Certain parts of last night’s session took slightly longer than anticipated, so unfortunately we didn’t have the finale that I was hoping for. However, a lot of fun was still had! Last time, Trev, Darryl and their three hangers-on descended into the depths of the Forge of Spells… who knows what they’ll find?
In Attendance: Loki Fastfoot (Darryl), Grimdark Stonelock (Trev)
And obviously myself, the DM.
The elevator touches bottom, and the group advance down a long stone corridor. Grimdark notices that the walls are carved with various symbols and letter. Trev leaps at a chance to finally use his character’s stonecunning ability, and one History check later, I give him the full read-through of Phandelver’s Pact (which I last gave to the group waaaay back in one of our first few sessions); dwarfs and gnomes dig a mine, bring in human wizards who set up a forge to make magic items, everything’s sunshine and rainbows for a while until orcs invade and ruin everything… you know how it goes.
They follow the corridor and come out into a huge cavern set with long banquet tables and strewn with dwarf and orc corpses. There’s raised ledges at either end of the room, and two doors out. One is blocked up with rubble, while the other seems fine. Grimdark pays his respects to the fallen while Loki heads off to check the dark corners of the room in case there are any nasty surprises.
I mean, there are, obviously.
Six ghouls are hanging out and waiting to pounce on something dumb enough to wander through. Thankfully Loki hears their scuttling and shouts out a warning just before the ghouls attack. Loki, Grimdark and Pyke start getting stuck in while Helga and Droop hang back and start pew-pew-pewing (I have the guys make a Wisdom saving throw for Droop to resist using his newly acquired wand of magic missiles. It goes about as well as expected.)
Loki takes care of one ghoul (Darryl kicks out an average of 15-18 damage with a sneak attack rapier) and Pyke takes the head off another, but they take some wounds back; they easily shrug off the paralysing effect of the ghoul’s poison claws. Trev, on a roll from using stonecunning, uses another ability that he’s never had much chance to use; that classic D&D cleric trick, Turn Undead!
5th edition Turn Undead is like its older 3rd edition brother; failed saving throws result in undead creatures running away scared. I think I’m in the minority that preferred 4th editions much simpler effect of radiant damage + push back + immobilise for a turn. I’ve also always found it weird that a clerics can’t turn other iconic “evil” monsters, like demons or devils. But I digress…
Three ghouls are turned and run off down the corridor, away from the angry drunk dwarf priest. I’m sure they won’t come back to be an inconvenience later! The group then easily finish off the last ghoul.
Rather than pursue the fleeing ghouls, they continue through the unblocked entrance and come out into the Forge’s old smelting chamber, complete with an unlit furnace, carts of raw minerals and ore, and a (currently dry) water channel for powering the bellows. Oh, and more corpses.
Once again, some of the exits from the room are blocked; the north exit is blocked with rubble, but the exit to the west instead has a proper constructed spiked wooden barricade; clearly the Black Spider wants to keep the undead out.
There’s also a door to the east which is unblocked, so with limited options, the group go exploring and find that at the end of the hallway is a small private chamber, the door hanging off its hinges. They go in, and see that all the furniture has been scorched and thrown around, as if caught in an explosion. Loki notices the blackened iron chest against the wall though, and as he goes to open it, a shadowy figure rises from the floor…
The wraith shrieks at them to leave at once. The wraith is the shade of Mormesk, a human wizard that died defending the Forge from the original orc invasion, and his hatred has kept him bound to the world of the living. Grimdark, as the appointed paranormal liaison, does the talking and finds out that Mormesk is directing the undead in the Forge against the “elven intruder” who would “steal that which is mine.” Things aren’t going too well though, as the Black Spider’s henchmen have put up barricades to keep out the undead, and Mormesk himself cannot venture far from the chambers where he perished.
Grimdark proposes an alliance of sorts with the wraith, appealing to its desire for vengeance, and while it’s enough to make Mormesk pause for thought, ultimately it expects betrayal from the “feeble fleshlings” and demands that they leave the Forge before they “incur my ire”.
