S1: Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh
The 6th full game session. Dean (Thic Duc), Larry (Michael), and Todd (Phil).
As we left the party, they were preparing to spend the night in the basement, with Ned and Ed trading off watching for signals from the ship, and the secret door leading to the unexplored cave system blocked off by a bed. Just as Ned and Ed were complaining that they didn’t want to be left alone in the house until the whole place was explored and declared safe, the party noticed someone – or something – trying to open the secret door from the other side. Thanks to the bed barricade, the attempts to open the door failed. The party promptly sat on the bed in front of the cracked door and discussed their plans to ambush the presumed attackers in a normal tone of voice.
Before long the attempts to open the secret door stopped, and the party heard no further noise. This occasioned further discussion and movement of furniture, arranging the door so it could be opened partway (enough for a monk without armor) but would be blocked by beds braced all the way to the far wall if anyone tried to open it further. After eventually noticing that the noises had stopped, they rearranged things to allow the door to be easily closed if needed and proceeded to explore the area beyond the secret door. Deciding that two additional fighters would not be helpful for some reason, and discarding the advice of hundreds of fairy tales and legends told to them over and over during their varied childhoods to never split the party, they split the party and left Ned and Ed alone together to watch the secret entrance to the cave system.
Beyond the secret door was a small chamber, 10x20, leading to a staircase heading down. At the bottom of the stairs, the walls shifted from obviously manmade to mostly a natural cave system, though occasionally improved with rough steps, handrails, and torches mounted to the walls. (OSHA has clearly inspected these facilities). The cave system diverged, and the party took the left fork first. it lead to a large, roundish room with makeshift shelves near the walls. The party halted near the entrance to the larger room, and with the cleric in the lead, the party proceeded into the room.
Their scouting was not sufficient to notice the green slime colony living on the ceiling. As Michael passed beneath the slime, it dropped upon him from above, fulfilling the dreams of every little kid who ever watched Nikolodeon. Unlikely children’s television, however, this green slime consumes both flesh and metal… eating away at his armor, which was hastily removed, and beginning to consume his flesh. However, thanks to quick thinking from Thic Duc, the party was able to open a cask of brandy and dunk the contaminated armor in it. (Luckily, the slime missed as he ran back under it). A second cask of brandy provided a rinse. This was sufficient to clean off the slime, but may the gods help whoever drinks the brandy, and Michael will smell like a drunkard for the foreseeable future.
Continuing to explore, the party found another storage cavern, also empty, and another staircase leading down. This one ended in a tiny beach area, open to the sea, with a low ceiling and signs of use as an anchorage. (Among other things, a large rock with a metal ring, suitable for attaching an anchor chain or rope). To the right of the entrance, a ladder leads up to a trapdoor in the roof of the room. Through the trapdoor is another empty storage room, leading back to the fork in the road that was previously not taken. The party promptly promptly blocked the trapdoor with another brandy cask on top and continued their explorations.
A few minutes later, however, a loud crash from above announced the presence of others within the dungeon. The party promptly began retracing their steps, only to encounter a pair of dog-headed humanoids (chain mail and broadswords), followed by a pack of men in sailor clothing (effectively leather armor, short swords), led by what appeared to be an officer. Upon seeing the party, the sailors and dog-headed humanoids charged, yelling and howling respectively. The party’s morale broke, and most fled, with only Michael standing firm against the charging pack at first.
The mob of sailors clustered around Michael, who killed several before a sailor’s short sword slammed through the spot in his armor weakened by the slime and into his gut. Michael collapsed…
The dog-headed warriors charged past Michael in pursuit of Thic Duc and Phil.
Phil was the one who gathered his courage and stopped to face them, making his stand halfway between the storage room and the beach area. Wielding only his staff, with nothing but robes to protect his tender flesh, he swung his staff as hard as he could at the snarling dog-faced creature approaching him… and smacked the creature across the face with in a solid hit. The creature stumbled backwards, whining, shaking its head, and spun around to charge back up the stairs!
Behind the creature was a sailor, however…
The other dog-faced creature continued chasing Thic Duc all the way down to the water, but stopped at the edge, apparently unable or unwilling to risk swimming in heavy metal armor. Thic Duc climbed the cliff wall to escape.
