In our second heist on the hag’s hideout, we look for more kids, tchotchkes, pigs, and portraits. And there are pixies.
We haven’t seen guys for so long, I might have to switch out this cover image.
When last we left our heroes, we went on a madcap and ill-conceived rescue mission that involved waltzing into a hag’s hut, lying to her, then stealing all of her child-labor slaves. The hag in question is Skabath Nightshade, aka Granny, whose main schtick is the crafting of demonic little toys as she is practically a toy herself, with a wind-up key in her back that depicts her mood. If that key ever stops revolving, run away fast, people are gonna die. The plan was hatched by Will of the Fey, a Peter Pan wannabe who wants to rescue all the kids at Loomlurch (the hag’s home) and start his own independent sovereignty, the Getaway Gang.
After a long discussion/debate/argument over the morality of burning down a house with a bunch of children trapped inside, we enact Will’s plan. Despite some noticeable gaps in the plan, we were able to escape with the three children that were being forced to work in the toy workshop. We were even able to scare one of their captors, a gross, slimy Boogle, until it peed his pants. This “scare fluid” was actually an oil that is just one of over a dozen items we need to find to cross off our To Do List. We were pretty pleased with ourselves until Will told us that there were still five other kids trapped in the house. Sheepishly, Will asked, “I’ve got my hands full with these kids here. Would you mind trotting off and get me the other ones? There’s a good adventuring group. Go along now. Go.”
Before we go, we interrogate the other children for info about Skabatha’s house; something we should have done last time, but no matter. This Q&A was yet another reason why eight players is just too many for the table. Everybody had questions and nobody (including myself) was waiting for any answers before shouting out the next question. I don’t know how Aidan managed to run the whole scene calmly. I would have ended up yelling at people.
But no matter. We learned that there are four kids upstairs, two in the infirmary (so I guess kids can get hurt here in the Fey, Thane) and two in the sewing room. The last kid is chained up in the kitchen (that sounds safe). Fortunately, one of the kids we saved last week has a soap mold for the key to the kitchen. We also learn Skabatha’s basic routine for the day: a couple of hours in the garden, then puttering between the kitchen and her study for most of the day, and finally an inspection of all the workshops before going to bed.
Not everyone took an active role in questioning the children. Using the Boggle oil, Herbert the Bard made certain that we secured the services of Squirt the Oilcan who, like Clapperclaw the Scarecrow before, is able to lead us into the next domain of Yon. I have a feeling that we will need to make a hasty retreat from this land very shortly.
Meanwhile, Mara and I travelled to the pixies, whom we helped earlier, and convinced them help us during our second raid on the hag. They won’t help directly, but they will stay outside the hut and protect any children that we leave with them and safely take them back to the Getaway Gang’s hideout. I fully expect any plan we concoct to go horribly wrong, and I don’t want the kids to be collateral damage.
Also at this time, Daithi has the same nagging suspicions about Will of the Fey that I have. There is something secretive and sinister about him and neither one of us trusts him. So, Daithi casts detect magic on him (cause that’s something this barbarian can do.) Turns out that he has two spell effects on him. There is a transmutation effect on his body, which I took to mean that he is not in his natural form. And there is an enchantment spell on his heart that I believe means he is not acting like his natural state would. Nobody acted on this new information and it drove me nuts to let this mystery go unresolved.
But no time to solve that now, we got heisting to do! And we got a ton of stuff to steal. There are five children that need kidnapping in three different rooms. There’s a piglet in the garden that we need to porknap for another child. There is a painting of Skabatha somewhere in the house that we need to purloin. And don’t forget about the items that we need to remove any of our curses held by this witch. And there’s a unicorn horn somewhere that we need to keep an eye out for. And maybe a captured unicorn that may or may not be here. All while avoiding the goblins, guards, and scarecrows patrolling the place. Not to mention avoiding the hag herself. How to best accomplish all this? Split the party!
Team 1 – The Red Herring; consisting solely of Serena the secret-spilling sorcerer. Since her curse means she cannot be trusted with anything involving deception, we sent her on a wild goose chase to distract the goblins by buying up all the candy in their creepy Willy-Wonka stalls. It’s a shame that the player has chosen to play this flaw as a permanent feature of her character. Flaws are meant to be fun roleplaying flavor not a crippling handicap. Perhaps this is how she has chosen to take herself out of the action, since we know she knows the adventure. I wish we could use her skills, but she is delegated to a pointless side mission.
