The Isle of Dread

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Session 1
The Tournament what's name I can't remember

Entered tournament. -5 gold.
Accepted betting pool. Oracle faked Swashbuckler’s name.

1 Chess Anyone?
Used a hint, half points. Dumped party in bag of holding and used immovable rod to slowly descend. Smashed table for lulz and to break spikes.

2 Hell To Pay
Demon Summoning
Used glue and objects to create ladder to climb out of pit.

3 Are Those Teeth Real?
Gibbering Mouther
Used spider climb potion and ropes to crawl up ceiling and out of pit.

4 Eye For An Eye
Totem Pole
Break the mirror, climb the pole.

5 Elf Hive

6 Seasick Sailors
Decode magic word to access boat, use boat and potions to cross water.

7 Piece of an Eggshell
Use planks to cross rocks in pool of lava.

8 Asphyxiate
Failed, no points.

9 Canine Crossing
Use magic to avoid dogs, use chains to cross pit over dogs.

10 Death Potential
Used hint, half points. Wizard figured out it that the phenome before the number pun in each round’s name matched up to a letter in the tick-mutant’s name.

Final Score: 320? out of a possible 400. 4th place out of our set.

Owe thieves guild a favor worth at least 100 gp.

Content Not Found: null
J’zar Cooper

Session 2
All aboard the Failboat

Met human in the Puddles, received mysterious job offer. Mystery human cleared debt to thieves guild on condition of accepting his offer. Met another group that appeared to have received same offer. Followed them to a tavern to learn more. At tavern, faked getting drunk, learned nothing of consequence.

Traveled to Sasserine. Heard rumor about Gideon recruiting pirates. Entered the employ of Lavinia Vanderboren and her assistant Cora Whistlecat. Sent to reclaim magic signet ring to unlock her family vault. The ship the ring was on was illegally impounded, party was to un-impound the ship by force and recover the paid fees and ring.

Battle ensued. Soller Vark was disabled, four fled, two were downed (one died), one was attacked by a giant spider as she attempted to light the ship on fire. Sergei returned the unconscious Soller Vark, unconscious J’zar Cooper and unconscious Vendrilk to the Vanderboren estate via stolen corpse cart. Grímsdóttir stayed behind to search the ship and keep one of the thugs alive.

Recovered fess (100 platinum), signet ring, note.

Party is now in the long term employ of Lavinia Vanderboren (100 gp monthly retainer). Next assignment is to escort her to the Vanderboren family vault.

Rewards: 20 platinum (200gp) each to present characters.

J’zar Cooper

Session 3
The Vault

After acquiring the signet ring and note, the party escorted Lady Venderborn into her vault.

An Iron Cobra guarded it, and was terminated.

A puzzle involving rotating a pillar to face busts of various monsters waylaid the party for some time.

When the puzzle was solved, the party discovered that the vault had been emptied of its liquid assets, but did contain documents indicating debts owed to the Vanderborn family.

Discussion with the vault-holders revealed that Vanthus Vanderborn, Lavinia’s brother, had been to the vault approximately 1-2 weeks ago. Vanthus has been missing for over a month.

Current assignment is to track down Vanthus.

Session 4
Parrot Island

Followed clues to ‘It still floats’, a used boat shop. Proprietor Panchi had a disagreement with Vanthus/Penkus (an associate of Vanthus).

Additional clues lead us to encounter Shefton, who lead us to Parrot Island, where Vanthus was supposedly hiding out. Upon leading us to a cave, a heavily enchanted Vanthus shoved Shefton down the shaft, killing him. Following that, he shoved a rock over the entrance, sealing the party in.

After clearing the caves of zombies (and the death of Sergei), the party discovered the bloated, diseased corpse of Penkus. Penkus had a note accusing Vanthus of killing him to further his position within the Lotus Dragons.

A gem of Controlling Earth Elementals was used to escape the island with the loot.

Session 5
Hunting the Lotus Dragon

The party began tracking down the Lotus Dragon gang.

After escorting the local clergy to the body of Penkus to have him examined for Lotus Dragon tattoos, the party was accosted by a trio of thugs. The thugs were dispatched.

