The Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh #135 Sorry For The (Attempted) Genocide. (2024)

Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh

Session #083: Ashardalon.

Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Daktari (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 8
New Tricks (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 8
Ramshambo (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue/Fighter Lvl 7/1
Vincenzo (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 8

Inverna Nightbreeze (played by George) Female Wood Elf Fighter Lvl 8 (Sidekick)

Garumn Male Mountain Dwarf Paladin of Moradin Lvl 5 RIP*
Tarbin Tul (played by goonalan) Male Human Bard RETIRED
Ubmo (played by Goonalan) Supreme Being Lvl 1
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.

Gerald (Bat/Giant Bat) servant/mount of New Tricks
Owly (Owl) Vinnie’s familiar

The Dark Squad’s to-do list-

  1. Clear and/or reconsecrate the Shrine of Savras in the Old Wood, then return to the Moon Pool to glimpse the future.
  2. Remember, we've got to find the other four Symbols of Ub, one was left in Deepbridge (Duergar fortress in the Underdark). The others need to be found, they belonged to- Rambles 'Shambles' Bowspirit (halfling killer), Antonio De La Crane (posh kid druid alchemist) & Giggles (crazy wood elf). All of these folk lived in the Saltmarsh region, the Dark Squad have found the De La Crane Manse (in the Dreadwood) and the De La Crane Crypt (in Saltmarsh Cemetary).
  3. Return to Fallowstone Holy, church of Oghma, pick up info (Witch's Tor & Pact of the Flame, although the Dark Squad probably know all about this stuff already). What else do you need to find out about? See above, and below.
  4. Warn Ashby- the Soggy's (Sahuagin) are coming!
  5. Vinnie needs to be back for the next Saltmarsh Council meeting on the 1st Kythorn (June).
  6. Nightshade is in the Deep Dreadwood?
  7. Blackedge and the Goblin Stair?
  8. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame you need to find the hidden weapons left to fight Ashardalon.
  9. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame prepare the Witch's Tor for the coming of the starfall.
  10. To join the Pact of the Wild Flame track down the last member of the Pact, a wild elf adventurer called Giggles- and finally put her spirit to rest, and also recover her maze button. SEE 2. ABOVE.

This is session 83, and another good 'un.

So, here we go again, although just to say ahead of time there was an awful lot of chatter in this one, including Jim (playing Vinnie & Daktari) talking to himself for quite a while.

The Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh #135 Sorry For The (Attempted) Genocide. (1)

The end of the gnolls.

And the end comes very quickly, the bad guys in the image above don't get to make a single attack- Ram puts the summoned crocotta down, the Moon Boar ends a formerly feisty gnoll warrior, and Daktari kills the gnoll clanmother, the big bad boss-type.

That's that done, and just to say that was in the region of 12K XP-wise of gnolls and hyenas (and the like) that the Dark Squad just ploughed through. I did say it was going to be a GRIND.

Then, well... rest, and chatter.

The Dark Squad are going absolutely no-where very soon, they're staying in their broken tower, raising Newt's Tiny Hut and taking a well earned rest, with an active watch, of course. Note, all this after Inverna is given a Cure Wounds to bring her round.

But that's the last of the gnolls, there were less than half-a-dozen badly wounded foes (and the uninjured shaman) that fled the scene, but they're not coming back to this hell-hole.

So, chatter- and there's a lot of it.

We begin, again (we've been here before), with yet another interrogation of Newt, why you ask. Well, because Newt has a habit, in battle, or else while travelling, or maybe in shops, or bars, or taverns- just about anywhere, of just saying the craziest of things.

Its not anything specific that he says, its all just... crazy, and its mostly just the warlock expressing his world view. His world view being entirely bathed in paranoia, murder, conflagration, and the undeniable fact that he is a servant of some unutterable being (Belphegor) that will inevitably come to rule all of creation (or else burn it down).

Newt could (and does) make going to the shops very interesting, this kind of thing happens a lot-

“Damn you foul wizened hag (Mrs Shopkeeper) the Lord Belphegor demands I purchase bananas, I will not pay more than one platinum for this hand of said fruit, take my money crawling worm less I incinerate this grocer-of-green convenience, and all of these tallow fat humans that sojourn within.”

