Month: September 2020

[Campaign Journal] Castle Xyntillan Session VIII: Wine & Spirits

Session VIII
Adelaide, “knight stientist”
Lou Norman, mad scientist
Astaire “Hester”, wizard
Tugtar ‘the Bringer’
Jamila, loving mother, mysterious archer

Spiritday, 1:00 PM

It’s raining heavily, and wind sways the treetops. The party stands on the western shore of the castle grounds, and looking at their surroundings, decide to explore the vineyard west on the Xyntillan estate. A dreary trek in the rain ensued, squelching in the muddy path fields of weedy pumpkin patchs and cornstalks. Past the fields, a stone bridge led to a dark forest, which lay between the party and the vineyard. Going around the forest to the left, Astaire, Tugtar and Jamila came upon the vine-covered gazebo they’d seen from a distance earlier. As Astaire and Tugtar approached, an elderly form in the gazebo bid them to come out of the rain, but when she saw their muddy clothes and unfamiliar faces, revealed herself as a vicious harridan, breaking her already-broken parasol on Tugtar’s head. Astaire objected to this treatment but the horrible woman berated Astaire and started clawing at him, and momentarily seizing his wrist in a icy grasp, draining his energy. Adelaide made the shot from her crossbow and fired a bolt right into the shrivelled woman’s chest, killing her. Lou stepped up into the gazebo with his torch, stepping over the body. Green vines on the lattice in the gazebo began to uncurl towards Lou, nimbly stepped backwards out of their way– and right into one behind him. There was a couple scratches but Lou managed to wrangle his way out, and the party ran into the woods, while Adelaide killed the vines from a distance. Astaire checked out the gazebo and found a good ol’ healing potion. Back across the woods (not through them), the party made their way to the vineyard, where they happily spent some time trying to find some good grapes among the vines. The rain continued as the party moved on to check out the garden shed behind the winery, then into the winery itself.
Astaire: “I need some wine!”
Lou: “There’s creeps everywhere we go.”
Dissapointingly empty of wine, the party poked around the empty bottles and display cases, Adelaide dropped a silver coin into the rusted coin-operated “Marvelous Malévol Mechanical Band” in the corner, only to be treated to a screeching detuned performance. Headed down the stairs, large casks of wine greeted the party in the torchlight. Trying the taps, the party finds some good wine, and Astaire discovers suspicious hinges on one of the casks- a secret door! Tugtar turns the spigot and unlocks the door, revealing a dank rough-hewn corridor within. At that moment, Adelaide opens the seventh tap, pouring out the menacing whisps of a ghost! Jamila, Tugtar, Adelaide and Astaire all bolt into the false cask, while Lou, sensitive to danger, runs back up the stairs and out of the winery. Removed from his party and unsure what to do about the likely loss of his protegé, Lou dejectedly picks for grapes in the vineyard while the rain pours.
Meanwhile in the dank corridor, the party drank a toast to survival, and then walked and walked, burning out a torch and needing to light a new one as they wound on. Eventually the cave widened, became sandy, and opened a ways from a sandy lakeshore, a mile north of the castle. The party hatched a plan to create smoke for Lou to see, and Astaire went with Lou to drag in some wet driftwood to burn. Across the lake through the rain, the pair faintly saw a headless woman sprint along the shore. They hurried back to the cave, and started the fire.
Eventually Lou accepted that he must move on, and went back to the gardening shed to try the miracle gro plant food on the grapevines. The ‘dirt’ caused them to grow and fruit immediately, but the discovery was short-lived as Patrice Malévol, grizzled and holding a battleaxe, demanded Lou’s business. Patrice was suspicious yet unsure, but after Lou failed two persuasion rolls and ran, she gave chase, yelling to her berserkers to “get him!” Lou ran straight back into the winery, doing the last thing he wanted to do- face the ghost, and maybe escape. Down the stairs he went, and looked right into the ghost’s baleful gaze. He aged ten years on the spot, and panic took Lou right back up the stairs, running right into Patrice, who was amused at Lou’s panic. Her six berserkers stepped into the winery, took Lou’s sack of items, and laughed with their boss at Lou’s plight; that is, until the ghost came up the stairs. A healthy young berserker turned to face the ghost- and aged 50 years, dropping his sword with a cry as his body withered.
Patrice: “I’m not afraid of a ghost! Berserkers, attack!”
In the distraction panic-striken Lou jumped out of Patrice’s grasp and ran, ran, out into the rain past the vineyards, past the fields. He walked along in a stunned silence, his only dream of sweet safety in Tours-En-Savoy. As he walked, he noticed a thick trail of smoke out on the other side of the lakeshore…

