles grew at the base and wrapped themselves around the first six feet or so. A watchtower was built next to a large wooden gate, which was closed. Atop this watchtower waved a green flag with four brown triangles, the symbol of Thornwall. Two guards in the tower aimed crossbows at us, although not overly aggressively, and asked us our business. We said that we were outsiders and asked if we could see Odric, explaining that we had run into Sebastian in the woods and he told us we could find refuge here. One disappeared and after a few minutes the gate began to open, behind it was a metal tunnel that resembled a cage, there was a heavy portcullis on either side. On the far end we could see through the light fog a middle aged man in heavy black coat. He waved us forward. We entered the tunnel and the portcullis slammed shut behind us. He waved at some nearby guards and a bunch of pigs were led to the cage we were standing in. They sniffed and grunted at us. Aarin reached out and pet their noses. Odric approached and asked to see our supposed note from Sebastian. Satisfied with its contents, he asked the guards to raise the inside portcullis.

    He told us a little bit about Thornwall, some of the various shops and businesses that we might be interested in including an inn with attached beer garden, smithy, butcher, etc.

    The town was relatively clean and maintained, a quaint little Germanic themed town with kids playing in the muddy streets and people coming and going about their morning business. Odric said that Lord Cross would no doubt get in touch with us at some point. Lord Cross was the father of Sebastian and Victoria (the night watch captain). He didn’t rule the town per se, but helped resolve disputes and such. We asked Odric about the pigs and he said that not only was pork the primary meat source of Thornwall, but that the pigs were able to detect Lycanthropes even in human form. We asked if they had been troubled by were-creatures. Odric smiled and said, “Not anymore.”

    Fast forwarding through some of the less exciting bits. We checked in at the inn, had some beer and hot food, and took a short rest. We stopped by some of the shops and picked up a few rumors, information about the immediate area, and some possible quests. Apparently, nobody was going to invite you into their home, as vampires couldn’t enter without an invitation. It was common to just walk in, which bothered the well-mannered Paladin Edmund. A shipment of blackberry liquor was supposed to arrive a few days back from Brombeere but never arrived, it was probably attacked by the werewolves that prowled the Tottenwald.

    There was constant pressure and danger from undead in Aambrust. Occasionally a band of gypsy people called the Vistani would visit and trade. If we ran into them we should keep our eyes on our coin purse but take advantage of their selection of wares and amazing tales. We also got the feeling that the people here were a little racist so Luminor pulled his hood up to cover his ears and we started pretending the Terminus the halfling was Edmunds son. Edmund didn’t like playing along, but Terminus kept running around asking his “dad” to buy him things.

    There was one notable encounter with the butcher, named Jon, that lead to a funny moment and our next quest. As we entered his shop we could smell blood and meat. Ropes of sausage hung over our heads and other meats were curing or offered up as the daily cuts. Behind the counter, a large balding man with a bloody apron and a wicked looking cleaver was cutting meat.

    We asked him what his was cutting. “Bodies.” Okay…. what kind of bodies? “Any bodies really, it’s all meat to me” We glanced at each other. So…. what kind of bodies were these? “Kids.” All during this he never looked up and just kept chopping away. After a long silence he stopped turned around and said, “What? Ye never had goat meat?”

    We started talking to Jon the butcher and got some more information. It was mid-October, we had just missed the harvest celebration by about two weeks. Jon was running a little bit behind on preparing the meats and rations for the winter months, but noticed that his brother-in-law Aami hadn’t shown up with any hogs for butchering. Aami and Jon’s sister Gardenia had a farm a few hours north of Thornwall. Normally Jon would go check on them and their son Erwin, but he had to make sure the town had their winter stores ready, and he was already behind.

    Jon said that he had a fair bit of coin from all of the orders, and would pay us fair as well as throwing in a healthy portion of fine cuts if we could just go check it out and make sure that his sister and brother-in-law were alright.

    Then for some reason Aarin the druid turned into a dog. He said that he was going to try and comfort the butcher, but instead it freaked him out. He thought that Aarin was some sort of monster and attacked him with his meat cleaver. He gave him a mighty wound with the cleaver and Aarin, still in dog form, grabbed a rope of sausage and ran out of the shop. We apologized profusely and explained Aarin’s abilities to shapeshift. Jon thought it some sort of witchcraft or werewolf curse, but a few well rolled persuasion checks calmed him into begrudging acceptance. Sir Edmund paid for the sausage and we set out for the inn. We planned on leaving for Aami’s farm in the morning after a full night’s rest.
    The night went by almost without incident.

    Terminus awoke in the middle of the night feeling something dripping on his face. There didn’t seem to be a leak or anything, but when he lit the oil lamp he found that there was blood all over his pillow and parts of his blankets. He woke the party up and everyone started to investigate, as well as notify the innkeeper. However, when we all got back to Terminus’ room we were not able to find out much more. The innkeeper thought it was very strange but there wasn’t a history of hauntings or anything like this so there wasn’t much he could do. With that, we all finished up the rest, hoping that nothing else happened in the night. Our ranger Ginko set up the beartraps strategically around his bed, but they were untouched come morning.

    The next morning, we set out for Aami’s farm. It did not take but a few hours of travel through to get there. Here and there the forest had been cut down or there was natural open space where we could see various farms and freshly harvested fields.

    As we approached the lone farm a bit of a ways off of the road we saw that Aami’s farmland was grey and flaky, as if a fine layer of ash had been sprinkled over everything. We didn’t see any farm animals, and his crops were rotting in the fields. We approached his home. There was a large barn close by, as well as some fences on the other side of the two-story farmhouse. Out front was a stone well. We peered inside the barn, but didn’t see anything but hay and farming implements.

    We took a deep breath and knocked on the door. A skinny hollow-faced man cracked the door open and peered out. He identified himself as Aami. We asked if he was ok and he said he was fine. We said that Jon sent us to check on him and his family and he said that they were all fine so we could go home. We asked if we could see his wife, he sighed and said that she was not feeling great and still sleeping upstairs and that we were starting to be rude. We group huddled and felt like something was up, so a few successful social rolls later we got into the house. Ginko stayed out front and the rest of the party took a seat or stood at his table.

    There were only 3 chairs, one of which Aami sat down at and scowled at us. Luminor snuck away and went up the stairs to encounter a locked door. He rolled poorly and couldn’t get it open, and then failed his stealth check on his way back down. Aami got really upset and told us that we were being rude and intruding and he didn’t see what the problem was so why couldn’t we just all go away and leave him and his family alone.

    Meanwhile outside, Ginko took a look at the fields and down the well. When the DM asked him to roll a Wisdom save we all shifted in our seats. Ginko got a 13 or something and the DM took him into another room. When they returned, the DM reminded us about metagaming and proceeded with the scene.

    We all went outside and wondered what to do. What were our options? We weren’t about the strongarm this farmer or tie him up or anything, what if we were wrong? Luminor suggested that he use his history as a second story man to climb up the outside of the farmhouse and see if he could look inside the second story window at the room that he couldn’t get into.

    As he did that, Aarin’s player decided that Aarin would look down the well. He whiffed his save and the DM took him into the other room. When they returned, Aarin asked the other rogue Terminus to come over.

    Suspicious, Terminus asked why. Aarin said that he thought he saw something at the bottom of the well, and that maybe Terminus could climb down or use his higher perception to get a better look. Trying not to metagame, Terminus and Ginko walked over to Aarin at the side of the stone well.

    Meanwhile, Luminor climbed up to the second story window and looked in. It was a simple bedroom, and everything seemed pretty normal inside. However, Luminor’s elven senses spotted weird markings at the bottom of the door, as if it had been scratched or clawed at. There were thin streaks of blood at the base of the door, but nothing at the handle or upper portion. Luminor used his thief’s tools and rolled high enough that he was able to silently remove the window pane and stepped into the room.

    He found Gardenia, alive and curled up in a fetal position on the far side of the bed. Her fingers were bloody, and her legs were bent in a way that told him that they were obviously broken. Upon seeing him she crawled towards the window and wailed that she needed to save her son Erwin. Luminor asked from what? Where was Erwin? Gardenia cried and screamed that Aami had thrown him down the well.

    Back at the well, Terminus had hopped up the edge when Ginko suddenly made to push him. Ginko failed his roll, but Aarin succeeded on his and Terminus went stumbling over the edge into the darkness.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Session 3 - Aami's Farm and Cross Manor
    Show

    Luminor’s player was absent this session, so we ruled that in shock he fell back out of the window and hit his head on the wooden wagon that he used to climb up, effectively knocking him out cold.

    We were asked to roll initiative. Terminus succeeded on his acrobatics check to grab onto the side of the well, but he had fallen down quite far. He dared a look down and felt on overwhelming sense of darkness and hunger, he got a notion that something was about to come up out of the murky blackness. He started his climb but the dice were not with him and he was unable to get any sort of grip on the moist rock. Edmund cried out in exclamation and ran up to the well, admonishing Ginko and Aarin for their foolish behavior, he called down to Terminus to see if he was alright. Terminus called back “Help!” and that they needed to get him out of there. Edmund use the rest of his turn to get his rope out and toss it down to the halfling. Aarin attempted to push Edmund down the well, but the Paladin’s athletics were pretty high, so he pushed him back and told him to knock it off.

    At that point, the DM described a gurgling sound, and whatever it was down there focused entirely on Terminus. Ginko got to reroll his save, which he apparently succeeded because he snapped out of it. Wild eyed, he looked at Edmund and told them that they needed to get Terminus out NOW. Terminus made a jump from the side of the well to try and grab the rope. He made his check and began to climb. On Edmund’s turn, he decided that they didn’t have time for this, so he ran away while holding the rope, easily hauling the diminutive thief out of the well.

    Aarin rerolled his save at the end of his turn as well and regained his senses. A huge black ooze pulled itself out of the well. The bits of grass and vegetation on the ground where it began to pool hissed and burned from its acidic touch.

    What followed was one hell of a combat.
    The ooze was slow, but it was super acidic, dissolving our armor and weapons whenever it struck us or we struck it. At one point, it split into two smaller oozes and chased us around the farm. Ginko went down into death save territory, Terminus’ armor got outright destroyed, Edmunds javelins got sizzled into useless sticks. Sir Edmund used some holy smite damage, and Aarin’s moonbeam spell was put to excellent use, but it was a slog. Without warning, one of the oozes made for the farmhouse, and easily dissolved the wall. As it entered the first floor we lost our line of sight and couldn’t see what was going on. We finally defeated part of the split ooze, and ran towards the house to try and save Aami and his wife. Aarin was the closest and moved his moonbeam to just in front of the hole that the ooze had gone through. True enough as it emerged through the hole to try and eat him, it went into the spell. The dice were with us this time, and it burned up in the beam. Edmund brought Ginko back to consciousness and we approached the farmhouse.

    Fearing the worst, we investigated the wreckage. Aami was gone. It seemed obvious that he had been eaten by the black ooze. We were able to get to Gardenia and felt obligated to tell her the bad news. She broke down into tears. She didn’t speak, only cried. Edmund held her until there were no more tears left. Then he gave her what healing he had left, carried her back down to his horse, and told her that he was taking her back to her brother in Thornwall. Ginko and Terminus found Luminor unconscious behind the house, and decided that the best thing to do now was burn the whole place to the ground, which they did using the hay in the barn.

    It didn’t feel like a victory.

    The ride back to Thornwall was quiet and solemn. We were muddy, bloody, and depressed. They opened the gate, did the thing with the pigs again, and let us in the town. We brought Gardenia back to Jon the butcher and explained what had happened earlier that day. Jon hung his head, but upheld his deal. He counted out some coins for us and gave us some food. Sir Edmund looked at the coins and back to Gardenia. He told Jon to keep his share, the butcher now had another mouth to feed.

    We returned to the inn for a stiff drink in the beer garden and to rest up. Odric swung by while we were eating lunch. Half to keep an eye on us, half to let us know that Lord Cross was expecting us at dinner at his estate on the northeast end of town at six thirty sharp.

    We messed around town for a bit. Terminus got some new armor, although the smith was not sure why a child needed studded leather. Edmund and Ginko had to spend a bit to repair the acid damage on their gear. In anticipation of werewolves, Aarin purchased two silvered spears and we got a few silvered bolts for Ginko’s crossbow. After tallying our bills, we found that this trip to Aami’s farm actually cost us money. That evening we got cleaned up and walked to Cross’ house. Cross lived in a large, but not ridiculous sized house near the wall. There were neatly trimmed hedges, a stone walkway, and no gargoyles in sight.

    Lord Alastair Cross himself answered the door. To Edmunds delight he invited us in, explaining that his noble station did not afford him the excuses of superstition. He was an older gentleman, with white hair and formal attire. He had a twinkle in his eyes and throughout the evening he was nothing if not the perfect host. He led us to a sitting room and poured us a bottle of wine from a nearby country called Borca. He poured himself a glass, but did not drink. After we had all taken a sip and told him how good it was, he chuckled as said that we were definitely outsiders and that he had told us a little lie. It was common knowledge that you should never drink wine from Borca, as it was most likely poison. He toasted again to our health and helped us finish the bottle.

    Cross inquired as to where we were from, as he enjoyed hearing tales from faraway lands from outsiders such as ourselves. He said that it had been years since he had met someone from another world, but that it wasn’t unheard of. Sadly, he did not know anything about a way back. He said that every outsider he had ever met had either gone off and died in pursuit of getting back, or given up and assimilated into the country of Aambrust. Unfortunately, there weren’t any outsiders here in Thornwall. They usually settled in the larger cities of Eastbourne or Folkestone. He said that there was a mage in Eastbourne that he had never met in person, but they occasionally wrote letters back and forth. The mage’s name was Kalamar and he might know more, but then again, he might not.

    We were then led by Lord Cross to the dining room, where we were seated at a large table.
    Cross apologized for the absence of his children Sebastian and Victoria. They thought him a bit old fashioned and rarely took formal dinners with him anymore. His staff served us a very nice meal of lamb, accompanied by leek and potato soup, fresh greens with root vegetables, with a rhubarb tart for dessert. Cross then asked for a bottle of port wine, from Dementlieu this time, to share with his guests and we thanked him profusely for his generosity. He said that he bought a case off some Vistani when they swung by for the recent harvest festival and had been looking for a good excuse to open it. After his staff had left the room, Cross asked and if we had any questions for him before we retired.

    We told him briefly about the events from that morning at Aami’s farm, and if he had any idea what that was or if it had happened before. Lord Cross said it was very much a pity what happened, but that he had never heard of such a thing. The people of Thornwall and really all of Aambrust were no strangers to horrible, unexplained evils and tragedies.

    We then told him about the cabin that we came across in the woods and his son Sebastian’s hesitation to tell us more. Lord Cross said that he had heard from Sebastian what had happened and felt that he owed us an explanation. The subject was quite taboo. If the residents of Aambrust feared the undead and the evils of the forest and mists, they feared the resident of that cabin even more.

    He was a madman and savior both. Commonly referred to as “The Hunter” although we were warned not to refer to him at all, for that was the first rule. Most people didn’t know his actual name, but saying it or even “The Hunter” out loud seemed to draw his attention, and his attention was not something you wanted. Lord Cross wrote the name down on a piece of parchment along with a symbol and passed it to us, but warned us again not to say it. The name was “Volter” and the symbol looked like a stylized crossbow.

    Cross explained that the Hunter would mark humans with this symbol, that it would grow over time when they had “sinned” or done something to mark themselves as his quarry. He was strict, and could demand much, and people would awake to find the mark on themselves like a brand. Sometimes it would appear in pieces, which meant you still had time to “repent”, but sometimes it would appear all at once. If someone had the full brand, their days were numbered.

    The second rule was that the Hunter went were the monsters were. He was unparalleled in his ability to fight off the undead and monsters of the night and mists. His protection likely had saved Thornwall dozens of times and they never even knew it. However, his proximity came with a price, that he was more likely to notice the “sins” of the people and begin marking them. The different towns and cities of Aambrust recognized this pattern, and worked very hard to eliminate monsters or nests of undead before they drew the Hunter’s attention to come handle the problem himself. That was why Lord Cross sent his son and the town’s best combatants outside of the walls to root out monsters proactively.

    The Third and final rule had to do with those who were branded by the Hunter. The common practice was to throw them out of town, barring their entrance back in. For once they were marked, the Hunter was coming for them, and he would stop at nothing to get to them. He had burned buildings down, demanding that husbands throw out their wives to face his justice.

    Lord Cross didn’t like it any more than the people did, but it was for the greater good and safety of the rest of the town that they exile anyone with the mark. Generally, people were trusted to turn themselves in, self-sacrifice for the greater good. However, if someone was acting particularly strange, and in a small town like Thornwall it was easier to spot, the guards would search for such a mark and act accordingly.

    Wrapping up our grim conversation, we once again thanked Lord Cross for his hospitality and returned to the inn for an evening’s rest.

    The group decided that in an effort to get some more money and make good with the locals, that we would head East on the Breakneck road towards Brombeere to see if we could find that lost shipment of blackberry liquor. Ginko especially was eager to get ahold of a bottle or two for his own supply. That evening Ginko once again set out his beartraps in his room, but it wasn’t he who had the morning surprise.

    Aarin awoke the next morning to see a set of muddy footprints in his room that were not his own. Something wearing hobnail boots had tracked mud from outside, up the stairs, down the hall, though his locked door, stopped at his bed, and then just vanished.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Session 4 - Brombeere
    Show

    Aarin woke the rest of the party and we investigated the mystery of the footprints. The innkeeper swore up and down that the front door was locked and remained just as he left it. We searched around a bit but didn’t get anywhere. Spooked but finding no obvious leads, we departed East towards Brombeere hoping to find the missing liquor shipment.

    It was a two-day journey to Brombeere on foot, and we let the DM know that we were carefully checking for signs of a cart or wagon going off the road. The first leg of the journey passed without incident. We pushed on once it got dark because we were obviously being tailed. Aarin and Ginko were pretty sure it was wolves. Edmund got out a torch and had the halfling Terminus, who was sitting behind him on the horse, hold it so he could keep his arms free. Ginko added some oil to his recently acquired lantern as well. We continued into the darkness for around a half hour before we saw a large wagon up ahead and a campfire. As we approached we saw two men in heavy riding coats eating some dinner, their weapons out and ready. Edmund hailed them, and they invited us to approach.

    Their names were Martin and Willet and they were traveling merchants. Martin did all the talking because Willet had some pretty terrible damage where part of his lower jaw had been. It was severely damaged in a fight with some screamers and he lost his ability to speak intelligibly. He would grunt and nod in approval or agreement throughout the conversation. Both were armed with crossbows and Willet had a silver headed axe. They asked if we had silver weapons, and recommended we get some when we told them of what few we had.

    Unfortunately, we were not likely to get any in Brombeere. Despite having a severe werewolf problem, they had to import most of their weapons. It turned out their smith Arlin was a known werewolf, but he was a hell of a smith otherwise, so the village kept him chained up day and night in his shop.

    Brombeere was the smallest settlement in Aambrust, and survived mainly because they were tough as nails. Their primary exports were lumber and hard alcohol from Diedre’s Distillery. They invited us to share their fire and said that our superior numbers and cover from their large wagon would be of benefit to all parties, we of course agreed as it was getting time to make camp anyway.

    At this point we rolled some perception to recognize that we were surrounded and about to be attacked. Our party and our new merchant friends stood and prepared for the attack. Round after round we went through initiative order, but nothing ever came out of the woods. They were back there, we could hear the howls and snarls, but we never saw anything but shadows and eyes. Eventually we concluded that we were going to have to try to get some rest and that we had the numbers to have a healthy watch to keep the fire going and alert the group to danger.

    Whenever the sleeping shift would start to doze off and get comfortable, the wolves would step forward into the ring of light that we had and start snarling, snapping, and howling. Aarin attempted to calm them but it had no effect. After about three or so tries we gave up, took the level of exhaustion and decided that we should just get on to Brombeere. Martin and Willet were heading back west towards Thornwall and then north to Folkestone to see if they might be able to get some cargo from the mines there. We bid them safe travels and both parties packed up and departed.

    After a few more hours and with the wolves still following us, our elf Luminor and the ranger Ginko spotted some signs that something large had crashed through the trees just north of the road. Further investigation revealed cart tracks in the damp earth. There was heavy mist that obscured our vision into the forest, and the wolves were still howling, although they had retreated some distance back after Ginko and Luminor took a few shots at them.

    We decided that this was as good of a lead as we were going to get and followed our ranger and druid into the thick forest. They led us for a few minutes, until our noses were able to bring us the rest of the way. We smelled the bloated rotting corpse of a horse. It was on its side with its chest cavity opened and eaten. The head was a few feet away, a single long-stretched tendon connecting it to the body. The cart was just beyond that, overturned and ruined.

    Sir Edmund rode his horse around the other side of the overturned cart to see if he could find the fate of the driver. It wasn’t hard to find. The driver was dead. He had suffered some sort of head trauma in the fall, but his corpse was unmolested, likely due to the silver longsword still grasped in its hand.

    If the scene wasn’t bad already, it soon got worse. First Terminus waved his torch around to see if he could get a better idea of the scene. Enough people rolled high on perception to spot that this wasn’t the only corpse in the forest. Here and there among the trees were silently swinging bodies hanged by the neck. Then Ginko stepped into a beartrap. While he was attempting to pull himself out, he noticed that this one had silver teeth. Then the corpse of the driver turned its head towards Sir Edmund, growled, and began to stand. Then we heard screams echoing through the mist. The situation turned from grim to fatal. Did I mention we were all suffering from exhaustion from the wolves that we could still hear somewhere?

    We entered combat with the screamers and the recently animated body of the driver. As the battle continued we found that the screams were agitating some of the corpses hanging in the trees. On their own accord, they started dropping like overripe fruit and also attacked us. Aarin turned into a bear and began thrashing the hanged men as we called them. Ginko the ranger actually spent the entire combat in the beartrap, duel wielding against the undead that soon had him surrounded. Sir Edmund fired off an effective turn undead, which sent one of the screamers…screaming into the misty forest, we thought about going after her but decided that it wasn’t worth it. Terminus helped Ginko in the melee and Luminor jumped onto the overturned cart and took shots with his bow. We got a little roughed up but it wasn’t nearly as bad as our fight at the farm.

    Eventually things turned quiet, even the wolves. We got Ginko out of the beartrap, of which we found several more during and after the combat. Delighted to have some silvered traps, he kept the four or five that we found. Edmund found the driver’s silver longsword to be of good quality and we all figured he was best suited for it anyway.

    This was indeed the cart we were looking for, as we discovered that most of the crates of blackberry liquor were surprisingly intact. We took out the cargo and righted the wagon. It was in bad shape and beyond our ability to repair in a timely fashion. Instead we stripped some of the wood and made a rudimentary sledge that Sir Edmunds horse could use to pull the crates of alcohol the rest of the way to Brombeere.

    Because we had ridden through the night, we reached Brombeere just about lunch time the following day. It was a small village amongst the trees, and had no walls for defense. Instead it had spiked wooden barricades surrounding the village and on the road. We saw several hardy looking pike men stationed behind the few barricades that were on the road, big lumberjack looking fellows wearing furs and medium armor.

    They hailed us to halt and state our business. One of them introduced himself as Cutter, and he was second in command of the town militia/guard. Seeing that everything seemed to be in order he gave us directions to Deidre’s Distillery which was also the inn, and the bar. The Mayor was out of town, visiting Eastbourne, so the guard captain Ullrich was in charge currently. He was probably at the distillery as well, nursing a hangover.

    We met Deidre and his wife who were very pleasant. It turned out that the shipment of blackberry liquor we found was already bought and paid for, so they didn’t really care what happened to it after that, we were free to deliver it and cash it in. Ginko got his huge liquor jug filled up with the house liquor and proceeded to get drunk, which later led to him stripping down naked in the town square and rinsing himself off at the community well. Apparently, this was normal back home in the Koonga, but the guards told him that he was in Brombeere now and that he was likely to get thrown in jail if he tried something like that again. He eventually passed out face down in some pine needles on the edge of town. This ran parallel to the rest of us back at the distillery.

    The rest of us spent most of the afternoon talking to Ullrich. Ullrich was for sure an interesting NPC. Imagine the biggest, scariest biker guy who was obviously on the take, obviously bending rules so his buddies got special treatment, obviously content to spend his shifts intoxicated, but was somehow so warm and charismatic that you couldn’t help but like him. The safety of Brombeere was his number one priority, everyone else be damned. The townsfolk loved him, two different families with their kids stopped by to make sure he had food to take with him that night. He told us of the dangers and thrill of this small-town life. It was true that Brombeere had a nasty werewolf problem, not mention the undead, but the people were strong and worth it. He bought us rounds and we bought him rounds.

    He didn’t have much for us as far as advice on getting home. He didn’t get out of Brombeere much and admitted that he did not really like the other towns anyway. Ullrich said that Lord Cross was an uptight ass who was afraid to leave his house, that Baron Folkestein was a fat useless ****, and that the entire city of Eastbourne were too highfalutin and preachy. There was some mage in Eastbourne who had been heavily advertising for some sort of expedition, some of the townsfolk were considering hiring on as mercenaries, but he wasn’t going to go. We also learned that there was another group of “outsiders” that came through Brombeere a week or so back. They didn’t stay long, instead traveling further down the Breackneck towards Eastbourne after hearing about the mage and his expedition.

    Ullrich took a special fondness for our druid Aarin who competed and won/lost a drinking contest which ended up with both of them passed out. After a short nap to sober up, Ullrich told Aarin that he was welcome to sleep at his house, as he was going out tonight on patrol. The rest of us stayed upstairs at the distillery. It wasn’t much of an inn, the rooms didn’t lock or anything, but we felt pretty safe in Brombeere. After all, our new friend Ullrich was on watch. In the morning, Aarin said that Ullrich’s place was a pretty simple one room house, had tons of fur blankets, and smelled like old spice.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.” Phew, no cliffhanger!


    Looks like I ran out of words on this post. My apologies for having to split this up. If you would like to read our continued adventures scroll down and meet me at the next spoiler post.

    Thanks !
    Last edited by Mr_Fixler; 2019-01-21 at 07:34 PM. Reason: Added new Session

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    GnomePirate

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    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Wow, phenomenal first and simple dungeon. I might have to try something like that. Would only really work once but its pretty cool.

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Thank you very much. I personally have a hard time with dungeons because they don't always make sense.

    My goal in the first session was just to go for a few creepy vibes and visuals and spring a few scares on the group. What worked best was the screaming zombie in the basement. They could hear it coming and breaking out but didn't have time to investigate or deal with it.

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    Orc in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    so this is an original campaign invented by your DM in the ravenloft setting? it's not "curse of Strahd" or another published adventure?

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Yes that is correct. I am the DM and two of the players are working together to do the write-up and sending them to the group. The hope was they would join me here for discussion.

    The country where the campaign takes place is inspired by 2e Ravenloft (and mtg's Innistrad if I'm being honest), and is called Aambrust.

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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    this is awesome keep the good work im aiming post a memoir im going to make for my campaign friends for critics but i cannot share a link yet since i have not posted 10 threads. Please do leave a comment if you see that.

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Hello everyone. I've got another weekly update. This session and the last drew inspiration from "The Colour out of Space" by HP Lovecraft. By chance nobody in the group had read it and so the "twist" of the unknowable thing in the well was a surprise.

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    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr_Fixler View Post
    Hello everyone. I've got another weekly update. This session and the last drew inspiration from "The Colour out of Space" by HP Lovecraft. By chance nobody in the group had read it and so the "twist" of the unknowable thing in the well was a surprise.
    I love it! Big Lovecraft fan, nice spin to work it into the game! I’m working on my own setting with a few HPL inspirations littered throughout.

    Keep updates coming! You’are doing a great job as a DM. I just wish we could see/hear it ourselves!

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Thank you for the kind words, it's something I'm very proud of. As things unfold I'd love to hear what people think is going on or what might happen next. I think the group would get a kick out of that.

    As for hearing or seeing it live, as fun as that would be, I think that what the two gentlemen have prepared really cuts out all of the excess fat of the session. We might not get the word for word conversations but we also don't have to slog through silliness and off topic discussions.

    On that topic I'd like to recommend the Angry GM's "time pool" or "bad stuff happens" rules. Whenever a player does something silly or ill advised in game or goes off topic out of game, I add a red d6 to the pool in the center of the table. Once there are 6d6 i will roll them all and the more 1s I roll the worse stuff happens to the group. I might not roll any 1s but do you want to chance it?

    So far this has helped the group stay on topic and adds to the tension of the horror game. Do you call out into the forest for your companion or not? Things might be listening....
    Last edited by Mr_Fixler; 2018-07-06 at 04:58 PM.

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    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr_Fixler View Post
    Thank you for the kind words, it's something I'm very proud of. As things unfold I'd love to hear what people think is going on or what might happen next. I think the group would get a kick out of that.

    As for hearing or seeing it live, as fun as that would be, I think that what the two gentlemen have prepared really cuts out all of the excess fat of the session. We might not get the word for word conversations but we also don't have to slog through silliness and off topic discussions.

    On that topic I'd like to recommend the Angry GM's "time pool" or "bad stuff happens" rules. Whenever a player does something silly or ill advised in game or goes off topic out of game, I add a red d6 to the pool in the center of the table. Once there are 6d6 i will roll them all and the more 1s I roll the worse stuff happens to the group. I might not roll any 1s but do you want to chance it?

    So far this has helped the group stay on topic and adds to the tension of the horror game. Do you call out into the forest for your companion or not? Things might be listening....
    Ooh! That's good! Another way you might do this is take inspiration from the horror game Dread. Set up a Jenga tower and take out a handful of blocks to get it started, then any time a player does something bad or dangerous, make them pull a block. If it falls, bad things happen. As the night wears on and more blocks are pulled, the tension increases exponentially!

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Ran out of room up top! Probably should have reserved a few posts....
    Here is the next batch of adventures in Ravenloft!
    Spoiler: Session 5 - Encounter on the Breackneck
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    We awoke in Brombeere fully rested and recuperated. Sir Edmund used the last of his funds to purchase a two-wheeled cart and donkey to transport the blackberry liquor back to Thornwall, as well as for the general party use if anyone needed a ride or got wounded. Ullrich got back from his patrol, stopped for a quick meal and a pint at the distillery, bid us safe travels, and went back to his house for sleep.

    It was a little bit of a late start because we had to find someone who was willing to part with a donkey, but we were heading back west on the Breakneck by ten or so. We didn’t encounter anyone or anything for the rest of the daylight hours. Come nightfall, the mists set in, and we had to slow our pace or risk hitting an obscured obstacle. There were traces of bright moonlight through the thick pine forest, illuminating the road somewhat in an eerie white haze. Just north of us we heard howling, and it was growing closer. Everyone prepared their weapons and took positions. About forty feet in front of us they emerged from the forest, crossing the road. It was somewhere around a dozen werewolves., it was hard to tell at that distance through the mist. We heard them more than we saw them, a flash of grey and brown fur, snarls and growls as they crossed the twenty-foot section of dirt road.

    Then someone else walked out the forest.
    We couldn’t see details in the fog and moonlight, but it was fairly obvious that it was a human or at least humanoid. They had a huge crossbow trained on where the werewolves disappeared on the south side of the road. Slowly and confidently they began to cross the road as well, but then stopped about halfway. The DM described the figure slowly turning its head towards us and beginning take a few steps our way.

    Without warning the werewolves howled and leaped back from the forest, tackling the stranger and pulling them to the ground in a tempest of claws, teeth, and fur. Ginko said that we needed to save the stranger, and rushed ahead of the group to join the fray.

    The DM gave the telltale “Really? Are you sure?” but Ginko didn’t take the hint. The DM began setting up the minis on the map when Sir Edmund and Terminus caught on to what was happening before us. Luckily, they rolled high on initiative, rode down Ginko on Sir Edmund’s horse, and Terminus knocked him out cold with a blackjack. Knowing that we were over our head no matter which side of the battle we joined, we just rode away through the night with an unconscious Ginko in the cart. We decided to chance the exhaustion again and rode on through the night, and the better part of the next day before arriving at Thornwall a few hours before sundown.

    After the usual inspection at the gates, we headed for the inn to sell off our alcohol cargo and get some much-needed rest. We were offered a very reasonable price for the blackberry liquor, giving us a fair bit of spending money if we needed it. The party celebrated with a toast over a basic sausage, cabbage, and potato dinner before turning in for the night.

    That evening, a few of us awoke to the sound of breaking glass. Aarin’s window had been broken, and he found the object that had done it among the broken glass, a skull.
    Aarin looked out his widow and saw a lone figure standing below. It called out, “Are you going to come down Aarin? Or should I throw a lit torch next?” Aarin told us that he recognized the figure and to let him handle it.

    We got our gear and followed our friend outside gathering around the front door to the inn. The figure was a human, or at least was a human. It had ashy grey skin, through which we could see dark red blood veins, and two swords on his belt. He went back and forth with Aarin about how he was going to ruin him, asked if Aarin was sorry, and told the group that we should watch our back around the druid. He told Aarin that it was time to settle this like men, face to face, with both parties aware.

    We pulled Aarin back and told him that even though we didn’t know exactly what was transpiring, that we would help him if needed. Sir Edmund told him that he trusted him, but that trust was a two-way street and that Aarin needed to be honest with us. Aarin told us that this was his problem and he was going to try to face it alone, but that if things escalated that our priority was the safety of Thornwall.

