[SESSION REPORT] Session Two - In the Shadow of the Peltwood (OSE Campaign)
Session Two. Gold for Corpses.
Alora: a muscular halfling with platemail and unerring aim.
Gavlin: an axe-wielding, incurably stupid dwarf who can read.
Bosco Hill: A rotund, pious man with an overlarge holy symbol.
Runn Ordone: A remarkably homely elf who thrives on conflict.
Khulhandd Luke: A thief with fewer hitpoints than scruples. Here for the money.
Last session, in which a party was formed, a bargain was struck with a greasy thief and a competent dwarf, nasty bugs were pierced and stabbed with many arrows, and the tomb of the serpent kings was “found”. Inside, three coffins filled with poison gas surrendered their treasures. Another coffin, adorned with ancient runes, was collectively agreed upon to be “wizard bullshit” and left alone. Natt the elf was ignominiously flattened by a deadfall, skeletons attacked and were also flattened by the deadfall, and a crumbling limestone statue of a nightmarish god revealed the hidden door to the true tomb. Inside, the resting place of an ancient empire of snakemen, and fabulous riches to boot.
However, before our heroes had a chance to loot all the priceless historical artefacts they could carry, a three-fingered mummified hand crawled out of a pool of black water.
Upon turning to see the hand reaching from the inky pit, Vastokov bravely screamed, dropped his torch, and fled at full speed out of the tomb. Slightly annoyed at the unilateral decision making, the rest of the party followed, finding him outside the stone doors, ghasping for breath. Proclaiming he had no intention of going back down there “without a priest or a wizard or something - you know, the kind of weirdos who are into that stuff” and that he had even less intention of spending the night out here among the ancient mausoleums and burial mounds, Vastokov led the rest of the party back towards Barrow with their meagre loot in hand and one party member short.
The party returned to town as the sun set over the valley, dragging the flattened body of Natt the elf behind them.
Outside the Bruja and the Blackhen, they encountered an elf, a thief, and a priest squabbling over the priest’s holy symbol and got to talking over whether the town had an undertaker.
A passing guard told the party that lugging flat elf corpses through the streets was unseemly, and that if they’d found any treasure out in the rests half of it would need to be turned over to the baron, in addition to a one-time payment of a hundred gold for a Reclamation Seal - seeing as anything of value in these lands was the new Baron's property by divine right of having the most employees with pointy sticks to hand.
Blithley ignoring that detail, the party followed the guard’s directions to the local undertaker.
The party (with Vastokov and the dwarf Tolomere in tow) arrived at the undertaker’s - a low building half constructed from wood and plaster, and half cobbled together from reclaimed gravestones, as was the case with most buildings on this side of the river.
Inside, their noses and eyes watered at the thick fog of acrid embalming fumes. Tolomere and Vastokov took one sniff and decided they’d meet the party later, retreating to the tavern for a meal.
The undertaker, a scrawny man of indeterminite age, with stringy hair, greenish skin, and fabulously bad teeth, greeted them. After some haggling (and the assurance from the party that Nat’s body was “definitely fresh”) he agreed to cough up 6 gold pieces for the corpse, ushering the party back outside with their money and an assurance he was “definitely going to bury him.” Alora and Gavlin also noticed an identical black candle on his work bench to the one they’d seen on the bar in the Bruja.
Slightly richer and one party member down, the adventurers wasted no time in hiring the three new ruffians, who introduced themselves as Bosco, Runn, and Khulhainde Luke, and heading back into the tavern to see what they could see.
[DM's Note: We had two new players join, for a total party of five - all new to playing BX D&D. I thought this might end up being a little bit of a slog, but everyone rose to the occasion marvelously, and even though pretty much the whole session devolved into people going off on their own to invade NPCS' personal space, everyone seemed to be having a great time. I also managed to exhaust 90% of my "unique" NPC voices in a single session, which definitely came back to bite me later].
Spotting the beligerent dwarf with the large book sat exactly where they left him, Gavlin struck up a conversation. He learned that his name was Snorri Orvennssen, and that he was a Grudge Seeker on a quest to right an impossibly long list of past wrongs against his clan, or (and this seemed preferable) die trying. Orvenssen spoke of an ancient castle belonging to a warlord who once ruled this valley that sank into the mire many years ago. Inside this sunken fortress, he suspected was a stolen heirloom of the Basalt clan. He graciously offered to bring the party along to bear witness to his victory of glorious death. No payment was offered, but Snorri said they could keep any gold they found, so - after double checking that a glorious death wasn't compulsory - Gavlin agreed to ask the others what they thought.
