- Hendrik (MU5)
- Jürg (F5)
- Ezio (F1)
- Julia, Bettina, Alexandre, Isak & Bern (heavy foot)
- Gido & Julian (porters)
Casualties: Julian, molten by green slime. Bettina and Alexandre, killed by poisonous giant spiders. Isak & Bern, fled into the woods.
After some debate the company decide to have another go at looting the wine cellar. They enter through the grand entrance and make their way downstairs speedily. Upon arrival, Jürg has his porter tie a rope around his waist. The rest of the company stands at a safe distance as he places his unstable portable hole. The hole opens without issue. The company begin to methodically tap barrels. Promising specimens are lowered one by one into the hole.
Suddenly, porter Julian, who was also on wine sampling duty, starts screaming. The barrel he just tapped is spilling green slime, and he has managed to get it all over his hands. They quickly, close the tap on the barrel, and Hendrik opens the one on the last one he was checking, which contained something resembling vinegar. Julian collapses arms outstretched in the stream of sour wine. The slime washes away, and he is left with two stumps ending just below the elbows. His arms continue to transform into slime. Jürg takes his sword and in one blow severs the poor porter’s arms. The transformation is ended, but Julian also expires from the trauma.
With extra caution the company continue their plundering. As they do so, the ghost of a fair lady holding her severe head in her hands enters the circle of their torchlight. She appears to be looking for a ring. The company engage her in conversation and she appears reasonably friendly, although it is clear she has a strong dislike for Jürg. They ask her about where in the caste it might smell like sulphur and perfume. The ghost responds “you mean who rather than where” and continues to describe this demoness who has made her home in the lake tower, by name of Serpentina. Then she asks for directions to the donjon, because that’s where she thinks she may have misplaced her ring. The company send her the wrong way.
They once again return to the further looting of the Malévol’s supply of wine. While hauling barrels, Jürg notices a bricked up doorway in the north wall, and a secret passage beyond the east wall. They finish up lowering one more barrel into the portable hole, pack it up, and then open the secret passage.
It reveals a stairway leading down…
Amazed and excited abut the prospects of a second dungeon level, the company cautiously begin to head down the stairs. As they descend, their senses begin to play tricks on them. One moment they are still on those stone steps leading down into darkness, the next they are on a forest path, yellow leaves crunching underfoot. Shocked, they check the way they came, but it leads to a dead end. They have no choice but to continue down the path.
They arrive at a T-junction. Further on they hear the sound of running water. From the right turn they can hear the soft bleating of sheep. They turn right. After about a half hour’s walk they arrive at an opening in the woods with steep green hills. It appears to a bright spring day here, whereas the forest they have been traversing is shrouded in autumnal twilight. They see a flock of sheep, and a shepherd snoring away under a tree. They head up to the shepherd, who appears to be counting sheep in between snores, and wake him. The man is startled by the company’s appearance, and does not appear to know much about the world our heroes have found themselves in. He does appear to be very afraid of Runcius, “the dark man of the woods” whom appears to rule over this domain. The shepherd also mentions the huntsman Hubert, but comments they haven’t seen him for quite some time. The company give each other knowing looks. They ask the shepherd about who might be able to help them find their way back home, and he points them in the direction of a chapel, but does warn them about the nest of giant spiders along the way.
They set out down the path indicated, and after a short walk arrive at an intersection covered with silvery webs. They test the strands with their weapons, and several spiders come out hiding, attracted by the disturbance. The company immediately attack. The spiders, determined to protect their lair and the eggs within, of course respond by fighting back. As the melee develops, more waves of spiders keep appearing. Several mercenaries fall to the creatures’ poisonous bites. Several retainers run away at the sight of the carnage. Ezio makes good use of his gifted discus +1. Hendrik picks off spiders with magic missiles. Jürg’s toy soldiers kill several spiders with poisonous stabs of their own. And Jürg himself cuts down one spider after another with his Blade of Rel and his superior fighting prowess. When the dust settles, they’ve killed nine spiders and a final one flees.
They inspect the nest and its eggs, take one egg, and torch the rest. They continue on, and after some more time arrive at an opening in the woods with a crumbling chapel. A cleric emerges, dressed in obviously chaotic garb, and waves to the company as they approach from the woods.
And we fade to black.
It’s a truism I never know what to expect going into a session of Castle Xyntillan, but this turn of events I certainly did not see coming.
First we spend a ludicrous amount of time playing out the looting of the cellar. I mean, if players want to do that sort of thing, I am there to facilitate. We streamlined things quite a bit, but hey, figuring out what is in those barrels, describing it, and players deciding what to do in response takes time at the table.
And then that secret passage got discovered. This was just sitting there for I don’t know how many sessions of play in that particular room. I had completely forgotten it led to the Indoornesse and so that threw me for a loop.
This is also where I fucked up, basically.
The map only indicates the stairs lead to “R”. I feverishly scanned the Indoornesse map and key to find where the passage from the wine cellar might lead to. On the Indoornesse map it is erroneously listed as “M13” next to “R10 Hermitage”. It is correctly listed in the key for that room, but I did not spot it in my hurry. But most stupidly I did not think to take a moment to check the key for M1 itself, and it is plainly listed there, below the random table for wine barrels. So yeah, my hurry to keep the game moving combined with a few minor errors in the map, and a key that takes a bit of time to parse, conspired to me making a decision on the spot that the transition into the Indoornesse would be dream-like, and that the players would start out in the bottom right of the map at the dead end that actually connects up with L23. (Another key I overlooked.)
The consequences of this is that the players were trapped in this dream land, and that the game was now all of a sudden about escaping back home. This meant for the first time we were forced to stop play in the midst of the action, breaking my “always return to town at the end” rule, and offering further challenges for when we pick up again with regards to absentee players or previously absent players joining.
I guess I will have to roll with the punches now. I will not correct my mistake and we will play through this until players find one of the ways back. I won’t make it any harder on them than necessary of course. And once we wrap up this episode I will probably own up to my mistake and make sure they understand they can now freely move between the Indoornesse and the castle as they like.
It’s been a while since I’ve really regretted a call I’ve had to make because I felt unnecessarily rushed. Time to recommit to allowing myself to take breaks to properly figure something out at the table when it is clear I absolutely have to.