Evidence on Penkus’s note combined with further research lead the party to the Taxidermist near Dead Dog Alley, and a well in the courtyard.

The party found an entrance to an underground facility beneath an abandoned house and entered.

The party was accosted by a large crocodile.

Session 6
Lotus Dragon Break In

The party killed the crocodile.

Clearing out the underground complex resulted in the death of approximately 6 additional thugs, and revealed it to be a ring shaped series of tunnels leading to four different abandoned houses and the well.

Upon exiting the complex, the party encountered three additional thugs. After disabling the third and chasing down the third, the party interrogated them for information. When the thugs complied, the party left them alive, possibly to recruit them later after the party had assumed control of the Lotus Dragon organization.

The thugs revealed information about secret entrances to the underground complex.

After deciding to push further while still possessing the element of surprise, the party encountered Kersh and approximately 6 thugs. A worg, Cruncher, was also encountered.

After killing Kersh, the worg, and approximately four thugs, the remaining thugs surrendered. Interrogation revealed that 6-12 additional hostiles remained, and that Lady Lotus, the head of the Lotus Dragons, has a small pet dragon.

The thugs were left alive in order that they may be recruited later, and may spread word throughout the complex that the party has been captured. Kersh’s severed head has been acquired for intimidation purposes by Grimsdottir.

The party is preparing to advance to the holding cells and has currently depleted almost all of its renewable magical resources.

J'zar's Journal

Entry 1:

It seems like I found my ticket out of this cesspool of a city afterall.

I’ve fallen in with a ragtag group of ambitious individuals who are competing for a chance to explore some so-called isle of dread for a shot at some real treasure. That’s right, no more playing lookout, messenger boy, fence, or errand-runner for me. I haven’t even told the guild I’ll be leaving permanently- as far as they know, I’m shadowing the party for info. Little do they know that I have no intention of reporting back once I find some real fame and fortune away from this dump. The guild is storied, but they’ve been going downhill for years. I doubt they even have any real reach outside the city, much less to the towns and cities outside the kingdom. And from the looks of it, we won’t ever need to be returning here. I’ve been playing the loyal associate the last few days just in case, but if I never step foot here again I won’t shed a tear. I have to admit I’ll miss my mother, the only real family I have here, but she’s content to retire here. I’m sure she’s had enough adventure of her own to last a lifetime, and doesn’t seem bitter or cynical despite getting kicked out of the church of Sarenrae. And I can’t help but feel this nagging guilt about it whenever I see her, being the reason for that.

Oh well.

As far as the party itself, they could show some real promise. The viking girl knows her way around a sword. The big brawler does too, though he’s already gotten on my nerves prattling on about social inequality. Why should I have to give away all my hard-earned money to some grubby kids just because they can’t fend for themselves? I survived on my own by being quick, smart, and talking my way out of trouble. If you can’t cut the mustard, you deserve to be living in a gutter begging for coppers. Any one of them could find a job with the guild if they wanted, but some people just don’t want to find a better lot in life for themselves. Not my problem. I’ll toss them a few coppers or a loaf of bread to the particularly destitue ones, but ALL my profit? Not me. The Wizard seems like a nice guy. Very smart. The gnome, too, but I wouldn’t mistake him for a wimpy nerd. I’ve seen his beastie in action, and you’d have to be very brave or very stupid to pick a fight with that thing. The druid’s a smart fellah too, but he doesn’t talk much. He looks a little out of place in the big city. I’ve already had to save him from one scam so far- the oldest trick in the book. You always have to watch your pockets whenever you’re in town, whether you’re watching some rope climber, fire breather, or haggling with a vendor. If you get your purse cut, the city guard’s just going to laugh and tell you that you have to be more careful. The oracle, now- he’s a real head case. Goes off and has tea parties in the worst alleys and talks to himself constantly. Says he can see ghosts. I’m amazed he hasn’t caught a dagger in the back yet, but he might just be too crazy even for the Slashers to mess with… and I can’t say I blame them. I’d hate to be locked in a confine space with the guy, I feel like he’d wear a pot for a hat and start chewing off my fingers just for fun. Gives me the creeps, honestly- and I’m half demon, so what does that tell you?

