Actual Play

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)


  • 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.


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.

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.


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!

Actual Play

Castle Xyntillan – Session #41 – A Whimper Rather Than a Bang

The Company:

  • Jürg (F6/T2)
  • Ezio (T4)
  • Claus (T4)

Loot: None.

Casualties: None.


We pick up where we left off last session. Upon their return to town, the company see Othmar, captain of the guard, along with 25 guardsmen posted outside their residence.

The company duck into an ally, and find a quiet spot to plan their approach. They see a peasant with a wheelbarrow passing by and grab him. They give the man a few coin with the promise of more, in return for going up to Othmar and asking what is going on. The man reluctantly assents, and heads up to the guards. Meanwhile, Jürg downs a potion of ESP, puts on his ring of invisibility, and sneaks up on Othmar and his men, miraculously avoiding making too much noise, despite wearing plate.

The peasant asks Othmar what he’s doing there. He is given a curt response and told to move along. Jürg picks up on some worries Othmar has about his secret identity being found out. Meanwhile, Ezio climbs up on a roof and readies his discus in case things start going south, and Claus makes his way unseen to their residence and climbs inside through a window.

A much fancier civic guard than Tours-en-Savoy’s, I imagine (Frans Hals)

Jürg takes off his ring, and approaches Othmar. The guards clasp their halberds in fear, and Othmar tells him to keep his distance. “You are under arrest for murdering the prefect, and acting as an agent of the evil Malévol. Please come along peacefully.” Jürg refuses, and the men are hesitant to apprehend him with force, knowing his mighty reputation.

Inside the residence, Claus heads to their treasure room, pops open a loose ceiling board, and starts stashing valuables up there, out of sight.

They end up debating things right then and there in the streets. And eventually, Jürg manages to convince the captain that he might be a secret agent just like him. Othmar, confused agrees to speak to Jürg privately in his residence. Jürg unlocks the front door, and leads Othmar into a sitting room, while the guardsmen wait outside, on high alert.

After more discussion, Othmar tells Jürg he will let him and his company off the hook if he agrees to aid the Royal Secret Police in putting the Malévols back in their place. Jürg is all like “what’s in it for me?” And suggest he is given the castle as a reward if he does manage to defeat its current rulers. Othmar responds that if they do manage such a feat, they would be the areas de facto ruler after all.

Othmar is clearly afraid of Jürg and his companions, who have developed a reputation of being ruthless killers capable of incredible feats. Furthermore, they killed the prefect by gifting the man some kind of cursed item (even though Jürg insists it was a misunderstanding). Othmar would prefer to not end up the same way. So they leave it at that. Jürg, surprised at how things have gone, bids Othmar and the guards farewell, and lets the company back into their residence. They are confident the guard won’t give them much trouble anymore.


Claus and Ezio celebrate their safe return to town by spending the week drinking and partying. Ezio emerges from the bender with a tattoo of a rose and a slogan in latin that would be bad-ass if it were’nt for the spelling mistake. But Ezio doesn’t know that.

Jürg has the heart in a box identified by Ben Mordechai. It turns out to be the fabled Heart of Roland, a legendary Malévol heirloom with several remarkable magical properties.

Jürg also spends more than a bit of time in The Tap, buying rounds and picking people’s brains about the Malévol family and who might be in charge of things. He gets a pretty good sense of some of the most powerful family members, most of whom they have met at least once. Clearly, they need to focus their efforts on the count and countess. Although The Beast might also stand in the way of their overtaking the castle.

The company begin planning their attack on the count and countess, debating the most viable strategy against not one but two vampires. Claus visits the church and is provided by Father Bernard with some knowledge related to vampire hunting, and suitable equipment to boot: garlic, mirror, stakes, holy water. He leaves a little more confident that they might be able to pull off this crazy scheme…

Referee Commentary:

We are finally back at it after a spell of no gaming due to various personal circumstances.

This was a bit of a strange session because we ended on a cliffhanger last time, and we started later than normal this time around. By the time the scene with the guard was resolved very little time was left on the clock for proper dungeon delving, so we decided to hold off on that until next time. As a result, we had an atypical session of what the kids these days call “RP” I believe.

Running the confrontation with Othmar was interesting. I relied heavily on reaction checks throughout. I could have perhaps done a bit more explicit stakes setting as things progressed. But Jürg’s ESP ability actually made it easier to be transparent about NPC motivations than it would otherwise be. As the debate proceeded I think both the NPC and the referee realized that they would not be able to do anything about Jürg and his companions because they have become simply too damn powerful. I did not feel like Othmar would make a suicidal attempt at taking them in regardless. So, the whole thing just kind of fizzled out. Maybe a bit anticlimactic, but also true to the situation at hand. Furthermore, leveraging the combination of invisibility and ESP was just smart play, and I like rewarding those sorts of schemes.

Will they indeed go head to head with the count and countess? The endgame continues! If they do manage to take the vampires out, that might a good place to call it. I don’t think we want to play out the company smoking out the Malévols until every single one has been purged from the castle. But maybe we do? Or at least we might also see what happens when the company confront The Beast? I wonder what my players’ expectations are. In any case, the castle might turn out to be a less desirable residence than they expect it to be. It is full-on haunted and has a will of his own. That much should be clear by now.

Actual Play

Castle Xyntillan – Session #40 – “A Heart He Keeps”

The Company:

  • Hendrik (MU6)
  • Jürg (F6/T2)
  • Claus (T4)
  • Jonas, Kjell, Agnes, Finnian (heavy foot)
  • Enie & Flurin (porter)


  • Splendid sapphire ring
  • Bear skull
  • Lead box containing a beating heart

Casualties: None, dratnabbit!


Ten weeks pass as the company wait for poor Hendrik to recover from his feeblemind affliction in the hospital.

People in town say the prefect was struck with some awful sickness and is either dead or dying…

An agent of the Royal Mail delivers a parcel containing a bone flute, care of Judges Guild.

Finnian, the heavy foot in heirloom plate, who previously fled the fight against the Frankenstein monster, presents himself to the company for continued service.

Jürg haggles with Mordechai over an unopened parcel addressed to Vincent-Godefroy Malévol and ends up acquiring it in exchange for 550 GP. When he opens it he finds it contains a high-quality powdered gentleman’s wig.

Jürg also has a run-in with some shady types in The Tap who are looking for a book called Libellus de Alchimia. They explain it was penned by the famed Albertus Magnus, can be used to dispelled summoned creatures, and must be in one of Xyntillan’s numerous laboratory libraries. Having insulted his intelligence, Jürg later waits for them in an alley, puts on his ring of invisibility, and kicks the living daylights out of them.

