Campaign of the Month: June 2008

Horn of the North

How the first heroes came together

I, Aikarus, shall begin the story in the Forest Kingdom of Cormyr. Truly that is where this tome has its beginning. The origins of the various heroes whose exploits shall comprise these pages are tales best left told by other authors in other volumes.

On the 17th Day of Kythorn in the Year of the Ageless One (1479 by the Dalereckoning) four heroes arrived to join a fifth in the Cormyrian border town of Winterhaven. Elithia Verdantstrike, an elf ranger of the Dales proficient with the bow and arrow, Dot, an eladrin warlock of Myth Drannor and friend of the fey, Kalar, a wizard of the elves also from Myth Drannor, and Rurick, a stout fighter of the northern shield dwarves, all joined Alain of Winterhaven, who walked the path of a warlord.

Rurick, Kalar, Dotara (who shall be Dot henceforth, the nickname she prefers), and Elithia – who all came to Winterhaven for a myriad of reasons – had found Kobolds and destroyed one band of them shortly before arriving in town. While in town, discussions with Lord Padraig, the hereditary lord of the small fief of Winterhaven, led to the four heroes setting off the next day (Kythorn 18) to destroy the Kobolds in their own lair. Alain, not formally a guard (though he was trained to be a leader of men by his father, a member of the town watch) and wanting to take the fight to the Kobolds rather than wait, set out secretly to join the four.

It was outside the lair of the lizardly beasts that Alain met up with the others. After clearing out the den and putting to the sword one, “Irontooth” – a goblin of some skill – a letter was found suggesting that Shar spies and cultists had infiltrated the town and environs. They returned to Winterhaven and helped root out and execute a Sharish spy for the cult leader Kalarel, a she elf ranger named Ninaran.

On Kythorn 19, the heroes set out to find one Douven Stahl of Arabel, an eccentric explorer who was a childhood mentor of Kalar. He had sought, and found, a dragon burial site near Winterhaven and had vanished some months back. They found him at the burial site, beaten and near death at the hands of Kalarel’s minions. What they sought in the burial site, at the time was unclear. All signs pointed to the Keep on the Shadowfell, the former ancestral home of the Keegans of Winterhaven, as the den of Kalarel’s evil. He sought to summon Shadraxil, a Dragon trapped long years past.

On the morning of the Summer Solstice; the 20th day of Kythorn, the heroes awoke to a spectral purple sky and the oppressive weight of a ritual of dark magic taking place. They raced to the Keep on the Shadowfell to end Kalarel’s magic and prevent the return of Shadraxil…

The is the H1 Keep on the Shadowfell module which I will be glossing over in this journal and just touching on the high points. As of this writing, the party is about to face Kalarel himself in the final room of the dungeon. We began the Module in July of 2008. In spite of various setbacks, it appears on course for completion … or a total party wipe.

Bowels of the Keep
A reflection before saving the world (or our little corner of it)

20 Kythorn 1479DR

Checkmate's edge, the stench!

We have holed up in a hobgoblin barracks for a well-earned rest.  I fear this may be the last we can take, for as best I can tell, evening is approaching and the work of Shar will most likely be accomplished by the stroke of midnight.   My mind is scatterd with the enormity of what we face – deep in the bowels of what was once Sir Keegan's keep…  his tainted sword Aecris in my hands to redeem the slaughter of his family at his own hands.  I truly hope that Selûne is still watching over us, even here where her dark sister holds sway.

I do worry about my companions – or more specifically, my ability to lead them.  The Grandmaster knows, unlike the village boys I've been "commanding," these folk have no reason to listen to me or adhere to my tactics.  

The field around me is a lanceboard in my mind, with myself as the king. However, losing control over the movement of the other pieces forces me into the role of the queen piece – moving with abandon where needed, forced by circumstance into the midst of the combat rather than guiding it around me.  When I have to abandon my king position, all I can feel is the impending checkmate from our opponents.

The doughty dwarf Rurick is my "rook" – a sturdy piece, but single-minded in its movement, always rushing to the nearest opponent.  I need him to trust that, given a few seconds, we can work together to make the battlefield our own – side-by-side, flanking, forcing movement around and through a gauntlet we create.  If we force our opponents to react to us, I feel we would both fare better in the aftermath of our encounters.  It wil be far better for us to work in tandem than for either of us to fall as an isolani.