Team 2 – The Bait; the two fairies, Mara and Shammer, Herbert the Bard, and me, Durwyn the perpetually lost Paladin. All the non-stealthy members have to infiltrate the garden, setting off the alarms, and pulling all of the guards out of the house. This will likely result in a fight, which sucks, since I am the only fighter in this group. This doubly sucks because really all we’re doing is making a big noise and running away. But as a consolation, we get to wrestle a muddy piglet somewhere in the garden. Oink.
Team 3 – The Clooney-Damon-Pitt Team, i.e. The Cool Ones; Pop the Ranger, Faux the Thief, and Daithi the Barbarian. The stealthy ones (which somehow includes the barbarian) get to do all the fun stuff; rescue kids, explore the house, find the treasure, etc. You know, play the game. Am I jealous? No. No! It’s fine, fine, whatever, fine. Just point me in the direction of this pig.
The start of the heist began simply enough. Serena is sampling all the sweets in the candy shoppe. Myself and the rest of Team 2 are sneaking in the garden. Pop and Daithi have snuck into the empty textile room in the central tower. Last week, Will of the Fey used this entrance to rescue the children here. They must get down to the first floor and over to the southern tower to get the kids located there. Faux flew up to the window in the northern tower to sneak down into the kitchen to get the kid trapped in that room. Kudos to the DM, Aidan, who managed to run this whole thing smoothly even though we’ve split the party into four group. And it’s about to get much worse.
The garden is really spread out, so it is an easy matter to avoid the pumpkin patch, compost heap, and five clustered scarecrows, all of which look very suspicious. We head directly toward the animal pens, but first we have to go through a mushroom garden. The DM asks if we want to grab any ‘shrooms. I don’t, because I don’t want to be distracted from my task, but everyone one else grabbed a handful, so fine, I grabbed a yellow one. These mushrooms never came into play again and I never even found out what mine did. It just sat on my character sheet taking up space for the rest of the adventure.
Meanwhile, Daithi and Pop have made it downstairs from the textile room and are in a lounge with several family portraits on the wall, including the one that another hag, Bavlorna, wants. But this is not the main quest, so kudos to Pop and Daithi (mostly Daithi) for staying on point, and moving on. Into the next room, where they find 10 small huts, like upright dog houses. Good thing they were stealthy and didn’t activate the occupants. Here they split again, Daithi going into the door heading west, and Pop heading up the stairs.
At the same time, Faux has entered what must be Skabatha’s bedroom. Fortunately, the hag is not here either. Where the heck is she hiding? The room is pristine and orderly; a barely used bed that is neatly made, a cradle with a folded blanket in it, and a clean dresser with (according to my notes) a row of pigs on it(?). So much time passes between when we played and when I write about it, that sometimes my own notes make no sense. But these alleged pigs never come into play again, so moving on. The only thing that feels out of place in this immaculate room is the bedside table. On it, is moldy, dilapidated doll house next to a glass jar filled with moths.
Immediately, Faux releases the moths who harmlessly flutter out of the window and out of the adventure. He examines the doll house but he can’t figure it out. The house doesn’t open like a regular doll house, via a hinge along the side. The front door opens but is only 8 inches tall, too small even for the fairy to fit through. Ooh, I bet one of the candies at the goblin stalls makes you small. The roof has hinge and can be opened but it is sealed with an arcane lock. Faux cannot pick it. Frustrated, Faux shoves the doll house out of the window.
Back to Daithi. He has entered a sewing room. Two children, a halfling and a fuzzy juvenile bugbear are being yelled at by the creepiest creature in the entire adventure, in my opinion. It’s a living doll with big button eyes and a penchant for murder. It’s f*cking Chucky. There’s also an animated carpet, (basically a rug of smothering) dancing around, but no one is interested in it. Never one for chit-chat, Daithi surprise rage attacks the carpet and instantly cuts the rug in two. I barely had time to write this down in my notes before the doll’s decapitated head was rolling around on the floor as well. Next!
