The adventure continues! Last time, our heroes destroyed a Temple bell of Virune to befriend three local druids, and gained access to an ancient Observatory full of powerful magics. They’re hoping there aren’t any negative consequences from destroying the Temple (spoilers: there are!).
Play time: 4 hours
- Drew the human fighter (2)
- Ray the human bard (2)
- Ward the human ranger (2)
- Rainen the dwarf ranger (2)
- Hugo the human cleric/wizard (2)
After discovering the mysteries of the Observatory, the group spent the rest of the evening enjoying the hospitality of the druids in a cave below the ruins. Ward asked Rainen about how she came to be on the prison barge, and she revealed that she was arrested for trespassing on Temple grounds while armed because she was looking for healing herbs.
The group also asked Ray about his shifting accents and names whenever they met a new stranger. Ray merely replied that it was sensible to act like the people they were meeting, and keeping his personal details private. Would the group ever hear his real voice or name? That’s a firm maybe.
The night watches passed peacefully. The winter chill grew sharper. The forest lay still beneath the moons. Meanwhile, Hugo experienced a strange dream. He encountered the angel Virune, with golden wings and golden armor, floating above a landscape of green-black flesh and yellow eyes. The angel conjured a multitude of golden arrows, which plunged into the flesh, and Virune said, “Protect Vulgoth.”
He woke to take the last watch, clearly troubled by the dream.
In the pre-dawn hours, the druids were awakened by the return of their comrade Faina, who had been on patrol. She reported that she saw a blonde stranger wearing heavy armor in the village of Elk Ridge near the destroyed Temple bell. When Faina flew closer in her eagle-form, the stranger glowed with a bright green light. Hugo identified this stranger as the Templar Irina.
A fierce debate broke out between Hugo and Ray. Ray was confident that with the druids as their allies, they would have no trouble defeating the Templar. Hugo was adamant that the Templar would make short work of the druids and the party as well.
As the eastern sky grew brighter, the druids reported that they could sense the stranger coming closer, and they used their powers to closer the rock entrance to the cave, hoping that the stranger would simply leave the area. But as sunrise approached, Tatiana announced that the stranger had arrived at the ruins of the Observatory and they must go confront the Templar to protect the site. The druids opened the cave and rushed out.
To Fight or Not to Fight
Ray stealthed out of the cave to follow the druids, and Rainen and Ward were close behind him. Drew and Hugo lingered in the cave, not wanting to get any closer to the Templar. At the top of the ridge, Ray spied the druids rushing into the Observatory. He heard raised voices for a few moments, followed immediately by the roaring of huge beasts and blinding flashes of light through the Observatory’s roof.
Hearing the muffled fighting, Drew and Hugo headed out to join the group. The rest of group had a hurried debate about whether to go inside and join the fight, or run away. They heard glass shattering, wooden splintering. And then they saw a spray of blood fly up through the open roof.
This convinced Ray that discretion was the better part of valor, and he led a quiet retreat down the eastern path back toward Elk Ridge. But Rainen felt strongly compelled to help the druids, and Ward really wanted to see what was happening. So Ward ran to the door and looked inside.
He saw the ancient Observatory utterly destroyed, the telescope lenses shattered, the shelves and jars all smashed. A huge elk lay still in the middle of the floor. On the far side of the room, a massive bear and boar had the Templar cornered against the wall. Rainen saw the dead elk slowly reverting to the form of one of the druids, and was overcome with emotion.
Ward took a shot with the Cinderwood bow, just barely missing the Templar’s head. Rainen rushed into the room and confirmed that the elk-druid was truly dead and beyond her power to heal.
One by one, the party rushed into the Observatory to help the druids battle the Templar. Ward fired shot after shot, but couldn’t land a hit. The boar-druid charged and gored the Templar, and the bear-druid clawed her face, blinding her with blood. Ray and Hugo cast their spells from the safety of the doorway. Rainen moved closer, weaving her spells to hinder the Templar.
But once again, it was Drew rushing into the fray who controlled the pace of battle. His first spear-throw missed, but he charged in with the Eldritch Spear powered by the Black Eye, and smashed the Templar with waves of Force damage. He crushed the Templar inside her armor, and hurled her to the ground.
