The heroes went through an adventure from the Kobold Press 5th Edition Book of Lairs: The Lost Halls of Emberforge by Shawn Merwin.
Shawn Merwin writes the first adventure of every D&D encounters season. I ran one a while back and I really liked it, so this seemed like a fun choice.
Dungeon Skipping: The thing that worried me about this adventure is that you can make a straight walk from the first room right to the final encounter. The temptation there is to try to force the group to go through a side door first. After all, if the group kills the bad guy right away, then how am I going to fill the rest of the session?
I resisted the urge. I told myself that if/when they went right to the end, they still will want to look for treasure. Second, I was determined to not rush the group so much. I wanted to let them explore and roleplay more. I have a tendency to grab players by the collar and scream "What are you doing now!?!?" This would be a good opportunity to slow down and allow the group to fully experience rooms 1 and 12 if that’s how things played out.
The Key Ring
(Andrew) Finy Teetoe - Halfling Rogue
(Pat) Gurn Sirensong - Gnome Bard
(Ashley) Lemuel - Human Rogue
(Joe) Zavagor - Half-orc Warlock
Last time, the heroes had a run-in with a devil cult who was trying to steal a magic cube that contained one of their allies. The heroes also wanted that cube, as the person trapped inside of it had stolen something one of the heroes wanted back.
Can You Kill A Dragon? We picked up right where we left off. Aryzon, the NPC who is actually a silver dragon in disguise, asked the group if they could kill a dragon. There was an awkward pause, followed by a "...no."
Aryzon explained that the devils had captured Loren the sage, an ally of the group. The bad guys were going to use Loren for nefarious purposes. The group agreed to mount a rescue once they'd rested for the night and healed their wounds.
Resting at an Evil Tower: I gave them a bunch of options as far as where to stay. They picked the one I was hoping for: The tower of Pollidemia the Wicked, an NPC who has been in my campaigns for over 20 years of real-life time.
Zavagor has been training under her for about a week. Mostly, he feeds and dresses her goblin sidekick, Slurp. The heroes met Pollidemia, who is no longer evil but doesn't really understand how to be a good guy.
Dornella and the Crossbrain: Pollidemia freed the prisoner from the magic cube. Dornella the halfling rogue appeared. It is considered polite for anyone freed from a prisoner cube to serve the person who freed them for one week.
The group wondered what to do with her. Pollidemia said she needed a test subject. Pollidemia had created a magic crossbow powered by a drow brain and wanted to see what it did.
The group dubbed this item a "crossbrain" and Dornella was quite alarmed. Dornella was much more agreeable from this point forward.
After some interrogation, the heroes learned that the pocket watch that Dornella stole from Finy was now part of the treasure hoard of Toxin, the green dragon. Toxin leads this whole devil cult.
The heroes also learned the tragic origin of Dornella: Her mother sold her soul to the devils for wealth. She ended up with thousands of gold coins that few merchants would take due to the blasphemies imprinted on each of them.
Dornella could not bear the thought of her mother suffering in hell for all eternity, so Dornella offered the devils her soul on the condition that he mother was freed from her contract.
Now, Dornella is damned and works alongside the devils in the hopes that perhaps she will be given a less painful eternal experience in hell.
Zavagor pointed out that he, too knew the suffrage caused by the YOKE OF IMPRISONMENT and the burden it can be on one's soul. The group cracked me up all night with lines like this.
Creepy Attic: The heroes rested for the night in Pollidemia's creepy attic, which was loaded with ancient artifacts most foul:
- The Bracers of Purest Evil: The group was very uncomfortable being around these things.
- The Sinister Mannequin: It seemed to stare at them from the darkness.
- The Demon Statue Head: This one was an easter egg for me. This head is one of the K'ynn K'tall, a thing that Pollidemia used to implant demon hearts in the chest of the heroes of my Rogue Mistress campaign. The adventurers needed to find a magic item known as the planar knife so they could do surgery on themselves to remove the demon hearts. They kept having "demon heart attacks" that were slowly transforming them into demonic monstrosities.
Zotzpox: During the night, Gurn had a dream about Zotzpox the imp from the first adventure. Gurn saw Zotzpox talking to Scarra, the abishai villain from an upcoming Perkins adventure. Zotzpox turned and looked right into the camera! Could Zotzpox see Gurn?! Gurn woke up.
Gurn worships Zotzpox like a god and it seems to be creating weird magical effects.
The next day, the group headed to the Lost Halls of Everforge to rescue Loren.
I put the lost halls in a huge, hollow statue that dwarves lived in. The statue is of Kava Frosthowl, one of the heroes from my Scales of War campaign. She is now the goddess of ice and battle. This statue once animated and fought off godzilla-sized Lolth.
Key: The group went in and took a magic elevator to the 16th floor. This thing was powered by... A MAGIC KEY. Zavagor is on a quest for certain magic keys. He assumed it was one of the ones he needed (it wasn't) and cut a deal with the elevator lady to get it after the adventure was done.
The group entered the lost halls that, they eventually learned, was once a forge connected to the plane of elemental fire. Decades ago, fire genies came through and killed most of the dwarves. The portal was sealed and the whole floor was avoided from then on.
