DCCZ: Defenders of the Red Keep

Into Castle Whiterock: Level 5 (Year 2: Winter-Month 11 Day 9)

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http://animal-dream.com/data_images/hydra/hydra6.html

Seeking a legendary library to find information on Xaroth the Undying, Xoon and company head back to Whiterock via the Green pathways.
Before they even enter the dungeons, Xoon sees a shadowy figure on the shore of the lake. The group finds a set of stairs leading down into the depths of the water. The barbarian and Brother Jon descend into the water; Xoon uses the nixie’s magic ring, and Brother John uses the mended bottle of air. The two find a giant clam bed and manage to liberate some valuable giant pearls. They also find a secret door that leads into a section of the castle. They find some treasure (including some magic arrows!) and some giant beetles, which are hastily dispatched after mistaking our adventurers for food.
Peering out ancient arrow slits, Xoon catches a glimpse of something massive and serpentine swimming in the water. Returning to the surface, the company goes fishing! Brother John summons a horse, the company ties a rope to the poor beast and sends it swimming. In a moments, the adventurers hooks something massive. A great seven headed water hydra bursts from the lake’s depths and swallows the horse. Battle is joined. With surprising easy, the company defeat the monster with a combination of powerful fireballs, mighty curses and flying hammers. La La helped too!

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Exploring the Wilderness (Year 2: Winter-Month 11 Day 6-8)

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https://jonhodgson.deviantart.com/art/Nazgul-428312770

Exploring the forests north of the Red Keep, the company is attacked by dark spirits from someone called the Dark Lord. Remembering the warrior Ashoka’s mention of battling the death knights of the Dark Lord, the party travels the Green Paths back to the elder’s cottage, where they find him training Asefeh. They learn that the Dark Lord is Zaroth the Undying, a necromancer who rules a desert kingdom to the south. While Ashoka has never encountered Zaroth himself, he did face the necromancer’s greatest servant, the Lord of Iron and Shadow, a powerful death knight. Ashoka barely escaped with his life.
At this point, a pale-faced Asefeh makes a confession. She knows the Lord of Iron and Shadow; she had escaped from his fortress. She knows little of the Dark Lord, only that the death knight was keeping her for Zaroth. While the Lord of Iron and Shadow was absent on the necromancer’s business, Asefeh escaped from the fortress and fled north to the Red Keep.
Xoon and company return to the Red Keep. Dantalv summons the spirit of long-dead wizard named Kesh. Dantalv learns that Zaroth is an undead creature called a lich. He also learns that more information about the Dark Lord might be found in an ancient library rumored to be in . . . Castle Whiterock.

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Exploring the Wilderness (Year 2: Winter-Month 11 Day 4-6)

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The company stays in the hunters camp for the night. The snows begin to fall before sun up, and Xoon and his allies buy appropriate weather gear from the now friendly hunters.
The group heads east in the morning, following the smoke of a chimney. They come upon a quite clearing and find a small hut. There they meet the legendary warrior Ashoka. Xoon and Asefa ask to be trained, but Ashoka claims he is interested in only pursuing peace. After much discussion, the old warrior agrees that if either Xoon or Asefa can touch him before he strikes them in combat, he will agree to train that person.
In the first combat, Xoon is stunned at how fast the old man moves, and the fight is quickly over. However, Asefah turns the tables on Ashoka, who finds himself lying flat on his back. Stunned, the warrior agrees to honor the challenge and train Asefah. She stays behind as the others return via the Green Way to the keep.
The next day, Xoon and his now smaller company heads north. They are attacked by a giant swarm of wasps. but Dantalv’s fire meteors make short work of the insects.