The Templar recovered a little by healing herself, and then empowered her chain-sickle to Smite her enemies. Drew took a near-fatal hit, and then the Templar slammed her glowing weapon into the boar-druid, killing her.
But then, when things were looking bleak, Ray cast Dissonant Whispers. He told the Templar that her faith was corrupt and doomed, and she fell dead to the ground, weeping blood. (He had a massive damage roll!)
Rainen successfully healed the boar-druid, so that Tatiana and Faina survived to weep over Masha’a lifeless body. The druids were devastated by the death, as well as the destruction of the Observatory.
The group stripped the Templar of her weapon and armor, dumped the body in a rocky crevasse, and then left the druids to mourn in peace. The walk back to Frostwyck was far from triumphant.
Hugo inspected the armor and chain-sickle, finding them both ugly items that weighed far too much to actually use. But after attuning to the armor, it grew light enough for him to wear the breastplate (if he can get the dents pounded out of it). He also identified the silver pendant that Ray had stolen from the Observatory, and discovered it was a magical chronometer… from the distant future!!!
They did cross paths in the woods with one of the rude trappers they had met a few days earlier, but they let him go about his business.
Back in Frostwyck, the group went to check on Marta, only to find she was not at home. They opened the door to look inside, just as the hunter Andrei asked them what they were doing. He said that Marta was out again, looking for her missing sister Elisa. While the group distracted Andrei, Ray stole the gray wooden hammer from Marta’s shelf.
The group tried to barter the discarded pieces of the Templar’s armor, but when the hunter realized what he was looking at, he pulled back, clearly recognizing the items. Hugo and Ward quickly invented a story that they had discovered the dead body of the Templar, killed by some sort of monster. Andrei didn’t quite buy it, and insisted on taking the matter to Brother Vanya.
But no one answered at the little log Temple. Inside, they found the room cold and dark. Hugo illuminated his shield and revealed fresh scratches on the wall. Outside, Rainen and Ward found fresh tracks. Worried that whoever abducted Sister Xenia had taken Brother Vanya, Rainen bolted into the forest, determined not to let anyone else die today.
Ghosts and Shadows
The tracks in the frost led south, seemingly made just a few hours ago in the night. Soon the party found a clearing in the woods where many trees lay burnt and splintered, as though damaged in some ancient catastrophe. In the center of the clearing stood a large stone building with a broken level above it. The remains of a tower?
As Rainen approached the door, the ghost of a kindly old woman appeared, and introduced herself as Sveta. She had been the housekeeper for Master Nikita , until the Templars came and destroyed their home many years ago. The group instantly recalled their meeting with the flameskull Nikita and told Sveta they were friends of her master, and just wanted a quick look inside.
Sveta then became very nervous, and tried repeated to direct the party back into the woods to pursue some strangers, and then convinced them to help with the cleaning outside the tower, as long as they didn’t go inside.
Ray ignored the ghost, and went inside.
There, in the shadows, he saw poor Brother Vanya in the grip of a dark stranger, claws at his throat. The stranger hissed, “Get out or he dies!”
And that’s where we stopped!
I was really impressed with the all the interpersonal role-play in this game. The players really engaged with each other’s backstories and motivations. And then when the Templar arrived, there was a long anguished period of debate about whether to help the druids or save their own skins.
The Templar battle itself was good in that it felt deadly (it was!) and it had emotional stakes and impact. I was a little disappointed in myself for how the staging played out, because it turned into a straight battle of attrition. There was a moment when I wanted the Templar to maybe surrender or negotiate, but then I couldn’t imagine a holy warrior surrounded by unholy monsters to do that. I also wasn’t able to make the environment dynamic, and I didn’t design the Templar with enough interesting abilities. So she fought, and died. But the players found it super intense and scary, so it was still a success.
The players continued to be amazing, talking through their feelings after the fight. Rainen was the most deeply affected by the death of the druid. Hugo seems to be having a spiritual crisis, or transformation.
And then we rolled right into a new series of events in Frostwyck, which will be related but totally different from what we just did. I told everyone to level up after the Templar battle, so they will go into this ruined tower at Level 3. Can’t wait to see what happens next!