Sunday, February 9, 2014

SSoI - Session 9: Red Hand of Doom - The Secret of Vraath Keep

After resting in Koth's chamber the heroes look around for clues as to what's driving this goblin activity. Investigation reveals some notes and a map showing forces moving across the entire Elsir Vale. They also discover a secret trap door in one corner - one that does not appear to have been discovered by the invaders. Being adventurers, there is no question as to what happens next.

The trap door opens on to a long passage down into darkness. Descending, the party finds a single room deep underground. The chests visible behind a barred gate lead to the conclusion that this was the treasure vault for the keep. The bodies on the floor indicate that it was also the final retreat for someone. The shadowy forms drifting in towards the team say that it was not a pleasant end for those concerned ...

A desperate battle against the undead erupts as numerous wraithlike forms sweep in and attack. Some are easily dispersed while others are more stubborn opponents, striking again and again. drawing the very life force from our heroes. Gartok the warden seems to draw special attention from the shades and is having a hard time of it.

Eventually the group does prevail, dispersing the last of the evil spirits. Flashes of dreamlike memory - someone else's memory - have hit them with some of the more potent attacks and they now know the ultimate fate of the keep's previous ruler. It was not a pretty one.

After catching their breath the iron gate proves to be a temporary obstacle and they have the old baron's treasure - gold, gems, a magical hammer, and a set of gauntlets made from bulette hide and sized to fit a giant! Also, among the secured chests is the original writ of ownership of Vraath Keep. They gather up the hoard and return to the more pleasant surroundings of the surface, to recover from this battle in the darkness and plan their next move.

DM Notes: This was a shorter session but it accomplished several important things. First, it opened up the party's eyes to the scope of what was happening, as can be seen on the map above. This gave them some long term elements to think about as they decided what to do next. Second it gave them the history of Vraath Keep  and some of the local relationships it had involved. These would come up in the next session and down the road too. Third it gave them their first decent-sized treasure haul in the adventure and that always makes a party feel good. The anti-giant magical hammer should prove to be particularly handy as giants figure prominently in my adaptation of this adventure and possibly beyond as well.

The fight was a good one and it was a tough challenge for them. The opponents were wraiths of various 4E types and because they were insubstantial they could sweep through the room, inn one wall and out the other, only to come back in from a different direction. Using a mix of minions and tougher types made it a bigger fight and this was one of our longer battles at 9 rounds. There was some sweating by the players as characters took their beatings but no one actually dropped so it was a tense fight but not a collapse.

The only other notable item from this part of the game was that the party was a little disappointed at the state of the keep. I think they were expecting a more immediately useful base and instead what they got was a pile of rocks that barely had a roof on it. The entire thing will have to be rebuilt but I reminded them that they had the full support of House Reinhardt which means that in time they will be able to construct a pretty nice castle. Right now there's an invasion coming and they're going to need to deal with that first. 

Also, clearing the keep completed a "major quest" in 4E terms and the party was now 6th level. Progress!

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