“Good day to you.”

Newt leaves, having paid one platinum piece for five bananas.

So, once more, a variety of the Dark Squad have questions, like- what happened to him? Was he dropped on the head as a child? Did he not get enough love? Or, as Ram often contends, is he just a slave to a hellish master (or else a 'mentalist', Ram's back-up opinion).

We ramble through the dilemma for a while.

Newt tries to explain his predicament some more, but... while he's buying his story (again and again) and delighting in it, the rest of the Squad are reluctant to see the world from Newt's POV. Later, while Newt is humming a happy tune, as he eviscerates the stacked dead gnolls- the warlock is directing Daktari who is actually doing the hard work. Newt (Daktari) is making a pyre, a burnt offering (just shy of twenty feet high) of soon to be noisome charred flesh, Inverna, who is played by George these days, watches on.

She has this to offer-

“So, that's it is it?”, Inverna enquires of her comrades in arms, “as long as the evil one is kept busy”, Inverna nods towards Newt at this point, the aforementioned 'evil one', and then continues. “So, as long as he stays busy, well, you just decide to ignore all of the other stuff that he says and does. All the 'fiery this', and, 'fiery that', followed by random terror and cremation. That just gets swept under the carpet?”

Several members of the Dark Squad nod, and then sigh- there's always a lot of sighing went Newt gets discussed.

But even Newt is intrigued, his favourite subject is, of course... Newt.

“My dear Inverna”, note Newt is really beginning to sound like some sort English cad, with his husky whisper. “What you don't understand my dear, is that while this bleak and bloody confrontation with the gnolls may seem to you extraordinary, it is- I am over-joyed to say, but one of many, what shall we call them- genocides perhaps, that the Dark Squad has committed.”

“I rather enjoyed this one!”

Newt adds, just to break the gathering silence.

“That's why I like hanging around with these wonderful folk- you see we've all been there and done it, bought the light weight cotton training vest- as they say. We've all done some very, very terrible things!”

The warlock concludes, grinning like, well... a big walking cat with a fat cheesy grin.

The rest of the Dark Squad shuffle their feet, shrug and bemoan their fate, which soon after turns into a conversation.

It's at this point that Vinnie & Daktari suddenly remember that while they have both had deep and meaningful conversations with all of the other members of the Dark Squad, the pair have never really taken the time to get to know each other.

They've always been too busy, or else in conversation with a different member of the Dark Squad.

This, of course, is because Vinnie and Daktari are both played by Jim, it would be ridiculous for one player to just take both sides in a conversation, and then to proceed to talk to himself for ten to fifteen minutes.


Jim manages twenty minutes, in truth it was very amusing, but we learn little from the experience.

See, I said there was a lot of chatter.

Next up, after rest, and then the robbing of the dead gnolls et al that are strewn about (results- lots of coin, mostly coppers & silvers, a few +1 arrows, and a +1 javelin) the Dark Squad, at last, enter the Shrine of Savras.

They need to re-consecrate this place to get the Moon Pool up and running, which in turn will enable them to take a dip there and discover their individual futures, or else to catch a glimpse of it.

Ram is sent ahead, into the shrine proper, to check things out- its what he's for.

The Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh #135 Sorry For The (Attempted) Genocide. (2)

Not a great picture, I think I had the shared vision on Fantasy Grounds Unity turned off, my bad.

So, there's more treasure inside, most of it situated around the altar of the shrine, which is in bad shape- covered with viscera and half-consumed stinking corpses, this place was the gnoll clanmother's lair.

The treasure is collected, marvelled at- briefly, and counted.

Note both of the Dark Squad's extra-dimensional treasure holding spaces (a bag, and a chest, of holding) are getting close to their limits. You are going to need a clear out some time soon.

The only significant items of interest however are not the valuables, they are the various barrels of food stuffs and potables that have brought here, and remember the PCs found cart tracks on their way into the Old Woods. Further investigation reveals that the barrels were either from, or else passed through, Saltmarsh.

Someone has been delivering supplies to the gnolls, who- it seems- have been here for a while, weeks certainly, a month- maybe longer.