On to Pop. He has entered a dorm room (I though it was an infirmary, but it’s just the kid’s bedroom). Inside are two kids, a sickly dwarf and a human boy. They seem excited to leave. But when Pop tries to pick up the sick child, the human boy attempted to stop him. Momentarily forgetting the rules of the Fey, Pop tries to punch the boy. The boy instantly disappears, presumably to the “safe space” where all children in danger are whisked to. With an evil gleam in his eye, Shammer’s player, Thane, cries out, “I knew it!” as he resolves to abandon the party and make his own plans.
Back in the garden, I have entered the animal pen and I’m trying to wrestle this stupid piglet to the ground. I’m covered in muck and mud, but I finally manage to grab the little porker. Immediately, I run to the front of the fallen tree house and over the bridge to where the pixies are waiting to corral any kids we rescue (and this pig). Technically, I split the party again, but I intend to run right back to rejoin my team. However, it might be too late.
All the noise we made in the garden kind of activated all of the house’s defenses. The squealing pigs awoke the scarecrows, which began screaming. The screaming scarecrows triggered the rotting skeletons which rose up from the garden. (I didn’t expect that.) All the noise alerted the tin-soldier guards that lived in those tall dog houses. They came marching out of a side door to the beat of a magical drum that floated alongside them. Then the drumming awoke the very angry Shambling Mound that was living in the compost pile. Oh, C’mon! The Mound began lumbering toward us, punching everything in its path. It was Pandemonium in the Garden!
I had barely re-entered the garden, just as Daithi exited the treehouse onto a balcony above the tin soldiers carrying a tattered rug and a headless doll and with two kids in tow. Pop also exited the house on the rooftop above Daithi carrying a sickly dwarf. Serena was presumably still buying candy and Faux was nowhere to be seen. Our three squishiest members, Herbert, Mara, and Shammer, were in the middle of the garden upon whom all the combined forces of Skabatha were converging. Then Shammer abandoned the party and flew away! Roll Initiative.
But first, back to Faux. He had made it downstairs and entered a study. He didn’t spend much time there, but did he grab a book, “Goblin Eht Fo Hgual Tsal”, which I thought was funny in a backward sort of way. Moving into the kitchen, Faux saw a small girl chained to the table, peeling potatoes. There was also a baby green dragon sleeping in front of the stove! Before Faux can do anything, a voice whispers up from a grate in the floor, “Are you peeling potatoes?”
The girl whispers back, “Yes.” Then she turns to Faux. “Who are you?”
“I’m here to get you out. Who’s in the cage?”
“Not sure. Skabatha doesn’t like him. She keeps people in there before she eats them. Who are you?”
“Who are you talking to up there?”
“He’s Faux. He says he’s here to rescue us.”
“Tell him to be quiet about it and not wake the dragon.”
Successfully using his thieves’ tools for the first time ever, Faux quickly (and quietly) frees the girl and the dwarf in the floor grate. “Thanks, my name Elkhorn” the dwarf says, “Hey, you’re not a fox.”
As they exit the kitchen, the girl, Miska, asks, “You came from upstairs. Have you seen Skabatha?”
“Because she sleeps inside her dollhouse!”
This was easily, the funniest reveal of the entire campaign. No one saw it coming, and we were rolling with laughter. I can only imagine Skabatha sleeping in her tiny bed when suddenly the whole house and all the furniture goes tumbling end over end until everything crashed into the ground. She’s gonna be pissed.
Back to the garden… But first, Serena is buying up candies and sampling a few more. She stops when the candy she swallowed causes her hands to be covered in permanent ink. This is the power she wants. She gleefully begins putting her hands all over every surface, fingerpainting on the countertops, on the tents, on the goblin clerks, all over Chucklehead’s head. Despite their pleas of “Please stop”, she smears ink all over the candy shoppe. Then she hears the commotion coming from the other side of the tree. “OopsOkayIGottaGoThanksForTheCandyEnjoyMyPaintingBye!” as she runs to join the others.
Back in the garden… For real. The immediate enemies are the skeletons, they are the closest to Herbert and Mara and cut off their escape. Sadly, my paladin Turning ability only works on fey and not on the undead, so we’ll have to do this the old-fashioned way; with cold steel and divine smite. Daithi, who is directly above the tin soldiers pours some dust of corrosion on them, that he just got from one of the kids he saved. Daithi has refused to carry anything other than his halberd, Gene, in his inventory. He either uses it immediately or gives it away, usually to Serena.