At any rate, we’re going to jump into the competition first thing tomorrow. Looks like the competition is pretty tough- most of them are just boastful drunkards who will probably get stuck in a pit on the first puzzle, of course, but there are some real pros here, too. We’re going to have our work cut out for us. And we signed up the Viking chick before she had a chance to rally us all and give us a pep-talk, so I’m sure she’s not going to be in the best of moods once we start. Heh heh. Hey, if you round up a party and not expect us to take initiative every once in a while, then what’s the point? Sometimes people just need a bit of motivation to get rolling.

Also, she deserves it for bringing that bloody annoying spider along. I swear to the nine hells, if that thing tries to hump my leg one more time, I’m going to start poking its eyes out one by one.

Entry 2:

Well, the tournament could have gone better. It could have gone a hell of a lot worse, but it could have gone better, too. We were the last party to run through, which didn’t give us any sort of advantage- we couldn’t snag any info from the other groups who went in before us, the society made damn sure of that. So we entered in blind. None of us had any prior experience with one of these things before, though I’d heard bits and pieces of information about it from fellows in the guild who attempted it in the past. I was expecting it to be tricky, and boy, I wasn’t disappointed.

We actually breezed through most of it, all except the first and last rooms which we needed to ask for help on, and one of the middle puzzles, which we failed entirely. I knew I should have climbed up on those walls, but I just panicked and tried to play by the rules instead of outsmarting the puzzle. That’ll teach me. All in all we finished fourth place- just out of the money. Not that there was any money to be directly earned, mind you. We’re out five gold apiece with nothing to show for it.

At least that’s what I thought, at first. Turns out we snagged /somebody’s/ interest. We wandered around a little aimlessly after the tournament until one of our socially-inept spellcasters found out that someone slipped a note into his pocket. I think it was the druid. I really should watch him closer. It just as easily could have been his purse missing, or a knife in the kidneys. At any rate, the note told us to meet a certain someone at a certain location. All well and good- I simply assumed it was a scam until I saw the address: the Puddles.

Oh, boy.

The Puddles is what you would call the ghetto of the bad part of the poor part of town. There’s no reason to go down there. Only murderers and the truly desperate ever go down there- the guild uses it sometimes to smuggle goods into the city, but even we don’t mess around down there for too long. There’s absolutely nothing of value whatsoever down there. So obviously, when I saw that someone wanted to meet us there, I suspected there was a chance that it could possibly be legitimate. There was also a possibility that we’d all end up as (yet more) corpses floating in the streets, but if you wanted to talk discreetly without risk of the neighbors listening in, the Puddles is where I’d do it.

On our way there we passed another party who seemed to be coming back from the same location. I tailed them to a nearby tavern where they looked like they were settling down for a drink for a good long while, so I high-tailed it back to the group to meet our contact. Seems a rich noblewoman from across the sea wants to hire our services.

Seems like I’m going to get out of this hellhole of a city sooner than I thought. Score!

We accepted the job and headed back to the tavern to see what the other party was up to. Seems like they got hired just the same as us. We played it dumb just in case there was a chance we’d be in competition with them, hopefully we don’t run into them on the ship over there. That would be a little awkward.

We set sail tomorrow, so we headed back to the docks and started preparing for the trip. Should be nice sailing weather. If not, I won’t have to worry about making any new journal entries.

I’ve attempted to sprinkle pepper powder in my boots to keep that damn spider off of me. No luck so far. I need to ask the druid how to assert my dominance and keep that spider terrified of me.

Entry 3:

Seems our new boss is a wealthy landowner in Sasserine. Never been here before (or anywhere outside of Absalom) but I’ve heard it can be a wild place. Right on the edge of a jungle, and they’ve been having numerous guild problems, to boot. It’s a shame, really. We (I say we, but I don’t consider myself a member of Absalom’s guild anymore. At least, not until I run into one of them.) used to do a lot of trade in exotic, dubously-legal animal and fur trade with them, but it’s slowed to a trickle while they fight. Guild wars are terrible for profit. I’m not looking forward to negotiating my way through the underbelly of Sasserine- maybe I’ll just play it straight when I get there. I’ll have to scope the place out once I finish with this log.