Then- searching done, back to work, and the gnoll funeral pyre is, soon after, completed- this is mostly Newt's doing, actually the 'doing' is entirely Daktari, Newt just issues orders.

A little later, while the rest of the Dark Squad are going on a spiritual journey (you'll see- read on) inside the Shrine of Savras, Newt sets the pyre on fire. Then, employing a variety of his fire spells, he climbs into the burning pyre to commune with his dark master.

And while everyone else is having a vision (see later) Newt has one of his own.

Mostly because he got left out- keep reading.

In the fire he sees a sky filled with flame, he peers out of a cavern to see a set of stepping stones leading across a bubbling river of lava. He crosses, and hurries on through furnace hot cavern passages to emerge before a great wall of iron, crenellated like battlements. The warlock climbs the stairs onto the iron wall, which on the far side dams another sea of molten lava, the iron here is scalding hot. He races quickly along the wall and into a small sentry tower at its conclusion. He descends and emerges into a sulphurous ravine which wends its way to a bone and liana style bridge that somehow endures, as it traverses yet another river of magma.

Over the far side of the bridge is a much more imposing hexagonal-shaped tower, and on the upper floor of which, situated and disposed like a damsel in distress*, is Lord Belphegor waving furiously for the tabaxi to rush to him...

It's a beautiful dream.

*When I write 'damsel in distress' please keep in mind that Lord Belphegor is (Newt thinks, maybe) a twelve foot tall pit fiend, often depicted- as now, swathed in coruscating flame.

Note, almost all of the above came about because, well... Newt had nothing to do with the next bit.

So, while Newt is playing with fire, the rest of the Dark Squad have cleaned the interior of the Shrine of Savras, and the altar in particular, and are now in the process of offering up prayers to Savras. Vinnie is mostly leading the chorus, but they're all getting into it.

Note, Newt was invited to attend this shindig but he was reluctant, I think he said-

“Really Vinnie, religion? It's just a lot of mumbo-jumbo. I don't think it's for me, I know that the one true light is the purging flame of destruction. But thanks for asking, I'll do a few marshmallows on the fire for when you get done.”

So, back inside the shrine, the collective prayers of the four other members of the Dark Squad are successful, the quartet share a vision.

This is what Newt was missing out on.

The Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh #135 Sorry For The (Attempted) Genocide. (3)

Vinnie is the first to arrive, note the PCs have exactly 10 turns = one minute in this place, although I didn't tell them this- only had them appear and move in initiative order until they figured there must be a reason for it- they're up against the clock.

The place is dark and spooky looking because this is a vision, and keep in mind Savras' theatre of operations is divination, so- this fits.

The place within the vision, several of the PCs discover, is an ancient and ruined fortress set high on a hillside- surrounded by a very bleak and foreboding looking woodland.

A little later the Dark Squad, after a few rolls, figure this place is in the Dreadwood, to be more precise, within the Deeps of the Dreadwood, which is a place- they know, full of the restless dead (and undead). Also, supposedly the home of Nightshade, the missing Bad Dead Ancestor.

But anyway, we get on...

The Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh #135 Sorry For The (Attempted) Genocide. (4)

It seems there's more of the fortress beneath the surface, and this is mostly a dwarven place, or at least there are a lot of broken bones here, the smashed skeletons of long dead dwarves.

There are also great gouge marks in the floor of the central cavern passage, something nasty came this way...

Note Vinnie thinks these marks may have been made by a very big dragon.

He makes a survival check.

He rolls a '1'.

He's too busy to hang around to try again.

As are the other members of the Dark Squad who are rushing through various ancient uninhabited rooms- sorry, no-one much took pictures.

Back to the '1'.

Vinnie is certain it wasn't a dragon that made these marks in the stone, his new best guess- a very heavily laden cart, or similar.

We go on...

Inverna discovers a corridor containing a number of statues, the statues seem to depict elven-bodied dragon-headed warriors. Moments later Daktari spots another of these, and then Vinnie. naughty word! Vinnie (and Ram) has seen these guys before, all the way back in the Sunless Citadel.

But there's else nothing here to find...

That is until Ram finds his way down again into a partially destroyed dwarven great hall, which has latterly been put to good use as a treasure room. There is a swathe, a pool, a pond, a great wave of gold, silver and... all the other sparkly things.