Back in the storage room, the enemy leader screamed “Take them alive, you fools!” and cast a spell that flooded the cavern and hallway with a dazzling rainbow lightshow. So dazzling, in fact, that it left both Phil and the sailor attacking him dazed. Thic Duc was out of range, and Michael was already semiconscious, and he woke to find the enemy leader bandaging his wounds. Wisely, he took no immediate action to attract further attention…
The dog-headed creature growled and snarled as the dazzling lights hit it, but continued on towards the leader. One of the sailors clustered around Michael was standing in its way, and the creature swung at the sailor with its broadsword, killing the sailor with a single blow!
The enemy leader looked up in a panic as he realized the dog-creature had turned on him. He rapidly began casting another spell, while the creature attacked! Even as a spray of blood from the wound hit the wall, the enemy leader disappeared from plain sight! The dog-faced creature attacking him swung wildly for a few minutes, then howled loudly and sheathed his sword. Michael used the time to cast healing spells on himself, and walked – alone – further back towards the house, perhaps thinking to follow the dog-creatures or locate the missing enemy leader.
Regaining consciousness at the same time, Phil resumed his frantic defense against the sailor’s attack, and eventually prevailed. The dog-creature chasing Thic Duc gave up and returned to its fellow. All the sailors now being dead, the two dog-faced creatures consulted with each other in a strange language, then walked off together. They left the party alone.
Still weak from blood loss despite the healing spells, Michael hears a sudden sound behind him and spins around, to see the enemy leader appearing from out of thin air and already casting a spell! The spell goes off, and the world fades away for a few minutes. When he comes to again, Michael is still standing, but the enemy leader is gone, and he has no memory of where or how. Despirited, he returns to tend to Phil’s wounds.
Meanwhile, Thic Duc reached the top of the cliff and went back into the house, making his way down to a vantage point from which he could observe the secret door. He spotted the bloody corpses of Ned and Ed, who evidently died when they met the sailors. After a minute or two, Thic Duc saw the two dog-creatures emerge, but no sign of the enemy leader. Some time after they left, he ventured through the trapdoor and met the Michael and Phil making their slow and injured way up.
After nervously waiting for the missing leader to possibly make his presence felt, the party returned upstairs to investigate the discrepancy between the size of the basement and the size of the first and second floor. Phil and Michael settled down to study spells for an hour, while Thic Duc paced the skeleton room. After about an hour of searching, he finally located the secret door. The party lined up for another SWAT-type entry…
… and opened the door to discover a dusty mess of junk, piled high enough to partially block the door, and make entering the room silently or swiftly an impossible proposition. Nonetheless, they persisted; silently removing the bits and pieces of stuff in the doorway until they could see inside the room.
The results were disappointing. A few intact copper pots of some kind, many more – both glass and clay – broken on the floor. Sticking their heads further into the room, with Michael in the lead, they saw an L-shaped desk against the far wall, and a chair with the back to the party, and just a hint of cloth robes in the chair…
Thic Duc stealthily approached. The figure did not respond. Thic Duc used his spear to push the book that was open on the desk out of the figure’s view. The figure did not respond. Thic Duc used his spear to poke the figure directly, still from behind. The figure still did not respond. So Thic Duc turned the chair around to face the party, and it turns out the figure was an ordinary human skeleton still dressed in ancient (and decaying) robes… and there was a sudden loud click as the chair turned around.
Without hesitation, displaying his superior training and reflexes, Thic Duc dropped instantly to the floor and lay flat, safe from any sort of possible trap that his action could have unleashed. Instead, he noticed an item that had fallen to the floor when he moved the body: a shiny stone, faintly sparkling in the party’s lanternlight. Without hesitation, he claimed the stone, then stood back up to examine the situation from a more normal perspective.
The desk contained various glass containers relevant to alchemy and chemistry, along with the book the skeleton had been reading, and a scattering of rather ordinary objects that appeared to have been transformed into gold. The containers were either smashed or empty, containing nothing visible. The book is titled “Ye Secret of Ye Olde Philospher’s Stone” and is a very advanced book of alchemy describing the process for creating a philosopher’s stone and using it to transform ordinary items (starting with lead) into gold. The rest of the items on the table are those the alchemist had presumably successfully transformed: a human skull, a pipe, a wrench, a candlestick, a chef’s cooking knife, and a noose.
