End

I am concluding this blog. I had written up tales of three more D&D sessions, including Toby’s battles with an Ethereal Marauder, explorations in an aquatic cave, and discovery and befriending of an Water Elemental Dog. But the computer ate them, and I no longer feel I have the time and energy to keep this up.

Thank you to those few who read of my adventures with my son. I hope you enjoyed them. We’ll keep playing.

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Round 12 – The Sanded Witch

Late at night, Kaden found herself outside the castle gates—free from the dungeon and carrying some important loot.  I asked Toby what he wanted to do, reminding him that he did get the people marbles and the dragon marble but that he did not get the crown, which the wizard is interested in.

“I don’t care about the crown,” he told me.  “That guy just wants it to crown himself, and having a crown doesn’t make you a king.  I don’t care if he crowns himself.”

He then said he wanted to find an inn and get some sleep.  So that’s what happened.  The Eagle’s Hall—the first inn his character stayed at—was closed for the night, but The Serpent And Minotaur was still open.  He met the innkeeper there and got a bite to eat.

He said, “I tell him, ‘I have to warn you: The wizard guy in the castle is bad, and he’ll try to capture you if you go there, so you should stay away from there.”

The innkeeper was skeptical, and he became even more skeptical as Toby described his adventures, including how he found marbles with people and even a dragon trapped inside.  The innkeeper explained that he doubted this story very much because, just a few hours earlier, the wizard had sent a proclamation throughout the town to declare that the castle has been cleansed and that he would soon set out on a journey to find and bring back the royal family.

But that skepticism didn’t prevent him from renting a room for the night.  Toby explained that Kaden was very tired and that he wanted her to sleep in until about 9:30 in the morning.  She did so.  Since the inn did not serve breakfast, Kaden went in search of a restaurant that did.  What she found that sunny morning was a crowd of people outside a small shop.  It looked both old and new at the same time—new windows and a new door in an old and weatherbeaten frame.  Above the door hung a sign with an image of a black-cloaked witch covered in yellow sand.  A Half-Elf in the crowd kindly explained that it was a new food shop, hastily set up just the day before, and that many were excited to give it a try.

It was called The Sanded Witch.

Yes, Toby got the joke and figured out the origin of it.

“You peer in through the front windows,” I said.  “You see a few tables and chairs where people can sit down and eat, and you see a door that probably leads to a kitchen.  After a few minutes, a woman emerges from the kitchen and approaches the front door.  She has a key in her hand, so you’re sure she’s about to open up for the day.  And you recognize her face.  It’s Nissy from Eagle’s Hall.  You remember she had made that grilled cheese sandwich for you on your first night here, and then she quit when the innkeeper there told her to do something she didn’t want to do?  That’s her.”

Nissy had just unlocked the door when there was a crash and sounds of shouting from the kitchen.  Toby sent Kaden rushing in to investigate.  What she found was very strange.  Two cooks, armed with nothing but bread knives, stared down a very large pile of bread, shaped like a human and smashing things.  (I made up a golem constructed entirely of loaves of bread.)  There was a brief skirmish, then Toby tried to figure out how he could defeat it without engaging it in melee combat.  His mom suggested burning it, but he thought that toasting the bread might make it stronger.  He considered water briefly, but then he had a different idea:

“I run back out to the front of the restaurant, and I tell everybody there to come back to the kitchen and eat some free bread.”

That seemed unlikely, so I had him roll a Charisma check.  He rolled an 18.  That was good enough for me.  The townsfolk followed him to the kitchen.  There things stalled because, naturally, few people would be willing to attack a monster made of bread, no matter how hungry they were.  But someone had the idea to throw a frying pan at it to distract it, and the monster rolled a 1 on its Dexterity check, so it went down, and the townsfolk tackled it for a morning feast.  For some reason, Toby wanted to pay them for eating the bread, but he realized that this was pointless.

Now, I should note that Nissy works that place with her boyfriend.  He spent some time working as a cartographer for the king, and he had some very useful information that Toby’s character could have gotten.  But Toby decided to leave without any further conversation, so he missed out on this.

Then bells rang out through the town, and angry-looking guards began to appear in the streets.  They were human, but their armor and their swords looked exotic yet somehow familiar.  Toby rightly figured that they must be from the castle and searching for the escaped prisoner, so Kaden went into hiding.  First behind a box in an alley, then on the roof of a building.  Toby seemed content to hide until the danger passed, and I wasn’t going to let that happen, but he seemed to sense an opportunity and changed his mind.

Peering over the ledge of the roof, he saw one of four guards on that street pass directly under him.

“I jump on his head!” he shouted.

The dice had different ideas.  Instead, Kaden jumped next to the guard and lost her Initiative check.  What followed was what I thought to be a highly entertaining battle between a wily little Halfling and four unusually skilled guards.  But they didn’t want her dead; they wanted to capture her.  She was caught, but she broke free.  She was tackled, but she broke free again.  She was tackled again, and one of the guards tried to tie her up, but he rolled a 1 on his Dexterity check and ended up tangling himself in the ropes instead.

Toby called on the powers of the goblin spellbook hidden in Kaden’s pack and just ordered it to “do something” to the guards.  One fell to the ground for several rounds in the throes of Tasha’s Hideous Laughter.  The other became irrationally terrified as a result of Cause Fear and fled the scene.  The others were injured by the Gloves of the Goblin Mage that Kaden was wearing, by way of Shocking Grasp and Burning Hands.  Damage was dealt by dagger as well.  In the end, two guards were out of the fight—by running away or by dagger—and two were injured.  But finally, even though she put up more of a fight and achieved more success than I had expected, Kaden was caught and subdued.