It is the perfect place for the cult to operate from. They want Loren the Sage to re-open the portal. The devils think that by bathing in elemental fire, the dog-sized dragon here will grow into something far more powerful.
As is tradition in my campaigns, Dornella the NPC became trap bait. Her job was to open doors and be a guinea pig/living trap detector.
Eventually, Lemuel and Finy headed up to the double doors. As they approached, they stepped on some pressure plates. Darts came flying out of the walls at them!
I rolled ridiculously low. The darts launched toward them feathers-first and plooped harmlessly against the far wall.
The group identified the other pressure plates and avoided them. They opened the double doors.
The Final Room: We entered the final encounter! This room contains a "dog-sized" dragon, eight kobolds, and an acolyte who can buff the dragon if he's not too scared to do so.
No Kobolds For Me: I changed the kobolds to a race of planetouched devil-dwarves known as the maeluth. They're from one of the 3rd edition monster manuals. I made this change because I hate kobolds and avoid using them whenever possible.
For me, kobolds fall into the category of monsters that are too pathetic to be worthy of spending time on. It's almost insulting to throw kobolds at a group of heroes. I put twig blights in this category, too. We are not wasting time in my campaign fighting TWIGS.
Back in 2nd edition, there was this big movement to make kobolds a threat. The Dragon Mountain boxed set was basically a kobold dungeon full of kobold death traps. We played some if it and were massively disappointed. We kept wondering "How come there are no dragons in Dragon Mountain?" and we quit the whole thing.
The dragon in here is a flame dragon, which is a kobold press monster. I have no stats for this thing! That's kind of lame, right? I re-skinned a white dragon wyrmling and it worked perfectly.
They were able to chop down the dwarves as they came through.
The dragon flew toward the door and the group was very alarmed. Many of them took refuge in a side room that was full of broken mirror pieces. These mirror shards had a disorienting effect. At the start of your turn, you must make a save or you have kaleidoscope vision/disadvantage on attack rolls!
Zavagor was in the hallway alone, battling two maeluth. He cast a spell to summon a flaming scimitar and beheaded both of them with awesome rolls.
The dragon breathed fire on the group, utterly devastating them. Thankfully, they all made their saves and nobody dropped.
Lemuel ran and flipped over the dragon, flanking it. The dragon turned and bit him, dropping him unconscious.
Dornella did a baseball slide under the hovering dragon and performed a heal check on Lemuel to stabilize him. Dornella noticed a really nice necklace on Lemuel and touched it, but did not steal it. She did later ask to go through Lemuel's backpack, but he said no.
The group unloaded on the dragon and killed it. Gurn cast healing word on Lemuel. Gurn is absolutely crucial to the group in this regard.
Dagger To the Skull: The acolyte shrieked and made a run for it. The group chased him, flinging spears and daggers at him and rolling extremely low. Eventually, Finy chucked a dagger, hoping to hit him in the back of the leg and trip him up. He made a comment about hoping he wouldn't do too much damage to the guy and accidentally killing him...
He rolled a natural 20.
The dagger plunged into the back of the acolyte's skull. It did only 6 damage, meaning the acolyte was still alive.
The acolyte freaked out, feeling the dagger and asking if it was bad. He begged the group not to touch it.
Emergency Surgery: After a bit of negotiation, the acolyte agreed to let them take the dagger out. Finy put a foot on the guy's shoulder for leverage and yanked! He made a dex check for this impromptu service, and he rolled really high.
The dagger was out and the acolyte was relieved. The group ended up making friends with this guy. His name as Sekeleth and he was an infernal slave just like Dornella.
Sekeleth was very worried about the dagger hole in the back of his head. The group realized that there was a possible way to help him with is brain hole - The Crossbrain!
Looting: I looked at the clock, and we were almost out of time. How about that? The group did a quick search of the dungeon (I hate missed treasure).
They found a room with two magic dwarf thrones that swirled with arcane energy. They could hear dwarf whispers emanating from them.
After some hand-wringing, Zavagor and Finy decided to sit on them at the same time.
Dwarf spirits swirled in the air and then shot into their weapons! Zavagor and Finy now had enchanted weapons:
- Finy's Dagger: +1, inhabited by Lethgar.
- Zavagor's Scimitar: +1, inhabited by Balgrun. I declared that the magic scimitar that Zavagor had summoned was now a permanent item.
They survived, and looted money, a potion of heroism and a potion of climbing.
Finy checked Dornella to see if she had picked the pockets of anyone in the group. She hadn’t! Finy was impressed, and split his money with her.
Also in the chest was... A KEY. Zavagor has this side quest where he needs 13 keys to hopefully save his soul. This is one.
Dragon Hide: Lemuel scooped up the corpse of the dragon and threw it over his shoulder. I will definitely bust out that old "harvesting a dragon" article from an old issue of Dragon Magazine.
It was a hilarious session. There were so many funny jokes that I can't remember them all. I should have recorded this one.
The adventure was very good. It is a simple dungeon, but not boring at all. The Book of Lairs is very handy.
It is nice to have quality 5e material available. I'm usually extremely wary of anything 5e not produced by wizards, but this was absolutely worthwhile.