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Actual Play

Castle Xyntillan – Session #34 – Out of the Woods, Into the Maze

The company:

  • Hendrik (MU5)
  • Jurg (F5)
  • Ezio (T1)
  • Julia (heavy foot)
  • Gido (porter)

Loot:

  • 400 GP
  • Mace +2
  • One scroll: protection from undead
  • Three potions: extra healing, animal control, plant control
  • Seven kinds of magic mushroom, one for each color of the rainbow, three samples each
  • Eight pairs of crystal eyes
  • Five barrels of wine of varying quality
  • A golden candlestick
  • Five gems shaped as Platonic solids
  • A pearlescent giant spider egg
  • Mediocre philosophy papers
  • A dagger +1, +2 vs. beasts

Casualties: Gido and Julia, bludgeoned to death by anti-monks.

Report:

We pick up the action where we left off last session. The company has stumbled into what appears to be a magical forest realm. They have no idea how to get back to the castle.

They arrive at a clearing in the woods with a chapel near collapse. A cleric emerges, waving at them. The man is clearly garbed in satanic garb. Similarly dressed monks are milling about the grounds. Jürg steps forward and does the talking. The heartbroken fighter has turned to the dark side ever since his break with the late Bartolomea. The cleric, who introduces himself as Venger, eyes Hendrik’s crusader surcoat suspiciously but is taken in by Jürg’s impressively gnarly arms and armor. They chat for a while, and Venger points them to a park where they might find this castle they are looking for, and a stone circle where the lord of this realm, a man known as Runcius, can usually be found. They make to leave but the anti-cleric stops them, demanding something in return for the help he just gave them. Maybe that nice big evil-looking sword Jürg is carrying? Jürg disagrees and without warning makes to chop Venger’s head off. He misses completely and loses his grip on the sword. It flies across the chapel floor. Monks jump and grab the fighter. The rest of the company runs outside. Hendrik immediately casts levitate to get out of harms way. Ezio hides in the bushes.

Monks stream out of the chapel and engage poor Julia and Gido. Inside, Venger begins to stab away at the helpless Jürg while he struggles to break free. Outside, Gido is immediately slain. Hendrik casts plant control and entangles some of the monks. Julia also falls to the many strikes of the monks. Ezio sneaks back into the chapel and flings his sickle-shaped discus at the anti-cleric. Jürg breaks free and dives for the Blade of Rel. Outside, Hendrik blasts the monks with a fireball from above, instantly killing all of them. Inside, Jürg cuts down the remaining monks and faces off agains Venger. The anti-cleric turns and runs. They chase him for a while but fail to catch him.

After taking a moment to morn the loss of the last remaining retainers, they search the chapel. They find a magical mace, and a scroll. They head back the way they came, having decided to seek out the mushroom garden the shepherd mentioned to them.

Upon arrival they see huge mushrooms of all colors of the rainbow, and an enormous caterpillar sitting on a toadstool, smoking a pipe and reading a spellbook. The caterpillar is very friendly. He also appears to know exactly what they are thinking. The mentions two ways to go if they want to exit this “world”. The caterpillar also tells them it dearly wants to change into something. It asks Hendrik to promise to come back and help him do so. In return he will receive the caterpillar’s spellbook and amulet. Meanwhile, Jürg collects samples of all the varieties of mushrooms present to bring back to town for inspection. They bid the caterpillar farewell, and head back the way they came. Back across the hilly meadow, through the forest, back to where they originally entered. They now see a small trail leading deeper into the woods, which they follow. After some time the trail widens again, they hear the sound of woodland animals, and they emerge… into an indoor garden!

***

They have managed to get back to the castle, but they have arrived somewhere different from where they left. There is a glass roof overhead, and animated trophies on the walls with crystalline eyes. They remove those eyes, while the animals complain loudly. Next they listen at the door south, and hear wheezing and shuffling.

They throw open the door and see four desiccated skeletons with huge claws, moving slowly about the room. The company immediately attacks, and the skeletons are slain without much trouble. They search the room’s writing desk and liquor cabinet and take away some sub-par philosophy and three unidentified potions.

They peek out of the window to orient themselves, and see the courtyard with rose garden, gate house and so on. They then move up to the next door leading east. This opens on a parlor with multiple family portraits, a helm floating over a chair, and a badly damaged closet with an axe still stuck in it. On the floor is a huge carpet with the Malévol crest of arms. They try their hammer and sickle on the helmet but nothing happens. They carefully move to the door north, which opens onto a hallway with red velvet carpet.

They head west and north, and arrive at a dead end with one door east. From behind it, they hear machine-like humming and the sound of static crackles. They decide not to try their luck here, and backtrack.

