Where we fly to the Land of Thither, meet Rumpelstiltskin, then get lost in the woods and forget to bring any breadcrumbs.
When last we left our heroes, we had somehow fallen in league with a gaggle of deplorable insurrectionists, but Durwyn the Deceiver gave a rousing and deliberately confusing speech that got us out of the pickle we were in and got rewarded with a noble title, The Duke of Muckstump, as a reward. We were also granted the services of a guide (Clapperclaw the scarecrow with his recently recovered, skeletal stag’s head), a pilot (Moorgort, the Knight of Warts, previously awaiting execution for treason, but we got her sentence reduced to permanent exile), and a means of transportation (a hot-air balloon; no cool backstory, just a balloon that been tied to a post outside the whole time).
Then, we inexplicably decided to pop in for a chat with the local hag to tempt fate again. What are we doing here? We just robbed her blind, we’re gonna get blamed for the death of one of her minions, and we have no reason to be here. Naturally, within minutes, Bavlorna asks us for a small favor and without thinking (typical), Daithi the dim-witted barbarian yelled, “Deal!” and shook her hand sealing the pact.
Now Feywild pacts are notoriously tricky. They are basically curses and if you don’t complete the pact, bad things happen. My character Durwyn is technically under one such pact with a rogue Kenku named Kettlesteam. Way back in Session 3, I agreed to restore this land to its original owner, Zybilna. I’m not terribly concerned about my pact, because freeing Zybilna is on my list of things to do anyway, but this new promise is different. We don’t even know what we have to do.
Bavlorna explains what we need to do. “My sister, Skabatha, lives in the Land of Thither, in a giant fallen log called Loomlurch. Inside Loomlurch is a circular room filled with family portraits. Bring me the painting of my sister, Skabatha, and I will answer your questions.” Sure, no problem, lady. This will merely result in half the party getting killed, but we’ll get your stupid drawing for you. To make matters worse, is the reward. In return for completing this ludicrous task, Bavlorna will shed some light on the shadowy figure that might have something to do with Shammer’s backstory or might be nothing. From my character’s viewpoint this was aggravating and uninspiring, but from a player’s and especially a DM’s perspective, this was a perfectly ridiculous way to get the gang to follow the plot.
Having exhausted every thread of nonsense in this land, we finally clambered aboard our very crowded hot air balloon. There are 10 people stuffed into this thing, including a tanky paladin in full armor who is terrified of heights and stayed curled up in a fetal position on the floor of the basket, sucking his thumb. In another aside, I like to think that these balloons are filled with swamp gas rather than helium and that they occasionally belch out stinky farts along the journey.
Speaking of the journey, it was thoroughly uneventful. The DM allowed that we could have a full rest along the way, an offer I refused since it was Durwyn shivering in fear for the next eight hours. I truly wish that there was some sort of aerial encounter thrown in here. Anything to further enhance the bizarre nature of the land. A flock of Aarakocra chasing a cluster of giant dragonflies. A kobold inventor riding a cockatrice he thinks is a dragon. A confused and hungry allosaurus floating along, tied to hundreds of colorful balloons like the house in Up. Seriously, anything. Besides, combat in our tiny, cramped, and highly flammable basket would be awesome. But we got nothing. Fortunately, DM Aidan rectifies this problem during our next border crossing.
Too soon enough, we see the Land of Thither come into view. Whereas the previous land was a barren swamp, this land is a dense temperate forest. The lush canopy stretches for miles in all directions, blanketing the land below. But there are a few clearings visible amongst the foliage. To the northwest, there is an enormous tree fallen over on its side, while to the northeast you can just make out the roof of a house in the trees. In the middle of the forest, we can see a rather large lake, and far to the south there is a lone stony hill. Most importantly, the DM reveals the next portion of the map. MAPS!!!
Everyone in the group wants to land at the fallen log, but our guide and our pilot insist on landing at the desolate hill furthest away from anything because “they have a friend who lives there.” Okay Conductor, we’ll follow this flying railroad to the next station, please. Despite the illusion of chaos and unlimited options this story is aggressively linear. But I don’t care, we have a new map.
After landing at this hill and disembarking (ahh, sweet mother earth, I’ll never leave thee again), we begin walking toward the obvious destination, the single cave opening cut into the hill. Along the way we spot one of the better creative flourishes found in the land. There is a WANTED poster nailed to a tree. On the poster, is a crude drawing of a wayward child with the inscription, “Wanted, Will of the Feywild. Bring him to me and I’ll guarantee no sword will break your skin.”
I love how this single item gave me vibes of three different fairy tales: The Lost Boys of Peter Pan, the posters of Flynn Rider in Tangled, and the deliberately misleading wording of every genie’s wish. This reward will either grant me a benefit like the spell Barkskin or maybe just turn me into a stone statue. Flip a coin and find out. Either way, as the group’s packrat, I pocket the poster for posterity.