Hendrik studies one of the tomes he stole from Aristide’s laboratory, titled Conjuration & Invocation, and learns that it holds several extremely powerful spells.


The company decide it is time to take their shot at acquiring that mysterious heart they’ve heard so much about. They burn incense at the reliquary, and Jürg has a vision of passing through the upper library, then a lounge with snarling heads, entering a hallway where it is very cold, and finally arriving in a hunting lodge.

They enter through the grand entrance, swiftly make their way up to the 2nd floor of the gothic wing, and are just about to enter the library when they hear a bone chilling voice from back the way they came saying something about “they went that way”. They stop, turn, form up and wait. A large group of druids led by a man who must be Runcius, wearing crown shaped like thorns, enters their torchlight. Runcius wants the staff of the deep woods, plus a human sacrifice. Before anyone can do anything, Jürg blasts them with his horn. At the same time, Hendrik whips out and lets loose with his wand of cold. All of Runcius’s men are instantly killed. The leader draws a bone dagger and attacks Hendrik, grabbing the staff and stabbing away while growling “I’ll perform that sacrifice right here and now!” Hendrik is hurt but not killed. Claus stabs him in the back. Jürg chops him with his axe. The druid cries out in pain and anger and shimmers out of existence.

The company take a moment to catch their breath, and speculate about the degree to which Runcius has been definitively defeated. Then, they continue on their way.

They make it up to the third floor library, pass through the lounge with those snarling heads, and enter a door to the north-east. In the hallway beyond, they try the first door east, from which they hear faint sounds of music. It opens on a small balcony littered with broken musical instruments, a wardrobe along one side. Jürg steps onto the balcony, which creaks ominously. He opens the wardrobe and the corpse of a conductor comes rolling out, followed by a swarm of rats. Non-plussed, Jürg steps back into the hallway, and dispatches the vicious rodents without breaking a sweat.

They continue on their way.

The door at the end of the hallway, heading north, leads to a bedroom that has been torn to shreds. They hear chittering and occasional flapping. Up in the rafters they see a large sack sitting on a beam. A ladder stands against the beam. Claus shoots at the sack, hits it, but it does not fall from the beam.

Jürg climbs up the ladder and shimmies along the beam towards the sack. It turns out to be the corpse of a matron, crawling with vampire bats. She is wearing a remarkable ring. So Jürg takes his axe and chops off her hand at the wrist. It drops to the ground. The bats, disturbed, fly up from the corpse and attack. Jürg nearly falls from the beam but manages to hold on. He makes it down the ladder while fending off attacks from bats. The things attach themselves to several party members and proceed to suck at the wounds. But eventually most are destroyed and the remainder flee.

They turn their attention to the next door, leading south-west.

Hendrik uses a clairvoyance spell to see behind the door. It is poorly illuminated so he can only make out faint outlines. They open the door, and find a room hung with rotting animal skins, and a large wooden throne. The sounds of metallic clinking come from the rafters. There is also the sound of rattling from behind the northern wood panel wall. Hendrik uses his remote viewing to see what is above them, and sees seven huntsmen swinging by their legs, their swords softly beating against their chainmail vests.

Huntsmen on their way (Pieter Bruegel the Elder)

Jürg discovers a secret door in the wood paneling, opens it, and is showered with bones. A disembodied animal roar emits and dies away. The door reveals a cell with broken chains. Whoever or whatever was held here has clearly escaped…

They take the next door south-west.

It turns out to be the hunting lodge of Jürg’s vision. There’s a long table, rustic chairs, and tankards. The walls are decorated with trophies and tapestries. A large moldy tapestry covers the entirety of the north wall. It depicts seven huntsmen led by a galant figure.

When the company enter, the tankards lift up and slam the table. A loud “huzzah!” rings out. Jürg instantly responds with a “huzzah” of his own. All is quiet again.

Peeking behind the tapestry, Jürg sees a passage scattered with detritus. Vines growing in the passage come alive and attack him. In the ensuing confusion, Finnian attacks Jürg from behind, trying to grab his horn of blasting. Several retainers wrestle him to the ground while Jürg continues to fight the vines. Finnian manages to escape and runs from the room. Claus strikes him with an arrow in the back, but does not kill him. For a moment, Finnian transforms into a disgusting grey rubbery humanoid before disappearing.

The vines are destroyed without too much trouble. They search the passage, and find a lead box, vibrating with something rhythmically beating inside. At the end of the passage is the mural of a doorway, strongly radiating with magic.

The company decide it is time to head back. They manage to escape the castle without further trouble, and travel back to town without issue.

When they arrive at their residences, they see Othmar, captain of the guard along with a sizable detachment posting outside their door, waiting for them…

Referee Commentary:

Our 40th session! A rather momentous occasion I would say. Things continue to hurtle towards a finale of some sort almost of its own accord.

A few quick thoughts. I was probably a little too lenient with the first round of combat with Runcius. I should have allowed for missile fire from the druids before they were blasted by Jürg’s horn and Hendrik’s wand. Or at least, I should have rolled for initiative.

The secret cell in Hubert’s room is mentioned in the key but missing from the map. That there me off for a moment, and I ultimately decided to simply add it by hand to the player’s map on an ad-hoc basis.

We ended on a cliffhanger this time around. I thought I would change it up for once. Players have gotten very used to the fact that town is a safe haven. But when they choose to send a lethal item to the prefect, there has to be consequences. So when we pick up next session, we will do a cold open on the confrontation with Othmar and the guard, and take it from there.

Actual Play

Castle Xyntillan – Session #39 – “Appearances Can Be Deceptive”

The Company:

  • Jürg (F6/T1)
  • Hendrik (MU6)
  • “Fancy” Julia, “Chicken” Kjell & “Prickly” Agnes (heavy footpersons)
  • “Bland” Enie (porter)


  • Ledger listing the provenance of stuffed mimics
  • The Manual of Intelligence (formerly The Tome of Learning)
  • Ring of invisibility
  • Alchemical materials
  • Tomes “Conjuration & Invocation” and “Ephemerality”

Casualties: Julia, sucked dry by a glittercloud.


An agent of the royal mail delivers a set of silk gloves, care of Judges Guild.

Heavy footman Finnian returns to town, eager to rejoin the company for the next expedition. No word of Alyssia though…

Poor porter Noel is found one morning, hanging by his right leg from a tree near the company’s residences. His entrails have been arranged in a circle around the tree. A note is stabbed to his chest with a bone dagger. Written in blood, it reads: “Leave the staff of the deep woods at the indoornesse entrance before the next new moon. This is your final warning”.