As I said before, Lady Vanderborn is wealthy. The problem is, she can’t access her wealth, because she’s locked out of mommy and daddy’s trust fund. (Really, doesn’t that make me just as wealthy? I’d be rich as a king if only I could access someone else’s magic vault.) It seems her parents were involved in an unfortunate explosion and were blown to pieces. Shortly thereafter, the city dockworkers (no doubt under the direction of one of the thieve’s guilds, or one of a thousand other dubious organizations who knows about the Vanderborn’s wealth) comandeered one of their ships and are doubtlessly searching for the key to her vault as we speak.

The plan is to return her ship if possible, but to retreive the key by any means necessary. should be easy as pie.

No luck with the spider. I complained to Grims about it and she just laughed and said he was a good boy. I said that thing’s liable to get swatted if it’s not careful. She was not amused.

Entry 4:

It wasn’t easy as pie.

Those goons were a lot more than I bargained for. Even though we took them by surprise, they still managed to thrash us pretty good. Sergei and Grim kept things together after me and Vendrilk were knocked out, and I suppose I have them to thank for not sleeping at the bottom of the bay right now. Apparently the goons stole the ship simply to smuggle some animals in, and weren’t looking for the key. At least that’s what we gathered, though I’m still not convinced. Grims found the ring and a slip of parchment with some clues on it stuck behind the bed in the captain’s cabin- why there? Why not just leave it safe and sound at home? The things nobles do to hide their wealth, I swear. If it were me, I’d invest half of it in exports, and divide the rest among…

I’m getting off track. In any case, we found what we were looking for along with quite a hefty purse of platinum, and Lady Vanderborn was dutifully pleased. If I had been conscious I would have probably taken my share of the money and run, but things worked out better this way. We’re on retainer to the tune of 100 gold a month! That’s right, I’m valuable. Eat your heart out, Absalom thieve’s guild!

The catch turned out to be that we would actually fetch the treasure from her vault. Why can’t these rich people just trust in a good old-fashioned lock, and not have a series of deadly traps lined up in front of their gold? That’s how people get hurt.

We dispached an iron snake guarding the foyer to the vault after opening the doors. I wouldn’t mind taking a peek around here on my own time, by the way. The sheer size of some of these vaults… no, I’m getting off track again. We killed the snake, and what was waiting for us in the next room? Why, a giant tumbler lock, of course. After banging our heads against the pillar for what seemed like hours, we finally solved the riddle on the piece of paper and found the correct combination to open the chest. It seems someone beat us to the punch- the piles of gold and jewels were all gone. All was not lost, however, as Lady Vanderborn found some IOU’s from other rich folk to get her by. She’ll be able to pay the rent, at least.

Our next job is to find her scumbag brother Vanthus. He’s the one who cleaned out mommy and daddy’s vault, and while I first assumed she wanted to go after him for the treasure, she actually seems more concerned about him than the gold. I swear, family makes people do funny things, sometimes (myself included). So we’ve officially gone from treasure-hunters to bounty-hunters. Not a problem, I’m used to tracking people down who owe the guild money, this shouldn’t be too hard. He’s been missing for about a month, but anyone with that kind of cash can’t stay private for long. If he still has most of it he’ll have made quite a lot of “friends”, and if he’s spent it all, we should be able to follow the bill collectors right to his front door.

But the spider is staying at home. I’m putting my foot down on this.

Entry 5:

After a lot of knocking on doors, we tracked down an associate of his, a boat-shop owner by the name of Panchus. It seems Vanthus is not the sort who inspires loyalty, and he was happy to point us in the right direction to find him, though what he gave us was bare enough.

Our door-knocking garnered some attention of our own, however. Shortly after leaving the shop, a shifty-looking fellow by the name of Shefton started tailing us without even bothering to hide his tracks. After confronting him, he claims to have overheard our conversation and offered to lead us right to his lair. Of course it was suspicious, but we had all had enough of empty leads, so we agreed to follow him. None of us are afraid of a straight up-fight with a rich boy, so after paying him a few gold pieces, he rowed us out to Parrot island and showed us a hidden trap-door leading down into the ground. Secret entrance, indeed.

