So we missed several sessions of recap as Bad DM was busy meeting a book deadline. The good news is Black Harvest is with my editor; the bad news is I don't have a release date yet.
The Wet Wedding
We last left our intrepid band after they had defeated the Shadow in the orcish beer hall. Many, many days were spent crawling through the increasingly sophisticated and dangerous layers of orcish tombs. There was the eight-armed water troll that was supposed to be a fearsome foe; the party chased it into the water and mercilessly beat it to death. On the other hand a kobold skeleton in a bird-cage shooting Magic Missiles almost did for them all.
It was while they were exploring the koboldic era of the dungeon (built when the orcs had dealings with a kobold tribe) that they met Asha the water naga. She told them her tale of woe: falling for a silver-tongued bard who stole her Pearl of the Sirens. In human hands this artifact makes breathing and moving underwater easy (though you still can't smoke a pipe); in her hands it did the same for living above the surface. She was the source of the innkeeper's broken window; it was not a young couple being carried off, but rather a broken-hearted sea creature pursing her thieving paramour. Being chaotic she is unwilling to make deals or bargains, but she does give them the ability to breathe water for a few hours and accepts a present in return. The Bard got a bit of a workout coming up with a succession of interesting but different presents as they re-visited Asha several times over the next few weeks. And the Wizard discovered the joys of Command Undead; now one of the barrow's best skeletal temple guardians carries his laundry around when it's not dicing his enemies.
Eventually they passed into the clerical era, built when the orcs had adopted religion for a while. The curses and undead guardians were not much of a challenge to our intrepid band, though a well full of octopi (regular old octopi, not magical or anything) almost claimed the life of several of them. Then they discovered four locathah smoking weeds in one of the tombs. Restraining their immediate murderous impulses, they managed to get themselves invited to a party. They went home, freshened up, got more water-breathing from Asha, and went to town... well, went to the underwater village.
As they had suspected, Lars, erstwhile paramour of Asha the water naga, made an appearance. He stood on a stage and warbled incomprehensibly, which is what passes for entertainment at the bottom of a dirty lake. Apparently he had fallen for the charms of a nixie and had spent the last ten years playing house with her in an underwater graveyard of orcs. At this point he was clearly deranged but the party was more interested in the unnatural bulge in his throat. They started trying to get closer to the stage when the chieftain announced the bad news. The celebration was supposed to be a wedding between one of the locathah girls and a handsome villager from the surface. Unfortunately the human had succumbed to the horrible curse that just randomly kills people in the village. He had turned blue, waved his hands frantically, blown some bubbles, and then stopped moving. This curse, the chieftain noted, had struck the last five surface dwellers who had moved into the village over the years: two other suitors and a young family, all suddenly struck down by evil magic.
Not one to waste an opportunity, the chieftain put the poor deceased fellow on the dinner menu (literally, he was served in tiny bits as hors d'oeuvres) and continued with the gala. Then he offered the handsomest of the visitors the chance to marry into the village without going through the normal time-consuming background checks.
This, of course, meant the Bard. Much to everyone's surprise the young Bard was willing to give it a try. However, once the rather quick ceremony was concluded and events moved to the nuptial chamber, everything fell apart. It turned out the two newlywed's conceptual ideas of what occurred in said chamber were horrifically incompatible.
The Bard came swimming out in a hurry, pursued by a shrieking jilted bride. Hell hath no fury like a locathah scorned! This commotion interrupted the rest of the party, who had finally gotten into Lars' presence. Thinking quickly the Ranger performed a tracheotomy, freeing the pearl from where it had lodged in Lars' throat, and amazingly not killing him in the process. The party then beat a hasty retreat, aided by summoned dolphins. Lars, unfortunately, was suddenly struck by the village's curse despite being immune to it for all these years, and soon blew a few final bubbles and stopped moving.
The locathah were unwilling to chase the party through the barrows, so they made their way back to Asha and returned her property. She rewarded them with sacks of gold she had collected from the barrows over the years and promptly fled, returning to her distant sea-borne kingdom. Our heroes trudged back to the inn, loaded down with gold and the pleasure of doing a good deed - which was, despite their alleged alignments, a surprisingly rare occurrence.
That night the locathah struck back. The entire village swarmed up from the lake, armed with spears and supported by the nixie's magic, and attacked the inn. Unfortunately locathah are as handicapped out of the water as humans are in it, and all of them died ingloriously. The Barbarian did get a nasty scratch on his ankle while stomping the fish-men into paste but otherwise the fight was anti-clamatic.
A Business Proposition (or two)
While the party rested up and dried out, Old Bob wandered in. They had last seen him the Wild Lord's broken down keep, where he chose to stay rather than submit to civilization. He had been driven out, he said, by all the singing. The keep had new occupants, a bandit gang of some kind, and they sang all the damn time.
