Our humble party headed south to Yester Hill this session, in search of the druid conclave and hopefully one of the mystic gems belonging to the Wizard of Wines. And as is so common with this group, they completely derailed a carefully planned encounter and then almost died. Thankfully they have a badass rogue with a very nasty crossbow.
The session began with the party moving south along the dirt game trails flowing from the Vinery towards Yester Hill and their Druidic quarry. We commenced with a quick recap of events as our female rogue had returned and our Warlock was sadly absent. I say sadly only because I really enjoy playing his imp, who I have decided to play very close to Loiosh of the Vlad Taltos novels. If you haven’t read them then you really should.
Despite that our party of two rogues (one female and one a bird), a Knight who thinks he’s a Bard (or a Bard who thinks he’s a Knight), and a Redneck Paladin (now with a cup) headed into the thickening forest as the sun went down.
Yester Hill itself turned out to be large oval-shaped burial ground circled in concentric rings and dotted with the stone burial cairns of the long dead. While the group did a cursory inspection of them, all they found were some weird runes that none of them recognized.
The female Rogue did hear some strange whispers, given to her in a passed note, but for now, at least has not acted on them. I’m a big fan of passed notes as a DM. Giving a little information to individual players and letting them make their choices.
Back to the quest, however, the party quickly but quietly snuck up the hill and took up positions around the massive stone boulders that ringed a ceremonial circle on the hilltop. Within that circle, they spied a group of druids circling bonfire. At the far end of the circle from the party; a large wooden statue that bore a great resemblance to Strahd.
Mystical energy encircled the druids, and the Paladin could feel their evil intent. Though the party could not understand the strange chant, they knew some dark ritual was in progress. So naturally, they decided to make a surprise attack. I decided to dress the druid’s leader in a different robe so they were able to easily identify him. And as both rogues took their sneak attacks my plans went all to hell.
The Birds bolt did a small amount of damage, enough to break the spell. However, because of a high sneak roll I gave the female Rogue a surprise round shot as well. She rolled a natural 20 and then did 44 points of damage. The Druid leader died with the spell still crackling around him.
Now I could have just let it go and just ended the spell, going with my initial plans should the party attack the druids, but I decided such an epic kill deserved an epic follow up. The rest of the druids in the circle were vaporized by the spells feedback, and as the leader’s blood flowed into the fire the spell was complete. From the statue burst forth a great Tree Blight, his roar of awakening shaking the hill. And to aid him three Will o Wisps rose up from the dissipating magic flowing from the fire.
The battle that followed was filled with amazing rolls by the female rogue as she hopped around and popped two of the Will o Wisps and did the majority of the damage to the Tree Blight. The Bird couldn’t roll a hit to save his life and spent most of the encounter running and hiding, and both the Paladin and the Knight ended up wrapped in choking roots and bleeding out in the dirt.
But the party prevailed and the Blight fell, its rotting wooden flesh caving in on itself after another massive strike from the Rogue.
After patching up the wounded they did a quick search of the corpses. Collecting another sigil necklace and pulling one of the magic gems from the rotting heart of the Blight. They also crossed the circle to the small path that led to a twisted and gnarled tree oozing blood like sap. Those who have run this campaign likely expect another encounter here, but considering the parties condition and since it was nearing the end of the evening I chose to have the many blight sprigs lying dead around the old tree.
They did, however, pull a magic axe from its trunk. Its blade shimmering and its handle carved with intricate vines. Interestingly, this axe has no actual name in the campaign book, but I have decided on one. Which will be revealed in time. Hopefully, the next session will also see a follow-up of the whispers the Rogue heard earlier in the session.
The way I tend to run campaigns is that I have a timeline of events that are happening in the world, regardless of if the players are actively involved. As such, there are things happening in the world that the party has not seen, but which they will likely have to deal with in the future. For instance, they’ve left their mark on two separate towns over the course of the campaign so far.
The session ended with the party taking another short rest to lick their wounds and make some decisions about what to do next. Most likely they will head north back towards the Wizard of Wines, but they also spoke of hunting down Baba Lysaga, and somewhere out there is a third gem whose location they have yet to discover. Of course, they do happen to know someone who can see the future and the past.
As always I look forward to seeing what they decide to do, and what the dice foretell as they continue their adventures in the mists of Ravenloft.