Round 16 – Frost and Found

(These events took place May 13, 2018.)

Kaden and Amaryllis left the Cryohydra dozing, encased in ice, and continued to explore the ice caverns.

Toby was uncharacteristically nervous today.  His character is a Rogue and can’t take much damage, but he usually played more boldly than this.  He kept telling me, every time he described moving from one room to another or even moving through a room, “I take a defensive position.”

They found a Darkwood Buckler frozen into the ice, which Amaryllis claimed because Kaden already had a small shield.  They found a heavy-duty Dwarf-sized helmet that Amaryllis also claimed after the book identified it as a Helmet of Bashing.  They found an icepick; Kaden took that.  They found a small chest full of gold coins, plus a gem-studded bracelet big enough to be like a belt on a Halfling.  And they found a pair of glasses.

Me: In the middle of the icy floor, bent and covered in frost but otherwise normal looking, is a pair of gold-rimmed glasses.

Toby: I walk up to it, a little concerned, but I walk up to it to see if there’s anything upon closer inspection.

Me: They’ve got frost on ‘em.

Toby: I ask the book if they have any magical devices… if they are… magic.

Me: The book checks them out and says it looks like they might have been made by magic, but the glasses themselves are not magic.  They have no magical properties.

Toby: All right.  I use my hammer thing and try to pick it out of the ice.

Me: You don’t have to; it’s just sitting there on the ice.

Toby: Oh, great.  I pick it up and try to brush the frost off with my hand.

Me: Okay.  That’s easy.

Toby: And I ask the book, “Would these possibly be dangerous?”

Me: The book cannot possibly imagine how glasses could be dangerous.

Toby: I put them on.

Me: Everything becomes rather blurry.

Toby: All right.  I take them off, and I put them in my bag.

Me: Okay.  You now have a pair of gold glasses.

Toby: I don’t know why I need those, but I could probably sell them.

I was surprised he didn’t immediately guess the true purpose of the glasses.

They went down another steep, icy chute.  Because Toby rolled a 1 on his Balance check, Kaden took a bit of a fall at the bottom of it, but otherwise they were unharmed.  In a narrow ice tunnel, they encountered three skeletons, which they dispatched quickly.  I had intended the skeletons to be an easy source of a few extra experience points, but I did not realize that, because of the Armor Class scores Kaden and Amaryllis had, they’d have to roll natural 20s just to hit the players.

Just as Kaden and Amaryllis found a room with a large, clearly artificial shaft carved through the ice and stone, angled sharply upward, at the end of which they could discern sunlight, Lottie wandered off.  So, as Amaryllis suddenly shimmered out of existence, leaving Kaden alone to climb out of the cave system.  As a Rogue, this was easy for her, but it was not so easy for Water Dog.  Toby was very concerned about the dog and made absolutely sure it would not be left behind.

Me: You are on the side of the mountain, standing amongst volcanic rock.  There are a few plants growing among the rock but not much because of how high on the slope you are.  Below you, you can see the jungle sort of taking over down to the level part of the island and off toward the beach where you docked your boat.

Toby: What did the guy say I needed to find for him?

Me: He didn’t tell you what it was called.  In fact, he said he doesn’t know the word for it in your language.

Toby: Did he describe it?

Me: He did not.

Toby: I think it might be his glasses I found.

Me: You scoured every room.

Toby: You bet I did!

I think he’s figured out now that the old man on the beach had lost his glasses and needed someone young and agile to retrieve them for him.

Toby: Are there any boats?

Me: You came over in a small boat.

Toby: Oh, yeah.  I hop in the boat…

Me: From the side of the mountain!?  That beach is at least a mile and a half away.

Toby: Juuump!

Me: Roll a Jump check.  Just kidding.

Toby: What if I got a 20 for the Jump check?

Me: You wanna try?

Toby: No.

Me: Then, let’s not.

Toby directed his character down the mountain, from the rocky heights to the jungle below, taking a “defensive position” the whole way down.  Just to make him nervous, I rolled my dice as if checking for random monster encounters.  As the tangle of jungle plants became thicker, he started to worry about getting lost, too.

Toby: I take out my dagger and attempt cutting the grass.

Me: Okay, let’s roll another D20.

Toby: I got a 20!  Do I literally kill the grass?

