|Too many rooms, just clip a few.|
So my player decided to handle the escort mission to the mine next. I took some suggestions from Bob Worldbuilder and Sly Flourish on this adventure. First off, D.J. Raskin was going to have a bit of knowledge about mining and actually know one of the miners real well. This way he could give my player a few hints (like the mine having multiple entrances) if she got stuck. Also, D.J. knowing one of the miners allowed for some drama to occur when he runs into that miner later in the adventure.
So I created a new NPC, Volga Runegrog, a female dwarven miner that Raskin knows pretty well. She is leading the group of survivors at the mine and they are holding the rear entrance to the mine. She is focused on killing all the wererats and taking back the mine. I also threw in a turncoat miner working with the were rats (already becoming one of them) to add some additional drama if I need it.
I fleshed out Zeleen a bit more, making her greedy for the golden bell at the shrine and trying to get the characters to clear out the area so her gang can take it for themselves. I also removed the carrion crawler with some striges. It feels like it works a bit better in the hidden cave (and fits the environment the player has experienced already. She knows that striges are in the area).
The final change was to make the mine a bit smaller, with fewer rooms to explore and make it a bit more streamlined for my player to navigate. It will be a nice break from the massive complex of Axeholm, and by removing the empty rooms, I can increase the drama a bit.
|About that time ol' DJ showed up.|
After the recap, I made sure the player had everything she needed from Phandalin, and had all her spells selected for the day. She head over to Barthan's and pulled a strange cold idol of Cthullu from the treasure barrel (yes she rolled that from a trinket roll). She paid one gold piece for it and Barthan was happy to see it gone.
The Druid and Inverna then met up with D.J. Raskin, former adventurer and excited to hear stories of danger and excitement. As they traveled to the mine, I rolled for the dragon... and he turned out to be hunting in the area they were going. So I had them witness Cryovaine attack an orc and ogre hunting party right in front of them. The took cover as they watched the dragon pick up a howling ogre and then drop him from a height. Then swoop down and blast the area with ice. To wrap up the dragon swooped back down, pried up the frozen ogre and flew away toward Icespire Peak.
After that excitement, the group continued to the mine, and snuck up on it, expecting trouble. Sadly, Inverna didn't do well with the stealth check, and they were discovered by the were rat guards. The guards were in human form, so they didn't immediately draw suspicion from the player. To present less of a threat, the Druid transformed into an fine horse, and pretended to be Raskin's steed.
After D.J. mentioned that he was there to check on the miners, the guards got a bit cagey and then said they needed to talk to Zeleen. The party followed the guards back into the cave where they met Zaleen (after noticing the secret knock the rat guards used to get the door to the audience chamber opened).
|Where oh where is my wererat?|
This next bit was a bit awkward, since the Druid was in the form of a horse, she couldn't talk. This meant that I had to do some scenes with NPCs talking with each other. Inspired by Bob Worldbuilder's take on the were rat gang, I went full 1940s Noir New York Gangster with the accents, and my player was amused. Zeleen was enchanted with the lovely horse and D.J. chatted with her about where the miners were. I made sure that D.J. collected the information, but didn't make any actual decisions. He kept glancing to Inverna and the horse. Inverna was all about attacking the obviously lying were rats, but the Druid kept her head.
Zeleen wove a tale of her group finding the miners here all dead or dying. And her group tried to help, but it was too late and they all died. But she would give D.J. a nugget of gold for their trouble. No one was buying that story, so with a bit of prodding and the Druid in horse form acting like she really liked Zeleen's attention, the were rat leader mentioned how they were living at the Shrine of Savras. While they were there this half-orc shaman showed up and was ranting about the end of all who opposed him or something stupid like that. They told him to take a hike, and within a week a group of orcs and ogres showed up and drove her folks away from the shrine. She would be happy to leave the mine if they could go back to the shrine.
D.J. and Inverna told Zaleen they would like a moment to chat. And Zaleen and her buddies left the room. There were essentially two plans. After learning that the ladies had already been the shrine and taken care of most of its denizens, Raskin suggested they return there, finish off the orcs and then come back with proof for Zaleen and maybe get her group out of here without a fight. Inverna was all for attacking now, surprising them and clearing the mine that way. The Druid was still in horse form, but signaled that Raskin's idea was the one she wanted to try. She had already deduced that Zaleen was a wererat (the player figured it out from my description and remembered the ratty evidence from the shrine earlier in the campaign). She rolled a 24 on history and so she remembered a story that were rats could only be harmed by magic or silver weapons. This swayed her decision to try their luck with the orcs.
|One of the dangers of Wildshape.|
Zaleen was delighted by this and wished them luck, then booted them out of the mine. The group did a quick circuit and saw the other two entrances to the mine as well as the dwarven graveyard. D.J. was dishearten to see so many were killed. I asked if they wanted to investigate either entrance further, but stye decided to keep on the path they were on, and continue to the shrine via Coneyberry. The party traveled up to the shrine, with more tales of being shared among the travelers. D.J. thought they were pulling his leg with stories of the lightening boar attack on Falcon's hunting lodge.
When the party arrived at the Shrine they found more devastation. Earlier in the campaign I rolled for Cryovaine hunting and he attacked the shrine. So here they found more of the walls knocked down, claw damage and bodies of orcs laying scattered around. They also found the impact point of another ogre (probably the one that was high on mushrooms from the previous session). But it was quiet and abandoned.