    Aarin and the man squared off, with Aarin immediately turning into a bear. They went back and forth for a bit but Aarin rolled very poorly on most of his attacks, failing to land many blows. Soon, he was knocked out of bear form and from there his foe had him on the ropes. Aarin was on the ground, bleeding out. Sir Edmund was chomping at the bit to join the fray to save his friend. The man put his sword to Aarin’s neck and told him that death was too good for him, he was going to be ruined, broken, and begging for death before it would be granted.

    During the fight, Ginko rolled to see if he could determine what this thing was, as undead were his favored enemy. He rolled a natural 20 and added his sizeable modifier.
    It was a revenant, which he explained to the party (after the DM passed him some notes) was an undead focused on revenge against an individual. They were unstoppable, tireless, and would hunt their quarry for a year and a day before the magic keeping them animated dissipated.

    This one had our friend at death’s door, but turned and began to run away into the moonlight. At last, Sir Edmund rushed forward to heal Aarin. Right about this time, hearing the sounds of battle, the night watch came running to see what was going on. We explained that some form of undead had broken into the town and attacked our friend, but that it had escaped. They apologized for their inability to prevent the incursion, and were glad that everyone was relatively ok.

    The next day we kicked around a little bit, getting some supplies and debating whether we wanted to head north into the mountains towards Folkestone, or east past Brombeere to Eastbourne. We were eager to talk the mage Kalamar who lived there, and inquire into his expedition. Additionally, we had heard that there was a major church presence there, Sir Edmund was hoping that the local clerics might be able to assist us as well. On the other hand, we had heard there was quite a bit of wealth up north, as well as quality silver and smithies. There were also whisperings of vampires in the mountains. The money interested our two rogues, as well as Ginko who wanted to hunt some undead.

    Our decision was cut short, however, when we received a courier with a written invitation to Lord Cross’ house for another dinner and a business proposition. Lord Cross didn’t want to go into detail, but Sebastian had told him of our recent success on the Brombeere trip, and he thought that we might be able to aid in taking out a monster nest.

    Before we went to dinner, Aarin got a haircut, shave, and a new set of clothes. He threw out his old druid garb and now dressed in the heavy leather coat and tri-cornered hat common in this area. He looked like a completely different person. Aarin said that he was trying to throw the revenant off of his trail, at least for a little bit. The rest of us also decided to freshen up and get some nice clothes before we met up with the Cross family for dinner.

    That evening, Sebastian and Victoria Cross both met us at the door. It was our first time seeing them out of their armor and in formal clothes, we were glad that we had dressed up too. We once again took drinks and exchanged pleasantries with their father Alastair in the lounge before moving on to dinner. Sebastian wanted to get to business, but his father reminded him that there would be no business at the table. During dinner, one of the night watchmen came in, apologized profusely, and took Lady Victoria aside quietly. After he departed she told Aarin that the thing from last night was spotted at the walls, but that the guards we able to pin it down and behead it.

    After dinner, everyone returned to the lounge where Sebastian began pacing nervously as he laid out his proposition and plan. Lord Cross requested another bottle of Dementlieu port and had it poured as Sebastian spoke. Sebastian had often encountered ghouls on his patrols and would be tasked with destroying a nest should he find one. Very recently, however, the ghouls had been acting very strangely. As corpse eaters, they were normally scavengers or would pick off lone or separated travelers.

    Now they seemed to be coordinating actual attacks. Sebastian had encountered a small band using distraction and flanking tactics. A week or so back his patrol encountered one wearing armor, which while odd was not out of the realm of possibility. Two nights past Victoria, saw ghouls creeping near the wall. One holding a sword and another with a small crossbow. Something was either arming them or teaching them how to use advanced tactics and weaponry.

    Sebastian suspected he knew where the ghouls were making their lair, and this was why he was requesting our aid. The cave system had two entrances. There was a main entrance into which he and his patrol would enter, with tunnels large enough for them to fit through until they reached the main chamber where he suspected a bulk of the ghouls would be. Leading off of this main chamber was a steep narrow tunnel, up which a ghoul could easily scrabble which led to a smaller cave system connecting to the other entrance. He asked us to help him with a hammer and anvil tactic. If we could stealthily make our way through this back entrance and position ourselves at this steep narrow tunnel, we could easily dispatch any ghouls who were trying to escape from the main chamber as they had to come out single file through the steep tunnel, essentially cutting off their main escape route. Alternatively, if for some reason Sebastian’s team got in over their head, we would lower down rope to pull them out. He felt confident that his team could handle the fighting in the main chamber, and our help would allow him to keep his numbers strong on the main attack.

    To aid us in communication, Alastair had three scrolls. They functioned similarly to the “message” spell, but only allowed for a 10 word message followed by a 10 word response. They would keep us informed of their advancement and how things were faring, and we would do likewise.

    They proposed a very respectable payment.
    To counter, Sir Edmund and Ginko asked if they could get an advance so they could upgrade their armor to better aid them on this ghoul hunt. Lord Cross reluctantly agreed that it was probably in everyone’s best interest to be as armed and armored as possible and gave them the advance with a smaller cut at the completion of the job.

    Terminus excitedly rubbed his hands at the prospect of that kind of money. Everyone came to agreement on the terms. We were to set off in the early morning hours the day after tomorrow. This gave everyone time to prepare, get their armor, and rest up. Also, the morning timing was such so that hopefully the ghouls would have fed and already returned to their nest, that way neither hunting party was as likely to have ghouls returning from feeding come into the cave systems behind them.

    With our business concluded, we toasted to the success of the mission and bid the Cross family goodnight. Victoria prepared to get back to work on the night watch. Our ranger Ginko took Aarin aside and told him that even though we heard that the revenant had been killed, it would find a way to reform and continue its pursuit. That night and next day passed without any issues, from the revenant or otherwise. Sir Edmund and Ginko were fit for their armor first thing in the morning and had their minor adjustments ready by sundown. Aarin began work on crafting a new druidic focus. His current one was a small, sharp set of antlers. He went outside the gates of Thornwall to find a yew tree, out of which he began his work on a yew wand to serve as a new focus. We finished our preparations, had a big dinner at the inn, and took a quick rest before waking up around three the next morning to set out on our mission.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Session 6 – The Ghoul Nest
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    There was a light drizzle of rain coming down when we met up with Sebastian and Victoria Cross at the city gate. Victoria told us to take care of her little brother out there, and opened the gate. The rain and mud caused us to leave obvious tracks but it also helped mask our noise as we headed northwest through the Tottenwald forest.

    Our party of five and Sebastian’s team of six trekked through the forest for just under two hours. We finally reached the point where it was time to split up. Sebastian gave us several lengths of rope, as well as three alchemical flares just in case. We wished each other luck and broke into our two teams.

    Our ranger Ginko, and the two nonhuman rogues Luminor and Terminus were scouting just ahead of the rest of the group, and it was a good thing that they did. Luminor almost walked into sight, but Ginko spotted a screamer, bound by thick ropes to a tree near the mouth of a cave. A rudimentary alarm system? Just inside the mouth of the cave were two ghouls, one wearing a metal helmet. They both were picking at scabs and batting at a noisy crow who was trying to steal some scraps from a pile of discarded bones they were chewing on. The ghouls were distracted but present nonetheless.

    The rest of us successfully crept forward into position and attacked. Between our surprise round, well rolled initiative, and Terminus’ newly acquired assassinate ability we were able to silence these few undead before any alarm could be raised. So far so good. Ginko set up all of his beartraps outside the mouth of the cave to make sure we were not followed. The mouth was around 15 feet wide and he had nine beartraps including the silvered ones scattered and covered with pine needles and mud.

    Sounds in the cave were muffled and echoing. We could hear the constant patter of the rain as well as strange bumps and thumps from somewhere deep inside. We knew it would obviously give away our positions, but we had no choice but to light torches and lanterns so we could see what we were doing.

    That was when we got our first incoming message: At Entrance Stealth Intact Entering Immedietly Timing Critical Send Status. We sent our response: Stealth Intact Entering Entrance Slayed Guard Ghouls Watch for Screamers.

    It was a long session. To keep things narratively exiting we will gloss over a few combats that followed. In summary, we fought through several rooms and tunnels filled with ghouls and ghasts. A few were armed and armored. It was approximately here that we got our second message: Large Nest Negligible Injury Ghouls Collapsing Tunnels Continuing Forward Status. Our response was: Killed Armored Ghoul Abnormal Tactics One Escaped Continuing Pursuit.

    A small number were much stronger and seemingly smarter than their lesser brethren. We climbed, fought, crept, crawled, and burned our way through narrow tunnels and blind corners. When tunnels opened into wider rooms we were ambushed and set ambushes in return. All the while we pressed forward, our hit points and resources slowly draining. We pushed deeper into the cave until we at last came upon the steep, narrow tunnel that lead down into the main nesting chamber.

    As we entered the room we got the following message from Sebastian: Overwhelmed Holding Position Main Chamber Send Evacuation Now Little Time. We quickly responded: Lighting Flare Dropping Now No Ghouls In Route to Help.

    Then the DM rolled some dice, said Hmm, and things went upside down. He described a man, dressed in leather armor and wearing a hooded cloak, a sword at his hip. He had piercing brown eyes and wiry black hair. He had bags under his eyes as if he hadn’t slept in days, and had an almost feverish pallor. In his hands, he had what looked like a bundle of rope and bones. The giveaway was the giant crossbow on his back and black bolts in his quiver. The man entered the room, cleared his throat, and told us it was time to go to work.

    Edmund stuttered and stammered while the Hunter pushed his bundle into Ginko’s arms and took a hard look and listen down the hole. He told us that we had a decision to make and he was hoping that we made the right choice, he wanted to see what kind of people we were. He told us that Thornwall was in danger, and that there were things far worse than ghouls down that tunnel. There were vampires down there. Sir Edmund and Aarin interjected that Sebastian and his team were down there as well. The Hunter quietly said, “I know.” He quickly informed us that Thornwall was in danger, and that he wanted to see if we could make the hard decisions to keep it safe.

    The bundle that Ginko was handed was a long rope, every five feet or so was a ribcage stuffed full of vials of alchemist fire and explosives. A fuse was tightly wound around the coils of rope, intertwining with the vials.

    The Hunter told us to lower it into the hole and ignite the rope, collapsing the only remaining exit. Ginko stood perplexed, the explosive rope in one hand, and the one that we were going to use to fish out Sebastian and his team in the other. Edmund said that Sebastian just needed time, that they could win or at least escape and everyone could walk away from this with what they wanted.

    The Hunter shook his head and told us that inaction would inevitably lead to more deaths, he had tried that road before. He looked at Ginko and appealed to his fellow undead hunter that he knew that this was the right thing to do. As a quick aside he complimented Ginko’s crossbow, but said that fighting with a liquor jug was bit unorthodox. A quick laugh helped cut the tension, we were all on the edge of our seat.

    The Hunter then told us that it was our choice, but he could make it easier, that we could blame him and not ourselves. He approached the halfling Terminus and asked for his hand. Hesitantly, Terminus opened his hand up to the Hunter. In a flash of steel, there was a bloody gash on Terminus’ palm, and he was asked to roll a constitution saving throw. Terminus was suddenly writhing on the ground in pain. The Hunter said that the world was a cruel and dark place, and that we often had to choose who amongst our friends would live. He would give us the antidote when we blew up the tunnel. Terminus’ player did a great job of writhing and begging us for the antidote.

    Still hearing the echoes of fighting below, Sir Edmund stalled for more time, meanwhile edging towards the hole. He told the Hunter that it was he who was being cruel and dark, that he was forcing us to make this choice.

    The Hunter replied that he was simply being honest, and that he wanted us and the people of Thornwall to survive. Aarin and Luminor tried to see if they could find another way, but we were out of time. What happened next had our jaws on the floor.

    Sir Edmund recited his paladin’s code, asked Torm to guide him, and jumped down the hole.

    The DM looked stunned. Out of game he said, “Really? You know what’s down there. I’ll let you take it back.”

    Sir Edmunds player turned down the offer. That is what Sir Edmund would do. The DM asked us to excuse him and Edmund’s player and they went to another room to have a quick discussion. When they returned the player looked both sad and triumphant. As he sat back down he told us that he wasn’t sure what he was in for playing a paladin in a Ravenloft game, but he kind of assumed that it was always going to end like this. The DM told us that his new character would be joining us next session, but that we still had to wrap this one up and get to spot where it made sense.

    Ginko looked at both options in his hands, he looked at Terminus, he looked at the hole down which Sir Edmund had just disappeared, he looked at the Hunter, and at his other friends. Ginko approached the hole, still holding both options. He called down to Sir Edmund but received no response. Ginko threw the explosive rope down the hole, we heard the ribcages clacking and rattling as it unwound. Aarin stepped forward, but Ginko told him no, that he would do it. Ginko then used a torch to light the fuse. We rushed to the far side of the room we were in as a huge explosion rocked the whole complex. Rocks and pebbles rained down from the roof, but the bomb did its job and the tunnel was completely demolished.

    The Hunter said that we did good, and the he knew that it was hard, but that he was proud of us. As the Hunter turned to leave, Ginko came to his senses and carefully pulled the black bolt from his pack. He offered it to the Hunter, as it was quite obviously his. The Hunter smiled a creepy smiled and said, “No. You should keep it. You are going to need it.” Aarin tried to stop him but before he could act, the Hunter was already gone. The only trace of him was tiny glass vial rolling noisily along the cave floor.

    We administered the antidote to Terminus. When he came to he asked, “What now?” It was Ginko who answered.

    “Now we go back to Thornwall, and tell Lord Cross.”

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Session 7 - Antonio and the Wake
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    To add insult to injury, as we were exiting the cave, we found that the Hunter had taken the silver beartraps back, leaving Ginko with a few regular ones. Before returning to Thornwall, we searched the other entrance to the cave for signs of life or a possible rescue attempt. We found the corpses of the ghouls that were killed during the main push by Sebastian’s team but little else. It was true that the ghouls had thoroughly collapsed their tunnels leaving no access the lower reaches of the main chamber. The explosion had only further compacted these tunnels, nothing was getting in or out.

    With heavy hearts and soggy clothes, we trudged back through the rain soaked forest back to Thornwall to inform Lord Cross of the outcome of our mission. We had lost one of our own, as well as Sebastian and five other members of the town’s elite guard. The ghoul nest had been destroyed, and we also learned that Thornwall’s rules and fear of vampires was very well founded. Ginko believed that the vampires would likely survive the burial, but for the time being would be sealed underground.

    We returned to the gates of Thornwall just as the storm was beginning to pick up. It was probably just about sunrise but it was hard to tell with the thick cloud cover and constant fog. We could see Lord Cross and his daughter Victoria on the walls waiting for our return. Upon sighting us they came down and met us just outside the gates. Fittingly, Lord Cross was wearing all black and leaned in intently on his cane. He asked us if we were successful.

    In a way, we had been. The ghoul nest had been destroyed, but at great cost. We were completely honest and forthright with Lord Cross, whose disposition tumultuously ranged from great sorrow to burning rage and back again. He threw our payment at our feet and told us we were no longer welcomes in his home or in Thornwall. The Hunter had taken an interest in us and it was in the town’s best interest that we not remain. Not to mention the revenant, not to mention that Ginko basically killed his son by leaving him to die and be consumed by undead. At least Sir Edmund had attempted a rescue, and now he was dead too. Cross gave us a glare that turned our stomachs and broke our hearts and slowly walked through the rain back into the town, his daughter trying to console him and comfort him.

    As we stood in the rain contemplating our next steps, we heard a commotion just beyond the gate. Odric and several town guard were dragging another man towards the exit. He was flailing and screaming. As they approached we saw a few paces behind them were a woman and little girl who were also screaming, crying, and trying to tear the man away from the guards. We soon found that he was a farmer named Thomas and that he had been branded. The guards tossed him past the threshold and kept his family back.

    Luminor the elf was furious, he chided Odric for this kind of treatment. This was no way to keep anyone safe, it was as good as murdering the man himself. The guards wouldn’t even give him a weapon saying that “Weapons are for survivors. This man is already dead.” The farmer Thomas was in shock and panic, he saw Luminor’s sympathy and fell to his knees begging Luminor to help him. Luminor told the man to pick himself up and pull himself together. He was going to come with us and Luminor would help keep him safe.

    Odric gave us a look that betrayed no emotion and told us, “I’ve already heard what happened. I hope someday you understand that this is for the best. Safe travels.” With that, the gates closed and we stood alone outside in the cold rain.

    We all came to agreement that our next destination would be Eastbourne, stopping at Brombeere along the way. We were interested in meeting the mage Kalamar who resided there and he was advertising for work. Furthermore, there was a church there and even though nobody in the party was particularly religious, we could maybe do some sort of ceremony or proper funeral for Sir Edmund.

    There was no point in remaining any longer, so we immedietly set out on the Breakneck. Just before we lost sight of Thornwall, Aarin got a vague sensation that he was being watched, but was unable to pinpoint anything.

    As a quick aside, we convinced the DM to let us keep the cart and donkeys even though narratively we never stepped foot into Thornwall to get them. Ginko named one donkey “Edmund” and the other donkey “Edmund’s Horse” because nobody could remember her name. During the travel, Ginko summoned his animal companion. A giant mud crab with a dirty brown shell. He said its name was Bodo. We spent the whole day traveling, stayed the night on the road, and arrived in Brombeere around four in the afternoon. It appeared they were gathering for some sort of festival. There was already food and liquor being served and smiles all around.

    We went to the distillery/inn and got some rooms for the evening, including one for Thomas the farmer. Upon sighting us and hearing we were coming from Thornwall, a balding man in brown robes approached.

    His name was Antonio and he was also an “outsider”. He had appeared in Aambrust himself almost three weeks ago and was not fond of the place. This was our new party member at last. He was a cleric of a deity commonly known as Lady Luck. His group of four had gone to Eastbourne and traveled into some marshes to the south of the city.

    There they had come across a large wooden wheel, set up like a carnival game. There were several prizes on the wheel, including a way home. Two members of the group were instantly transported back to their homelands, Antonio won some gold, and his other party member got the bad prize, death.

    He was told by the mysterious attendant that only outsiders were allowed to spin, and that if he came back with some more players he would be allowed one more attempt, double or nothing. “Fortune was not with me that day. But Lady Luck may yet decide that I may return home. I feared that another group such as mine may be difficult to find. When I recently arrived in Brombeere Ullrich told me of your group and so I was going to travel to Thornwall to try and find you, it seems you have found me instead, perhaps my luck is turning around!” With that he flipped a large coin (in real life and in the game) and it came up heads. Antonio took that as a good omen. The rest of us were glad to have a cleric and a healer in the party once more. We introduced ourselves to Antonio and told him a little bit about our own travels, including about Thomas our companion with the Hunter’s mark.

    At that moment, Ullrich came into the distillery to pick up a few more kegs for the celebration. Upon seeing us, he smiled and came over to say hello. They were having a wake for five men who had died or died in result of injuries sustained defending the town. There had been a major skirmish six days before, and a funeral for those five who died was held earlier today. Tonight’s party was a wake to celebrate their lives and to celebrate life in general. We were welcome to attend.

    Luminor had a few questions for Ullrich about fighting werewolves. He asked about what kind of weapons were necessary (silver or magical), who used them (the town guards mostly), and where could he buy some (Folkestone or Eastbourne). Luminor also asked if the people were fond of the mayor of Brombeere, Avabruk, who had returned from Eastbourne. Ullrich said that Mayor Avabruk was liked well enough, nobody had run against him in years and it was more of a figurehead position anyway. It was more the town ambassador than anything else. He would be speaking at the wake, as would Ullrich.

    Aarin also took the opportunity to ask Ullrich a favor. Aarin put a pile of gold on the table to get his full attention. He asked Ullrich that if anyone came through Brombeere and was asking about him, even indirectly, that this person was an undead revenant. He instructed Ullrich to take away its weapons and put it in jail. Under no circumstances should they kill it for it would reform and continue hunting Aarin. Ullrich scooped up the gold and said that any enemy of Aarin’s was an enemy of his and that he would make sure the town guard knew to keep an eye out.

    Most of the rest of the session was spent at the wake. The party drank, ate, flirted, danced, and made merry. We heard some kind words about the fallen guards from the mayor, Ullrich, some of their fellows, and few of their families. Ginko and Antonio gambled with dice. Ginko warned Antonio that he was terrible at games, but always cheated so it should be even. Luck was with Antonio who won a good bit of money off of Ginko. Terminus the halfling drank too much and climbed onto someone’s roof, only to fall asleep.

    Aarin asked around as to who the best cook in town was. Most people directed him to a woman named Laura who lived with her husband and two children. Aarin found Laura and asked if he could sleep on their floor tonight, he didn’t want to stay at the inn. He would pay them very well and only requested some breakfast in the morning. She couldn’t say no to the amount of gold he offered, but warned him no funny business.

    Luminor started going off in thieves cant among the people at the wake and the DM and he began passing notes. Eventually they went into the other room. Luminor returned looking smug.

    Ginko got blazing drunk and stumbled away from the wake with two bottles of grain alcohol. He made sure it wasn’t a full moon (it wasn’t) and drunkenly found his way to the smith’s shop. The smith, who remember was a werewolf but a human at this point, was chained at the ankles and neck to the anvil and forge. Ginko asked if he and the smith Arlin might have a few drinks and a private conversation. The DM agreed and also took Ginko into the other room.

    With most of the party asleep or unable to function, we decided to call it a night.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Session 8 - A Lesson for Luminor
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    While the logistics of how this session went down were interesting, they may distract from the actual narrative. All you really need to know is that we were not all at the table for a short period and outside the room waiting for a real-life signal from the DM. The in-character knowledge will be explained when it becomes relevant. If this seems confusing, just roll with it.

    Luminor had coordinated with three thieves who lived in Brombeere. Their goal was to steal the magical weapons used by the guards. When shifts were over, the magical and silver weapons were placed in a locked chest in the towns sole guard post, a reinforced wood building with a stonework jail section in the back. UIrich usually left the chest in one of the cells for additional protection. The thieves would get Luminor in and provide a distraction, and it would be up to him to pick the locks and get the magic weapons.

    The plan began exactly as planned. Right at shift change in the morning, one of the thieves began their distraction. Luminor and the other two approached the building.
    Another thief went inside alone to try to get the solitary guard who was watching the cells to leave the building. As luck would have it, there was currently nobody in any of the three cells, and the thief rolled high on his persuasion to get the guard out just for a minute. Luminor and the third thief who was the one best at locks, rushed into the empty guard post, quickly deduced the chest was indeed not in the main area, and went straight for the heavily reinforced door leading to the stonework jail area. Luminor had only three chances to open the lock before the guard would return. He got it on the third attempt.

    He stepped into the jail area. Just as he did, the guard returned. The third thief slammed the heavy door shut behind him leaving Luminor alone in the stone room. Luminor heard it click again as it locked. He could hear them heatedly talking on the other side. It sounded like the thief was trying to bluff that he was waiting for the guard to get back, but Luminor knew he didn’t have much time because it took so long to get the door open.

    Tiny shafts of light shone through cracks in the mortar, and in the center of the room was large metal brazier that had some glowing red coals and fire poker. The coals did not give off much light, but between them, the bits of light coming in, and his elven vision Luminor was able to see decently well. He rolled perception to take a look about the room and see what was in the cells. Two cells had open doors and were empty, save for some wads of bedding and blankets. The third cell was locked and there was a large wooden chest with iron bands. Luminor got out his thief’s tools and successfully got the jail cell open. He approached the chest only to find it locked.

    “Looking for these?” Came a voice behind him. Luminor spun around to see one of the large piles of blankets slowly erupt into a huge man. Luminor realized it was Ullrich as he stepped near the brazier, smiling and swinging the keys. He was shirtless and Luminor could see that he was built like the stone room. Ullrich continued, “And what exactly are you doing here? Were you itching to jump into one of my cells?”

    Luminor answered, “These weapons belong to the people, not your corrupt guard. You’ve consolidated the power and protection amongst your friends for your own benefit!”

    “Snap snap puppy. Do you know what we do to liars and thieves here in Brombeere?” Ullrich reached into the brazier and grabbed the fire poker, its tip red hot from hours in the coals.

    “It is no lie,” Luminor responded “Those amongst the people brave enough to step forward and aid me said as much. You are a tyrant and bully! You speak of protecting the people, but you keep the weapons out of their hands for the illusion of safety.”

    Ullrich took several slow steps toward Luminor, “Wrong. Those thieves? They work for me. Not a thing goes on in Brombeere that I don’t know about. I am Brombeere’s beating heart, its alpha. You are just a common hoodlum guising your misdeeds under the pretense of justice. If you think you want to try and take me, go ahead. Draw your steel.”

    With that, Luminor drew his short sword and the two entered combat. Luminor and Ullrich circled each other in the dim light. Both made several lunges, but eventually it was Ullrich who struck first. With the red hot poker he struck Luminor just above his eye, holding it there to burn a huge black mark of gnarled flesh. Luminor screamed in pain.

    “That is what we do to liars,” roared Ullrich. “You thought you could come in here, a stranger to this land and this town, and think that you could spout a few code words at a funeral for MY MEN who DIED for the people of this town. You insult me and the people both. Me! I keep the people safe from the monsters. I keep the people safe from hunger, from poverty. Its Ullrich who keeps them safe from people like you.” With that Ullrich snarled and lunged and Luminor once more bellowing, “ULLRICH IS BROMBEERE!”

    Suddenly the heavy door swung open and light spilled once more into the dim room. The rest of the party rushed into the room. “Stop!”

    Ullrich was furious. He was seething at the chance to kill Luminor for his attempted thievery. He asked us if we had any reason why Luminor should be spared. Antonio flipped a coin and said that Lady Luck was on Luminor’s side. Ginko said, “You gotta do what you gotta do Ullrich. But cutting off his hands would be a more fitting punishment than taking his life.” Which earned him a weird look from Luminor. Aarin and Terminus both agreed that Ullrich shouldn’t harm Luminor.

    Ullrich growled and lowered the fire poker. He told Luminor that his fate wasn’t decided yet, and ordered him to march into one of the cells with the blankets. Before any of that could happen, a guard ran into the room and skidded to a halt before Ullrich.

    “He is calling from the forest to the west. Says we have ten minutes to give him what is his before he starts firing.”

    Knowing that if Ullrich found out that it was Luminor who brought Thomas here, that there might not be a Luminor much longer, Ginko told Ullrich that he had one of the Hunter’s black bolts back at the inn. One successful bluff check later Ginko and Antonio raced off towards the inn. Luminor asked Ullrich if he could redeem himself and take a position on the front lines to defend the town if the Hunter attacked. Ullrich laughed in his face, but agreed. If that was how Luminor wanted to die it was all the same to Ullrich. Terminus and Aarin went with them to see what was transpiring at the west edge of town.

    Ullrich’s guards were hesitant to let Luminor stand with them but he ignored their glares and spiteful mutterings. He strode to the very front wooden blockade and drew his bow in case the small town was attacked. Terminus as well took cover and prepared for a possible fight. Aarin decided that the best way he could be of use was to turn into a housecat and use the innocuous form to try and root out the Hunter’s location. At last they hear a voice call out, demanding the branded one or people would start dying. With nobody to put forward, the guardsmen looked at each other and held their ground.

    Ullrich shouted back into the forest that there was nobody branded in Brombeere, they knew the rules. The hunter said that they had a deceiver in their misdt and fired into the crowd with his black bolts. There was confusion and a slight breaking of the ranks, as two bolts came from different directions, pinning one guard to a barricade with a bloody scream and killing another where he stood.

    Aarin tried to see if he could pinpoint where the Hunter was and rolled extremely well. The DM rolled the opposed check and Aarin’s cat ears pricked up at the truth of the situation. The Hunter had fired into the crowd, but was slowly making his way around the north edge of town. He was using illusion magic to continue calling out demands where the guards were stationed on the west side. Aarin took to the rooftops to keep an ear on the situation, while still acting like a cat out for a morning prowl.

    Meanwhile, Ginko and Antonio found Thomas had barricaded his room on the second floor of the distillery. They muscled their way into the room and persuaded the terrified farmer that the only way out of this was to be truthful about why he was marked, and perhaps they could reach some form of resolution with the Hunter. He told them about a day many years ago when he went into the forest and prayed to the spirits for the death of his father so that the family farm and carpenter business would pass to him. He was newly married and his wife was with child, the couple were struggling to make ends meet. Soon after his father was found dead in the woods, seeming to have slipped and broken his skull on a rock. Thomas felt ashamed and responsible for his father’s death and never spoke about his prayer in the woods.

    Ginko and Antonio suspected foul play in the first place, and attempted to convince Thomas that he needed to publicly admit his wrongs. Thomas was reluctant, but ultimately agreed. On their way out of the building Aarin in cat form caught their attention and led them to the west side of town, away from the crowd of guards and militia still gathered on the east.

    There was still a few guards on the west side of town, nervously pacing and keeping an eye on the woods. The Hunter called out “Patricide! What have you to say for yourself?” Ginko and Antonio made Thomas shout into the woods his admission of guilt and that he was sincerely sorry for his crime. Tears streaked down Thomas’ face. The group looked up to the DM to see what the response might look like.

    The DM dramatically rolled his dice into the middle of the table. Critical Hit. Thomas’ head exploded as a black bolt found its mark with devastating efficiency.

    As Antonio and Aarin began preparing for burial, Ginko went to fetch Ullrich and the other party members to let them know what had happened. Ullrich was pretty upset that the group had knowingly brought someone with the Hunter’s mark into Brombeere. He didn’t want the body buried in Brombeere.

    We were two for two as far as towns that we had pissed off. Luminor’s shenanigans hadn’t helped our cause. Ginko also subtly took the opportunity to gather the 3 black bolts that were left behind by the Hunter and added them to his pack.

    We had intended on leaving that day anyway, continuing down the Breackneck toward Eastbourne. Ginko and Terminus prepared the cart and donkeys while Antonio, Aarin, and Luminor dug a grave for Thomas in the nearby woods and held a quick funeral. Aarin used his druidcraft to plant a tree that would grow on the grave. Thomas’ death would support new life.

    We said goodbye to Ullrich. His temper had cooled off a bit, and told us that he hoped we found what we were looking for in Eastbourne and to take care. He promised Aarin that he would keep an ear to the ground for anyone who was following him.

    As we rode away Ullrich called out to Luminor to say that he had something on his face, indicating the wicked burn mark that Ullrich had put there with the fire poker.

    For the rest of that day and the following night we travelled east. The next day we came to a pause at a strange sight ahead of us. We were still in the deep forest, but the road itself was generally clean of debris for most of the trip. In the center of the road about twenty feet ahead of us was a pile of pine needles that was spread from one end of the road to the other, approximately 2 inches deep all around. We immedietly suspected more bear traps, but the obviousness of the cover was giving us second guesses as to the correct way around. Terminus and Ginko leapt from the cart to go investigate and found two large spiked-pit traps on either side of the road.

    As luck would have it, that was when a large tree monster emerged from the forest.
    We ended up fighting two of them. They were over eight feet high and made of gnarled wood. Their branches hit like a ton of bricks and when they got damaged they rooted themselves in place to draw nutrients and health from the soil. Aarin turned into a bear and was able to grapple one into one of the pits. Furthermore, they seemed to be drawn to Ginko, and Aarin was able to make out slow, slurred words in Sylvan. Words like, “blood”, “flesh”, “soil”, “man”, and “feed”. It was a challenging battle, and we had never seen or heard of anything about the very trees attacking people. Also, the pine needles did contain beartraps.

    Shortly after our combat with the trees, we found the terrain starting to shift from forest to grassland. It was our first time getting a clear glimpse of the sun in over a week. The oppressive claustrophobic feeling that we didn’t even realize that we had been feeling began to lift. Even the ever-present mist seemed to let up. The Breakneck slowly bent north and wound its way among the gentle hills spotted with trees.

    In the late afternoon we saw it, the city of Eastbourne. Much larger than Thornwall by far, it sat on a low hill surrounded by thick grey-stoned walls. Watchtowers along the walls flew bright red and gold flags that depicted a sun and shining rays. Healthy looking farms dotted the landscape about the city, and we could see farmers and wagons hauling goods on the main road and the various pathways that led to homesteads. Beyond the walls we could see tall gothic spires and Prussian architecture.

    The Breakneck took us right up to the city gates, which were open and allowing foot and wheeled traffic in and out. Nobody stopped us as we rode right in.

    The first thing that caught our attention was a man proselytizing on a raised wooden platform in the town square. He wore the heavy brown coat in the popular local style, although his was trimmed with red and white embellishments. He looked to be in his early forties with a bit of a paunch, but otherwise fit. Antonio, who had been to Eastbourne before, whispered to us that this was Captain Olaf Mueller head of the city guard. A zealot, but a good man. Mueller had the crowd captivated with his words and theatrical delivery. As we drew nearer, we noticed another man tied to a wooden stake behind him.

    Mueller was going on and on about the sins of this man, whose mind was infected with demons. This man had broken into his neighbor’s house and killed a father of three and the family dog. In his defense, he had said that whispers came to him in the night, slow at first but over time he could no longer take it, the sources of these demonic whispers? His neighbor’s dog.