“Because that fight took so long, here’s where we have to end for today,” I said.  “The guards tie you up so you can’t wriggle away, and they cover your mouth so you can’t order your book to hurt them.  Then they march you back to the castle and right through the front door.  You’re surprised by this, but it seems that spell on the main entrance is gone.  They take you into the throne room and unceremoniously dump you on the floor.  Gorothau Dris is standing in front of the throne.  He looks very mad.  He glares down at you and shouts, ‘WHERE IS IT?!’”

Round 11 – Escape

Dungeons and Dragons is not all about fighting monsters.  I thought exploring the castle and getting into battles would be a good way to introduce Toby to the game, and I think it was successful.  Now that his character had been captured, he had the opportunity to try something new.

I began this session the same way I ended the last one, describing the dungeon cell in which Toby’s character found herself.  He asked a few questions about the cell, and then the two of us just stared at each other for a while.  He finally said, “I’m really stuck here.”  Truthfully, he was, but I was hoping he’d try to do something.

While exploring the castle, Toby’s character discovered an enchanted spellbook.  Because it was of goblin origin, Gorothau Dris (the “bad guy”) discarded it.  But because she can speak the goblin language, it had become loyal to Kaden and followed her around of its own volition.  The book sneakily followed the guards into the dungeon and made its presence known when the coast was clear.  Kaden and the book had a bit of a conversation between the cell door, but Toby couldn’t come up with anything to ask the book to do for him.

We stared at each other in silence again.

I had decided in advance that, though the Yuan-Ti warriors acting as guards for Gorothau Dris were highly intelligent, their intelligence and free will was impeded by magic of some kind.  They weren’t mindless automatons, but they were more likely to follow their master’s commands than to act of their own volition.  Additionally, being reptilian, they would want to avoid the cold of the dungeon in favor of the warmth of the upper floors of the castle.  Toby wouldn’t know this, but keeping that in mind is the only way I could make the story work.

I said, “The book suddenly goes quiet.  You hear a door open and close, then you hear another door open and close, and then you hear a rustling sound approaching.  You hear keys jingling, and the lock clicks.  When the door opens, you see one of the Yuan-Ti guards standing there, holding something.  He glares at you for a moment, then he hands you a plate of food, a cup of water, and a fork.  He closes and locks the door.  You hear him slither away.  A door opens and closes, another door opens and closes, and the dungeon is silent again.”

Toby said he wanted to shout a “thank you” to the guard.  Then he wondered to himself whether he had just missed a chance to escape.

“What’s on the plate?” he asked.

“You are surprised to find that it is a few chunks of meat and some boiled vegetables.  It’s much nicer than you would have expected to be fed in a dungeon.”

“Oh!  That’s great.  I eat it.  Also, I love vegetables.

“Okay.  So you eat the food.  Now what?”

And we stared at each other again.  I figured I’d have to prompt him.

Toby said, “Too bad I can’t pick the lock.  I’m good at that.”

I asked, “Is there anything you can use to escape?  Anything in the cell with you?”

“No.”

Nothing the guard might have given you with your dinner?”

 

“No.  Well, I have a fork, I guess.”  The gears in his head turned.  “OH!  I could pick the lock with the fork!”

 

He was so excited by this revelation that I was reluctant to give him the next bit of information.

 

“Yes, you could.  Too bad the keyhole is on the other side of the door.”

 

Toby was crestfallen.  He knew he had a tool, but he couldn’t figure out what to do with it.  So I brought the spellbook back to the other side of the door to give him some encouragement and a sounding board.  I thought he’d come up with a way to have the book destroy the door, such as burning it with Produce Flame or something along those lines.  His first idea was more clever than that and actually worked better than I thought it would.

 

“Okay, here’s what I’m going to do,” he said.  I’m going to ask the book if it can move things with magic.”

 

“It can.  The spell is called Mage Hand.”

 

“Okay.  I’m going to pass the fork under the door and tell the book to lift it.  Then, because I know a lot about how to pick locks, I’m going to tell the book how to move the fork in the lock so it will open.”

 

“So you slide the fork under the door.  The book casts Mage Hand and lifts the fork toward the keyhole.  Roll your D20.”

 

“I rolled a three.”

 

“You hear the fork thunk against the wood of the door.  You don’t think the book even got the fork into the keyhole.”

 

“Can I try again?”

 

“Sure.”

 

“Woohoo!  I rolled a 20!”

 

“Wow.  All right, then.  You translate your amazing lockpicking skills into instructions that the book can understand.  You hear the fork clicking in the lock.  After a couple of minutes, the door unlatches.”

 

“Yes!  I open the door.  And then, I’m going to go out of the cell and close the door and relock it to pretend I’m still in there.

 

I had to give him extra experience points for that.

 

I showed him the Lego diagram of the dungeon that I had prepared.  It was simple—five cells on each side, with a wide hallway in the middle.  Through a door, there was a guard desk and a store room.  The main door led to a staircase.  This was the same door his character had tried to hack open with a morningstar from the other side, but it was clear now that it had been magically sealed and strengthened.

 

He picked his way to the guard desk first and searched the drawers.  He found keys and paper and decided to take the lot of it.  He first used the keys on the store room, where he found his armor and some of the weapons he’d had.  Naturally, he took his stuff back.