A tax agent of the town prefect, Richard Justin Saint-Égréve, visits the company accompanied by Othmar, captain of the guard, and a couple of guardsmen. The tax agent inquires after the treasure the company have been liberating from the castle. Does the company realize the prefect was appointed by the current head of the Malévol family, count Jean-Giscard, who resides in the Chamrousse summer palace? Furthermore, do they realize any treasure recovered remains property of the count, and should therefore be presented to the prefect for safe-keeping?

Jurg hands the prefect a box that holds a cursed silver cross. “Here you go, sir, as a token of our appreciation. Please send that Malévol our best.”

The tax officer takes the box, “it’s a start, we’ll hand it over to the prefect” and leaves. Othmar leaves as well, grumbling all the way.

They also try to open the mysteriously rattling mahogany box they took from Aristide’s upper laboratory. Magic weapons, fire, knock spells, etc. Nothing seems to do the trick.

Hendrik gets the wand of lightning recharged, and scribes another knock scroll.

They do the rounds of the local bars, and find number of new retainers foolhardy enough to accompany them.


The company decide they want to continue their pillaging of the late Aristide’s lab. This time, they will try their hand at the lower level. They enter through the rose garden again, swiftly make their way to the upstairs hallway with the eerie singing, head into the wax works room, through the hole in that was blasted in the wall there, into the room with the defunct coils, and through the large double doors into the upstairs lab which they so expertly stripped of its valuables during the previous expedition.

They head down the spiral staircase. At the bottom they see demijohns with suspicious-looking liquids inside. They head into the lab proper, and see a vast array of alchemical equipment, materials, and huge metal vats wafting acrid vapors. A large book sits on a lecture stand facing a large dark mirror. Shelves hold many books. At the far end there is a hallway that dead ends, and along the south wall are four closet doors.

Aristide in his younger days? (James Nasmyth)

Hendrik collects a pair of magical books from the shelves. Jürg takes a moment to study the Castle Xyntillan guide book, but learns nothing of relevance. Meanwhile, Hendrik, intrigued by the tome near the mirror, can’t resist the temptation to peruse it, and is instantly struck by a feeblemind spell. He is reduced to 1 INT idiocy, and has lost all his magical capabilities.

For a moment, the company do not know what to do next. Then, they decide to press on anyway. Hendrik may be dumb as a rock now, but he can still hit stuff with a stick, and is tougher than one might at first think.

Jürg proceeds to inspect the closets, one by one, working from west to east.

The first contains what turns out to be a crystallized gelatinous cube, lots of detritus floating in mid-air. Jürg blasts it with his horn. The cube turns out not to have held anything of value. The closet is otherwise empty. Suspicious, Jürg inspect the rear wall, and indeed, it turns out to be a secret doorway.

Jürg opens the door a tiny bit and peers inside. He sees a large number of skulls float about. Not one for subtlety, Jürg goes “hello!” and opens the door all the way. He tries to chat up the skulls, and the things are stupid enough to reveal they are guarding a ring of some sort. When he tries to bullshit them into leaving, however, they turn vicious, and attack. Before they can do much harm, Jürg blasts them with his horn, and swats the remainder from the air. Only a single skull manages to escape into the castle’s dark hallways.

Jürg then enters the room and looks for the ring that was mentioned by the skulls, but does not find anything. Maybe it’s invisible, he thinks to himself, so he goes down on hands and knees and feels around and sure enough he comes across what must be a ring, entirely invisible.

The next door they open reveals a huge mouth on the far wall. It licks its lips and whispers things about revealing secrets in exchange for food. Jürg tosses one of the defeated floating skulls at it. The mouth greedily gobbles it up, but demands more. Jürg goes “nah” and shuts the door.

The third door opens on a closet holding variety of furniture covered by sheets. When Jürg enters to search for valuables, four huge corpse birds with oily feathers and long sharp beaks emerge from the shadows. They peck at his chest. Jürg once again whips out his horn and blast the creatures, but they continue to try and attack. One manages to dent Jürg’s breast plate, but he manages to cut them down without too much trouble.

The final door opens on a collection of stuffed mimics, and a pedestal with a ledger on it. The company don’t trust it, and expect the book must be a live mimic. So Jürg enters the closet and makes to tip over the pedestal with his axe. But the pedestal itself comes to life and attacks. Again, Jürg dispatches it without too much trouble.

As they make up their minds about what to do next, they hear footsteps and voices from the top of the spiral stairs coming their way. They pile into the east most closet to hide. They hear a large group enter the room, and begin to search it. Soon enough, an undead lord opens their door. Jürg was ready with his axe, and cuts the thing down right away. However, there are 14 more lords to contend with. They demand the company leave the castle and never return, or else. The company decide to humor them, and begin to head for the exit. The lords follow in a column. Then, Jürg suddenly whips around and blast them with his horn. Many perks outright. Two lords were carrying large flasks containing glitterclouds, and one was holding a sack of hands. The containers burst open and the monsters attack, as do the few remaining lords.

What follows is quite the fight. Jürg is hypnotized by a glitterclouds. Julia is sucked dry by another cloud. The hand swam begins to chortle Jürg. Hendrik tries to get the fighting man to snap out of it. He does, and proceeds to dispatch the hands crawling all over him. Hendrik raises his staff and charges the glitterclouds. Jürg gets rid of the hands and follows Hendrik. The remaining lords follow and begin to stab the fighter and magic-user in the back. The retainers in turn follow, and stab the lords in the back. The tide is turned, and the company prevails.

They catch their breath for a moment. Spooked, they decide to make sure they have a quick way of getting out of the castle. They use the horn to blast a hole in the outer wall. They go back and search that corridor that dead-ends, and find a bricked-up doorway. They decide they’ve done enough blasting for one day. They collect some of the alchemical materials. They also mess with one of the demijohns at a safe distance, and it explodes in an acrid cloud of smoke. With that, they leave, and safely make it back to town in one piece.

Referee Commentary:

An eventful session, even though they have explored just one room. But what a room it was.

The feeblemind at the beginning of the session really caught the players off guard a little. I softened the blow a little bit by suggesting that there might be a way for Hendrik to recover. And so the player leaned into the being dumb bit, and had a fun session anyway. I also commend them for being foolhardy enough to just read the damn book and not play it safe. Safe is boring.

