|Battling barbarians happens later in the mini campaign.|
Having a player write up the game in story form is always great. I don't think you can get better feedback and it's always interesting to see how different they think things unfolded. In the Icewind Dale game the player of Jon the mariner wrote up an epic saga of the mini campaign that I will break down into parts. Part one deals with the adventure 'The former gnomish caves' by Alex Schroeder.
The Tale of Klinderstone
Leif, small of stature but brave of heart.
Sprite Zero, small and lean but tricksy and cunning.
Jon, strong of arm and a leader of men.
Power Aide, a true servant of the gods.
And their dark side:
Leif, untrusting and unfriendly.
Sprite Zero, suicidally foolhardy
Jon, a surly drunk, violent when insulted.
Power Aide, selfish and untrustworthy.
Jon the wife-killer arrived in Lonely Wood on the cusp of summer, fleeing his past. His short temper made him few friends but more enemies. His coin ran low, splashed on bar room tables. Two of his few allies came to him one day. Leif and Sprite Zero were short folk. Halfling and gnome. Jon had stood up for them, beaten a man who was bullying them. They were bored and almost out of money. They suggested an expedition for excitement, money and fame. There were places to explore around Lonely Wood. The supposedly abandoned tower of the mage known as Marbag the Mad. An abandoned temple of the Ice Goddess Auril. Or a gnome burrow supposedly attacked a month or so earlier. Alternatively, there were rumours that the barbarians in Bremen were planning to start another war.
Jon agreed to an expedition to a gnome village after hearing about it from the barkeep at the Whistling Gallows Inn. A gnome came through these parts a month back. Wild looking fellow who could barely be understood though it was clear he was looking for help. Klinderstone, the gnomes burrow had been over-run by ogres, with access to winter magic. Not much Lonely Wood could do as they didn’t have the men to spare so he was sent to Targos.
Leif and Sprite Zero introduced Jon to a fourth man, Power Aide. He was a human priest, but did not reveal which faith he followed. They hired a few locals familiar with the woods. Leif obtained the services of Squint, a man blind in one eye. An old scar around his eye patch evidence enough of why. Jon hired a man who introduced himself only as Dag. A recent brand on his forehead suggested an unsavoury past, but Jon did not seem disturbed. Power Aide employed Cathy, a woman who gave no reason for wanting to join such a dangerous expedition.
Jon spent his last few coins on good snow gear. The other three did the same, but also managed to purchase a small team of five sled dogs and a beaten up sled.
Sprite Zero had a giant ferret he had a crude saddle for. Power Aide and Leif would ride on the sled. Jon would keep up on skis.
|The party bought a dog sled. Smart play.|
On the first day of summer they left Lonely Wood. They headed into the taiga, initially following the small river that flowed from the mountains known as Kelvin’s Cairn to the Maer Dualdon through Lonely Wood. They headed mostly east, towards the northern edge of Kelvin’s Cairn, where it fell away into the vast northern tundra. A light rain began to fall, turning to ice where it sat undisturbed.
Mid-afternoon and the keen-eared halfling suddenly ordered a stop. With the sound of the sled and dogs quieted, they all heard what had alerted him. Cries of pain, and a deep voice responding.
“Shuddup. Yer whinin’s gunna get ya killed if ya don’ shuddup.”
Jon, Sprite Zero and Leif slipped forward. Peering through the snow covered pines, they made out an ogre, ploughing through the snow.
A human appeared to be strapped to his back, jostled and bumped and flicked with branches as the ogre pushed his way past the trees.
A volley of missile weapons caused the monster to roar with pain and stumble. It turned towards the source of its pain and tried to charge at them through the knee deep snow. The giant ferret hamstrung it from behind and as it fell Jon hacked through its neck. It gurgled and thrashed for a brief moment before dying.
Jon released the captive. Jerrod the trapper was very grateful. Jon noticed that a sack on the ogre’s belt was still wriggling. He opened it. A single rat the size of small dog tumbled out. It looked up at Jon. He ordered it to do something. It didn’t. Power Aide thumped it and they fed it to the ferret. But the sack was wriggling again. Another rat was tipped out, different to the first one. Jon hung the sack off his belt. The others had looted the ogre’s body more thoroughly. They found some coin, a handful of well-made scrimshaw pieces and a small star sapphire. Power Aide refused to use any healing spells on Jerrod.
|Icewind Dale. There is always snow.|
They travelled for a few more hours. A defensive campsite was found for the night. It took a while to find dry wood and set up a fire. They went to sleep cheered by the ease with which they defeated the ogre.