 

“I pick up my stuff carefully,” he said, “without stabbing myself with it.  I rolled a three.  Did I accidentally stab myself?

 

“No, you didn’t.  Kaden knows how to handle her own weapons.”

 

“Okay, good.”

 

Knowing that there was no way he could break through the main door, he went exploring in the dungeon.  He opened the cells that were locked and peeked into the ones that were unlocked.  All were empty except one.  This one had a small pile of rubble on the floor, an oval-shaped crack in the stone wall, and a purple Fungal Shrieker monster next to it.  Kaden managed to kill this monster in three hits.  I hoped it would be easy, but I didn’t read enough to know that this particular enemy has no direct attacks, so it was even easier than I expected.  When it was dead, Toby said, “I go, ‘Whew!’”

 

For some reason, Toby didn’t pick up on the significance of the oval crack.  It took his mom coming into the room and suggesting that it might be something useful before he thought to examine it more closely.  At first, he wanted to stab it, but I reminded him that the wall was made of stone.  Instead, he used the mangled fork to pry into the crack, which finally widened enough that the cracked section of wall tumbled inward with a crash, revealing a narrow tunnel behind it.

 

This tunnel led to a secret exit almost underneath the decorative fountain in the castle courtyard.  It also led to a short series of secret rooms from which a person to eavesdrop on conversations in the Petition, Council, and Map rooms.  I had given Toby a printed map of each floor of the castle, and he lined up the basement map with the first floor map and held both up toward the window so that the light coming through them would show him where the tunnel led to.

 

Beneath one of the rooms, he heard footsteps and the voice of Gorothau Dris.  I told Toby that it sounded like he was hearing one side of a telephone conversation.

 

His character heard this: “Yes, master, I have the Encapsulator… It was damaged, and I am attempting to repair it… I have many of the Oubliettes, but I could not find the one containing the young dragon… I’m certain it is here. The fools I tasked with searching this place did not find it, so I assume it is in the one part of the castle they could not reach… Yes, I will find the dragon and the crown before I return. For now, I must rest and regain my strength.” Then she heard  footsteps going upstairs.

 

Toby caught on to this one rather quickly.  He sent his character right back to the dungeon and had her thoroughly search the whole place until she finally found a small, red marble with a tiny image of a dragon’s head deep within the glass.  There were many rolls of the dice during this search to see if he could actually find the thing he sought.  There were also many more rolls of the dice from my side of the table to see whether the guards returned to check on him.  My D20 was stuck on very low numbers for a while.  Toby’s search was uninterrupted.

 

I power-walk back through the tunnel,” he tells me after finding the marble.

 

“Where to?”

 

“As far as this tunnel with the secret rooms goes.”

 

“You follow the twists and turns of the tunnel for a while, passing what you think are those three rooms.  You come to a narrow flight of stairs that leads upward into a very narrow space.”

 

“I go up the stairs.”

 

“And you find yourself in a very narrow space.”

 

“I think I’m inside the wall.”

 

He was indeed.  It took him a while to figure out exactly where, but he was inside the north wall of the Maps room.  After some searching, he found a panel on the wall that slid to the side to reveal eye holes.  Through it, he saw a wooden rack on the big table in the middle of the room.  The rack had seven rows, together holding about two hundred marbles.  Toby almost decided there was nothing of interest in this room and went somewhere else, but I prompted him with a question of whether he remembered what happened to Hammar and Mira.  “Oh, yeah!  They were turned into marbles!  Just like the king and queen!”

 

The doors were open, but the room was empty.  After some more searching, he also found a larger sliding panel that would allow him to enter the room.  He pondered this secret door for a rather long time, muttering to himself, “Should I do it or not?”  Then he had an idea.  He asked the book, which had been following him this whole time, to use the Mage Hand spell again to close the doors, retrieve all the marbles from the rack, and dump them into a map case.  This was a brilliant idea because I planned for Gorothau to have set wards set on the rack to protect it from being stolen, but I didn’t do anything about the individual marbles.

 

Back through the secret tunnels to the exit by the fountain.

Out of the tunnels in the castle’s front courtyard.

Across the moonlit courtyard to the stables to retrieve some of the confiscated magic items.

Along the castle wall to the front gate.

Through the gate and into the night darkened streets of the town.

 

And that is how Kaden—with some “borrowed” magic items, carrying a map case full of marbles, and being followed by a floating sentient spellbook—sneaked away from the “bad guy wizard” who had tricked her, exploited her skills and efforts, and imprisoned her.  Toby smiled about his successful escape, and I ended the session so we could both try to think of what will happen next.

Round 10 – Plot Twist

Kaden and Mira exited the castle through the big glass doors of the Atrium, having collected all the magical objects they could find. They had not been able to get into the dungeon, so Toby’s plan was to ask “the wizard guy” if he had a key or knew some way in. (Toby had asked me during the week, “What if he gives me magic to open the door with? I can’t carry magic!” This was a very confusing question for me because we had just been talking about something completely unrelated to our D&D game, and I had trouble catching his train of thought.)

It is now late afternoon. You see Gorothau Dris, the wizard guy, at a table near the front gates. He is talking with a very large man—possibly a Half-Orc and clearly a Barbarian—who has just handed him a bag. He opens the bag and begins looking at its contents. There are three guards standing nearby. You also see a human woman approaching with a bag, presumably to hand in the items she found as well. (You’re not sure why you didn’t run into these people as you explored the castle, but it’s clear they had an assignment similar to yours. Maybe they were exploring the walls and guard towers or something.) Gorothau gruffly tells the woman to stand back and wait her turn.