Me: Your dagger slices easily through the plants that are getting in your way, and you happen to remember exactly where it was on the mountain that you climbed up here in the first place.  Using that miraculous knowledge, you slice your way through the plants and find the trail that you followed to get up to the original cave entrance.  Your dog’s trotting along thinking you are the smartest human it has ever met.

To continue playing with his nerves, I muttered, “Dang 20s.”

Toby: Wait, was there any enemies you would send in?

Me: I’m not telling you anything like that.  I’m the Dungeon Master; I have secrets.  Or I’m not prepared.  You don’t know.

Kaden and Water Dog finally reached the shore where they had left the boat.  Time for more DM games.

Me: You make it along the trail without incident, and you reach the beach where you left your boat.  Now here’s the question: Did you tie off your boat?

Toby: … Oh, dang!

Me: Roll your D20.

Toby: 4.

Me: You didn’t.

Toby: Ooh.

Me: You left your boat just beached on the sand.  Now it’s my turn.

Toby: I keep taking my defensive position!

Me: Fortunately for you, the dice like you, and you had beached your boat at high tide.  The water has receded; it’s clearly now low tide, and your boat is still on the sand, but it’s much farther away from the water than it used to be.  You’re so lucky.

Toby: Oh, yeah, I definitely am.  Thank you, dice, I owe you a favor.

Truth to tell, I wasn’t going to let the boat drift away.  I doubted his character had the necessary skills to assemble a raft, and even if she did, Toby would become severely frustrated trying to figure out what to do without a boat.  I don’t want him to be frustrated; I just want to amp up the tension from time to time.

Me: You and Water Dog shove the boat across the sand in the direction of the waves.  You get the boat into the water.

Toby: We both jump in the boat.  Oh, and I keep taking my defensive position in case an animal might have gotten in my boat.

Me: There are no animals in your boat.  Some bugs, but you probably don’t care about those.

Toby: I stab the bugs, just in case.

Me: You stab the bugs?

Toby: No, ‘cause that might break my boat.

Me: Tiny beetle, giant dagger!  Stab, stab, stab, stab, stab!  “Why is my boat leaking?”

(laughing)

Me: Your character has an Intelligence score of 12; she’s not going to do that.  Okay, are you going to row back to the mainland, are you going to set off on your own island adventure?

Toby: I go back to the guy.

Me: Okay, you start rowing back toward the mainland.

Toby: I keep having my defensive position!

Me: You can’t maintain a defensive position and row at the same time.

Toby: No.  Dang.  You must have put a giant sea creature in my way.

Me: But, luckily for you, all the sharks appear to be asleep, because none of them show up.  You get to the beach at the mainland.  What do you do with your boat?

Toby: I make sure that I tie it off…

Now all Toby’s character had to do was figure out where to go.  Previously, she had spoken to an old man who lived in a lonesome hut on an otherwise deserted beach.

Me: You remember where the old man’s cabin is.

Toby: I got an 8.  Did I find it correctly?  Did I find the right one?

Me: You found the right only cabin on the beach for miles.

I thought that was a fitting revenge.  I keep Toby on his toes by rolling my dice randomly and making him expect danger where none exists, and he insists on rolling his dice to see if his character succeeds at tasks for which he would never need to roll.  That is where we ended for the day.  After the Coastal Cave, I had some more prep work to do for the next chapter(s).

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Round 15 – An Icy Reception

(These events took place April 29, 2018.)

We decided to resume our game, Toby having rediscovered his interest in it.  His sister, Lottie, now nearly five years old, thought she might like to join in.  I helped her roll stats for a character sheet, and Toby helped her decide on a Race and Class.  She also decided to play as a Halfling Rogue (though with some Fighter-esque characteristics because of her character’s abnormally high Strength score) and chose a name combination from the book: Amaryllis Underbough.  However, I knew her attention span, and I figured she might lose interest in the game while we played, so I added a bit to her backstory.

Kaden was still exploring the cave, searching for the missing object described by the old man on the beach.  A chute led from the second level of the cave, which had walls of calcified coral, to the next, which had walls of ice.  Kaden slid down the chute.  While I was rearranging my notes for the next series of encounters, Toby randomly rolled his D20 (which became a theme for this round) and announced, “According to the die, I had fun on my slide.  I got an 18.”

Well, I couldn’t deny him a roll like that, so I said, “All right, so you slide down the ice tunnel thing, and you have a great time doing it because it’s just the right steepness to feel like a slide, but it’s not scary, and you don’t have to do any scooting to get down there.  The water dog looks at you strangely but then turns itself into just a flow of water and washes down behind you, reforming itself into a dog when it reaches the bottom.