Again, I have some ideas in hindsight about what I could have done differently in the big fight in the end. I could have, for example, had the lords try and grab a character and toss them in those vats of acid. That would have been fun. In general it’s easy to forget what’s in the environment when you get in the rhythm of running a fight.

I continue to find the glitterclouds awkward to run — their blood suck attack is a ranged attack, which doesn’t feel quite right to me. And then there is this hypnotize power they can use once per day, but it’s not clear what that triggers off of. I guess I just lack experience with this kind of monster.

There were more than a few fun interactions with monsters and NPCs. In general, if there is an opportunity for players to chat with monsters, I should always take it. It adds a little spice to the proceedings.

Jürg really is incredibly powerful with the combination of that horn of blasting and his crusader’s two-handed axe. But it’s well-earned, and I do feel like the whole game has started to hit overdrive and we are zipping towards what I hope will be a satisfying finale of the campaign.

And yes, all the way at the top of the session, during downtime, Jürg did indeed hand the prefect’s agents a cross bearing a lethal curse. I’m sure that won’t have any consequences down the line…

Actual Play

Castle Xyntillan – Session #38 – Patricide

The Company:

  • Jürg (F6/T1)
  • Claus (T4)
  • Sara, Alyssia & Finnian (heavy foot)
  • Noel (porter)


  • Potions: cure paralysis, extra healing, love
  • A vial of poison
  • Oil of slipperiness
  • Handful of rust dust
  • The Ring of Spirits
  • A staff of command
  • Plate armor +2
  • A mysterious mahogany box


  • Sara, head smashed to a pulp by a frankensteinian monster


The company sit down with the Compendium of Champions, a magic book recovered during the previous expedition, and look up the tale of their lost comrade, Claus. As they recount his many heroic deeds, and come to the fateful moment of his flight into the castle’s dark halls, they turn the page, and suddenly hear a knock at the door. Opening it, they see standing there, alive and well, bucknaked, and very confused — Claus!

Intrigued by the plain gold cup they recovered as well, Jürg begins to experiment with it. He puts it to the lips it to the rotting head of his once-beloved Bartholomea, and revives it. It begins to mindlessly snap and snarl, and roll its eyes. He also pours a cup of deadly poison from it.

Next, Jürg consults the spirit of alchemist Girolamo. It tells him the thing is the dreaded False Grayl, and that it is the phylactery of Aristide “The Patrician” Malévol. Jürg asks around town about what it would take to destroy the thing, and if he should worry about any adverse consequences. As he goes about his preparations it becomes clear to him the forces of Chaos are being channeled through the grayl, and are seeking to control his actions. Jürg might be aligned to Chaos, but he considers himself his own man, so he resolves to risk it.

First, however, he must get rid of the Blade of Rel. He spends a lavish sum on satanic paraphernalia and constructs a shrine and case for the sword. Then, he takes the blade, and using all the willpower he can muster, places it in the case and locks it. The weapons tries to fight it, but Jürg ultimately prevails.

Next, under a clear star-lit night sky, Jürg lights a fire under a cauldron set in their residence’s courtyard. A maelstrom of Chaos energy whirls around him as he, with trembling hands, takes the cup and tosses it in the cauldron. As it begins to melt, phantasmic forces burst from it, and the spirit of Aristide appears, translucent, hovering over the fire. “Jürg, you have foresaken uuuussss!” it cries, and with a bone-chilling scream is then sucked into the darkness between the stars. Jürg faints. The next morning, attendants awaken him. The False Grayl is gone. The liche Aristide has been destroyed. And Jürg is no longer aligned to Chaos, nor to Law for that matter. He is a plain old neutral.

Claus, meanwhile, acquires some new mundane equipment, and then goes on a mean bender to celebrate his return from the dead, if indeed he ever really was dead. As he does so, he manages to insult Othmar, captain of the guard, whom Jürg previously had a feud with. What are the odds?


As they prepare for the next expedition, they manage to hire a new bunch of foolhardy heavy footpeople. (The previous batch was lost in the confrontation with undead crusaders.)

Now that the liche is out of the way, they decide to go straight for the jugular, and finally try and breach Aristide’s laboratory. They enter through the rose garden, and make their way through the north-west section of the ground floor, and up the stairs, to the carpeted hallway. Family portraits leer at them, and an eerie disembodied singing can be heard.

They study the door to the lab, which has an ominous text written on it. Claus tries to pick it, but the door appears to be magically sealed somehow. The signing in the hallway grows louder, and a cold breeze starts blowing. The company decide they have overstayed their welcome, and make for the wax works room which should be adjacent to the lab.

Jürg takes the horn of blasting they acquired in the previous expedition. Sages have told him it may have the equivalent effect of a catapult. So he points it at the wall and blows on it with all his might. A deafening sound erupts and a shock wave smashes through the wall. As the dust settles, they see machines and coils in the next room. The coils resemble the ones they had previously seen downstairs. But these no longer function. They search the room but find nothing noteworthy.

They open a set of double doors to the north, and find themselves in a massive laboratory space. A vast array of alchemical equipment is hissing and bubbling away. In the center of the room stands a huge glass dome covering a table with various intriguing items on it. The dome won’t budge and appears to be impenetrable.

There is a door to the south, and to the west. The south one opens onto circular stairs leading down. The west door opens onto a short hallway that dead-ends.

This not being their first rodeo, they check the end of the corridor and of course find a secret door. Without thinking twice they immediately open it, and find themselves in some sort of control room. Lots of machines, a metal cabinet, an operating table with a coil pointed at it, and in the middle of it all a huge monstrosity composed of disjointed human body parts, busily throwing levers and flipping switches. The thing notices them straight away, and demands to know what they are doing here. The company, flabbergasted, can only stammer some nonsense about Aristide sending them. Offended by the obvious lie, the monster attacks.

“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!” (Mathew Browne)

Claus fires an arrow at the thing, dodges into the room, and melds with the shadows. The monster smashes Sara’s head to a bloody pulp between his two mighty fists. Jürg, taking his news acquired crusader’s two-handed axe, begins to chop away. Witnessing the fate of Sara, the rest of te retainers immediately make a run for the exit. Jürg and the monster continue to trade blows as Claus steps in and out of melee range to occasionally jab the thing in the back. But mundane weapons don’t appear to harm it. Jürg takes a terrible beating, but in the end prevails. The monster is chopped to tiny pieces.

They search the room, and open the metal cabinet. Inside they find three pyramidal coils, weirdly buzzing. Jürg smashes one with his axe, and it is disabled, but not before a bolt of energy shoots into his weapon. They do the same trick with two other weapons, and as the final pyramid is shut down, they hear a heavy whooshing sound from back in the lab.