At that moment, just as you’re trying to decide what to do about this situation, you also see Hammar burst out of the stables holding a shovel, running toward the rear gardens of the castle. Your Dwarf friend sees you and shouts, “Hey! Friends! Come help me!”

“Okay,” said Toby, “I guess we’re going to go help Hammar. I go into the stables and get a shovel too.”

You and Mira go into the stables, pick out a few shovels, and follow Hammar to the gardens in the rear of the castle. Near the castle, you see a green lawn with a few decorative bushes growing in it, some of which have been trimmed into interesting shapes. There’s a statue in the middle. Beyond that, you see an area of mostly open dirt with a few big rocks in it, as if the gardeners haven’t planted anything there yet but are getting ready to. You find Hammar digging in some loose dirt. “I found the wand I’ve been looking for! And loads of other things that have to be either magical or worth a lot of gold. Come help me dig them up!” He sticks his shovel into the ground again, and as soon as he does, the dirt starts to move.

Toby’s face took on expression of concern. “I shout, ‘Hammar, it’s dangerous there!’”

Hammar heard the warning and managed to jump out of the way just as two giant centipedes dug their way up through the loose soil and attacked. Toby seemed a bit annoyed by this, but after using one of the magic rings to cast the Mage Armor spell, he sent his character directly into the battle. There was a great deal of attacking, missing, backing away, and being pursued by the giant bugs. Then one of Mira’s arrows missed its target and embedded itself into a circular depression of unusually sandy ground, causing an Ankheg to burst out and join the fight. Hammar was closest, so it attacked him first.

Hammar struggled quite a bit with this battle, often missing his attacks, but when he scored a hit, it was a big hit. I rolled a natural 20 three times for Hammar during this battle, so the fatal blows were most often caused by him.

Toby’s character also did well, though he never rolled a critical hit. Toby is learning how to take advantage of his character’s traits, often having her sling stones from behind some kind of cover or guiding her through hit-and-run attacks rather than just standing and fighting. He might be becoming overconfident, but it worked out in this battle. One of the centipedes dealt 7HP of damage to his character in a single hit, and he said, “Don’t care!”

Hammar killed the Ankheg, but all the commotion caused another centipede and another Ankheg to emerge. Toby yelled at the Goblin Spellbook to “kill that centipede,” which it did with an impressive Inflict Light Wounds spell.

Mira, who’s arrow shots had been ineffective until now, finally scored a hit on one of the centipedes from behind. Toby shouted, “Yeah! Go, Mira! Now the centipede’s probably yelling, ‘Ack! I got an arrow in my butt!’

Hammar’s axe took down the second Ankheg, but managed to bring three more centipedes out of hiding. (I had put a total of six in the battle and decided where they were hiding underground; if any character stepped near their hiding places, they would emerge.) Toby groaned at this, but when I reminded him to think of the massive amount of experience points he’d be getting from this battle, his eyes grew wide with excitement.

The rest of the battle seemed easy. With Mage Armor on all three characters by this point, thanks to the remaining charges in the magic ring, they were in very little danger. Kaden killed a centipede with her shortspear. Mira overshot one centipede, but another was in her line of fire, so I rolled a 10% chance that she hit the other one by accident, and the dice decided that she did not only hit it but also dealt it a fatal blow. Hammar did a little damage, but Kaden snuffed out the remaining two centipedes with her sling.

This allowed Hammar to finally retrieve the wand he had been searching for. All the other stuff he thought was treasure was really just useless odds and ends from inside the castle.

By this time, two-year-old Lottie was getting in the way again, so we had to find something for her to occupy herself with. I did try to get her to roll her dice for Hammar or Mira or some of the monsters, but she just wanted to hold them and would panic if one ever hit the table.

So you take your bags of items to Gorothau Dris. His table is now clear, and no one is waiting. You see the three guards still standing nearby, but they have their backs to you and are just talking to each other. Gorothau checks Hammar’s items, thanks him, and has him stand to the side to await the reward for his efforts. He then checks Mira’s items, thanks her, and has her stand to the side to wait for her reward as well. Now it’s your turn.

With an expansive gesture, as if throwing confetti into the air, Toby announced, “I give him ALL the stuff I found.”

Okay, so you hand him your bags. He immediately tosses the Goblin Spellbook and the Gloves of the Goblin Mage back to you, saying that he wanted absolutely nothing to do with goblin stuff. He inspects the cloaks and rings and hats and other things, and he thanks you for finding these important magical objects. Then he finds the marbles.

While exploring the castle, Toby’s character had found a total of five marbles that responded as if they were magical items. Each had a face deep inside them, just clear enough to recognize as the faces of a man, a woman, and three children. The marbles couldn’t do anything, Toby couldn’t figure out what they were for, and the Goblin Spellbook couldn’t figure them out either. But these were clearly important to the wizard.

I told Toby that Gorothau was impressed that Kaden had found the marbles. “He asks you if you know what they are.”

Toby shook his head. Sensing something potentially more interesting than fighting monsters, my wife turned away from her computer screen to listen to what was going on. Lottie was making a mess of something in the living room.

