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Actual Play

Castle Xyntillan – Session #42 – Loaded

The Company:

  • Hendrik (MU6)
  • Claus (T5)
  • Kjell, Agnes & Jonas (heavy foot)
  • Enie (porter)

Loot: Zilch, unless you count a cursed pendant…

Casualties: Kjell, Agnes & Enie, frozen stiff by a reflected cone of cold); Jonas, sucked dry by a glittercloud.

Report:

The company decide to postpone their assault on the count and countess due to the absence of their heaviest hitter, Jürg. Instead, Hendrik wants to have another go at finding a lab that should be somewhere in the north-east part of the castle’s ground floor, the so-called Summer Wing.

They approach the grand entrance, and find yet another pile of dead adventurers, stripped of their belongings. They get rid of these in the usual manner, dumping them in the river, and make their way to the throne room.

As they make their way across the room towards the doors leading to the ballroom, they hear noises from the shooting gallery behind the east wall. They duck for cover and remain still. The noises disappear.

Thinking nothing further of it, they plug their ears with wax, and enter the ballroom. Another spectral dance is underway, and they spot the ghost of their lost comrade Niemir again, dancing away with a hopeless look in his eyes. They skirt the dancefloor and make their way towards the salon without issue.

Once safe from the dance’s influence they decide they do want to check the gallery. They open the secret door leading to it, and see an empty gallery. As they are about to turn around, doors open behind them, and masked murderers fire at them with crossbows. Claus immediately dives behind a couch and disappears. Hendrik hides behind his men, who form a shield wall in front of him. The attackers close for melee, and several go to try and find Claus.

The retainers fend of the murderers’ attacks. Claus is spotted, and the attackers make to stab him. Desperate, the murderers try to grab the heavy foot soldiers and drag them away. The retainers duck out of the way, and Hendrik whips out his wand of lightning. He zaps four of the murderers, killing them instantly. The remaining attackers flee. The company attempts to pursue but quickly lose sight of them.

The continue on their way in north-western direction, and arrive at the overlook suite.

They head west, and enter a room with once comfortable, now gutted seating. The ghost of a mountebank is focused on a floating orb in which several people appear to be trapped. The company cheerfully greet him, the ghost loses focus, and the orb drops to the floor, shattering. Its tiny inhabitants run off and disappear in various directions. The ghost is not pleased, obviously, but they do talk for a while. Then, Claus sneaks up behind him, and backstabs the ghost with his magically electrified sword, instantly destroying it.

They search the room but find nothing. The seating, however, looks very inviting, so they allow several retainers to take a load off and sit for a moments. The men at arms immediately begin to nod off. So, they wake them, and move on.

The room is connected with a passage leading west to the next room.

It’s another large space with a lot going on. Purple bubbles float through the air. Bones are scattered across the floor, and skulls line the mantle of a fireplace. The apparition of a sleeping lady, only dressed in a white nightgown, also floats through the air, apparently sleeping in a reverie. Several glitterclouds accompany her.

As the company observe the room from the hallway, the bones begin to assemble into… something… Meanwhile, the glitterclouds approach, flickering ominously.

Claus ducks into a corner and disappears, as usual. Hendrik and his men retreat, attempting to draw the clouds with them into a chokepoint. The clouds stop at the edge of the room. Hendrik takes his wand of cold and blasts them. The cone that shoots out hits the purple bubbles in the room, and is reflected back at Hendrik and his retainers. Kjell, Agnes and Enie are instantly killed, and Jonas is severely injured. The clouds make to attack. Hendrik and Jonas run away, but the clouds manage to suck the final heavy footman dry regardless.

As this is going on, Claus sneaks into the gallery beyond the room with the bubbles. He decides to study the nameplates on the portraits hanging here, careful not to look at the paintings themselves, and trying to remain hidden. The portraits do spot him, though, and attempt to engage him in various ways, none immediately harmful. Maximilian tries to trip him with chains, Hortensia offers flowers, Jerome asks Claus to hold out his hand, Merton asks about a book he has lost, Reynard offers to bless Claus in return for a little favor, and Eustace wails and moans about his ill fate.

Meanwhile, Hendrik patches himself up, casts invisibility, and goes to find Claus in the portrait gallery. He also makes Claus invisible, and they decide to begin their retreat.

They head back to the parlour where they encountered the ghost, and try a door leading west. This opens on a room with four beds which has been thoroughly ransacked. It smells vaguely of roses and is decorated with lewd frescoes. One image depicts a woman holding a pomegranate, which appears to be real. They pluck it, and it turns into a beating heart, while the frescoes disappear in a wash of blood.

Pomegranate: cardiac anatomy, motherly virtue, or something else entirely? (Sandro Botticelli)

They leave the room, and pass through the doors leading south. In this large empty hall they take the first door east, which leads to a small empty room with one door leading south.

The next room is dark, with a canopy of yellow eyes looking down from above. A blindfolded skeleton wearing a dark cloak sits on a chair, a curious-looking pendant around its neck. Claus stays behind while Hendrik enters to investigate, both still invisible.

The pendant is a shapeless lump of some sort of metal. It radiates magic and evil intent. Regardless, Hendrik can’t resist the temptation to pluck the thing from the skeleton’s neck, using a small sack to scoop it up. Hendrik immediately feels burdened by the heaviest of loads, unable to move. The skeleton’s head detaches, floats up into the air, cries something about “only the blind can see!” and drops to the ground.

A second skeleton enters the room carrying a platter with several pairs of eyes on it, and holding a spoon. The skeleton observes the floating necklace, but nothing else. It looks around confused, in search of someone to relieve of their eyes. Claus sneaks up, still invisible, backstabs the skeleton, instantly destroying it. The thief turns visible again.

Hendrik drops everting he carries, and finds he can move again, except very slowly. However much he likes to, he is unable to let go of the necklace. Claus picks up all of Hendrik’s gear, and they crawl out of the castle without further issue, luckily.

Back in town, Hendrik admits himself in the hospital, hoping the nuns will be able to cure him of the curse of the pendant in good time…

Referee Commentary:

Every time I think we might be growing tired of this module, we have a session like this with a ton of weird and interesting rooms and fun and challenging situations that emerge from players unable to help themselves.

I also enjoy the fact that the players are finally beginning to take an interest in the portraits. They never really had an incentive it seems, and I was a bit heavy handed in the beginning with some of the hazardous ones. So they steered clear of them for the most part. But now they want to get an idea of how many Malévols are actually in the castle and how many they eliminated already.

The moment the cone of cold reflected off of the bubbles was a nice “oh fuck” occurrence. It’s always fun when a tried and true strategy suddenly backfires because of a strange new situation.

I’m also getting better at keeping combats dynamic and interesting, I think. The encounter with the masked murderers being a case in point. It was fun to try and ambush the players, and then once combat was engaged, this rule that I have sort of set for myself where I am not allowed to have monsters do the same thing two rounds in a row, also makes a big difference.

On the other hand, encounters with NPCs kind of drag lately. The ghost in this session being the case in point. I should get back to the approach where we roleplay an opening exchange, and then zoom out and establish stakes for the social encounter and resolve them with a reaction roll or two. Only go back to speaking in first person if it really adds something.

Our pace of sessions has slowed slightly due to various circumstances, but we are still playing, and the players are intent on properly finishing up the module somehow. So stay tuned for more!

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