He hadn’t tried to stab us in the back, yet, so we told him to wait for us and that we would be right back. The bad news is, Shefton was working for Vanthus the whole time. The bad news for Shefton was, Vanthus double-crossed him, sliced him up as soon as the last of us jumped down the hole, chucked Shefton down the hole, and pulled up the ladder. The good news is that we got the money we paid Shefton back. The bad news is that a horde of zombies was waiting for us at the bottom.

After much trial and error, we dispached the undead and found a pile of treasure waiting for us at the end, along with the corpse of Penkus, one of Vanthus’s other associates whose name came up quite a few times during our investigations. The poor bastard had long enough to scrawl out a note in blood swearing revenge on Venkus for betraying him.

Not to self: if we ever find Vanthus, don’t let him sweet-talk you into starting a business partnership.

In the end we had to use one of the magic gems to summon an earth elemental to dig us out of that death trap, but it was certainly worth it. Our wealth and fame continues to grow. We technically found Vanthus, but now this is personal. We’re going to catch the bastard wherever he tries to hide.

Entry 6:

(Guest entry)

Entry 7:

Today was quite a busy day. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

We discovered the Lotus Dragons’ headquarters under dead dog alley. A little cliche, but not a foolish place to hide an up and coming smugglers’ hideout, with access to the bay and low presence of the cityguard here. Their front was the taxidermist’s shop, as expected, with a secret entrance leading right into the shop as well as several derelict houses nearby. We snuck down one of these trap doors, mindful of what happened the last time we did that.

I think we surprised the gator as much as it surprised us. At least, I think it was a gator. It could have been a crocodile, I always get the two confused, and we didn’t exactly have time to ask Vendrilk while it came at us. We managed to put it to sleep and I put it out of its misery with a quick stab. I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t guarding a treasure chest, but then, that would have been a little too easy.

We encountered a few bandits while searching for Vanthus, and either killed them all or let them go. I think I talked a few of them into joining up with me when all this is over. New leader of the Lotus Dragons, perhaps? I think I could turn this place around into a properly profitable enterprise without all the murders and ship burning, given a few weeks of elbow grease. We’ll see how it goes.

Once we finally sniffed out Rowyn’s lair Vanthus was nowhere to be found, and she opted to running rather than sticking around for a real fight after offering us a job. Grim slapped her around a bit, but she didn’t seem terribly impressed, and slipped out by drinking a potion and floating out the pipes. A little unnerving, if you ask me, but it is what it is. I’m sure that isn’t the last we’ll see of her.

We did, however, score quite a bit of loot- a few liquid assets Rowyn had stashed away in her room. We unloaded all of it except the artwork, which will take a bit of time. With loot this nice, you have to wait for the right buyer to come along.

We also discovered Vanthus’s next move- ambushing a smuggler and burning his ship in a place called Kraken cove. This guy has no sense of honor among thieves. I’m amazed he’s still alive with these kind of dirty tactics, or that anyone trusts him enough to do business with him. It feels nice, however, finally being one step ahead of him. We’ll set out just as soon as this awards ceremony hogwash is all done with. I think I’ll try to sniff out a few contacts for this artwork while everyone else is wining and dining with Sasserine’s elite.

Entry 8:

Things are starting to get a little weird. For the first time in my life I feel shaken, unsettled, and I’m really not sure what to do about it.

We found a skipper to haul us down to Kraken Cove after a bit of haggling. Turns out that isn’t the place most respectable sailors wish to be seen. No, they’re fine with drinking swill and dandying one-eyed wenches who look like they spend the majority of their profits at the healers’. No, that’s just fine. But say the word Kraken cove, and I swear you’d turn fewer heads if you shouted that the city guard was performing a surprise inspection on every ship in the harbor.

That’s not why I’ve been feeling unsettled.

He dropped us off about an hour’s hike away from our landing point, and even that took some bribing and promise of even more of our hard-earned gold. About halfway into the hike we were assaulted by a pack of monkeys. Not just any monkeys- some kind of plague-infested mutant monkeys with two elbows and extra heads. Ugliest monkeys you ever saw. I may be a city boy, but even I know monkeys aren’t supposed to look like that. Buggers fought us tooth and nail, too- they were just too ugly and stupid to know when to give up.