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Exploring the Wilderness (Year 2, Month 9, Day 20-Month 11 Day 4)

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https://art.alphacoders.com/arts/view/5864

Dandalv retreats again into his tower. There, using the bone from the dragon skull of Cinderalis, he creates a powerful magical staff to replace Vesuvian. He emerges six weeks later, and winter is coming to the Red Keep.
Xoon and company had busied themselves with their duties. Rumors had arrived at the Keep that the legendary warrior Ashoka, long thought dead, had settled to the south. Xoon fitted his company for cold weather travel and headed out to find him.
On the way, they dispatch a small nest of stirges. They also discover a ragged company of hunters and fur trappers. The two groups talk, and the ornery hunters agree to pledge loyalty to Xoon if he kills the giant scorpions that had been plaguing them recently. The warrior and his allies find the scorpions’ lair and dispatch them quickly enough.
Then, hearing tales from the hunters of a mighty giant boar dubbed Goretooth, the company tracks the beast down and subdue it. Brother Jon returns everyone to the Red Keep, and he takes the mighty boar back to his shrine to heal and perhaps join the druid.

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Exploring the Wilderness (Year 2, Month 9, Day 16-20)

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Xoon and his allies set out from Silvercliff to clear more of the vast wilderness around the Red Keep. In the first wooded area, they find a powerful fey spirit, Bathustra. This strange being, a giant with an elephants head with the wings of an insect, demands homage from the barbarian warrior. After some negotiations, the company challenges Bathustra to combat and quickly defeat the fey. They find a large cache of silver coins buried where the fey being stood.
After traveling to the keep via the Green to sleep, the company returns to the wilderness.
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This time they discover an Elder Owl, a mighty and ancient animal. Brother Jon tries to negotiate it, but the creature does not appreciate Xoon’s brash nature and attacks. Xoon injures the giant owl’s wings, bringing it to the ground, and Dandalv puts it into an enchanted sleep. Brother Jon carries the great animal back to his shrine via the Green, and the others return to the Red Keep for the night.

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Back at the Red Keep (Year 2, Month 9, Day 16)

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It is fall when Dandalv emerges from the Black Tower. The wizard immediately calls a meeting. He tells the group of his discovery of a powerful spell to summon Azi Dahaka, Demon Prince of Storms and Serpents. He argues that the demon would be a powerful ally for them. Brother Jon argues against contacting this evil being. Xoon is neutral. Ultimately, Dandalv decides not to use the spell . . . for now.
The others inform Dandalv of what he has missed over the last three months. Xoon has been working with his guards and overseeing the building of three ballistas on the towers of the keep. Brother Jon has been tending his shrine. Asefeh spent the months riding with the road patrols and teaching them horseman ship; the men all seem to idolize her. La La informs the group that someone snuck into the keep and stole her snake charm bracelet, an item of some magical power. The group searches the keep and the surrounding village. Dandalv even walks the area using his ability to detect magic, but he only manages to terrify the villagers who all think he is half demon.
A guard brings to the group’s attention that the village graveyard appears to be haunted as zombies have arisen over the past several nights and have had to be put down. The company visits the graveyard and Brother Jon discovers a wicked spirit hiding among the graves.
With a wave of his holy symbol, the priest dismisses the foul creature. The villagers are greatly relieved, and their love of the wise old druid increases along with visits to Brother Jon’s shrine out in the woods.
The company readies their adventuring gear and heads out into the forest where Brother Jon opens the Green Way, taking them to Silvercliff. They appear in a small copse of trees in the town and make their way to the Inn of the Slumbering Drake. There they meet Chauntessa and sell her the gnomish books they found in the Clockwork Academy. After taking some refreshment, they ride out into the wild to clear the land for more settlers . . . but not before Asefeh makes a quick stop to give a gift of 1000 gold to the master of the local thieves guild, whom she had offended during their last visit to town.