Toby: That is so cool!  Aww!

Me: You are now in an icy hallway.  You look at the walls and the ceiling, and you can tell that there’s rock behind them, but they are coated with ice.  The same with the floor.  The floor of the tunnel that you just slid through was very smooth and slippery, but where you are now, there’s crumbled bits of ice, so you can walk around on it without worrying about slipping and falling.

I realized that I had neglected to take light into account.  Toby never mentioned it, so we just went on as if the ice cave was lit somehow (perhaps refracted sunlight got through from above).  Toby was, however, concerned about the dog, being made of water in a frozen environment.  I explained that the dog looks a bit uncomfortable, but Kaden could tell that the temperature, while below freezing, was not dangerously low.  I handed him the map of the ice caves.

Enter Lottie.

Lottie: Hi, Dad.

Me: Hi, Lottie.  Would you like to play D&D with us?

Lottie: Are we playing Dungeons & Dragons?

Toby: Yes.

While Lottie went to find her dice to join our game, Toby wanted to thoroughly search the room for his current quest object.  Then I introduced the new character.

Toby: Okay.  I go into the first area.  Wait, no!  First, I do a search.  12.

Me: You don’t find anything out of the ordinary.

Toby: I’m going to search again.  I got a 2.

Me: You, uh, got a little bit of ice in your eye and had to blink it away.

Toby: I go into the first room.

Me: Before you do, something strange happens.  The air in front of you sort of shimmers, and a person materializes.

Toby: Cool!  They’re apparating!

Me: Sort of.  The person who appears is another Halfling.  Older than you, a little bit taller than you, decked out in traveling gear and carrying two swords on her back.

Toby’s character and Lottie’s character somewhat awkwardly introduced themselves to each other.  Toby had Kaden act surprised and threatened, which Lottie found funny.  I then explained the surprise appearance of Amaryllis Underbough.

Me: Amaryllis explains that she was cursed when she was very small to appear and disappear pretty much at random.  She has no idea where she will be or when she will show up or when she will disappear again.  She just shows up.  So she tries to be prepared.  She does mention, however, that she often shows up when someone else needs help or might need help or is in a dangerous situation.

Toby: Oh, that means I’m in a dangerous situation.  Yay!

Toby decided the introductions needed more die-rolling.

Toby: I greet her, and I go…  Wait, I forgot to name my book.  Hang on.  I ask the book if it has a name.  Do I roll my dice?  Too late.  I rolled a 7.

Me: The book has never told you its name.

Toby: Oh, okay.  Then I look at its title.  I got a 12.  Do I know how to read?

Me: Well, of course.  You read Goblin.  It says “Goblin Spellbook.  Property of Grak.”

Toby: I ask the spellbook, “Hey, is it okay if I name you a more interesting name than Goblin Spellbook?

Me (as book): Property of Grak!

Toby: Fine.  That.  Yeah.

Me (as book): Sure.  Whatever you wanna call me.  Other than Stupid; I’m not Stupid.

Toby: Um…  Tickle Monster.  I’m kidding.  That would be really funny.  Um…

Lottie: Dad, can we have Amaryllis have a dress?

Me: Is she wearing a dress?

Lottie: Uh…

Me: Okay, she can be wearing a dress.

Toby: I’m going to name it The Powerful Magic Book.  I’m going to call you Magic Book for short.

Me (as book): So that’s no different from what we were doing before?  …  This is cold and boring!

Toby: All right, let’s hurry up.

Me: Would you like to invite Amaryllis to come adventuring with you?

Toby: Yes!  Would you like to come adventuring with me?

Lottie: Yes.

For no reason I could discern, Toby and Lottie then leaned toward each other, bumped noses, and giggled.

Me: And you two touch noses, which is apparently a traditional greeting among Halflings, and decide to go adventuring together.  Do you go into the next room?

Toby: Yes…  Very cautiously!  And I look around to make sure I don’t see anything.  I rolled a 20.  Do I see anything?

Me: I haven’t even described you walking into the room yet.  So, Amaryllis and Kaden then walk into the next room, passing around a large pillar of ice as they go.  This is a very open area.  You are surprised it’s so big and still surrounded completely by ice.  In the middle of the room stand four humanoid looking beings.  You recognize them as the Mephits that you were chasing earlier—one made mostly of water, one made mostly of sand and dirt, one made of a disgusting kind of slime, and one made of ice.  They look at you challengingly.

