Last time, a slightly desperate conman who’s down one soul, a heavy metal bard in league with the original party fiend, a wild magic obsessive let loose from Fantasy Catholic School, and the one honest cop in Braxtonshire managed to thwart the ambiguously nefarious plans of Hangtooth the Druid and her All-Natural, Non-GMO Fantasy Meth and Heroin Ring.
With that implausible success under their belts, what will our heroes do next?
And with that, we come to the most exciting part of D&D: the bookkeeping of leveling up! Wheee!
Perhaps due to his defeat of the Champion of the Para-Elemental Plane of Birdshit, Tomas Rhymer finds himself becoming a more experienced Warlock. At Level 3, he gains a spell slot and learns a new spell – and since I decided to take Hex, we decide to headcanon this as Tomas having learned the spell from Sera in exchange for some rapier lessons – and also two Eldritch Invocations. Following his intense frustrations with his time at the Threenuts residence, I decide to take Eldritch Sight, which means now Tomas can now detect magic at will, so that he’s never caught off-guard again. And due to Tomas’ desire to avoid being stabbed in the future, I decide to take Armor of Shadows, which means now Tomas can cast mage armor at will. (This also has the advantage that he doesn’t have to wear leather armor everywhere, which is helpful when walking around a bustling city and trying to maintain a disguise.)
Serra’s Warlocky powers and Telfer’s devotion to Sukkoth deepen; Lysander decides to go off to a nature retreat and take the Oath of Ancients, so he’s not just a Simon Pegg in Hot Fuzz pastiche, but a hippie Simon Pegg in Hot Fuzz pastiche. It also means that he can snare foes with vines so he’s got two tanking options and can Turn fey and fiends instead of undead. While Lysander is hugging trees, Tomas has a couple of conversations at the Rancid Goat about his soul dilemma, having come to trust his group a bit more after passing through the fires of combat: with a good Religion check, Telfer suggests that Telli, the god of wild magic and the chaotic side of nature, might be a good candidate to ask for divine favor; Serra communes with her Patron, Rockus the Party Fiend, who tells her that he can’t directly intercede, but that Archfey can’t resist wagers and games. Food for thought…
The next day (362 Left Until Bad Things Happen), the team shows up horribly hungover and sporting dark glasses and tall coffees on the steps of the Palace at the crack of dawn. The Palace is an imposing Duomo-like structure in the central square, right to two important edifices: the Bank of Braxtonshire (which immediately gives Tomas some cunning thoughts about forging bank notes and letters of credit) and the Cathedral of Sukkoth (which makes Telfer nervous). Through Tomas’ occult-enhanced sense, the square is covered with magic so much that it’s lit up like Times Square, which can’t help the hangover.
The busy square is even busier with preparations for the Royal Games, a regular occasion in which teams from the various city-states of the continental federation, plus a number of religions and educational institutions, compete in various events. As we are led into the palace, we briefly see the Prince of Braxtonshire, a figure normally not seen up close as the Palace is rather formal and Byzantine. We also see the Three Douches from Session 1, although now they’ve added an elven wizard named Tad to their group, as they’ve been chosen to represent the Church of Sukkoth in the Royal Games. (I really should have seen things coming from this point).
After some desultory sparring with the Three Douches – Tomas continues to unnerve them with his unbreakable, intense, almost-flirty friendliness, although his anger towards elven wizards manifests in a bit of mad-eying – we go up the steps to meet with Sergeant O’Shag Hennessey, who’s accompanied by a tall drow woman who turns out to be Sirris the Steward (essentially the Prince’s Chief of Staff). We’ve been tasked with providing additional security for the Games, specifically dealing with a group of gerblin thieves who broke into the Scholarly Hermitage (Braxtonshire’s Unseen University/Hogwarts equivalent) and are now hiding somewhere in the Royal Grounds where foreign dignitaries are due to be hosted.
The group gets paid, although the non-Lysander members still don’t get badges. At the Hermitage, we learn that the gerblins attacked the dorms and stole a bunch of the students’ spell components and minor magic items. While the university cleared up much of the crime scene, Lysander sees some glinting stuff in the glass outside a window, and Tomas finds a trail of jewels used as somatic components that clearly fell off the wagon while the thieves fled into the Royal Grounds. As we enter into the nature preserve, we find two small spheres on the ground, which we pocket, and three gerblins, which jump down on us from the trees.
Serra knocks the one off her with Hellish Rebuke although not before getting a nasty slash, and Tomas knocks off the one on Lysander with a quick Hex (using Hex to boost damage is nice, but even more important is the Disadvantage on ability checks of my choice for things like running, jumping, climbing, acrobatics, etc.) and Eldritch Blast. Telfer Fire Bolts the gerblin that attacked Serra, which is when the third gerblin wearing camouflage jumps down from the trees and steals Telfer’s gold and books it at high speed into the trees.