The next morning Jerrod departed for Lonely Wood with food and the ogre’s least disgusting furs to keep him warm. The seven headed further into the forest. It was raining still, but the wind was merely strong. Not the near gale usually experienced in Lonely Wood. Not long after starting they heard a goat bleating in terror. Then the sound ended suddenly. They quieted the dogs and gave the direction the sound had come from a wide berth.
It was late in the afternoon when they reached Klinderstone. It was partly concealed in a small valley. The trees ended ten metres from the entrance, but boulders were piled to the left and right, limiting easy access. The entrance to the burrows had been extensively worked. Elaborate carvings of plants surrounded the doorway. The delicate gnome-work was at odds with the rest of the scene. The bones of rats and gnomes were scattered around the front. The smell of offal and decay carried over the brisk wind. Moving some distance away, they left Dag with the dogs and the sled. Two lanterns were carried by Squint and Cathy but not yet lit. There was some light inside.
The entrance corridor was wide and high, large enough for Jon, or even an ogre, to walk around. In the corner of the entrance chamber was an ogre. Facing the corner and urinating into a pile of dirt. It was cut down from behind before it could call for help. Sprite Zero looted the body while the others looked around the room and guarded the exits. He found little of value until he pulled a cheap-looking copper ring off one of its fingers. The rink shrunk to fit him. A sure sign it was magical. A painted eye was the only decoration it had. He looked around. No-one seemed to have seen him find the ring. He put it on and sensed some sort of enchantment magic in it. But nothing else happened.
Jon dragged the body outside and dumped it amongst the rocks to the left of the entrance. He covered it with a few more stones.
There were three exits, left, right or straight ahead. Left seemed the least used, right the most used. A smell of overcooked meat came from straight ahead. Power Aide and Cathy heard snoring to the right, but decide not to tell the others. They hoped to go that way themselves to kill those asleep and take any loot for themselves. Unfortunately for them, the others chose to go that way anyway. It had the most muddy prints and signs of use. They all heard the snoring shortly afterwards. Sneaking forward, they found a large room. Five ogres were sleeping there, on and under furs and blankets. There were also two gnomes in cages near a fire pit. Over the fire pit the dead body of a third gnome was slowly getting burnt.
Jon, Leif, Cathy, Squint, the ferret and an illusory ferret created by Sprite Zero moved in as quietly as they could. Then they attacked. Blades were plunged into sleeping flesh. Several of the ogres died immediately, but not all of them. Three started struggling to their feet. Only two made it. They never considered surrender and were cut down without mercy.
Jon tore open the cages. Tarpa the craftsman and Sarsha the dancer were rescued. They were cold, starving and traumatised. But they offered whatever help they could give. They drew a map of Klinderstone and named the rooms. They knew that there had been about twenty ogres. They also knew that the ogres were led by a beautiful red-haired human woman who was a priestess of Auril. They also knew the priestess was planning on attacking Lonely Wood with her forces. Sarsha was escorted out to where Dag was with the dogs. The body of the dead gnome was taken out as well. Tarpa stayed to help.
Tarpa took them to the ballroom. They heard crude laughter beyond. Peering carefully around a corner they saw the backs of four ogres. The ogres were playing a game which involved throwing stones as a female gnome chained to the far wall.
Jon and Leif led the charge into the room. This time the ogres did not die as easily as the sleeping ones. Power Aide remained at the door out of the fight, after pushing Cathy into battle. Sprite Zero remained back as well, controlling his illusory ferret with his mind. Its imaginary claws sent the ogres reeling as if they had been struck by a real creature. Between it, the real ferret, Leif and Jon the ogres finally fell. Cathy and Squint were dead as well though.