One of the characters sought to investigate the copper pots, shining a light into the opening to see inside. Though the pot appeared empty at first glance, a massive burst of flame erupted from the pot when the lantern was brought close by. Clearly, the pots once contained oil. The 2 remaining pots, with lids intact, still contain some form of liquid.
After discussing the possible implications of their discovery, the party set up camp in the only secure area of the house they could find: the alchemist’s lab, complete with decaying skeleton, broken glass sharp hazards with god only knows what mysterious substances on their edges, not to mention the possibility of invisible spellcasters or undiscovered traps. They set a watch, and the first two watches passed without incident.
During the third watch, the party awoke to scratching noises coming from the door. They arranged themselves for an ambush, then carefully opened the door. Shadows cast from their lantern showed huge rats lurking outside! Someone immediately grabbed one of the copper pots of oil and dumped it all over the floor outside the room, preparing to burn the rats alive…
… when a closer look revealed they were normal sized rats casting giant rat shadows, as they skittered away from the spreading puddle of oil.
Deciding the alchemist’s study was no longer a desirable piece of real estate, and that it was practically morning anyway, the party made their way across the oil-slick floor. Thic Duc slipped on the oil, falling and soaking his robes in the flammable liquid. Since he was not holding the lantern, the party did not die in an oil-fueled conflagaration… this time.
The party returned to Saltmarsh. They stopped by the blacksmith, seeking to open some of the locked chests they had previously found, and succeeded with the box found in the mate’s room. Inquiries with the local herbalist revealed that she would identify potions for 50gp (per type) or buy unidentified potions for 10gp each. They have not yet spoken to the town council to retrieve their reward for discovering the cause of the “haunting” and, presumably, stopping it.
To be continued… Letter from Rookroost
To the aptly named Band of Misfits, Congratulations on your discovery of such a nefarious plot! Persuant to item #1 on my list of guidelines, you will be well rewarded for your civic engagement. I am organizing a squad of elite marines to aid your efforts to capture the ship of pirates! Await them before you leave the shore. General Perneti PS: Gosh this stuff works. All the do-gooder types are actually helping! Wait, stop writing that, I'm just talking to myself! Hey, I said-
Experience and Treasure
- 100xp for showing up
- 100xp for standing alone against a massed charge (Michael)
- 100xp for escaping (Thic Duc)
- 100xp for bravely smacking the dog-headed attacker with a rolled up newspaper staff (Phil)
- 5 dead sailors (30xp each, 150xp total)
- 1 green slime colony (30xp)
- 1 dog-headed creature defeated (turned on the First Mate after being struck solidly on the nose; 50xp partial)
- The first mate escaped
- Gold skull (750 gp)
- Gold clues (150 gp each, 750gp total)
- 1 large copper pot of (presumably) oil
- Ye Secret of Ye Olde Philospher’s Stone
- 3 bolts of cloth (300gp total; left at the house for lack of transport)
- 5 casks of brandy (150gp total; left at the house for lack of transport)
- 2 casks of open, contaminated brandy (worthless to honest characters)
- 2 symbols of a popular patron diety of sailors (60 gp)
- 2 large gold earrings (50gp total)
- Gold bracelet (75gp)
- 11pp, 50gp, 15sp (105gp total)
- 3 pale yellow potions
- 1 light blue potion
- 1 deep green potion
Assuming the party turns in the gold skull, clues, cash, and pirate jewelry for their estimated value, the xp value is 1850, and the after-tax value is 1018gp (Saltmarsh adventurer’s tax 25%, and Adventure Capitalists fee is 20%). There remains substantial outstanding treasure to handle in some fashion: the contents of the stolen cart if it can be recovered, the value of various books and potions should the party decide to sell them, and whatever reward the council deems it fit to provide).
Roleplaying moments and quotables
Dangling Threads of Fate
Why did the dog-heads attack their allies and then flee? What type of creature are they? Now both Michael and Thic Duc smell like drunkards. Is fate trying to send a message? Is Phil the only party member without a drinking problem? Will the town reward the party for their efforts in unhaunting the manor? Where is Daphne now? Does she still have Fred's body? What exactly happened between the first mate and Michael when Michael failed his save versus spells? What exactly is the stone that Thic Duc found? Is it the philosopher's stone? The weasel, presumably, still swings...
Dartagnan gets 100xp for guest-DMing
Map of the cave system