    Mueller then lit an ornamental torch and spoke to the crowd about the virtues of the Morninglord, whose holy fire and light blessed this land and the people in it. We pushed ourselves closer to the platform as Mueller held a quick prayer, begging the Morninglord to let this man burn only if he was guilty, and otherwise to spare him. The crowed was in a fervor as we finally made it up to the platform.

    Aarin, who had redone his look to blend into the people of Aambrust, called out for Mueller to wait. Aarin cast control flame, and held a glowing ball of fire in his palm as he climbed up to stand near the captain. Mueller claimed this as proof of his words, that Aarin must truly be a man without sin, as the fire did not burn him! Aarin then asked Mueller to shake his hand, and to share the gifts of the Morninglord. Mueller agreed, and removed his glove to shake Aarin’s hand, grimacing in pain as he was burned by the fire.

    Mueller admitted dramatically to the crowd that he himself was not without sin, who was in this world? He would be at the church of the Morninglord for morning prayers and he hoped that the crowd would be there with him to sing praises to their god. Mueller asked if Aarin was a holy man. Aarin said that was of sorts, but that Antonio was actually the holy man of the group. The crowd’s attention shifted to our party, when the unthinkable happened.

    One old lady called out that we were in the presence of an avatar of the Morninglord. As the crowd pushed in, they removed Luminor’s hood, revealing his elven features. A gasp issued forth from the crowd, which was dangerously close to becoming a mob.

    Mueller called down from the platform, “Does she speak true? Are you the herald of the Morninglord? What is your name?”

    With too many people and too many questions, Luminor just spoke his name. The old lady’s eyes grew wide, and she smiled a joyous smile. “Luminor means light! The herald of the Morninglord walks among us!” With that we were carried, pushed, and jostled to the church. The rest of us shaking our heads in disbelief. There was no way….

    But when we reached the temple of the Morninglord, a tall gothic church, we saw in the setting sunlight a ten-foot stained glass window. Depicted was a tall, thin man in soft pink robes. In one hand was a holy text, in the other was a flame. From both hands and from behind his head rays of golden light issued forth. And he was the spitting image of Luminor.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”
    Last edited by Mr_Fixler; 2018-08-03 at 10:37 AM.

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ZenBear's Avatar

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    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    More great stuff! Did nobody question the Druid about why this revenant is after him? Seems like something that ought to be handled sooner rather than later. Looking forward to more!

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Hi ZenBear! Yes, the group did press Aarin the druid for details and history before the fight. He told them that he didn't want to talk about it and that it was his problem not theirs. It wasn't the response i was expecting but it's his call.

    It's semi-obvious who it is, but why he is seeking revenge is currently between the player and I. Aarin knows what he did. In fact he came up with it.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    So a real challenging aspect of bringing a new player or character into a game is timing. Do you dump them cold into the opening of the session, wait until it makes narrative sense, or some other time? I get that it's a game first and a story second. But I struggle with the PCs treating somebody different because they know it's a real person and not an npc.

    I think we made it work in session 7 because the player and I worked together on how to introduce the character beforehand. I would be very interested in other people's similar experiences or advice.

    Thanks for reading! More to come.
    Read a finished campaign journal of a homebrew Ravenloft game here

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Looks like about every four sessions or so will be on a new post. Love to hear any feedback. Happy gaming.

    Spoiler: Session 9 - Eastbourne
    Show

    As our party was being all but carried into the church of the Morninglord, Antonio whispered to us that he had met the head of the church here, Father Gerard, and was wary of him but could not quite place it. The crowd continued to reach out and try to touch or at the very least see Luminor as he was eventually thrust past the pews that lined the old building to the front of the church. At the front of the large room knelt a young woman with medium length brown hair and a heavily faded red robe. Beside her was a much older man, wearing pink robes so light they were almost white. As the crowd approached the young woman helped the older man to his feet and as he turned to face us we could tell from his mannerisms that he was blind.

    The old man asked what all the commotion was about and was met with shouts and exclamations from the crowd that was too difficult to make out. His calm and gentle demeanor belied a firmness of character, and soon enough the crowd was quieted down to hushed whispers. He once again asked what was the meaning of this interruption of sunset prayers. Captain Mueller pushed himself to the front of the crowd and told the old man about the Herald of the Morninglord and those who walked in the light with him.

    The old man asked the party to step forward and introduce ourselves. This was Father Gerard and he was one of the few proper clerics of the Morninglord here in Eastbourne. The young woman was Lydia, who assisted him with the daily duties and rituals asked of him by the Morninglord. There was also a middle-aged man named Otto who tended the church building itself, and a young teenage boy with solid red robes who had just been initiated into the clergy and assisted with small tasks.

    Gerard reached out to touch Luminor’s face and asked Lydia to describe him (we found out quickly he was blind from looking into the sun). Satisfied, he told the crowd that today was glorious day, and that this was truly a sign of hope from the Morninglord, that the recent troubles would soon be coming to a close. Night inevitably broke into dawn, and the life-giving sun would always provide. We heard Captain Mueller cough “and burn the guilty”, but the Father paid him no heed. Instead he told everyone to please give him and the herald some time to commune and he looked forward to sharing good news at the sunrise prayer and service.

    Once everyone had dispersed, Gerard asked Luminor what it was he was sent here for. Was there a message or a lesson? Was there something that Gerard or the people of Eastbourne could do for the Morninglord? Luminor was understandably nervous, and was unable to give much detail. Basically, keep doing the good work they were doing and take care of each other. Perhaps let the group help with the recent problems that had been mentioned. Ginko especially seemed amused at Luminor’s predicament and several times set him up for further lies and deceptions to the cleric. The other party members took on a more wait and see approach at how this might all play out.

    Father Gerard told us about the nightmares that had always been associated with Eastbourne. For as long as anyone could remember there had been nightmares and strange poltergeist-like activity in the town. It was a double-edged sword for it also seemed to keep the Hunter at bay. His forays into the region were few and far between. Often short and bloody, but fortunately few. However, recently the nightmares and paranoia had taken a turn for the worse. Just before harvest, three or so weeks back, certain members of the populace had been acting strange. The first terrible thing that had happened was the murder of a neighbor and their dog, the culprit of which we saw in the town square.

    Gerard had been using something called dreamwater to help promote healthy sleep and peaceful nights for the people of Eastbourne, but demand had been increasing and his supply was running low. The herbs and reagents he needed grew in the swampland to the south, and in fact that was what he had hired Antonio’s former party to do before he met up with us. Gerard asked Luminor and the rest of the party if we were sent here to help Eastbourne with its recent troubles. Luminor said yes, we would do all that we could.

    We thanked Gerard for his help and for calming the crowd, and told him that we would see him at the morning service. As we went to exit the church we saw a well-dressed man standing in the vestibule near the door. He had short brown hair, and dressed in purple and black clothes befitting someone of wealth. Most noticeable were the heavy burn scars across most of his face and that he had an ornate wooden foot from the calf down on his left leg. He cleared his throat and offered his hand to the group.

    "Good evening. My name is Kalamar. Would you please accompany me to my home? I think there is much we need to discuss.” He gave Luminor a hard glare before adding, “Privately.”

    We had been wanting to meet up with Kalamar anyway, as we had heard that he was a mage, enchanter, and was recruiting for some sort of expedition. As we walked, albeit slowly with Kalamar’s wooden leg clomp clomping down the cobblestones,

    Kalamar turned to Atonio and welcomed him back to Eastbourne. His items had been completed yesterday, but we could discuss that further at the house.

    Kalamar lived in a large two-story home a few blocks from the church. His butler, Lorenze, met us at the door. Lorenze was the stereotypical old British butler complete with a stiff upper lip and dry mannerisms. Kalamr asked him to put a kettle on and warm up some biscuits for his guests as we took our seats on plush chairs in Kalamar’s entertaining room.

    Kalamar told Luminor point blank that he knew that he wasn’t a herald of the Morninglord, but simply an elf and that the folk here had never seen an elf. He didn’t appreciate the façade as he cared very much about the church and the people of Eastbourne. When asked how he knew, Kalamr revealed that he himself was an elf and told us a brief history.

    Like us, he was an outsider to Ravenloft, which was the plane that we were in. He was formerly an enchanter for a royal elven court, but found himself her in this dark land close to a hundred years ago. For decades, he had roamed the various lands, gathering knowledge and searching for clues on how to get back home. Thirty years ago in Falkovnia, an extremely war-torn and fascist country, their military police discovered that he was an elf. His ears were clipped, and he was to be burned at the stake. As the flames licked his face, a traveling cleric of the Morninglord prayed for rain, and a sudden storm saved his life. This cleric helped arrange his escape from Falkovnia and he ended up here in Aambrust.

    Aambrust was called “the beartrap” by its surrounding countries, for once you set foot in it, it was impossible to leave its borders. Undeterred, Kalamar continued his search into the mysteries of Ravenloft, but his travels were cut short when he lost his foot in an actual beartrap. With limited healing magic available, he decided to settle down in Eastrbourne where he posed as an affluent merchant and philanthropist. He went back to his old craft of enchanting magic items which he sold to the Vistani when they came to the region. He had learned much about Ravenloft and Aambrust, and for close to three decades had been searching for a way home.

    When asked about his expedition, he told us that several old texts mentioned a tower far to the southeast that as far as he knew was undisturbed. Reportedly it was haunted, but legend also mentioned that it was the home of a powerful wizard. It was from this tower that much of the dreams and ghosts of the region seemed to emanate. The closer one drew to the tower, the more severe the dreams and daytime hallucinations, also a higher likelihood of being attacked by ghosts and spirits in the mists. The fact that it seemed to keep the Hunter at bay hinted at further significance. Kalamar knew that this was no mission for the townspeople, he needed battle tested help. Additionally, he knew that the group would need magic weapons in case they needed to fight ghosts. He was happy to make them as long as the prospects covered the costs of materials.

    He gave us a proposition. We could either pay one thousand gold for some enchanted weaponry, or we could go on a short quest to both prove ourselves and do a good deed for the people of Eastbourne and pay half as much. Antonio had already completed his quest gathering the reagents for dreamwater for the church as well as paid his five hundred, and thusly his magical short sword was ready. The only person who had anywhere close to that kind of money was Terminus, so we all agreed that we would take his alternative offer.

    Kalamar told us that a day’s ride north of here, on the road simply called the North road, was a bridge that crossed one of the rivers that ran through the region. This road was the lifeline of a small farming community that was slowly building a town to the north, called Crossway. Yesterday, a traveler told him that there had been some sort of attack at the bridge, as they saw an overturned wagon but no bodies. Kalamar feared there could be bandits or worse, and tasked us to investigate the bridge to make sure that the road between Crossway and Eastbourne stayed safe. Or as safe as a road could be in Aambrust.

    He bid us good night, and recommended an inn that the merchants frequented. We found the inn, payed for a night’s stay and a warm bath, and were headed upstairs when we heard yelling coming from outside. Rushing outside, we saw smoke and easily found our way to a home that was engulfed in flame.

    We could hear people trapped inside yelling for help, and a bucket brigade was forming to try and douse the fire. But then, the door burst open and two flaming beings stepped out. They cried out, “Luminor!” and charged at our elven companion. Terrified, the people of Eastbourne held back, and we entered into a combat with these creatures. As the rounds ticked by, the house began to crumble and break in on itself. Aarin attempted a rescue but was driven out by the flames and smoke. Ginko had his crab companion Bodo got as many buckets of water as they could to assist as well, but were forced to use them on the creatures and not the house.

    When the people on the second floor died, their bodies were consumed by the intense flames, and new creatures were created. We were unable to save anyone, and ended up fighting five of the flame monsters in total. We got roughed up pretty good, and had multiple people in death saving throws before the tide of battle began to turn. As the last one was felled, it shouted, “We burn with Luminor’s fire!” before being reduced to a pile of glowing embers and ash.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Real Life Happens
    Show

    Of course, right when Luminor’s subplot was…heating up, we learn that Luminor’s player is unable to continue making it to the weekly session. He had some real-life responsibilities to tend to that would be taking him away for a significant amount of time. He gave the DM and the rest of the group a heads up. It is one of those things that we all had to kind of adjust our suspension of disbelief in the game. The way our party relationships were, I think we all would have gone off looking for him.


    That left us with four remaining players and characters. Ginko the Ranger, Aarin the Druid, Terminus the halfling assassin, and Antonio the Cleric of Lady Luck.

    Spoiler: Session 10 - The Bridge
    Show

    The session began right where the last one left off. The fire spirit monsters had just shouted, “We Burn with Luminor’s Fire.”

    There was no way the crowd missed that. To avoid another mob or potential riot, we ducked down some alleyways and successfully lost the people who were trying to catch up with us. We decided to chalk up our payment at the inn as a loss and returned to Kalamar’s house. There we told him what happened, rested up, and tried to think of a way to set things straight in the morning.

    The next morning Luminor was gone. Just gone. The window was open and his belongings were missing. Terminus who had shared the room with him did not recall hearing anything or being awoken during the night. The wizard Kalamar and the party pieced together the events over a breakfast of cold cut meats, cheeses, and bread rolls. Everyone froze when we heard a heavy commotion at the front door and hard knocking. The butler Lorenze announced Captain Mueller who was looking for Luminor.

    Mueller eyed us suspiciously and said that the Herald had “apparently decided to punish the guilty” but that the city guard could not find evidence of a crime. He questioned us thoroughly but we truly had no answers for him. He investigated the room Luminor had escaped from. Eventually he told us that under no uncertain terms were we to inform the guard if we heard or saw anything.

    With no other leads, and no trace of our missing party member, we returned to the inn to get our cart and donkeys and headed on the North road towards the ruined city of Falsher to investigate the bridge. It was a little late in the morning but we didn’t have much else we needed to accomplish. The change in scenery was welcome. Both the oppressive fear of the Tottenwald forest and the intensity of Eastbourne was behind us, at least for the time being. We could actually see the sun in the sky and for the first time in a long while felt relatively safe. For the next several hours we followed the road over gentle hills, eventually leaving the scattered farms behind.

    Close to three in the afternoon we spotted a wagon on the side of the road. The driver was motionless in their seat and the single horse chewing grass. Upon inspection, we found the driver was cold dead, but had no trace of wounds. He still had a bag of money on his belt. The wagon was carrying a single heavy millstone and nothing else.

    Our druid Aarin approached the horse and calmed its nerves. Between Aarin’s rough “conversation” with the horse and our own deductions of the evidence what had happened was the driver had been taking the millstone to Crossway, something happened and the driver died, and the horse had been slowly coming back home to Eastbourne but stopped for a snack. The horse also wanted to be free of the heavy wagon and run around. Aarin obliged and “told” the horse it was free now, never needed to pull anything again, and that it had no master. Aarin also let it know that if it wanted to come with us of its own free will, that he would protect it and make sure it was fed and taken care of.

    One high roll later and we had a new horse that refused to wear a saddle or pull a cart. We named it Millstone.

    We didn’t get to the bridge until after dark, but the moon and our own light sources made it easy enough to see when we came upon it. We were on the south bank of a river maybe forty feet across. On our side of the bank there was a small stone building attached to the bridge, perhaps a guard post or something of the sort. We could see a similar building on the other side. From the ashy fire pit and the soot marks on the walls and roof we could tell that travelers used these small structures as a rest stop on their journey. We crossed the bridge and looked in and under it, but there was not much outside of some mud and reeds.

    After expanding our search, we found another wagon and four human bodies on the south bank. Antonio and Ginko used their medicine skills to try and determine cause of death. There was a merchant and a teenage girl some distance from the wagon.

    They didn’t have any weapons but they had left tracks in the mud as if fleeing and then just fallen down. There were also two guards a male and a female. Both had weapons drawn, but the weapons did not have any blood on them. All four bodies showed no sign of recent wounds or injuries.

    There were no prick marks on the necks, and none of the bodies or the wagon had been looted. The wagon contained building materials: crates of nails, tools, metal fittings, etc. The wagon had been drawn by two horses but they appeared to have broken free and we could see their tracks heading west. With the clues from this and the previous wagon, as well as Kalamar's warnings of ghosts, we guessed that we were dealing with some sort of spectral or ethereal threat. Which was not great because only Antonio had a magic weapon, and only Aarin had much magic. The good news was that we had purchased some holy water from Gerard before we departed Eastbourne, and maybe some of our silvered items might come into play.

    We paired off to try and rest and keep watch in the southern structure next to the bridge. It didn’t take long before our suspicions were realized. The DM played a screaming/crying wail and asked us to roll initiative. It turned out that we were up against a banshee, and banshees can hit hard. It opened with its signature wail and Ginko and Terminus were immedietly at 0 and making death saves.

    We eventually got them back up but we also had to contend with her fear effect and draining touch. She continued to scream and cry “They are dead. They are both dead.”

    Antonio tried to get more information out but was met with a flurry of attacks. The big turning moment of the fight was Terminus hiding behind the structure from the fear effect, finally making his save, running back and successfully sneak attacking the banshee with the last vial of holy water. As her form began to wisp away and vanish Antonio tried once more to see if he could find out who died, we all suspected that it would somehow tie in to putting her to rest.

    The banshee cried softly, “My husband and son.” Antonio asked their names and right before she dissipated we heard one final whisper, “Walter and Niko.”

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Session 11 - South on the North Road
    Show

    We were woken early in the morning by a cawing crow. It frantically hopped around the inside of the structure and pecked at Ginko’s pack. Aarin shooed it away and it went to the bridge, fluttering back and forth and cawing relentlessly. Ginko looked into his bag and found a rolled-up parchment that he knew wasn’t in there before. The DM handed him a note, which he read and promptly tore to ribbons. We asked him what was in the letter and he said it was nothing. He went outside for some fresh air and saw that the crow was now pecking at scratching at a triangle-shaped rock on the riverbank.

    Ignoring this, Ginko went to wash his face in the river and attempted to stealth away from the party. The only person who saw him was the druid Aarin, who caught up with him on the north side of the bridge. The party split briefly at this point and some people were sent out of the room, but everything will be included here for clarities sake.

    Aarin and Ginko continued to walk north and had a heart to heart. Ginko told Aarin that there was something that he needed to check up on and it was for him alone. This matter was very personal and that depending on the outcome, Ginko would do his best to meet up with the group back in Eastbourne. Aarin told Ginko that they were a team and could face anything together, but that he understood. He made Ginko promise to check back in with them when he was able. Aarin then turned back around to return to the bridge and the rest of the party.

    Meanwhile, at the riverbank, Terminus and Antonio noticed that their other party members were absent, but did not see which way they went. They went to the triangular rock that the crow was pecking at. At their approach, it flew away north and they lost sight of it after a minute. There was a few minutes of them investigating the rock, Antonio detected magic on the rock, and Terminus searched for traps on the rock. We were paranoid about that rock. Which way was the rock pointing? (Technically three directions) Was it a seemingly local rock? (Failed nature roll and we learned that a rock is rock to those two) Can we move the rock? (Yes) What is under the rock? (Mud and earth)

    Finally, Antonio and Terminus thought that maybe it was a marker of sorts and went back to the stone structure where they had camped to get Antonio’s shovel. They dug a hole where the rock was and were surprised when they struck something wooden.

    Looking around, and still seeing no sign of anyone, they pulled a chest out of the earth. It was both locked and trapped, but Terminus did well at taking care of both. Inside was a human skull, hundreds of gold pieces, and two vials. Terminus and Antonio realized they had the opportunity to keep the money for themselves, and Lady Luck agreed with their decision after Antonio flipped his coin. Terminus’ assassin knowledge helped him identify the vials as two poisons. One was a strong paralysis poison. The other would not do damager per se, but would cause intense and excruciating pain. Antonio took the paralysis position and Terminus kept the pain poison.

    When Aarin returned to the camp, and everyone was in the same room, the group asked him where Ginko was. Aarin said that he never found Ginko and that we needed to try and find his tracks. Aarin saw the hole that was dug under the rock and asked what they found. Terminus said they found a chest with a human skull in it, but it looked old. Maybe it was Walter or Niko’s skull and related to the banshee? Everyone went into the structure to gather their belongs and loaded them back into the cart. We looked around for Ginko’s tracks and Aarin found what he suspected were Ginko’s footprints headed back south on the road to Eastbourne.

    Of course, Ginko’s player was at the table during all of this with a poker face. He and the DM passed some notes and Ginko rolled some dice. Only Aarin’s player had even a vague idea of what was going on, the rest of the party had no clue whatsoever.

    The party stopped for a moment at the wagon with the millstone on the side of the road as we neared Eastbourne, and debated whether we should pick it up or not. Maybe the people of Crossway would need it or pay for it? We got out to see how heavy it was and if it was in good condition. Everything seemed ok, but we decided that it would be better to reach Eastbourne before sundown so we ignored the stone for now and pushed on.

    We reached Eastbourne just as the sun was starting to set, and brought our donkeys and new horse Millstone to a stable. When we exited the stable we were dumbstruck to see Ginko standing out front grinning like an idiot. Aarin was suspicious, turned into a dog, and smelled him to make sure it was actually Ginko. The party congratulated Aarin on his tracking ability, he had led them right to Ginko. Boy, did Ginko move fast or what? He outpaced the donkeys for almost a full day’s travel. Ginko gave no indication as to what was going on, and just smiled at everyone.

    As we crossed the town square we saw two familiar merchants unloading cargo. Both parties recognized each other. We had a brief moment where we forgot their names, but eventually we were reminded that this was Martin and Willet who we had all, minus Antonio, met on our first trip to Brombeere. Martin was happy to see us, and Willet gave a wave, but they both looked tired and rough from their travel.

    Martin explained that they had pretty much been riding nonstop for three days and were exhausted. There was some strange stuff going on in the Tottenwald, both between Thornwall and Brombeere and on the way to Eastbourne.

    They had just unloaded some iron ore and a bit of silver at Thornwall and picked up dried meats and foodstuffs to bring to Brombeere. On that first night, a heavy fog set in as it does there, and they had to slow their pace. They saw a few ghouls peering at them from the trees, but Willet fired a few bolts into the forest to keep them at bay. Then the merchants heard thunderous hoofbeats. In the lantern’s light, they turned back and both of them saw it. Outlined at first, but then in gruesome detail a rider emerged. He rode atop a pale horse, visor down, and he wore armor that seemed to fade in and out of the mists. In a deep booming voice, the pale rider called for them to stop. Martin, who was driving at the time, threw caution to the wind and pushed his team of horses for all they had. They somehow outpaced him, but by the time they got to Brombeere, the wagon needed some repair.

    They stopped for a few hours to nap and get repairs, but soon a thick fog began to roll up on the town. Martin and Willet thought it was a good time to go. However, before they left, Ullrich asked them to find Aarin in Eastbourne where they were headed. Ullrich paid them to carry a message for him. The revenant had shown up in Brombeere asking after Aarin, and describing his new look perfectly. Upon hearing this, Ullrich and his men were able to capture him, took away his weapons, bound his arms, and tossed him in their jail. The revenant paced for an hour before smashing his head over and over against the stone wall. When they got the door open he had already killed himself, his head a bloody mess of bone and tissue. Ullrich thought that these events might be important to Aarin and asked that Martin pass on the message.

    Fearful of their pursuer, ghouls, and this recent news about the revenant Martin and Willet rode at a pace that earned the Breakneck its name. Just before they cleared the forest, they saw strange tree creatures roaming through the brush, but they rode on. They were frightened, exhausted to the point of collapse, and had little cargo to make the trip worth it. We told them of our own encounters with the tree monsters and that it was probably for the best they rode past. They said that they had no intention of going back through the Tottenwald anytime soon. Martin figured they would load up some cargo to bring to Crossway and make their way back along the northern route through the mountain passes and take the long way back to Folkestone.

    We told them that at least as far as the bridge was clear and we had fought a banshee there but defeated it. Relieved they bid us a good evening and apologized for what a sight they must be. We told them to get some rest and we were sure we’d see them again soon.

    Aarin was of course spooked about the news of the revenant who was back on his tail. The rest of us didn’t even know where to start between the ghouls, the tree monsters, and now this pale rider who traveled in the fog. We went straight back to Kalamar’s house and gave him the news over some wine. All except for Ginko who turned his lips black with all of the blackberry liquor he was drinking. We told him of the banshee and what she had said before she “died”.

    Kalamar was surprised to hear it was a banshee. Her description was similar to a few tales from his history books on the area, but she had never appeared in that location before. Nobody had ever heard or at least written down the names she had mentioned, so they didn’t ring any bells with Kalamar.
    Kalamar said he would start on our magic items in the morning and took our requests.

    Ginko asked for his heavy crossbow to get enchanted and Terminus offered his short sword for upgrade. Aarin said that he didn’t use his weapon nearly at all and asked if Kalamar could do armor? Kalmar said yes and that he would enchant Aarin’s hide armor. Antonio already was accounted for. Kalamar said to give him a few days to work and that he had word that two more would be joining us for our expedition. He estimated it would be less than a week before we set out.

    Kalamar invited us to stay with him that evening and for as long as we needed to while in Eastbourne. Before bed we discussed what our plans were. Antonio asked us if we would be willing to go back and investigate that wheel he had encountered in the swamps to the south. It was a possible way home and if it didn’t work, we could always grab some more reagents for the church to make dreamwater.

    He said it would probably be at most another two-day trip, we could reach the wheel in roughly a day. The rest of us thought it was a sound plan, and Antonio had joined us on our quest when he didn’t have to. We agreed to grab a few things in town in the morning and head out for this magical wheel tomorrow.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”
    Last edited by Mr_Fixler; 2018-08-17 at 03:40 PM.

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

    Join Date
    Nov 2013

    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    I just started reading through your sessions now. I have to say I love the introduction into the campaign, the players being thrown into the world with little explanation and just figuring things out on their own.

    I also really liked the cabin encounter. I feel like smaller encounters like that which are still just as spooky do so much for building the setting and atmosphere.

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    May 2018

    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Quote Originally Posted by mcmuffinfluffin View Post
    I have to say I love the introduction into the campaign, the players being thrown into the world with little explanation and just figuring things out on their own.
    Thank you very much. This was a bit of a throwback to 2e and even the original Ravenloft modules where it just kinda happens. Did the darklord being you? Was it the mists? Was it something you did or completely random?

    I also liked the concept of different people from way different lands who are thrust into a situation and have to work together. They may not trust each other completely at first but (hopefully) over time grow into a real solid team.
    Read a finished campaign journal of a homebrew Ravenloft game here

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    May 2018

    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Another week, another session ( #10 added to the spoilered post above). Sadly this week one of the players had to bow out. Luminor the elf rogue is gone for the foreseeable future.

    Which brings up how to deal with this in the actual game. The Players know the character is gone and even if they look for him in the game, the best they are going to find is me pretending to his character. That's not fun or fair to anybody. So we pretty much all just have to kind of shrug and move on. Suspension of disbelief is strained for a session or two, but in my experience the group will move on. I think this is better than having the character die or tag along as an NPC before making an exit.
    Read a finished campaign journal of a homebrew Ravenloft game here

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    May 2018

    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Spoiler: Session 12 - The Wheel
    Show

    Before we ventured into the swamps south of Eastbourne we split up briefly to purchase a few things for our trip. Antonio and Aarin went to the temple of the Morninglord to restock our supply of holy water. Until our magic weapons were finished, the holy water was our most reliable option at fighting of the ghosts which seemed to inhabit this region. On their walk, they noticed that the townsfolk were acting a bit odd. Nothing they could put their finger on, just…weird.

    Terminus and Ginko went to the marketplace to pick up a few other odds and ends of adventuring equipment. While browsing, Ginko noticed that everything suddenly got very quiet. Time seemed to slow down. Every single person in the marketplace froze in place, turned their head to face him, and whispered “Niko”. In a blink, everything snapped back to normal. Ginko asked Terminus if he saw any of that happen, to which Terminus said he didn’t see or hear anything. Ginko yelled out “I hate this city!” in the middle of the market before storming off to meet the other half of the party.

    With all of the dreams that the party had been having, we were all on edge. Paranoia and disparate realities had a grip on the entire region. It seemed to have a grip on us as well. Nevertheless, we reconvened and began our trek into the swamp. Due to the expected terrain, we left the donkeys “Edmund” and “Edmunds Horse”, and Aarin’s new friend Millstone at the stables.

    We trudged through a morass of standing water and vegetation, which varied from ankle to waste deep. A thick fog hung over the entire swamp, here and there we could make out the outline of gnarled trees. Insects buzzed about and whenever we found higher ground we stopped to pull of leeches and bugs that had found us.

    Antonio was almost frantic to be out of this swamp in general. Terminus also had a hard time getting along because he was so much shorter. Ginko and Aarin were both just happy to be out of the city. It was slow going, but our ranger and druid took the opportunity to gather the plants necessary for making dreamwater when we returned to Eastbourne.

    We heard moaning and chains through the fog. Our high passive perception paid off and we had at least a few moments to find some defensible ground and prepared for attack. There were several sprits wrapped in heavy chains and padlocks, with long lengths of chain trailing behind them. In the thick fog, they were hard to make out, but the noise they made helped us pinpoint their location. Much of the evening’s session was spent in our combat with these creatures.

    They attacked with their chains for respectable damage, and would attempt to entangle our party and drag them into the deeper waters of the swamp. They of course were able to float over the whole mess, sometimes putting themselves in areas that were difficult to reach without wading hip deep into the water.

    Whenever it seemed like we had the upper hand, another chain bound ghost would rise from the murky swamp or glide in through the fog. When the dust settled, we had all survived. Antonio and Ginko were in bad shape. Aarin and Terminus were a little better off, but a long rest would do the party some major good. We were not looking to get into any fights for the rest of the day and contemplated running if anything else came up.

    After a few minutes, Antonio was able to find some familiar landmarks and said we were nearing where he had encountered the wheel that allowed some of his former party to return home. There was a gentle slope upwards and we were back to shin deep water. As we neared it, we began to see the details of the wheel and what surrounded it.

    The first thing we saw was a portal-like structure, maybe twenty feet in diameter made from woven branches and sticks. The edges were sharp and jagged. The structure looked like a big letter “O” that you could walk or jump through the middle of. Beside it on a wooden platform just high enough to not be underwater, was the wheel. It looked something like a spinning wheel that you would see at a carnival or fair, with crudely painted designs and wooden pegs to designate the spaces. Standing on the platform, with its arms at its sides, was a being in a long black cloak, with the hood drawn down. The DM described it simply as a grim reaper like figure.

    This was not the wheel we were expecting.
    Then we heard hoofbeats.

    Antonio looked over his shoulder in a panic, and ran the rest of the way up to the platform. The rest of us followed hm. In a loud yet emotionless voice, the hooded being called out to us, “Who wishes to spin the wheel and chance fate?” As the hoofbeats grew louder, Antonio stepped forward, “I will play.”

    The figure, unfazed, then called out again, “And who will pay the price for the game?” Antonio, fire in his eyes, yelled out, “Ginko pays!” With that he stabbed Ginko in the stomach with his shortsword, sending Ginko into unconsciousness. The blade was coated with the paralysis poison he had found at the riverbank. Terminus and Aarin were stunned but snapped back to reality just as quickly and demanded to know what was going on. Antonio told us that this was out ticket out of Ravenloft, that whoever wanted to go home only had to offer the soul of another. He attempted to turn the Aarin and Terminus against each other, but they were not having it. The cloaked figure raised its hand, and we saw a strange smoke emanating from Ginko’s mouth.

    The next few moments once again turned the campaign upside-down.

    The pale horse thundered forth from the fog. Atop the horse in a dirty armor, his arm held high with a sword in hand, rode a helmed knight that made no sound. Strange light emanated from the blade as he rode towards Ginko. The DM rolled to attack…Antonio? It was a 19. Antonio looked at his hp and said, “Not again!” to the DM and used his Lucky feat to force a reroll.

    20, a critical hit. A huge handful of dice were rolled and Antonio’s head went rolling. The whole party was in shock. Aarin and Terminus rushed towards the pale rider who leapt off his horse, sword in hand, and approached Ginko. Just before the party tackled him into the muck, the figure lifted the visor on the helm and spoke. Or actually, Antonio’s player spoke.

    “Aarin! Terminus! We have little time. Help me save Ginko!”

    Sir Edmund…

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”


    Act 2: Skull and Crossbows
    Spoiler: Session 13 - Return of the Revenant
    Show

    The party was confused, curious, and surprised, but we set that all aside for the time being as Sir Edmund used his lay on hands ability to revive Ginko. He followed up with a lesser restoration to help with the poison.

    When Ginko came to he saw Edmund’s face and asked if he was dead. Edmund said, “Not yet my friend, not yet.”

    With Ginko back among the living, Sir Edmund turned to the hooded figure that had been collecting the “payment” of Ginko’s soul. He was able to detect that the creature was fiendish in nature and definitely evil.

    What followed was an exchange wherein Edmund tried to understand exactly what the cloaked figure was doing and attempted to duel him fairly. Edmund wanted to destroy this wheel and portal, as it was obviously an evil trap of some kind. The figure refused to do battle, and told Edmund that if he destroyed this wheel, that it would simply build another somewhere else. Edmund realized the position that he was in and allowed the figure to leave, telling him that wherever he built another contraption such as this, that Edmund would destroy those too. We did not know the creature’s strength, and were in no position to do battle.