Gorothau explains, “These are magical prisons. The king, the queen, and their three children are imprisoned inside these marbles. These are what I was looking for! These are what I was hoping someone would find!” He picks up another of the magical items—that odd funnel-shaped thing you found in the Observation Tower that doesn’t seem to do anything useful. “And it was this that trapped the royal family in these prisons!”

As I described this scene, Toby leaned farther and farther forward over the dining room table, listening intently and beginning to smile, sure that he had accomplished something great. My wife even gasped at an appropriate moment, noting the significance of what the wizard was saying. Enjoying a thoroughly captivated audience, I went on.

Gorothau smiles. He says something you don’t understand. The three guards standing nearby suddenly spring into action. As they turn toward you, you see that they are unusually tall, have scaly green skin, wear dark metal armor, and carry wicked-looking curved swords with hooked tips. What surprises you are their legs. Or, rather, their lack of legs. From the waist up, they’re human-like, if reptilian; from the waist down, they’re massive snakes. Mira has just enough time to whisper, “Yuan-Ti warriors?” Then all three of you are captured, held tight and nearly motionless by their snake bodies.

Gorothau then announces that it is time for the three of you to receive your rewards. He presses the funnel to Hammar’s head, and Hammar vanishes into it. A marble pops out the other end with Hammar’s face inside the glass. He does the same to Mira. He approaches you and presses the funnel against your head, but nothing happens. He tries again, but it still doesn’t work. Frustrated, says something to the Yuan-Ti warrior holding you. Then he waves his hand in your direction, and you fall asleep.

My wife was grinning from her computer desk, suddenly intrigued by the game. She later hinted at a suggestion of an inkling of an interest in considering joining us, clearly more for the story than for the gameplay. Meanwhile, the look on Toby’s face was priceless. He was a little confused but mostly stunned by the turn of events. He was obviously expecting something completely different. After a moment of silence, he muttered a realization: He’s the bad guy!”

You wake up in a dark place. The floor is cold and dirty. The air smells damp. You find that you’re still wearing the Gloves of the Goblin Mage. Other than that, everything you had has been taken, except your clothes, your sling (though you have no ammunition), and some of those white-tipped matches. As your eyes adjust to the darkness, you see four stone walls, one of which has a heavy wooden door with a tiny barred window in it.

We ended with another realization: “I’m in the dungeon.”

Round 9 – Downstairs

Finally, after all this time, the adventurers were ready to go into the basement of the castle.  They started in the cellar, a large storage room full of boxes and sacks and barrels of food.  Toby immediately said he would put on the Flower Hat to check for rats.  There were no rats in the cellar, which he found odd, though he did detect a rat somewhere on this level.

Toby announced, “Well, I’m hungry, so I’m going to go get some food from one of the barrels in the middle aisle.”

He picked up the marker that represented his character on the Lego “map” I had created for the room and moved it to where the barrel was.  As soon as he set it down, I said, “You suddenly notice that you have attracted the attention of two giant centipedes.”  We had to do an image search so I could remind him what a centipede looks like.  He asked how big these giant ones were, and I said, “About the size of a basset hound.”  We then had to do an image search so I could show him what a basset hound looks like.

I had rolled dice to randomly determine the centipedes’ location within the cellar.  One of them just happened to be very close to that barrel, and the other was within charging distance.  The battle commenced.  Mira joined in and began firing her bow, with reasonable success.  Toby tried to tell the centipedes that there was another person they could attack, but they didn’t listen and continued their assault on his rogue.  At one point, my two-year-old daughter Lottie tried to join the fun by stealing my D20 and dropping it to the floor; as it fell, I said we would count it as a roll, which turned out to be a miss for Mira.  But through some amazing Dexterity checks and a stunning Shocking Grasp spell from the Gloves of the Goblin Mage, Toby managed to avoid much damage, and the monsters didn’t last long.

“To finish off the one you stunned last turn, you grab Mira’s arrow from where it got stuck in a sack of rice, leap over the barrel, and stab the centipede with it.”

A Search check revealed the magic item in this room—a box of matches with different colored tips that would produce Charm Person, Charm Animal, or Dancing Lights spells when struck.  Another Search check (he rolled a 19 and had a +5 bonus, so his character basically found anything there was to find in the room) revealed a hole in the wall that opened up into a tunnel.  Toby struck one of the Dancing Lights matches and directed the four magical lantern lights down the tunnel.  He followed them to another hallway and managed to avoid both a portcullis trap and a pit trap.

“I check the pit trap,” Toby said.

“You see a pit,” I replied.

“What is it?”

“Just a hole.”

“What’s at the bottom of it?”

“The bottom.”

“The bottom of what?”

“Of the hole.”

Trying to explain that it was just a hole in the ground turned out to be like an Abbott and Costello sketch.

Kaden and Mira found their way into the Alchemist’s chambers.

“The walls are made of stone. The tables are made of wood and covered with glass bottles. Some of the bottles have odd-colored liquids in them. One of the bottles seems to be vibrating and looks hot. On the far end of the room, there’s a fireplace, a big chair, a bed, a bookshelf, and a little table. Somebody lived and worked here, making potions and magical stuff.”

They noticed a Homunculus sitting on one of the tables in a defensive position.

Toby announced, “Some of the food I collected from that barrel was raisins.  ‘Cause I went back to the barrel and got the food I wanted after we killed the centipedes, ‘cause they didn’t give me a chance to do that before they attacked me.  So I get out some raisins, and I throw them at the little iguana-person-thing on the table.”