Returning there, they are very pleased to see the glass dome has disappeared. They grab everything on the table, and leave the castle in a hurry. They make their way back without further issue.

Referee Commentary:

A shorter session than usual due to circumstances, but no less uneventful because of it. Players made good use of the newly acquired major magic items. Claus was brought back, to its player’s great pleasure.

Jürg’s actions during downtime were quite dramatic. I like to keep the action outside the dungeon moving so did not make a huge hassle out of his plans. We handle such things with broad strokes and a few rolls at most. For ditching the Blade of Rel we did one control check. For destroying the grayl I had him do one save. He succeeded at both. Before the session I did some quick reading in early editions of D&D on phylacteries, cross-compared with the magic jar spell, and decided that if they did destroy the cup, that would be it, Aristide would be done for.

As for using the horn of blasting to, well, blast a hole in a wall, that seems to be what the thing was designed to do, so we rolled with it. I love how these kind of items can really function as circuit breakers for what would otherwise be quite challenging sections of the dungeon.

That lawful two-handed axe allows a player to keep rolling attacks so long as they hit. Stupid powerful as well, and we had a bit of a debate how it would work in combination with the fighter’s multi-attack ability in Hackbut. If it wasn’t for this weapon, I think they may have been in real trouble facing that Frankenstein monster.

The players were once again incredibly lucky with their encounter rolls. I rolled none again. This has been the case for several sessions now. The law of averages demands I start rolling an awful lot of 1s anytime soon now.

Actual Play

Castle Xyntillan – Session #37 – Good and Bad Destiny

Welcome, dear reader, to the fourth and likely final “season” of our play-through of Castle Xyntillan.

The Company:

  • Hendrik (MU6)
  • Jürg (F6/T1)
  • Noel & Göpf (porter)
  • Florin (bowmen)
  • Francesca, Nathalie & Liv (F1 retainers)

Loot: Oh boy. No mundane treasure was recovered, but the company did acquire a Horn of Blasting, a blue book titled Castle Xyntillan, a black book titled The Compendium of Champions, a crusader’s two-handed axe +1, and a plain gold cup containing powerful evil magics.

Casualties: Göpf and Florin, struck dead while trying to grab treasure; Nathalie, polymorphed into a snail by the eye beams of a giant snail statue; Francesca & Liv, slaughtered by undead crusaders.


It is Monday, September 2, 1527. Five weeks have passed since the last expedition by our nameless company into Castle Xyntillan. Having recovered the Scepter of the Merovings, the company set their sights on the mysterious stuccoed secret door in the castle dungeons, which they suspect may be opened by it.

Upon arrival, they make for the grand entrance. They keep an eye on the walls to see if any of their beans have sprouted. Most appear to have been weeded out by the skeleton gardening crew. But one sturdy stalk is growing along the south wall of the gatehouse.

They enter through the grand entrance, make their way down into the wine cellar without trouble, and head up to the tomb where once the company had an ill-fated encounter with a pack of ghouls, and lost many of their most powerful members and equipment. They go up the the stuccoed secret door depicting a dark-skinned man leading crusaders up a hill lined with palm trees. They hold the scepter up to it, and lo and behold, it opens!

At that very moment, however, the rear ranks are attacked by a lone ghoul. There is a moment of panic while Jürg pushes through to the melee, and cleaves the thing in two with one mighty strike of his chaotic magic zweihander, the Blade of Rel. With that out of the way, they turn back to the newly opened corridor, and cautiously head inside.

Jürg asks his blade if any traps are nearby, and it trembles with confirmation. They spot a suspicious-looking crack half-way down the corridor, and notice an elevated floor tile just in front. They drag the ghoul corpse from the tomb and toss it on the tile. It presses down, making a loud clicking noise, and the next moment, a huge blade slams down along the crack. Next, it slowly ascends again to the sounds of some hidden ratcheting mechanism. When they test the switch again, it does not trigger anymore. Gingerly, the company step over the tile one by one and make their way into the room beyond.

This room’s walls are decorated with portraits of various warrior saints with stern looks on their faces. Their eyes follow the company as they make their way to a door leading east. They enter a large room with a pool and several doors. They first check the door north-west. It opens onto a corridor that stretches into the darkness beyond their torchlight. They try the next door, leading east.

At this point, the players were joking about how it would be nice to come across a door with a sign reading “treasure” for a change. You won’t believe what happened next.

The center piece of this room is a circle of statues of dwarves in chains holding up a massive plateau. On it is piled a massive amount of treasure. Gold, gems, jewelry, magic items, weapons, scrolls and books. Oh my! The plateau’s edge is inscribed with: “To each hero, one treasure of far lands shall be the prize.”

The company agonize over what to do. Is it wise to grab this treasure? Might it be cursed? Etcetera. Finally, Jürg has had enough, and grabs the horn. The very next instance, they hear a loud bang of stone on stone, reverberating throughout the dungeon. They look at each other worriedly. Swallow, take a deep breath, and then Hendrik steps up and grabs one of the books…

Nothing happens. Puzzled, they next ask one of the retainers to grab something. Some resist, worried that it might be a trap or something. Finally, one of the fighting-women retainers is courageous enough to grab the other book. And nothing happens again. So then they convince bowman Florin to grab something. The moment he lays a hand on the treasure, his breath chokes in his throat, his eyes glaze over, and he drops to the dungeon floor, dead.

The company manage to hold it together, and speculate about why this might be. Hendrik and Jürg pressure porter Göpf into grabbing something despite what happened to Florin, and for some reason, the man is foolish enough to go for it. Alas for poor Göpf, his fate is identical to that of the bowman. Soon enough he lies dead on the floor as well.

They decide they have had enough of this room and will not push their luck any further. They return to the pool room. They next check the south door. They find themselves in another large room containing a massive statue of a monstrous snail. They make their way to the next door north, all the while wearily eyeing the snail.

The next room contains dazzling mosaics. From here they take another door north, and find themselves in a room with an altar on which stands a plain gold cup. Hendrik detects strong evil magical energies emanating from it. Jürg (who is aligned to Chaos) goes “great,” steps up to the pedestal and with one smooth motion tips the cup into a sack. Nothing happens.

They backtrack to the room with the snail statue and search it for secret doors. Sure enough, they find one in the south-east corner. They push it open, but something blocks it. Through a crack they see a massive stone block that was clearly dropped very recently.