Toby announced that he wanted to command Water Dog to charge at one of the enemies.  Then he changed his mind and wanted to try to use one of his magic items to communicate with the enemies telepathically.  Then he changed his mind again and just asked them whether they wanted to fight.  The one made mostly of ice, who seemed to be the leader, said, “This is our cave.  We want you out.  We have reawakened the Cryohydra.  We will free it from its icy imprisonment, and we will make our kingdom here.  We will cover this entire island with ice.  Where we will stay and rule.”

Battle commenced.  Toby rolled a really low Initiative, so everyone else got to play before he did.  Lottie attacked one of the Mephits, specifying that she was aiming “for it’s butt!”  Kaden and Amaryllis dealt a surprising amount of damage in a short amount of time, so I rolled a Fortitude check for the Mephits, which they failed.  They ran away.  Toby thought the fight was over and declared, “That was easy!”

Choosing to explore a different direction, I described them finding another icy slope.  Toby debated whether to go down it but decided not to because he wasn’t sure he could get back up again.  Lottie suggested, “Or you could make stairs!  Dad, let’s say that Amaryllis has a power to make stairs.”  I told her we might consider it later.

They turned and went in the same direction as the Mephits, discovering the four enemies standing in front of a fifth—a five-headed Cryohydra partially embedded in the ice wall.  I showed Toby a picture from the Monster Manual.  He was scared, but the Cryohydra was moving lethargically, only watching for the moment.  After some debate between Kaden and the Mephits, battle began again.

This was a long battle.  Lottie kept forgetting which die was her D20, even when we just called it “the big one.”  Both Kaden and Water Dog had a hard time rolling high enough to hit the Mephits, but the Mephits had the same problem.  Ice Mephit kept calling for the Cryohydra to attack, but nobody moved close enough to where it was stuck in the ice to be within range of any of its attacks.  Lottie decided that at least one of the Mephits should be a “girl monster,” but she didn’t know which one.  Nearly every attack, Toby and Lottie both specified that they wanted to hit their opponents “in the butt!”

Earth Mephit used its breath weapon against Amaryllis, and Lottie’s biggest concern was that Amaryllis now had sand on her dress.  She said, “Then she’s got to get another not-sand dress on!  She’d better has to do that!”  In fact, this was so important, that Lottie got up from the table and went upstairs to exchange her current dress-up dress for a different one, so Amaryllis suddenly shimmered out of existence for a few minutes.

Finally the players and the NPCs started scoring hits.  A Mephit rolled a critical hit against Water Dog but rolled low damage.  Toby and Lottie struck other Mephits.  Then Water Dog got a turn and caused the first fatality.

Me: Water Dog opens its watery jaws and clamps down hard on the Earth Mephit.  In fact, its jaws have elongated to look kind of like a crocodile’s.

Toby: Cool!

Me: Wham!  And the Earth Mephit goes phflpflffft into a pile of sand on the floor.

Toby: That’s so funny!  Aww!  Dad you’re killing me.  Dad’s killing me!

Me: Is that bad?

Toby: No.  It’s just so funny.

The Cryohydra remained in the ice, watching but not engaging in the battle, even when one of Amaryllis’s arrows went slightly off target and struck the ice wall near three of its heads.  Ice Mephit cried out, “Do something!”  The Cryohydra casually snapped in Kaden’s direction but was still too far away.

Water Dog rolled a critical hit and maximum damage.

Me: Water Dog slams so hard into the Slime Mephit so that it blasts apart and splatters.  There are now globs of slime dripping slowly down the ice wall.  Two of the Hydra’s heads look over at the slime; one reaches out as if to lick it.

Toby: GAH!

Me: It decides not to lick after sniffing at the slime.  A third is eying the water dog curiously.

Finally, the Ice Mephit was the only enemy left other than the Cryohydra.  It tried to back away, but Kaden dealt the final blow.

Me: Roll your D6 for damage.

Toby: 1, plus a…

Me: It’s dead.

Kaden and Amaryllis faced the Cryohydra.  The Cryohydra yawned lazily.  Toby had the Goblin Spellbook cast Sleep on the Cryohydra, which worked very well.  Toby and Lottie then debated for a while about what they should do and about whether Amaryllis has wings.  He asked me what Water Dog thought of the situation.