GM NOTES
Using the Kingmaker events table (modified) on a monthly basis now for events that happen to the Red Keep. Results for the three months:
2.6-Sensational Crime: someone stole La La’s charm bracelet!
2.7: Good Weather!
2.8: The Dead Rise: a wicked ghost in the town graveyard is raising zombies

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Back at the Red Keep (Year 2, Month 6, Day 15-Month 9, Day 15)

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Bearing several wagons loaded with treasure liberated from depths of Castle Whiterock, the company returns to the Red Keep to find a summer festival going on. The crowd cheers Xoon and his allies as they enter the growing town. The heroes spend the day enjoying the festivities.
In the morning, Aurik invites the company to the counsel room in the keep to discuss their loot. He hands out bags of gold to all members of the company. Then he asks about several items. The head of Cinderallis the dragon is to be cleaned and the skull mounted in Xoon’s hall. The claws of the dragon and the eyes of the xorn are taken by Dandalv for use in his arcane studies, along with the scrolls of magic and the nixie’s ring for examination. There is heated discussion over what to do with the wand of Benthoc, but ultimately Brother Jon convinces Xoon that it is best destroyed. Xoon decides to take the holy book of Justicia to the Blue Shrine in the hopes of making peace with the abbey.
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The next morning, the company (sans Dandalv deep in study) heads to the Blue Shrine. That evening they are greeted warmly by the Abbot and his brethren, despite a scowling Brother Caleb standing by. They enjoy a meal and when they give the book to the abbot, he is delighted. In private they discuss the problem of Dandalv and the Demon’s head. Xoon convinces the Abbot that he can be trusted and will vouch for Dandalv, and the priest agrees. Brother Caleb storms out, but not before Xoon warns him never to return to the keep.
The next day the company rides for home.
For three months, Dandalv holes up in his tower, learning powerful magicks and studying various items. He learns that the nixie’s ring is actually a mighty artifact, one that needs a specific ritual to activate it. The wizard calls upon the power of the Demon’s Head to repair the magical bottle of air, and while he is successful, the process leaves its mark: Dandalv’s eye are now black pits of darkness.
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He also casts powerful spells on good old Oinker the magic pig, transforming the animal into a winged arcane creature with a quick tongue and spells of its own.
For some time, Dandalv had become more and more concerned about the powerful staff of Vesuvius he carried with him. It’s voracious hunger for magic items was growing more desperate. Oinker was openly terrified of the staff and warned the wizard to get rid of it. Finally Dandalv agreed. At that very moment, the staff transformed into a dark, robed figure. It laughed loudly as it pulled back its hood to reveal a twisted version of Dandalv’s face. As smoke begins to whirl about it, the creature points a finger at Dandalv and croaks, “You think you will destroy me, fool? It is I who will destroy you!” With that, the dark figure disappears.
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Into Castle Whiterock: Level 4-Cinderallis, Mad Daughter of the Red Doom (Year 2, Month 6, Day 15)

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Down a long winding, smoke-filled tunnel off of the worship chamber of Benthoc, Xoon and company find a demented red dragon with crippled wings sitting upon a pile of treasure and warming a clutch of eggs. Nearby sways the skeletal dragon the group had chased off during the previous night. Calling herself Cinderallis, the dragon tells the group that she is the wife of Benthoc and wants to know where her husband is. She seems confused. In a fit of honesty, the barbarian hero tells Cinderallis that they have slain her husband. The dragon doesn’t seem to be that bothered and repeatedly refers to Benthoc as an “idiot”. It’s only when she starts asking for her children, the red troglodytes of the cavern, that Xoon realizes the danger. He tries to exit the room but she grows more agitated, finally breathing fire on the group. La La, Dandalv and poor Oinker are caught full in the blast and are burnt to charred husks! Then Cinderallis cries out in a unknown language. As the dragon roars, Asefeh fires two arrows into the it’s smoking maw, causing the beast to choke and cough. Xoon charges the dragon, smashing it’s skull into pulp with the power of Mourngrummel!

