Dungeons & Delvers: Dryad Adventure, Episode 101

  • Bozal (level 3 ghoul)
  • Lydia (level 3 human bard)
  • Hburdshur (level 3 dwarf fighter)
  • Raynor (level 3 god eater-class thing)
  • Savatar (level 3 vampire)

Session Highlights
While everyone else heads out to try and solve the mystery of a violent, murderous dryad, Hburdshur and Bozal volunteer to remain behind and guard the treasure-chariot. Hburdshur also figures he can practice his other trade, earn a bit of cash while providing the villagers with better weaponry.

As suggested Lydia, Raynor, and Savatar follow the river up to the sawmill, where they speak with a few workers. They learn that Zarek's house can be found by following a trail of wooden poles, decorated with horseshoes and impaled by numerous iron nails: one of the workers explains that they keep you from getting lost, and warns them not to stray from the path no matter what they see or hear.

They heed the workers' instructions and arrive at Zarek's cabin after about a half-hour of walking. It's surrounded by a ring of poles, suggesting that they also provide some form of protection, but nothing seems to happen when they pass between them. Raynor knocks in the front door; no one answers and the door isn't locked, so Lydia and Raynor head inside (Savatar can't because he's a vampire, and will gradually die).

The cabin is rustically furnished, and as best they can tell nothing is awry. Since Savatar can't enter he investigates the exterior with Lydia: they find numerous hoofprints, and suspect that a horse might have been attacked outside, or maybe chased or attacked someone. A single trail leads to the porch, and on closer inspection Lydia notices a hoofprint on the front door. Not enough damage for a full-on kick; maybe a glancing blow, or it had to push firmly against the door to get it open?

Scouring the interior, Raynor notices that several of the animal skin rugs have been flipped over, concealing blood stains and a trapdoor. The trapdoor leads to a small, underground chamber, which contains more poles leaning against a wall, materials to make more, and notes explaining their purpose: they're wards that inhibit "planar bleeding" from a Faerie realm. They only provide protection out to a small radius (and keep fae creatures at bay), but will prevent you from being lost as long as you can see them.

There's also a small, wooden box that contains a strip of parchment and a half dozen gold pieces. Numbers are written on the strip, increasing in random increments until it reaches 106, after which 100 is subtracted. Unsure what to make of it, but certain Zarek won't be coming back, Lydia pockets the gold (if they find him she can just return it then).

A trail of hoofprints lead deeper into the forest, so everyone grabs a warding staff before heading out. Even with Savatar in wolf-shape they eventually lose the trail, and while trying to pick it up again he detects a strong scent of blood. Ominous, and Savatar doesn't think its the same blood they found in the cabin, but it's the only lead they have right now so they follow it.

The scent becomes strong enough that everyone can smell it, and they soon discover a narrow, blood-drenched and bone-strewn passage leading through some brambles: one by one they squeeze through, emerging into a clearing. At the center is a ring of massive stone spikes, each coated in coagulated blood and surrounded by heaps of bloody, broken bones. Jagged runes are hewed into the stones: their meaning and purpose is just as mysterious as the rest of the horrendous scene.

Rather than turn tail and run away until they can't smell the blood anymore, they start examining the stones and remains, hoping that they'll stumble on something to indicate that Zarek is or was here. They of course find nothing, but before they can leave hear something approaching, singing seeming nonsense in a gutteral, booming voice. Whatever it is stops several times, grunts, and then an animal corpse plummets from above, landing on one of the spikes in a cascade of gore.

Unsure what to expect, everyone picks a stone and does their best to hide. As the singing gets louder, they can hear metallic boots clanging loudly on the ground. Green light fills the passage leading into the clearing, and soon after the creature finally clomps into view.

It's only about two feel high, with a long beard barely concealing rows of long, sharp teeth. As expected its wearing boots bound in iron, and effortlessly carrying several large animal carcasses impaled by a long pike, at the end of which hangs a skull containing a flickering green flame. On its head rests a simple red cap.

A redcap.

It makes it way to the center of the stone ring, casually tears a bear carcass in half, and begins sopping up blood with its hat, wringing out blood into its mouth several times before noisily tearing chunks of meat from the bones.

