The Tanius Campaign Journal - Chapter 16: Occupied Upholstery
I eventually understood why Renlia looked so fatigued coming into this meeting. Very few individuals have confronted painful parts of their past the way she did. Not to mention the fact that her life was in constant danger. After a short break to collect our thoughts, and more importantly refill our tankards, Renlia took a deep breath and continued her tale.
There Is No Way This Is A Trap
Campaign Log Day 6 - Part 3
19th day of Kythorn - Evening
Year of The Rebuked Storm - 1574 Dale Reckoning
Endgar Outskirts - Blackheart Manor
Reinvigorated by Kroul's prayer of healing, the party decided that their next course of action was to secure the second floor. The entire upper floor was a large open room with high ceilings looking down on the foyer below. The east and west sides both featured three doors leading to what were assumed to be bedrooms, and on the opposite side of the room was a detached balcony housing an impressive suit of armor. Not wanting to let perfectly good treasure go to waste the party jumped over the balcony and rushed towards the plate mail.
Rkard was able to reach the armor first, and despite the fact that he specialized in un-armored combat, felt that his accomplishment was a sign that he was meant to don the armor. Sensing a trap Kroul place a silence spell around the suit of armor, however the moment Rkard's hand made contact with the plates the armor glowed a sinister shade of red.
Party: Kiddo(Ftr-1/Wlk-3), Kroul(Clr-4), Lilyth(Drd-4), Meesh(Rgr-4), Ungoldor(Rog-4), Rkard(Bbn-4), Renlia(Brd-4)
Base Difficulty Rating: Medium
Modified Difficulty Rating: Hard - Harassed by the Night Hag
Expected Outcome: Moderate HP Loss
Actual Outcome: Moderate HP Loss
Tactical Considerations: The trap was fairly obvious, and as a result the party was fairly well prepared for it. Rkard, Kiddo, and Ungoldor were on the balcony containing the Helmed Horror, and the party was split with Kroul, Meesh, and Lilyth on the western Balcony, and Renlia on the eastern balcony.
How It Went Down: Rkard initially tried to use his Great Weapon Mastery to land some devastating blows early on, but the high AC of the helmed horror made these attacks ineffective. Ungoldor was able to land his attacks with some regularity using his scoped crossbow, but before everybody could focus their attacks the two animated armors from below split the party's attention. After two rounds of combat the Night Hag entered the fray causing Lilyth to break rank, putting Joey in considerable danger.
Renlia was able to minimize the damage dealt to her by repeatedly casting Vicious Mockery on the suit of armor fixated on her. Rkard wisely entered a rage at the start of the fight and was able to soak up the damage from the Helmed Horror while the party eventually repositioned and focus fired the animated armors. Once the lesser armors were defeated and the Hag was chased back into the border ethereal, the party focused their efforts on the Helmed Horror before it was able to deal too much damage to Rkard.
Fortunately the party was prepared for a trap like this, so they wasted no time jumping into action. Rkard attempted to hold the line against the horrific plate mail, but his attacks seemed to have very little impact on it. To make matters worse while the party was focused on trying to take down the ornate armor two more less decorative, but equally aggressive sets of plate mail started charging up the stairs from below.
Lilyth, Joey, and Renlia did their best to hold off the new entrants to the fight, but before they could establish their battle lines one final wrinkle was thrown into the fray. The wretched woman that Ungoldor had mentioned before walked out of a bedroom on the eastern wing and unleashed a salvo of magical bolts on the party. Rkard grimaced in pain as all three bolts hit home, and the crone laughed while retreating back into the room. This caused Lilyth to immediately break rank and charge after the crone, but by the time she reached the bedroom the wretch was nowhere to be found.
DM Note: Transition from Session 9 to 10
Session 9 ended in the middle of the fight with the Helmed Horror. I really try to avoid this, but it was getting late and people had to work in the morning. I ended up taking a picture of the map with my phone so I could reconstruct the fight when we were able to regroup. Bellamy was able to make the next session, but rather than have him interject mid fight, I waited until the fight was over to bring the sorcerer back in. Once the fight was over Bellamy entered and Kroul(who was unable to make the session) posted up in the master bedroom in an effort to get to know Sturgis better.
The party was eventually able to strike down the enchanted suits of armor, but not before receiving many punishing wounds. Kroul did his best to mend the worst of them, but he was concerned that he would not be able to sustain his spellcasting for much longer without some rest. Fortunately for our heroes some relief in the form of Bellamy walked through the manor entrance.
After some debate the party decided that they needed to at least secure the top floor before attempting to take a rest. With a plan in place the party formed up in front of the first of six bedrooms they needed to clear.