Lysander uses his new Ensnaring Strike spell but clearly underestimated his strength or overestimated the gerblin’s Hit Points, because he kills the gerblin in one hit. Meanwhile, Tomas takes aim at the fleeing gerblin with an Eldritch Blast and hits, Telfer takes aim with Fire Bolt, but this is clearly the tankiest gerblin ever, and the thing continues its flight and it looks like Telfer’s money is lost…until Sera casts Whispers, which causes the gerblin’s poor head to explode.
And then like the sane and morale people we all are, we immediately decide to start corpse-robbing, and find “some gold,” some more spell component gems, and some random magical items we can’t identify yet. As Lysander dutifully logs the evidence, Tomas closely observes him in order to learn to fake his handwriting, although Lysander does notice him doing it. Telfer heals the wounded Sera and feels weirdly guilty about it (and thus not as guilty about his wild magic), although not as guilty about healing her torn jacket (so what that means from a theological perspective is anyone’s guess).
After a short rest, we continue to follow the trail. As the stealthiest person in the party and the only one who can deal with traps, Tomas goes ahead…and thanks to some godawful Perception and Dexterity checks, manages to get caught in a rope trap and fall into a pit trap, although thankfully Sera’s feather fall keeps him from being impaled . Rhymer maintains that he was simply disarming the traps by triggering them, and further emphasizes how he is primarily an urban rather than a rural rogue.
We arrive in a small clearing where we see a small (woods)witch’s hideout and a dead gerblin outside carrying Telfer’s lost gold and a magical rod we can’t identify yet. And that’s when the gerblin warlord shows up.
Moving quickly, Lysander Smites the Warlord and right behind him, Tomas casts sleep…which fails to work because I misread a chart when I leveled up and didn’t end up casting it as a 2nd level after all. Telfer uses Shock Grasp and whiffs completely; the Warlord attacks and would have cleft Telfer in twain, except that Lysander quickly puts his shield in the way and the blade glances off. Thinking smarter not harder, Sera uses command to get the Warlord to drop their sword and Lysander capitalizes on this to get in a good slash. Finally, Tomas uses Fey Presence to frighten the Warlord into surrendering and remarkably, it works! The Warlord is handcuffed and we take his loot.
At this point, a horrible-looking man in a leather coat, who calls himself Der Vögelhandler pops up and offers to trade the loot we got from the gerblins for “good stuff.” When Lysander refuses and begins to ask some very insistent question, DV casts expeditious retreat and peaces out. According to the gerblin, he was the last of his clan here to rob the Royal Games, and he does in fact know Der Vögelhandler.
We return to the Palace, shocking Serris who’s very surprised that we didn’t kill the gerblin and almost as horrified that we trekked him through the Palace on our way back. Given the choice as to whether to kill him or not, we decide to book him. At this point, we return to the Hermitage and set out the loot we recovered as Lost + Find, although for our troubles we’re allowed to keep whatever’s left. As we leave, Der Vögelhandler (who either dropped out or was expelled from the Hermitage, because he’s not allowed in the building) pops up again and asks for 5 gold for identifying the items and some additional info.
We decide to pay him and what we’ve found is:
- A jar of 5 “heavy beans,” which if swallowed will turn you super-heavy for 1d4 rounds.
- A jar of 5 “student’s little helpers,” which if consumed will give you Advantage and +3 Dex for 1d4 rounds.
- A pair of “tripping balls” which if used to Concentrate, do the same for Int.
- And a “semi-immovable rod” which is only immovable in one axis at a time.
The party splits the items, with the sorcerer/cleric taking the balls, the bard/warlock taking the rod, the paladin taking the beans, and the rogue taking the pills. At this point, we follow DV to a path to a cliff on the Royal Grounds which overlook the bay. We can see ships coming into harbor, including one proudly flying the flag of Coral Ridge, a nearby island city-state.
Tomas descends the rope ladder first and sees a ledge and a cave opening partway down the cliff. He is promptly caught by three humans wearing masks and cloaks, who use him as leverage to get the rest of the group to come down and surrender as well. Inside the cave, the trio – one slender figure with a wand and two fighters – explain that they’re here to “make sure the job is done” when all of the sudden a series of thunderstrikes strike the Coral Ridge ship, blowing it to smithereens. Seeing this, we leap into the fight: Sera casts tasha’s hideous laughter on the spellcaster (who we call “Willow”), Telfer casts bless, I attack “Giles” with a rapier and do some tasty damage. “Xander” takes two swings at Sera, who amazingly manages to maintain Concentration on her spell, keeping “Willow” out of the fight. Lysander attacks “Giles” and throws on a Smite. Unfortunately, this is when things start to go wrong, because “Giles” attacks Sera, breaks her Concentration, and then knocks her out. Telfer successfully sleeps “Giles,” evening the score, but then Willow casts a fireball that takes out the whole party.
We then wake up in the hold of a ship, where Sirris explains that: A, we’re alive because Der V saved us somehow, and B. that because the Coral Ridge team has been assassinated, and we have to replace them in order to find out who had them murdered.
And that’s when we realize we’re in some strange costumes…