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https://cthulhuburger.deviantart.com/favourites/39909172/Badass-Monsters
At that moment, the mighty troglodyte champion Grzzlk appears in the tunnel behind the party to answer his mother’s call. The warrior brings a cadre of warriors with him. Seeing Cinderallis dead, the champion backs up and studies the heroes with cold reptillian eyes. Angry at being burned by the dragon, Kolash the Cave Bear charges and mortally wounds the trog. Asefeh puts the champion down with two well placed arrows, one for each eye. The band of troglodytes runs in fear. Meanwhile, Brother Jon heals Dandalv, Oinker and LaLa. The power of the Treemoot is mighty! The risen Dandalv hurls a terrible fireball at the fleeing trogs, incinerating them before they escaped.
In the dragon’s humble hoard, the party finds much gold, platinum and jewels, along with some magic harp strings (the Sorrowsong Harp!), a silver scroll tube containing the arcane runes of the spells of Ekim’s Mystical Mask, Consult Spirit, Magic Mouth, and a powerful incantation to communicate with the Demon Prince of Storms and Waste! Dandalv is intrigued; he has heard whispers about the power of Azi Dahaka.
Xoon severs the dragon’s head, a trophy for his keep. Then he takes the dragon’s heart, performs an ancient ritual he learned from his tribe, and eats it. In seconds, the barbarian’s faces contorts, growing huge teeth. His hands morph into terrifying red claws. He transforms into a bestial terror that can barely restrain itself from attack its allies.

The party explores another chamber, this one east of Benthoc’s great cave. This one is filled with webs and the bones and carcasses of unlucky victims. Dragon Xoon narrowly avoids a pit trap, leaping back into the tunnel he came from. La La uses her magic cape to teleport across the pit and explore, but she is immediately attacked by a giant spider. The halfling avoids the spider’s webbing and the battle is on! Xoon leaps at the creature, striking it a mighty blow with his dragon claws. Asefeh rendering one leg useless with a piercing arrow. The spider screeches in rage and retreats back up into its webs. A flying hammer, deadly arrows, and a magical fireball end the threat quickly. Amongst the bones and offal, La La finds a copper scroll tube with a dragonskin parchment inside containing the spell Control Fire. Meanwhile, Xoon returns to his normal, human form, much to the relief of his companions.
Next the party finds itself in a strange labyrinth filled with numerous cave eels attacking from their hidey holes. It takes awhile, but Asefeh and Xoon handle the problem with hammer and bow. They discover a long passage leading down into the next level of this endless dungeon.
The company decides to return to the Red Keep with its newfound treasure. Exiting the castle without incident, the company travels down the mountainside and into the forest. Brother Jon opens the pathway to the Green, and the party is instantly teleported to a tree near the Red Keep.

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Into Castle Whiterock: Level 4-Benthoc, High Priest of the Red Doom! (Year 2, Month 6, Day 14-15.)

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Xoon & Co. seek to bed down and rest so that Dandalv can study Mend from his spellbook to fix the Sorrowsong flute.

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while on watch, Xoon hears a fluttering noise and wakes up the party. Dandalv discovers his bag of gold is missing.
They search the cavern and find nothing . . . but Kolash senses something hovering above them.
fireballs don’t work.
detect magic reveals an imp flying above them; Dandalv magic missiles it. Kolash sits on it. BJ heals it.
it wakes up but isn’t cooperative. it does mention the Impressario, a name Dandalv recognizes as the dwarf master of the Bleak Theater in the Dark World. They return the imp to its native plane.
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Then they are assaulted by two large dragon skeletons but they make quick work of one and the other runs away.
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the company defeats a great number of troglodyte warriors
they discover the living quarters of the female and child trogs and leave them be
They return to the dead warriors; BJ casts Speak With Dead. They discover that the Trog leader is called Benthoc and that he is the Priest of the Red Doom and apparently a bad ass. The dead trog tells them which way to go so they can get their asses kicked.
The party follows directions and finds themselves in a great chamber, marked by a smoking pit, the statue of a dragon, some creepy trog acolytes and some half-dragon abomination that is apparently Benthoc.
Battle insues—
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The acolytes turn out to be weird cold trog-wights.
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by rocketworm
Dandalv turns several to stone-in the process, he tears the fabric between planes and something old and horrible slithers out and eats a spell from his brain (Levitation). He feels he got off lucky.
BJ turns the trog-wights, destroying one in the process. they flee.
Asefeh feathers Benthoc in the brain with several arrows, slowing him down. He tries to cast Silence, blindness and hold on Dandalv, but the wizard fights off his attempts.
Xoon closes with Benthoc, who covers himself in the red glow of his god. Dandalv fireballs Benthoc, which only heals the abomination. In a fit of rage, Dandalv magic missiles Benthoc into ashes.

