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Castle Xyntillan – Session #43 – Fearless Vampire Killers

The Company:

  • Jürg (F6/T2)
  • Hendrik (MU6)
  • Claus (T5)
  • Norin, Gaetan & Jonas (light foot)
  • Purlie (bowman)
  • Ivka (porter)

Loot:

  • Necklace of Deflection
  • Decayed cosmetics
  • Ruby ring +3
  • Worm-eaten volume on rejuvenating magics
  • Brooch of obscenely high value

Casualties: None. All’s well that ends well.

Report:

Hendrik spends several weeks in the hospital to recover from the curse bestowed on him by the pendant he picked up in the previous expedition.

Meanwhile, Jürg experiments with his ring of invisibility, to ensure he fully grasps its functioning. He also asks around about The Beast, and learns a number of strange and troubling things about it.

Although the recent demise of several retainers have made hired hands reluctant to join the company, they do manage to find a few foolhardy enough to join them.

***

And so, on Wednesday, January 1st, 1528, the company find themselves once more at the gates of Castle Xyntillan, for what will turn out to be their very last expedition. They steel themselves, for they have resolved to go after the count and countess, both vampires, and among the most powerful of the remaining family members.

They head towards their suites, along the south wall. While passing by the grand entrance they spot two headless manservants, standing around, waiting. The company draw their missile weapons, take pot shots, and kill one almost immediately. They hit the other, who drops something, and stands around confused. They fire at him again, hit once more, and the servant turns and runs back into the castle. They decide not to pursue, but do go to see what they dropped. It turns out to be an invitation from the count and countess to the company to attend a dinner that night, in the grand dining hall, where they may come to an understanding.

They guffaw, and continue on their way, figuring it is better to confront vampires while the sun is still out.

At the suites, Claus climbs up to the balcony, ties off a rope, and drops it so that the remaining party can climb up easily. Next, Claus picks the lock to the countess’ suite with some trouble. Inside things appear all quiet. They enter, open curtains to let the sun in, and turn to the casket that is sitting on a stone altar underneath the window. It is pushed over, and crashes to the floor, spilling soil all over it. Otherwise, it appears to be empty.

On a hunch, they push against the slab atop the altar, and sure enough, it slides away to reveal a space holding a second casket. They pull it up, and carry it out onto the balcony. Jürg opens it, and a noxious cloud of dust puffs out into his face. He manages to cover his mouth and nose in time to stave off its lethal effects. Inside the casket lies the countess in her satins and silks. She immediately begins to smolder in the sunlight, awakes, and cries out in agony. Jürg chops at her eck with his axe but it bounces off her skin as if it is steel. Claus leaps out and plunges a stake straight into her chest. Hendrik fires off a bunch of magic missiles.

Staking vampires: not as easy as it looks! (Dracula Has Risen From The Grave)

They make to repeat their devastating barrage of attacks, but she transforms into a cloud of gas, and floats back into the castle. They pursue, puzzled about what to do to stop her. Hendrik fires off more magic missiles. Claus fishes out a vial of holy water from his pack. Jürg removes his helmet and readies his horn of blasting. Meanwhile, the countess squeezes through the cracks around a door leading off from her suite, several swarms of vampire bats begin to emerge from the suite’s shadowy corners, and two skeleton guardsmen barge in through the suite entrance.

They manage to bash open the door, revealing a study. Hendrik’s protective magics keeps the conjured bat swarms at bay. Claus tries to spray the cloud with holy water from his flask, but fails. Jürg blows his horn and completely dissipates the cloud. They hear a hair raising scream recede into the distance. Meanwhile, one of the skeletons is cut down. The other flees, and so do the vampire bat swarms.

They search the study and the suite. Hendrik finds a curious worm-eaten tome amidst bookshelves full of decaying volumes. Jürg finds a necklace in the dresser, and also scoops up a bunch of cosmetics. In the casket, they discover a ruby ring.

Next, they head to the count’s suite.