Me: It glances over at the Hydra, glances at you, and takes a few steps in the direction of the exit from this room.

Toby: I say, “Good idea.”  I go with it.

Me: You all leave the room.

Round 14 – Footprints in a Cave

(These events took place late-August 2016.)

“I go into the hut,” says Toby.

“When you go inside,” I explain, “the first thing you notice is that the interior is not what you might expect. From the outside, the pile of driftwood logs is no bigger or taller than our car, and there are gaps between the logs that you might have been able to peek through. But on the inside, it’s somehow bigger, about twice the size of our living room. The walls and floor are made of a thick fabric, like an unusually large tent. On one side, you see a cot with blankets and a pillow. Near it is a black woodstove with a chimney pipe that curves out through the wall. On the other side you see some bookshelves and trunks. In the middle, there is a wooden table, and seated at that table is a very old man. He’s hunched over, squinting at something on the table, and his long white beard hangs down to his lap.”

“Are you the old mage who lives by the sea?” Toby asked.

In my best whispery old man voice, I replied, “That would be an accurate description of me. Come in, small one. What brings you to my beach?”

Toby shared Kaden’s tale with the old mage, who listened intently and nodded sagely. After some conversation, Toby learned that the old mage actually knew Gorothau Dris and was disappointed but not at all surprised to learn that he had turned out to be evil. Kaden also handed over the funnel-shaped Encapsulator that she had stolen for Gorothau Dris. The old mage examined it with his hands, closing his eyes and feeling every inch of it before stating that it could be repaired and reversed so that it would free the people trapped in the marbles.

“But first,” said the mage, “I need some assistance and some proof that you can be trusted. About a mile offshore, there is a small island. In the middle of this island, there is a mountain. It was once a volcano, but it has been silent for hundreds of years. On the side of that mountain, there is a cave. Just outside the cave, a plant grows that I often harvest and use to make certain potions. The last time I went there, I lost something–a particularly useful tool, small, made of gold and glass, though I don’t know the name of it in your language. Find it for me, and I will be able to help you and your trapped friends. You may use my canoe to get to the island.”

Toby agreed to this and set out immediately. Once again, the dice favored him, and his character paddled through the waves untroubled by any watery dangers.

“You reach an island that seems tropical. You beach your canoe on the golden sand and take in the view of tall ferns, palm trees, and beautifully clear water. A rocky, mostly treeless mountain rises not far from the beach, though it doesn’t seem very tall. The stone slopes are coarse and pocked, a dusty gray-black color with bits of dark red mixed in. There are brightly colored flowers growing in some places. The entrance to a cave entrance is obvious, about halfway up the mountain, next to a level ledge. The top of the mountain is indeed shaped like volcano, but you see no smoke or evidence of lava. Some climbing may be required to reach cave entrance.”

Toby steered his character on game trails through the ferns. She recognized footprints in the dirt as belonging to wild boars, and, sure enough, she soon encountered a foraging boar. I rolled the dice, and the boar charged. But Toby had the situation covered. He said that Kaden would put on the Cicada Hat (Speak with Animals spell) and tell the boar to go away, which it did. After an uneventful walk through the ferns, through palm tree groves, and up the mountain, Kaden reached the cave entrance.

I described it as huge, as if there had been a giant bubble in the lava that formed it. The walls were pocked with several smaller bubble-shaped holes. Some flowers grew around the edges of the entrance, and a large beehive clung to one edge. (Toby was concerned about the bees. I assured him that the bees were normal, not monstrous, and would likely leave Kaden alone if she didn’t do anything to threaten them or their hive.) At the back of the opening, a hole in the wall led into a dark cave.

Toby was mostly cautious about his foray into the cave. He used a magic item to produce a light source so he could see where he was going, and he voluntarily rolled some Move Silently and Search checks.

In the first cavern, he found evidence that boars sometimes sheltered there, but it was vacant for the time being.

In the second cavern, he found a large stalagmite rising from the ground with several blue-colored lizards on it and successfully identified them as Shocker Lizards. He distracted them with some of the jerky he was carrying and sneaked past.

Through a narrow tunnel he found two caverns. One had a family of sleeping bats. In the other, a strange-looking man paced back and forth in front of the entrance to a shaft that led diagonally deeper into the cave. His skin was rough, like slabs of sandstone, and with each step he took came a crunching sound as though the floor was covered in gravel. The stone-man (Earth Mephit) didn’t spot Toby’s character at first, but when Toby stared at me in confused silence for almost a full minute, I allowed it to take action. It realized it was no longer alone, and it dove down the shaft to get away.

