Dream Project 3 – The Kidnapped Farmer
This is a summary of my ongoing Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition game, played with some friends from college over the internet using MapTool and Teamspeak.
When we last left our game, the citizens of Meersha had fled a dragon who had taken over their town. They arrived at their theoretical refuge to find the city of Decolay in ruins, and camped in an abandoned fortress overlooking the town. The fortress seemed to be able to transport people into long-lost dreams in their sleep, where the party was guided by a tiefling scholar named Sampa. The next morning, the party made an alliance with a kenku tribe, the Ravencrows, living near the southern edge of the city, and explored an old botanical laboratory.
The party consists of:
Etzlojek, kobold rogue and lover of fine things, adopted by the town’s general store owner
Eva, student of the local ritual mage and magic shop owner, who seems like a perfectly normal human wizard
Donaar, dragonborn warlock and enemy of dragons, who ended up in town after his home city was overrun by undead
Diesa, stalwart dwarven fighter grossed out by bugs, who was visiting family in town and seems to be developing vampiric tendencies
Sully, formerly-retired half-elf paladin of Erathis and party NPC, who ran the tavern in Meersha.
This is level three.
The party stopped by the Ravencrow rookery for Etzlojek to pick up some extra shiruken. Jom assured them that the trade negotiations would take a while, so the party headed back to the tower fortress. Once there, the group split up to take care of personal business, some of which was especially notable.
Eva met with his mentor, Nemeia, who told him of some odd observations she’d been making. The fortress had a strong magical emanation that had begun sometime during the previous night and increased steadily all day. The effect was partly focused on the central tower, with nodes at the cave at the mouth of the stream and the control panel above the gate. The effect was a combination of a low-level mental enchantment and a strong divination or location spell. Nemeia promised to keep investigating.
Having an NPC dispense this sort of information feels cheap to me, but I think it’s better than having PCs make random Arcana checks to detect a subtle swell of magic, especially since the rules for sensing and identifying magic are rather vague.
Diesa spoke with her mother, asking some awkward questions about if there was anything… odd in the family history. Diesa’s great-grandmother, it turned out, had a strange fondness for the color black, and had had some sort of liason with a mysterious man that no one in the family talked about. Her grandfather also sunburned quite easily. Diesa was left slightly enlightened and rather unsettled.
The party grew concerned about Jom when he had not returned by nightfall, and made a trip to the city to check on him. He was still arguing away with the Ravencrow Beak, Wrax, so they let him be.
The players’ concern about Jom was quite funny, considering that he was about to get into trouble.
The PCs returned to the fortress to sleep. They awoke in a similar matter to the previous night, except that instead of being in a gray-skied world, they were in one that lurched and rocked and proved incredibly disorienting. The PCs stumbled out of their beds, some feeling sick, and found that the sky was a roiling rainbow chaos. They checked on the dream portal below the fortress; it was whipping about like a string held only at one end blowing around in the wind. Finally, they went to the control room, where Etzlojek experimented with removing his crystal from the control pedestal… and vanished. Through a bit of investigation, they found that Etzlojek had returned to his sleeping body. Unsure of this chaotic world, and leery of proceeding short one kobold, the PCs each pulled their own crystals and woke up in the morning.
Jom had not yet returned, so the PCs made yet another trip to the city. The Ravencrows claimed that Jom had already left, but there had been no sign of him on the path. Calyx, the guard who had become familiar with the party, suggested that he may have taken a side path that might seem like a shortcut.
The party followed this side path, and discovered an abandoned house that had been trashed as if by a wild party. They also found signs of a struggle, suggesting that Jom had been taken away by small creatures. The party delved into the forest to search for him, and eventually found that the trail led to a short stone tower.
I handled the tracking scene as a skill challenge, and I think it worked well. Multiple PCs were able to help, and no one expressed any annoyance.
The inside of the tower suggested it had once been a wizard’s home. Eva found a tome that became his new implement, and the party then descended to the basement, where a hole opened into a subterranean tunnel that ran north and south. The tunnel was about 35 feet wide, lit and ventilated by periodic small shafts in the ceiling, and had two grooves running down either side of the stone floor about 15 feet from either wall.
The party headed north first, and soon came across some sort of metal cart that looked designed to run along one of the grooves. It had crashed, however, and some sort of glass vessel had shattered at the front of it. As they approached, a glowing yellow vortex arose from the broken glass, and gray oozes slipped out of drainage grates behind them.
1 Dust Devil (Elemental) with the Savage Berserker template
2 Gray Oozes
2 Decrepit Skeletons (the remnants of the cart’s drivers)
1 Shadowhunter Bat
The Savage Berserker template from the DMG has a prerequisite that the monster be humanoid. I can’t see why, so I applied it to a magical beast. The bat proved the most difficult monster to finish off, due to its mobility and dodginess, so when Eva cast Light on it to negate its advantages in the shadows, I had it flee in stark terror. This had the double benefit of ending an encounter with an already-clear outcome and of amusing the players. They especially enjoyed spotting the bat again a bit later, frantically trying to get away from its own halo of light.
The tunnel ended in a dead end to the north, so the party turned south. They soon came across another cart, this one intact. The glass sphere on the front was intact, and contained swirling yellow light. The PCs were able to figure out how the odd reins and magical glyphs worked, and were soon traveling down the tunnel at a nice clip.
Figuring out the cart was another skill challenge. This one was fun for me; the PCs almost failed, and the cart bumped against the wall and almost threw them off a couple of times. They finally figured it out, thanks in part to some good rolls by Diesa.
The party came across a supply room trapped with a Magical Crossbow Turret, where they found alchemical items, potions, residuum, and a Nail of Sealing. They also found the dead body of some sort of assassin. When investigating the assassin, Etzlojek touched a symbol on the man’s armor, and the armor vanished. It was soon clear that Etzlojek had been cursed with a set of Summoned Armor. Eva recognized the symbol on the armor as the mark of the evil god Zehir, but chose not to enlighten Etzlojek.
The cart eventually reached a fortified platform guarded by goblins. In an attempt to trick them, Eva shapeshifted into a hobgoblin. This startled the party, who had never seen him do this, and were surprised that he could perform such a powerful spell. Sadly, his ruse fell through once he had summoned the hobgoblin commanding this squad. It’s hard to pretend to be a goblin if you don’t speak Goblin.
1 Hobgoblin Commander
2 Goblin Sharpshooters
2 Goblin Blackblades
8 Goblin Cutters
Minions are fun, I think I can safely say. The commander was supposed to be a part of the next battle, but since Eva had called him out, I figured he could work as part of this one.
The party slaughtered most of the enemies and forced the sharpshooters to surrender. They let the sharpshooters flee, collected a nice set of armor and weapon from the commander, then proceeded through the door the goblins had been guarding. They kicked open the door to find a set of rooms occupied by hobgoblins. Eva made another valiant attempt to bluff his way into becoming their commander, which would have succeeded had one of them not asked him a question in Goblin.
1 Hobgoblin Warcaster
1 Hobgoblin Soldier
4 Hobgoblin Grunts
2 Hobgoblin Archers
These enemies refused to surrender. Once they were dispatched, the party found Jom tied up in a corner. They decided to continue exploring the underground tunnels another day, and took Jom back to the fortress… giving the fleeing goblins a ride in the cart along the way.
This was a pretty cliche mission: rescue the kidnapped townsperson from the mean goblins. Still, I think it was an interesting setting (a magical subway) and the heroically doomed attempts to pose as a hobgoblin were quite good.
This was the end of Level 3. In Level 4, the party enters another dream, where they find themselves repeatedly reliving a pivotal battle of an ancient war.