[Campaign Journal] Castle Xyntillan, Sessions I-V: The Cow Gods Must Be Crazy

Spoiler: Castle Xyntillan!
I started a campaign of Castle Xyntillan a while ago, and i’ve enjoyed other people’s play-throughs of the adventure so i’d thought to share my own. The location itself, Xyntillan, I fell in love with immediately. It touches on a lot of places close to my heart: Castle Neufwanschtein, Castle of Cagliostro, Dracula’s Castle in Symphony of the Night, etc etc.

A Malévol family member
credit Cameron Hawkey

We’re playing with a custom ruleset i have nicknamed “D&nD: Oop!s all House Rules: House Rules Edition” that started off from Knave Rats, a Maze Rats and Knave hack, and has been steadily incorporating bits and pieces of GLoG over time. It’s a mess, but free from restraint, and slowly improving. My players are regular 5e players and the transition to a sandbox “olde-schoole” game has sometimes been difficult but it’s beginning to make sense and each session gets better and better. This is my first extended campaign and taking notes has been helpful to campaign cohesion.
I’m posting sessions 1-5, and the notes are somewhat brief as we all kept stopping the game to get on the same page about rules and expectations (“What’s the goal of the game? Am I doing this right?”). I didn’t have a plot prepared, the rules were new and untested, and I hadn’t expected risk-averse players who would “rather kill rats in basements” than venture into “a spooky castle filled with weird people.” Fortunately Mother Haggle at the edge of town needed some help recovering their cow and for their efforts they earned some gold, which they spent on equipment.

Session I
Recently in Tour-en-Savoy
Ramususu, one-eyed ronin, and Lou, a magic-user from some wild land, arrive at Tours-en-Savoy in search of Castle Xyntillan. After visiting the Tap Tavern and the Black Comedian, they hear some rumors about the family, and learn of a cave entrance on the lake from Etienne, a mercenary. After two days travel through the mountains, they arrive at the crumbling guardposts of the estate. Inspecting the grounds and getting muddy, they uncover the tomb of Tristano the Love-Lost, stealing his prized fire poker. Approaching the front of the castle, Ramususu and Lou find sleeping skeletons in the guardposts and wake them up by searching their bones. After the resulting battle, the wounded duo decides to call it a day of looting and leave the castle to rest and heal. 

Lou Normand
WIP. credit BarkTrimble

Session II 
5pm, cool and cloudy.
Earthday – Wounded from their scuffle with the guard skeletons, Lou and Ramses scoped out the grounds for a good camping spot. A cozy patch behind a thicket next to the castle wall seemed cozy, and Lou the mad scientist safety-checked the thicket with his shovel, and it was safe, but decided the narrow window known as a murder-hole sounded like an unsafe thing to sleep under. Lou suggested Tristano’s crypt, and Ramses suggested the guard post. Deciding the less macabre route, they camped in the guard post for the night, after tying up twine across the door with bones as a noise alarm and sprinkling caltrops in front of the shack. Went to bed at 6ish. In the middle of the night, a cry of pain awoke the pair. A headless manservant in liveries had walked on the caltrops. It headlessly walked around and back into the castle, where Lou and Ramses tried to get a peek through the old boards of the guard shack at who opened the door but couldn’t. Lou had a bad time sleeping and kept sleeping to around 11. In the meantime Ramses foraged for food in the vegetable patch, minding the scarecrow. A spoopy hollow baying came from the woods beyond the castle, but Ramses stayed in the vegetable patch and didn’t investigate. Lou woke up for a bit and heard it too. 