They cross the balcony, and Claus once again picks the lock. Opening the door to a crack, they find all is quiet here as well. They enter, and immediately fling open the casket that sits on a couch. It is empty. They push the casket to the floor, and rip open the couch’s seating, but find nothing.

Continuing the hunt, they enter the count’s study and lab, but remember they more or less picked it clean during their hunt for the gelatinous cube all those expeditions ago. Impatient as ever, Jürg whips out his horn and blasts a horn through a wall of the lab. When the dust has settled, they see on the other side a bedroom with silver crosses on the walls, and yet another casket! They enter, open the casket, but it holds only grave dust. They hear a disembodied sigh, all the crosses blacken and crumble, and then the sounds of a person breathing heavily and dragging chains leave the room through its doorway. They give each other a look, shrug, and tip the casket’s contests on the floor. They find nothing.

Deciding this won’t get them to the count, they backtrack, and make their way to the vestibule, with a plan in mind.

As they leave the count’s suite they are faced with two more skeleton guardsmen who sound the alarm but are destroyed before help can arrive.

As they arrive in the vestibule, they hear the familiar sobbing of the ghost of James, the family butler. Not missing a beat, they immediately begin to tidy up the vestibule. James expresses his gratitude, and the company ask him about the count’s whereabouts. James tells them the count is inspecting the family treasures in the crusader’s tomb. They thank him, and head off to descend into the castle dungeons.

They quickly make their way to the tomb where they were once decimated by ghouls, and found the entrance to the crusader’s tomb behind an ominous fresco.

It just so happens Jürg had the presence of mind to bring the Heart of Roland with him. He holds it up, and the secret door behind the fresco slides open. They enter, gingerly avoiding the slicing blade trap in the entrance. They pass into the pool room, and open the door to the treasury. Sure enough, with his back to them, the count is standing there, inspecting the treasure hoard on the elevation in the center of the room.

The count has heard them enter, looks over his shoulder, and greets them, the company without a name. He tells them he wants to come to some agreement. After all, they have absconded with several of the family’s most valued heirlooms, and have destroyed several of its most powerful members. What would it take for the company to leave the castle and its inhabitants alone? They humor him for a moment, and then close for the attack.

Jürg drops his axe. Claus plunges a stake soaked in holy water and rubbed with garlic into the count’s chest. The vampire shrieks, punctuated with a comment about how he adores garlic. The count claws at Claus but fails to harm him. Jürg picks up his axe. Claus steps back from the count. The vampire howls like a wolf, and dark shapes begin to emerge from the room’s corners. He’s hit by a barrage of magic missiles, and explodes into a cloud of gas. Jürg grabs his horn, and Claus fishes out the sun medaillon.

They chase the cloud, which isn’t very fast, and it is blasted by the horn and hit by a bright ray of sunlight from the medaillon at the same time. They hear the count’s voice scream out “cuuurrrssseee yyyooouuu” and then recede into nothingness. The medaillon turns to slag. Everything is silent.

The company can almost not believe their luck. They book it out of the castle, which has gone even more eerily quiet than it usually is.

On the way out, as they pass the gatehouse, Jürg tells his companions to wait for a moment, and heads back into the garden. A moment later, he returns, holding in his hand a single perfect rose.

We fade to black. The end.

Referee commentary:

Well, that’s it for our play-through of Castle Xyntillan. We had decided this would be our final season, and fittingly, this last session of the run had the company face off against the count and countess, a confrontation that was long in the making.

Sure, we could play on, there is plenty of castle left to explore, but as most characters hav reached level 5 or 6, and have also amassed a frightening array of magic items, very few of the castle’s denizens pose any real threat to them anymore. Case in point: the ease with which Giscard and Maltricia were dispatched.

I rolled very few random encounters, and forgot about monster saves against damaging magics. I also at one point decided to skip actually having reinforcements appear because it would just delay the inevitable.