Here he used it quite effectively, it severely damaged some of the soldiers and completely destroyed the floating drum. With their cadence thrown off, the soldiers stood around dumbfounded for a few rounds until they were given a new target, when the Shambling Mound shuffled up and began pounding the crap out of them. Hurray! it’s on our side, or at least, not on theirs and I don’t care.
Serena showed up via a side door (I don’t know how she got there), preternaturally determined what was going on, cast fog cloud to enable our escape, cast an illusionary smiley face on the Shambling Mound, then use Tides of Chaos to check its “vibe”, mystically learning that the Shambling Mound is injured and is missing a “Root” that was taken from it. Immediately, Serena ran back inside the house searching for said root. Whatever, Serena, you do you. Oh, and by the way, the treehouse is on fire.
You see, once Shammer had her “proof” that children get whisked away to avoid taking damage, despite the fact that this proof didn’t prove anything, nor was she even in the room when it occurred, she said to hell with all our boring, lame plans, abandoned the group, and went back to her plan; Burn down the building. Did she tell anyone what she was doing? No. Did she use her fire spells to help us with the combat that was occurring right now? No. Did it matter that we had rescued every kid and were leaving? No. Did it matter that half the party was still inside the house? No. Everything is irrelevant. I’m burning the house! She got frustrated when she couldn’t ignite the outer trunk, so she went inside and began torching the place room by room. Frankly, I hope she gets trapped inside her own inferno.
Meanwhile, Pop was able to get off the roof and join up with Daithi. But they couldn’t jump off the balcony with the kids, especially with all the chaos going on down there. They headed back inside to make there way to the front of the treehouse. But they got turned around and headed toward the kitchen. And these rooms weren’t even smoky yet.
Mean-meanwhile, Faux, Misha, and Elkhorn have to search and find Elkhorn’s gear while Elkhorn runs through a ton of exposition about who he is, who he’s with, what he’s doing here that completely flew over everyone’s head and will have to be roleplayed again at a later, less psychotic time. But he got his very important, non-magical shield, so yea! Since now was a good time to leave, they run past the portrait room and entered a room full of cupboards, just as Daithi, Pop, and 3 kids come running in from the opposite door. A sleepy child with grey skin and wearing a pig mask stumbles out of a cupboard and demands, “Why are you disturbing me?” Daithi yells that we are leaving. “Ooh, do we have a new job? I’m coming too” and she joins the group.
Mean-mean-meanwhile, Herbert, Mara, and I finished smashing the skeletons back into fertilizer. We can still hear screaming and smashing coming from beyond the cloud of fog. We want nothing to do with that and make our way to the front of the treehouse. Serena bumps into the Seal Team 3 with all the kids (and a few extras). She yells, “OhHeyGuysDontGoOutsideItsAMessDoYouHaveARootINeedToFindARoot!” and runs toward the kitchen.
The grey-skinned girl has a realization. “Hey, you guys aren’t with Skabatha,” and she tries to jump out a window. Daithi and Faux opportunity attack the crap out of her and she dies, stuck in the windowsill, shards of glass raining down on her twice-dead corpse. (She was a ghoul.) Daithi chases after Serena, tackles her to the ground, gets covered in ink in the process and misty steps back to the group, forcing her to flee with the rest.
We all meet up at the front of the treehouse. Shammer shows up out of the blue as if nothing happened and I want to kill her. But we don’t have time for that. The kids are the priority. I take one of the kids in my arms and we are about to run across the bridge to the security of the forest beyond. It’s less than 100 feet to safety. Unfortunately, there’s something in the middle of the bridge. Skabatha Nightshade is floating 20 feet above the bridge, riding her rocking horse mount. “My, my, my. Someone has made a very big mess.” The wind-up key on her back is completely still.
Next week, we are in the fight of our lives as we try to take on this hideous hag. And Godzilla. And King Kong! It gets weird.
As always, never split the party, and Game On!
I said Root, not Groot! I am not Groot! – a mildly annoyed Shambling Mound