In near opposition, Elithia and Kalar move like pawns – slowly and carefully – but they also strike hard at a distance, making them more like bishops – more difficult to move, but equally potent as the rook.  I need them to come off the back rank as an opening gambit, creating opportunities for Rurick and I by giving our opponents more candidate moves to consider, possible traps to ponder.  Ultimately, even one or two wounds taken by each of them can spare Rurick and I as many, if not more.

And then there is Dot.  She comes off the back rank much more readily, but she also favors distance attacks.  Her ultimate advantage in my mind, however, is her unorthodox movement by teleportation – she can create the same advantages and opportunities as my "bishops," with less risk to herself.  She is my "knight."

I do regret our rogue having to leave the field so early into our incursion into the keep.  Another piece on the field would be of great advantage to us, especially since he favored close-quarter combat.  But regrets are unsound, and I must finish this match with the pieces I have remaining…

Quick-n-dirty notes from last session (12/12/08) 

  • Finished the trap room – Elithia nearly flushed
  • Ghoul Warren – Holy cow are ghouls tough now!
  • Cathedral – Priestess of Shar well-feathered, Beserkers a bit tougher.
  • On to the ritual room… need to retcon a couple more 5-minute rests. 
  • View
    Kalarel's End
    20 Kythorn 1479 DR

    In the bowels of the Keep on the Shadowfell; a place once known as Keegan’s Keep, the heroes faced the minions of Kalarel. In life, Kalarel was a devoted minion of Shar and who was tasked with the duty to perform a ritual that would bring back Shadraxil the Dragon (who had sworn itself to Shar’s service).

    Within the Keep, the heroes discovered the remains of Sir Keegan himself who helped them find items of power that would assist in defeating Kalarel’s plans. It was shortly before the stroke of midnight on the 20th Day of Kythorn that the heroes at last fought their way to the underground ritual chamber. There, the ritual was being cast as the heroes descended into a nightmare of blood and necrotic power.

    Sir Dueren Farrider, a human Paladin of Kelemvor and his former squire (now recently knighted) Sir Braelyn had also been tracking the activities of Kalarel. They had entered the Keep, hoping to meet up with the heroes, but not finding them and running out of time, they had pressed on ahead to try and thwart the ritual. Unfortunately, Sir Dueren, who was old and weary from the long pursuit, was not quite up to the task. The Knight, an old nemesis of Kalarel, fell in the Keep and was sacrificed to Shar. The young Sir Braelyn watched the man who taught him to fight die before his eyes – the other heroes were but moments too late to save Sir Dueren.

    In a battle that lasted a very long time, the heroes fought side-by-side against Kalarel, his minions, and even Shadraxil who was manipulating the shadow of the barrier that held him at bay. It was a close fought thing, Dot and Rurick fell in the fighting from heavy wounds despite the best efforts of Alain to keep them all going. All were bloodied and tired at the battle’s end when Elithia at last found an opening to put an arrow in Kalarel’s throat. Shadraxil was none too pleased at Kalarel’s failure and devoured him into the portal before it sealed.

    Exhausted and spent, the heroes went back into the upper levels to speak again with the spirit of Sir Jerold Keegan. After recovering the remains of Sir Keegan’s wife, children, and Sir Dueren, they rested and set out for Winterhaven in the morning of the 21st, shortly after sunrise.

    • Jan. 9, 2009 via OpenRPG
    • 1350 xp divided by 6
    • 1000 gp
    • +2 Magic Dagger
      • This dagger (value 1,800 gp) provides a +2 enhancement bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls. It also deals +1d6 damage on a critical hit.

    Please go through the Player’s Handbook and Adventurer’s Vault books to find magic items you would like your heroes to have. Get me a list of items, from level 3 to level 10. I will try and incorporate them into future treasue bundles. Also, if you could find out your character’s birthday. Please use the Harptos to Gregorian Calendar Conversion page if you’d like to convert from real world to in game. I always use my real birthday… makes it easy.