[Campaign Journal] Castle Xyntillan, Sessions VI & VII: Spearbones and Strangers

Spoiler: Castle Xyntillan!
Two more session posts.

Valley of the Three Rainbows, home of Xyntillan

Session VI
The Party:
Lou Norman, mad scientist
Adelaide, “knight stientist”
Astaire “Hester”, wizard
Tugtar ‘the Bringer’
Jamila, mysterious archer



Reunited, the party-family turns back around to take on the skeletons that had moments ago outnumbered them. The rain became steady as they snuck through the light woods toward the castle. Lou’s tactical sensibilities came to the fore and the party quickly hatched an ambush plan at the stone footbridge crossing into the castle’s estate. Two skeletons had taken a guard post at the crumbling entrance, which Jamila and then Adelaide provoked with loosed arrows, one finding its home in a skeleton’s eye socket. Another three skeletons followed their comrades out of the light forest in their charge towards the archers. The five spearbones came storming over the stone footbridge only to fall prey to caltrops, a triprope, Tugtar’s hammer, and Lou’s shovel. By the party’s count two skeletons remained, but did not appear, so they threw the bones into the river and trekked in the rain onto the estate and up the walls. Watching the stables, Lou tried to make some noise by clacking bones together, but it couldn’t be heard in the downpour, so he and Adelaide blew their whistles.
Lou: I hold up 3 fingers to Hester for 3 whistles.
Astaire: I hold up one finger.
Two skeletons came out of the stables to inspect the noise. The first was taken by Adelaide’s arrow, and Jamila killed the second. A victory! This accounted for all the skeletons seen in the barracks, a now-empty room filled with odds and ends collected over many campaigns…

What’s in the barracks? Is it safe to enter the castle? Find out next session!

Session VII
The Party:
Lou Norman, mad scientist. played by BarkTrimble.
Adelaide, “knight stientist”. played by Castle Librarian.
Astaire “Hester”, wizard. played by Traveling Merchant.
Tugtar ‘the Bringer’. played by Traveling Merchant.
Jamila, loving mother, mysterious archer. played by BarkTrimble.


wispy white beard
greasy jar of grease
dusty medal with blue ribbon
bottle of Malévol wine

11:15, Spiritday
Standing in the rain, outside the castle walls, the party assists Astaire in a group casting Clairvoyance on himself, and he sets out along the south walls of the castle to see what’s inside. While Jamila and Tugtar accompanied Astaire along the jaunt, Lou and Adelaide hung back in the woods and waited. Peering past the mortar, he saw In the dim light a storage room for a servant’s barracks, then a dark hallway further west. Looking past the peeling wallpaper of the hallway, Astaire sees bizarre shadows flicker on the walls of a mess hall. Long benches and rough goat-legged tables with cluttered tableware crowd the place. 24 old veterans – skeletons all – are silently singing and toasting, throught the two walls. On the table a pale gentleman in a powdered wig and plum silken vest seems to be going on at length about something to the skeletons. Suddenly, as if he felt eyes upon him, he turns and meets Hester’s gaze. His long chin drew up beneath his pencil mustache in surprise, and his crafty eyes gleamed as he quickly turned to step off the table towards a door exiting the mess hall. Astaire, deeply surprised, drew back from the wall and hurriedly brought Jamila and Tugtar with him back to Lou and Adelaide.

