Another Wednesday night at The Gaming Goat and another good night of DnD fun. The regulars (DM Jack, Roger, Dave, Don, Robin, and Steve) were all present along with those that have missed a few of the sessions (Tim, Jorie, and Dustin), plus we picked up another first timer (Zach) last night. That meant we had nine players, so Robin decided to sit out for the night. Eight players would still be a challenge though, but after some discussion we decided to run as one table for tonight since there really wasn't a second DM that was prepared to run for the evening. At least two of our players announced they would miss next week, so we'll play it by ear for now.
Six months of game time has passed since we last met. The basic structure of the town had taken shape by this time. The crumbling walls of the keep were still there, as was the mysterious tower in the middle of the courtyard, but now several commonhouses, a temple, a stable, and a tavern/inn had been built around the tower. Several farms dotted the landscape outside the walls of the courtyard and the road back north had started to have been rebuilt. Most importantly Brother Splintershield's magical Protection from Evil spell for the area had held and the town had encountered no more wandering ghosts.
The party members had spent the last six months doing what normal settlers would do. They had participated in the construction of the new buildings, had worked as caravan guards as new materials and citizens were delivered to the town, and had participated in patrols in and around the surrounding Harken Woods. Given that the original caravan would have arrived in spring or early summer now that six months had passed winter was fast approaching and recently there had been a major effort to make final preparations to get the town ready for the coming cold season.
On this day a light snow had fallen and as the sun drew down the party members joined the reverie in the tavern. A warm fire, a drink (or two or three) of ale, and the proximity of new friends had given everyone a warm glow. Faldyva Allariel soon arrived and joined the party members as well. She had spent much of the last six months studying the tower, but had not made much progress. The tower has finally been scaled, but still no doors or windows or even any sort of writing or clues had been found. Its looming presence over the new settlement was a constant reminder to the townspeople of the mystery of the Castle Inverness.
The Druid overheard several foresters talking about mysterious animal deaths that had been encountered over the past week in the forest. Animal carcasses had been found that had a diseased look to them, sickly, emaciated, and covered with a red crystalline spots that had a gold fleck to them. The foresters all agreed that what ever it was wasn't natural. When asked further the only thing unusual they had seen was a set of glowing lights that had floated around in the dark - a will-o'-wisps maybe, a ghost, something from the fey realm perhaps, but they didn't know much more beyond that.
Just then there was a a loud boom as the door to the inn burst open and in strode Brother Splintershield. He had a stern look on his face, and was looking for somebody. Spotting Faldyra he marched over to her, waving over the party members as he strode across the floor. "Come take a look at this," he murmured, trying not to alarm the others in the inn.
Splintershield turned and strode out of the inn, Faldyra and the party members in tow. He led the group through the front gate where Malgram (now the town constable) stood over six dead bodies. A quick check was able to identify the bodies as those of workers from the town who had been part of a larger group that had left the town earlier in the day to work in the woods. There was no obvious cause of death and there appeared to be no poison involved, but the bodies were covered with red crystalline bumps that had a gold flecked appearance to them. A quick arcana check determined that the pustules were indeed magical in nature, but the magic in them was now either dormant or non-existent, and in their current state were not contagious.
Malgram told the party that the workers had been walking toward the town, only to collapse once they stepped inside the area of the Protection from Evil. He further reported that a working party of 15 had left the town with a wagon that morning but he did not know exactly where they had gone, nor did he know the fate of the missing workers. Just then one of the "dead" workers lurched back to life, grabbed the startled mage, and croaked out the following words: "A Demon of the forest, a plague. Drank the waters that others yet may live." The worker then resumed his state of permanent repose, and the arrows that Malgram pumped into the corpse didn't make much difference as to its state.
Splintershield was now determined that the source of this blight be found and taken care of immediately. The party knew of several springs in the area, as well as several creeks that wound there way through the forest. After some discussion it was decided the party would visit the springs located to the east of town, and Malgram would dispatch several of the town guards to inspect the ones to the north and west. Then Splintershield announced that he to would be coming with the party. Several party members and Malgram tried to dissuade the determined Dwarf from this course of action, but he stubborn cleric would hear none of it - he was going and that was it.
The party, with Brother Splintershield in tow, began their trek east through the Harken Wood. There was a full moon that provided some illumination, but most party members had torches. There was a cool breeze, a gentle wind that provided the rustle of leaves to an otherwise silent forest. The party made good time as they approached the closest spring, until they noticed several changes to the trees. Several of the trees appeared to have red crystalline bumps on them, and as the party entered this area the noises of the forest suddenly went quiet.
From out of the darkness ahead stumbled eight lurching figures. They carried axes and wore tattered clothes, and in the glow of moonlight gave the appearance to have been the missing workers from the town. But whatever they might have been then didn't matter any more - they were zombies now and intended to do the party much harm.
The party quickly deployed to handle the wave of zombies, the fighters in the front and those providing long range support doing their damage from the rear. As the zombies drew close the red crystalline dots with the gold flecks could be seen on their bodies, giving the party concern about the possibility of becoming infected with whatever it was that affected the zombies. One of the mages was able to determine that the red spots likely gave the infected body some additional resistance based on the type of damage done to it, i.e., a zombie taking fire damage would have some level of resistance to fire damage after that point.
But by then the battle was on and the fighting was fast and furious. Jorie's rogue ran forward and nailed one of the zombies for a massive 27 (!) points of damage, but then left herself exposed to the blows of other advancing zombies. By the time the night was over she had taken 50+ points of damage, with several of our clerics having stepped up to pump up her hit points and keep her in the fight.
Even with eight players and eight zombies the fight went pretty quick. Several party members got bloodied but other than the aforementioned rogue no one was hurt seriously. As the fight drew to a close the party saw no more immediate danger and decided to take a short rest. Splintershield stated he could tell the location of the foul blight was nearby and he was anxious to move further into the forest so that he could eliminate its presence.
As the party members poked around the bodies of the zombies they came across a +1 set of Delver's Armor that Don claimed for his ranger. With the 250 XP earned tonight the party members that had attended all five sessions had earned enough XP to reach level 2 (woo-hoo!).
Rules questions for next week: The Druid's wolf has an Aura 1 that states "Enemies in aura grant combat advantage." Is that combat advantage to the wolf only, or does that include other members of the party?