    We watched it disappear into the fog, and the group helped Edmund burn down and destroy the wooden wheel and portal that were erected in the swamp. When we were done, we decided that it would be best to trek back overnight back to Eastbourne. Sir Edmund had been riding for days with little rest, and was exhausted himself.

    On the way back, Edmund told us the tale of what had happened to him over the last week. Back in the ghoul nest, he slid down the narrow tunnel and landed amid the fighting below between the ghouls and Sebastian’s team. He landed extremely hard and broke his ankle. He was surprised that all the fighting was taking place in complete darkness. When he lit a torch, he was rewarded with more questions than answers.

    Sir Edmund told us that what he was about to say was a very well-kept secret, one that he was later sworn to uphold. While he definitely held some qualms about what he learned, he did not have a lot of time to delve into it. For now, he thought that it was for the greater good and safety of Thornwall.

    Sebastian’s group was injured and losing the battle against a large horde of ghouls. The reason for which, was that the ghouls were adorned with necklaces of garlic, mall mirrors, some were armed with wooden stakes. While many still fought and acted with animal-like intelligence, it appeared as if something or someone had prepared the ghouls for an attack and given them an edge to fight vampires. The Vampires the Hunter had warned them of, were Sebastian and the rest of the men and women of his group.
    Edmund’s presence and ability to remove the offending items was pivotal. When the explosion rocked the caverns moments later, Edmund fought through the mind-numbing pain in his ankle and pressed the advantage.

    With renewed efforts all around, Edmund and Sebastian’s team of warriors were able to eliminate the ghouls entirely. They were trapped, but they were alive. For the next three days, the vampires dug their way out, as Edmund used magic and medicine to set his broken angle and tend his wounds. Fortunately, Edmund still had his food and some water with him, although he was parched by the time they broke through and into the upper tunnels.

    Edmund learned that Lord Cross, Sebastian, Victoria, and the dozen elite soldiers under their command were all vampires. The group had some duh moments and questions. Did we see any homeless or beggars in Thornwall? (No) Is that why we only ever saw them at the night or dusk? (Probably) Is that why Lord Cross had no problem inviting us into his house? (Why would he worry?) Wait… was the wine….? (No, that truly was wine)

    Edmund continued his story. When he and Sebastian’s team returned to Thornwall, Alistair filled Edmund in on the rest of the details. The Cross family was originally a vampire coven hailing from the mountainous region to the north called the Geir Reaches.* Hundreds of years ago Alistair himself had moved the remaining members of the family to the fledgling town of Thornwall to benefit from mutual protection as each party could protect the other from the Hunter and other dangers during the day and night.* Certain members of the town are aware of this relationship, such as Odric, but the secret is kept to ensure the safety of the entire town.*

    It is a great honor to be “brought into the family” as the vampires swear to defend the community and citizens.* It was for this reason that Cross sent our party away, under the guise of anger for his son’s “death”, as he truly believes that the hunter is trailing them and testing them for some unknown reason and cannot put the people of Thornwall in jeopardy.* Sir Edmund promised to uphold their secret.

    Edmund spent the rest of that day preparing to depart Thornwall and catch up with his friends who had left heading east. This would have been the same day that the rest of the party arrived in Eastbourne. Just before he left, a courier arrived with a letter to Lord Cross from Kalamar. Kalamar related the story that Antonio had told him, about the wheel in the swamp. At the time Kalamar wrote the letter, Antonio was just departing for Brombeere, but Kalamar was hoping that Cross had heard something of the wheel. Perhaps it was a chance for the outsiders to return home! Luckily, Lord Cross knew exactly what the wheel was and its true design, although the last time he had heard of it, it was in a different location.

    Cross and Edmund deduced Antonio’s plan, and Cross lent Edmund the best horse from his stables, to try and reach his friends before it was too late. Edmund stopped briefly in Brombeere to warn Ullrich of the strange ghoul activity, and Ullrich told him about the business with the revenant just days prior.

    Edmund concluded by telling Ginko that he did the right thing. He collapsed the tunnel and saved Terminus’ life. Edmund and the residents of Thornwall made their way out eventually and the ghoul nest was completely destroyed. He knew that Ginko was in a tough position facing down the Hunter, but that Edmund was happy with the results of Ginko’s choice and didn’t blame him one bit.We filled Sir Edmund in on what had happened, which took less time because technically the player knew it already.
    Reunited, we slogged through the night to arrive in Eastbourne late the following morning. To some extent we were all wounded or exhausted so we planned to rest up for a few hours once we got into town.

    As we approached the south gate we noticed that there were less guards than normal, and the ones that were posted were looking into the city, instead of outwards. Cautiously we made our way to the town square to see what was causing the commotion. On the raised stage where we had previously seen Captain Mueller of the town guard, was the Revenant. Whatever magics reformed his body or if it was even the original body we couldn’t say, but he was on the stage with one of his swords to the throat of a young boy who couldn’t have been more than eight years old. He was using the boy as a shield, and calling out to the crowd to bring him Aarin or this boy and many more would die in the days to come. A frantic mother pleaded with him that she didn’t even know who Aarin was. The Revenant spit on the ground and told her that he knew he was in the city, and if he didn’t come forth, the streets would run red.

    From the back of the crowd Aarin yelled for the Revenant to stop. The crowd parted and allowed him to walk slowly towards the stage. As he walked, Aarin and the rest of the party were able to see Captain Mueller and many other men and women of the local guard getting into positions on the surrounding rooftops. They were armed with crossbows and were obviously getting ready to take the shot when it came time. Mueller caught Aarin’s eye and made a motion to indicate that Aarin needed to move the boy.

    As Aarin neared the platform he asked the Revenant to release the boy and take him as a hostage instead. The Revenant asked Aarin if he knew who he was. Aarin said yes, his name was Addison Riverstone, and he was the ranger who shared the forest with him back home. The corpse of Addison, if it truly was him, asked Aarin if he knew why he was here. Aarin said that it was because it was what he did, and that he regretted it now.

    The Revenant told Aarin that he was to get up on the stage and tell the crowd what he had done. Aarin complied. As the rest of the party drew nearer, we heard Aarin’s tale. Aarin was a guardian of a forest. He oftentimes clashed with those who would hunt and kill animals for sport or for furs as opposed to for survival and food. Addison was a ranger in the forest who he thought shared his views, but when he found that Addison had killed an entire wolfpack at the behest of some farmers at the edge of the forest, he killed Addison in cold blood. He stabbed him in the kidney with his antler focus. It was at that exact moment that mist came for him. Aarin believed that this was some sort of punishment for him. We were all very surprised. Gentle, animal loving Aarin had a bit of a dark streak. Aarin edged closer to the walking corpse and asked if that satisfied his demands.

    The Revenant laughed mockingly at Aarin and said that he would not be satisfied until Aarin was the pariah of every town, until he was a naked sobbing shell of a man. If Aarin truly wished to apologize, to try to make amends, he would make a symbolic gesture. He demanded that Aarin cut off his right hand. Aarin asked if Addison would let the young boy go if he did it. The Revenant agreed.

    So right then and there, in front of hundreds, Aarin pulled the scimitar from his belt and cut off his hand.

    The Revenant shoved the boy from the stage into the arms of his mother and told Aarin that he would be seeing him very soon. At that moment Mueller and his team of guards unleashed from the rooftops and pin-cushioned the Revenant with dozens of crossbow bolts. As it hit the stage, the corpse was smiling.

    The rest of us jumped on stage, Edmund immedietly aiding Aarin’s bloody stump with what healing he had left. Unfortunately, regenerative magic was beyond his ability. Aarin said he had a trip to make, and told us that this would be private. We asked him if it had to do with Addison. He answered yes, it was between the two of them, and them only. Aarin was in the process of picking up the body when Mueller caught up to us on the stage. The guards were trying to get the people to disperse and out of the square. Mueller said that Aarin did good saving that boy, and that he was sorry that he had to mutilate himself to do so. Aarin was somber, simply said it was fine, and left with the body of Addison Riverstone. He went to the stables, secured the body to Millstone and rode north without a word.

    The rest of us went to Kalamar’s house for some rest. We told Kalamar what had happened in the swamp, and while he was excited to hear about the wheel, he agreed that a soul and a game of chance was not the way he wanted to return home. However, it did indicate that whatever veil was placed over Ravenloft to prevent intraplanar travel could be pierced. We asked Kalamar if he knew of any way to get rid of a Revenant, because in theory it would be hounding Aarin for a full year. Kalamar did not know, but thought that Father Gerard at the church of the Morninglord might know more.

    Sir Edmund perked up at the mention of a church. He asked the DM if it would be appropriate if he could do a religion check to see if he would know anything about this Morninglord.

    The DM had a record scratch moment. Apparently, when making his character, Sir Edmund’s player claimed that he made up the name Torm because it sounded cool. He was fairly new to D&D and didn’t realize that not only was Torm an existing god, but one of the gods in Faerun where he said he was from, and furthermore that his portfolio fit Sir Edmund’s actions and code to a t. The DM could not believe that this was just coincidence. The player swore that he had no idea, that he may have read it somewhere, but he had no idea that Torm was an existing deity.

    Torm also just so happens to be an ally of the deity Lathander, god of light, the dawn, and new life. One of Lathander’s titles was the Morninglord. The DM explained to us that canonically in Ravenloft’s history, a misconstruction of events involving outsiders led to a wholly separate church of the Morninglord here on this plane. The DM thought that the player knew of the relationship, and had played along accordingly.

    It was decided that Sir Edmund would no doubt pick up on the similarities of the religions, the title of Morninglord, and recognize the alliance of faiths across different planes of existence. As we resumed the game back in character, the DM was asked if Lathander was an elf. The DM smiled and said no, he was depicted as a human back in Faerun, but that story was not part of this one, especially anymore.

    Before we rested, Kalamar let us know that he was wrapping up the enchantment of our magic weapons and Aarin’s armor. Some other members of the expedition were scheduled to arrive over the next day or two and we were scheduled to head out in three days’ time. Everyone who remained in Eastbourne took our rest and parted ways to get some dinner and get some stuff around the city. Edmund went straight to the church of the Morninglord and introduced himself to father Gerard. As expected, the two got on very well and had a lot of respect for each other and their similar faiths. Edmund also had a long conversation about taking the life of an evil man as opposed to helping him see the light. His quick murder of Antonio weighed heavily on him.

    We then cut to Aarin, who had just ridden north out of Eastbourne with the body of the Revenant. Aarin was looking for the nearest river, which was the one by the bridge a full day’s ride north. He didn’t push Millstone hard, but tried to make good time. When he arrived at the bridge and the river, Aarin immedietly set to work crafting a boat out of the broken wagon that was still there, as well as the reeds and rushes that grew along the riverbank. With the small, simple boat completed Aarin then held a funeral for Addison Riverstone. He forgave Addison for his anger. Aarin said that the two should have been friends and allies, but that Aarin took responsibility for the wedge that grew between them. He thanked Addison for the lesson, he did not intend to make the same mistakes with his new friends. Aarin admitted that he did not believe in an afterlife among the gods, but hoped that perhaps in their next life, that he and Addison could try again as members of the same pack. He placed Addison body in the boat and lit a small fire among the dried reeds. Aarin then pushed the boat and body into the river and watched it until it disappeared. Satisfied, Aarin allowed himself and Millstone a bit more rest before returning to Eastbourne.

    The next day, pretty much all we did was continue to rest and take it easy to reduce our exhaustion. For one reason or another we had all been losing sleep. Ginko turned in the ingredients he found in the swamp to the church to help replenish their supply of dreamwater. Sir Edmund said that he would help Father Gerard in the process of making more. The group purchased some of the water to help us all chase away the nightmares that had been plaguing us and get some restful sleep. All except for Edmund, who was unaffected by the dreams. We also got our new magic weapons and armor, freshly enchanted by Kalamar.

    That evening Kalamar held a dinner for us and our newly arrived associates that were joining us on the expedition in two days’ time. The first was a woman with long red hair, two blades on her belt, and dressed in furs and traveling clothes. Her name was Kiera, and she was a ranger out of Brombeere. The second was a tall muscular man in a long black riding coat and a large axe braced across his back. He was introduced as Dimitri Kashkov, he had recently been smuggled out of Falkovnia after leaving the military. He had a thick accent and told us a little about the harsh life in Falkovnia under the tyrannical rule of Vlad Drakov. His unit was tasked with burning down a “traitorous village” full of mothers and families. Dimitri did as he was ordered but fell into depression afterwards. When he returned to his home village his mind broke as he found smoldering buildings, his wife and young son had been killed. As he told us the story over dinner, we heard a commotion in the streets outside.

    Children were running up and down the streets yelling to the houses. The Vistani were at the gates! Kalamar wiped his mouth and said that this was a most fortunate turn of events. It was very rare that the Vistani came by and that it wouldn’t be long before they were chased off by the guard. We gathered our things and went to the city gates.

    The DM described the festivities that had already started. Fires and banners were scattered haphazardly between brightly colored wagons. Strange smells and catches of music and song drifted through the air. There was dancing, singing, drinking, trading, arguments, and games occurring all around us. We asked Kalamar who would be the right person to ask questions about the land and the mysteries we had been encountering. He explained a bit of what he knew of the Vistani culture, and that every band had a wise woman, or seer, called a raunie in their language. The male counterpart, called a captain, oversaw trade, commerce, and travel. This particular group frequented Aambrust. Their raunie was Madame Petra, and their captain was Duvresh. Kalamar had never met Petra, but said that he frequently bartered with Duvresh and was going to seek him for a business proposal this very evening.

    Ginko wasted no time in getting hammered drunk with the Vistani, and without our knowledge traded our two donkeys and a goat that he didn’t own for a pet monkey. The group purchased some fine alcohol and held a toast, asking Kiera and Dimitri if they would join us. Dimitri looked at the bottle and back at us before exclaiming, “I killed babies!” He took a mighty pull from the bottle, and sat down with his new drinking buddy Ginko hoping to drown his sorrows with before the nights end.

    The rest of us asked around and found Madame Petra’s wagon. Two grim looking men stood outside with their arms crossed. We asked if we could speak to their raunie. One man spat and told us that we were giorgios and were showing our ignorance by trying to use their tongue. Still, they said that we could see Petra if we gave a respectable donation.

    The inside of the wagon was crowded with trinkets and knick-knacks. Charms and oddities littered the shelves and strange scents permeated the room. In the center were a few pillows on the ground and a short table, behind which sat an elderly woman. She slowly sipped her tea and uttered not a word, although she moved with purpose and grace. She motioned to a small hinged box nearby. Those of us that were there, Sir Edmund, Aarin, and Terminus made healthy “donations” and were able to ask a few questions and have our fortunes read.

    At last she spoke, softly, but with a dignity and understanding. The Vistani were bound by rules different than our own, and she was cagey when the topic of the Hunter came up, as well as any discussion of evil in Ravenloft or Aambrust. She did know of ways out of Ravenloft, but would not or could not tell us.

    She obviously knew more than she was letting on, but we failed to convince her through our words or with gold to share more. She said that we had paid for a fortune telling, not a history lesson, and we moved on to having our palms read.

    First was Terminus. She looked at his palm and said that it was covered in blood and not his own, that he had forgotten who he was. Just as he wielded a blade, he walked on the edge of one. His fall would be fast and sudden. She saw the scar from where the Hunter had stabbed him in the ghoul cave, and asked Terminus if he was concerned about how his mark was progressing. Terminus said he didn’t know he had a mark. When Petra turned his hand over, on the back was the unmistakable black mark of the Hunter. It wasn’t fully formed, maybe one third of the stylized crossbow had appeared. Madame Petra said that he might want to keep his gloves on around the people of Aambrust. With that, Terminus’ reading was over.

    Next was our druid, Aarin. After tracing her long, bony finger across the lines of his hand, she told him that his future was not as clear. She saw two trees in the lines, not together but separate, and she could not determine their significance. She could tell that he struggled to integrate into a group, but that it was they who needed him more than he needed them. If he died, they would not return home.

    She also squinted and looked surprised. She reached onto a nearby shelf and grabbed a wax sealed envelope, she told Aarin that it had come to her only that morning and that it was for him. He should probably open it outside.

    The last of the group who had entered the tent was Sir Edmund. He politely declined a reading, saying that his hands were not his own, but an extension of Torm. He said that he came to ask her advice on how he might help the Hunter atone for the things he had done and the people he had hurt. Petra said that he was a fool to speak of such subjects out loud, but this time he was lucky. For in this wagon the lords of the land could not see or hear. The Vistani were bound to the land, and by extension the rulers of it. She smiled at his good heart, but her eyes showed great sadness and worry for his naivete.

    She answered with the following thoughts. The lords of the lands were as much a prisoner in Ravenloft as any outsider. They are granted powers and the land itself will change and warp to reflect its master. The terrain, the natives, the monsters, the effects of magic, and even the people who are brought in from the outside worlds are a reflection of those who preside. The lords may be tragic figures, but the time when they may have been saved from their dark fates has long since passed. Sir Edmund said, “But I am here. I refuse to believe that any man is beyond redemption. Perhaps my being brought here is a sign that he may still seek forgiveness. If his soul can be cleansed, so to may this land. Your words have strengthened my resolve. Thank you, Madame Petra, thank you!”

    Smiling, Sir Edmund exited the wagon. Madame Petra sighed and softly said, “How far that little candle throws his beams, so shines a good deed in a weary world.”

    Outside, Sir Edmund ran into Ginko who was stumbling drunk looking for his mates. Edmund said that Ginko needed to have his fortune told by Madame Petra, and that he needed to pull himself together. The two of them joined Terminus and Aarin in the wagon who were getting ready to leave, and Edmund paid handsomely for Ginko’s telling.
    For a long moment the old Vistani women looked and Ginko and he back at her. Neither spoke a word but eyed each other curiously.

    Than Ginko belched, stumbled, and nearly fell on her. Aarin and Terminus caught him and everyone apologized profusely. Petra was visibly annoyed and aggravated. She took his palm and froze. She turned it over, again and again tracing lines in his palm. Looked up at Ginko’s face nervously, then back at his hand. Then his other hand. So soft it was barely audible she whispered, “Niko…” Then Madame Petra snapped her head up and yelled, “Get out! Get out of my wagon and don’t come back!”

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Session 14 - The Expedition Begins
    Show

    The session began with all of us being tossed out of Madam Petra’s wagon. There was still a jovial party atmosphere going on in the Vistani camp. We sat down near a fire to hear a few songs (the DM sang for us!) and listen to a storyteller weave a tale about the distant town of Ulthar, where it was forbidden to kill a cat. During this time, many of the enthralled partygoers lost their coin purses, but we had been warned and left most of our money at Kalamars house, with the rest in our boots.

    Aarin checked the envelope that Madame Petra had given him. Inside was a letter and a simple ring. The letter was from Addison Riverstone and was a heartfelt message of thank for the funeral. Addison apologized himself for his actions and recognized that the two had escalated against each other in a way that would lead to the harm of many others besides themselves. The ring was Addison’s family heirloom which he was gifting to Aarin. Once per day it would allow Aarin to teleport himself only to a location he had been before. The DM let us know that each of us had a personal quest and depending on how we solved it, we would be receiving different rewards. Aarin solved his problem on his own without the group and took every opportunity to put himself in the way of harm.

    It was nearing midnight when the stories and songs ended. A tall Vistani with a red sash loosely tied around his waist approached us.
    He introduced himself as Duvresh and said that Kalamar had told him about our expedition, and that he had a proposition for us. The day after tomorrow we were to depart, Duvresh thought that the Vistani might need to depart as well at that point, he nodded to a Vistani running with two chickens and a large bag of coins, being chased angrily by a drunken man. He said that he was a fan of gambling and chance and would wager transport in their vardos (wagons) and save us from having to trek through the ghost ridden swamps on foot. He knew that Kalamar had just outfitted us all with some magic weapons and said that if he won the game, we forfeited these to him. If any of us won, he would provide transport for everyone to the tower.

    What followed was a crazy game of liar’s dice. Somehow the DM is amazing at this game, and he pulled way ahead, our confidence turned to fear as our magic weapons were on the line! In addition, the seating order kept changing as the DM and the rest of us got up and moved around the table. It was a tense game, made worse when Aarin was eliminated, but eventually Ginko go into a position where an exact bet would either take himself or Duvresh out of the game, and was successful with his bluff. Duvresh accepted his loss and told us that at the sunrise after next we would depart with his vardos and they would take us to the tower, saving us a least two days of travel time and skipping the swamps entirely.

    We returned to Kalamar’s house, which was getting quite crowded, and went to sleep.
    Those of us who needed it, took the dreamwater we had on hand to avoid any exhaustion from lack of sleep. The next day was spent making final preparations and obtaining everything we thought me we might need.

    There were two incidents of note. Father Gerard finally saw Sir Edmunds swan heraldry on his shield and recognized a snippet he read in the journal of a saint of the church. After looking it up Edmund recalled the story of a member of the family who mysteriously disappeared. Evidence seemed to point to Sir Reginald of Hank coming to Ravenloft over a hundred years previous, and befriending the church and nobility in the area. Father Gerard knew that there was a tomb somewhere in the moors but the location was lost. The records would likely lie somewhere in the ruined city of Falsher far to the North. We had the city’s location on our map but knew from previous discussions that it had burned down a long time ago. The second was that Aarin and Ginko began to hear a strange buzzing sound when they were outside. Like a white noise that they could not pinpoint.

    At last the day came. As the morning sun peeked through scattered clouds above the city of Eastbourne, we began our expedition. We found the Vistani packing up their tents and wagons and preparing for travel.

    Duvresh was waiting for us and ushered us to a brightly painted wagon with no windows and asked us to step inside. Aarin was hesitant, not sure if he trusted the Vistani captain, but everyone eventually squeezed into the wagon, including Ginko’s crab Bodo, which made for some comedy. Duvresh smiled as he shut the door, leaving us in nothing but dim lanternlight. The wagon started moving, slowly at first but then picking up speed. Aarin used some Druidic power to sense what direction we were heading. The wagon was definitely heading north-west, when our destination was south-east. Aaron tried the door but found it locked. Some members of our group began to panic and pounded on the roof and walls, except for Kalamar who sat quietly and began singing an eerie and familiar tune:
    “There’s no earthly way of knowing, which direction we are going…. Is it raining, is it snowing, is a hurricane a-blowing?.....Not a speck of light is showing, so the danger must be growing! Are the fires of hell a-glowing? Is the grisly reaper mowing? YES! The danger must be growing for the wagon keeps on rolling, and its certainly not showing, ANY SIGNS THAT WE ARE SLOWING! OOOOOAAAAAAHHHHHH”

    Aarin’s internal compass went haywire, and just as quickly as we had started we were at a dead stop. A slice of sunlight shone through the door and it opened once again on its own accord. Duvresh leapt into view and told us we had gone as far as he could take us. When we stepped out of the painted wagon we were in the middle of a grassy field. Rolling hills for as far as the eye could see, with small outcroppings of rocks to break up the terrain. There was no sound save for the rustling of the tall grass in the wind. We could see the tower in the distance, perhaps a few hours walk away.

    Not fifteen feet from us a was a scarecrow, with a tattered brown cloak blowing in the wind. In one hand was tied a crossbow, strung across its chest was a sign that read “Go no further, past this point I cannot help you”. We immedietly recognized this as a something the Hunter would have set up. Our assumption was affirmed when Ginko stepped into a beartrap hidden in the grass as he went to take the crossbow.

    Duvresh said that this was as far as he could go, there were rules that even the Vistani must follow, and sometimes those rules changed. Aarin balked and said that the deal was that we would be given a ride to the tower, not a few hours away. Specifically, he said that he felt “gypped.”

    Duvresh spun to face Aarin. “Gypped? Gypped?” Aarin, who’s player was oblivious to the massive blunder he had just stepped into affirmed that is what he said. “Yeah, gypped.”

    The Vistani’s eyes turned black and he began uttering a curse under his breath. Sir Edmund intervened on Aarin’s behalf and said that this was all a huge misunderstanding. Aarin meant no disrespect. Duvresh’s brow furrowed and he said that he would consider removing the curse if Aarin made an “apology”. He rubbed his fingers together in a way that spoke of money. Aarin paid him off and Duvresh said that with any luck we would all see him again someday. With that, he jumped back onto the wagon and began riding away over the hills.

    The seven of us walked the rest of the way to the tower. As we drew near we saw it was maybe four or five stories of gray stone. Terminus checked the steps and front doors for traps, but found nothing. The large wooden front door was locked, but not for long at the hands of our halfling. As the doors creaked open we were greeted with dust and darkness. The group lit our light sources and peered into the tower. The first “room” was a sally port, with a rusty portcullis stuck in the up position, and murder holes leading to two guard rooms on either side. Looking through the holes we saw skeletal remains and long rotted weapons.

    Just past this was a huge room that dominated most of the first floor. Strange machines and tables covered in glyphs were strewn about. It looked like Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. The most concerning thing was that the words “I Killed Him” were carved, written, and scratched across the walls. Some were huge, some were tiny. Over and over “I Killed Him”. We investigated some of the equipment, tools, and containers around the room, and found a few valuables, but nothing of importance.

    Some of the tables still had bodies or parts of bodies on them. They were not fresh, and the party did a few medicine checks to realize that they were actually composed of parts of several different people. During this, we noticed a faint blue glow coming from one of the bodies. On further investigation we found a spinal column that radiated some kind of cobalt blue energy. Figuring it was important we took it with us.

    As soon as we touched it the portcullis and the front door slammed shut. Before we could investigate ghosts attacked. They came from the ceiling and walls and we had a heck of a time fighting them back. We had a big party and our new comrades held their own. Kalamar showed off some of his magic ability. We took some hits but eventually they stopped coming. We chanced a short rest, but were attacked again by more ghosts.

    From here there were a few rooms left on the first floor, a staircase up, and a trapdoor leading to a basement. Everyone but Ginko and Dimitri went into the basement, with those two standing guard on the first floor.

    The basement was roughly hewn stone and dirt and did not contain much besides a giant pile of bodies. In a far corner, Terminus found a narrow tunnel which he crawled down a little bit before deciding he didn’t want to be separated from the party by too great a distance. He found a few gnawed bones in the tunnel and successfully rolled insight to recognized that this was a ghoul tunnel. He was familiar with those… He didn’t have dwarven stone cunning but clues pointed to this being a relatively recent creation, maybe in the last year or so.

    As he called out that he was coming back, the rest of the group in the basement investigated pile of bodies. It was probably ten or fifteen feet diameter of corpses, or pieces of corpses. Arms, legs, etc. spilled out of the pile and onto the floor. Sir Edmund saw the faintest blue glow coming from within the pile. Not wanting to crawl in or mess with the bodies too much he took one of his javelins out and attempted to fish it out. Slowly and carefully he threaded the javelin through the pile and hooked another glowing bone. Through the gaps he could see it was ribcage.

    The DM asked him how tight he was holding the javelin. Sir Edmund responded, “Pretty tightly”. The DM asked him to make a strength check. Without warning the trapdoor above us slammed shut and a rush of wind extinguished the torches, only Ginko who was with Dimitri above was using a shielded lantern. The group in the basement was in total darkness, save for a very feint blue glow. The DM described a lurching sensation as Sir Edmund was yanked by a dozen hands into the pile of bodies.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”
    Last edited by Mr_Fixler; 2018-09-13 at 11:32 PM.

  20. - Top - End - #20
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

    Join Date
    May 2018

    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    I'm super excited to share session 13 in the post above. It wraps up a 6 week "long con" that a player and I engaged in. Full details on what exactly happened in the spoiler below. Obviously spoilers for session 12 and 13.
    Spoiler: Behind the Scenes - Sir Edmund
    Show

    During the session at the Ghoul's nest I didn't expect that the party's Paladin would choose to jump down the escape tunnel alone. When he and I went in the other room to discuss, I told him straight up what was down there. We also discussed the interesting opportunity that we had to make the part think he was dead. He thought that it would be really cool if we could pull it off and lead to some interesting character development.

    Between that week and the next we also thought that it would be interesting to have his "replacement" character as a villian that Sir Edmund would help rescue the group from. So from the get go we had a plan with Father Antonio. For six weeks we had the group convinced that Edmund was dead.

    The look on their faces when I said the pale rider spoke and the player said his lines in Sir Edmunds voice was worth the wait.
    Read a finished campaign journal of a homebrew Ravenloft game here

  21. - Top - End - #21
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

    Join Date
    May 2018

    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Spoiler: Session 15 - The Expedition Continues
    Show

    This session started in darkness, with most of the party in a dark basement and Sir Edmund getting sucked headfirst into a pile of undead. The DM immedietly had us roll initiative. Ginko and Dimitri were first up and rolled extremely well on their strength checks to yank open the trap door. With their combined effort they tore the thing right off its hinges, and shown Ginko’s lantern into the pit. Sir Edmund was up and used his turn undead ability to see if he could nova the pile off of him. It worked so well that it basically ended the fight. We easily mopped up the zombies and skeletons and were not much worse for wear.

    We all got back into the main laboratory and split to investigate the rest of the room on the first floor. There were a few cells and an area that looked like a torture chamber.
    There were empty and cracked jars labeled “essential salts” and we kept hearing the faint sound of chains.

    Ginko went through a door that led to a small bedroom under the staircase. The room was sparse and contained a simple bed and a writing desk, two pictures hung on the wall over the desk.

    The desk contained a few maps of regions that Ginko did not recognize, it didn’t seem to be anywhere in Aambrust. One of the portraits was of a vampire lord in full plate armor. He had a silver chalice of blood in one hand and a dripping sword in the other. Other Vampires knelt before him. The face was unmistakable. It was Alastair Cross.

    The other portrait was of a middle-aged man who Ginko did not recognized. The man in the portrait raised his finger and pointed at Ginko, and began laughing loud and mockingly. Ginko did the same.

    Hearing the noise, the rest of the part went to see what the commotion was, but could only hear Ginko laughing faintly from behind a stone wall. The door was gone.

    Terminus began looking for a button or some sort of pressure plate. We called out to Ginko who told us that he was behind the door and laughing at some portrait. We couldn’t get to him. The portrait then burst into flames and quickly curled into ash. On a whim, Ginko pulled back the bedsheets on the small bed and found another glowing blue bone, this one a portion of a leg. He then left the room.

    To the party, it appeared as if Ginko just walked through the wall, looked at everybody and just said, “What?” We could no longer enter the room, but Ginko told us about the portrait of Cross and showed us the third blue bone that he found.

    It was time to climb the spiral staircase to the next level. We figured to avoid being surrounded that we would set up our remaining beartraps and some ball bearings at the foot of the stairs. The landing at the second floor had only one door, which Terminus unlocked.

    Behind it was a library and a reading table. We inspected the titles and saw that the subjects were on various topics. Mostly magic, necromancy, lots of history, theology, and legends. When Sir Edmund pulled a book out, dozens of cockroaches spilled out and began to crawl over him and into his armor. Luckily it was an illusion, and we agreed to let one another know what we were seeing.

    We asked the DM if we might find a book that might detail what relationship this necromancer may have had with Lord Cross. We found a book with some notes scribbled in the margins that detailed a centuries long war between two vampire lords, Alastair Cross and Victoria Nacht. The necromancer was seeking immortality and was hoping to align with one of these vampires. However, if they turned him he would not be truly free to do what he wished with his immortality. He would be under their control until they “died”, and the necromancer did not feel that this method would work for what he wanted.

    We thumbed through a few more books and found absolutely no reference to Ravenloft or Aambrust whatsoever. All of the histories, legends, and maps were of places nobody among us had ever seen. We surmised that Ludo and by extension Cross, were not likely from Ravenloft. We didn’t have time to read all of the books, but hoped they were important, so we scooped everything that looked relevant into a big sack.

    As luck would have it, this method allowed us to find a wooden box, painted and shaped to look like a stack of books. It was locked and trapped, but Terminus rolled well to disable both. Inside was an assortment of gems, including a few high value ones.

    Back on the landing were the words “I Killed Him” in wet blood. Kiera screamed that Aarin had a massive spider on his back and stabbed it with one of her swords. Of course, there was no spider and she had simply stabbed Aarin. Upset, he used his thornwhip to trip her and sent her rolling down the staircase. The DM rolled a little bit of damage from the fall when we reminded him what was at the bottom. Ouch! We rushed down to administer some healing and smooth the tension.

    We were all getting a little bit weird in this tower so it was important to say what was going on. Sir Edmund had us all agree, but when he got to Dimitri, he just simply stared off into space.

    Sir Edmund asked Dimitri what he was seeing. Dimitri said that the walls were on fire, but he did not feel the heat. We were all dressed in the uniform of Falkovnian military. Dimitri grabbed Terminus and stood between the halfling and us. He spoke to Terminus as if he was his son Alyosh, who was killed when his town was set ablaze. He would not let us harm his boy. Tears ran down Dimitri’s face, but we were able to talk him down and dispel whatever had possessed his mind.

    We all went back up the staircase to where it terminated at the third floor. There was a solitary door which led to an alchemy lab.
    There were multiple shelves and tables of alchemical experiments. Glass containers, beakers, burners, were set up throughout and lie broken on the floor. The familiar “I Killed Him” was all over the walls and ceiling. Carved, written, clawed, and burned in with acid.