But they played smart as well. Leveraging James the butler was clever. I rolled for the count’s location randomly and came up with the treasure room in the crusader’s tomb. Just too perfect a place for the final showdown. They were agin lucky that they had brought the Heart of Roland, otherwise they may have been stuck.

The big question I was left with after this session was: vampires, how the hell do they work? How to play them well? There’s this rule about them turning into a gaseous cloud when they reach zero hit points and then returning to their casket to regenerate. But what if the casket is destroyed? And they can also turn into such a cloud at will, but why is that so advantageous? Maybe a lesser party would be stumped, but after a quick glance at the first edition dungeon masters guide I decided things like magic missile, as well as that horn of blasting, would affect the cloud. They also had protection magic to keep conjured creatures at bay. So all of that combined with some lucky initiative rolls made it so that they made quick work of the vampires. And maybe I wasn’t playing as viciously as I should have, but I also felt they had earned it. And honestly I don’t see how those vampires could have come out on top.

So fittingly, with those last small referee ruminations, I end this last session report. I might at some point blog a reflection on running the campaign and the module overall. But for now I will just say I am very happy I came across it at the time I did, just when we were about to hit a strange few years wherein circumstances would make it that I could referee more D&D than I have ever had up to this point. Castle Xyntillan also helped me experience what it is like to run a megadungeon campaign, and it is a revelation. I have never felt more like a player just like the rest of our group than while running this. So my hat’s off to Gabor Lux for creating it.

Ironically, after this I don’t think I will go back to running modules any time soon. We ran this game with homebrew rules, and now I want to push on to have my next campaign be homebrew everything, as Dave and Gary intended it in the beginning days. Castle Xyntillan has given me the confidence and the insight into what I do and don’t need when it comes to prep, and I think it is more doable than I had ever previously thought.

Session reports and other excerpts from that next campaign might appear here at some point. At the moment I am not sure when that might be. I hope these reports have been enjoyable and useful. In any case, writing them has been a great help in sorting out my learnings from our weekly sessions. For now, I will just thank you if you have read this far.

9 replies on “Castle Xyntillan – Session #43 – Fearless Vampire Killers”

Hey, thanks for these posts, you’ve inspired me to run Xyntillan for friends of mine! An early referee note that you can check for encounter at the beginning of turn and introduce at leisure has been helpful. Using your time tracker too.

My players relieved Frederic of the incessant hammer, so they’re getting an invite to the dungeon theatre soon. Fun times.

Hey John, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Happy to hear you’re having fun running Castle Xyntillan as well. Sounds like your group is exploring parts that we never got to. The module is great that way.

Hi! I’m about to run Xyntillan and have been greatly enjoying the first 7 reports I’ve read so far. Do you happen to have whatever handouts/references/tools you made for yourself available to share? I’d love to have a look.

Hi Michael, thanks for reading and commenting. Happy to hear you’ve gotten some use out of the reports. I’ve been planning to post some of the tools I created to make running CX easier, as well as an overview of my refereeing procedure. I should get off my ass and do that sometime soon. I am currently on break, but may conceivably commence posting again in August. So stay tuned. In the mean time, if there are specific things you are wondering about or looking for, feel free to leave another comment.

Thanks for the reply! I’m particularly interested in your T-e-S excel sheet at the moment + whatever you sorted out about the aligned, intelligent swords. But I’m browsing through and will probably see some/all of that.

Check your email for some spreadsheet goodness. With regards to the swords: I have those notes on paper in my copy of the book so it will have to wait until I return home. But I basically cross-referenced their abilities with the OD&D tables and derived an EGO score that way. For control checks I use the method created by Paul Siegel.

What an adventure. I’d like to thank you for the wonderful write-ups as they have been a joy to read. I am without a doubt planning on buying and running Castle Xyntillan and it’ll be my first megadungeon that I run. (I’ve just convinced my players to switch from 5e to OSR so I am starting them off slow before I drop CX on them). I am sure they will love the vibe of it. Thanks!

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