Toby backtracked to some other rooms of the cave. One was empty. One had a large crack in the ceiling, letting in daylight. One had a tiny crevice in which was hidden a small box, containg several gold and silver coins. And in another room, two Gnolls were snacking on boar meat that they had roasted over a small campfire. The Gnolls had their backs to the room’s one entrance, and Toby’s character could easily have sneaked away, but for some reason, he decided that she would strike up a conversation with them.

“Hi, guys,” he said. “What’s going on.”

“The Gnolls are startled by your presence,” I said. “They jump up, turn, and draw their weapons.”

“I ask them if they’ve seen something in this cave that a wizard might have dropped.”

“They growl at you.”

“Ugh. Fine. I take my fighting stance and tell the book to get that laughing spell ready.”

And so it was that Kaden and the goblin spellbook defeated two Gnolls in a cave with a few shortspear attacks amd the debilitating magic of Tasha’s Hideous Laughter. When the battle was over, Toby proclaimed, “That was EASY! You didn’t think that would be a HARD fight for me, did you, Dad? It’s like those guys didn’t even try!”

Toby was confused about where to go next until I reminded him of the shaft that the stone-man had disappeared through. So he made his way back past the Shocker Lizards and slid down to the bottom of the shaft, which seemed to be about at sea level. The cave changed here. I described it as a very wet cave with moss growing on some of the walls, most of which seemed to be made of ancient coral formations. The floor had holes here and there of various sizes, and in the holes were pools of water through which a faint blue light shone. It seems to be sunlight filtered through water. A fairly constant dripping sound echoes through the caves. Some muddy footprints lead straight ahead; a small room can be seen to right and a tunnel to left.

Toby checked out the room to the right first, where he found a very rusty sword, shield, helmet, and boots that looked like they once belonged to a human. Under the shield was a leather bag that must have been magic because it looked perfectly new. Inside the bag were four vials of Alchemist’s Fire and a dozen red darts. The goblin spellbook identified the darts as being unusually effective against creatures that live in aquatic or icy environments.

From the main entrance, Toby then went north through a narrow tunnel that was very wet and smelled slightly fishy. At the end of the tunnel was a large cavern with one large pool of water in the middle. At the edge of that pool sat a strange-looking person with spiny fins on its head, arms, and legs. It was holding its shoulder as if in pain. Upon closer inspection, Toby learned that it was a Locathah, which is a race of underwater humanoids not far different form mermaids. Using a magic item, he cast Charm Person on it to make it trust him long enough for him to give it a healing potion. (This required several rolls of the dice, but they were all successful.) The Locathah expressed gratitude, even though it spoke a different language, then dove into the pool and swam away. Toby grinned broadly at this, pleased that he had helped someone and clearly happy that D&D doesn’t have to be all about fighting monsters all the time.

But since both of these paths were dead-ends, Toby had to backtrack to the main entrance and try following the gravel footprints instead. In the next room, he found the surprise I had planned for him.

“The footprints lead eastward, past an ice statue shaped like a dog. But as you look at it, you realize that this is not an ordinary ice statue. Its eyes are moving and seem to be watching you. Though solid ice, its feet are filled with bits of gravel, and they’re fused to the cave floor by more ice. Otherwise it is shaped like a normal dog and resembles a husky or some similar breed.”

Toby pondered this for a while and had several questions about it. He decided to try his Cicada Hat again to see if he could communicate with the dog. I told him that, in his mind, he seemed to hear a kind of whimpering sound. With some carefully aimed fire magic, Kaden and the goblin spellbook thawed and freed a water elemental dog (I made it up by finding the midpoint between the stats for a normal dog and the stats for a water elemental creature). It expressed its gratitude with extra-wet licks, bubbling barks, and some leaping and splashing around. With a light of excitement in his eyes, Toby told me that he wanted to gesture to the dog to get it to follow him.

“Does it follow me?”

“Yes, it does.”

“I HAVE A DOG!”

He leaped off his chair and started dancing around the garage, exclaiming over and over about how happy he was to have a dog companion in this game. I found more toys for Lottie to play with (she’s been with us the whole time, interrupting every few minutes with demands for help with one thing or another) while Toby came down from his “I have a dog” high.