I was amused by this, so I let it slide, even though D&D rules would normally decree that, if you didn’t say what your character did at the time, then it didn’t happen.  The Homunculus was under the control of the alchemist who normally lived and worked in the castle, and it was mostly on guard duty, so it was not behaving aggressively.  It did growl about the raisins, but otherwise it just watched the two adventurers as they found a kind of magical spray bottle that could cast different water-based spells depending on what ingredients were mixed into it.

While I was explaining the magic item, my daughter came to sit on my lap for a few minutes.  She started paging through the Monster Manual that I had open and landed on the page with the entry about the Beholder, possibly one of the most iconic non-dragon monsters in this game.  She examined it for a few seconds, then told me, “Kinda skeery.  I kinda skeered.”  She wasn’t acting very scared, though, and soon lost interest and wandered away.

Before leaving, Toby said of the Homunculus, “I’ll just leave that iguana thing alone.  If it decides to be bad when we’re not here, then someone else can kill it.

Across the hall were the Armory and the Treasury, both locked but easily picked by a skilled rogue.  Toby had no qualms about upgrading his weapons and armor in the Armory, though he did make sure to tell me that he would leave behind his old stuff in place of the better stuff.  He opted not to take anything from the Treasury except the two magic items there—a topaz ring (Daze spell) and a Big Ears Hat (Comprehend Languages), both of which he gave to Mira.  While searching, he narrowly avoided a Brown Mold trap in a box.

And he found a rat.  This time, it was just a normal rat.  So he talked to it using the Cicada Hat, then said, “I also got some cheese from that barrel, so I throw it some to the rat.”

2-year-old Lottie came in again.  And she stole the D20 again.  And this time, she ran away with it.  We had to take a break to search the house for the missing die.  Why she can’t take one of the dozens of D6 dice we have, I don’t know; she only wants the D20.  (As of this writing, a few days after the adventure, Lottie now has her own set of D&D dice, and I think I’ll let her roll from time to time.  Perhaps now she’ll leave my dice alone.  It’s not just the players who can be superstitious about their dice.)

Kaden and Mira made their way to the dungeon door, which I described as being made of a thick, heavy, dark wood, banded with iron and held shut by several latches, locks, and a heavy wooden beam.  The beam proved too heavy to lift, but Toby was determined to get his characters into the dungeon, thinking that “there might be a boss monster in there.”

“I run back to the armory to get a morningstar and then I use it to smash the door.”

“Roll your D20… nothing happens.”

“I try again.”

“Roll again… you see a few tiny splinters come off.”

“I try again.”

“Roll again… nothing happens.”

“I try again!

“Roll again… you snap the handle of the morningstar.”

He repeated this four more times before admitting that the door was probably too thick to be opened.  He didn’t know that it had also been magically enhanced, but that’s a Dungeon Master secret for now.  Then he tried his Burning Hands spell, but that did nothing more than char the wood.  I had Mira suggest that they go back to see Gorothau Dris and ask if he knows how to get into the dungeon, since they’ve explored everywhere else.  Toby agreed, and both Kaden and Mira exited the castle by way of the Atrium.

Round 8 – Magic Hats and Pillow Fights

Consulting their map, Toby’s character Kaden and the Elf archer Mira decided to check out the remaining rooms on the first and second floor before descending to the basement.  They’d been to most of the rooms in the castle except the basement, which is so far completely unexplored.

First, they went to the Council Chambers.

“A large table in the middle of the room is surrounded by comfortable looking chairs. Walls have portraits of military commanders or social leaders.”

There were no “bad guys” to fight, but a search under the table revealed a pair of green leathery gloves with small glass beads sewn into the backs of them.  They were too small to fit Mira, so Kaden put them on and asked the Goblin Spellbook to check them out.  It explained that they are Gloves of the Goblin Mage, which are capable of casting a few touch attack spells, like Chill Touch and Shocking Grasp if charged by exposing the glass beads on the backs to cold water or to flame.  Toby surprised me by immediately going back to the Dining Hall, which had already been thoroughly searched, but he explained why: He wanted to make sure the magic in those gloves was fully charged, and he remembered the water fountains in the corners of the Dining Hall and the candles on the table.

The Petition Room was next.

“In this room is a small throne on a low dais. A few hard wood chairs are lined up against the walls, which are hung with tapestries depicting old rulers of the area. People come here to make special requests of the king or queen. It’s like a smaller version of the Throne Room.”

I had Toby roll the usual checks upon entering the room. He was certain there would be more “bad guys” here. There were not, but his die rolls failed to reveal another type of danger. Crossing the room to the throne, his character stepped on something that made a clicking sound. From small openings in the wall, not far from the floor, a pair of arrows shot toward Kaden’s ankles. Her Reflex check was a good one, but not quite good enough. She only managed to dodge one of the arrows and took a hit from the other.

Toby shrugged this off and continued his search of the room. He found a Masterwork Thief’s Tools kit. I explained that this was just like his current Thief’s Tools kit, only much better because it was significantly more expensive, less likely to break, and gave additional bonuses to any time he might need to roll the dice for picking a lock. He thought about this for a second or two, and announced that he was just going to leave it there.

“I already have a regular one. Why would I need a Masterwork one if I already have one that still works? That would be selfish. I’ll leave it for somebody else to find.”