The gnome woman was rescued. She was as homely as the first one, but extremely thankful. She called herself Oakleaf. She was the Klinderstone midwife. Power Aide, Leif and Sprite Zero looted the room. They found little of value. They also seemed quite unconcerned about the deaths of Cathy and Squint. Jon was not happy with them about this, especially with Power Aide for sending an untrained woman into battle while he “cowered at the back and did nothing”. Jon asked Oakleaf if she knew how to use healing herbs or poultices. One of the rooms in Klinderstone was an alchemists/herbalists laboratory. Both he and Leif had taken glancing blows from the ogres.
|Wasp. Former leader of the gnomes, now burning abomination.|
Oakleaf and Tarpa started to take them that way. They passed through a room with the burnt remains of a pyre in the centre. Amongst the ashes and half-burnt wood was a cage. Within the cage was the body of a gnome, burnt beyond recognition but still moving. It stood up as they entered. It obviously could not see them but knew they were there. It demanded to be freed, so it could wreak vengeance on the invaders. All of them, human and ogre alike. When Jon said he was human, the undead thing swore to kill him as well. Anything that wasn’t a gnome would die. Oakleaf thought it was Wasp, their leader. Jon ran it through with his sword, but it didn’t die. They left it there, still rasping curses and imprecations.
The laboratory was in ruins. They started looking for anything useful. Then the ceiling rippled. A grey oozing something seeped across the ceiling, gathered into a bunch and dropped to the floor. Jon struck it with a wooden club. It simply split into two smaller pieces. They retreated. The ooze followed slowly.
So they left the door open for it to terrorise the ogres and priestess. Then they returned to Dag and Sarsha. It was nearly dark. The gnomes led them to a safe place to camp for the night, a kilometre or so away from Klinderstone.
<DM's Note: This was the end of the first 3 hour session. What follows is next weeks session. The former gnomish caves took two sessions to complete>
As the sun vanished, Power Aide discretely prayed to whatever god he believed in.
The next morning the freed gnomes told them that the ogres slept during the day. They also knew the priestess seemed not to sleep much, and had a huge white ape that pulled her sleigh.
Jon, Leif, Power, Sprite, Dag and Tarpa left Oakleaf and Sarsha with the dogs.
|The priestess of Auril. Like all good NPCs she died.|
They arrived at Klinderstone midmorning, the wind whipping a foul smell towards them and snatches of words. Sneaking forward, they saw the red-haired priestess of Auril out front. She was exhorting a group of whipped-looking goblins. A boiling cauldron containing bits of goblin stood at her side. She told them they were safe now from the dark skinned ones, from their poisons and sharp blades.
The huge white ape was with her. So were two ogres wearing gnome bones as ornaments. The sleigh was there. One of the goblins was dressed in better looking furs, and had a wolf skull helm. There were 15 goblins. Three poorly made hide tents were pitched amongst the rocks to either side of the entrance to Klinderstone.
One of the ogres held a chain which led to three gnome children, attached to metal collars around their necks. Two of the children looked to be near death and were shivering with cold and terror. The other was healthier, and looked upon the priestess with adoring eyes. The priestess finished her speech. She went back inside, with the ape, ogres, sleigh and gnomes.
The goblins fell upon the cauldron and licked it clean. Then slunk away from the bright sun into their tents, leaving three on watch. The solitary goblin on the left fell to a volley of crossbow bolts, arrows and sling stones. Neither of the other goblins on watch noticed.
Jon, Leif, Power, Sprite, Dag and Tarpa sneaked around to the nearest of the two tents on that side. Tarpa opened the door, and a volley of missiles were released at the piles of furs inside. Not all the goblins were killed at once, and their cries rang out. Jon went to the other tent and leapt upon it, collapsing it on those inside and crushing a goblin. Within moments all the goblins in the first tent were dead. Two wriggled out of the tent Jon had collapsed and tried to run. He caught up with them and killed them without hesitation.
The chieftain and his two goblin wenches ran out of the other tent, butt naked apart from the wolf skull helm. He fell immediately to a sling stone. One of the two guards had already been shot down by Dag. The remaining guard and the two women fled. Sprite Zero sent his ferret after them. It came back later licking blood off its lips. By then Leif had obscured signs of the skirmish. The bodies were chopped up and put in the cauldron, and the bloodied snow put in as well.