    In the light we could see two narrow doors across the way. We investigated the lab and pocketed a few alchemical components and materials, but didn’t find much in the main area. When we opened one of the far doors a body slumped out, but it wasn’t animated. We still chopped it up.

    Behind where the body was stuffed were a few storage shelves and a lot of broken glass. There were a few surviving potions which we took, but little else.

    Aarin took point on the other closet and found a few crates with more glassware and some cleaning supplies. He also found some more glowing blue bones. There was something framed with a sheet over it.
    Pulling it off, Aarin saw his own face, but it was just a mirror.

    Then the image in the reflection smiled at him and began pounding at the glass. Small cracks began to form in the glass and webbed their way outward.

    With a mighty crash the glass broke and another ghost flew out, a wraith to be exact.
    We rolled initiative and many, many more ghosts and specters entered the fray. There was the big wraith, a few of the chained ghosts we saw in the swamps, and a ton of the more basic kind we fought earlier in the tower. We got wrecked.

    We went through our entire supply of healing potions and Sir Edmunds spells. Aarin got drained and smacked around until he was unconscious, we stabilized him into basically a coma but he was out. Dimitri went down, healed with our last point of healing and tried to make a break to safety but went down again. We finally got the wraith, but the ghosts all stopped and “ran” through the walls and floor. On its turn a dozen multi jointed arms with five-inch fingers emanated from the ground, grabbed Dimitri’s body, and pulled him back into the floor.

    The ghosts did not return after that, but we still played “the floor is hot lava” by hopping across the tables. We retrieved Dimitri’s great axe which had clattered to the ground when he fell, as well as carried Aarin’s unconscious body. From here it appeared there was only one way to go, up. There was a folding ladder like the kind used to get into an attic and another trapdoor looking thing at the top.

    We pulled it down and saw “I Killed Him” written on the steps. Sir Edmund was low on health but had the best armor so he went first up the ladder. On the final step before the trapdoor, however, the words were different. “He Came Back”. Much to our joy, the trapdoor let to the roof and we were once again in bright sunlight.

    Once everyone had ascended to the rooftop we saw that we were standing on and in a huge spell circle. We asked where the trapdoor was in relation to the runes, but the DM smiled and said, “What trapdoor?” At the very center of the circle was a little silver jewelry box, above which spun a small whirlwind, that wasn’t causing any disturbance but just whirling there in place.

    We could see spinning around in it were several more blue bones. We felt a faint tugging of the bones we were carrying and took the ones we had and tossed them into the whirlwind. They all snapped together and formed a skeleton. It seemed like we had found almost all of the pieces, the only piece missing was the skull. We didn’t know if we had missed anything in our search, but there was also no obvious way to get back down.

    The jewelry box lid snapped open and like an octopus it crawled out. Seven feet tall, rail thin, and vaguely humanoid, it had long wiry black hair and too many arms with too many joints. In a voice that dramatically shifted in volume and pitch the DM said, “They called me mad. Mad! Ludo the Mad! But I showed them, oooh yes I did. And I showed him too. I killed him. I killed him! I KILLED HIM!”
    Dramatic pause for tension.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Session 16 - The Expedition Concludes
    Show

    We had a week to strategize how we might beat this guy if it came to combat. We were low on health, out of healing, Dimitri was gone, and our druid Aarin was in a coma. Our strategy was hope he wasn’t too hard and roll really well.

    The session started with a brief recap of Ludo crawling out of the silver jewelry box (the DM said that it was a phylactery which made us all the more nervous) and Ludo babbling as he attacked us. We rolled initiative and held in there surprisingly well. Ludo was a flying ghost thing, who could teleport, had four attacks, and could shoot some sort of exhaustion/nightmare beam.

    On his turns he would babble rapid-fire nonsense but some of the things we made out were “I should be ruling here, not he” “I killed him, it all should be mine” “They took it, they dug in and took it! I need it back!” “I want their day minds, their dreams belong to me now, buts it’s their day minds I want” “Minds and eyes in a thousand places but only one head I want, or actually two.”

    Our Paladin Sir Edmund rolled in incredible crit-smite evil which did insane damage and gave us hope. However, as the exhaustion stacked up we fell further and further behind. Ginko eventually said screw it and used the Hunter’s black bolts which drew comment from Ludo, “How did you get these? I killed him!” When they struck they did extra damage and pinned him in place for a few rounds.

    Still, one by one we fell. It was just Terminus, Ginko and Kalamar left standing, and barely at that. Terminus yelled to the mage, “Kalamar! We need an exit strategy, what have you got? Tell me you have feather fall.”

    He didn’t. But he had something that might work. We grabbed our fallen comrades and hugged Kalamar tight as he cast Resilient Sphere which formed an impenetrable hamster ball shield around us. We rolled it off the edge and fell sixty or so feet taking some reduced damage. Ginko had just pinned Ludo to the air with his last black bolt beforehand, so we knew we had a few rounds. We ran as fast as we could go.

    When we reached what we hoped was a safe distance we did what first aid we could on our fellows and prepared for the long walk back to Eastbourne...through the swamps which lay north of this hilly grassland.

    As time passed our friends came to and we rested when we could. When Aarin came to he said that he was going back into the tower to save Dimitri, but Sir Edmund said that Dimitri was likely no more, and we stood no chance in our current state. Besides the door was locked. Aarin said that the door wasn’t a problem, he could teleport in with his new ring. We all realized that Aarin could go back to Eastbourne and meet us halfway with mounts. Kalamar had wooden leg and couldn’t move very quickly, and we had no idea what we might face in the swamp. Kalamar wrote Aarin a note to present to his butler Lorenze and Aarin teleported to Eastbourne.

    We met up in two days. During that time, we did our best to get through the swamps and encountered no ghosts or spirits. Well we did, but they were all flying north-west and did not bother us at all. We met up with Aarin who had with Edmund’s horse (actually on loan from Lord Cross, his horse Dasha was still in Thornwall), Millstone, and three more horses for Ginko, Kiera, and Kalamar. Terminus had been riding with Sir Edmund the thus far in the campaign since as a halfling he couldn’t ride a horse. We saved a day of travel by having some mounts and safely made it back to Eastbourne.

    If we were not fond of the city before it was even worse now. People were noticeably aggravated and weird, feverish, mumbling, and contorting their bodies in strange ways.

    A few of us went with Kalamar to his house to rest up and see what info we might get from the books. Sir Edmund went to the Church of the Morninglord to see if Father Gerard might know what was going on around the town. Apparently, things got much worse three days prior, which lined up with when we fought Ludo. Each day it was getting worse, the people woke from their slumber screaming and were tense as hell. Earlier that day was the first murder, and Captain Mueller was striving to keep the peace and help maintain calm. Father Gerard was burning the candle at both ends making dreamwater which did seem to alleviate the symptoms, but he was looking haggard and tired.

    After a short rest Ginko and Terminus went to appraise and sell the gems and valuables we found in Ludo’s tower while the rest of us dove into the books we had grabbed from his library. We questioned whether to sell Dimitri’s axe (a great axe of sharpness) but Sir Edmund said that he would like to keep it and would pay for it out of his share of the profits. We ended up getting a nice payout for the expedition. After taking her share, Kiera said that she was over this ghost tower nonsense and would be returning to Brombeere where things were normal.

    The rest of us decided to do what research we could and return to the tower armed with knowledge and better prepared. Terminus also told Kalamar about his Hunter’s mark that was forming on his hand, but the wizard had never heard of any way to remove the marks. Sometimes they just went away on their own, but usually not.

    When evening came around, Ginko’s player passed the DM a note and said he was “going out for some fresh air”. The DM asked us all to leave the room. They were alone for at least ten minutes. When Ginko returned, he had a new crossbow, larger even than his heavy crossbow and a quiver full of black bolts. It was a heavy arbalest type contraption which required either a crank or high strength to load. Ginko deflected our questions about where he got it, or how, or what it meant. We had our suspicions.

    We got what rest we could, but were antsy to continue our research and studied for the better part of the next day. We knew that the recent issues in Eastbourne and perhaps the rest of Aambrust were related to Ludo, and that we may have worsened or hastened the effects. By no means did we thoroughly read all of the books we had found, but we had gathered a few good points of data.

    Firstly, Ludo was a powerful necromancer and historian from some other world and used his powers to find ancient treasure and magics that were long forgotten. He sought immortality, and when the vampire thing didn’t pan out, he sought ways to become a Lich. We had notes on what he was going to attempt, but nothing on the resolution. According to Kalamar, his transformation should have worked, but he conjectured that something went wrong. His physical body died, but his soul lingered as immortal.

    Through this evidence, Kalamar’s previous research, and conjecture on what Ludo had said during our fight, we figured that Ludo was the cause of madness and the problems in Eastbourne, and that things were only likely to get worse. The glowing blue bones were somehow part of his destroyed body and if we could reassemble them, he would possess it. At that point we would kill him for good. We had no idea where the skull was, and from Ludo’s raving of “They took it, they dug in and took it! I need it back!” we didn’t think it was in the tower. We had no leads. We decided that the Vistani might know, but they might not help us, and our other strong lead was Lord Cross, who we had some questions for anyway after our discoveries at the tower. We would depart for Thornwall in the morning and stop at Brombeere along the way. Ullrich wasn’t likely to know much but we could at least get the word out. Ginko said that he too had a lead, but refused to say anything more. We took what dreamwater we had left and rested up for our departure west via the Breakneck.

    The next morning, we set off for Brombeere, and arrived near nightfall the next day. Ullrich met us near the spiked barricades and was happy to hear that we had returned safely from the expedition, Kiera had told him about what we had found. He said that unfortunately he did not have much for us, he and his men had been very busy of late fighting off the increased Ghoul activity.

    Their numbers had been increasing and word was thing were even worse in Thornwall. As we conversed we heard a crow cawing loudly and spotted one flying towards us. Ullrich told the guards to shoot the damn bird. They did so and we found a letter tied to its leg.

    By now we knew what this meant. Some twist message from the Hunter. We were not disappointed. He wrote that he had another test for us, to see how the long-term outcomes and personal relationships would impact our decisions. We had to be willing to live with the realities of a hard world and how our choices and affected others.

    Somehow, he had kidnapped both Kalamar and Liddya (the female cleric of the Morninglord in Eastbourne). He listed the pros and cons of what they offered to the people of Eastbourne and their locations. Kalamar was in the Hunter’s cabin in the Tottenwald, the one we encountered our first night in Aambrust. Liddya was at another cabin deep in the larger river/swamp system south of Eastbourne. He wondered which we would save and why, noting ominously that time was of the essence.

    We debated for a long time. Kalamar was important to us personally, and his knowledge of the arcane was rare and could be necessary to get home. Furthermore, he was rich and contributed heavily the church in Eastbourne. But his goal was to leave Ravenloft, not stay. Liddya, we didn’t know very well, but was the obvious successor to Father Gerard. She was of the people and would be able to help bring faith, stability, and heal the people of Eastbourne for years to come.

    So we did the thing you should never do. Usually right after rule 0 (the DM is always right) comes rule 1 (never split the party). Sir Edmund and Terminus would immedietly set out West towards the Tottenwald to rescue Kalamar. Ginko and Aarin would shortcut through the forest and enter the swamps from the west and find Liddya. We would meet back in Eastbourne in four days to regroup. If we didn’t return after five days, assume the other party didn’t survive. The DM said that the next two sessions would be completely separate, and that he would enforce a no communications or spoilers policy until we all hopefully returned to Eastbourne.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Session 17 - The Rescue of Liddya
    Show

    Knowing that time was of the essence (and their players not being present), Sir Edmund and the halfling rogue Terminus said their goodbyes and rode west. This left Ginko the ranger and Aarin the druid some time to realize that both of the party’s trackers/forest specialists were on the same team.

    They asked if they would have any troubles or be slowed down by the terrain due to Ginko’s favored terrain and Aarin’s growing up in the forest. The DM said that they would have little trouble navigating or moving quickly and would just need to roll to recognize roaming threats and whether they could avoid them or not. So, Aarin and Ginko decided to spend the night in Brombeere and hang out with Ullrich.

    They got him caught up on our recent news and what he might need to look out for as far as ghouls and ghosts to keep Brombeere safe. There was some lengthy roleplay of Ullrich telling Aarin a very important secret about the town. They were all werewolves, and Ullrich was the alpha. Apparently Ginko had learned this the night that he got drunk with the werewolf blacksmith Arlin, who was a decoy/red herring. There were also a few clues that had been dropped. The wake for the guardsmen who had died was for those who were lost in the werewolf vs Hunter fight that we started to get involved in and then ran away from. Ullrich’s speech had always been peppered with words such as “pup”, “alpha”, “pack” etc. and we just hadn’t picked up on it. For a community “beset” on all sides by werewolves they had never seemed that concerned about it or silver weaponry.

    Aarin asked what it was like, being a werewolf, and what level of control they had.
    Ullrich said that it was like driving a team of horses from atop a carriage. You were “driving” but ultimately the horses did what they wanted. When the moon was thin, the horses would follow the drivers command, but the fuller the moon grew, the less the horses would listen. On a full moon, you had no whip, no reigns and were just holding on for dear life as the runaway horse team took you where they pleased. In this case, however, the beast within was a natural predator and killer.

    Brombeere purposefully kept the ruse up to dissuade people from staying in the area or putting down roots. Their pack had roamed this forest long before the other settlements came to be and they didn’t want to move. Ullrich was more willing to participate in trade and saw the value of merchants and outsiders in the town than the previous alpha who he had killed to take control of the pack. He was telling all of this to get to a point.

    His entire life revolved around keeping his pack safe, and the big threat to his pack was something that he couldn’t deal with alone. The Hunter. He made a deal that if in our dealings or encounters with the Hunter, if we could keep him away from Brombeere and Ullrich’s pack, that he would aid us in whatever means he could, and as a token give us a magical rope of climbing that he owned. We agreed and drank to the arrangement. The command word for the rope? “Ullrich is Brombeere” Because of course it was.

    Before dawn the next morning, Aarin and Gikno set off towards the swamp. The two experts rolled well to avoid any complications and spent the better part of the day racing through the forest and following the echoes of cawing crows through the putrid swamps. There were plenty of undead and even a giant crocodile, but they avoided all of it and made it to the swamp cabin in record time just before sunset. It was a weather beaten wooden cabin, reeking of rot and moss growing on it.

    The second story was open to the elements as part of the roof had rotted off and lay in the water nearby. Either the swamp had risen or the cabin had sunk because the first floor was thigh deep in water, and the gangplanks leading to the front door were six or so inches submerged. Aarin was about to try the front door, but Ginko reminded him of the cabin in the woods from so long ago and that there were probably traps galore.

    Instead, they used their newly acquired rope of climbing to get up to the second story and used strength checks to bash their way into the second story. The waterlogged wood came apart like “soggy granola”. They used the rope to haul up Ginko’s crab Bodo who was unable to climb a rope on his own.

    The smell of rot and decay was even stronger inside the cabin. The second floor was mostly bare besides a workbench and a ladder on the far side leading down. The workbench had some alchemist fire, acid, tools, and a bit of gold which they pocketed. The floor looked treacherously soggy, so Aarin got some wood and began poking around to see where it might be safe.

    Apparently, that was the correct solution, as most of the floor in the middle of the room was rotten enough to fall right through, the edges seemed mostly intact. Below they could see murky water, plants, and insects had swallowed most of the first floor. Liddya or where she might be was nowhere in sight.

    Ginko and Aarin decided to poke some more holes in the floor and stay on the “safe” second story and send the crab Bodo down into the water to scout. Three guesses as to what was hidden under the murky water of the swamp on the first floor.

    If you said either beartraps, pressure plates that released alchemist fire bundles, or beartraps that came alive and tried to eat you then you would be correct. Ginko and Aarin were like WTF is that?! as one of the beartraps animated and began to chase Bodo the crab around.

    The combat was relatively one sided as the two humans took potshots from the second story, but the beartrap or “gnarljak” could wrap and trip its foes with the chain it dragged behind and chow down on them like a paper shredder. Bodo died before the waters were once again still.

    The two jumped down instead of using the ladder, which they suspected was trapped, slowly searching the brackish water for clues.

    Eventually they found a coffin submerged in one corner. Breaking it open, they found Liddya, poisoned and unresponsive. The coffin had been further weighted down with a bunch of loose gold.

    Even though the sun was going down, they decided it would be best to take the level of exhaustion and head north to Eastbourne, estimating that they would reach it sometime in the middle of the next day. Aarin turned into a Hippopotamus to carry Ginko and Liddya through the marsh.

    Again, the two were able to avoid any confrontation and were able to drop Liddya off at the temple of the Morninglord for proper healing the next day. It had only been a few days since they left, but Eastbourne was degenerating. Ginko also noticed that way up in the sky he could see the shapes of ghosts and spirits circling the city. They immedietly sought out Captain Mueller but he claimed there was nothing up there and the two were daft. Ginko and Aarin agreed that they both hated Eastbourne and went to Kalamar’s house to rest and wait for the return of their companions.

    Outside they encountered a group of angry looking men who were arguing with Kalamar’s butler Lorenze who was hiding inside. The mob said that Kalamar was hoarding supplies and had shut his doors to the city. For all they knew this was some fault of his arcane experimentation. Ginko sauntered up and told the apparent leader of the group that nobody was going to do any looting, he was going to guard this house and was SO not in the mood today and asked if they could get the violence over with. The man laughed and spit on the ground before throwing a punch at Ginko. Ginko ducked under the blow, and rolled a critical hit to strike back. A mighty uppercut knocked a few teeth out and broke the man’s nose. Ginko asked if anyone else wanted to eat teeth today and the mob scattered.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week...or actually two.”

    Spoiler: Session 18 - The Rescue of Kalamar
    Show

    Somehow the Paladin and Rogue were the ones paired off to go rescue Kalamar who was supposedly trapped in the cabin that the group stumbled upon way back in the first session. The two of them raced down the Breakneck road for a few miles before realizing that they had no way to find the cabin. Neither of them were great in the forest, the cabin wasn’t on the map, it was dark and they didn’t have their bearings the last time they were there, and it was at least a few hours walk off of the main path.

    They had left Brombeere after sundown, and due to bad rolls, questionable use of the locate object spell (can it locate the path?), and mishaps, it took almost full 24 hours for them to find the cabin. By the time they got on track it was after sundown the following day, and nearing ten or eleven at night when they came to the clearing. It looked different, the hanging cages were strewn across the grass, most were torn open and broken.

    Neither Terminus nor Sir Edmund saw any sign of undead in the vicinity. The front door was once again locked, and after disabling the lock, Terminus and Edmund stood off to the side to avoid the crossbow bolt they knew was coming. Instead four small brass dinner bells clanged loudly to the floor, rigged somehow to the front door. Terminus heard some noise from the dark woods surrounding the clearing.

    Inside the cabin were coffins, at least a dozen. Some were stacked or leaning on the walls, some were hanging from the ceiling by ropes. All were wrapped in chains and padlocks. The two looked at each other and immedietly set to work. Terminus would open the locks and Sir Edmund used the axe of sharpness to cleave through the chains. Most were empty, or filled with bones. A few had screamers in them, which the two tried to dispatch, lest they draw more attention. It was too late.

    The DM set up a battle mat with the cabin and the surrounding area. And slowly started adding dice, and more dice. Swarms of ghouls were racing out of the forest in numbers that seemed impossible to manage. Sir Edmund told Terminus that he would mount up on his Warhorse and try to buy Terminus some time, but that Terminus needed to move quickly.

    The battle was multifaceted. The ghouls were rather weak but the threat of their numbers and their paralysis made them a real threat. Sir Edmund did his best to thin their numbers and kite them around. At one point he allowed himself to get mobbed only to use his turn undead ability to send quite a few scampering away into the forest.

    Meanwhile Terminus opened coffin after coffin, checking them off on the map as he went. At one point he opened one up that had a screamer and rolled a sneak attack critical on it. The DM comically described the halfling’s panicked “do not want!” as he stabbed the screaming zombie in the head over and over. All of the coffins on the first floor were clear, and Terminus moved up to the second floor. He went through a few more rooms and checked a few more coffins, but had yet to find anything. Edmund was being overwhelmed, and ghouls were flooding into the cabin through the windows.

    Terminus opened a coffin and the DM passed him a note. The coffin was filled to the brim with gold, and Sir Edmund had no idea what was going on up on the second floor. Terminus had the opportunity to get something like 75gold per turn if he filled his pockets and ignored the battle. Terminus’ player thought about it for a while, but then passed back the note saying, “no way”.

    None of the second-floor coffins contained Kalamar. Edmund cast Augury to ask if Kalmar was alive inside the house. He got a yes answer and told Terminus that they had to keep looking. The combat was turning more and more dire, the number of ghouls continued to grow and showed no sign of stopping. Sir Edmund told Terminus that he could buy him some time and to meet him in Brombeere, before making a ton of noise and riding out into the forest with a mob of ghouls following, leaving Terminus alone in the house.

    Terminus realized that all that was left was the basement, and the two ghouls that were still in the house guarding the trapdoor. On the first round, Terminus was paralyzed. The ghouls started to eat him alive, dealing a lot of damage. On the next round Terminus’ halfling ability kicked in allowing him to reroll his natural 1 and save vs the paralysis. Near death, he was able to kill the ghouls.

    Bleeding and panting, he opened op trapdoor to see three more coffins in the basement. Two were empty and one held another screamer zombie, but Terminus silenced it right quick.

    That was the last coffin. Where could Kalamar be? A middling insight check to think of any clues revealed only that the Hunter would likely cater to Kalamar’s fears. What was Kalamar afraid of? How would that tie into the cabin? Finally, he figured it out. Fire. Fireplace. Chimney. Terminus looked up the chimney and sure enough there was a coffin jammed in there. He lodged it loose and set it up on the floor of the cabin. Kalamar was indeed inside and in rough shape. The wizard was poisoned and unresponsive, but breathing just slightly. The good news was Terminus was an assassin and skilled in poisons. He made a check to see if he could figure out what was used on Kalamar and another to determine if he knew how to craft an antidote.

    However, when it came time to craft the antidote he failed miserably and took damage. It was enough to send him into death saving throws. The DM described Terminus’s haste and how the poison got into his open wounds. There was some serious tension as nobody would be there to heal or revive either of them.

    Terminus successfully rolled to stabilize and came to hours later. In a daze he finished the antidote and revived Kalamar from his drugged state. Kalamar was groggy and numb, and Terminus was 1hp away from death, but the two dragged themselves out of the clearing to try and get back to Brombeere before anything else showed up.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”
    Last edited by Mr_Fixler; 2018-10-05 at 12:48 PM.

  22. - Top - End - #22
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    SolithKnightGuy

    Join Date
    Apr 2017

    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Patient players! I'm dying to know what happens next and I'm not the one with lives on the line.

  23. - Top - End - #23
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

    Join Date
    May 2018

    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Thank you. The players for Ginko the Ranger and Aarin the Druid were actually so unwilling to wait another week that they practically begged to sit in on Sir Edmund and Terminus' outing. They were there but were silent the entire time. Although they did drop a hint at the end of the night that someone died in their session.

    Session 18 is now up. Next week should be a full party schedules willing.

    Glad you are enjoying it.
    Read a finished campaign journal of a homebrew Ravenloft game here

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

    Join Date
    May 2018

    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Spoiler: Session 19 - A Walk with Walter
    Show

    The session began with Sir Edmund barreling through the woods at top speed making as much noise as he could. At one point the number of ghouls chasing him was beyond counting, but he rode around the forest for hours until deciding to race away and hope that he had bought Terminus enough time. He found his way back south to the Breakneck and gave his horse some rest as they walked back towards Brombeere.

    On the road Edmund saw ahead a trade wagon with a solitary driver heading to Brombeere, faded paint on the side of the wagon read “Arik & Sons Trading”. Edmund rode up and met the driver/owner of the wagon Arik. Arik was from Thornwall which had been having an extremely rough time of late with the increased ghoul activity and attacks. The ghouls had the town almost besieged and Arik was heading to Brombeere to trade food for some quality timber to reinforce the walls of Thornwall. Odric from Thornwall had rallied the townspeople and they were holding out, but losses had been heavy. There had been talk of abandoning the town altogether.

    Sir Edmund chanced to question about the “& Sons” on the wagon, but Arik said that he needed to update the wagon, it was just Arik now. Edmund said he would be happy to escort the trader to Brombeere and protect him if they were attacked, and the two rode on in grim silence.

    Meanwhile Terminus and the recently revived Kalamar hobbled through the forest to find their own way back to the road and Brombeere. Kalmar said that he had never been this far west, but really just wanted to back to Eastbourne. He said that he had been up late reading when he felt a nick in his neck. Now more than ever he really wanted out of Aambrust and Ravenloft and to return to his true home.

    Eventually they got to Brombeere where Sir Edmund and Ullrich were waiting for them. Sir Edmund was in the midst of trying to convince Ullrich to take in refugees from Thornwall if it came to that but Ullrich was adamant that the people of Thornwall were too weak and of a different culture to make it in Brombeere. Lest Edmund forget, they lived in a dark and scary forest that was rampant with undead and werewolves, and Ullrich didn’t have the resources to keep everyone safe, especially refugees that were not bringing much but empty bellies.

    Sir Edmund was overjoyed to see Terminus and Kalamar and told Terminus that he knew that he was right to put his faith in the handling rogue to succeed. Terminus had done them all proud. Edmund was able to tend to some of their wounds and after a quick lunch they mounted up and set off to Eastbourne to make sure they met the deadline before Aarin and Ginko assumed they weren’t coming.

    Over the next two days they rode through the forest. Terminus rolled perception to see that the trees were once again moving and shadowing them, albeit slow enough that they could easily outrun them on the horses. The tree monsters were consistently heading east and slightly north. When they finally came upon Eastbourne, they could see that parts of the city were smoking and the place was on the verge of a supernatural riot/panic.

    Sir Edmund, Terminus, and Kalamar returned to Kalamar’s house to see Ginko passed out in a chair out front with his giant crossbow in his lap. His lips were purple. Ginko awoke with a start and saw Kalamar. He told Kalamar of the looters that had come by and that he was protecting Kalamar’s estate from damage and the angry townsfolk. “But before I could get them out…. they uh…. they got into your wine Kalamar. I tried but I couldn’t stop them from stealing a bunch of your wine.” Kalamar yelped as said he hoped they didn’t get the vintage 715, it was near priceless and the centerpiece of his collection. Ginko looked at the DM and the DM nodded. Ginko slowly hid the bottle that he was drinking from and said, “Yup. Sorry, they got that too.”

    We all went inside and woke up Aarin, who was sleeping in Kalamar’s room in the form of a giant brown bear. We filled each other in on our challenges and success’ over the last few days. We saved both Liddya and Kalamar and everyone survived… except for Bodo the crab.

    However, when Terminus was finished with his tale of when he was solo, the rest of the party asked him how much was in the coffin full of gold. Terminus said it was filled to the brim, he didn’t get a chance to count it all. “But after the ghouls left and it was just you and Kalamar alone in the house…with no ghouls and no threats, you went back upstairs and got it right?” Terminus just stared ahead blankly.

    Ginko asked the rest of the group if they could see the ghosts in the sky. We all could, even Kalamar which led us to believe it had something to do with all of the group being outsiders to Aambrust. We ate and spent the night, determined to once again set out in the morning and seek out Lord Cross. Kalamar would stay behind and try and complete his research into Ludo the Mad.

    The next morning, we were wrapping up our breakfast and saying our goodbyes to Kalamar and Lorenze when a large black crow smashed through the front window of the lounge. It cawed loudly and flapped around the room until we were able to catch it and get a note that was tied to its leg. It read “Meet me on the North road. I know where the skull is. Do not tarry.”

    Edmund looked disapprovingly at Ginko who shrugged. Aarin said we should meet up with him and hear him out before we made any decisions. Terminus said that he wasn’t too keen on meeting the Hunter again but that it was the best lead we had on the blue skull thus far. Kalamar begged us to be wary and be safe. We took our wagon and mounts and headed north instead of west.

    As we rode, we discussed our varying opinions on the Hunter and our theories. We were interrupted when he came out from behind the millstone which still lay on the side of the road an hour or so north of Eastbourne. In full daylight, he seemed less scary, but still had a strong presence. He was of average height and build, with a short brown hair and a trimmed beard. His brow was furrowed and his eyes were intense.

    He told us that we had the chance to kill two birds with one stone. He had suspected and was able to confirm in the last few days the location of the skull was in the ruined city of Falsher. A so called “Ghoul King” had taken possession of it and was granted some of Ludo’s power and intelligence, but also his madness. The Ghoul King was using some of Ludo’s necromancy powers to raise an army of ghouls and it was he who was ultimately behind the flood of intelligent ghouls that were descending on Thornwall.

    The ghouls had already destroyed and killed the people in the fledgling town of Crossway. It was gone and Thornwall would be next if we didn’t stop it. Ludo must have crafted powerful magic focused at the Hunter specifically to keep him away from the tower. However, we were obviously immune. The Hunter said that he would help us retrieve the skull if we immedietly went back to the tower to destroy Ludo for good.

    We obviously had a lot of questions, both about the plan and about him. We were upset about the tests, but he said that we had passed them and proven to him that we were able to make tough decisions and recognize that we were rarely dealt a fair hand. When Terminus asked about his mark, the Hunter asked, what mark? Terminus removed his glove and saw that it was gone.
    The Hunter explained that he was being marked for greed and for stealing from his so-called friends. He told the group how Terminus had withheld the gold that he had found near the bridge from them, and even loaned Ginko some of that money with interest. The party was upset with Terminus after that revelation, especially Ginko.

    The conversations that followed would take up pages, and sadly we weren’t writing much of it down instead soaking in the moment.

    We were face to face with who we thought was the ultimate evil in this land, and instead it was just some guy. Yeah he had a grim outlook and was a bit weird on his assumptions about the world, but he seemed like a guy who had just been trying really hard for a really long time and was jaded about the whole thing. He knew he was in Ravenloft, he knew he was a prisoner here. Before he came here he was a ranger and monster hunter and he was here too. His power far exceeded that of any of the locals and he felt it was his responsibility to keep as many people safe as he could. But Ravenloft was by nature a dark and evil place, and he couldn’t save everyone. He had to save as many as he could and sometimes that meant sacrifices for the greater good. His “rules” were meant to keep the people afraid and prepared for danger because he couldn’t be everywhere at once. If the people hated and feared him, he could accept that.

    We discussed philosophy of good vs evil, the responsibility of the most capable to protect the weak, the merits of religion and faith vs the harsh truths of real life. We got into some deep stuff. Especially Sir Edmund who never wavered in his attempts to justify the power of goodness, faith, and the strength of friendships and working together. The Hunter had a retort and a justification for everything, and in the end made a pretty strong case for why he did what he did.
    Aarin looked at his notes and called him Volter. The Hunter laughed and said that wasn’t his name. His name was Walter.

    When we got the bridge, we heard the echo of a scream and Walter had a distant look in his eye. He said that the banshee looked just like his wife Emily, and he suspected it was a manifestation of this evil land sent to torture him. But he couldn’t bring himself to destroy the image of his wife. He hoped to return to her home someday when he was able to get free of this accursed place. Edmund said that maybe what he needed to find was redemption. The Hunter who was walking ahead of us turned and looked over his shoulder at Ginko and responded, “I think I have.”

    When the sky turned dark, the Hunter said that he would stop if we needed to, but that lives might be saved it we pushed on through the night. We had yet to continue north of the bridge and were coming upon a different forest region called Beryl on our map. Walter told us that if we got separated, that we were to meet at a tree blind he had set up on the south side of the lake overlooking the old ferry port and docks outside of Falsher. We were to look for tall pine with a crossbow bolt in the trunk.

    We talked more and continued our trek through the forest. Walter answered some more questions about Ludo, who was his old nemesis back home. He had thought that he had defeated him, but either was mistaken or Ludo was resurrected by the evils of Ravenloft to torment him and the people. We had done something to strengthen and agitate Ludo, but it looked like if we worked together we might be able to rid the land of him entirely.

    Then we got attacked by trees. It was the regular large sized ones that we had faced back in the Tottenwald, but also a huge sized one that looked like a gnarled corrupted oak tree. Even with the Hunter’s help, who was extremely impressive in combat, we got roughed up. The big tree monster could do a stomp attack which did a lot of damage and could knock us down. Aarin tried once again to communicate with the trees since they seemed intelligent. They responded in their low slow language “Bring back the blood….”

    With some effort we were able to dispatch the trees that had approached us, but before we had a chance to catch our breath, several more began to emerge a few hundred feet down the way. Two more of the big ones.

    The hunter turned to us and said that he was going to take care of these monsters. As he ran he told us to meet him at the designated spot near the lake. He looked at Ginko and told him to travel smart and safe, saying, “I refuse to lose you again.”

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Session 20 - The Ruined City
    Show

    We all had a lot of questions, but made haste further north. There was an intersection on the road where we could continue north or head west towards where Crossway was and further on into the mountains to Folkestone.

    Terminus and Aarin were scouting ahead and saw a ghostly white carriage with no driver and no horses. As they neared, the door opened on its own and Terminus heard the voice of a little girl. “Come home Terminus. Come home and be with us.”

    He immedietly recognized the voice and called out, but met no response. When it became apparent that he was not entering the carriage it began to roll off on its own accord, and in the glass window in the back he and Aarin could see the face of a little girl. One last time an echoing voice, “Come to Crossway Terminus. Come home.”