Inside the cave we meet Rumpelstiltskin. No, I’m sorry, this guy’s name is Nib. Nib?! But he spinning gold into golden thread on a magic spinning wheel which he turns into magic items. This is Rumpelstiltskin, right? Nope! His name is Nib, just Nib. Okay, any DMs out there, please change this guy’s name to what it should be, or even better, an anagram of the name. like Stunklelistrim or Kristlelimpsun. C’mon Wizard of the Coast, own up to and pay proper homage to your source material. Nib! What a waste.
Anyway, Nib (who was apparently a greedy miser in his past life) is cursed by Skabatha to spend all his ill-gotten gold (conveniently piled in loose, stealable mounds directly behind him), turning it into items to be given freely to anyone who happens by. He also appears to accept his curse and is yet another character who doesn’t care if we rid the land of these hags. Who exactly are we helping here? Whatever, this guy’s handing out free loot. Where’s mine?
What do you know, there’s eight players, a list with eight items on it, and we all got d8 dice. There’s something for everyone. Now, I don’t know if the rolls were legit, or it was through DM fiat, but we all got the perfect item for our character, the Ranger got Bracers of Archery, the rogue got Thieves’ Gloves, the character who can’t keep a secret got a Wand of Secrets, etc, etc. Mara, again, got the coolest random item, an Elemental Hourglass (gem) that can summon an Air Elemental. Sadly, Mara’s player, Auna, is not destined to stay with the campaign and I don’t think we’ll ever get to use this item. Meanwhile, I, Durwyn the Hoarder, got a Bag of Holding. Yet again I get nothing that boosts my stats or abilities, but at least now I have a reasonable excuse for carrying around all this crap.
Conveniently, Nib also lays out just about everything we need to know about the land. The hag Skabatha lives in the hollowed-out tree named Loomlurch, where she forces enslaved children to work in her shops. There’s a group of escaped children called the Getaway Gang, lead by this Will of the Feywild and they live in a treehouse guarded by a treant named Little Oak. By the way, it appears that everyone here in Thither knows where this Will guy lives; I don’t know why Skabatha can’t find him herself. As for the hag, she is also called Granny Nightshade or the Toymaker, and she is practically a toy herself with a big wind-up key sticking out of her back. The key spins to reflect her mood; fast is happy, slow is sad, but when it’s stopped you better run, because someone’s about to face her wrath. Thanks, random dude. Maybe his name should be Rumpel-exposition.
We are treated to more random details about Nib. He wears a blindfold, but with no explanation, we thought it was just a part of his curse and irrelevant to the story. He is haunted by the specters of people he’s cheated, but this is also irrelevant to the story. And his gold is cursed, but no one took any, so we don’t what the curse is, making it irrelevant to the story. As we leave, both Clapperclaw and Moorgort choose to stay behind for reasons. I really wish the scarecrow had come along to journey with us to the Emerald City, I mean Palace of Heart’s Desire, to see the Wizard, or warlock, or hag, or whatever, and get himself a brain or at least some glue for his head. But alas, it was not to be.
Of course, Moorgort chose to stay behind just so we couldn’t use her to fly us all over the place, so I guess we’re walking. Again. With no place to go but north, we head that way. I guess; my character still has no sense of direction. En route to wherever, we run into a few random encounters. There’s the smashed clearing with knocked over trees and huge reptilian footprints 3-feet-long stomping off into the forest. Convinced this is the “eternal dragon” we’ve heard about, we did not follow its trail and moved in the opposite direction. Where we came across a small circular clearing filled with mushrooms. But they were so much more.
As we entered the clearing, dozens of mushrooms “came alive” and started singing songs and dancing a little jig. Swept up in the adorableness factor of the moment (some more than others), we all joined in. Except for “Pop”, who used his Kenku mimic ability to sing a new song heard from Palasha the mermaid diva back at the Witchlight Carnival. For adding a new song into the Campestri repertoire, “Pop” gains a Charm of Heroism, like the potion but without the encumbrance. For our rhymical gyrations, the rest of us receive the benefit of True Seeing for the next 24 hours; not very useful considering that the nearest destination is two days travel from here.
But I don’t care about any of that, cause I picked up a new companion! I persuaded one of the mushrooms to give up his life of song, safety, and comfort to join us on our quest for adventure, glory, and imminent death around every corner. Especially for a tiny fungus with a 0 Challenge Rating and 2 hit points that can head butt (yes, that’s its real attack) for 1 point of damage. I named him Shitake just so I can swear at the table. Another player picked up a ‘shroom named Stumpy, but Shitake is all mine.