What's Behind Door Number...
The party quickly breached the room and much to their relief found nothing immediately threatening inside. The room seemed to have been left unused for a quite some time, and further investigation revealed a skeleton in the bed, and a small portrait on the nightstand. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, Lilyth in Dire Wolf form bit the head off of the skeleton.
DM Note: Bait and Switch
As a DM it is important to strike a balance between keeping a party on their toes, and conveying enough information to make avoiding traps possible. This can be a difficult balance to strike. If you are too pedantic with the checks required to avoid the traps, then you will likely push the party to check every obnoxious detail they can think of slowing the game to a crawl. On the flip-side if you feed them too much information then your traps will never hit home.
This time around I went with a little bit of a bait and switch. Lilyth had correctly identified the skeleton as a threat, but I was counting on that happening. With the skeleton out of the picture the party was satisfied they had disarmed the trap, and never bothered to check for monsters under the bed. At this point all I needed to do was wait for them to move into position, and spring the actual trap.
Renlia walked over to the night stand and picked up the portrait. She looked at the man inside the frame and revealed to the party that they were in Sturgis' old room. Inside the closet was an armor rack holding a well maintained suit of chain mail. After receiving Renlia's blessing Kiddo decided that he wasn't going to pass on a free upgrade, and had the party help him don his new protective wear. Satisfied that there was nothing left to see in the room, the party left the room and closed the door behind them.
The second room was much more alarming. After breaching the door they noticed the interior of the room was completely destroyed. The wall was covered in scorch marks and all of the furniture was reduced to splinters. Inside the closet was a skeleton clutching a scroll in his hand. Bellamy used his mage hand to extract the scroll from the closet, and much to his relief the minor amount of contact he made caused the hand of the skeleton to fall apart.
Item: Scroll of Dispel Magic
Item Type: Scroll
Item Origin: Dungeon Master's Guide
Description: Allows the user to cast the 'Dispel Magic' spell once. Once the spell is cast the scroll is destroyed.
Once again erring on the side of caution the party struck the skeleton causing it to crumble into dust. Satisfied that the room was cleared, the party walked out, and formed up on the third door.
The party breached the door, revealing another room whose contents were in fairly good condition. This time there were two skeletons tucked under the covers of the bed, but the old bones sprung to life before the party could move in and dismantle them.
Party: Bellamy(Sor-4), Kiddo(Ftr-1/Wlk-3), Lilyth(Drd-4), Meesh(Rgr-4), Ungoldor(Rog-4), Rkard(Bbn-4), Renlia(Brd-4)
Base Difficulty Rating: Medium
Modified Difficulty Rating: Hard - Surrounded
Expected Outcome: Moderate HP Loss and strength drain
Actual Outcome: Moderate HP Loss and strength drain
Tactical Considerations: The party is formed up in a breaching formation with their bruisers in front. This is a very effective combat formation for handling threats inside the room, but their more vulnerable members are exposed should they be attacked on their flank.
How It Went Down: The bruisers quickly rushed inside the room, but the first two shadows joining the fight resulted in split damage. Once the pair of shadows in the first room joined the party had to scramble to create the matchups they wanted. The shadows essentially had a free round of attacks on the party while they repositioned, but once a few players had moved Renlia was able to create some space with a thunderwave spell. This allowed the party to balance their formation, and coordinate their attacks. Once the initial confusion was managed the enemies fell quickly, but not before dealing a fair bit of damage.
Wasting no time at all Kiddo blanketed the room in his fiery breath. Although the fire was effective, it did nothing to slow the approach of the animated dead. Our heroes were initially unconcerned, however their confidence began to waver when two dark figures emerged from under the bed.
The shadowy apparitions deftly weaved their way through the party's ranks, and immediately began to engage the most vulnerable warriors. The situation went from dangerous to dire when two more shadows crept out from under the door of the first room they cleared. The battle quickly devolved into chaos as the party was not able to form any proper battle lines against their fluid foes. Our heroes started to feel their strength fade as the shadows reached out, and sapped away at their life force.
Fortunately fear can be a powerful motivating force, and with a heightened sense of urgency our heroes responded in kind. Renlia was able to create some space for the party with a powerful thunderwave spell. This gave the party some breathing room and gave them the opportunity to focus their attacks, quickly bringing the assailants down one at a time. The shadows were the first to fall, followed immediately by the skeletons.
After the final foe was felled the party kept their weapons at the ready expecting the crone to make another appearance. However, this time around it seemed that the old bag had no interest in showing her face. Confident that they were safe for the moment the party reformed and swept the room. However this time, they paid special attention to anything that might be hiding under the bed.