    Terminus was tempted but recognized that we needed to continue on our mission to stop the Ghoul King and furthermore Ludo.

    As we rode on north he told us a little bit about his childhood, that he was adopted by a human family and the ghost looked like his human sister Celesta. They had died several years ago, and he was troubled that they were supposedly here in Ravenloft. He explained that he wasn’t very good at farming and had joined up with a local gang of thugs. In a big mishap the thugs killed his family and sister, and he lost his **** and killed them. Terminus became a vigilante and had quite a reputation as a bandit hunter back home. No method of annihilation was beneath him. “Terminus” was an identity that he had assumed, it meant the point at which it ends.

    As dawn broke we emerged from the forest to see fog shrouded mountains and the high-walled city of Falsher just beyond a large lake. It was not very difficult to find the tree with the crossbow bolt stuck in the trunk.

    We asked Ginko if he thought that the Hunter or more accurately Walter was his father. Ginko said he didn’t know, that it would make a lot of things make sense, but he wasn’t sure yet. Aarin inspected the lake and found that it was mildly acidic. During the wait, Ginko did the ritual to resummons his crab Bodo. The rest of us talked about what had transpired and what to do going forward and we were able to get a long rest in.

    Finally the Hunter emerged from the mist and met us at the base of the tree. He looked wounded, but said that he was fine for what lay ahead. We wasted no time in asking him the burning question that was on our minds, what was he talking about that Ginko was his son?

    The answer… made strange sense. His name wasn’t Ginko, it was Niko and years ago the two had become separated. Shortly after his battle with Ludo the Mad, Walter had returned home to his wife Emily to find her crying and inconsolable, wailing that her love had died in a far-off land. Walter traveled far and wide chasing rumors of his son’s journey, finding evidence that he in fact lived. Walter had spent his life fighting undead, and was horrified when he eventually found his son was in the process of being turned into a vampire by none other than Alastair Cross. He caught up to them on a windy mountain near a deep ravine. In the battle Niko fell down the ravine. Cross escaped, but Walter never found the body of Niko and had been searching for him until he found himself trapped in Ravenloft.

    He raged against his cage and entrapment by the evil powers and the land itself that thwarted him. Yes, there were people here that he felt responsible for to keep safe, but he had always hoped to escape and find his son. In coming here, Ginko/Niko had given him hope that they could get out.

    Walter admitted that his biggest regret was that he was not home as a father to raise his son. He sent money and would spent time with them, but he always was called away to help the surrounding villages. He told Ginko, or was it now Niko, that he was proud that Ginko had followed in his footsteps to become a ranger opposing the undead, and had even taken up the family weapon of late.

    He asked Ginko to write his name down, and erased the “G”. The remaining letters anagrammed into Niko. Between this tale, the last words of the banshee, the strange occurrences in Eastbourne, and Madame Petra’s strange reading, there was quite a bit of evidence.

    The Hunter said that he would like nothing more than to address the topic in greater length, but once again the needs of the people and safety of those who could not protect themselves demanded that he set aside his personal life. We had a job to do in Falsher, and every minute we wasted could mean another life lost in Eastbourne, Brombeere, and Thornwall.

    We went over the plan. The city was infested with ghouls and their proximity to their leader gave them increased intelligence and coordination. A frontal assault would be suicide, but there was a break in the city walls that we could enter by. Walter would create a distraction and figured that he could hold out for an hour or so before they caught on or he was overwhelmed. During that time, we were to make our way to the castle at the center of the city, scale or find our way through the walls, and penetrate into the building to find the Ghoul King. He wasn’t sure what would happen when we killed him and took the skull of Ludo away, but regardless our objective after that would be to return to Ludo’s tower immedietly and end the other threat to Aambrust. Walter gave us a rough map of the city and highlighted a few key areas that we might be able to investigate before going to the castle. He estimated that 1-2 would be no problem and a third would be dicey but probably possible within the hour that he was giving us. After that, we had better be in the castle or the ghouls would catch on to our attack.

    We had the options of: Church, Library, Bank, Garrison, Feasthall/Beergarden, Park, Smithy, and the Marketplace. We debated amongst ourselves which we would try and hit, most agreed that the Library was a high value place to visit. Terminus and Ginko really wanted to go to the bank and hope to find some money, and Aarin was convinced that the park would have some significance, Sir Edmund obviously was hoping to find holy relics at the Church. In the end we settled on the Library, the Bank, and if there was time the Garrison.

    Sir Edmund left his horse at our barebones camp, and we got ready to depart on two small boats that Walter had prepared. Walter warned us to avoid the water, and Aarin commented that he had noticed it was acidic. Walter explained that he was forced to poison the town’s water supply and kill the entire town for…reasons.

    Sir Edmund blew up that there was no way and no reason that an action like that was acceptable. Walter said that there was a cancerous cult residing in the city, and that they were nearing the completion of a devil summoning ritual. He had tried as hard as he could to ferret out a way to stop this cult and find those responsible, but he ran out of time. He had no choice but to sacrifice Falsher to preserve the rest of Aambrust. He grieved for those who had died, and built a monument to their memory inside the city, and how dare we judge him etc. etc.

    Frustrated we launched the boats and headed into the pea-soup fog that hung over the lake and the ruined city. The city was larger than Eastbourne, and the architecture seemed much older. We landed on the other side of the lake and awaited a signal. An earthshaking boom was all we needed to hear to know that the Hunter had set off some sort of explosive and after a few minutes we scrambled over the break in the wall and into the deserted streets of Falsher.

    The City was grayed and dusty, however many years had passed since the town fell to ruin had taken their toll. We could hear in the distance the scraping, chittering, and howling of ghouls. We hurried to our first stop, the library.

    Heavy wooden doors gave way to row upon row of dusty bookcases and weatherworn books. Water-damage and time had destroyed what was obviously a great center of knowledge. The DM asked us to roll investigate as a group and we did extremely well. Our findings were summarized as follows: we found evidence of Sir Edmunds ancestor in the area and directions to his tomb in the moors, various pieces of history regarding Falsher including evidence that it was once a part of a separate country and somehow annexed into Aambrust, that the former country was called Verbrek had had a lot of werewolf problems and some sort of Wolf Lord religion, one day a cloaked Hunter appeared and started killing the werewolves, this was about the time that the mists and the land itself seemed to shift and formed a new country called Aambrust. Finally, we found a secret compartment due to our super high rolls that confirmed that there was in fact a secret plot to summon devils and conquer the surrounding cities and possibly countries by force. So Walter’s story had some truth to it.

    On our way to the Bank we encountered some ghouls, but stealthily slid past them. Even Sir Edmund in his loud clanky armor rolled well enough to get by.

    The bank had been well looted, all of the minor lock boxes and drawers had been long emptied. We did find a fair bit of loose coinage and a strange four-headed key. However, the main attraction was the vault. A 10x10 solid metal safe that had a large number dial in the center and two keyholes. The key we found fit, but we couldn’t find a second. Terminus rolled intelligence check to see if he would even know where to start.

    It was a model of safe he knew as the “Dwarf Fortress 9000” and it was near impossible to crack. But, through a series (and it was a lot) of rolls for the team to listen to the dial and pick out the sequence of numbers, Terminus rolling a ton of checks with his lock picks, and the coordinated turning of the key that we did have to match up, Terminus nailed it. We all cheered and there was so much loot inside. Coins, art pieces, fancy clothes, gems, and jewelry.

    With glee we left the bank, packs and pockets bulging with our haul. On the way to the Garrison we heard another loud explosion and did end up in combat with some ghouls. We were able to dispatch them before any got away to warn the main force, but we knew our time was running out. We swung by the garrison and found loads of weapons and armor that the Ghoul King was using to equip his ghoul army. We took various weapons and equipment and hastily made our way to the castle at the center of town.

    As we ran, we saw down one of the side streets the Hunter running past and firing into a sea of ghouls. We hid in an alcove just in case any happened to look down the street towards us and luckily, we were not spotted.

    As we approached the castle walls, the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.” No! So close!

    Spoiler: Session 21 - Have Fun Storming the Castle!
    Show

    The first thing we had to do was get over the castle walls, but that wasn’t too hard thanks to the magical rope that we got from Ullrich.
    Before us lay the castle, but from where we were on the walls we didn’t see any patrols or movement. Still, we approached cautiously using the rope to get into the closest tower of the castle and working our way down.

    There were some strange “traps” like hundreds of metal spoons hanging in the stairwells. Luckily for us Ginko (Niko?) had learned the silence spell on our last level up and was able to get us through with ease.

    There were two floors to the castle, excluding the towers, and we spent about an hour of the session slowly checking the grounds. There was definitely some buildup of dramatic tension, room after room we found no enemies, just emptied or trashed rooms of a long ago majestic castle. The main hall held a faded and moth-eaten tapestry depicting the ruling family, and a few shields painted black and yellow adorning the walls. Here and there we found small caches of loot or valuables that had been missed, but nothing much.

    Our ranger Ginko was finally able to pick up some ghoul tracks which led over a giant pile of rubble on the eastern side of the castle where the wall had collapsed. The other direction wound its way near the barracks to a staircase that led down. They led to a prison block that was partially flooded. The water was roughly two feet deep. Aarin checked it and confirmed that while it was still mildly acidic, we should be fine as long as we didn’t drink it. The end of the prison block was collapsed and we didn’t have the time or want to make the noise to dig through.

    The tracks lead down here, so there had to be some other way. That way was a ghoul tunnel in one of the cells, going about five feet down before curving and heading into the direction of the collapse. It was narrow enough that we would have to go through single file and swim to wherever it led. We weren’t sure about the air situation

    We tied some normal rope around Ginko’s waist and he dove through the tunnel. Two quick tugs meant “pull me back ASAP”. He followed it for another sixty or so feet before it turned upward and let him out in the room that was beyond the collapse. Which totally had a bunch of ghouls with armor, swords, and crossbows in it who were more than happy to ambush him. After taking a few bolts, Ginko cut the rope, gave it two quick tugs and entered the fray.

    The combat was challenging in part because the rest of the party had to get to the room with the ghouls and then deal with the room being partly under water. Ginko retreated into some tunnels at the rear of the room hoping that nothing came up behind him, and was able to keep from being surrounded. We probably took more hits than we should have but were trying to preserve resources for the ghoul king.

    Once the battle died down and the reinforcements were defeated, we began to explore the tunnels. We came across a room that had a giant boulder with a slight draft of air coming from behind it. We noisily pushed it aside to reveal an enormous cavern that was littered with bones and gore. It was the main nest. We couldn’t see the other side of the room in the lantern light but from what we could tell, the nest was empty. All of the ghouls were currently out chasing Walter around the city. We deduced that the “fresh” kills were what was left of the people of the town of Crossway. We had never made it there, but on the walk to Falsher Walter told us that it had been overrun. We pushed the boulder back into place and continued down the tunnels.

    We came to a T intersection with us coming down the through path and had the choice to either continue forward or turn left. We turned left and followed the tunnel for a short distance when we came upon a strange throne room. There was a pile of bones and a mockery of Falsher’s black and yellow banners, but in the center of the room was a tall wooden throne that looked like it had been broken and poorly put back together. On this throne sat a snarling crowned ghoul. At his sides were several armed guards. We rolled our initiative and braced for the battle.

    Ginko went first and sent two black crossbow bolts home into the Ghoul King, pinning him to the throne. We were doing very well, “nova-ing” for lack of a better term giving them everything we had. For a few rounds the battle raged on until something came down the intersection behind us.

    It wore rotting and shabby regal robes, and had a blue skull fused into its left hand.
    There were tendons and vaguely brain stem growths emanating from the back of the skull into and up the ghouls arm. Behind it were several more elite ghouls. The real Ghoul King chuckled and cast Cloudkill.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”
    Last edited by Mr_Fixler; 2018-10-27 at 12:09 AM.

  25. - Top - End - #25
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

    Join Date
    May 2018

    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Spoiler: Session 22 - The Whisper of the Dark Powers
    Show

    To make a long story short the Cloudkill spell wrecked us. The ghouls were immune to the poison damage and the spreading noxious cloud made it impossible to see and target those inside or beyond. We held on and took a few guards with us, but to our horror we dropped one by one. Then the DM kicked everyone out of the room and called us in one by one. First Sir Edmund, then Ginko, then Terminus, and finally Aarin.

    To each of us separately he described the strange sensation of being on the edge of death. It was like floating or swimming in a pool of oil. There were no sights or sounds besides the slowing of our own beating heart. There was no air left in our lungs to scream and if we did the blackness threatened to fill the void.

    Faint and first, but then loud enough to barely make out the whispers came. They had no interest in the Ghoul King or even Ludo, but we were tasty morsels indeed. They offered each of us a second chance to bring the party back, we only had to accept their help. There would be consequences. If nobody said yes, we were done for. It was the prisoner’s dilemma…

    Our eyes snapped open and air filled our lungs. The Cloudkill spell had been dispersed somehow and we were all back at full health. We all eyed each other, someone had taken the deal, but there was little time for talk now. We clawed our way back to victory. Even with the poisonous cloud gone and all of our hitpoints at full we still almost didn’t make it out of that combat alive. The Ghoul King cast all sorts of nasty spells, and the guards effectively cut us off into two groups by blocking the tunnels.

    At last, Aarin dealt the final blow to the Ghoul King and with Ginko’s help they pried the skull from his grip, careful not to let it touch their flesh. The remaining ghouls dropped their weapons and began to scream and writhe in agony. We raced for the surface.

    As we did the ghouls seemed to shake whatever it was, and come after us again. They were feral this time, eschewing weapons for bites and claws. As we made it out of the castle we saw Walter atop the walls battling with dozens of ghouls. The sky was red with fire and ash rained down on us like grey snow. He saw us and told us to leave without him, to make it to Ludo’s tower and not pause, for the people of Eastbourne may not have much time left. He was in the middle of telling Ginko that he was proud when a ghoul tackled him over the side. We could hear a swarm of ghouls scream and frenzy on the other side of the wall. Those that were on our side gave chase.

    We ran through the city streets from near a hundred feral ghouls. Some of the buildings began to collapse but we ran on until we were at the break in the outer wall. We jumped into the waiting boat and shot at the ghouls as we rowed away into the fog leaving the city of Falsher as an orange and red smear of color amongst the gray mist.

    As soon as the boat hit the shore we mounted up on the horses and rode south. Ginko felt a strange pulling sensation from the fog on the east side of the road. He heard faint whispers and calls but could not make anything out, however he had an extremely strong urge to head into the fog and off of the road. He told the rest of the group as much and veered off. We of course followed him and the DM described roars of strange beasts, moans of the dead, and voices promising power and horror.

    We rode onward for over an hour until we found ourselves at the millstone. Somehow, we had traveled the mists and shaved days off of our journey. In the distance we could see Eastbourne, the ghosts above it were dive-bombing into the city and we could smell smoke.

    As we entered the city we passed the town square and saw a strange inversion of our first visit it Eastbourne. Captain Mueller was tied to a stake, an angry mob was prepared to light the flame. Sir Edmund boomed for silence and to let him find out what was going on.

    The spokesman for the angry mob, one of the men with a dripping torch spoke out that Mueller had betrayed the city and the people. He had killed father Gerard. Mueller cried out that he had been possessed by the holy spirit of the Morninglord and acted on his behalf. He knew not what crime Gerard had committed but of the Morninglord decreed that he should die, who was Gerard to deny the will of god?

    Sir Edmund was furious. Father Gerard was one of the people he respected most in Aambrust and Captain Mueller had killed him. There was a mini-trial including a zone of truth spell with Mueller explaining that he was the vessel and the hand of the Morninglord. Edmund told the crowd that he was taking Mueller to the church and when they pressed him, he intimidated them away. Edmund and the party explained to Mueller that he had been possessed by one of the many ghosts and Ludo that were driving the town crazy, and that he had murdered one of the last men who were keeping them safe. As we departed a little girl came up to Aarin and asked if he wanted to play with her dolly. The doll had eight arms, one of which was a human finger. Eastbourne was going to hell.

    At the church of the Morninglord, Sir Edmund found Liddya who was crying and preparing Father Gerard’s body for cremation. There was nothing to be done. Edmund further admonished Captain Mueller, but ultimately forgave him for his actions were not of his own will. If he truly wished to repent he would protect Liddya and do whatever he could to keep the people safe while we attempted to end the madness.

    We swung by Kalamar’s house. His butler Lorenze had gone mad and screamed night and day. Kalamar himself seemed on the verge of breaking down, with little laughs and odd behavior. Edmund cast Lesser Restoration on him and Lorenze, who quieted down, and we hoped that it would be enough.

    Kalamar had discovered one more important fact from the books in the time that had elapsed. The ritual that Ludo the Mad had planned to use to turn himself into a Lich was to draw upon the power of an ancient and powerful “Astral Tree”. This tree’s roots grew into the astral plane, and into the different worlds beyond. In theory, if Ludo was here, the Astral Tree may be as well, and we might be able to tap into the power of the tree to travel the astral plane and return home. Aarin confirmed that the druids of his homeland spoke of such a tree, and he and Kalamar were from different dimensions entirely. This was our first major lead on a way home!

    There was no time to waste, and we rode out of the city of Eastbourne and towards Ludo’s tower. Once again the mists beckoned, and once again we entered. This time they let us out near the scarecrow in the middle of the grassy field near Ludo’s tower. A cold wind blew across the hills and snowflakes began to fall as we rode toward the tower. A whirlwind had engulfed the tower and we could see the outlines of ghosts and spirits in the spiral.

    Ludo called to us his manic voice reaching across the distance, “You bring it back, bring it back and we can kill him….again…and again and again”

    We entered the tower and began our ascent. He made promises as we climbed. He would help us return home, he would bring back those we had lost. To Sir Edmund he promised Father Gerard, to Terminus he promised his sister Celesta, to Aarin he promised Addison Riverstone, to Ginko he promised to reveal the truth of his parentage. Further we climbed up the staircase. Riches, long lives, we would want for nothing for bringing him back his prize and helping him eliminate the Hunter. We entered the alchemy lab and climbed the ladder to the apex of the stone tower.

    In the dim evening light, we saw the familiar whirlwind of Ludo’s blue skeleton swirling above his phylactery. On the north end of the tower he stood, arms outstretched like some crazy amalgamation of spider, man, and ghost. Too many joints and limbs too long, his wiry black hair and pasty skin. He continued to babble as we approached, “A soul can be in two places. Or more, thousands more. I can see forever. I can be the land. I can be the people!”

    We fished the skull out of the bag we were carrying it in and threw it into the vortex of bones. It snapped into place and a bright blue light pulsed from within. Ludo’s strange body turned to ash and reformed around the skeleton. A man in black robes with a gnarled wooden staff. He turned and smiled at us and said that we were faithful servants. But he had no need for living servants, we could do just as much for him as corpses.
    It was time to end the madness.

    As soon as initiative was rolled out, Ginko was first and cast silence. We saw the look of realization and horror dawn on Ludo. He was no longer a ghost and able to escape, he was but an old man who relied on his spells for power. And the whole party beat the ever-loving **** out of that old man.

    As he died, the entire tower began to shift and quake. We could see the tornado of wind die down and the spirits winking out one by one. Ludo cursed us with his dying words, “You wish to know the truth? See it in your dreams. Dream eternal. Dream the truth for hundreds of years until it no longer matters what is truth and what is lies. Only an outsider can free you by name, and by the time they find you…nobody will remember you.” With that the light left his eyes and the tower crumbled. The DM told us that darkness overcame us, and we dreamt.

    Then the DM handed us each a piece of paper, smiled, and said, “See you next week.”


    Spoiler: Interlude – The Dreams
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    We all got separate dreams but read them aloud and discuss their implications. We sorted them into a rough chronological order and will give the basic narrative here, minus the flowery language.

    We saw a young Walter traveling from town to town helping the locals fight monsters, mostly undead. At one such town he met and fell in love with a young woman named Emily and they built a home together. Walter still felt the tug of responsibility of the capable to protect the weak and would leave for weeks or months at a time as his range of protection grew larger and larger. There was a sense that he began to resent the villages and their constant need, as they kept him away from his wife and newborn baby boy.

    We saw Walter training his son in the ways of the hunter, how to fire a crossbow and fight with a sword. How to track and how to study monsters and make your shots count. We saw Walter’s attempt to justify his absence as a father but that it ate at him. We saw his hatred for the constant stream of undead specifically that plagued his land. He threw himself into his work and was gone for longer and longer periods of time.

    We saw various encounters with a necromancer, who was channeling dark magic to discover lost treasures and secrets. Most importantly we saw their battle at the Astral Tree. Walter interrupted Ludo’s ritual spell to draw power from the tree to become a lich, and the two fought. They were evenly matched in skill and endurance but Walter finally got the upper hand and strung up a rope to hang Ludo from the tree. With his last ounce of energy Ludo raised two ghouls that surprised Walter and instead strung him up by the neck in the branches of the Astral Tree. As Ludo resumed the ritual, we saw Walter’s crossbow fall from his hands and by fate or chance fire directly into the phylactery. As this specific dream faded we saw Walter’s body swinging quietly.

    We saw Walter return home after this battle to find his wife Emily in tears. He was unable to console her but found that his son Niko had run off after hearing that he had died. Walter told his wife that he would bring Niko back and left to find his son. We saw images of Walter and Niko both searching, but never finding one another. For years they danced just out of reach, but never gave up hope that the other yet lived.

    The final set of images was of a broken and bloody Niko, his face obscured crawling towards a castle high in the mountains. We could make out white crosses over a black background on the flags snapping in the wind. We saw Alastair Cross turn Niko into a vampire. We saw Cross’ hard heart turn softer after hearing Niko’s tale of a lost father and give Niko his blessing to leave the castle and find the truth.


    Act 3: Blood and Snow
    Spoiler: Session 23 - Shepherds, Sheep, and Wolves
    Show

    The DM began the session by describing our senses slowly returning to us. We could smell herbs and incense and could feel a faint pulsing sensation. A low familiar voice was chanting and as we slowly opened our eyes and our vision cleared, we recognized that we were in the home of Lord Cross. We were back in Thornwall.

    Lord Cross greeted us as we awoke and we asked how we had gotten here. Two months had passed. It was mid-November when we ascended Ludo’s tower and it was now into February. Kalamar had written Cross a letter when the madness was lifted from Eastbourne. He was curious that we had not returned.

    By coincidence (doubtful) the Vistani appeared to loot the remains of the tower and discovered our bodies. As experts in curses they were able to decipher ours and returned us to Lord Cross for a reward. He had just completed a naming ritual to bring us back. We thanked him and immedietly got into our questions. We had a lot of questions.

    Thornwall had been on the brink. The ghouls were overwhelming the towns defenses and if it wasn’t for a rally by Odric they may have fallen. One day in the midst of battle, the ghouls dropped their weapons and screamed before running off into the forest and heading North. Those that did remain were easy enough to mop up. In the months since then, Thornwall had been tending its wounds and rebuilding.

    Cross commented that he did not approve of Ginko’s new appearance and attitude, saying that the Hunter was corrupting him. Ginko said that he didn’t approve of Cross being an undead abomination and we launched right into it.

    There was a lot of back and forth. Aarin agreed with Ginko that vampirism was an affront to nature, and Sir Edmund was the sole advocate that Cross was promoting safety and the greater good. Terminus’ opinion was that as long as he was doing good, Cross was in the clear, but that the possibility for great evil was always present. Ginko further made the point that the people of Thornwall were not and could not be truly free, and that the illusion of safety was a poor excuse. We had read in one of Ludo’s history books Cross’ opinions on the living as food.

    Cross responded with an allegory: “A shepherd tends his flock of sheep. He feeds them, protects them, and administers their needs. He shears them for his own gain, and the sheep may be confused and scared, but the wool grows back and the sheep is ultimately unharmed. Sometimes a shepherd will kill and eat a sheep, but this is not done without thought and preparation. Even though they are but sheep, and he is a man, the shepherd will love his flock.

    As his flock grows, the shepherd may realize that he is no longer able to protect the sheep from predators such as wolves. Wolves that will certainly kill a sheep, likely a great many of them, for wolf is a lesser being than a man, and does not understand the ramifications of his slaughter.

    The shepherd will gather dogs to watch over his flock of sheep. The dogs may not fully understand the thoughts and directions of the master, but they fulfill their duties and aid the shepherd in his work. In return they earn a place at the master’s side. Since they are loyal, they may roam where they please, have better shelter, and may sit near the shepherd at his table.

    It is sad, but sometimes a dog can turn on the shepherd and the flock. If a dog kills a sheep, or bites the master, it is no better than a wolf, and must be put down. Have I made myself clear?”

    Ginko stormed out of the room. Edmund asked Cross if he had any advice for them now, perhaps a suggestion how to find the Astral Tree. Cross remembered legends of it on his home plane, but did not know of it here in Ravenloft or Aambrust. We considered going north into the mountains to Folkestone, as we had never been there. Cross said that Baron Folkestein ruled the city, and told us a little bit about the mining companies that operated there. Edmund also gave Cross back the horse that he had been lent so long ago and retrieved his faithful steed Dasha.

    Before leaving, the rest of the party asked Cross about Niko and discovered that Cross had some sort of magical compulsion on him that prevented him from speaking or even indicating what he knew. In parting, Lord Cross asked us to at least consider his point of view and the options to which he was presented and to consider him an ally and not an enemy.

    Meanwhile, Ginko was visiting the Vistani camp set up in the snow outside of the city walls. Madame Petra would still not see him but Duvresh was more than happy to take his money. Eventually everyone but Edmund caught up with Ginko and Duvresh and we played some dice and purchased a few magical items that the Vistani had “acquired”. Terminus spent his loot on some stealth boots. Ginko purchased a wind fan, a potion that would harm a Vampire if they tried to suck his blood, and some secret Vistani tobacco that would reveal if someone was a vampire but not give it away.

    Duvresh asked if we were going to Folkestone, for we were getting quite a bit of vampire hunting gear. When asked why, Duvresh grinned and said that they were having quite a problem up in the mountains with vampires.

    Aarin was able to also gain audience with Madame Petra. He asked about the Astral Tree and if there were any druids in Aambrust who might be able to locate it if she could not. Petra gave him the name “Draenok” and said that they lived in Devil’s Breach. It had been on our map the whole time, but it was way far south and east through the thick of the forest. He asked if the tree monsters that we had been fighting were connected to it somehow, but she said that they were emanating from an area called the Tear near Folkestone.

    We all reconvened and made our plans. Sir Edmund wanted to visit the tomb of his distant relation Sir Reginald up in the moors. Further north from there was where Crossway was. Terminus’ recent encounter with the ghost carriage and the voice of his long dead sister had beckoned him there.

    From there we would head west through the mountain pass and investigate the Tear, hopefully learning more about the tree monsters which didn’t seem to connect to anything. Then we would see what was going on in Folkestone, Ginko wanted to kill vampires, even if it wasn’t Cross. After that we promised Aarin that we would make the long trek to Devil’s Breach. It was a long winding route but we didn’t have a lot to go on and the time pressure seemed a lot less since we had dealt with the Ghouls and Ludo.

    Aarin had the sudden, and good, idea to use his teleportation ring to visit Eastbourne and Kalamar, when it recharged at dawn he would join us here in Thornwall to leave for the Moors the next morning. Aarin teleported to Kalamar’s house and let him know we were still alive and what had happened.

    Eastbourne had been doing alright in the last two months. Captain Mueller had chilled out a bit and was doing his best to atone and make up for killing Father Gerard. Liddya was doing her best to follow in the footsteps of Gerard and heal the minds and bodies of the people from the horrors of Ludo. Kalamr and Aarin had a nice relaxing dinner and Aarin returned to the rest of the group the next day.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Session 24 - The Tomb of Sir Reginald
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    We set of into the moors, in search of Sir Reginald’s tomb. On the way we encountered some more screamers, zombie type undead, and hanged men but they were not really much of a threat at this point.

    The directions were part of a request by Sir Reginald to be entombed where he first entered Aambrust, hoping that the veil between worlds was thinner there and he could be with Torm in the afterlife. We started at a lake and eventually made our way through the icy cold moors to a rock formation with two carved swans over a stone doorway. One of the swan’s head had fallen off.

    There was a faded bronze plaque near the door reading: “No mortal hand, living or dead, may open the door. Only the touch of the Divine will start one on their journey.” The “door” had no handle, seams, or anything else. It just seemed like between the two swans was were the door should be. Aarin and Sir Edmund finally figured it out and Edmund used his Channel Divinity ability on the doorway. The stone slid into the ground revealing a long narrow passageway into the darkness.

    The first room we came to was large and deep. On the far side, in the torchlight we could see two grim looking statues of knights with axes looking over a tiled floor. Each tile had a letter on it. On the near side was another plaque that said, “I traveled many lands and fought many battles. It is easier to stay on the one true path than to battle your way back to righteousness. Walk in my footsteps.”

    The DM drew up the battle mat of the room and drew each lettered tile out so we could get a better visual. For those who want to try their luck, here is what was before us in a 5x9 grid.

    RESNORMDM
    CROOLOTEE
    REMNGTAMH
    EDNINRORT
    THUSMOFIK

    There were a lot of possibilities in the words that we found. “SUN MOON” “FOR THEM” “MORNINGLORD” looked promising. It was actually Terminus who spotted it and figured out what we eventually went with. “FOR TORM” the cry that Edmund would sometimes invoke in battle. We held our breath and chanced it. When we hit the M we heard a clicking and rushing sound, and another doorway opened up between the two statues.

    The next room had six sides and no obvious exit. Again, there were two statues of knights, these wielding great swords, who were kneeling and facing inwards towards a pedestal in the center of the room. The pedestal had five levers on it, like levers on a slot machine. The levers each had two colors. Black & Yellow, Green & Brown, Rust & Silver, Blue & White, Red & Gold.

    On five of the walls, the sixth being the one we came in through, were murals depicting the life and travels of what could only be Sir Reginald.

    Mural 1: Young Reginald on a farm, being knighted, and riding into a thunderstorm. Mural 2: Reginald alone in a dark forest fighting skeletons and werewolves. Mural 3: Reginald a little older and in different armor teaching farmers and peasants by day and defending these same people by night against ghosts and spirits. Mural 4: A large gathering of nobles applaud as Reginald, now middle aged, shakes hands with a priest in light pink robes. In the background were many homes and high walls, beyond these are snow dusted mountains. Mural 5: Seven knights are mourning at what looked like the entrance to this tomb. An orb of light is shooting off from the tomb into the distance.

    There was no plaque and no hints and the DM only smiled at us. We quickly deduced that the colors corresponded with the colors of the flags of that region. “Is this why you have been dropping bits and pieces about heraldry for the last six months?” Yes.

    From what we knew, Thornwall was Green and Brown, Falsher was Black and Yellow, and Eastbourne was Red and Gold. Actually, Sir Edmund also knew that the region he was from in Faerun was Blue and White. This left Rust and Silver as an unknown but we thought it might be Folkestone. It seemed like if we pulled the levers in the right order something would happen. The wrong order would probably lead to those statues coming alive.

    The first one was easy. It was Reginald at home = Blue and White. The second was him in a forest with undead and werewolves. We suspected Brombeere but since they didn’t have heraldry we went for the nearest town in the forest that did, Thornwall = Green and Brown.

    The third was Reginald teaching by day and fighting ghosts by night. It could have been a few of them, but we figured the ghosts and the farming community leant itself most towards Eastbourne = Red and Gold.

    The fourth was nobles applauding Reginald in the mountains. It was either Folkestone or Falsher. In the end we went with Falsher because it seemed like it was the biggest city and we knew that he had been there = Black and Yellow. The fifth was this tomb. By process of elimination it would be Rust and Silver, what we thought was Folkestone. But it didn’t quite make sense.

    Sir Edmund looked at the mural and the beam of light. He spoke softly, “He went home” and pulled the Blue and White lever again. A space in the floor opened up and revealed a staircase further down into the tomb. We figured it out! We were so stoked.

    Deeper into the tomb we came to a long hallway, maybe fifteen feet wide. There was a lidless stone sarcophagus at the entrance and a plaque reading, “Lay down your arms. Past this point, only peace shall prevail.” A third of the way down the hall was a statue of a knight with no weapons and arms crossed in judgement. We put all of our weapons in the chest and prayed that the statue didn’t come alive and smack us around. It didn’t.

    On the far side of the hallway was a stone door and another lever. Gulping we pulled it. As the door slid into the wall, we saw the final resting place of Sir Reginald. Upon a raised dais lay his tomb. Sir Edmund went in alone and we all hoped that Sir Reginald wasn’t an undead. Edmund approached the tomb and said a prayer for Sir Reginald. He then pushed aside the lid of the tomb to lay eyes upon his ancestor.

    A skeleton stared up at him. Reginald’s interred body was at peace and was not an undead. It wore ceremonial armor and a sword and shield lay over its chest. The sword was ornate, but purely a decoration. The wooden shield was faded and worn, the faint outline of a swan on a blue background.

    Edmund recognized it as the shield that Sir Reginald would have been granted at his knighting ceremony. Sir Edmund thanked Reginald for keeping it for him and passing it down through time, and with any luck, Edmund would return it home. It was a magic shield that could summon a ghostly apparition of a knight to attempt to block an incoming blow. Essentially it cast the Shield spell on an ally three times a day. It also further bolstered Edmund’s already amazing armor class.