Before the party could respond to this appropriation of property they had abandoned, a sly fellow also appeared at the inn. He had heard of a new adventuring party and wanted to offer them a job. He purported to represent the merchants of House Tempest, who allegedly wanted to find a land route to Varsoulou. This was a dangerous proposition because technically Edersarr and Varsoulou are still at war, though active hostilities had ended twenty years ago when King Rogonar the Ambitious had gotten himself killed on one of his many invasions. His son and heir, Cardinal Ragnar, was not nearly so keen on the exhausting and impoverishing continual war, and hence peace had reigned, especially since the invasions only ever went one way, from Edersarr to Varsoulou. Now some people, such as the Cardinal, were happy with this state of affairs; and some people, notably the Earl Theodorick, were not.
The party seemed to be leaning towards the peace faction, but mostly they were so sick of crawling around in dead orcs that they decided to take the job. But first, the most exciting awesome adventure ever conceived of in any epic ballad of heroism (or D&D campaign): they made a trip up north to Pay Their Taxes.
The King, you see, gets a quarter of whatever tael you take out of the Wild. This is the price you pay for having somewhere safe to rest up and heal after your adventures. You don't have to pay the tax, but then, you don't have to come home again either. (As a DM I am obviously tickled pink to have successfully imposed taxation on my players. I am sure all the other DMs out there know exactly how I feel.) The cost left them bankrupt, though they had gotten everyone but the barbarian and ranger to third level first.
They also blew some gold on stuff like better armor and weapons but that's just boring.
So a few days later they set off to the east, with two donkeys, supplies, and a full load of adventuring gear (the seasoned players revealed themselves when they spent fifteen minutes discussing how to carry their gold so it wouldn't all get stolen at once). Quite a step up from their poverty-stricken origins only a few seasons ago. (Seriously, it's been like three or four months of game-time.)
Along the way they had a few adventures. (This is where my Sandbox World Generator app really came into its own: they picked a map direction and marched, and I just looked up what was in the way.) At first the two undead dinosaurs looked like it could be a dramatic fight, but then the Druid discovered the power of Entangle (the spell that defines OP, and at 1st level!). The Ranger destroyed one immobilized dinosaur through archery with his new strength bow; the other one successfully resisted the wizard's attempts to Command it (thus sparing the DM a heart-attack) and was destroyed by arrows and Barbarian axery.
Next they encountered a mysterious wheeled machine that drove around in circles. Dissuaded by its thick iron armor (and a few hints from the DM who hadn't finished writing up the adventure that creature leads to), they avoided it and moved on. Just when they were thinking this whole exploring thing was a piece of cake they met a couple of other people leading donkeys.
Their practiced eye recognized them as bandits, or perhaps it was just the dirty clothes and heavy weaponry. These bandits, however, were incredibly welcoming. Recognizing the party as heroes by the simple expedient of noting that they came from the west and thus had passed through un-tracked, monster-infested wilderness, the bandits invited them to a free dinner. All they would have to do is attend a short lecture on an exciting multi-level marketing business opportunity.
For some inexplicable reason the party politely declined. The bandits shook their head in dismay, but offered helpful traveler's advice, pointing out a good camping spot just a short way ahead. Again, the party behaved unreasonably, setting camp in the suggested spot but stuffing their bedrolls with hay and hiding on the hill above while wearing their armor. In the middle of the night the Druid's hawk started staring at the sky while emitting small, terrified sounds; but the Druid was preoccupied with the company of bandits sneaking up on their campfire.
Once again Entangle struck, trapping half the bandits in its grasp. They fired their crossbows but in the dark it was completely ineffective. The Wizard sent his killing machine Sir Rattles to intercept one of the two remaining squads; the Ranger started exchanging fire with the other and winning handily. Then the Druid decided to summon a swarm of bats and sent them after the helplessly immobilized bandits, an act that will go down in the annals of unnecessary force and over-kill. Swarms are one of the more dangerous foes as they require area-effect damage to destroy them, and this is not easily come by in a medieval world. The bandits, unarmored and defenseless, were stripped to the bones in a bloody cloud of screaming horror. The Druid was thinking about maybe feeling bad when he was distracted by his own screaming horror.
A skeletal, winged demon with a scorpion's tail dropped out of the sky. It bellowed a magically terrifying sonic attack and lashed into the Ranger with claws, fangs, and poisoned tail. Well... it was supposed to. What actually happened is that the party uniformly shrugged off the fear, dodged most of the attacks, cast Magic Weapon on their swords and axes, and chopped the thing into bits.
Two of the cultists managed to slip away in the dark. The party moved its camp to a different location and tried to sleep, the sounds of men being flayed alive by tiny sharp bat teeth still ringing in their ears. In the morning they tracked the bandits back to their cleverly concealed cavern complex (cursed Ranger!).
The Wizard bravely sent his toad in to scout. It reported nothing of interest, save for a brief sound that let them know the cave was in fact occupied. Now they stand on the precipice of danger, preparing to march yet again under the earth.