That very moment, the snail statue animates and starts to crawl their way. They decide to make a run for the exit as fast as they can. They escape the room before the thing can get to them, but it does manage to zap one of the fighting women in their rear rank with a beam from its eye stalks. The poor retainer is polymorphed into a snail. The door slams shut.

They catch their breath and briefly mourn the loss of yet another companion. They decide they should check the door leading to that dark corridor which they abandoned earlier. As they cautiously move down it they pass gated alcoves holding sarcophagi left and right. At the end, a small circular room holds a glass case containing a huge double-headed axe. Before going for the axe they decide to check the sarcophagi. As they open the first one, a skeletal hand reaches out and an undead crusader knight starts to climb out. Meanwhile, the remaining sarcophagi are pushed open from inside as well, and more crusaders appear.

“God wills it!” (Eloi Firmin Feron)

The company decide to face the undead, but make their way to the door they came from, which should serve as a convenient choke point. When they get there they turn around, and Hendrik flings a lightning bolt from his wand back down the hallway. The crusaders are harmed but still going. The distance is closed, and Jürg and a retainer make a stand in the doorway.

A lot of hacking and slashing ensues. Hendrik uses many spells to increase the company’s powers, and reduce that of the undead. When that seems to be insufficient, he pulls out a scroll of protection from undead, and manages to turn away about half of the crusader fighting force. Still, the remaining fighting women are killed, one by one.

At the very end, Hendrik is standing next to Jürg in the doorway. They blast the crusaders with their wand of cold, Jürg hacks away with his Blade of Rel. And finally, the battle is won.

Very cautiously, they had back down the hallway. They know several undead crusaders have fled down it. When they get to the end they see several have returned to their sarcophagi. A lone crusader has ended up in the room with the axe in the glass case. They manage to flush it out, and turn their attention to the axe.

They smash the glass case, and grab the axe. They decide this is the time to leave. They move back the way they came until they get to a door behind which they know is the cellar of the donjon. A ghost once told them it lost her ring in there somewhere. They hear a lot of rodent noises from behind the door. Hendrik uses clairvoyance to see what is behind the door, and detects magic to see if he can find the ring. He sees a large circular cellar lined with alcoves. A lot of human remains and debris on the floor. But no ring.

They decide to definitively end the expedition there, and head back out of the castle and back to town without further issue.

Referee Commentary:

We’re back in that damn castle after a welcome Christmas break. I polled the players if they had enough, but some were keen on going for one more season. It’s clear we are nearing a climax, now that we have several very powerful characters in the company (recall that level 6 is the highest level in my homebrew version of D&D), and they have acquired many, many powerful items. Not to mention a ludicrous amount of wealth.

I keep urging them to think bigger than simply continuing to clear the dungeon room by room. Let’s see if they catch on. This session at least immediately kick-started things with a more or less complete looting of the crusader tomb. However, readers familiar with the module will know they made a very fateful decision in the treasure room.

Without entirely spoiling what the module states, as written it closes off a particular direction for the players entirely if they do something, but they have no real way of knowing this. (At least, mine did not.) So I decided to make it a little less definitive, but still hugely significant. That was the point of the thing with the secret door and the stone blocking it. Sorry for being so vague about it.

As I continue to tinker with our combat sequence, we are now trying full-on phases. So we revolve actions in the order of missile, movement, melee, and magic for both sides. Initiative decides who goes first within each phase. It worked okay, yielding some interesting dilemmas, and it nicely reinforces this idea that everything more or less happens at the same time during combat.

The fight with the undead turned into a bit of a slog. I guess I should have had them change tactics after the second round of simply exchanging blows in the doorway. But my mental bandwidth was too limited to come up with something, I guess. In hindsight, I think I should have had one crusader try and push their way past the front rank. Maybe using an opposed attack roll to resolve it or something? Would have been more dramatic.

The two books recovered in the treasure room are neat. The Champions book in particular is crazy powerful. As written it allows for summoning living or dead characters listed in the module, that were played by the playtesters. I decided to change this into any character lost by the players in our own campaign. They loved that, and have already decided to bring back good old Claus, who died after failing his roll on the table of terror.

And that plain gold cup. Oh boy. Readers who know about the module, know that it was particularly significant for the one chaotic character in the company to grab it. I am still puzzling over what the effects for Jürg will be. They have had it identified and know about its powers, they also know it contains a powerful malevolent spirit. But they don’t know who or what specifically is in there…

Actual Play

Castle Xyntillan – Session #36 – Assault on Lake Tower Part II

The Company:

  • Hendrik (MU6)
  • Ezio (T3)
  • Jürg (F5)
  • Liv, Nathalie, Francesca (heavy foot)
  • “Randy” Florin (bowman)
  • “Griping” Göpf & Noel (porters)


  • A bunch of soporific flowers
  • A poison dagger with a gemstone pommel
  • The Scepter of the Merovings
  • Bishop’s mitre +1
  • The Oils of Cleansing
  • Ring with inset gem
  • Fancy drinking horn
  • An eviction notice addressed to Aristide Malévol
  • A huge pile of gold
  • A Pegasus brooch
  • Several doses of poison
  • Potions of animal control, clairaudience, speed, levitation, extra-healing, and an oil of ESP
  • A spellbook
  • Two skulls with crystalline brains

Casualties: None!


The company decide to try their luck once more in the lake tower, hoping to this time finally make their way to wherever Serpentina may be hiding out.

Upon arrival, they spot the skeleton gardening crew again, weeding along the walls. They decide to rush them. One skeleton is blown to dust by Ezio’s discus and the remainder are smashed to bits by Jürg and the heavy foot soldiers. A lone skeleton manages to make its escape.

When they get to the grand entrance they see a pile of adventurers’ corpses. They do the usual trick of dragging them down to the river and dumping them in the water. With that out of the way, they enter the castle, and make their way to the throne room.

When they get to the throne room they find two headless manservants ambling about. They try to bluff their way past them, telling them to get lost. But the manservants appear doubtful. They are attacked and destroyed before they can do any harm.

They move on to the ballroom, and are relieved to find no phantom dance is taking place this time around. They pass through it and make their way to the hallway beyond, and up north to the overlook suite. Here they open the double doors to the bridge that crosses the lake to the tower. They take a moment to scan the waters to make sure the lake monster isn’t anywhere near. Then, they cross the bridge and enter the tower.

They immediately head up the stairs, and enter the drafty hallway. This time they know not to look behind them when they hear footsteps behind them. They go up the next stairs, and the Blade of Rel begins to tremble. Jürg barely avoids stepping on a suspicious-looking step. Across the way they see a cabinet suspended from the wall, ready to be dropped down the stairs towards them. Ezio moves up and inspects the step. He expertly disarms it by wedging several spikes between in. They leave the cabinet, just in case.