Now, I rolled for the dragon again... and got the Shrine again. I didn't say anything imagining that Cryovain was nearby, but not visible (in a copse of trees not too far away). The group explored the shrine again, looking for some kind of proof. But then they hit upon an idea. Zaleen kept mentioning the bell during their conversation. The player remembered that the Rogue had noticed that the bell was not all of one metal, she caught the glint of something gold. So using their Immovable Rod, and some rope Inverna climbed the shrine and scraped at the bell. Sure enough it was made of gold but covered in paint to look another color. Raskin mentioned he had some tools to chip away a bit of the bell to bring back as proof. They thought this would be great.
|Oh man, I wasn't expecting this.|
So all three of them were there on top of the shrine as Raskin started working, and with his tools, he made the bell ring as he tried to pry a chunk off. The noise woke the dragon.
I took a page from Professor Dungeonmaster over at Dungeoncraft, and used a Timer. I rolled a D4 and it landed on 4. I told the player that the dragon would arrive at the shrine in four turns! I determined who had the highest dex and they would act first. It was The Druid, followed by Inverna, followed by Raskin.
What followed was a great sequence as the Druid used Misty Step to move down from the shrine, got inside and remembered the illusion trap in the alter room. She hurried to it, hoping the illusion would work on a dragon. Since she knew it was there, she got advantage on her wisdom save and was able to enter the room. Invera and Raskin followed (with the chunk of bell pulled free). They left the rope behind but there was nothing for it. They all made it inside the alter room just as Cryovaine landed on the belfry.
His booming voice echoed all around them, taunting them. "You rang the bell to play. I want to play. Come out." I also borrowed from Jurassic Park having him tap one of his claws impatiently against the stone. This quickly became his tick.
The player was at a loss. She was looking through her gear, Inverna's gear and asking what Raskin had on him. I described how Raskin was terrified and not looking like he'd be much help. Inverna was ready to fight the dragon now! The whole time Cryovain is taunting them, asking why they are hiding and clicking his claw. He landed on the ground, attempting to sniff them out.
|Moonbeam for fun and profit.|
Then the Druid found something in her spell list. Moonbeam doesn't require her to see the target. She asked if she could make a perception check to determine where the dragon was, and then cast Moonbeam on him. That sounded reasonable (Cryovaine wasn't attempting to be quiet). She rolled great on perception and knew exactly where he was. Then she unleashed Moonbeam casting it one level higher to get the damage boost.
Now it was already night when this happened, so the moon was out. I described how the light of the moon concentrated and them struck the dragon. He rolled very high for his Constitution save, but he still took some damage. I rolled an Intelligence check for Cryovaine to determine if he understood that a spell was cast on him. He rolled a 2... so he had no clue. In his mind, the moon was attacking him for no reason.
I had him start shouting in draconic, confused and outraged by this offense. He flew up and landed on the belfry again, yelling at the moon. The Druid just moved the beam back onto him. This time he failed his Constitution save and took a large amount of damage - over 20. Cryovaine cried out in pain, surprised and disturbed by this turn of events. He took to the skies, still shouting at the moon and demanding to know why it betrayed him.
The characters all let out their held breath. D.J. commented that he was going to ask for a transfer out of this crazy place as soon as possible. Inverna cheered the Druid's skills and ingenuity. But the Druid was troubled. That was a dangerously close scrape... how would they deal with Cryovaine when the time came? Did they even have a hope? And that is where we wrapped for the night.
|Shrines are just trouble.|
The session started off fine. Heavy role-play with Raskin chatting up his new friends, and then interacting with the were rats. It was fun to have Zeleen become a horse lovin' girl the moment she put eyes on the magnificent "beast". It was also fun seeing my player put together the pieces of the story to realize that the were rats were at the Shrine of Savras originally.
But I will say the dragon rolls for this session are what made it work. Having Cryovain attack an orc party in front of the player at the start was a stroke of luck. Great foreshadowing that he was hunting in the area. So when he appeared at the end, it felt natural.
It was great to have the player actually come in direct contact with Cryovaine. I played up his mocking attitude and impatience. I think the player started to hate him just a little bit there. The Timer of the D4 worked great. It felt like it really drove the tension of the dragon coming for them. It would have been crazy if I had rolled a 1, I'm imagining characters jumping down and taking some kind of fall damage.
But my player is really worried about battling the dragon. Seeing him hunt by picking up and dropping his enemies, and seeing the damage from his attacks close up has really brought it home how dangerous he is. She doesn't have any ranged weapons to really fight him with, but there may be another way.
|Smug white dragon?|
I know my player, and she likes to have a plan. At this point, she feels like she doesn't have the knowledge to make a plan. So maybe the treasure at the Dragon's Barrow isn't another magic weapon - but knowledge of dragons. Maybe there is another way to impair Cryovaine that will tie directly into her methods as a druid.
She also mentioned that if they could drive him away, that could be an option. I agree. And then I thought of something else. I'm currently reading The Tyranny of Dragons campaign adventure. Maybe I could introduce the dragon cultists from that adventure - and they could help in getting rid of Cryovaine - for a price. More pondering...
I may be going off book for this finale, but I think it may work best for my player. All that said, we had a good time with this session. I'm very curious to see what she comes up with for the next session, and if they find the dwarven miner's holed up on the other side of the mine.
A miner problem.