Lydia knows that redcaps are malicious, violent fae that despite their diminutive stature possess incredible strength. Of course she can't relay this information to anyone else--not that she necessarily needs to at this point--but luckily everyone else is too scared to act, even the vampire. She conjures the illusion of a deer, prompting the redcap to hurl some of the standing stones at it. Those miss, prompting the redcap to snap a femur in half and charge at the deer.

Once it's on the other side of the clearing, everyone legs it. They hear it howl in anger as Lydia moves too far to sustain the illusion, and then its boots loudly clomping after them. They keep running, heedless as to where they are going, until they not only can't hear the redcap's boots, but haven't heard them for awhile. Fairly certain they're safe from the redcap, they're now faced with a new problem: warding staffs or no, they have no idea where they are.

As they wander around vainly trying to retrace their steps, they're quickly discovered by a treant. She doesn't like their warding staffs, and offers to take them to someone that can help them if they leave them behind. They explain that they need them to avoid getting lost in the forest, but the treant claims that she can't become lost. Figuring that things can't get much worse they agree.

The treant scoops them up and carries them away, but en route they're attacked by a centaur: he manages to nail Savatar with an arrow before the treant picks up the pace and manages to lose him. As she's running, the treant mentions that she knows the centaur: he goes by the name Urian, and he's always been suspicious of and hostile to humans, dwarves, pretty much everything non-fae. Even though no one noticed any arrows at the scene, Raynor and Lydia wonder if the centaur had anything to do with Zarek's "disappearance".

Lydia asks the treant about Zarek and the dryad: while she knows of them both, she doesn't know what happened to the former, and has no idea why the latter is attacking the villagers. Best she can assume is that they didn't provide her with the proper offerings, or began logging or hunting where they weren't permitted.

Soon after they finish questioning the treant, they arrive at a web-choked region of the forest: turns out the treant's friend is a giant, intelligent spider named Doris that knows much of what goes on in the forest thanks to her innumerable children, but will only answer questions in exchange for rare or unique treasures.

Seeing as they didn't bring their treasure-chariot, and the silver and gold coins they're carrying won't cut it, Lydia offers up her prismatic necklace: Doris seems pleased by it, and accepts her offer of one question per bead. Each time they ask a question, Doris gently strums on a strand of webbing. This causes a spider to scurry along and descend into the mouth of a random nearby corpse. The mouth and eyes sockets glow with a faint green light, and corpse jerks around for a bit before uttering the answer.

Through this morbid routine, the party learns that Zarek is dead, killed by Urian, who fed him to a chimera (though they don't know if he was already dead, and didn't want to waste a question on that). The dryad now believes that Zarek spurned her for another woman, and according to Doris will need proof that he didn't before she will hopefully stop her murderous rampage. This pretty much confirms what they'd been suspecting: now they'd need to track down Urian and/or the chimera, find a way to prove to the dryad what went down.

Lydia has one bead left: they can't think of another question, but Doris wants it to complete the set and offers up one of her own treasures in exchange. After discussing what they want, Lydia asks for a musical instrument. Doris obliges, fashioning a harp from bone and webbing. She explains that, through Lydia's particular magical talents, it can be used to summon spiders and create webbing.

Their business concluded, the treant offers to give the party a lift to the edge of the forest, or back to Zarek's cabin.

Designer Notes
Another great session. Bard and vampire are still doing nicely, and I need to make a ghoul monstrous class so I can keep having Bozal level up with them (luckily we already have a Dungeon World ghoul class to pull from).

It's been especially fun watching the group piece together various clues and come up with theories (which were basically confirmed when they talked to Doris: didn't think Melissa would offer the prismatic necklace). This is yet another adventure I intend to publish: I want to create several possible plot threads, so that it can be played through multiple times without you knowing all the answers.

Also fun to see everyone flip out when the redcap showed up. I'm not going to spoil how powerful it is: they just know by now that not everything is appropriately leveled to them, and decided after watching it effortlessly tear a bear corpse in half and embed a pike into stone that they didn't want to mess with it.

Honestly while talking to Doris, I kept hoping that Melissa would ask for a musical instrument: I had the idea of making the bone-and-web harp the entire time, but didn't want Doris to just suggest it because she had no reason to assume Lydia would need or want one. Now I gotta come up with its actual mechanical effects.

You can now get a physical copy of Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book in whatever format you want!

After months of doing other things, we turned our attention to and released The Warden. It's based on the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons class of the same name, but judging by the responses we did an excellent job converting it over.

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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