    Edmund put the lid back on the tomb and told us what he had found. With that, we backtracked to the entrance.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”
    Last edited by Mr_Fixler; 2018-11-15 at 07:32 PM.

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

    Join Date
    May 2018

    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Spoiler: Session 25 - Crossway
    Show

    We exited the tomb of Sir Reginald and sealed it back up behind us. It was only about two in the afternoon so we got on our mounts or in the drawn cart and continued north towards Crossway. It was a little slower going as there were no roads in the moors, and we estimated our trip to take about a day and half. Icy winter winds and flakes of snow sent a shiver down our spine, but didn’t slow our trip.

    As the sun drew low, the DM rolled some dice, and those of us with higher passive perception were told that we smelled something really bad blowing in from the west. Upon investigation we found dozens of ghouls rotting in the sunlight. Bugs and flies were already beginning to do their work, but the smell reeked like fermenting garbage.

    We did a few medicine checks to see if we could determine what happened. There ghouls did not have any major lacerations, but many had piercing wounds. Cause of death seemed to be blunt trauma. We surmised that they had been here for at least a few days, but with not much more to go on we continued north.

    That evening, as some of us were resting in the back of the cart as the others drove our team of horses we were attacked. They were fast and silent, able to swoop down and surprise us with ease. Giant bats, really big bats as large as a horse. The horses got spooked and the resulting battle was on a runaway wagon, bouncing and veering across the foggy midnight moors.

    There were four or five of the bats, and they wrecked us. We also rolled really poorly so that didn’t help. During the battle Edmund tried to use his turn undead but it didn’t have any effect. Ginko was also able to further determine that these were not undead, but just huge, albeit vicious and nasty bats.

    As the battle began to turn, the bats started to disengage and fly away. One of them grabbed Aarin and began to fly up really high. Aarin cast produce flame to try and give us a beacon to aim for, but we and he missed on our attacks. The giant bat eventually dropped him. The DM gave Aarin a chance to make a concentration check to shapeshift since he was a moon druid and could do it very quickly, but Aarin failed the check and hit the ground, sending him into death saves. Now we knew how the ghouls died.

    Sir Edmund jumped onto his steed and bolted off to heal Aarin in time, while Terminus and Ginko calmed the horses. Ginko was also able to nail one of the bats with his Sharpshooter range, but one still got away.

    The rest of the journey through the moors was smooth. Mid-morning the next day we made it to the road that travelled east and west on the northern part of the country. West would take us across the Tear and eventually to Folkestone. East would lead to Crossway, from there we could go north to the ruined city of Falsher or continue east and wind south back to Eastbourne. At Terminus’ urging we traveled towards Crossway to see if we could find out what was going on with the Ghost Carriage and the specter of his adopted sister Celesta.

    As the day wore on, the fog burned off and we had the first pleasantly warm clear day in a long time. We began to see dotted orchards and fields along the side of the road, but no sign of life. Aarin turned into a shaggy dog and was hanging out with Edmund and Ginko in the front seat. We rode through an apple orchard with fruit so red and bright it almost seemed dreamlike. Speaking of dreamlike, things almost seemed like they took a sepia tint and we rode on.

    Before we had a chance to questions what we were seeing, four bandits jumped out from behind a rock and demanded that we pull over for an “inspection” lest anyone get hurt. Terminus’ looked stunned. It was his old gang.

    The discussion broke down pretty quickly and it come to blows. We were way out of their league, but they problem was, they kept popping back up a round or two after we killed them saying things like, “That’s not how I die, do it right. Terminus kills me not you.” We tore limbs off and mutilated bodies, but in fact, unless Terminus dealt the final blow they would reform.

    Eventually we killed the four bandits and stared at Terminus for answers. He didn’t have much. This was all strange to him as well, he had killed these men years ago after they killed his family during a robbery. The landscape too, was reminiscent of the rolling hills of farmland that he grew up on, but the details were not accurate.

    Things got even weirder when we got into Crossway and saw Terminus’ old house. It was a simple single-story farmhouse with a big red barn out back. Terminus’ family was on the front porch and when they saw him they ran out to greet him and give him a hug.

    His sister Celesta was not a little child, but instead a teenager in a light blue dress. His father Stephan was the stereotypical farmer-dad, with a barrel chest and dedicated to family and work. His mother was just starting to go gray and wore an apron and bonnet. They were so happy that Terminus had found them and returned home.

    It was like we were in the twilight zone.
    Everything was too perfect and too nice. Our hesitation was met with understanding and kind words. Terminus’ home was just as he left it, they had kept his room for him complete with a little Terminus sized bed.

    They said that in the morning, after chores were complete, that they were loading up the wagon and heading to town. On the trip the bandits would come out and kill them and then Terminus would kill the bandits and thing would start making a lot more sense. They said this with smiles on their faces and cheer towards Terminus. They lavished him with compliments. They invited us to stay with them, that is if Terminus wanted us to.

    The DM played off this friendly yet creepy vibe all too well. We had an awkward dinner where we learned that they didn’t really understand what or how they got here either. They remembered their deaths, but recently everyone in the little community had awoken as if coming out of a bad dream. They said they must be here because Terminus wanted them to be here.

    That night the rest of the party slept in the barn and Terminus slept in his old room. Ginko and Aarin had a hunch they knew what the outcome would be, but tried to leave the farm. Following the road just led back to the farm again, no matter which direction they went.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Session 26 - Terminus Terminated
    Show

    This session is going to be hard to put into words. It was equal parts Groundhogs Day, Stepford Wives, and Twilight Zone. We were trapped in some sort of loop where the “actors” played their parts and everything reset at dawn, but they were aware of the rules and what was going on. We felt increasingly trapped and frustrated. There were lots of strange actions and oddly constructed sentences, especially when it came to Terminus, such as: “We are all here because Terminus wants us to be here”, “We are as much a part of Terminus as Terminus”, “We will always come back because Terminus wants us to.” We also got hints that if Terminus killed us or “didn’t want us to come back” that we wouldn’t. It seemed we would be immortal as long as he willed it.

    We tried saving Terminus’ family from death when they were attacked, and were able to get Celesta through an entire day without dying. Night would stretch for hours longer than it should have until everyone fell asleep and everything would reset at dawn. We fought the bandits several times to no avail.

    Terminus’ player was on point, intrigued by the power that he seemed to hold and afraid of what it all meant. He was overjoyed to see his family again but didn’t quite believe it was real. Several times when dramatic or chaotic actions were proposed to try and break the cycle, he would snap at us that we best behave or we wouldn’t be part of the story anymore. At least he never referred to himself in the third person. Everyone called him Terminus in every sentence, never using a pronoun or another name.

    And that was the key. Coupled with a dropped line, “We need Terminus to live because if Terminus lives, we live on through Terminus.” It finally dawned on us what the solution could be. None of these people should have known him by that name. By his own admittance he assumed the identity of Terminus “the point at which it ends” after the death of his family and former gang of ruffians. It seemed like if Terminus died that all of this would go away, but did we really need our halfling friend to die? Would he come back? The dream logic seemed to indicate he wouldn’t.

    But what if there was another solution? What if just the identity died and our friend reassumed his old name. He didn’t remember his old name, he was just Terminus now. That old life came to an end, but it was back now and he was afraid to let it go. We had a moment where we all let Terminus know that his original family may be dead, but he was as good as a brother to any of us. Perhaps the specific name wasn’t important…

    As the moment grew nearer, the ghosts or whatever they were of his family and friends grew angry and irritated. They needed Terminus, not someone else. That identity, that pain and memory is what brought them into existence. Terminus exclaimed, “My name is JACK!” and everything went black.

    We felt cold. Our vision swam as everything came back into focus. We were in the middle of a burned down house. Outside was a heavy snow and the remnants of a destroyed town. We were in Crossway, the real-life ruined Crossway that fell to a tide of ghouls a few months ago.

    We searched the town, but didn’t come up with much. The only thing of significance was a frosty-blue shortsword with the words “Terminus” on one side and “Jack” on the other. We wondered what to call our friend now, we already weren’t sure of the identity of one of our party members, two was going to be even more confusing. Luckily, “My name is Jack, but my friends call me Terminus” worked as an elegant solution.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Session 27 - The Tear
    Show

    We searched the snowy husk of what was left of Crossway but there was nothing major to be found. We also didn’t find any bodies, confirming our suspicion that the huge ghoul cavern full of bones was where all the people went.

    We set out westward towards the mountains, the road would wound through Krun pass, and according to our map went over the Tear and eventually down to Folkestone on the other side of the second mountain range.

    On the journey we further discussed our ideas on what had just happened with Terminus. Our final conclusion was that the dark powers had formed Terminus a “mini-domain” and were seeing if he would accept his role as darklord. What he wanted would be within reach but forever not going the way he wanted to. He would have been “in charge” but things could never go back to the way they were. Luckily, he had accepted that and turned his back on the offer of darkness and power. Terminus/Jack had a confident bounce in his step now.

    It took two days for us to get across the rolling hills and windy mountains until we reached the Krun pass. We had seen some more bat monsters as we neared the mountains but never got attacked. The air grew thin as we climbed and once more we were enshrouded in a thick fog.

    As we went through the pass we heard commotion off to the side, and a familiar silhouette emerged from the mist. It was the Hunter, Walter and he was covered in blood, some of it his own. He looked genuinely surprised to see us.

    The first thing he did was run up to Ginko and pause, as if unsure, but then embraced him. “Niko! I’m so glad you survived! I was worried that I had lost you again. I’ve been looking for you for so long, if they land took you away now why…. I don’t know what I would do. Where have you been?”

    We asked what Walter was doing up here, and he said killing vampires. Folkestone was facing imminent danger, and he was trying to thin the numbers. We told Walter of the defeat of Ludo the Mad, and he nodded in approval as we spoke. We left out the part about the dreams we had, unsure how that would go. He said that after the spell keeping him away dissolved he came looking for us but was unable to find any trace of the party in the rubble. When we got to the part about Cross breaking our sleep curse he turned sour.

    He told us and mostly Ginko/Niko that Cross was using us in his games, and that the time had come to end his unlife. He had wanted to for a long time, but Cross had an amulet of his own blood, of Niko’s blood specifically that gave him protection. He could help us with the other “family” members but would need our aid in killing Cross and liberating Thornwall.

    The parallel to Niko being close to death, revived by cross but corrupted against him was on Walter’s mind and it was time to close this repetitive cycle. This time it was Edmund and Aarin who were against this course of action. Terminus was leaning toward’s killing Cross and as much as he didn’t want to admit it, Ginko was unsure.

    Walter asked him point blank, “I see you still go by Ginko and not by your true name Niko. Have you not yet accepted that you are my son?” Ginko said that he wasn’t sure yet. “And what would make you sure?”

    Ginko asked him if he was undead. This launched into another huge discussion. Edmund zone of truthed him and the result was that Walter was not lying when he said he wasn’t. We said we saw a vision of him hanging and he pulled down his collar to show the scars on his neck, but said that he was hard to kill and while he almost died that night, the rope snapped and he barely survived. He bled blood as well. On the other hand, Sir Edmunds Divine Sense clearly showed him as an undead.

    At this, Walter turned very hostile, and told Niko that Edmund was once again trying to turn him against his father. The argument escalated and Edmund threatened Walter that if he was going to continue with this than he might as well take it to its conclusion and shoot him now.

    In the blink of an eye Walter had unloaded three bolts into Sir Edmund’s chest. The DM rolled legit and one of them was a critical hit. Edmund was bleeding out on the verge of death. Aarin immedietly stabilized him. Ginko used his undead favored enemy radar but all he could tell was that there were multiple undead “blips” within a mile, he didn’t have pinpoint detection. Ginko wanted to meet in a desolate area and confirm for himself without any party member’s help whether or not Walter was undead.

    Walter agreed to meet him in the Moors in one week’s time, and after it was confirmed he was alive and well, Niko would help him end Lord Cross. The parting was frosty. Before he left and went back into the fog, Walter gave Ginko a warning.

    “Don’t delve into the Tear. The darkness of this land formed that hole to remind me of where I lost you. It was a scar on my memory as it is a scar on the very land itself. I assure you that you will find only darkness in that pit. Aambrust creates echoes of my old life, and that region is you being torn away from me. I can’t lose you again.” With that, he was gone.

    After administering some healing to Sir Edmund, we continued down the road. Our discussion turned to whether we should warn Cross. Ginko did want to kill him, but wanted to wait until the truth about his parentage was revealed before he would take action. Edmund said that the same darkness that overtook Walter as a hunter of monsters was taking Ginko, and that as much as it pained him, Edmund would fight Ginko to defend Cross. Aarin wanted to warn Cross but stay out of the battle. Terminus said that any warning to Cross would just mean more casualties in the grand scheme of things.

    We also now, more than ever wanted to see what was going on the in the Tear. Aarin had learned from the Vistani Madame Petra that it was somehow connected to the tree monsters. After several more hours of hiking we came upon it. It was a thin, deep gash in the landscape. An almost sheer drop into the misty darkness below. Some dropped rocks and some checks estimated three thousand feet to the bottom. The width varied from 400 to 700 feet across, but a rickety looking wood and rope bridge spanned the gap. We could see a little cabin on the other side. One by one we crossed to test its strength, eventually our confidence was such to bring the cart and horses across.

    We were almost completely out of daylight. Terminus scouted the house and peered the windows, but Aarin was out of patience and knocked on the door. An old grumpy man named Adalbert answered. He was the toll taker for the bridge and immedietly charged us for crossing.

    We asked what he knew about the Tear and learned that he was from Folkestone and on seasonal rotation to live here and maintain the bridge. There was a huge gnarled tree that you could see in the ravine when the sun was overhead, but the surrounding mountains and thin canyon prevented most from seeing it. It was roughly three or four miles north of where we were, and there was a different bridge that wasn’t maintained past that. He also told us about Folkestone’s recent Vampire problems and that the Baron had hired some mercenaries to help the town out, there was a bounty on Vampire heads right now.

    We also realized that only Terminus had climbing gear. We also felt as if we could use a long rest. Aarin said that he would use his ring to teleport to Eastbourne and buy some climbing gear, and meet us at this exact spot in the morning. We paid Adalbert the toll taker some more to stay and use some of his blankets to tend to our horses.

    Aarin used his ring, but actually just went to Brombeere to get climbing gear from there and hang out with Ullrich. He did ask Ulirch what he knew about ghosts, but Ullrich didn’t have much to offer besides that each case could be different and most ghosts were unique. There was often a problem to solve or some sort of quest involved in getting rid of one permanently.

    The next morning Aarin returned to us and we hiked a few miles north. The sun offered only dim illumination into the crevasse but we could see the tree in questions at the bottom. It was a huge gnarled black and brown twisted thing. It stood just over three hundred feet tall with twisted branches and visible roots.

    We all put on our climbing gear and started to climb down. Aarin turned into a giant spider and helped us descend faster than we would have been able to normally, saving us a few hours. As we got closer to the bottom, we could also see a few of the “smaller” tree monsters and two of the big ones roaming around the canyon floor.

    For the sake of brevity, we baited some of them into climbing up after us, used up all of our alchemist fire, created a landslide to bury/crush a few of them, and then descended the rest of the way and fought the remaining tree monsters at the bottom.

    It was still a difficult fight and we were near dead when we emerged victorious. We found a small ledge and attempted a short rest before we neared the tree but more showed up and engaged us so it was kind of a wash. The floor of the canyon near the tree was composed of a surprisingly thick layer of dirt and decomposition. Upon further inspection and a medicine check we found corpses mixed into the mulch…

    When we got to the giant gnarled tree we didn’t know how much time we had, or what we even wanted to do. Terminus squeezed through thick tangle of the exposed root system to see if anything was under there and when he came back out told us there was a dried-out mummy person in the roots. Edmund used the axe of sharpness to cleave a path so the rest of us could follow. The tree had thick reddish-brown sap that stank.

    True enough there was a corpse in the roots, the trunk of the tree seemed to actually create a dome over this person. The roots pierced the body, and a large one in particular went right through its chest. The DM described the body as a completely dried out husk, like a real mummy (not the bandaged kind), the mouth had fangs. We realized what it was, some sort of weird symbiosis. The person was a vampire who was staked, and the tree that had formed from this stake was still feeding it.

    Ginko loaded his crossbow and prepared some wooden stakes, he was ready to kill the tree and the vampire. He was so OVER vampires right now. Aarin and Edmund cut the root that pierced its chest and slowly pulled it out. Aarin cut his forearm and dripped some blood into its mouth.

    Slowly, the vampire twitched to life. Aarin gave it more blood and as it began to regenerate and reform into a more human appearance of a man in his early or mid-twenties. We all warned it that it was sunny outside and we would kill the **** out of this vampire if it harmed us.

    Aarin asked the vampire who it was and why it was down here. As soon as its tongue reformed it answered, “Niko. My name is Niko.”

    We could barely hear the DM say, “See you next week” through the noise of our jaws hitting the floor.
    Last edited by Mr_Fixler; 2018-12-06 at 10:07 PM.

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

    Join Date
    May 2018

    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Spoiler: Session 28 - An Arduous Climb
    Show

    No wait seriously, Niko? The first thing the vampire did was ask to die. He hated undead as much as Walter and Ginko and had been trapped as one for who knows how long. He was paralyzed from the wooden stake, but very much “awake” as the tree grew from him and killed to feed him/it. He was on the verge of sanity and said that he wanted nothing more than to walk into the sunlight and take one more vampire out of the world on his way out. But he agreed to give us an explanation.

    He was Walter’s son Niko, and the resemblance was there. He had an absent father but respected and had always wished to follow in his dad’s footsteps. He learned of his father’s death in the battle with Ludo, but also heard rumors that he still was alive. Niko took his gear and left in search of the truth, to bring his father home even it was just a body. For close to four years he searched and chased rumors and sightings.

    He found himself in an area well known for a nasty war between ancient vampire clans, perhaps Walter sought to liberate the people of this far off country. Niko survived a battle with some vampires, but was gravely injured.

    He crawled to a keep nestled in the mountains, but fate had it in for Niko, as this was the home of Alaistar Cross. Cross saw the value in an undead hunter ally, and turned Niko into a vampire to aid him in the war effort. However, upon learning of the sad tale Cross made a deal with Niko that he would let him find the truth about his father first.

    Soon after that, Niko did eventually meet up with his father on a desolate mountain pass. The training that he had received from his father allowed him to recognize that his father was in fact dead, and a ghost. Walter in turn must have realized that Niko was a vampire. The two ran to embrace, but at the last moment, Walter drew a wooden stake and stabbed it into Niko’s heart.

    At that moment, the ground itself tore into a massive fissure and both fell into the inky blackness. Niko would remain pinned to the floor of the crevasse as the tree grew around him. What happened to Walter, he did not know. We realized that this must have been the defining and damning moment that transported Walter to Ravenloft. This country was built for him and was also his prison.

    So many things clicked into place. Walter returned home as a ghost to see his wife Emily in tears. Not over Niko’s death, but his own. His refusal to accept that he was undead. The screamers and the banshee were a manifestation of this. The hanged men, the chain wielding ghosts who were always trying to choke us, the constant imagery of strangulation were Walter’s own death. He pulled Cross and the failed lich Ludo into this realm because he hated them so. The ghouls were those who strung him up and killed him. The unending stream of monsters coming out of the mists were the constant needs of the people who pulled him away from his family. He saw Ginko as his son because he refused to see the truth that he had killed Niko and was looking for a replacement. How many times had that story played out over the years? What would happen if we brought them back together?

    We desperately tried to convince Niko to live for a bit longer. Sir Edmund gave a speech about redemption and rolled an incredible persuasion check. For the time being, we had a slightly emo vampire in the party. He commented that Ginko was using his old crossbow and Ginko decided to give it to him. Ginko said that he now wholly rejected the thought of Walter as his father. He may not know his past, or how he came to be living alone in the jungle of the Koonga, but his destiny was his own and he would walk his own path. Now it was his mission to put Walter’s spirit to rest.

    We had one week to figure out whatever it was we were going to figure out, and then they would meet in the Moors. Ginko went back to using his older crossbow but found it appeared different than it had before. Perhaps due to the recent revelation it had undergone some sort of magical metamorphosis and had a few new plant and jungle themed powers.

    The first order of business was getting out of this deep canyon. It was going to be a long climb up, and our horses and supplies were back at the bridge. If we started now, Niko could turn into a bat and join us when the sun went down.

    We started the climb and several checks later we were making good time up the side of the fissure walls. The DM called for a perception roll and this time we saw them coming. The giant bats were back, and this time they were coming straight for us as we climbed the sheer rockface. Because we saw them coming and due to distance, we had one round to prepare. Most of us took the opportunity to tie ourselves into the ropes to try and avoid being snatched and dropped, Ginko took a few preemptive shots at the bats with his crossbow.

    We still used a flat grid to map out the combat, but the whole thing was turned on its side. We could climb up, lower ourselves down and swing left or right. At one point during the battle Terminus took a running leap and jumped off of the wall to stab one of the bats that was hovering just out of our melee range. The bats did try to pick us off of the wall and drop us as well as claw at our ropes, but we rolled well and worked together to lessen the threat.

    We took some scrapes, but sent three of them plummeting to the rocks below before the fourth turned and flew away. This time Ginko and Aarin were able to take it down with some ranged attacks, leaving no survivors to the best of our knowledge.

    We met back up at the little cabin, grabbed our gear and horses, and headed across the mountains toward Folkestone. We talked with Niko a little bit more and took our rests in shifts. When the sun started to come up we built Niko a little shelter with some wood and heavy clothing to keep him out of any sunlight. He promised he wasn’t going to kill himself, that there was more at stake now (no pun intended).

    As we crested one of the mountains we could see Folkestone before us. It was larger than Thornwall, but not quite Eastbourne in size. A picturesque wintery alpine village, like something out of a Christmas card. Scattered houses of stone and wood lay half buried under recent snowfall, from our vantage point we could see a centralized keep, a steepled church, and some larger warehouses.

    We followed the road as it descended down the mountain and wound through the village. There were no people on the streets, and no sound outside of the crunching of snow under our boots and horse hooves. Some of the homes did have fires emanating from the chimney’s so people were home…

    That’s when we heard noises that were not our own. Something was attempting to be stealthy the next block over and was heading our way.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Session 29 - Folkestone
    Show

    The rays of the early morning sun reflected off of the powdery snow in the mountain city of Folkestone. Our party prepared for whatever it was that was stalking us through the streets. Ginko drank the potion that would harm vampires if they tried to suck his blood. It would offer him protection for the next eight hours and now was as good as any time to try it out.

    Our stalker was in fact a solitary man in heavy armor. He wore plate armor under a heavy fur cloak. His accoutrement was colored in blacks and silvers, with a reoccurring deer motif. He lifted a heavy axe and called out to us to identify ourselves and our business in Folkestone.

    We told him the truth, we were travelers and outsiders, passing through the region and wanted no trouble. We had heard there were reports of vampire activity in the mountains and came to check it out. The man identified himself as Creight the White Stag, and he was one of the mercenaries hired by Baron Folkestien to root out said vampires. He had us drink holy water and marched us towards the church to see if we could or would enter.

    On the walk he explained that they were dealing with a different strain of vampire that he had ever heard of. This was no Nosferatu or classic vampire, but instead a sickly breed that radiated filth and disease that they called Orlocks. They could walk in daylight, but lacked many of the signature vampire abilities. However, they made up for this with their deadly claws and debilitating radiance of illness. However, they still could not enter a home without invitation, and at the moment Folkestone had mandatory curfews.

    Creight was also an outsider, and had been in Aambrust for over twenty years. He had given up hope on returning home and made his living as a mercenary. When we asked where he was from he said he hailed from Neverwinter in Faerun, and had defended the Jewel of the North during Maugrim’s siege.

    Edmund lit up and identified himself as hailing from the region of Hank in Amn. Creight said he had never heard of it, and chuckled that it must be one of the lesser houses. Edmund replied that he didn’t expect a northern barbarian to keep up. We instantly took a liking to this guy. He was just kind of a grizzled old badass that didn’t take any of our ****.

    We got the church and recognized it as another church of the Morninglord. Edmund was further excited. We all went in without invitation to prove that we weren’t vampires and could enter a church. Inside was a dark-haired woman with a crossbow and a middle-aged man in faded red robes. Creight introduced us to Hilde the other mercenary and Father Nicholas. They would take it from here, he was going back out on patrol.

    Hilde and Father Nicholas explained the current situation with vampires and pleaded for our aid. Trade was slowing and the ranks of the vampire infestation were growing. Hilde and Creight were doing their best but they felt that it was a slow fall into despair. The will of the people was breaking. Despite their different from normal vampires, this Orlock strain was still intelligent, and Father Nicholas theorized they were after the Baron.

    The Baron technically owned Folkestone and could in theory grant permission into any home. To combat this the Baron and the Father had prepared a separate residence that not even the servants were allowed into. Folkestone was known for its wealth of gold, silver, and gems and we would be generously rewarded for every vampire we could prove dead.

    It was sad, and one of the hardest things we had to do as a party. Maybe the Hunter had a point that you would always be pulled in too many directions with too many cries for help. As much as it pained us to do so, we did not have the time or resources to help them. We had to walk away from this one.

    Before we left town, we did check up on Martin and Willet who had long ago mentioned that they were going to be setting up a mining operation in Folkestone. In our conversations with Hilde and Father Nicholas we learned that they had done just that and were one of the only growing operations in the area.

    Their staff rolled their eyes when we walked in and asked to be seen immedietly, but both Martin and Willet came to greet us. Martin spoke with fervor and Willet, who if you recall was unable to speak due to injury, nodded and grunted in his approval.

    They had been doing well but the influx of vampires in the recent months was dire. Both were skilled in the arts of fighting but seeing the survivors of attacks waste and rot away from disease had given them pause to join into any sort of combat they weren’t required for. We told them that regretfully we also had to not get involved. They did agree to trade our cart for a fully enclosed wagon and wished us safe travels.

    It sucked walking away like that, but we had only a week and a lot to do. To that end, we agreed that Aarin would use his ring to teleport to Eastbourne and see what we might be able to learn from Kalamar. Aarin had our full trust to be as open and transparent as he wanted to be in regard to Niko, the Hunter, and anything he thought was important.

    We talked about meeting in Thornwall but figured that the Hunter might still be watching us and that as much as we wanted to go there and talk to Lord Cross, it was too dangerous. Niko agreed that he wanted to face his vampire “father” and talk to him at some point. We needed a familiar location for Aarin to meet us at. We were leaving immedietly and could get close to Thornwall in about a day and half. Eventually we settled on Aami’s farm.

    Before we set off, Edmund penned a letter and hired a courier to deliver it to Odric at Thornwall. It was ultimately a warning for Cross about the Hunter’s plans to kill him. Hopefully it got through in time and without being suspect.

    We all agreed that after meeting back up, we would race to Devil’s Breach and hopefully learn what we could from the druid that resided there. We were interested in the Astral tree, which was also the tree that Walter died on. If he had pulled an echo if it or even the real thing into Aambrust it was not only perhaps a clue to solving that problem, but if Kalamar’s theory was correct it could also take us home.

    From there it was another race back to the Moors and as long as there were few delays, we would arrive exactly on time to confront the Hunter. Hopefully we had enough evidence, and with Niko with us as well, that we could perhaps find a way to redeem him.
    Aarin used his ring to teleport to Eastbourne.

    He arrived in Kalamar’s study and surprised the elven mage who was drinking tea and reading. Aarin filled Kalamar in on everything that had happened recently, focusing on the Hunter/Walter, Niko, and the stuff that had happened with Terminus. Kalamar agree with our theory that Ravenloft was testing out a mini-domain for Terminus but was glad to hear he had walked away from it. He had never heard anything about Niko, and there was no reference of him in any of Ludo’s books.

    Aarin asked Kalamar if he knew of any way to deal with a ghost, since that is what we thought Walter was. Kalamar had a great deal of knowledge on spectral entities from his time in Eastbourne, and a bit from the other lands of Ravenloft when he had passed through. He said that ghosts were often unique in their powers, and if this one was a darklord, then it could have very strong abilities. In the end, we need to find some sort of solution to the ghost’s “problem”.

    Sensing that things were coming to a head, Aarin attempted to persuade Kalamar to join the party, that we were getting close to a way home. The possibility was there and Aarin rolled for it, but failed to convince Kalamar that it was worth it. Kalamar said that until there was definitive proof of a way out of Ravenloft, his time and resources were best spent in Eastbourne researching. He had chased many leads on a way out, and as of right now, this one didn’t seem any more promising than the others.

    Aarin was disappointed and upset and basically told Kalamar he was being a selfish jerk and the Druid cast misty step to leave the room. Kalamar immedietly countered the spell and told Aarin he was being extremely rude and to sit down.

    Kalamar’s wooden leg clomp-clomped as he paced about the room and argued that he had done nothing but take chances and help us and while we were able defeat Ludo and save Eastbourne as a team, and he considered us all friends and allies, we were still no closer to returning home. For as much as he had tried for near a century in both this country and others before he became trapped, all evidence pointed to there being no way home.

    On that down note. The DM smiled at said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Session 30 - The Road to Devil's Breach
    Show

    Terminus’ player was absent this session (it was his wife’s birthday) and thusly we had the weird dilemma of what to do with the character. Our solution was that Terminus was there and guarding the wagon and Niko.
    So when this chapter is light on any actions made by our halfling assassin, there was good reason. Anyway, on with the story!

    With Aarin in Eastbourne, the rest of the party left Folkestone, hopefully they could either figure the vampire problem out or hold out until we were able to return. Neither option seemed optimistic. We had a lot of ground to cover and pushed our horses for some extra speed.

    Several hours south of Folkestone as we neared the Hog’s Head Pass that would eventually take us down to the Tottenwald and the Breakneck road, we saw two men come from around a bend in the road. Their demeanor was panicked and they had blood and signs of struggle on their clothes and bodies. As they ran they nervously looked over their shoulders. They yelled out, “Help! *Help! We’ve been attacked!”

    Sir Edmund rode ahead of us and offered them healing. He leaned down from atop his horse Dasha but as soon as his arm was in reach the two men bared their fangs and their fingers crew into long wicked claws. It as an ambush.

    These Orlock vampires hit like a truck and emanated some sort of filth aura that required constitution checks. They smelled like the piles of dead ghouls we encountered back in the moors and made our eyes water. Every time their claws landed we had to make yet more Constitution throws.

    It was really Sir Edmund’s recently acquired Aura of Protection that gave us some defense against the assault, not to mention that he excelled at mounted combat. Also, when the vampires attempted to bite Ginko, his potion of protection blasted them with a wave of radiant energy instead of an infusion of blood and health.

    We went from full health to the verge of death in only a few rounds, but were able to make one Vampire turn to mist and escape. The other, Ginko was able to slam with a wooden stake to prevent it getting away.

    With the battle over, Ginko beheaded the vampire and shoved another stake through its forehead, effectively nailing it to a nearby tree. Underneath it he smeared blood into a sign that read, “No More Vampires!” Perhaps it would send a message, or at least make them think twice before attacking us again.

    The next day we all met back up at Aami’s farm, or what was left of it after we burned it all down. Aarin teleported in a few hours before the rest of us arrived and walked around the dusty gray landscape. He nervously eyed the well.

    The DM smiled and asked him if he wanted to go near it. Aarin wanted nothing to do with that well. When we all met back up and Aarin got into the back of the wagon to ride away, he used his new Call Lighting spell to strike the well with lighting. The DM asked Aarin and only Aarin to roll perception. He thought he saw something come up out of the well, but he wasn’t quite sure…it was too far to make out any details.

    The DM described the next two days of travel in a montage. We stuck to the roads as best we could, resting the horses when necessary but pushing them for all we could. *We had a few fights in the forest but nothing we couldn’t handle. As much as we wanted to stop, it made more sense to take a different branch of the road south of Brombeere to get us as close to the Hinterlands and Devil’s Breach.

    We had never been to the Hinterlands before and on the third day of travel, as we left the road and began to more slowly pick our path through the trees, the DM described the difference in the forest and showed us some pictures. The trees and land here seemed older and thicker, and there were no signs that civilization had reached this part of the forest that dominated most of southeast Aambrust.

    We heard someone calling out to us. Not that there was a road or anything, but through the tangle of thick pine trees and branches we saw a middle-aged man covered in furs waving us down. As we drew near we asked if he was the druid Draenok that we were seeking. He said no, the druid was a curmudgeonly a** and didn’t like interlopers, but he was willing to take us there.

    His name was Eddard Cap and he was a trapper and hunter who lived with his family alone in the Hinterlands. They mostly lived off of the land but he would take his furs into Eastbourne once in a while for trade. He seemed amiable enough and also didn’t detect as undead or fiend, so that was a plus.

    As we rode and he trotted along beside us, he asked if we were here to hunt the beast. When we asked what beast, he described a towering hulk of a monster, with huge antlers, claws, and gnashing teeth. It was super vague. He said that every so often people would come down to try and slay it, especially outsiders, and that nobody ever walked away from the battle. It roamed the entire forest but made its home in the sulfur springs that made up Devil’s Breach itself. Eddard never went down there, he was content enough to hunt and trap normal animals in the forest. That was probably why the druid hated him and his family.