Alora sat herself down and ordered a bowl of stew, which was brought over by the innkeeper’s sickly ten year old son, Hagen. Later, Bosco recognised the child’s affliction as the Black Lung, a disease which rarely let a child grow beyond infancy. Alora mused that Hagen’s seeming good health might be related to the black candle burning on the end of the bar.
Khulhand Luke chose to make himself known to two merchants sitting by the fire. One, a dark-skinned man covered in shimmering silver fish scale tattoos; the other a portly gentleman dripping with gold and green brocade, with milky skin, and jade fingernails on his right hand. The man was a Prospect of the Jade Vault Trading House, one whose right hand may only touch money. ("Musht be nice," muttered the terminally broke Khulhainde).
He mentioned that they were in the valley assessing its mercantile worth now that the area was nominally back under imperial control. Luke sold the Prospect the silver bracer they found earlier, and Duerte mentioned that they would be looking for mercenaries to assist in a sortie into the Peltwood to the south, as well as the fact they would buy curiosities and magic items, and would be most interested in any news of falling stars.
Lastly, Bosco and Runn both went together to speak with two ghosts in the back of the bar. One ghost, large and hulking, was born, lived, and died long before the invention of the common tongue. His companion - the blackened and burned spectre of a witch - chatted happily to the pair, revealing that she needed to eat the bones of the last remaining villager who burned her at the stake many years ago, but that the bones were laid to rest on consecrated ground in the Rests.
Bosco agreed to help lay the witch’s soul to rest, and Runn inquired if they’d be getting paid. The witch said that the tomb would probably have something shiny inside it, and be found beneath an old church with a broken spire. She also volunteered to teach Runn a spell or two if they were successful. Bosco didn't seem interested in payment, which everyone agreed was weird.
After Khulhand had a brief but memorable chat with a deranged fisherman about the frog people in the swamp across the river, the party reconvened, traded information, and agreed that the general situation in Barrow and the surrounding area was “hella spooky”.
After renting rooms (Runn elected to sleep on the floor), the party settled in for the night.
Unseen by the sleeping adventurers, three streaks of green light tore out of the sky, falling somewhere to the west of town. Deep within the wild, goblin-infested hills, gutteral voices raised in exultation.
In the morning, rested, refueled, and ready to go, the party followed Vastokov out into the rests - grassy mounds and crumbling stone still cloaked in dew and morning fog. Under a sky stained pink by the dawn, the party threaded their way towards the snakemen tomb.
They didn't get far. [I've been asking my players to roll for random encounters, mostly as a way of reassuring them that the awful stuff they keep bumping into isn't my fault]
Before they were halfway, however, the party was ambushed in a ravine between two burial mounds by six palefaced devilish creatures - with blocky, demonic skulls, pointed teeth, and dark green skin beneath their ashen warpaint - wielding swords and bows.
They ignored Runn the elf but fell upon the rest of the party. After a desperate battle, in which Vastokov was slain, and both Khulhand and Gavlin nearly succumbed to their wounds, the party drove off their attackers.
In addition to Alora getting a new, brutally functional sword, the body of the creatures' leader yielded a pouch containing three gems that Gavlin identified as Deep Opels - incredibly rare black stones almost never seen on the surface.
Khulhand also found a note in the chaotic tongue detailing a bill of sale (Two [symbol for a stick shooting sparks] delivered to a mysterious other party who signed their name in an unconfortably squirmy, illegible script).
Suddenly flush with cash and a fresh new pile of bodies (three of the creatures plus Vastokov) to sell to the undertaker, the party headed back into town, arriving in Barrow a mere hour or two after they left. They received the sum of 25 gp for the bodies (from the undertaker who, since last night, had suddenly acquired a much better case of dental hygeine and a slightly burned down black candle - this would have been suspicious, but the only person who cared was Bosco, who briefly prayed at a freshly dug grave out back and pronounced himself satisfied), sold the opels to Prospect Duerte at the market for 700 gp, and failed miserably to scrounge up some free healing potions at the local temple of the sanctioned faith.
In the interim: Khulhand and Gavlin forked over some of their newfound cash for healing potions at the temple and, back to full strength (minus Vastokov, who everyone agree wouldn’t be missed anyway) prepared for their next foray into the valley.