They head north and west unseated, following the hallway to its end again, passing several doors, one of which a revolving one. They first try the north most one, and find a bedroom. A swine in pajamas is snoring away on a bed. Next to it is a gold candlestick magically emitting light. Weird shadows dance on the walls. A desk is stuffed with papers/. Ezio sneaks in but is mesmerized by the shadows. They come to life and make to attack him. Hendrik whips out his wand of cold and in a moment of brilliance blasts the swine and candlestick, extinguishing the light and disappearing the shadows in the nick of time. They plunder the room, taking the candlestick and pulling a bag of curiously shaped gemstones from the desk.

They check the other door in the room, but it opens onto an empty corridor leading nowhere. So they backtrack to the carpeted hallway and for a moment consider trying their luck with the rotating door. But the Blade of Rel begins to tremble nervously in Jürg’s hands, so they are quite sure it is trapped. In stead, they move on to the one remaining door. Please let this lead to a way out of the castle! The door is locked. From beyond it they hear low feline grumbling…

As Ezio attempts to pick the lock, they suddenly hear several voices shout “boo!” from behind their backs. It’s a bunch of those black-clad assassins. They just stand there for a moment and laugh at them, and then head the other way. Somewhat puzzled, the company decide to let them leave.

Ezio picks the lock, and they carefully move inside. It is a huge throne room lit from numerous glass “eyes” set in the arched ceiling. At the far end, a huge figure sits slumped in a throne, flanked by two suits of armor. The creature is shrouded in hellfire, and has a cat-like face. It holds a single rose which it appears to be gloomily contemplating. The creature appears to not notice or otherwise ignore the company. There is a door to the north and south.

The Beast (Jean Cocteau)

They sneak up to the north door. It opens onto another bedroom, this one clearly furnished for royalty. A portrait of Count Giscard hangs over a canopy bed littered with large pillows, a finely decorated dagger stuck in the headboard. There is also a writing desk. Jürg is foolish enough to inspect the portrait and is mesmerized by the count, who invites him to visit him in his suite. They make to search the bed, but the pillow come to life with huge slobbering toothy maws, making to eat them. They manage to evade the damn things and run from the room, but not before Hendrik pulls the dagger from the headboard. They manage to escape the throne room without the figure reacting.

Back in the hallway, they are now truly desperate about finding a way home. Then, Jürg remembers the indoor garden has a glass roof. And Hendrik can levitate, can’t he? That’s it! They return to the garden, Ezio smashes the roof with his discus, and Hendrik carries the company one by one up to the roof, and down again into the courtyard. With that, they have managed to escape, and relieved, head back to town.

Referee commentary:

Boy oh boy, one of the most dramatic sessions of the campaign so far. Starting in medias res was a nice change of pace. Normally there are always some preparations to take care of, which I consider part of the fun. But this time we could start out right away with an encounter, which of course is also cool.

We had one absentee player (Ezio’s). They agreed we would have the character still be there, but he would be run like we do with retainers, under shared control. I also promised we would not but the character in more risk than absolutely necessary. It was a close call there for a second in the bedroom with the shadows, but they made it out alive.

On the fight with the anti-cleric and monks: the grappling of Jürg we now resolved with an opposed attack roll, which is quick and easy and feels about right. So I think we will keep that. Stabbing a helpless opponent per Hackbut rules auto-hits for max damage. Which on paper looks okay, but in the case of a level 5 fighter being attacked with a dagger means the opponent needs to do a lot of rounds of stabbing before they are actually down. Still seems about right for a character of such heroic stature.

The caterpillar was a lot of fun to roleplay. They got box-cars on their reaction roll, so I decided this was the perfect moment to “fix” my “mistake” from last session, and outright tell them where the ways out of here are. Of course, the caterpillar does not know what is on the other side of those exits, so they ended up emerging in a different part of the castle with no immediately obvious way out. This led to the dramatic second half of the session.

Speaking of reaction rolls. They also lucked out on a reaction roll for those masked murderers. Friendly, so I had them play a prank on the company. Seemed in keeping with the spirit of the module, and I like rolling reactions for all encounters, even dumb stuff like plants, just to add variety to how they play out.

They finally encounter the Beast! They were very scared of this thing, I think, and absolutely did not want to engage. Hopefully they will run into it again…

The moment when Jürg’s player had that light bulb go off about a possible way out through the roof was classic D&D play at its finest. So I decided it should just succeed, no rolls required (except a final encounter check). It was just too good.

They made it back to town with an absolutely massive haul. As a result, Hendrik, the magic-user reached level 6. Quite the achievement, the first player to do so. It took them 21 sessions. And now they have a very powerful PC to continue to play with, or, if they like, they can start leveling a second character. I am curious to see which way they will go.

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