The adventure continues! Last time, our heroes returned south, crossed a deadly stream of icy rocks, dug a medium hole, and fought a pitched battle against two deadly Apex Werewolves before discovering the ancient cave of the Wyld Altar, where Ward is about to go through some serious changes…
Play time: 4 hours
- Asmund the Divine Soul Sorcerer (6)
- Drew the Eldritch Knight (6)
- Hugo the Time Wizard (5), Cleric (1)
- Rainen the Beast Master Ranger (5), Druid (1)
- Ward the Gloom Stalker Ranger (5), Rogue (1)
Where was Hugo?
After helping Asmund to kill the Oracle, Hugo had gone off alone into the woods. Now, as Rainen sat beside the waterfall with her wolves, she saw Hugo returning with a stranger in tow. Hugo rejoined the group, apparently no worse for wear, except that his left eye was now an arcane sphere of solid gold (the Oracle’s Eye of Truth). His companion was Miranda, the silversmith from Rukesti. She had blue skin from self-administered doses of liquid silver to protect herself from the vampires and shifters, following the death of her husband Orson seven years ago.
Hugo revealed that Miranda had described the destruction of Rukesti. At least one vampire knight on a dread wyvern had burned the town and turned many people into vampires. Also, Hugo admitted that he had also met another vampire knight the previous day, Lucien. This Lucien had created an army of Man-Bats and was looking for someone to teach the monsters how to fly. Hugo had suggested Rainen for the job. So, heads up! Lucien might be on his way!
Meanwhile, in the cave of the Wyld Altar…
As the animal spirit entered his body, Ward was hurled backward. He quickly doubled in size, tearing through his clothing, as his flesh was covered in dark blue scales. He was a were-wyvern! Hugo came running to fetch the boys, but Ward leapt off the cliff and drifted down to Rainen on his pseudo-wings. He scared the little ravenwolf puppy Bud, and the other wolves ran off to find the puppy. Just then, Rainen spotted the winged horror of a dread wyvern swooping down to land beside them.
The boys came running, but it would take them a few minutes to climb down the steep mountain path from the cave. Ward picked up Rainen and ran for cover in the trees.
Hallo, hallo, hallo!
The vampire knight Lucien made a dramatic landing on his dread wyvern, Sir Hiss. The portly gentleman fumbled and tumbled out of his saddle, hopped back to his feet, and called out to the hiding heroes. “You there! I am Lucien, the most handsome vampire you will ever see. And I’d like to offer you a job.”
Unfortunately, Ward was overwhelmed by his new animal spirit, which hated the undead. Unable to control himself, Ward rushed out to attack the vampire and his mount.
A really, really long fight
With Ward a rampaging were-wyvern, the team had little choice but to leap into battle. Again!
Ward’s huge claws did massive damage to Lucien, but the vampire knight healed rapidly. Lucien summoned swarms of bats, and his dread wyvern could hurl half the party across the field with a wave of a wing. Sir Hiss spewed long curtains of acid over the heroes, and things were looking bleak.
But then Drew cast Fear on the dread wyvern, weakening its ability to attack. Hugo used the Bitter End sword to freeze the enemy, further weakening their attacks. And then Rainen summoned her two spectral ravenwolves to carry her up onto the back of Sir Hiss!
Drew dealt huge damage with his eldritch spear, Asmund unleashed holy spells from a safe distance, and Hugo used the Wand of Screams to make Lucien wail in terror.
Then Hugo blinded Lucien, and the miserable screaming vampire finally tried to escape on his dread wyvern. But Rainen blasted him back onto his backside, and then Ward tore the vampire knight to pieces! Freed of his master, Sir Hiss leapt into the sky with Rainen clinging to the saddle. He spewed more acid onto the battlefield as Rainen pleaded with him to become their ally. The wyvern landed on a rocky cliff face, grabbed Rainen’s leg, and hurled her away. She landed safely and watched the monster fly off into the mountains.
Over the river and through the woods
Resolved to defeat the dark queen Lerazia and possibly recruit the shifters to fight the vampires, the team crossed behind the waterfall to the eastern shore. Miranda refused to join them, and wandered off into the western woods. Asmund’s third persona, Vogna, also spoke for the first time, creeping everyone out. Also, Hugo found Lucien’s (pink gold and chocolate diamond) engagement ring for Nicoletta, which allows the wearer to control bat-type creatures.
On the far side of the River Moroz, Ward followed a thin trail down into the pines. There they discovered two bodies, an old man and woman with silver hair, naked, stabbed three times in the chest. Suspecting that these were the Apex Werewolves from last night, and that they were killed by Lerazia, the team buried the bodies.
Farther on, they found a clearing containing four rotting cabins covered in moss and saplings. Inside, they found rough natural bedding and a few old blankets. And the body of a young man, naked, stabbed three times through the chest.
Fearing that they might be too late to stop Lerazia, the team resolved to continue east in the hopes of saving the shifters.
And that’s where we ended!
This session was a lot of fun, although it felt uneven to me. Ward’s transformation into a were-wyvern went well, and I think I wrote up some solid abilities and weaknesses for that new feature. I love playing Lucien. He was loud and pompous and silly. Combat started a little sooner than I had hoped. For a moment, I thought I had actually given the team a challenge, but then Fifth Edition smacked my hopes back down.
I made a bunch of technical errors. The wyvern didn’t retry its saving throws, so it stayed a-Feared too long. The bat swarms did not attack at first. And I forgot to adjust damage properly per Lucien’s resistances. Etcetera.
Part of the problem, I feel, is that high-level creatures simply have too many features. Too many abilities, too many actions, too many resistances and saving throws and blah blah blah. I could certainly have slowed down and re-read the stat block every turn to make sure I was doing everything possible, but that isn’t fun for anyone. A computer could easily manage it all, but I can’t. Clearly I need to continue to try to refine my stat blocks to be more effective during play (I thought I had made them pretty simple already, but oh well). More and more, I wish we were running a more narrative and less simulationist combat system. Food for thought!
Actually, now that I think about it, I’m a little grumpy. I was trying very hard to “run the 5E combat simulation” so I felt trapped in that box of rules. But when one player tried to start a conversation with Lucien in mid-combat, I only let a few words be exchanged because the turn has to fit in 6 seconds of action, right? But I also wanted Lucien to talk. So we both wanted to have a conversation, but I let my interpretation of the rules squash that. That’s not good. Hm.
It was still a fun session, and I’m looking forward to the confrontations with the shifters and Lerazia. Now that Ward has graduated from an impulsive human to an out-of-control shifter, I assume there is more chaos in our future!