After emerging from the next tunnel, Toby and his new friend were confronted by a trio of Kuo-Toa fighters who had just come up through one of the pools. Through this battle, Toby got even more excited about the dog, after learning how useful it could be in a fight. Kaden’s spear did plenty of damage, and the goblin spellbook helped as well, but the water elemental attacks were particularly impressive as it formed itself into boulders of water, slammed into its enemies, and reformed into a dog shape on the other side. My descriptions elicited several exclamations of “AWESOME!” from Toby, and when the fighting was done, he told me that he liked the dog even more.

“I’m going to call it Water Dog,” he said, “because it’s a dog made of water.”

Kaden and Water Dog followed the gravel footprints deeper into the coral cave. They eventually found a small room where they faced three oddly-shaped people. One was the stone-man from before. The others were different–one scaly (Water Mephit) and the other apparently made of putrid mud (Ooze Mephit). On sight, all three darted down another shaft (because the dice said so) that led even deeper into the cave system.

Round 13 – Escape (Again)

(These events took place mid-August 2016.)

Toby didn’t like how the last round of D&D ended (and, frankly, neither did I, but he’s the one who decided to stick around and relax in a town where he just escaped from a “bad guy” wizard). Because of that, he wanted to take a break. So for several weeks, our Sunday afternoon games were “Ticket to Ride” or “Settlers of Catan” or “Annex” or some other board game. This gave me plenty of time to work on the story for this campaign, but I also had to really work to convince Toby that he should give D&D another chance. I told him that a good dungeon master (which is what I’m trying to be) won’t leave a player in an impossible situation and will always open up some way for the game to keep going. Eventually, he agreed.

This week, we played in the garage. I keep my notes in an Excel spreadsheet. The laptop I normally use is in Kentucky having a motherboard transplant, so I had to use a much older laptop–one that has a battery life of about five minutes and a cracked hinge. I don’t like to move it. Anyway, we got set up, and we got the dice out, and we were just sitting down to play when Lottie came in and demanded attention, so we had to scour the house for her dice so she could pretend to play along, and THEN we could get started.

I began, “‘Where is it?!’ Gorothau Dris yells. But he doesn’t give you a chance to answer. ‘No. I won’t let you speak. My guards have told me of strange things that happen when you whisper in that filthy goblin language. Instead you will listen to me. I need the crown. I’m certain you have it. I’m going to untie your legs, and then you are going to show me where it is. Why is the crown so important? I’ll tell you, but only because when you have shown it to me, I’m going to make sure you can never escape again. That is no ordinary crown. If used correctly, the person who wears it can control even the fiercest of dragons.

‘Your kings have long forgotten this, so they have treated the crown as nothing more than a fancy hat, but my master remembers. I have more than enough slaves in the oubliettes for the magical fuel I need. Yes, those things you call marbles are a source of magic. The creature trapped within experiences horrific nightmares, and their fear is transformed into magical power for the mage who trapped them. The encapsulator can be repaired and used to enslave more. With the crown, I will return to my master in triumph. He can take his rightful place as ruler of all this land, and I will stand at his side. Together, we will command the dragons and destroy anyone who dares to stand in our way!

‘Now, show me where…’ There is a crash from the bottom of the spiral staircase in the far corner of the throne room, followed by a flash of magical light. Gorothau sends two of his guards down, but as soon as they are out of sight, there are more crashes and then shouts for help. The wizard scoffs in annoyance and says, ‘I will deal with you in a minute. Don’t move. Hah! As if you COULD move.’ He leaves you tied up and goes down the stairs to investigate.”

I paused long enough for all this to sink in and for Toby to indicate whether he wanted to try to do anything. He said he was stuck, so I continued.

“As soon as he is out of sight, one of the suits of armor standing along the wall seems to come to life. It approaches you with heavy, clunking steps, draws its sword, raises the blade high into the air, brings it down in a powerful chopping motion, and… neatly cuts the ropes tied around your wrists. From your pack, the goblin spellbook whispers that it has used nearly all of its remaining magic to hide itself and all your gear from the wizard and then to animate the armor to cut you free.”

Toby was visibly relieved by this and said that he wanted to thank the book for all its help. I reminded him that his character would have to take the gag out of her mouth first. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “I take the gag out and untie my legs and THEN thank the book.”