GM NOTES
_The BG was appropriately terrified of Benthoc, which made the combat fun.
5+ level warriors and mighty deeds are show stoppers.
weird magic makes things fun; I should figure out a way to add weird magic to every combat

I so enjoyed BG rolling planar schism or whatever and losing a spell to an Elder Thingy—I think it is a great balance to all the crap I dole out to him in our adventures. I need to find more ways to take things away . . . I think it builds a healthy attitude of “you get cool stuff and you lose cool stuff” . . . that’s how I want this game world to work. And I’ve always told him, you want something (back)? Just go quest for it.

should be some good loot from this fight: a healing potion which the BG has learned you hang around the cleric’s neck in case of emergency; a wand of Paralysis (not sure what he is going to do with that . . . might allow him to turn it in the spell fodder for Dandalv or let BJ destroy it for XP). Plus some dragonhide armor that would be great for BJ._

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Into Castle Whiterock: Level 4 (Year 2, Month 6, Day 14-Cont.)

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Cleaning Room
Destruction goes down the chute to confront six water elementals.
Asefeh follows…
Dandalv follows
Xoon, Asefah & Dandalv gets dropped
Brother Jon steps out of chute in time to heal him
La La drops down.
La La gets dropped.
BJ gets dropped
Xoon goes berserk and kills all the elementals.
-rolls BJ’s body: he’s alive!
BJ heals everyone.
They find awesome treasure: rust bag of tricks, elven cloak, gloves of arrow snaring, halfling jump cape

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Faculty Rooms: search, find “nothing” of interest.
Faculty Lounge: smashing down the door summons a metal wasp/wolf demon, which Dandalv & Xoon slay.
-discover secret vault in lounge, use code phrase to bypass phantasmal killer

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Vault
four constructs attack and are defeated; one is paralyzed for later study
when PCs destroy the bodies, the heads pop off and fly around shooting lasers; he got smart and started destroying heads first. I’ve got my hands full with this guy.
while investigating the room, party is attacked by animated table (transformer style), which is destroyed.
party discovers secret vault door & construct book (learn animate object with MM-powerful caster! OR sell for $50K gp—Dandalv convinces party to let him have it)

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The Stacks
LL crawls up a shaft to discover library room filled with weird menacing blue lizards (who must clump together to max attacks)
Dandalv launches massive fireball up the shaft, frying the lizards who had clumped together to get anyone coming up shaft
-they find some stuff, the spyglass being only of real value (goes to Asefeh)

Party Returns to Organ room to rest & Dandalv needs to memorize Mend to repair the magic flute.

GM NOTES
BJ & Kolash leveled after this session
BJ got the + 1 AC vs. ranged attacks from table
-Kolash got: 40. You do d6+str damage unarmed: There’s nothing wrong with them that you can’t fix with your hands… You go up one die each time you re-roll this.
→I think I’ll just +1d each of his attacks so d12 for bite & d7 for claws.
-need to bump Kolash to level 6

-party almost TPK’d. I fudged one dice roll to keep him in the fight, but he ultimately took all the monsters down himself which was impressive. It was a close thing. I was already planning the adventure in which his followers stormed Castle Whiterock to recover his body. What would have happened next? I have no idea.

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