[Campaign Journal] Session IX-X: Bandit & The Eagle Hounds

Session IX
Adelaide, “knight stientist”
Lou Norman, mad scientist
Astaire “Hester”, wizard
Tugtar ‘the Bringer’
Jamila, loving mother, mysterious archer
Bandit, adventurer (found under a boat)

Spiritday, 8:00 PM

Standing in the rain alone, Lou follows the smoke trail to a driftwood fire in the mouth of a beach cave on the opposite shore. Lou lights a torch and signals to his friends across the lake, who take notice and decide to use the boats in the cave to row over their isolated friend. The party flips the boats over to find- a rabbitling adventurer! Adelaide recognizes her friend Bandit from school, but Bandit doesn’t. Up for adventure, he joins the party to go save Lou. Meanwhile, Lou runs away from a giant spider and is getting nervous when he sees his friends on the lake and rejoins them. Lou tells the party his ghost story in the boat, and they return to the cave for a night’s rest, keeping guard with a night watch. As Tugtar took his watch, a wheezing skeleton shambled up the shore, attracted to life. Lou gave the skeleton several stern warnings but still it came for Tugtar, smashing its dessicated bones. Lou chars some of the fingerbones and buries all but one of them. Astaire enjoys the sunrise and smokes his pipe on last watch.
Workday
The party wakes and eats hot dogs for breakfast, then sets off in the rowboats to the castle. Lou bemoans his room reservation and possessions in Tours-En-Savoy, and Bandit peals out a cavalry charge on his bugle. A flock of fifteen eagle hounds on the mountain ridge answer in a baying screech and begin flying toward the party, who row hard to a beachy island to stand and deliver. Arrows are loosed, the eagle hounds arrive, divebombing and snapping at the party. One hound falls into the water, rousing a plesiosaur from the depths of the lake, who breaches and catches a hound from the sky in its mouth. The hounds snap at the lake monster and at the party. The air is all paws, snapping beaks, and feathers, and then a second plesiosaur emerges from the lake, scattering the hounds again! The party takes advantage of the distraction to ship off in their boats. Tugtar tosses some extra eagle hound bodies into the water and last to board the boat. The party takes one last look back to see the eagles hounds flying around the lake monsters as one catches a hound from the sky and swallows it whole…

XP
session: 100xp
fought 5 eagle hounds: 500xp

Tugtar, wheezing skeleton: 100xp

Session X
Adelaide, “knight stientist”
Lou Norman, mad scientist
Astaire “Hester”, wizard
Tugtar ‘the Bringer’
Jamila, loving mother, mysterious archer
Bandit, adventurer (found under a boat)

Workday 8:40 AM

The party makes a discreet escape from the attention they attracted between the eagle hounds and plesiosaurs and scoots their boats off the island. Tugtar stumbles over a saddle and drags it into the boat with him as they leave. With Lou rowing one boat, Tugtar the other, the party heads to Castle Xyntillan. Nearing the dock and west of the stairs to the courtyard above the party spies the underground cave tunnel they heard rumor of, and decide to boat in. Dangling roots grab Lou, disturbing bats that fly out of the cave. There is a brief kerfluffle as Adelaide is knocked overboard and Bandit jumps boats to save Lou, chewing off the roots. The party spies some golden items glinting in the water, and Jamila dives in to collect them, releasing a trapped rot grub. Surviving the encounter, she then spends some time studying underwater emblems along the cave walls. Declining to investigate them further, the party moves on with Bandit and his lantern at the fore of the first rowboat. Entering a larger chamber with a western shore, the party startles an elderly man there, who inquires their business. Lou frightens the man by impersonating a family member, so half the party gives chase. As Lou and Adelaide bring the boat ashore while Astaire smokes his pipe, they hear a sobbing in the darkness. Lou questions the voice about their past, then Astaire lights a torch, revealing them to be a pitiful diseased figure in rags. The trio decide to not hang around a diseased-looking person and rejoin Bandit, Tugtar, and Jamila, who have entered a theater. Bandit loots the stiff corpses in the benches. The elderly man from before comes wandering back, absent-minded and lost. Lou asks him questions and then the party leaves him to wander off. The party finds a passage backstage, and following suddenly finds themselves outside. A jolly Father Chlodowig greets them from his mossy cave. Astaire goes creeping in the woods and disturbs a patch of owlbears, to which the party responds by taking off up the passage leading to backstage of the theater. Bandit takes the head of the group, leading them upstairs. Heading up the hall past stacks of firewood, he opens an empty room, which leads to a bizarre carpeted room. Tugtar takes the lead, and opens a room where furniture is being chopped into firewood. Adelaide and Lou hear whispers and see mists coming from behind, and urge the party to hurry forward. Next to the firewood room, a empty bar tended by a ghost bartender is “cleaning” dirty glasses. Heeding the “Stay Out!” sign on the kitchen door, the party heads down another hall, and find a room with 3 goat statues and a salt statue pointing north.

Time: 11:30 AM
Lou, Grabbing Roots 50xp
Jamila, Rot Grub 100xp
Adelaide, thrown overboard by bats 50 xp

[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

Casualties:
None

Loot:
None

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.

Casualties:
None

Loot:
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!

Takeaways
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.

[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…

Adelaide
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…