Moving on after another unnecessary long rest, we came across another lone campestri in a different clearing with an actual campsite in it. But this mushroom wasn’t dancing, it was bathing in a cup of butter. Why? Because some goblin told him to, and later this new goblin friend will give him a “hot bath”. In a pot. Apparently, the campestris are the foolish clams from The Walrus and The Carpenter in this telling of this tale. We convince the campestri to stop marinating itself and it also becomes someone’s companion, but I can’t remember who, or what we named it. Thane?
Eventually, the goblin “friend”, Croa (?), comes back to camp carrying firewood. To keep us from giving him a hot bath in his own boiling pot, he tells us all that he knows. There is a candy store outside of Loomlurch run by goblins where all the candy has delicious, crunchy bugs inside. Will this be something we can use, or merely a distraction for our more easily sidetracked companions? More importantly, Croa tells us that there is a baby displacer beast here in the forest about 6 hours north of here. Well, if we weren’t heading that way before, we sure as hell are now. Thanks, random goblin dude, are you sure your name isn’t Goblin GoThatAWay?
Moving further north still, we come across another Will of the Feywild Wanted poster. This one reads, “How dare that ragamuffin defy me. Bring him to me and I’ll grant you a loyal servant.” Probably a loyal servant who will never leave my side EVER or be quiet when I need stealth, but whatever, throw the poster in the Bag.
Later, we are blissfully unaware as 7 bushes, as in shrubbery, roll into view creating a lovely path, (A path! A path!) and a dryad springs out from behind a tree, swinging for our heads. Finally, Roll Initiative. But even this doesn’t last long. Each round, the dryad yells at us that she “will have her revenge” and berates us for being “mercenaries for the evil Granny Nightshade.” Herbert the Harmonious Haregon convinces the dryad, now known as Meadowleaf, that we don’t work for the vile hag and in fact want to defeat her and her sisters. Stop! Stop the combat. Put those pesky dice away. You said the magic words to end this encounter. Except that a couple of characters didn’t stop the encounter, but we’ll get to that.
All the non-chaotic players stopped fighting and had a chat with the dryad, who gave us her tale of woe about Skabatha chopping down the dryad’s bonded tree and turning it into toys, her desire to have Skabatha chopped into little bits and turned into fertilizer, and that there is absolutely nothing we can do to save this poor woodland creature. Yet another NPC who can’t be or doesn’t want to be helped. But she did give us three sycamore seeds that imbue the swallower with the spell pass without trace. Naturally, the scrounger Durwyn took one and threw it in his Bag, but I don’t remember who took the other two. Worse, I’m starting to not even care what anyone else in the party does. Not a good attitude for the party’s chronicler.
But here’s one of a dozen reasons why. This encounter was the start of the Player vs. Player portion of our campaign. During our brief fight with the bushes, Daithi decided to use his barbarian rage. Perfectly fine. However, this barbarian follows the Path of Wild Magic from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything optional rules book which is an absolutely ridiculous and incongruous barbarian path. It’s a tank with automatic chaos thrown in. Thanks, Tasha. But it’s the Feywild, so it’s fine, whatever. Rolling on the Wild Magic chart, a burst of light explodes from the barbarian’s chest striking what I thought was a random target. The beam hit Shammer, our unpredictable warlock/wizard/warlock again (?), who takes damage and is blinded.
But the burst of light doesn’t hit a random target. The player gets to choose the target, and the player chose to hit Shammer. Why? Don’t know! Was he being funny? Did Shammer do something to Daithi first that I missed? Who drew first blood? Don’t care! But this will start a downward trend where Thane is convinced that if we complete our quest to steal that painting like we, I mean Daithi, promised then it will somehow anger Shammer’s patron, or something equally convoluted and misconstrued. Either way, Thane will now begin a private campaign to undermine everything we do from here on out. And I am done.
I just don’t care anymore what that half of the table does. There was so much cross talk at the table during the encounter it was borderline disrespectful. While most of the party tried to roleplay the encounter with the dryad, the two of them just kept running their own game; rolling dice between them, trading blows, doing stuff I don’t know what until they got bored or one went unconscious or something and they realized that no one was paying attention to them. Regardless, this nonsense will infect the next few sessions like a cancer, so I have that to look forward to.
Next week, we make some pixie allies, run afoul of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, meet Will of the Feywild and go for a stroll in our homemade unicorn costumes.
As always, even worse than the TPK is the dreaded PVP, and Game On!
Bring me Will of the Feywild and I’ll grant you the strength of an octopus– My favorite Wanted poster, even though I only imagined finding it and it doesn’t even exist in the adventure. BTW octopi have a strength of 4; not a very good reward.
And yes, Thane, I know that this is not the real reason you are trying to undermine the campaign. But this is what I thought at the time and I will reveal your true intentions in the next session recap.