    Eddard led us through the forest until we came to a cave. We all grew little suspicious but Eddard told us that he and his family used this tunnel as an entrance to their home in the forest on the other side because it was easily defensible and offered a good shortcut. He said that he was checking in for lunch and to let his family know that he was taking us to see the druid, even though he didn’t like the druid very much either.

    We left the wagon and horses at the mouth of the tunnel because they wouldn’t fit, Terminus and Niko would guard them, and walked single file behind Eddard through the damp cave. We were all growing more and more suspicious of his choice of words and demeanor.

    When Aarin who was directly behind Eddard felt cobwebs on his face, and realized that Eddard should have broken the strands but somehow hadn’t he “fell” and “hurt” his leg.
    He called out to Sir Edmund for some healing and we all started to turn back and attempt to get out of the tunnel.

    Eddard went crazy and spastic and told us we couldn’t leave. The DM described the sounds of hundreds of tiny legs on stone and the light from the entrance of the tunnel started to grow dim.

    Then the DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Last edited by Mr_Fixler; 2018-12-28 at 12:30 PM.

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

    Join Date
    May 2018

    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Spoiler: Session 31 - Draenok and Yig-Sithra
    Show

    As soon as the session started, we were asked to roll initiative. Eddard Cap, actually an Ettercap (seriously none of us got this until the DM pointed it out), and his family of giant spiders were barreling at us through the tunnel. Meanwhile, outside another giant spider was webbing the entrance shut. We were being sealed inside the tunnel.

    Terminus heard the echoes of our shouts coming from the tunnel and saw the entrance being sealed. He hurled some torches at the webbing and spider making it.
    The spider jumped down and the halfling had a one on one with the giant arachnid, one that didn’t go well for him as he succumbed to its venom.

    Aarin turned into a giant elk and charged back into the tunnel at Eddard and the giant spiders, he was attempting to buy us some more time. Ginko also used his magical windfan to slow the dozens of eyes and legs that were rushing from the darkness.

    We weighed the choice of staying and fighting off Eddard and his spider family, or escaping the tunnel, revive Terminus, and split. We jumped through the webbing which was weakened form the fire. Aarin stayed in the form the giant elk and we took off through the forest. Meet Eddard’s family for lunch indeed.

    We continued through the forest when Aarin began to notice signs that we were nearing a druidic grove. He led the way finding little clues that we were on the right track. Over a small hill we were able to see a shrine through the trees. Faint traces of smoke rose from a censer and behind it all, performing some sort of ceremony, was a druid wearing a beast’s skull as a helmet and thick heavy brown robes that were dusted with snow.

    Aarin and Draenok spoke in Druidic. His voice was low and gravelly when he spoke, but Aarin relayed the information to us all so we knew the gist of the conversation.

    He tended to the silent pines and the old lands of the Hinterlands, trees that predated the current lord of the land. The trees were corrupted by dark magics but bowed to the Hunter as their master, although they remembered a time that this was not the case.

    Years ago, Draenok’s curiosity about this connection led him to seek answers from the Hunter, but in rage the Hunter had gouged out one of Draenok’s eyes and poured scalding water down his throat. Sir Edmund said that was terrible and offered to use Restoration to help Draenok. The druid agreed and when Draenok spoke again, we realized that Draenok was not a he, but a she!

    After removing her skull helmet, we saw the Draenok looked to be a woman in her thirties. She was very appreciative and asked how she could return the favor. She didn’t know much about the hunter, but when we asked about the Astral tree she said that she had heard whispers of it when the pine trees swayed in the wind, but knew not where it was. She was confident that it wasn’t in the Hinteralnds, which we were really hoping it was, but said that she did know of one who would likely know it’s location. There was one that traveled the land, and happened to be near the steam vents at Devil’s Breach.

    The trees told Draenok that this hooded figure was not of this world, but was a master of gateways, keys, and doors.
    Draenok would take us to Devil’s breach and anywhere else we wanted to go in the Hinterlands, but did not wish to converse with this being.

    On the walk, Draenok saw Aarin’s ring that he had been gifted from Addison Riverstone, and commented that it held ancient druidic magic. She said that there was a portion of its power still locked and that she could help free it. Aarin’s ring got an upgrade it that it also became a “Ring of the Elk”, basically a ring of the ram with elk flavor.

    The air around Devil’s Breach stank of sulfur, and steam rose from cracks and bubbling pools of water in the ground. Through the steam we saw a familiar figure, Sir Edmund slumped in his chair as the DM described the hooded being that we had encountered building the evil wheel in the swamp so many sessions ago. Draenok stood some ways back as we approached the hooded figure.

    It spoke a greeting to us and pulled back its hood. The DM described a devil. It was tall, with a shark-like grin, solid red eyes, tattoos across its body which itself emanated smoke and steam. It introduced itself as Yig-Sithra Keeper of the Nine Keys, and said that he was willing to trade with us. It was summoned hundreds of years ago in Falsher and, like us, was trapped in Aambrust and sought the collapse of this realm so he could leave.

    Yig-Sithra knew much about keys and doors, and knew of the Astral Tree that we sought, its location, and its ties to the darklord.
    However, as usual with Fiends, nothing was free. Yig Sithra had six pieces of information and had six bargains, we didn’t have to agree to all of them, but we would be glad if we did…

    To cut a lot of the back and forth and decision making short, we will put the bargains offered and who took them, followed by the information that we gained.
    All contracts were good for one year, if the service was not called upon before that time, we were free with no strings attached.
    Failure to comply would lead to him having claim of our soul for ten years.

    Sometime in the next year Yig-Sithra will ask the person to sit down for five minutes, that’s it. Edmund took this, figuring he could sit down on his horse if this occurred during combat.

    Yig-Sithra will ask for one’s name. He isn’t going to take it away, he will just ask their name and they must respond loud and clear for all to hear. Terminus agreed to this, thinking it wasn’t going to be that bad and at most would break his stealth at a crucial moment.

    Yig-Sithra pulled one of the nine keys from a rope on his waist. He said that if the bargain maker ever saw it, they must immedietly pick it up for him and return it to him when they saw him next. Aarin the druid agreed to this, although afterwards regretting taking it because if Yig-Sithra appeared suddenly and then disappeared he would have missed his opportunity to address the second part of the bargain.

    The Devil produced a simple obsidian dagger. The next time the bargain maker stepped into a church, they had to discreetly place this dagger on one of the pews or seats. To Sir Edmund’s protest, Ginko took this deal. Later when we were done Ginko would tell the party that he had no intention of going into a church at all for a year and honestly wasn’t bothered by that at all. He did joke that Edmund better be nice to him or he was going to head straight for the nearest church of the Morninglord.

    Yig-Sithra said that one bargain was for Sir Edmund only. Sir Edmund must apologize and ask the Devil’s forgiveness for breaking the portal and the wheel in the swamp. He must also admit that evil can sometimes be more powerful than good. He could demonstrate his sincerity by kneeling and kissing Yig-Sithra’s hand. Sir Edmund rationalized that yes evil could be more powerful, that didn’t mean it was the correct path for anyone. He knelt and kissed the Devil’s scaly hand.

    Lastly, he asked us to kill the Beast of Devil’s Breach and return one of its horns here to the steam vents. Yig-Sithra neede it to create a portal. We didn’t do this one. Partly because time was of the essence and we didn’t know how long it would take to track down this beast. Also because we didn’t know the circumstances and knowing that this devil wanted it done made us not want to do it. Maybe it was an innocent trapped in a monster’s body, maybe the beast was protecting something or holding something else at bay. Regardless we declined.

    With a wave of its hand, Yig-Sithra produced a contract that simply said “I, the undersigned, do hereby agree to the terms and conditions of the contact as discussed.” No legalese, no obvious loopholes. We knew we were literally signing a deal with a devil but didn’t have much of a choice.

    Upon signing, the DM passed us five notes.
    Piecing the information together, we learned that the Astral Tree was in the Fells which was the expanse of forest south of the Breakneck road. Walter both feared and treasured the Astral Tree so he kept it hidden from the world, and a normal search would be unable to locate it. A piece of wood had been torn from the tree long ago, and longed to be returned, the piece would take us to the it. This lost piece resided in Aambrust, for it could not leave, but that the one who owned it had no idea what they possessed. We also learned that the reason Ludo’s lich spell failed was that there were two phylacteries, although we weren’t sure what this meant.

    We had some new information to chew on. It seemed like we were very close to brining this all together. We were going to confront Walter in the moors and hope that it turned out well, though we had our doubts. We had Niko and more truth and facts than we had ever had before.

    During this discussion Aarin suddenly had an epiphany. "I think I know where the missing part of the tree is! It’s Kalamar’s wooden leg!” We all looked at the DM hoping for some kind of tell.

    The DM smiled and said, “See you next week.”

    Spoiler: Session 32 - The Confrontation
    Show

    We walked away from the steam vents and sulfuric pools near Devil’s Breach and back to Draenok who waited patiently for our return. As we told her our plans she let us know that she was going to remain in the Hinterlands taking care of the forest, but if we should ever need her, Aarin would be able to send a message through the trees.

    We would have preferred to stay and rest and see the sights, but we were on a tight schedule and said our goodbyes before racing off again northwest towards the moors.

    Our travels out of the Hinterlands went unimpeded, and we made it to Brombeere in just over a day and a half. We ran our horses shifts, but by the time we got to Brombeere they obviously needed a rest. It was just about nightfall and we realized that we were about a week out from the full moon…so it should be ok.

    When we got to the little town we came right after the resolution of some drama. Ullrich’s second in command Cutter had been organizing a coup/secession. There was a number of the pack who wanted to go back to the old ways and be more secluded and not living on one of the main roads of Aambrust. Ullrich said he was going to bring his people into the modern era kicking and screaming if he had to and had just “put down” Cutter.

    Ullrich put us up in the distillery for rest and said that we were under his protection but not to interfere. That was honestly fine with us, we just wanted to rest and get to the moors before time was up. It might be the last time we knew when and where the Hunter was going to be.

    We slept a few hours after Aarin and Edmund did what they could to heal and rest the horses. We ate some food and thanked Ullrich for the rest before heading out for the last leg of our journey. Niko was getting anxious about meeting his father and we went over how things might go down and our plans if it came to combat.

    It was almost midnight by the time we got there, hours past the time that Ginko was supposed to meet Walter. But as the wagon rumbled across the cold and desolate moors towards the meeting place, we could see that the Hunter was still waiting.

    The roleplaying was tense. Ginko tried to make his case, to ease Walter into the realization that Ginko was not his son. The saddest moment of all was when Niko emerged from the wagon and approached his father. Walter could neither see, hear, nor touch his actual son. His refusal to accept the truth would forever keep them apart.
    Niko’s face fell as he reached out to touch his father and his hand passed right through.
    Without saying a word, he looked to the rest of us and slowly nodded before walking back to the wagon.

    Walter began to realize what Ginko was saying. *l His eyes showed true sadness when he said “No. Don’t break my heart. Not again.” But the sadness turned to anger.

    We heard a rumbling noise and the pebbles on the ground began to shake and tremble.
    Walter said that was it then, he could see now that Ginko was not his son but a monster that wore his son’s face sent to torment him. He should have known that the land would taunt him so with hope. He vowed to utterly destroy and torture Ginko and the group, for we were monsters. He would see us broken and begging for mercy and death. He would break each of our ribs so each labored breath would lesson in pain.
    He would turn the people against us, and teach to fear the just. Monsters should be punished and made into an example, especially those that were once men.

    As he spoke our faces began to burn. Huge hunter’s marks seared into our faces. He laughed and said he would not kill us today, or even tomorrow, but that we would wish that he had. He shouted to the heavens that the land had messed with the wrong man, he was tougher than the land itself and would find a way to beat it and go home. Like a wave crashing, mist swept through the moors, and the Hunter was gone. A cold wind blew, highlighting the sudden silence.

    Niko broke the silence. He apologized and said that he felt somewhat responsible for the way things ended up the way they did.
    We were all involved and might die far from home due to the stubbornness of his father.
    He said that the final thing he wanted to do was go see Allastair Cross and forgive him.

    We all agreed that it was time to go back to Cross, and perhaps his former experience as a warlord might help us out. We headed back into the snow-topped pines of the Tottenwald.

    As we traveled to Thornwall, this time at a more reasonable pace, we noticed that a small horde was growing in our wake.
    Screamers, hanged men, zombies, skeletons, and other mobs of undead were tailing us like a kite. We didn’t stop to rest lest they catch up.

    Over the three days of travel we watched the numbers swell. We changed our course and confirmed that they were following us, or more accurately they were following our marks. “I will turn the people against you.”
    We would be putting anywhere we stayed in danger.

    Knowing this, we had Aarin teleport ahead and talk to Cross, to ask him if he could meet us a few miles out of town. We knew that the Hunter might plan an ambush or attack Thornwall in his absence, but asked Aarin to be up front about it.

    The DM and Aarin had a private conversation and we were relieved when Lord Cross, Aarin, and some heavily armored vampires met us near a bridge that spanned the ice cold river that ran east of the town.

    Cross was both saddened and angry to see Niko and learn of his fate, he had thought him long gone and never sensed his presence in Aambrust. Cross said when he first came here he blamed Niko for causing his centuries long imprisonment here, but his time in Thornwall as a leader and not a tyrant gave him a second chance and changed his opinions and philosophy. He apologized to Niko for everything that stemmed from his turning, and Niko apologized as well.

    Both of them smiled and forgave each other and shook hands. Then Niko turned to us and said, “Well. There’s not much more to say. Thank you for freeing me. I’m going to go the rest of the way by myself.” With that he walked into the forest. We heard a splash as he jumped into the river and we knew that Niko was gone.

    We shared everything with Cross. Everything with no secrets. All of our conversations with Walter, the dreams we received from Ludo, what we learned from Yig-Sithra, etc.
    Cross asked a lot of questions and grew silent and thoughtful. He finally said that he thought that we were all now at a critical junction.

    He believed that we should gather as many resource and allies as we could and attempt one final push into the Fells to try and find the Astral Tree. If Aarin’s theory on the missing piece was correct, then Kalamar’s presence would only further aid us.

    Cross said we could accompany him back to Thornwall while he gathered his things and his vampiric family. He was confident that Thornwall would continue to prosper when he returned home or died trying. Cross brought forth his last remaining scrolls of Sending and urged us to call upon any allies we thought might join us.

    We all thought that the Hunter would be likely to try and kill Kalamar on the journey, and that Aarin should help escort him. We were going to gather all of our allies in Brombeere and head south into the Fells. We sent messages ahead to Ullrich, to Kalamar, to Captain Mueller of Eastbourne, to Liddya the cleric of the Morninglord, to Creight the White Stag, and to Draenok. We beseeched them to either join us or give us what aid they could.

    As Cross put it, it was time to go home, or die trying. We weren’t going to get another chance.

    The DM smiled and said, “One way or another, next week is the final session. See you then.”

    Spoiler: Session 33 - The Finale
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    Get comfortable, this was an extra long session.

    This was it. The culmination of our time in Aamburst. We would be seeing who answered the call for aid when we all met in Brombeere.

    The session started with Aarin once again appearing before Kalamar, this time with sufficient evidence. He asked Kalamar how the elf came to possess the wooden leg and confirmed that it had been purchase some time ago from the Vistani when Kalamar began to settle down in Eastbourne. The leg had faint traced of ancient Druidic magics, something that Kalamar would not have been able to sense. It was our missing piece that would lead us to the tree and Kalamar had been in possession of it this whole time.
    He was dumbstruck. The Vistani had played a long game and it was paying off. Kalamar began packing at once.

    He grabbed a few mementos and valuables.
    He also wrote up a will and testament and sealed it, asking his butler Lorenze to open it and act accordingly if he did not return in two weeks. He left his estate and holdings to his faithful butler, and donated considerable wealth to the church of the Morninglord and various charities in Eastbourne.

    Aarin and Kalamar then went to the temple of the Morninglord to see if Liddya or Captain Mueller would be joining us. Liddya felt that she would be best used serving Eastbourne, but she had prepared us a small keg of holy water. She attempted to heal away the hunter’s mark on Aarin’s face, but her magic was unable to erase it.

    Captain Mueller was on the fence, and Aarin attempted to persuaded him to come along.
    Mueller gave a little speech about his time as Captain and a believer in the power of his god, and the table let out a little cheer when he said we would need a “hand of the Morninglord” at our side to keep us safe. He was a zealot and a bit of an a**, but he was our zealot.

    After a bit more packing, this small group left for Brombeere to meet up with the rest of us.
    It was a two-day journey. The afternoon of the first day, a few hours after entering the Tottenwald, they saw five beartraps laying in the middle of the Breakneck road.

    They started to drive around them when Aarin’s eyes were drawn to something shiny on the pressure plate of one of the beartraps in the middle. Something that made him wince and groan. It was Yig-Sithra’s red key.
    The DM repeated the words of the deal “in Aarin’s head” and Aarin gave the order to stop. He warned everyone that they were likely in for a fight and approached the beartrap. Slowly, he reached out with his remaining hand, fearing the worst. The DM drew the scene out slowly, relishing in the tension.

    Aarin was right that it was a trap but even then, failed his save to avoid getting gnawed on by the beartrap when it suddenly snapped to life. They fought off a few gnarljaks, with Kalamar blasting them from range with lighting and Mueller doing his best to fend off the monsters. They were successful but now had proof that the Hunter was anticipating all of this and knew their route and destination.

    Meanwhile, Sir Edmund, Ginko, Terminus, Lord Cross, and all of the vampires of Thornwall rode east. The Hunter was waiting for them. He never spoke and didn’t do much more than fire a few shots from the treetops or mists and then disappear. The party had to spend healing resources and the Hunter’s black bolts were causing significant injury and inciting fear in our undead companions. Still, everyone made it to Brombeere in two days, just in time to meet up with the other group.

    Ullrich had set up the distillery as a staging area for the final push. He said that he would help us with whatever we needed, on the condition that the Fells would hereafter belong to him and his pack. Nobody really had any objection and we said it was a deal.
    Cross and Ullrich agreed that the party would call the shots and lead this foray, as we had the most experience with the Hunter.
    There were a few decisions to make, and with the growing horde of undead on our heels we didn’t have much time.

    To this end Ullrich and Cross both offered their forces. There was a bit of comedy that neither knew the truth about the other, that Cross was a vampire and Brombeere was populated by werewolves. They had both basically been hunting each other for years.
    The reveal lightened the mood, Ullrich wouldn’t stop cursing. Regardless we had two options before us.

    We could take one of the armies for lack of a better term with us and leave one behind to fend off the sea of undead trying to prevent them from catching up or flanking us. The vampires were better armed, equipped, and did not have much to fear from undead, but their numbers were few and they would be unable to do much during the day. Only Cross was old and powerful enough to walk in sunlight unharmed, his abilities would be reduced but he wouldn’t die outright.

    Conversely, Ullrich’s werewolf pack could be effective in human or wolf form day or night and their numbers were greater, although the approaching full moon would mean they would have less control and possibly go against orders.

    We chose a third option. They would work together, shoring up each other’s weakness.
    Cross and Ullrich would come with us in a vanguard. We would handle whatever was in front of us, we just needed them to buy us time and keep us from being surrounded and slowed by a sea of corpses.

    We also decided against waiting for more reinforcements, as much as we were hoping Creight and Draenok would join us, we didn’t have time to wait around. We would get a long rest in now while everyone got ready and leave in the wee hours of the morning.
    The longer we waited the harder it was going to be to hold of the undead that were swarming towards us.

    Rested and prepared we set out. As we left south into the Fells, into uncharted territory, we heard someone calling out to wait up. We turned and saw Draenok running towards us! She said that she was here to help us defeat the hunter and heal the land. We said our goodbyes to the people of Brombeere.
    Kiera, the ranger who accompanied us to Ludo’s tower gave Aarin a kiss and told him to stay strong.

    During our rest, Aarin had used Druidcraft to make Kalamar a new wooden leg so he could use his Druid senses to feel the “tug” of the missing piece of the Astral tree to guide us. Right now, we were just getting a general direction of south. With the people traveling with us, and the terrain we were expecting, it was time to say goodbye to the horses. Aarin said a tearful goodbye to his horse Millstone and set him free, promising him that no one would ride him again if he didn’t want them to. Only Sir Edmund’s steed Dasha would be going with us. Sir Edmund would be mounted and on point, with Terminus occupying his usual spot sitting on the horse’s rump behind Edmund.

    On the first day of the push, a dense fog began to creep about us. It drowned out the limited light that was coming through the thick pine forest, we could barely make out anything past the first set of branches or much further ahead of us. We began to see gibbets and hanging bodies in the trees, and gathered that there were probably more in the branches above. These were the bodies of former foes and those declared “guilty” but the Hunter. Many were still “alive” and would moan and reach for us. Every so often we could hear a thump as they escaped their bonds and pursued us or joined their numbers to the horde.

    Then the Hunter started attacking us. Again, he would fire off a few shots and dart away.
    At one point we were able to pinpoint his position and had a skirmish. We got in a few good hits and got a few good hits on us as well. The Hunter had of course littered the battlefield with beartraps and pits, drawing further upon our healing resources that we brought along.

    Ginko fired one of the Hunter’s black bolts at their maker, knowing they were extra effective against undead. As he did, the Hunter laughed and told Ginko that those were a gift from him, was he so foolish to think they would work? To his horror, the bolt instead flew into Sir Edmund. Those bolts were now off of the table.

    The battle culminated with Terminus sneaking up behind the Hunter in a tree to sneak attack him right in the arm. At the last moment he heard a whisper in his ear, “Tell me, what is your name? Loud and clear so all can hear.”

    Terminus yelled “My name is Jack!” at the same moment he brought his sword down into the Hunter’s arm. The hit was good, but the warning had given the Hunter enough time to avoid taking the brunt of the strike.
    The next round he used misty step and we were once again alone. Not quite in silence, as we began to hear more moans and snarls from the treetops, in addition we started to hear crows cawing. The noise was making it hard to concentrate as we pressed on further south.

    We pressed on through the night. Ginko was able to determine that the trees themselves seemed to be moving. The Hunter was magically affecting the terrain. If it weren’t for the piece of the Astral Tree to guide us onward, we would be completely lost as even our Druid’s skills were being hampered.

    After a few more hours of travel we rolled high enough on our perception to make out a solitary knight atop a horse in the fog ahead of us. Before we could stop him, Sir Emund called out, and the knight’s eyes glowed deep crimson and it lowered a lance that seemed to drip shadow. It also wasn’t alone.

    The ensuing battle was obviously against former outsiders that had failed. There was a knight, a warrior, an archer, a magic user, and a stealthy rogue-type. They were all undead, but their numbers and powers almost mirrored our own. The undead spellcaster focused on evocation spells and lit up the forest with fireballs. The knight’s charge was devastating, and we continued to be peppered by arrows from the sniper. It was a close battle, at one point we had multiple party members making death saves, but we pulled through. With all of the NPCs and multiple enemies with different abilities, it was by far the most complex battle we had been through.

    Again, we continued South and again the Hunter ambushed us. He put three bolts into Ginko, knocking him well past zero, and called out that he would finish him off right here and now, but he had some three demands of Sir Edmund to spare Ginko for now.

    Sighing, Edmund agreed to hear terms. *The Hunter demanded that Sir Edmund throw down his weapons and shield, which he did.
    Second, he demanded that Edmund swear to him his lands, his title, his wealth, his banner, all that belonged to Edmund would now belong to the Hunter.

    The two players looked at each other before Edmund spoke that material possessions and titles meant nothing to him compared to friendship, trust, and knowing that your life had a positive impact on others. Edmund asked “Sir” Walter what the third request was.

    The Hunter started to go on about revoking Edmund’s oaths when we all heard a now familiar voice echo through the trees. Yig-Sithra’s snake-like drawl, “All that he owns includes a contract with me. I think it time that you sit down.” The Hunter began to refuse but Yig-Sithra shouted “Sit Down!” As the realization dawned on the group we cheered and grabbed Ginko and Edmunds gear before racing off into the forest. Yig-Sithra was no fan of the Hunter and wanted his hold over this realm broken. We had five minutes.

    We knew that the party stood no chance against the Hunter or further combats in our state. Our powers and resources were running dry, and we didn’t think that we could warrant a rest in the Fells. To make matters worse, the sun should have come up hours ago and it hadn’t… We still had the entire group, but it was looking more and more hopeless.

    As if in answer to our dilemma we spotted in the fog a lone carriage without horse or driver. It was the same ghostly carriage that had called Terminus to Crossway. We were not sure what it was doing here, or the implication, but upon entering it Terminus felt like he was back in his “domain”.

    Kalamar said that in his research he knew that a darklord could close the borders of their enter domain if they so wished. We shut the door behind us and seemed, at least temporarily, safe. Except Terminus began to once again to hear whispers of the dead telling him he could go back, it wasn’t too late to give up this foolish crusade and return to easier times. Even though it was crowded with everyone in the carriage, we chanced a short rest and were uninterrupted.

    When we exited it was hard to tell if any time had passed, for the sun was still not up.
    Terminus was last out of the carriage and felt a pulling sensation when he tried to leave. However, he leapt from the open door and as soon as his feet hit the forest floor the carriage was gone.

    We could now hear the din of battle as the vampire and werewolf forces were fighting the undead in the relative proximity. The missing piece of the Astral Tree pulsed like a heartbeat. It was difficult to tell time, but we continued heading south for several hours more.

    At last we came to the Astral Tree. The missing piece was shaking so violently is was making Aarin’s teeth vibrate, it almost leapt out of his hands into the visibly scarred trunk. Like a missing puzzle piece, it fit back into the tree with a dim flash of light.

    The illusion was dispelled and we could now see the massive tree in its true form before us. It was perhaps fifty feet tall and was extremely old and thick. There were runes made of moss growing around the faintest outline of a door in the bark. Looking into the branches we saw a rope ending in a hangman’s noose, empty.

    Aarin turned into a giant elk and began sniffing, hoping that we might find the Hunter’s corpse. The DM told him that he did in fact smell a corpse nearby. The DM had us roll a perception check followed by initiative. He said that for this final fight, it was just going to be the party vs Walter. We had earned this confrontation and even though Lord Cross, Ullrich, Draenok, and Captain Mueller were there in the story, they were not going to take part in this fight. This was for us.

    Then yet more rolls as the Hunter fired on us during the surprise round with his giant crossbow. We called out, telling him that this was getting ridiculous, that he needed to accept that he was dead and killing everyone else around him in his denial. That was answered by another volley of bolts on his turn at the top of the initiative round. The tree had multiple branches and all throughout the battle we climbed, jumped, fell, and tumbled amongst varying heights. The Hunter coupled his magic with his amazing stealth and continued to fire and move.

    The battle was long, but to save time here are some highlights. At one point the Hunter pulled out a torch and threatened to burn the whole damn tree down. It was a trophy of his triumph, of the power of life over death, and he would burn it down before he let monsters like us make a mockery of its majesty. Soon after, Aarin used misty step into what he thought was a safe and empty area and was just as surprised as the Hunter when he happened to appear on the exact branch the Hunter was hidden and sniping us from. Aarin said, “You will never harm another tree again” and blasted him with all three charges of the Ring of the Elk, sending him flying.

    Edmund was able to climb up and get the rope and even managed to get it around the Hunter’s neck. We all realized that we probably weren’t going to win via an attrition of hit points and pooled or efforts towards this solution. But at the last moment, the hunter dropped his crossbow and pulled out a jagged longsword and cut the rope. We had a “hot potato” like scenario wherein Ginko pulled out the Rope of Climbing he got from Ullrich and it was tossed among the various party members to get it up to Edmund.

    After several more rounds worth of combat and attempts, Edmund was able to get a noose around the Hunter’s neck. We coordinated and held our actions so we could all go at the same time. We basically had one shot to make this work. Edmund, Terminus, and Kalamar grabbed one end of the rope, and jumped off of one side of the branch while Ginko and Aarin pushed the Hunter off of the other.

    Honestly, he could have escaped. He could have turned into a ghost form and gotten free without effort. But he wouldn’t. Walter refused even now to admit he was dead. So his legs kicked as he choked to death again.

    Yig-Sithra’s last clue made sense. “There were two phylacteries.” It wasn’t like we needed to guess as to what Walter’s was.
    Edmund raised the Axe of Sharpness that once belonged to Dimitri and reduced Walter’s crossbow to splinters.

    We asked Kalamar and Cross what happened now that the darklord was gone.
    There was no certainty. The land might be divvied up and portioned out to surrounding lords, a new lord might step up and take his place, perhaps it would revert back to its former land of Verbrek, it might even just fade into mist. The Astral Tree began to glow, Draenok and Aarin agreed that it was receding from Ravenloft. The train was leaving the station so to speak.

    It was time to say goodbye and go home.
    Druidic was an ancient language, and the mossy runes were an old version of that, but Aarin was able to decipher them and could use them like coordinates to send us all to our respective planes, or wherever we wanted to go.

    We said our goodbyes to Kalamar and Lord Cross who went to Nentir Vale and Blackmoor respectively. They wished us the best and thanked us for the journey.
    Terminus was from Greyhawk but said that there was nothing else for him back home, he would go with Edmund to Faerun and start a new life there. Ginko was from Eberron, but said that he wasn’t going to return to the jungles of his homeland. *He thanked us all and said his goodbyes and asked Aarin to plug in random runes and he would go wherever fate would take him.
    Ginko stepped into the tree and was gone.

    As the tree began to further fade, Edmund came to a realization. He had given up his title, his lands, and his knighthood. Faerun would not be the same home he had left. He thought that he might enjoy what came after this adventure more if he could remain with his friends. Aarin chuckled and nodded, activating the runes...

    In some unknown world, Ginko stepped out of the portal. “Finally.” He said to himself, “Some peace and quiet.” He dusted himself off and looked around. This land was unfamiliar to him, so he picked a direction and started walking. He hadn’t made it but a few paces when a strange noise behind him made him pause. A portal opened up behind him and the rest of the party tumbled through.
    Last edited by Mr_Fixler; 2019-01-21 at 08:03 PM.

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

    Join Date
    May 2018

    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    Spoiler: Epilogue
    Show


    The DM read an epilogue of the people and places that we had encountered on our journey. There was more than what is here, but some bits of the original tale were cut for space or tone (the Eastbourne home for Orphans and Kittens for instance).

    The country of Aambrust prospered after the defeat of the Darklord, attacks from monsters lessened, and the borders opened up. Thornwall struggled at first to find leadership after Lord Cross left for lands unknown, but Odric the watch captain, Hanz the blacksmith, and Jon the butcher emerged as a sort of city council. The relative peace in the forest led to good harvests, health, and happiness of the people.

    Lord Cross returned to his native land a different person. He left it as a warlord and tyrant and returned a more thoughtful and caring ruler. In his absence his rival had taken over his country and he faced another long and bloody war to retake it. Instead he allied with a coalition of neighboring countries and churches and drove the vampires from his home entirely. After that he disappeared, never to return to his former kingdom, but rumors and tales of his passing would appear for centuries after.

    The werewolf pack of Brombeere had room to expand south in the Fells, which became one of the more dangerous areas in the land.
    The town upheld its ideals of independence and freedom and always appeared just dangerous enough to ward off newcomers and travelers from settling down. Not much changed for Ullrich, he had permanently cemented his position as Alpha and enjoyed a long life with his feet up on the table sipping blackberry liqueur.

    Eastbourne did very well in the years to follow, especially with the borders of the county opening up. Mueller returned and while he never lost his holy fervor, he did chill out a bit. The cleric Liddya eventually came out of Gerard’s long shadow and became a new champion of the people. The teachings and grace of the Morninglord spread under her watch.

    Kalamar returned home and immedietly sought regenerative healing to take care of his missing foot and clipped ears. He had spent decades trying to get home and now that he was he didn’t know what to do. His “disguise” of the dapper gentleman had become the real Kalamar over the years. He wrote book on his travels in Ravenloft and eventually became an emissary to the human kingdoms of his world, brokering peace and racial relations for generations to come.

    Much to our dismay, it turned out that Creight the white Stag was the lead vampire in the attacks on Folkestone. He eventually killed the Baron and a wave of darkness overtook Folkestone and the mountain regions of Aambrust. Years later, he would be defeated, and Folkestone was once again liberated, but it would never fully recover. However, Martin and Willet were able to escape the downfall of Folkestone, and with the borders of Aambrust open, started a trading company across Ravenloft. They became rich and successful running cargo through dangerous areas.

    Draenok returned to the Hinterlands and began her work of healing the land from the taint of the Hunter. She lived the rest of her live mostly in seclusion in balance and harmony with nature.

    The Vistani were rarely seen in Aambrust after the fall of the Hunter. No truth ever emerged whether they conspired against the darklord, served the dark powers, or were only in it for coin and themselves. In some corner of Ravenloft, Duvresh was rolling dice and Madame Petra was swirling tea leaves.


    Thank you to everyone for reading. Thank you to Ginko, Aarin, Edmund, Luminor, and a special thanks to Terminus.
    Read a finished campaign journal of a homebrew Ravenloft game here

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    DwarfFighterGuy

    Join Date
    Dec 2014

    Default Re: Ravenloft Campaign Journal (Aambrust)

    I'm reading through it right now, and I gotta say I'm quite impressed! I'll update this with my thoughts once I finish the read through.

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