A very brief search of the throne room revealed the crown partially hidden under the smaller of the two thrones, very near where Hammar had left it in the first place when he and Kaden stopped the kobolds from running away with it. Then Toby dithered for a while about what to do and nearly decided to just stay where he was and wait for the wizard to return. He didn’t want to go out the main entrance because there were two Yuan-Ti warriors standing guard right outside the door. He didn’t want to use the entrance behind the thrones because there was another Yuan-Ti warrior at the end of that hallway. He didn’t want to go down the spiral staircase because that would bring him straight to Gorothau Dris, at least two guards, and whatever craziness they were dealing with in the basement. That left the side entrance to the rear staircase. I convinced him to go out that way. Being a rogue, his character has a huge bonus for sneaking and hiding and moving silently and things of that nature, so it was a very simple matter for her to dart across the hall and into the maps room without being spotted.

In the maps room, Toby’s character met up with a young man who introduced himself as Brayton. He said that he was an assistant to the king’s cartographer and that Nissy (the owner of the recently opened Sanded Witch shop) was his girlfriend. He showed Kaden a map of the general area (which I also showed to Toby) that was marked with a green line “tracking a small pack of kobolds headed away from town,” a red square “where the lookouts think there is a fire in the mountains to the north that hasn’t gone out or moved for almost half a month,” and a blue circle on the southern coast that shows “the house of an old mage who is a friend of the king and might be able to help.”

“Nissy told me how you helped her in the shop and that you’d been captured,” Brayton said. “I think your best bet is to head south to the coast and find the old mage. I’ll distract the wizard here for as long as I can. Now get out of here!”

Toby said, “I thank him, and then I quickly sneak out through that secret passage I found last time.”

Getting out of the castle and then out of town wasn’t easy. Toby had to roll a long series of Move Silently and Hide checks, plus a few Dexterity checks when he decided to do some crazy acrobatics to get into a hiding place or otherwise avoid the notice of Yuan-Ti warriors and castle guards. But the dice were on his side today, and he made it to the woods on the east side of the city.

Two days of travel, often riding a magical pony brought into existence by the Summoning Pellets he had found while searching the castle, and allowing the goblin spellbook to gratefully recharge its magic by moonlight each night, Toby made his way southward to the tiny hamlet of Bridgetown. There he stopped at the Bridgeview Inn for a simple breakfast (“All they have is oatmeal, with or without honey,” I said. “That’s great; Kaden loves all kinds of cereals,” he replied.) and picked up some more supplies, including several rations of jerky from Whit, the town butcher. Then he made his way over the bridge, crossing a wide river, and into some open grasslands. Another day of travel brought him close to the seashore.

I had planned for several encounters along the way–a monster hiding under Bridgetown’s bridge, encounters with unfriendly wildlife, poisonous plants, environmental hazards, and other such things. But, again, the dice were on Toby’s side, and they allowed only one of those things to actually happen. With the beach in sight, Toby’s character was ambushed by an Ethereal Marauder, which materialized in the tall grass on the side of the trail and leaped hungrily toward its prey. With a few thrusts of her shortspear and some fiery magical assistance from the spellbook, the monster didn’t take long to decide that this meal was not worth the effort and vanish back to wherever it came from.

“You reach the beach,” I said. “The grasslands give way to soft sand, and you can see the ocean waves gently folding up the slope not far away. It’s a clear day, and you can see for great distances up and down the beach. Do you want to go east or west?”

“I think the map showed the blue circle to the east of the trail, so I’ll go east.”

“You travel east for almost an hour, and then you see, right at the edge of where the sand meets the grass, a small hut made of driftwood logs.”

“I go up to it.”

“On the side of the hut that faces the ocean, you see what might serve as a door, but it’s just driftwood sticks tied together and propped up against an opening in the larger logs that make up the walls.”

“I knock on the sticks.”

“The door opens, but not in the way you’d expect. A splash of water from inside the hut slaps the bundle of sticks, which falls toward you.”

“I hop to the side.”

“The bundle of sticks falls to the sand with a soft thump. From inside the hut, you hear a very creaky voice say, ‘Come in.'”

Resume

I thought all my notes had been lost, but I found them!  And Toby expressed a renewed interest in playing D&D.  So we’re going to pick it up again.

It’s taken me a while to be ready for him to play again.  I didn’t have much to do to prepare, but I had a lot of other things get in the way.  But now we should be able to finish this story I started.

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.

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?!’”