Ram however is still exploring, he moves on- beyond the knee deep field of treasure, he finds yet another way down, there's more below.

But then...

The Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh #135 Sorry For The (Attempted) Genocide. (5)

Note, Inverna had just decided to try to race back up to the surface to get a better fix on where exactly this fortress is, when...

The elven sidekick is torn limb from limb, the great red dragon Ashardalon comes barrelling around the corner, even now making new gouges in the stone floor as its massive bulk breaks stone and crushes ornament.

The dragon's bite severs the fighters right arm and burns her almost beyond consciousness, the two follow up claw attacks- as the dragon rears and scrabbles at the fallen elf, leave Inverna, well... torn limb from limb- as I said at the start, and, well... dead.

Vinnie and Daktari hear Inverna's last scream of terror.

The Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh #135 Sorry For The (Attempted) Genocide. (6)

Moments later Ashardalon bursts forth into the ancient dwarven great hall, latterly treasure chamber. Note, that's coin and jewellery in a heaped swathe in the picture.

Remarkably both Vinnie and Daktari make their saves against the ancient wyrm's Frightful Presence, alas that helps neither of them as the great red fills the chamber with an atomised syrup of flame.

Both adventurers die screaming.

What about Ram you ask, the rogue is in the next chamber on when the above is happening, well... Ram has other issues. In the picture above Ram is situated at the top of another flight of stairs leading down, and streaming up these- coming racing towards him, are a horde of ferocious kobolds.

Ululating up a storm.

Ferocious may be stretching it but, there are a lot of them.

Further note, the kobolds don't get to Ram, who (in for a penny, in for a pound) elected on his turn to move towards them, because... the one minute within the vision is up, and...


The four adventurers reappear (or else they never left) within the Shrine of Savras.

Inverna, Vinnie & Daktari are on one hit point, the trio collapse.

What came to pass? That was psychic damage.

Ram's still in fine shape.

The Dark Squad, after a brief powwow, most of it laced with expletives, although Ashardalon also got mentioned quite a few times, usually either just before or else after, the expletives. The Dark Squad then head off to tell Newt about what just happened.

We will, perhaps next session, re-hash what went on here, I think it's time that the to-do list got revisited.

But the PCs are done-in (again), and so the rest of the day is spent resting and recuperating at the Shrine of Savras. Note, a lot of the PCs spent all of the healing HD after the gnoll fight, and now they're on really low ('1') hit points again. So, a few spells and potions before bedtime, just in case.

Another night in the hut.

Then, rise and shine- out of the Old Woods and to the nearest trail that takes them back to the Silverstand forest, the Dark Squad make good time, particularly on their journey through the enchanted forest to the Moon Pool.

The Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh #135 Sorry For The (Attempted) Genocide. (7)

Heading back to the Moon Pool.

Again, the forest seems to be helping them on their way, all the way to the Moon Pool.

The Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh #135 Sorry For The (Attempted) Genocide. (8)

Wildroot listens patiently to the Dark Squad's story of the Shrine of Savras (they love a bit of validation) and then confirms that the Moon Pool is back up and running.

The Dark Squad dive in, and experience twisted and misted visions of their past/present/future selves. It's all very difficult to discern.

The Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh #135 Sorry For The (Attempted) Genocide. (9)

To simulate this 'lostness' the Dark Squad are in a maze (again, they're not really in a maze, I'm simulating). On FGU the shared vision is turned off, the PCs are going to move in Initiative order (with various tests they can take to improve their Speed each turn, note failing a test cuts off this resource). They simply have to find their way out of the maze, and the quicker they are at this then the more time they get to spend in their future vision.

To reiterate/dumb down- the quicker you get through the maze, the more time your PC gets to spend in the prophetic vision that I have lined up, one for each of you.

Exciting isn't it.

You betcha.

But then my Mrs came home and I'd been four days without seeing her, and... well, a mumbled apology and I was off.

That's all I had time for.

The Mrs or D&D? The Mrs wins every time.

Another great night, and with only maybe six attack rolls all evening, a pleasure for this GM.

Stay safe and well you lovely people.

Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.

The Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh #135 Sorry For The (Attempted) Genocide. (2024)
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