They crept into Klinderstone, following the path of the oozes. They found two rooms where the ogre women and children had lived. The oozes had found them. All were dead, many partly dissolved.
|Giant White Apes are no match for this party.|
They found the room of the giant ape. Sprite Zero’s illusionary ferret, with the real ferret’s whining behind it, lured the thing down a hallway. It saw them and charged. Power Aide blinded it with a spell, and it ran into a wall of spears. It roared and writhed in pain. Leif and Jon cut it down.
Moving past they heard two ogres arguing. They did not want to investigate, but they were more scared of the Ice Queen. They peered around a corner and saw the dead ape. Several bolts just missed them. They ran. They kept running out the front door, even with a bolt or two in their back.
They found the way to the priestess, but Tarpa showed them a secret way. Jon forced the door open, into a room of horrors. Frozen gnomes adorned the walls. One was even arrayed in the centre of the room like a lectern, holding a book. A black-bladed sword was embedded in the ground nearby, intense cold radiating from it.
The priestess heard their entry.
Jon wrapped his cloak around his hand and drew the sword. Power Aide held up the book, and Jon lifted the sword high. The priestess cried “No”. Jon clove the book in twain. Intensely cold winds swept the room. Dag and Tarpa were frozen where they stood. Sprite Zero was chilled to the bone. Leif and the ferret caught a glancing blow.
They turned to the priestess. She fought, initially ranting about intruders in her home, taking her possessions (the captive gnomes), killing her allies (the ogres) and destroying her sacred book from Auril. She froze Leif in place with a chill word of power. Then the fight started to go against her. She tried to surrender. Jon ignored her cries, except to tell her that someone who murders innocents the way she did deserves no mercy. She was killed.
The room she had come from was her private chambers. The three gnome children were there, as was a single adult male. Only the one child was healthy. The other three were nearly dead from exposure. Power Aide started looting her body.
Jon carried the frozen Leif out into the sunlight, and then started doing the same for the other gnomes. He started swigging from a bottle of brandy he had found in the priestess’ room. Leif thawed out not long thereafter.
The healthy looking child kept accusing them of murder, and threatening them with the wrath of the goddess. Jon got angry and slapped the boy to shut him up. It didn’t work. Leif went further, and struck the boy unconscious.
Sprite Zero, Leif and Power Aide read a map they found in the Ice Queen’s room. It showed the ten towns and several other locations, many marked with annotations. Next to Klinderstone were the words “seize this next”. Lonely Wood had the words “take slaves” next to it. A location deep in the mountains was noted as the Hall of the Ice Maiden and a path was indicated. Between there and Klinderstone was a Temple of All Consumption with a note saying “danger – eliminate next”. And the Fane of Auril was shown, with a comment “trick some fools into clearing this”.
Sprite Zero fetched Oakleaf and Sarsha. They were grateful for being rescued, but looked around their ruined burrow and said they could stay there no longer. They showed the others where the Klinderstone finances were hidden. They offered the heroes whatever reward they thought was suitable. Jon and Leif both announced that half the treasury would suffice – that left the surviving gnomes an ample amount to begin again.
They found snap-frozen grey oozes which were dumped outside.
Jon also dragged the ogres’ bodies outside the burrow and put them in a pile. The dead gnomes were laid out more respectfully on a funeral pyre. As he did so he swigged on the bottle of brandy, until it was empty and he was swaying as he walked. Leif kept Jon and Power Aide away from each other that night.
They slept in the relative warmth and comfort of the gnome burrow. The gnomes lit the funeral pyre after sunset, when the smoke would not be seen and the wind had died down a little.
They left the next morning. Several of the gnomes couldn’t move by themselves so they were on the Ice Queen’s sleigh. Jon was largely pushing this. So they were moving a lot more slowly. The wind had also picked up, into a typical Ten Towns gale.
They entered the territory of a snow tiger. It leapt from hiding onto the front two dogs. One was bitten and shaken, a second mauled by claws. Then Jon reached it. Two powerful swings with the black-bladed sword dropped it in its tracks. As it fell a crossbow bolt whizzed into its side.
|Szordlin. Power Aide's henchman of ill repute.|
They turned to see a drow. He introduced himself as Szordlin. Power Aide introduced himself in turn as the divine King of Kings. Szordlin was impressed. Jon was not. Nor did he welcome the dark elf, nor turn him away. Sprite Zero and Leif were noncommittal as well. Szordlin was allowed to travel with them. He claimed to be an outcast from his people. He harried a bag with a few goblin heads in it. Trophies he said. He was much taken with Power Aide’s trophies, the two large tusks from the giant white ape. He admitted to being a thief by trade, and returned Leif’s belt pouch with an apology. Habit, he said.