    Disaster averted
    20 Kythorn 1479 DR

    Our clearing of the upper levels of the keep proceeded apace after our rest.  However, the battles took their toll, and we could not afford to rest again lest the dark ritual to Shar be completed before our arrival.  We descended into the ritual room to find a truly nightmarish scene – the portal to Shadraxil's prison dangerously close to opening, Kalarel sacrificing a paladin of Kelemvor on his dark altar, undead in the area, and another young warrior waiting to be sacrificed.

    I had little time to assess the lay of the board, as the Kalarel had already played the opening moves.  However, the presence of a new piece on the board gave me some hope, even if it was potentially only a pawn.  The layout of the room also prohibited Elithia and Kalar removing themselves from the line of fire – a situation that proved to be to our advantage in the long run, as both found themselves en prise by Kalarel's forces, saving Rurick and I some wounds in the opening gambit.  I must take care not to overload either one of them – a few seconds of drawing enemy attacks should be enough, and their offensive abilities need to be brought into play as quickly as possible.

    I released the young warrior – whom I now know to be Sir Braelyn, a paladin in service to Kelemvor – and by doing so, promoted him to a much more powerful piece on the field – he quickly proved to be as fierce of a rook as Rurick.  After helping disengage Elithia and allow her to begin her back-rank strikes, I moved to assist Rurick and Sir Braelyn with the skeletons and keeping Kalarel in constant check.

    Kalarel proved to be a canny opponent, and with the wight serving as his second, challenged my tactical acumen as they manipulated the very fabric of the board around us.  Shadraxil's ability to manipulate his prison was an unforseen hazard, and Kalarel's relative immunity to the dark tendrils nearly proved to be our undoing in the endgame, when both Rurick and I were rendered unconscious.  I understand that Elithia once again fletched the final blows, disrupting the ritual and trapping Shadraxil fully once again (with Kalarel in tow, as punishment for his failure.)

    Our resources, energy, and reserves spent, we've returned to the hobgoblin warren to recuperate for a bit, and I can take some time again to evaluate my performance and evaluation of my companions.  I need to react more quickly to changing board placements – I know of at least two missed opportunities to keep my pieces in motion and swing the battlefield momentum.  Elithia has fully established herself as my "back-rank mate" – she nearly felled a dark priestess entirely on her own with a flurry of arrow strikes.  Rurick and I finally began to find a rapport, supporting each other on the field.  Sir Braelyn is mostly unknown to me at this point, but he seems a little easier to direct than Rurick.  Dot continues to display versatility on the field, but does need to learn when to retreat when she finds herslef as an isolani en prise.

    Grandmaster help me, I need to figure out a way to speak with Kalar about his use of area-effect spells.  Specifically, to encourage him to not include Rurick and I in his effects without our consent.  There are times when it makes tactical sense to make such a forced move, but common courtesy dicatates at least a consultation, if not a chance to move prior to his making it.

    But now – sleep.  Tomorrow we make our trek back to Winterhaven to report our success, grant the long-waiting family of Sir Keegan a proper burial, and enjoy some well-deserved down-time.  My mouth is fairly watering for some of Ms. Wrafton's stew, and a slice of her Frost Berry pie… 

    Quick and dirty placeholder notes from 1/9/09:

    • Sir Braelyn "joined" the group – a pawn turned rook
    • Nasty, bad necrotic damage
    • Dot dropped, then Alain and Rurick
    • Better spread of damage around the party
    • Elithia for the kill
    • Talked to Sir Keegan 


    We won
    21 Kythorn 1479 DR

    I can’t believe we survived! I am sitting here writing while everyone else is sleeping. We don’t look very good now but we were already beaten up when we climbed down that rope. It is my fault we got hurt so bad I have got to look for traps better. I will never trust a statue again.

    We defeated Shadraxil well I would not say we actually defeated him more like just kept him from leaving his shadow prison. We did get a lot of help from some paladin of Kelemvor I think he said his name was Sir Braelyn. Poor guy saw his mentor killed in front of him. I know that has to be hard to lose someone you respected and feel like it is your fault because you could not do more to save them. I need to remember to buy him a bottle of good wine when we get back to town; he is going to need it.

    So back to the battle there was a few undead creatures yuck can’t stand undead and this really annoying priest of Shar. He just would not shut up and die (As for us well I know I got knocked out once but that local kid Alain helped me out). He just kept going on about the dark being stronger than the light and about Shar. He was worse than the cleric in religion classes, probably why I dropped that class.