This is also not why I’ve been feeling a little uneasy.

Half of our party scaled the cliff down to the beach, and the other half braved a rickety wooden walkway down to the shore- which was exploded a few seconds later by a ship crashing into it. Only Franc fell into the drink, and he looks happier there than he does on land anymore, so he was fine. Unfortunately when we landed, we were confronted by a horde of pirates who looked worse off than the monkeys. Sharp biting teeth, tentacles everywhere, extra limbs- these guys had it all. We managed to drop a number of them, with more reinforcements sounding like they were going to come from the cave set into the cliff. Fortunately for us, a ship beached right next to us, and we were able to hop aboard to take stock of everything. Grimm and I decided to check out the caves and see what was waiting for us inside- hopefully just Vanthus and a few of his lackeys.

No such luck.

Halfway inside the cave we were ambushed by a mutant dinosaur. That’s right, a freaking dinosaur with tendrils and extra limbs and all sorts of other attributes I’d rather not get into in detail. The damn beast got the jump on me and bit me in half.

Still not what’s been bothering me.

I saw Grimm running out the cave right before everything turned black, hightailing it to the ship to warn the rest of the party.

This is where things started to get weird.

I was rather enjoying being dead. Nothing hurt anymore, everything was nice and black and peaceful… when all of a sudden, I heard this… disembodied voice. Gave me the willies. It sounded like it was asking for help, and the black began to recede to a misty gray. I could have sworn I was just beginning to see an outline materialize in the fog, but the silhouette turned into Grim, bringing me back into the damned material plane and a splitting headache, not to mention the dinosaur bite-marks. I sure hope they leave a scar that the ladies will go crazy over. It seems the rest of the group managed the dinosaur, and intelligent adventurers that we are, decided to continue checking out the rest of the caves. We found a few hellhounds chained to a wall, as well as a number of plagued animals stuffed into cages. I can only guess this was the Lotus Dragon’s smuggling outpost where they kept their wares before transportation, but… I really doubt anyone’s going to be buying jaguars or peacocks with mutant limbs and an insatiable appetite for human flesh. Honestly, I feel pretty bad for them.

Deeper in the cave we ran into a trophy room, and more mutant pirates. We managed to off them before running into a pirate who actually /wasn’t/ mutated- not exactly the friendly type, but a damn good fighter. It seems she was the pirate that Vanthus was here to meet, and he’s the one who set this whole plague in motion when he swiped some magical artifact from her and dropped it into the bay. So not only is he a homicidal maniac, but he’s now a /mutant/ homicidal maniac. Joy. I sure hope Lady Vanderboern doesn’t see him like this, for her own sake. Not only that, but this pirate lass sent her second in command to take out the Vanderboern family, thinking that Vanthus was acting on their behalf. Sheesh.

We’re returning with the ship captain we hired back to Sasserine with all haste. Hopefully we can stop the assassination before anything happens to Lady Vanderboern. Not only will we be out a paycheck, but I’ve started to grow rather fond of the boss. After that, we can continue hunting Vanthus. He shouldn’t be too hard to track down in his current state.

That damn voice still haunts my nightmares, though. I wish it was just a dream, but I’ve got a very dreadful feeling about it.

Session 7
Lotus Dragons Overrun

The party continued to the dungeons of the Lotus Dragon base. They decided to spend a great amount of time and effort going through the trash.

Proceeding deeper into the base, they encountered Bluefeather (a parrot), and an unnamed female kobold cook/slave that attack Grimsdottir. (Named Chortle))

The room preceding Lady Lotus’s section was a trap; guards disguised as training dummies attacked and were swiftly dispatched.

The next obstacle was the spider/scorpion. It was rendered drunk via aerosolized rum and killed.

The next obstacle was a bugbear zombie. Most of the party went around it. It killed Franc, the summoner’s honey-badger.

Past the zombie, the party encountered Rowyn (Lady Lotus), and Gut Tugger (the Lotus Dragon). After being offered a position in the Lotus Dragon organization, Grimsdottir spent all her action points on ineffectually attacking Rowyn.

Rowyn then proceeded to turn into a cloud and run like a bitch.