Again, I was surprised. This is a game, so there are no real-world consequences. Any “somebody else” who might find that kit is completely imaginary. And most other D&D players would likely have taken the kit either as an upgrade to their current tool set or as something to sell for some extra gold. I thought it an interesting insight into my son’s mind.

The only other unexplored room on the first floor was the Atrium.

“You find yourself in an indoor garden. You are surrounded by trees and shrubs and flowers. A small stream meanders through the room, and a little wooden bridge crosses it in the center. A stone path winds through the plants. You’re sure it would normally smell very nice in here, but at the moment, it kind of stinks, like a pet store in which no one has cleaned the cages for a week or two. You’re glad that you broke the spell of darkness earlier because the walls and ceiling are all windows and letting in the afternoon sunlight.”

Toby asked for clarification: “So, wait. Is this, like, an indoor garden?”

“Yes,” I said.

Kaden and Mira explored the Atrium and found nothing really dangerous. Inside a bush just past the middle of the room, they found another magical hat.

“When you wear it,” I explained, “You look like you have a giant sunflower growing out of your head.”

When he was done laughing at this, Toby asked, “Let me guess. I can talk to flowers?”

“Not quite. It allows you to identify or locate a specific type of plant or animal within a certain area.”

Mira was wary of all the trees and the jungle-like environment. After some discussion, it was decided that Mira would put on the Flower Hat and think of all the animals she knew lived in places that had plants like these. After a moment, she handed the hat back to Kaden and said that she had found a snake and pointed it out, draped over a tree branch and nearly camouflaged among some climbing vines.

“I get out my sling,” Toby said. “Wait, what’s the snake doing?”

“It’s looking at you.”

“Is it moving?”

“Other than looking around with its head, no.”

“I put on the Cicada Hat and try to talk to it.”

“What do you say?”

“I ask it what it wants.”

“The snake turns its head away from you, and in your mind, you get two ideas that seem to come from the snake, saying ‘sleepy’ and ‘go away.’”

“Oh. We should leave it alone then. I tell Mira we should just leave.”

And so, they left the snake in the Atrium alone to have its afternoon nap.

Next, they went upstairs to the Royal Apartments.

“You find a large living room, full of couches and chairs. Doorways lead off this living room to a small study with two wooden desks, four large bedrooms, and a play room full of toys. All rooms have the finest furniture, the smaller pieces of which have been tipped over or strewn about the room.”

Toby decided to send Mira to search the bedrooms while he had Kaden search the study and the play room. He found nothing of interest in the study. In the play room, he found a cloak that would grant magical Hide From Animals protection when the wearer is motionless. Also in the play room, he found a small battalion of toy soldiers hopping toward him menacingly. Toby spent a couple of minutes trying to describe different ways he could hold his dagger or his spear so he could protect himself from the toy soldiers’ tiny swords, but he couldn’t come up with anything that promised to be effective enough to be worth the effort.

I casually asked, “Is your character wearing boots?”

“Yeah… OH! I could kick them!”

And he did just that. These things posed a minimal threat to begin with—if any—but after Toby  rolled two natural 20s in a row, they posed no threat at all. Kaden kicked them all out of the way and left the room.

Just because I thought it would be funny, I decided not to let them leave the Royal Apartments without at least another challenge. So I animated the couches, which started flinging their throw pillows (pun most definitely intended) at the Elf and the Halfling. There was a bit of confusion while Toby tried to figure out whether he should fight the couches or not, casually mentioning that his character really likes pillow fights and wondering whether chopping up the pillows would do any good. Then he had an idea.

“I collected some paper and pen before coming here. I put up a sign that says, ‘Soldiers trying to attack. Be careful where you step. Also, couches throwing pillows. Beware.’”

That left just the closet behind the library—where they found another cloak (casts Sanctuary spell if wearer is motionless) and another of the marbles with a face in it—and the balcony overlooking the Ballroom. There were two more Kobolds that didn’t even have a chance to put up a fight before being taken down by Kaden’s sling and Mira’s bow. They also found Summoning Pellets, which I described as those Independence Day “Pop-It” things that, when thrown during battle, would cast the first level Summon Monster spell.

I was hoping that Toby might find the Gloves of the Goblin Mage and the Summoning Pellets earlier in the game because I thought they would be fun to use in some of the battles. Maybe I need to pick a more powerful monster to put in the basement for him to fight next week.

Round 7 – The Elf

After last week’s session, I did some math and determined that Toby’s character had gained enough experience points to level up.  Today, we started by going through that process, rolling for additional HP and assigning Skill ranks and that sort of thing.  We also reviewed the many magic items that his character had collected and what each one of them did.  Then we could get the story going again.

Kaden and Hammar cleaned off their weapons in the Throne Room and then set off for the Dining Hall to finally investigate the screaming that they had heard from there earlier.  Both paused at the door to listen. Hammar heard nothing.  Kaden, however, heard splashing water and faint giggling.  Hammar readied his axe and nodded to Kaden to open the door, then let loose a heroic battle cry and charged into the Dining Room.  He paused, and he called for Kaden to join him.

I said, “When you enter the Dining Hall, you see a long and narrow room with pale wood paneling on the walls, hung with tapestries depicting battles and hunting scenes.  There is a long and narrow tables in the middle of the room, surrounded by dozens of chairs.  A big door leads back to the hallway, and two smaller doors appear to lead to the kitchens.  The tables are covered with plates of half-eaten food that seem to have been there for two or three days at least, slightly moldy and stinky.”

