The Menagerie is nearly wiped out during a simple walk in the woods and end the day with an epic aerial battle between a Manticore and a Dragon.
When last we left our heroes, they had saved a Gnome settlement from being eaten by a monster they called “The Shifter”. It turns out that the beast was a Mimic. The group found the aberration hiding in the wine cellar, disguised to look like a barrel. As payment they only took two ridiculous contraptions that look like walking barrel-crabs and all the wine casks that the Minotaur could carry; six. The Bullywug had also stuffed all his pockets with mounds of strange mushrooms, which really serve no function, but James thought they were cool.
Back at the Phandalin Adventurers Guild, here is our roster for the day: James is playing his Bullywug Druid/Barbarian newly dubbed, Grunk. Astrid is remotely playing her doppleganger Sorcerer disguised as an elf. And I am playing my Tortle Monk, Anjing Shang. But if I am playing, then who is the DM? Andrew wanted to give it another shot, so he’s in charge today.
This is why I had my monk take a vow of silence. Since I (as the usual DM) pretty much know all of the scenarios in the adventure, when I play this character, he does not speak. He does not have an opinion; he does not offer advice. He follows the other characters lead and goes where they go. I combat, I speak my character’s actions, of course, but I don’t do anything that would metagame the outcome.
The two vocal players, Astrid and James, decide to take on the Windmill mission. This one seems easy. Take a walk in the woods, threaten an old lady, walk back. We’ll be home before dinner. Unfortunately, it was the walk in the woods that nearly killed us.
Since this scenario as so little combat, Andrew decided to give us a little random encounter. Just a couple of goblins and a bugbear, the challenge rating was less than 2. Which happened to be the average roll for every player dice roll during the combat. Every single roll. We couldn’t hit a thing. And the goblins were tearing us apart. This was quickly turning into a TPK and we hadn’t even left the village map.
We used up all our paltry special abilities to no avail. I was forced to hide inside my shell. The wizard and the frog were hiding in trees, which the goblins promptly chopped down. It was a nightmare. I swear it took us over an hour to kill these stupid things.
When they were finally dead, we ate all of Grunk’s goodberries and hobbled back to town. We’ll tackle the windmill tomorrow after a good, long, and rules-sanctioned rest. Thank God that pesky white dragon decided to be somewhere else when we limped into town.
The next morning and fresh as a daisy, we set out again for our one-mile hike. Andrew took pity on us and had no more random encounters. When we arrived at the windmill, the area appeared to be deserted. We aimlessly mill around the area, until some lady yells at us from the top floor, “What are you doing here? Get out of here, before that thing comes back!”
Before we can even ask what she’s talking about, the “thing” comes back. It looks like a lion, but even more savage, if such a thing is possible. At the tip of its tail, it has what looks like a porcupine, a massive puffball except instead of needles; it has quills the size of javelins. Oh, and it has wings cause evolution rocks! This is a Manticore.
The beast speaks, “Get away from my lunch. I intend to eat this woman just as soon as she opens this door. Leave now or I just might eat you too.”
James immediately picks up the dialog. “Why do you want to eat this woman?” I find it really funny that if there is a monster, creature, or animal involved then James is perfectly at ease having a conversation, but if this had been humans or another humanoid race then James would have stayed completely silent.
“I wanna eat her because I’m hungry,” the Manticore replies.
“What if we found you something else to eat? Would you leave this woman alone?” This is playing out exactly as I would have played this, so it is really fun to watch my two sons work out the details. I had expected the players to offer up a couple of sheep or a cow from the village, but James had a much better idea.
The Bullywug reached into his pocket (do frogs even have pockets?) and pulled out a few loaves of the purple mushroom bread that he “liberated” from the gnome cave in the last session. “Have you ever had Purple Bread?”
This took on a life of its own. The Manticore grabs the bread and gobbles it down. “Umm, Yum yum yum. Gimme more!” Grunk forks over some more bread. Gobble, gobble, gobble. “More.” Grunk hands over the last of the bread. “More!” I metagame a little, and hand James a note, “Ask him to help us fight the dragon.”
James runs with it, “I don’t have any more. But if I got you more bread, would you help the town fight the dragon?”
“Deal!” And that is how the Menagerie managed to convince a Manticore to defend the village of Phandalin from the evil white dragon.
And not a moment too soon, as we tried to leave the area, who should turn up but Cryovain, the very same annoying evil dragon. I have to say I love this bit of rolling randomly to determine the dragon’s locations everytime the players enter or leave an area. It is incredible how often this puts the dragon and the players face-to face.
The Manticore was good to his word and defended his new best friends. We had spectacular ringside seats to the awesome aerial battle that ensued. The dragon deftly dodged the Manticore’s multiple lawn-darts while we threw rocks and sticks. The Manticore barely avoided the dragon’s slashing claws and gaping maw while we threw rocks and sticks. Finally, the Manticore struck true with a couple of beefy paws and the drake turned to leave while we threw rocks and sticks… when the dragon decided to fly back and blast us with his frigid breath. I think we threw one too many rocks, or maybe it was the stick.
Regardless, we all had to dodge out of the way because even at half damage this stupid thing can kill any one of us. We all survived and got to watch the dragon fly away to harass us another day.
So, we made arrangements for the gnomes to drop off a steady supply of mushroom bread here at the windmill. The townsfolk built it a lovely and very large dog house. Now, the Manticore spends all day prancing around the hillside, getting high off purple ‘shrooms, and waiting for the call to defend Phandalin once more.
Next week, the Menagerie travels to the actual coast of the Sword Coast where they fight off banshees, the world’s ugliest harpy, and their own destructive tendencies.
As always, is that a loaf of warm purple bread in your pocket or are you just happy to see me, and Game On!
Purple dough all in a pie, Lately breads, they don’t wanna rise, Tasting funny, but I don’t know why, ‘scuse me while I bake this rye… – Jimi Hendrix, original lyrics to Purple Haze.