They arrived in Lonely Wood at dusk the next day. Szordlin stayed outside the town until Power Aide could see if it was safe. The wind was still howling over the water. The townsfolk were all inside, except for one small girl huddled near the well. She claimed her brother had fallen in. Leif did not believe her. Power Aide seemed to agree, and even suggested setting her on fire. Jon growled, snatched the lantern off Power Aide and lowered it down the well in the bucket. There was nothing down there. The girl was glared at. She started to say her brother must have drowned, then stopped and admitted she had made it up. She was bored. She wasn’t at home so her da wouldn’t beat her, and her ma was getting drunk at the inn. There were no other children to play with. She gave her name as Hailee Dun. Leif stomped off. She started to get worried they would tell her father. She offered to tell them a secret if they kept it secret she had tricked them. Most of the group so swore, although Jon kept silent. She did not notice, and told them she knew the innkeeper, Kieran, was a magic user. Jon picked her up and unceremoniously shoved her into the sleigh next to the gnome children.
They went to the inn.
Several townsfolk were there, including the Mayor’s Luskan mercenaries. Hailee’s mother Amber was in the corner drinking steadily. And Jerrod the trapper was there. He called out to them. He had told everyone how he had been rescued. A tale was called for. Jon responded, in the manner of his people, embellishing details slightly, and dwelling on the “mighty blows”, “terrible beasts” and “foul magic”. Money was produced, and a celebration started.
|Quin. Merchant priest of Waukeen and definately not Bilbo from the Hobbit.|
The innkeeper offered them free rooms for the night. The gnomes purchased rooms for themselves. They let their kids play with Hailee for a while.
During the night, before they got too drunk, Quin the merchant-priest of Waukeen approached them. He wanted help. The barbarians down the coast were threatening war, and were stopping trade. The mayor had brought in an “ambassador”, but Quin thought he looked more like an assassin. None of the local merchants, and many of the townsfolk, did not seem to like the mayor. Leif suggested killing him. The merchant demurred. Jon asked if that was Leif’s solution to everything. Uncomfortable silence for a second. Jon pulled out the large star sapphire they had taken from the gnome’s treasury. Quin offered 250 gold. They accepted.
Power Aide asked the barkeeper if he could bring “someone shy” into the inn. Jon bluntly stated it was a drow. With the endorsement of Power Aide, the town agreed to accept him. Szordlin joined the party.
Later an attractive young woman entered the inn. Shortly thereafter she approached Leif. Large, scary insects were in the basement of her family’s house she said. Could one of the heroes help? Leif said he was too drunk, maybe the next day. She tried to persuade him. He refused, tried to get her drunk, and said he did not trust her. She stormed off in a huff and asked Power Aide. He too refused, threatened to set her on fire.
Jon blearily saw her stomp out the door. He followed. He asked had his companions been offensive. She told him about Power Aide’s comment. Jon said darkly that he did that. She was horrified, thinking he meant actually setting people on fire. Jon corrected himself, saying that Power Aide says that but hopefully doesn’t mean it.
Power Aide and Leif had followed Jon out. When she saw them, she left. Back inside, Leif asked around and found out she was the mayor’s daughter.
Much later Amber started staggering around. Slurring her words, she asked anyone she met could they get her out of Lonely Wood. Jon told her she should stop drinking, and start looking after her little girl. They both agreed she was a terrible person. The night ended relatively uneventfully.
Jon only hit one of the Luskan mercenaries, when they kept on telling people to be careful of him. He yelled at the guy to stop telling people that, then split his cheek bone. Another man had his jaw broken when he wouldn’t retract a comment of “drunken savage” after Jon accidentally bumped into him and spilt his beer.
Jon also made it known that he was looking for Hailee’s father, to have a gentle discussion about whether or not you hit kids.
Leif woke up with a new tattoo, a woman in a circle of fire.
Power Aide and Sprite Zero both kept a relatively low profile during the drunken revelry.