Week three of our mini-adventure prequel to Apogee. The gang have been hired to go rescue The Dire Badger, a river barge escorting VIPs and important cargo from the fishing village of Flit, up to the metropolis of Apogee. The Dire Badger has been waylaid somewhere in the Bloodfly Swamp/Gorgoda Estuary region.

Last week, the PCs made their way to the Gorgoda Estuary, but not before fighting frogs, hailing hillbillies and warring with witches.

Our group

Only one player away this week, but Warryk was away for most of the night again.

Gnomish Illusionist
Human Ranger
Björn (previously “Lucien”)
Half-Elf Cleric of Helm
Richard Eliot
Half-elf sailor and warlock
Halfling Rogue

Away this week:

Oskil Northman
Human ruffian fighter

Previously on The Hunt for the Dire Badger

The last session ended with a brutal fight against a witch who had taken control of a small farm in the swamp. She had killed and ensorcelled the father, Lars, and was busy cooking up a batch of his daughter before the PCs arrived.

The PCs had to deal with the remains of the situation. The witch herself had been blasted to atoms by a radiant light. They agreed that the cooking pot had to be emptied, and they dumped the remains in the swamp for the animals. No mention of what they did to Lars, the ghoulish woodcutter. They also turned over the place, and thus began the Great Loot Divvying of 2019.

They received a small pile of gold and some carefully-chosen gems and trinkets. The players almost completely dismissed them until they realized the “artworks” I had written out were all bone-related: bone dice, bone necklace, bone keyring (a single bone shaped into a circle). They were glad to know it wasn’t made from the daughter, but sad to know that the bone keyring didn’t have a genre-appropriate skeleton key on it.

The magic items were the meat-and-potatoes. I rolled the treasure tables a few times and modified the list to be more fun. Of note:

A javelin of lightning, but a great axe and thunder. Lars’ axe.
Adamantine chain shirt
Turns all crits into hits. No downsides. Only an uncommon item.
Cap of water breathing
Nice to have in a water-logged area.
Dark shard amulet
Allows warlocks to cast cantrips they don’t know. Almost more flavour than usefulness.
Cast-off Hide Armour
Not quite “Full (plate) Monty” armour, but close enough.

This brings them up to level for items, and maybe over-level for loot. Not bad for a few days’ work so far.

The Dire Badger

After a rest on the ship, they set off the next morning to find The Dire Badger. They came across the grounded barge, currently under attack by beasties (and as far as the Ranger could see, a ghostly miasma).

The beasts were crocodiles and giant spiders. Which the crew made short work of — Smiley in particular rogue-stabbed his way to victory. The miasma kept popping in and out, but could not put a hit in. It eventually screamed in anger and evaporated into the mists.

The captain, Grommet Karver, was both relieved they had arrived, and angry at annoyance upon annoyance dumped on him this whole trip. But not dying to a giant spider was some comfort.

After the animal bodies were disposed of, Karver explained his plight to the PCs. He had been hired to ship a bunch of people from Flit to Apogee. He had a new crew who had sought to build up trust with a free keg of beer. Karver and the passengers soon blacked out. When they awoke, the crew and one of the passengers were gone, as was the Captain’s possessions, and all those who imbibed were very worse for wear.

In their scouting, they found a magic scroll torn to pieces. On it were the words to a magic song about “when times are tough, and famine threatens, the strong survive”. The ranger also found tracks heading into the estuary. Karver had promised a very good wage if the team could bring back the mutinous crew for answers and revenge.

Gorgoda Estuary

They soon set out, hunting the crew and wondering about the missing passenger. They had magic Identi-kit portraits of each of the missing people, but little idea to their motives or direction.

The direct path ran into a wide lake, so they took one side around, following tracks. Up ahead, they could hear deep wheezing from the far side of a large peat mound. The PCs froze.

They stealthily moved up. The ranger and rogue advanced first, ranger like a light wind moving through the scrub. The ranger stood up, visible to everyone. “Huh.”

The PCs found a wild-haired, wild-eyed young man pierced through with a spear, sticking him to the peat mound. He attempted to pull himself up the shaft, but couldn’t quite make it. Any attempts to talk to him were met with “the artifact” or “must get to the master”.