Meanwhile in the wet woods, Adelaide talked to Lou about her time spent in a cult. Needless to say, it wasn’t a good place for her and since then, she’s been staying in Tours-en-Savoy. As they both watched the rain, Astaire and company came running up the path, and told Lou what happened, who started immediately and took off into the woods. It was a moment before the party collectively calmed down and decided to look back at the castle to see if anyone had come out.

Neatly framed against a dark interior in the doorway to the castle was the plum-vested gentlemen Astaire described. His powdered wig reached past his shoulders, and spotting Astaire and Tugtar, bade them indoors, waving his hand. Astaire decided to accept the invitation, and Tugtar, feeling a kinship with Astaire, followed him in. Jamila didn’t want to go but she didn’t want her son hurt so- in she went. The overcast sky lit the dank passageway, and the gentleman disappeared quickly down an adjacent hallway, saying, “Come in out of the rain! Hurry!” Tugtar bravely stepped into the dark hallway and faintly smelled incense. Jamila was already trying to make the party leave when she saw bones on the floor, but everyone ran when a voice boomed overhead, welcoming them to their doom.

Jean-Jacques Malévol, the Belletrist
credit Cameron Hawkey

Meanwhile, Adelaide was tired of standing in the woods again and marched off to the stables. Lou followed and they explored the barracks where the spearbones had been. Amongst the chests and furniture Adelaide found a wispy white beard on a coatrack, and Astaire (as the party reunited) found a greasy jar of grease (passing it to Tugtar) and in the corner, a dusty medal with a blue ribbon. Inside a chest were posters for the capture of Claude Malévol (“dead or alive. preferably dead!”) Opposite the barracks was the smithy, which Astaire began to enter but quickly retreated when the hammer working on the anvil hurled itself at the intruder, which bounced off the door. Astaire picked up the now-still hammer and turned to put it in his pack when it suddenly swung upward, hitting Tugtar squarely in the face, before falling still again. Astaire and Tugtar stepped out of the stables to deal with the hammer while Lou and Adelaide checked out the smithy, finding nothing of interest.

Wanted: Claude Malévol!
credit Cameron Hawkey

Leaving the smithy behind and walking along eastern castle walls toward the lake, the hammer leapt out of Tugtar’s backpack, narrowly missing the back of his head. Adelaide grabbed the hammer and swiftly tossed it by the vegetable patch before it brained anyone else. At the lakeshore the party proposed walking along the rocks around the castle to the lake entrance, but decided against it when Adelaide fell into the water on her first try. Discussion ensued and the party went off along the southern side of the castle, but this time walking as far around as they can. In the distance further east, the party spots a gazebo and further away, a old vineyard. Unable to find easy access to the lake entrance, Astaire leads a group casting for Clairvoyance again, and spies a laboratory, dark rooms, a dame’s bedroom (inside of which a blonde woman eagerly sorts through bones in a sack), a (sinister) butler’s room, and last but not least, a room with a coffin under the window and doors kept shut with a black iron bat lock. Astaire, again deeply surprised, urges the party around him and explains what lies beyond the walls…

Which entrance is the best way into the spooky castle? Who are these inhabitants, and why are they in an abandoned castle? Where is Claude Malévol, and is he dead or alive? Find out next session!

We spent time in session 6 getting familiar with the new party members, and the scuffle with the skeletons was the party’s first large skirmish. I remember session 7 involving a discussion about the functions of x-ray vision and ability checks for casting spells. I think it was at this point that I decided passing a DC 15 for spellcasting was stupid because you’re a MAGIC-USER dammit. After this session I quit asking for spellcasting checks! But there were several nice spells cast using group casting as a bonus for the check, which I had adapted from Dungeon Crawl Classic’s rules for magic.