Fireday – The next morning was moderately rainy. Lou collected some bones and then the pair decided to check out the stables. There was a stall of bugs that Lou poked around with their shovel, and another stall with a ladder leading up into a hayloft. Lou found a saddlebag and Ramses opened it to find a bottle of Malevol family wine, Fiery Reserve, dated 4322. Hearing noises from behind the door to the adjacent room, Lou (dwelling on the murderholes) decides to do some window peeping from outside the stables, and observes skeletons with spears using another skeleton in plate mail hanging from the rafters for target practice– in a room full of interesting odds and ends. After much discussion, during which the conversation was whispered while they hid behind some trees while another headless manservant left the castle and wandered the grounds, they debated heading back to Tours-En-Savoy for supplies. After the headless manservant re-entered the castle (received by another headless manservant), Lou looks through the other murderhole and sees a smithy and a hammer in working on an anvil in a endless monotone. The general spookiness of a floating hammer along with the skeletons quickly decided hasty trip back to Tours-en-Savoy for preparations…

The two-day trek back was blessedly uneventful.
Workday – Feeling intimidated by the room of skeletons, Lou and Ramses asked around town if anyone needs rats in their basement that need killing, or any other small jobs, and found an old woman who had lost her cow. They quickly found three cows in the woods nearby being worshipped by gnomes, and Lou had a long conversation with Bimpnottin, the head gnome, about whether or not these cows were indeed an avatar of the gnome god Baervan Wildwanderer, or merely some lost cow. At some point it occurred to Lou and Ramses that they didn’t know what Mother Haggle’s cow looked like, so Ramses Naruto-ran back to Mother Haggle to get a description (all brown, blue eyes) and returned with the information, discovering that none of the cows were the one they were looking for. Bimpnottin wasn’t surprised in the slightest and said “I told you so!” To Lou. Done with the gnomes, the pair went off into the woods and not long after (around 3pm) found a cow matching Mother Haggle’s description…  

Session III
Ramses and Lou Normand find Mother Haggle’s cow, and manage to coax it back into her yard. Rich with cow money, Ramses and Lou rent a room and board for a week, and Adelaide, fellow adventurer, is convinced to join their party. Three strong and wealthy, the trio hung at at the Black Comedian tavern, making shopping lists and plans. Lou and Ramses both confronted Jacques magic-shaming Ben Mordechai and ended up playing darts together! Lou, asking around for more odd jobs to gain experience, catches the attention of a drunk at the bar, who challenged him to a game of ‘toss’, showing his axe. Lou declined but Ramses joined in, and he and the drunk shared a fun couple of tosses (and cuts) before Ramses missed the catch and took an axe to the face, perishing instantly. Lou spends a lavish 20 gold on the funeral, and Ramses was buried in the church cemetery. Later that day, Hester the magic-user appeared, on his way to Castle Xyntillan and looking for an adventuring mate…

WIP. credit BarkTrimble

Session IV
Lou, Hester, and Adelaide (another adventurer found at the Black Comedian) all laden with adventuring gear, head off to Castle Xyntillan. Traveling was uneventful, which Lou took advantage of to talk endlessly at Adelaide about any scientific thought that came to mind. Hester saw a deer the first night camping. The second evening, the party set up camp a few miles from the castle. Lou discovered a lone wide-shouldered person at a campfire nearby in the mountains, but the party decided they were better off socializing during the day. The person, however, was gone when the crew checked out the spot the next morning…

Session V
Lou Norman, Adelaide, and Hester, ready to adventure, head down into Xyntillan’s grounds. The day is overcast and foggy. Lou and Adelaide hung back by the castle walls while Hester crept up to the barracks where they last saw their skeletons. Hester made a noise sneaking, and the skeletons took notice! Hester, Lou and Adelaide all took off running through the woods and towards high ground. The skeletons began to falter clambering over boulders, and the part each took turns scrambling up the rocks to find themselves a hidey-spot. Skeletons with spears came clambering soon after, but could not find the party, and wandered back down the hillside towards the castle. The party was sitting on the hillside mulling over how to best the skeletons when a pair of figures were suddenly seen walking down the road. To Hester’s great surprise it was Jamila “Gallows” Star, his love from another time! She was traveling with her son, Tugtar “the Bringer”, a towering figure. Although he cut a nice figure in his livery, he had a rebellious look in his eye. And where had Jamila been all this time? Lou and Adelaide were very confused. Nevertheless, as a party of five, everyone felt much more confident, and as it began to rain and the wind picked up, the party headed back to Castle Xyntillan…

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