They attempted to restrain him with ropes, getting an errant kick in the face as they tried. But at least he wouldn’t (or couldn’t) run.

Using Treesplitter from before, they cut the shaft short and the guy pulled himself over the splintered end. They fed him a healing potion, but it just glugged down his chin, soaking the hole in his chest… and closing it.

They now had a man desperate to run… somewhere, which probably was in the same direction they were headed. So they kept him on a fifteen-foot leash and let him go.

Not long after, the man bounded over a rock… and disappeared into the ground. The rope from his leg descended straight into the ground. Quicksand!

The team wearily got to the edge of the quicksand to start hauling their prisoner back to dry (or drier) land. It was perhaps a trick of the swamp, but they swear they heard the quicksand bubble “feed… master…”

Suddenly, a huge tree nearby swung a branch at Lestra, smacking her face-first into the quicksand!

The remaining PCs chipped away at the giant tree, fending off vines trying to grapple them and pull them in as well. Björn went toe-to-toe with the tree and was shoved back. And then nearly died.

The brave (or foolish) Warryk leaped in with a Potion of Fire Breath, neatly igniting the tree with a good damage roll. With a roar of “Master! We tried!” it flailed around and collapsed into the brush. The vines curled up and died. A quiet descended again.

The quicksand! The PCs quickly pulled out Lestra and the prisoner. Lestra’s Cap of Water Breathing had kept her in reasonably good shape. The prisoner, not so much. And as they dragged his coughing and spluttering frame out of the sand, they noticed a green glow from his neck, underneath his mop of hair now stuck against his head.

The green glow seemed to be a gem embedded on the prisoner’s spine. It pulsed. Björn declared, “I know what to do!” He took a small knife, pried the gem out and examined it. The gem’s glow faded. And they all looked down at the knife that had slipped a little too deeply into the wound.

Oh no.”

The prisoner looked to the east, whispered “Eddard Lobos” and died.

As the PCs stood around, letting the scene sink in, the quicksand trickled quietly up the man’s arm and dragged him under. The mud bubbled happily.

Dark Depths of the Swamp

The evil tree had burnt away some of the scrub, revealing a dry ridge. This was some comfort to the party as they trekked for a little while longer before stopping for lunch.

At this point, they were following the last gaze of a dead man, having lost the tracks to the crew. But during lunch, a few of them noticed a glint up ahead. Something shiny. They pressed on.

The ridge descended back down into the mire. Straight ahead was a mud flat. It didn’t look deep at all, but was wide, and the glint was coming from the middle.

It was decided that someone needed to trudge over, and it was best to tie a rope to them, just in case.

Warryk volunteered, barrelling through the rest of the party’s reluctance. They tied him up and let him go.

The mud was sticky and sludgy. Warryk lost his balance (possibly due to the rope) and fell face-first in the mud. No mind. Just mud.

In the middle of the mud flat was a cage. In it, a skeleton in decrepit rags. It wasn’t moving but the cage was ever-so-slightly submerged into the mud. On his finger: a magic ring!

Warryk proudly trudged back and showed the ring to the party. With a quick inspection it was revealed to be a Ring of Sustenance, which intrigued the illusionist and the warlock.

But the ranger noticed something weird. On Warryk’s face, something moved. Wriggled. She looked him over. LEECHES!

The cleric and warlock argued about what to do as Warryk screamed, “Argh! Get them off me!” They decided on a Burning Hands spell, which neatly melted them off, and somehow didn’t kill Warryk.

With the smell of burned leeches and dried mud came a moment of reflection. Ring of Sustenance, leeches… Oh dear… The party seemed to have more concern for the skeleton’s fate than Warryk’s dice with death.

But they checked him once over, putting out any smouldering flames. What seemed like one last ember was actually a pillar of smoke somewhere beyond Warryk, recently revealed by the shifting swamp.

Was it the missing crew? Could they ambush them?

The ranger sneaked up and then marvelled at something beyond.

Just beyond the embers of an abandoned campsite was a giant stone Ziggurat, half-sunken into the swamp.

Next week

Mysterious ziggurats! Mutinous crews! Maybe closure!

This will be the final episode in this mini-adventure since I’m away from games for a while. I hope I can provide a satisfying end.