    Sir Braelyn and the dwarf Rurick seemed to make a good team. I need to go do some target practice though it seems after I got knocked out I could not hit anymore. Now that this Shadraxil mess is done hopefully I will be able to get the Sage to tell me more about my task now. At least I have some more gold now to keep my search going.

    Weeding Winterhaven
    21 Kythorn 1479 DR

    In the early morning hours, the heroes arrived back in Winterhaven. However, they carried bodies that needed to be interred. Rather than enjoy the breakfast that they could smell wafting through the valley; they headed to the village graveyard and discovered that Kalarel’s reach extended somewhat beyond death.

    In the graveyard, a low hanging morning mist concealed the shambling forms of undead that had been animated from among the village’s dead. After fighting through to the tomb, a Shadar-Kai witch was found in the process of another dark ritual. On a coffin lid a half-elf woman named Doran was bound; clearly the witch intended her to be a sacrificial victim. Elithia’s sharp ears allowed the heroes to burst in the door to the tomb in time to save the half-elf’s life. The Shadar-Kai ultimately escaped via some kind of amulet but its minions (which included a vampire) were put to rest again. The heroes learned from Doran that she was simply passing through town and while shopping the previous evening in Winterhaven, was drugged and kidnapped while inside Bairwin’s General Goods.

    The heroes raced back to town to root out the truth behind Bairwin’s shop. According to Alain, Bairwin (a native), had a year or so ago come back to town with sufficient wealth to open his shop and set himself up as a pillar of the community. Bairwin had always been the entrepreneurial kind so the town had simply assumed he had; at last, been successful with one of his schemes.

    Two members of the town patrol were brought with the heroes to Bairwins as the heroes kicked in the doorway… and discovered that magical wards had been placed on the doors. Twin thunderbolts ripped through the morning mist as the wards exploded with thunderous might – awakening the entire community. After recovering from the shock and sound, the heroes raced into the shop and found a trapdoor leading down into the basement. There, Bairwin and a half dozen minions of Shar awaited the heroes. After a grueling battle, Bairwin was subdued. The storekeeper was brought before Lord Padraig where; by his own admission, it was revealed that he was a Netherese sympathizer and spy. His execution by Lord Padraig was done with a dagger wielded by the Lord of Winterhaven himself.

    Alain’s father, a high ranking member of the town watch, had left town the previous morning (during the events of Kalarel’s rite which had turned the sky purple) to seek aid from the Cormyrian Purple Dragon knights in the area. They arrived by late day to find out what the community needed and to post a patrol at the ruins of Keegan’s Keep. At Wrafton’s Inn that night, a celebration in the heroes honor was held; a successful first adventure indeed.

    One final note, Kalar, the elf that had come to Winterhaven seeking more information about his mentor Douven Stahl, chose to stay rather than continue his dangerous career as an “adventurer” – all through the celebration his apparently reciprocated affections for goodwife Wrafton were quite clear.

    • Game: 1/16/2009 via OpenRPG
    • XP: 2475 divided by 6 (412 each)
      • Level 4!!
    • Gold & Treasure yet to be determined in-game (potentially a Cormyrian Charter plus whatever else).
    No More Shadows in Winterhaven
    21 Kythorn 1479 DR

    We planned to bury the remains of Sir Keegan’s family in the town’s cemetery where we hoped they would rest easy, and Sir Dueran needed a proper funeral pyre. However, when we arrived at the cemetery, we found undead roaming freely! We quickly dispatched the zombies and gravehounds and moved to find the source. We found it in one of the larger mausoleums. We burst in just in time to disrupt a sacrificial ritual, with Doran as the sacrifice!. A Shadarkai, a vampire, several skeletal warriors, and more zombies awaited us. Unfortunately, the Shadarkai escaped through some magic teleportation device.

    We learned from Doran that she was captured as she browsed through one of the local shops. This seemed to confirm some suspicions or premonitions the others had about the shopkeeper. We rushed to the shop, and despite some magical traps, found that the cellar of the shop had been converted to a Sharran worship den! There we found that the shopkeeper was in fact a Sharran priest! We battled him and his minions in his dark chapel.

