What Do I Know About My Campaign? Tales From the Old Margreve Campaign Journal #9
Challenge of the Fang, Part II
This time around, I thought I might try to get my summary written just after the game session, instead of, you know, the night before I run the game again. If you are so inclined, you can find the rest of the campaign journals at this link:
No need to do any prep work this time around, but I did jot some notes down for myself when it came to what was coming up in the adventure. One thing that did happen was that I noticed that the Would Be King of Wolves was a CR 6 creature, but it looked like the PCs might not have too difficult of a time with it, given its stats.
The Nightgarm was also a CR 6 creature, and had very similar traits to the Would be King of Wolves (wolf humanoid, could swallow whole). Instead of getting three attacks, it only got one, but that one attack was nastier, and the Nightgarm didn’t rely on swallowing a spellcaster to have spells available to it. The Nightgarm is also vulnerable to radiant damage, which was a thematic point in the creature’s favor, given that Wolf Killer, the ritual hand axe that the party gained last session, does radiant damage.
Not all CR 6 creatures are created equal, it turns out.
Animals Don’t Have Manners
When we last left our adventurers, three out of four of them had peered into a magical pond and turned into animals. Our warlord player wasn’t able to attend, and our warlock wasn’t in attendance last session, so we started out our session tagging out the 4th member of the party.
It was fairly easy to portray Gahl, our gearforged warlord, as getting lost in the hedge maze when the rest of the party chased after the worg. We cut to a scene of him, alone, saying, “everybody is lost but me!”
Then we cut to Scarlett, our Fey Patron Warlock, in Baba Yaga’s hut, wandering down a hallway, opening a door, and ending up in the hedge maze with her companions. Except she didn’t know they were her companions until she made an intuition check to figure out that the animals in front of her were her friends.
It was time to being the three Challenges that would determine how much time the PCs had to save the little girl in the Challenge of the Fang. The Test of Knowledge would test the PCs knowledge of the ways of the forest. There was a river, and when anyone approached it, a Bagiennik would appear (a fey plant/mud creature). Anyone that asked for passage would be allowed to pass. Since we had three animals, they all tried to cross, and hijinks insued.
Since the animals attempted to cross, the Bageinnik was upset, called its friends, and spit acid at Scarlett. This enraged Isobel, in polar bear form, who attacked a Bageinnik. Scarlett apologized and asked for passage, and the Bageinnik ignored her. Hrothgardt, as a giant owl, was transformed back to himself, and also asked for passage. Isobel transformed back, and raged, and the party waited until the Bageinnik knocked her to 0 to drag her out. It took a while longer for our warden, Gurralt, to get transformed back, but once it happened, Isobel was carried out by Hrothgardt, and the Bageinnik was very pleasant from then on.
The next test was the Test of Resolve, and the two Vila (nymph-like fey creatures) invited the party to relax with them. Isobel failed her save versus one of the Vila’s songs, and decided to sit down for a while. Gurralt, Hrothgardt, and Scarlett all urged her to move on. Isobel is the member of the party that failed her save for the geas, and the Vila asked to slap each member of the party if they wanted to leave.
Because she was tied to the quest and attempted to drag her feel (if unfortunately magically induced to do so), when Isobel was slapped, it was electric. Literally. She took a fair amount of damage, after just having been revived.
The Margreve’s Got Talent
The next test was the Test of Talent, administered by an Ala guarding a glade. Scarlett attempted to play the balalaika full of hornets, and it was actually pretty amusing. Apparently, Scarlett disagrees that it’s a reasonable assumption to give someone an instrument filled with angry stinging insects. She didn’t perform well, but Gurralt was curious about giving it a try, even though Scarlett had failed, and played a reasonable song with a minimum of discomfort.
Isobel easily won the wrestling contest with the leshay disguised as a gnome, because even a leshay isn’t all that impressive in strength next to Isobel.
Finally, Hrothgardt attempted to defeat the ala at the board game of Gul Bara. We briefly cut away to Gahl, reminiscing about his time as a champion Gul Bara player in Zobeck. Then we cut back to the current scene. Despite being smarter than the average bearfolk, Hrothgardt failed to defeat Stuhac the Ala, and Stuhac proposed their counter offer, “let me eat one of you.”
The PCs actually discussed this as a possibility, because they were very focused on finding the girl before she could be devoured. Because they were seriously considering letting one of their numbers be consumed, I reminded them of the clues, about how even one that appears to be dead may have some time, and that they had only failed one test, and shouldn’t be too far behind the Would Be King of Wolves. I didn’t want them to sacrifice a party member if they weren’t sure of the stakes.
They decided not to feed anyone to the Ala, and found themselves at the path leading to the cottage in the woods.
What Big Teeth You Have
When the party found the trail of dolls with red hoods fastened to them, Scarlett picked one of them from the doll in case she needed to do something desperate later on to distract the wolf. The group entered the cottage, and Gurralt saw the Nightgarm hiding in the corner. Since it was a Nightgarm, I had “grandma” in bed as a false person regurgitated by the Nightgarm, but the party passed enough tests that the girl wasn’t in danger yet.
Turns out, the Nightgarm was really good at dealing damage. It didn’t take too long for it to both drop Gurralt to zero and swallow him. Isobel grabbed the girl and ran with her, then turned back to fight the Nightgarm. Scarlett hid her around the corner, and made a disguise check, ready to run through the woods to lead the Nightgarm away from the cottage.
Isobel was trading blows with the Nightgarm, and was badly injured by its bite. Hrothgardt blasted the Nightgarm with radiant energy, and got a crit on the roll, doing a massive amount of damage and causing the Nightgarm to vomit up Gurralt. After that, the party finished off the Nightgarm.
A Night at the Inn
The party went to the nearby town, and admonished the townspeople for participating in the ritual with the wolves and potentially sacrificing their young. The townsfolk were largely oblivious to the admonition, but fed and honored the bearfolk and Scarlett.
After the group finished feasting, they went to the Blue Bell Coaching Inn to meet up with Shandor and the woman they escorted to the coaching inn. Shandor paid them part of his fee as a guide, and all of the bearfolk and Scarlett stayed in relative luxury at the Inn. We rolled some random patrons for the group to encounter, including a shadow sprite that was a wine snob, a gnome attempting to pass for a halfling, that was terrified of Scarlett, a gnome from the Shadow Realms that was also a bard, and a retired adventurer that smelled of ointment.
After they had rested up, bathed, and had even more food (something the bearfolk and the halfling could agree on), the party accompanied Shandor and the woman he was guiding back to Levoca. Then we cut away to see Gahl standing in the middle of a clearing, the maze having disappeared, wondering where everyone went (don’t worry, he’ll be back home in time for the next adventure).
It’s really interesting to look at how the Would Be King of Wolves is statted up, versus the Nightgarm. They are both CR 6 monstrosities that can swallow opponents whole, but the Nightgarm has only one attack, versus the three of the Would be King of Wolves, but that monster does slightly less damage if it hits will all three attacks than the Nightgarm does with its single bite.
There is also a lot of millage that the Nightgarm gets from its resistances. While it’s vulnerable to radiant and silver weapons, its resistant to almost everything else, giving it a significant lifespan if someone were to, for example, drop a silvered axe that does radiant damage before they could hit the monster.
- Sometimes your PCs will give you a gift, like wandering into a social encounter while still transformed into animals
- Straightforward skill checks to resolve an encounter aren’t as much fun as having some weird complications to those same skill checks
- Not all creatures of the same CR are going to have a similar effect on your party–look at everything the monster can do
- While you can handwave players not being able to make it to the session, sometimes it’s fun to work it into the narrative