Gut Tugger was eventually killed. The party returned to dispatch the zombie, which succeeded in downing almost every member of the party while the witch attempted to ‘trip’ the zombie from 60 feet away.

Grimsdottir has retired to the former bedroom of Lady Lotus to sleep and recover from being almost killed. Again.

A Map was found:
Islaran Estate (Harbormaster) : Red
Vanderborn: Gold
Garrisons: Blue and Gold
Kellani Estate: Blue
Various unknown others: variety of Blue, Gold, and/or Red

A Note was found:
- The Party’s names.

A List was found:
- Ships to be holed (as in sunk)

Another note was written in an unknown language.

Monologue by Cerwen

Delivered in the unlit confines of Parrot Island to himself, staring into a broken mirror…

A sublime relief from the incessant sunshine in the emerald called Sasserine, we found ourselves in yet another dank basement. Pushing the limits of the ever-so-close water table, the walls leaked a constant saline, turning the nailheads protruding from the shoddy doorframes a ruddy brown. While the others were busy distributing coin off of the victims of another winfall, I found myself discreetly sampling the molds growing on undisturbed surfaces around the room. Each had it’s own flavor profile and wove it’s own history.

“Ever earnest is the decomposer”, the Dark Tapestry will tell you.

Their diversion complete, we perused the kennels and then the bunkhouse. After shaking down the hired kitchen staff, we discussed a variety of gruesome options for dealing with her as she watched on nonplussed. Kitchen staff is often made of sterner stuff, whether they work in a dungeon lair or an upscale bistro. Being able to work with such hostile assistants, all while brandishing knives, is bound to give one an unbreakable nerve.

In the end, we left her where she stood and J’zar opened a door which held something that looked like bad news printed on bad paper. It snarled, so I gave it some of my own medicine in the form of evaporated rum. After an hour or so of that, the thing wobbled so badly it nearly made me seasick to watch it. We sent that old friend of our company off with a proper drink down a diverging path, metaphorically speaking. He’ll be fine.

There are other worlds than these, afterall.

J’zar insisted on opening yet another door, having not learned anything from the last one. This time, a zombie waited for us.

These situations are always awkward for me. Sometimes I see howling demons while we eat dinner. Sometimes black oozes slink around the room while we interrogate prisoners. You learn to ignore them as long as no one else reacts. I waited patiently beside J’zar and only when he drew his weapons did I allow myself to become anxious.

Somewhere, there’s a devil waiting for me. He stands holding an invoice a mile long, compiling continually compounding interest for all of twenty-eight years. I may or may not have made a deal with him to acquire my beautiful face. Any admission of guilt, phonetic or telepathic, could be used against me in the courts of the dead.

Whenever the zombie turns out to be real, I can hear him typing somewhere in inside the walls as the invoice grows longer by yards. The passage of time is different there. It’s both impossibly fast and agonizingly slow, which makes determining accrued debt nearly impossible, but they love to see a victim turn on a spit so they always err on the side of liberal time dilation.

Instead of any of that nonsense, we simply went around the howling clod.

Behind him, we found another door which led to another surprise: a beautiful woman.
She even had a drake of purest darkness under her command. Between her self-assured demeanor, the dragon tattoos all over her and her ease of command over the creature of darkness, I felt my mouth go completely bone dry like it always does around pretty girls.

As the others argued with her over some paltry insult, I tried to introduce myself and only succeeded in wheezing slowly and benignly. I fumbled at my belt and tried to take a drink from my flask of rum to fix my parched throat, but by the time my liquor grimace had faded she had disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

Wondering what could have been, I dealt with my perceived rejection like any adventurer would: I laid waste to something that was likely on an endangered species list somewhere.

Finally, we steeled ourselves to combat the last agent of undeath on our to do list.

We fared poorly, it turned out, and as I was stricken unconscious and the devil in the wall’s typing grew louder and spiraled into a whole symphony of keystrokes. He played his typewriter like a grand piano accompanied by an orchestra of quills scratching out signatures. Listening to the slavering wails of the would-be zombie collections agent, I came to the realization that the proverbial Death and Taxes need not be mutually exclusive.


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