Not willing to get into a fight with a goddamned Nazgul, the group make a dignified retreat to the smelting chamber and decide to scale the barricade and take their chances with whatever lies beyond. They scramble over and start prowling down the corridor when the door at the far end opens, and they hear the grumbling of bugbears.
Trev decides to be sneaky and decides to use thaumaturgy to create a noise to distract the bugbears so that the group can get the drop on them. I ask him what noise he wants to simulate, and he goes with “ominous whispers”, a suggestion from the rulebook. This doesn’t have the intended effect however, as the bugbears think that the ominous whispers are Mormesk the wraith! Instead they run back into the room they came from and lock the heavy iron door, with alarmed cries of “let da boss know!”.
With the door locked fast, and no way of breaking it down, Trev and Darryl feel out of options, until I throw them a bone and remind them of the dry water channel in the smelting chamber as an alternative way forward. They go back over the barricade and start heading for the dry water channel, which has been overlooked by the Black Spider’s goons and which does indeed run straight through the room. It would be a tight squeeze, but they could get through.
Before they can start greasing up though, Mormesk’s voice fills the room.
“I commanded that you leave! You have not done so, so now you will perish and be added to the ranks of my legions!”
And some of the corpses in the chamber start to rise as Mormesk materialises in the air…
This fight took the rest of the evening. The group had to deal with nine zombies – which, while not strong, are numerous and always surprise us as to how tough they are (fairly chunky HP and an ability that lets them stay at 1 HP with a successful saving throw as long as they aren’t destroyed by a critical hit or radiant damage), and for giggles I had the three runaway ghouls from earlier show up and see what all the fuss was about.
Grimdark threw down a bless on himself, Loki, Pyke and Helga, and used Turn Undead asap. Because I couldn’t be bothered to track which zombies were turned or not, I simply had them be destroyed on a failed save; a hint of what Trev could expect upon levelling up. Three zombies were instantly poofed; I let them use Mormesk’s ability scores to make the save as he was, y’know, right there commanding them. Mormesk failed his save though, and fled, shrieking and howling. Good thing too, because the fight was tough enough without a mad wraith flying around draining the life out of everyone.
Droop went down early to a zombie’s fists, then Pyke got dragged down, but Grimdark got them both back on their feet with an enhanced healing word. Helga continued her established tradition of doing very little aside from throw out the odd ray of frost and a single lacklustre burning hands. Mostly she was there to set up advantage for Loki, who was running around like a toddler who’s had too much sugar, stabbing and slashing like a little whirlwind of murder; at one point he scampered up onto the furnace then immediately threw himself off to gank an unaware ghoul with a shriek of “death from above!”. Grimdark got KO’d, but Loki was there to immediately force a healing potion down his throat, and then resumed his stabby-slashy.
Eventually the group triumphed, but it had been a hard fight; they were all battered and bloody and nearly all their resources had been spent. I was tempted to throw Mormesk at them, but instead I had the wraith let loose with a deafening howl of butthurt and ragequit that filled the cavern.
The evening was drawing to a close, so rather than press on, I let Trev and Darryl retreat to the banquet hall (now ghoul-free), and after clearing the corpses (and Loki taking a ghoul ear), they settled down for an uneasy respite to gather their strength for the final confrontation against the Black Spider, who, like the dungeon, has undergone a few modifications as well…
Level Up! More HP! Everyone’s proficiency bonus goes up to +3, Loki’s sneak attack gets even better and he gains uncanny dodge, and Grimdark gets access to 3rd-level spells.
Ongoing Quests: Find the Forge of Spells and eliminate the Black Spider.
Ears Collected: Ghoul.
Number of Times Grimdark, the super-tough well-armoured dwarf cleric, KO’d: 3
Number of Times Loki, the weedy halfling thief, KO’d: 0
Next Monday is a bank holiday in the UK and we’re all off doing different things, but we’ll be picking up in a few weeks, when we will definitely be having the finale of our time in Phandelver!