    Our tactics were much improved over the first battle; we fought much better as a group than we could have individually! Alain, Rurick and I worked together on the on the shadowreapers and dark servants. Doran somehow slipped behind several of them and plied her blade with deadly effect! Elithia and Dot were using their ranged abilities in support. Once the first row was slain, Alain and Rurick charged! Alain exploited a weakness in their line which allowed me to reach the priest! Calling on Kelemvor, he fell beneath my blade!

    We kept the priest from dying, and took him, bound and gagged, before the local lord. The priest condemned himself by his own tongue, and was summarily executed by the lord. Though the lord is elderly, there is tempered steel in that old man’s body! Wisdom as well, as we found that he had sent for the Purple Dragon Knights the day before. They arrived before the day was gone and took our report. The commander suggested that we obtain a charter as an adventuring group.

    The lord lamented how such filth could have secreted itself without his knowledge. Just as the spider encourages clutter to make its webspinning easier, Shar encourages others to not look into the shadows. she wants us to ignore the shadows and look to the light, thereby allowing her to grow unnoticed.

    What does the Future Hold?
    21 Kythorn 1479 DR

    Many years have passed since Sir Dueran Farrider took me into the service of Kelemvor. After the events of the past 24 hours, I know that I am ready to carry on. I must be better, stronger. My new friends can help me do that. I couldn’t stop that Sharran priest from sacrificing Dueran. I thank Kelemvor and all the gods that we were able to stop the Shadarkai from sacrificing the half-elf girl, Doran.

    After the battle in the bowels of the Keep, I could barely contain my self-loathing. My mentor was sacrificed to evil, while I live. Yet after saving Doran from the same fate, Kelemvor opened my eyes. Sir Dueran and I had been foolhardy, pressing on when we should have sought strength in numbers. We entered the keep about 12 hours after the others. We found the bodies of their enemies where they were slain. However, instead of joining with them, we rushed into battle with the priest. Had we joined with them, Sir Dueran would probably still live. It is a lesson that I must not forget: I can serve Kelemvor just as ably, or even better, as part of a group than as a lone warrior.

    This group is multi-talented. Rurick, the dwarven warrior is fearless. Alain is a young warrior with a talent for tactics and battle, amazing since he says that he has no formal training. The two Fey-kin women are as deadly as they are beautiful; Elithia, the slender elf with her bow, and Dotara, the mysterious eladrin with her spells. Hopefully Doran, the half-elf we rescued, will join with us. I am surprised and impressed with her tenacity and inner strength. Most women would have been a hindrance after being rescued from a sacrificial altar. Not her! She snatched up a blade and proved to be both quick and deadly. I must admit that I am attracted to her. She has a resilience and exuberance for life that I have never seen before. Yet what chance could she have with me? I must not think such thoughts.

    I must see if I can convince them to remain together with me. What a formidable group we make!

    Banished Shadows and Spreading Wings
    24 Kythorn 1479DR
    It figures.  I finally have a chance to relax – and I can't sleep.

    Our return to Winterhaven was not what I expected, not only due to the early lack of response from the town, but mainly due to the deep roots of Sharran and Netherese influence that we have now hopefully purged from the town.  Dark rituals in the graveyard (which we disrupted) and a pillar of the community borne up by the Dark Lady (now knocked down) have set everyone looking askance at each other.  I believe that Winterhaven will stand strong – that trust will overcome this betrayal.  The brutal display put on by Lord Padraig in the execution of Bairwin should prove a solid example of that strength.  Bairwin's shop was cleansed of the taint of the Lady of Loss, and the priests of Chauntea have reconsecrated the graveyard.  The Keegan's remains are now interred there, and Sir Braelyn gave his mentor a proper Kelemvorian cremation to ensure that his soul remains in Kelemvor's realm.

    Our group holds at six, the loss of Kalar to goodwife Wrafton offset by the presence of the half-elf Doran, whom we rescued from the clutches of the shadow elf – a Shadar-kai – trying to bring Kalarel back (or some such).  With the addition of Sir Braelyn and Doran (a bishop in my mind's game, a close-in complement to Elithia's ranged attacks), I have returned to the comforting heft of my halberd in combat.  While I am truly honored to carry Aecris, it is not the most effective tool at my disposal.  The battle with Bairwin and his followers was surely a message from the Lady Grandmaster, a sign to remember where I am most effective in battle – behind the lines where I can direct the tempo of my companions to best effect.  I will continue to carry Aecris, mainly as a reminder of Sir Keegan, but I also have the feeling that the sword and I have business in the future.