The next floor up there are two doors, and stairs going further up. Checking the north door, they hear the sounds of a legal proceeding. They decide not to mess with this one for now. The south door opens on a greenhouse filled with flowers. A heady smell hangs in the air. They quickly harvest a handful, and leave again.

They go up the next set of stairs. As they go, they suspect there might be a secret space behind it. At the top of the stairs they see only one door. They look for secret doors again, and find one to the south. It opens onto a room with wall tapestries depicting underwater forests. One carpet is torn down, revealing an empty niche. They tear down the remainder but find noting. From this room, a door leads west and another north-east. From behind the west door they hear music. They try the north door first.

They find themselves in what must be the room of a lady. A large comfortable bed, with odd colored lights dancing around it. A chamber screen with titillating decorations, and a huge ominously creaking wardrobe. They search the room. In the bed, between the pillows, they find a fancy dagger covered in a nasty-looking substance. They also recover the Scepter of the Merovings, soiled in a manner best left unsaid. Behind the screen is a boudoir littered with all manner of things, including an array of flasks and vials. Among these they recover the Oils of Cleansing!

Next up, they turn their attention to the creaking wardrobe, while Ezio messes with the strange colors floating around the bed. They open it, and find it is full of moth-eaten clothes, mostly gentlemen’s attire. Hendrik’s eye is caught by a bearskin coat. He pulls it out, and it comes to life to attack him. They manage to avoid surprise, and destroy it before it can do any harm. On the top shelf of the wardrobe they recover the bishop’s mitre +1.

Very pleased to have recovered all these lost items, they take the door to the north-west. This leads to a maid’s room, weirdly lit by stained glass windows. A nude woman lies on a couch covered by creased sheets, apparently asleep. A half-finished painting of her stands on an easel. The floor is covered by men’s clothing. A fireplace has two skulls on its mantle. They avoid the woman, and go straight for the skulls.

Meanwhile, Ezio clambers up the chimney to inspect the roof. He determines there must be an attic. He also looks across the lake for signs of the monster but does not see any.

As they approach the skulls the things telepathically warn them not to take them. Hendrik can’t resist the temptation, and takes them anyway. The skulls try to explode his head with their psychic powers, but fail. They are meekly stuffed in a sack.

Skulls. Memento mori and all that. (Philippe de Champaigne)

Next they return to the room with the wall hangings, and take the door west that had music coming from behind it. In this room there are more tapestries with the same underwater scenery. A pair of gloved severed hands play a harpsichord. One hand has a fancy-looking ring on a finger. They smash the hands and take the ring.

They spot a trapdoor in the ceiling. Ezio is boosted up there, and find himself in a messy attic space full of boxes and four chained and locked plain caskets. In the north-west corner, the floor appears to be weakened. Ezio pokes a hole in it, and through it sees a cell. Barred windows, chains hanging from the wall, a shaft in the floor, and four tiny gargoyles sitting in the corners.

All of the company make their way up to the attic. They empty the boxes, finding only trash. Ezio also tries to pick the lock on one of the caskets, fails, and they decide not to open them right now anyway. Instead, they tear open the floor, and drop down into the cell. The small gargoyles animate, and fly around excitedly. The company try to calm the things down but really rub them the wrong way, and are attacked. When the first gargoyle is easily destroyed, the remainder lose their appetite for violence and cower in a corner. The things are mercilessly pounded to dust.

They search the cell, and it turns out the ring in the north wall opens a secret door. It is a small space pulled with personal belongings, and a ledger on a stand. They search the pile and find all kinds of valuables. The book tells them these are items once owned by “visitors” of the castle and deposited here as “evidence”. They also find ancient entries referring to great relics, including the Grayl of Good and Bad Destiny (recovered by Médard Malévol). When they look for it, they also discover an entry referring to the Heart of Roland, recovered by Hubert.

They return to the cell, and peek down the shaft. They see another small space containing a huge chest. They climb down and see the chest is marked “property of Judges Guild, do not open”. The Blade of Rel trembles at the sight of it. It must be trapped. Ezio inspects it and determines it is not the lock, but probably the lid on the chest itself. He tries to pick it, fails, and Hendrik steps in to cast a knock spell. They then attach a rope to the lid’s clasp, climb back up the shaft, and pull the chest open. They hear a cracking sound, and the room below them fills with a gas. They wait for it to dissipate, climb back down, and see the chest is absolutely crammed with more gold than they can carry.

Or can they? Risking disaster in such a cramped space with no ready escape route, Jürg spreads out his portable hole. Lucky for them, nothing happens. They shove the chest into the hole, and decide it is time to leave. They head back the way they came. Along the way, Hendrik takes a moment to smoke his hookah, and loses a fireball spell to it. They exit the castle and make their way to Tours-en-Savoy without further trouble.

Referee Commentary:

A triumphant session for our players. They more or less cleared out the lake tower, and walked away with significant treasure, including several previously lost major items. They also lost zero company members.

A job well done, largely thanks to expert play, and a little luck of the dice. They were really smart about using the map to find secret rooms. The way they handled the trap on the chest was also very smart. The Blade of Rel’s power to detect traps turns out to be a major boon in this castle as well.

I also really enjoyed the encounter with the skulls. They were fun to roleplay, and the moment Hendrik’s player decided to go for it, knowing full well he was taking a big risk, was also quite tense. He does have a ridiculously good saving throw at this point, though.

Not much else to say, really. Next session is the last one of the season. Will they try and put their recovered items to use? Will we continue for another season in the new year? Who’s to say?

Edit (2022-04-07 07:38:45) this turned out to be the last session of season 3 after all.

Actual Play

Castle Xyntillan – Session #35 – Assault on Lake Tower

The Company:

  • Hendrik (MU6)
  • Jürg (F5)
  • Ezio (T2)
  • Agnes (F1)
  • Robert (C1)
  • Francesco & Nathalie (heavy foot)
  • Liv (light foot)
  • Florin (bowman)
  • Ronja & Noel (porters)


  • Crusader’s cloak +1
  • 510 GP from Patrice’s corpse
  • Gemstone eyes from saint’s heads
  • Blackened table silver
  • Large gemstone from a skeleton’s gullet
  • Horned helmet and flail from the same skeleton

Casualties: Agnes, fried by a razzle-dazzle lightning bolt. Ronja, shredded by animated porcelain.