Toby added his own descriptions to this, noting that any bread would probably be hard and that any milk would have turned green and curdled.

I went on, “In two of the corners, you see some decorative fountains made of a whitish stone.  Water is spouting up from a carved flower in the center of each fountain.  The water itself has a somewhat greenish tint to it, and inside the basins you can see algae and some underwater plants growing.  In one fountain sits a disgruntled-looking elf woman.  She’s wet, for obvious reasons.  Her wrists and ankles are bound with some kind of seaweed-looking vine, and you also notice that vine has been wrapped around her face to cover her mouth.  There are three winged, green-skinned people, less than one foot tall, in the water with her, poking her and tickling her and giggling about it.”

Toby is not exactly excited about this.  He may be getting tired of the fighting.

I continued, “When the elf woman sees you, her eyes light up, partly because she hopes that she’s about to be rescued from her predicament, and partly because she recognizes you.  After a moment, you also recognize her as the archer who stood in front of you in the line waiting to get into the castle and who tried to warn you about that nasty onion.”

Toby was happy about this detail.  “I’m going to get another helper!” he shouted.  Then he asked what the green people were.  A roll of the dice indicated that Hammar recognized them as Nixies, a mischievous type of faerie or sprite that lives in water.  (I know the Monster Manual says that a Nixie does not have wings, but I decided that these ones do.  Because I’m the DM, and I can do that.)

Battle commenced again.  Toby had an idea and explained that Kaden was going to try to get Hammar to lure the Nixies away so that she could rescue the elf.  Hammar liked this idea and started taunting them, calling them bugs.  Two approached him and drew their tiny swords to try to chop off his beard.  Both missed, but one missed in such a way that she dealt a 2HP injury.  Hammar attempted to swing his axe threateningly in the hopes that the third Nixie would rush to the aid of her companions, but he’s just too good of a trained fighter, and he slammed one of his tiny opponents across the room like a professional baseball player hitting a home run.

Meanwhile, Kaden hid under the long dining table, waiting her opportunity to rush in and untie the elf.  The third Nixie, who stayed by the elf as if on guard, kept shouting things like, “We’re not bugs!” and “She’s our toy!  You can’t have her!”

Hammar drew the other attacking Nixie into the hallway.  The one left to guard attempted to summon others to her defense, and four green heads appeared in the water of the other fountain.  Hammar returned, declaring that someone was going to have to clean up a green smudge in the hallway.  By this time, Toby had apparently had enough of telling me that he’d stay hidden under the table every time his turn came around.  He let Kaden strike out at the guard Nixie with her sling, dealing a mortal wound with her new Sneak Attack feat.  The four green heads in the other fountain promptly disappeared.

Hammar untied the elf.  Toby said, “I’m going to help him untie her because I want her to thank me.”  She did.  She introduced herself as Mira Windhunter, an Elf archer.  She said she had been beset by those Nixies the moment she walked into the Dining Hall and that they had been hassling her ever since.

A search with the Rod of Guidance revealed a bronze spoon as the magic item in the room, and the Goblin Spellbook identified it as a device that could Detect Poison.  Toby promptly wanted to detect poison in that room, but he found none.  Then he wanted to take the spoon up to the Library and use it to detect a book about poison.  Hammar complained about this, wanting to get on with the quest of finding magical objects.

Toby said, “Okay then.  You can just go and look for that wand of yours by yourself because you’re getting a little annoying.”

Thus, Hammar was dismissed.  Up to the Library went Kaden and Mira.  They did find a book about poison, and they learned that none of the books themselves were poisoned.  Then Toby decided he would search the shelves for music books so he could learn how to play the Silver Harp and activate its spells.  I told him it would take about an hour to find such a book and another hour or so to learn the songs, which didn’t seem to bother him much.  So while Kaden searched for the book, Mira left to find another magic marble on the Grand Staircase (this one with an image of a woman’s face in it), to battle a giant ant in the Kitchens, and to find a magic frying pan that would cast the Entropic Shield spell when whacked against something.

The two then went to the Map Room, where they found a lone Kobold searching for a map.  He didn’t last long against Mira’s bow.  They also found a magic magnifying glass capable of casting Enlarge Person when used a certain way.  Toby said that Mira should have it because “she could cast the spell on herself, and then the bad guys would all go, ‘Oh, no!  What’s that giant monster person doing here?  Run away!’”

“Where to next?” I asked.

“Let’s try the Servants’ Quarters.”

“Okay.  It’s very much like the Guest Apartments you checked out a while back, except there are more rooms, and they’re all much smaller.”

“I shout, ‘Hey!  A person is here!  Come fight me!’”

“You hear a small thud and some squeaking and scratching sounds from down the hall.”

“Oh.  Hi, rats.”

“You do indeed see an angry rat charging toward you.”

“I thought so.”

“Followed by five more rats.”

“The battle is on!”

Toby had Kaden put on the Cicada hat (that allows the wearer to communicate with animals for a short time) just long enough to taunt the rats.  “Hey, guys.  Did you know I killed your friend rats upstairs?”  Then the fighting began.  This time, the dice were much more efficient, and several natural 20s were rolled so that Kaden and Mira dispatched the rats in very short order.  In fact, a series of very high die rolls resulted in Kaden killing two rats in a single turn with some fancy, almost acrobatic moves and dagger swipes.

Toby said, “I tell Mira, ‘You know, I killed three other rats like these upstairs.’”

“Then I shall call you Rat Killer.”