    In the midst of assisting the Purple Dragons with securing the Keep, I have managed to get some chess play in, both with Sir Garz and once again with Valthrun, who was taken back by the boldness of my play.  How much I've learned!  Tentative moves and forward thinking only carry so far on the field of battle.  Understanding your pieces' moves and plying them to your advantage – whether reckless or tentative – are the keys to victory.  Valthrun has been unprepared for my boldness, and I haven't lost to him yet – although he does promise that next time he won't hold back.  Sir Garz is more challenging.  Perhaps I've just become too accustomed to Valthrun's measured play and pace, but Sir Garz challenges me at every turn.  I have not been able to best him, but have made a good accounting for myself (or so he says).

    So, I find myself in the common room of Wrafton's Inn – the few Purple Dragons up and about provide enough light and noise for me to find comfort.  The quiet rhythmic sounds of my childhood home no longer hold the same comfort for me as they once did, even with my father and mother safely there.  My vistas have broadened so much, and with just days of adventuring under my belt!  I now know for sure that the time has come for me to leave and find my place in the world.  The Purple Dragon knights who returned with my father suggested that we obtain an adventuring charter to continue our service to Cormyr without being harried by every local authority.  I believe that the group intends to stay together, but our road from here isn't clear – do we patrol greater Cormyr for threats, or see what good we can accomplish beyond her borders?
    Quick-n-dirty notes from 1/16/09 session:
    • Kalar lost to Wrafton's charms 
    • Undead in the graveyard – flying corpse!
    • Shadar-kai conducting ritual – got away.
    • Rescued sacrifice victim – Doran (half-elf rogue)
    • Bairwin actually Netherese/Sharran infiltrator – executed by Padraig
    • PDKs encouraged us to get adventuring charter
    Just another day in the life of an adventurer
    22 Kythorn 1479 DR

    Yesterday went totally different then we had expected. It started off normal we found sleeping guards at the entrance to town. Rurick had fun waking them up, he has more of a sense of humor than I realized.

    Instead of going into town we decided it would be best to bury the dead. On our way to the graveyard we noticed undead and one of them was flying, which made great target practice for Elithia and me. So we quickly killed them off and went to figure out where they were coming from, when Elithia heard someone about to be sacrificed, I so need to work on my observation skills I never notice anything.

    Open up a Mausoleum to find a Shadar-kai, talk about things going bad quickly. After we stopped him from killing a half-elf, Doran; he was trying to bring back Kalarel. I end up with a vampire trying to kill me from behind and a Shadar-kai trying to kill me from the front. Well I should have known it would go for me not like I like them very much either. The Shadar-kai was too strong for me so I got out of range. Before the rest of the group could kill him, he got away by some amulet. I know he will be back and I know he wants my blood. I am sure his Mistress is not happy with the rest of the group either.

    So after talking to Doran we figure out where she was kidnapped from and go to confront the shop keeper. I really need to check the doors before Rurick kicks them down because ouch that hurt. Some thunder trap just about knocks me out and wakes up half the town. I think the other group had the same problem but I am not sure I was still having problems hearing. Once we get inside we find the temple to Shar in the basement and the shop keeper is actually a priest and is having a meeting. Oh so much fun killing shadow creatures. I do have to say I like fighting with Doran I need to work on some spells that could help us work together better. After defeating the shop keeper we haul him off to the Lord who kills him after admitting he is Netherese spy and a priest of Shar. I didn’t think the old guy had it in him after he had us execute the last traitor we found. So when the Purple Dragon Knights show up Rurick and I take some guards up to the Keep and when we got back we finally get to celebrate.

    Much drinking was done and the leader of the patrol suggested we get a charter. I was not that keen on the idea until it was mentioned that Shar and Netheral would probably be after us now and that with the charter we could carry our weapons openly in towns in Cormyr. We didn’t talk much about that last night though too busy enjoying ourselves and remembering fallen comrades. I did get that bottle of wine for Sir Braelyn. I don’t know which but either that man can drink a whole lot or he is good at making it look like it. I am actually feeling the effects still and that has been a long time since that has happened.


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