While recovering from the previous expedition, several mushrooms from the forest pocket dimension are sampled. Hendrik, already feared by many in town, goes “screw it” and consumes one that turns him blue and rubbery and tougher to wound. Poor Agnes is handed a portion from Jürg with the promise it will make her stronger somehow, but instead she just turns red with white polka dots all over.


Having assembled a formidable expeditionary force, and knowing where they might find the relics they once lost to the near-TPK at the hands of the ghouls in the castle dungeon, the company decide to head to the lake tower to try and find this Serpentina who this one ghost told them has taken up lodgings in.

They enter through the grand entrance, head up to the throne room without trouble, and when they open the doors to it, they see a pair of hand swarms crawling around seemingly oblivious to their presence. The company do not hesitate and attack right away. The fight turns a bit rough, with Jürg being strangled for some time, but they ultimately defeat te swarms without much trouble. It does, however, deplete some of their resources. A few spells, and the odd healing potion to patch up Jürg.

They continue to the ballroom, but find another phantom dance in progress. Weary about losing any more to the ballroom’s curse, they take the time to seal their ears with wax. They carefully skirt the dance floor while they make their way to the sitting room. They reach safety, but do see the ghost of poor Niemir dance with a look of desperation on his face.

From the sitting room they go on to the empty room adjacent, and there try the door leading to the hallway that runs north to the bridge to the lake tower. When they open the door they are face to face with three razzle-dazzles. Jürg almost gets tripple-zapped, but manages to slam the door shut just in time. The company prepare themselves, fling open the door again, and engage the weird things in melee. Jürg and Agnes fight on the front line. The fierce but inexperienced Agnes is sadly no match for the creatures and soon drops to the castle floor still fuming from a lightning attack. Once again, however, they manage to defeat the things without too much issue.

The company is joined by a young cleric named Robert. They head up to the overlook suite, and open the double doors to the bridge across the lake. They carefully make their way across. Upon reaching the other end they can’t resist once again messing with the winch. It pulls up an empty cage, however. They continue on to the tower.

Having previously explored the main hall, they try the door to the north. It is a room filled with tattered cloaks hanging from hooks. Two specimens appear well-preserved. One turns out to be a dead cloak-like monster like the one they once fought in the vestibule. The other cloak is white with a Red Cross on one side and a red sword on the other. It is obviously a lawful relic of some sort. They take both cloaks with them.

Heading back, they hear someone milling about the hall. This turns out to be the grizzled and paranoid veteran they previously encountered, named Patrice. This time around, he does not have a small army of berserkers with him, though. Hendrik tries to cast charm from a scroll but fails. Robert and Jürg then simply attempt to bullshit him about some treasure which can supposedly be found near the grand entrance and succeed. When Patrice makes to leave, they immediately cut him down, and loot his body, finding little of worth besides a sack of gold.

Next they try the door to the south, which opens onto an empty storage space. A thorough search does not yield any secrets whatsoever.

They head up the stairs. At its head, they find themselves in a draft passage, lined with saint’s heads. As they walk down it, each of them hears a person walking right behind them. Only Hendrik and his two heavy foots do not resist the urge to turn around. They immediately each find themselves eye to eye with a black-clad assassin, who proceeds to choke them. Everyone fights back, of course, and Hendrik even manages to draw his wand of lightning and zap his assailant. The masked murderers are eventually cut down.

The company search the passage and find some of the saint’s heads have gemstone eyes. Those are of course removed, but not before receiving Robert’s blessing. They see stairs leading further up, and pair of doors leading west. They decide to try these first.

They find themselves in a dining room. The severed head of a cook sits on a table, with a bell next to it. The table is set with blackened silverware. A chained cabinet is over in one corner. A strong smell of spices permeates the room. Jürg immediately begins to shovel silverware into a sack. A mummy, the source of the smell, bursts into the room from the west door. Several of the members of the company are paralyzed in terror. The rest attempt to fight it but only magical weapons harm it. Hendrik regains his courage, and tells everyone to back away from the mummy. He flings a fireball at it, and the thing lights up like a torch. Not yet destroyed, it pursues Jürg, but stumbles and falls. The company make short work of it as it tries to get back up.

Mummies, always in a bad mood when woken up (Dave A. Trampier)

They loot the room, and are intrigued by the cabinet. The Blade of Rel trembles at the sight of it. Ezio is asked to disarm whatever trap it might contain, but the thief quickly ascertains it is not mechanical in nature. The next plan is to drill a peep hole to see what is inside. But Jürg loses his patience and simply cleaves open the cabinet with his zweihander. The thing bursts open, and spews porcelain shards all through the room. Most only suffer cuts and bruises, but poor Ronja is not so lucky and expires from her wounds.

They check the door to the west, but it leads to another hallway with more doors. In stead they try the door north, and discover a large kitchen. A massive pot is bubbling away on a stove, an animated spoon stirring away. Various supplies are stacked in the room’s corners. The Blade of Rel trembles again… Jürg pulls out his hammer and sickle and steps into the room spouting gibberish about the means of production in attempt to banish the spoon. He succeeds, and the spoon jumps through a window and into the lake several floors below with a loud splash.

They search the room and fill a flask with bouillon. Ezio is nearly infested with rot grubs when checking on the wheels of cheese. They find a skeleton with a horned helmet and a flail. It is smashed open, and out rolls a massive gem. They take all of it, and decide it is about time to head back. They make their way out of the castle without further issue.

Referee Commentary:

The largest number of players in quite a while. Refereeing for such a large group online is quite the workshop. But this was a very satisfying and fun session. Don’t believe I have any real refereeing regrets this time around, which is good to make note of.

There were lots of random encounters, which slowed the players down on their way to the tower and depleted their resources a little. They also had no luck with doors. Many were stuck, and many open door checks were failed, which I rule means they need to make a lot of ruckus to get it unstuck, and as a result trigger another encounter check.

Agnes’s player can get no luck lately. They lost another level 1 PC. Agnes’s stats were very bad though, so they weren’t too sad about it. Robert, their cleric, has already reached level 2.

I handled the mummy’s terror by requiring a morale check from retainers and a save from PCs before they could act in an offensive manner.

One thing I might do differently going forward is when resolving attacks of the same kind aimed at the same target, only confirm the kill after all rolls have been made. That makes it a little more satisfying for all the players involved, and emphasizes the supposedly simultaneous nature of action.

Another session coming up soon. We are already nearing the end of another season. Will they return to the tower? Will they find Serpentina and confront her? Only one way to find out.

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)


  • 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.


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.