Last Friday’s session in my ongoing Dungeons & Dragons campaign began with the players breaking a cardinal rule of RPGs: “Don’t split the party.” Separating into two groups is bad for the DM, who then has to keep both subgroups engaged even though one isn’t “there” at the moment. It’s also bad for the players, who are much more likely to find their characters outgunned by whatever opposition their DM had balanced with a larger group in mind. Note to my playgroup: telling me that you’re splitting the party in a manner which suggests that you know better does not actually help.
So it was that the paladin, wizard and ranger went to check out the new shipment of goods at Marali’s Fine Imports, while the warlord and rogue investigated a report of a “beastman attack” outside the Punt & Pole Tavern near the waterfront. The previous day, a bestial humanoid had slashed the throat of a patron leaving the establishment and fled into the night.
Arriving at the tavern, they soon encountered Meepo, an enthusiastic, relatively innocuous kobold (a small, lizard-like humanoid) who had recently been kicked out of his usual pub after an altercation. Meepo fancies himself a brave adventurer, and that–plus his race’s worship of dragons–caused him to quickly latch onto the dragonbord warlord Kesek.
Meanwhile, Marali–a comely half-elven proprietor–asked the other group to talk to a shady character who had been lurking outside her shop the past couple of nights. The stranger was rude and gave them a bad feeling. He eventually ambled away but soon returned in the company of a sinister, hooded figure with eyes that glittered in the half-light.
The players asked about Marali’s recent shipment from the north, and learned that there was one item which wasn’t listed on the manifest. It was a bowling ball-sized, black sphere which had a mysterious sigil etched upon it: the mark of the long-dead “Night Wizard,” Tor Shok. They offered to borrow the sphere and take it to the Arcane Assembly for identification, but Marali was hesitant to let such a potentially valuable item out of her hands.
By this time, the two groups had reunited at Marali’s, but they soon split up again, with the ranger and rogue tracking the hooded figure through the dark alleys, while the others stayed behind to guard the store. This proved to be an error in judgment, as did Green Leaf the ranger’s attempt to “distract” their quarry by tossing down a magical bauble which flashed into a bright light.
Well aware that he was being followed, he led the pursuers into an ambush, as four human-appearing creatures came at them from two sides, their faces morphing into bestial features as they attacked. One of them slashed at Cynfael the rogue’s throat with its fangs and began to lap his blood. Things were looking grim, as the twosome were cornered.
Fortunately, Green Leaf’s frantic whistle carried to Marali’s shop, and the rest of the party was able to catch up surprisingly fast. (Brave, little Meepo was left behind to hold down the fort.) While Cynfael was temporarily brought down, the creatures were soon routed, each exploding into dust as they died. Green Leaf fired an arrow at long range and pierced the heart of the last, fleeing vampyr.
As the hooded figure had dallied to watch the fight, the heroes were able to follow him as he fled into an abandoned temple to Corellon. They burst through the doors to find him reunited with his fellow vampyr from outside the shop, and backed up by several skeletons and zombies which he summoned from the ruined crypt below.
During the battle, Tuk’-Ja the wizard proved a danger to his own friends through his overenthusiastic use of area effect spells, but eventually the minions were dusted and Daggas, the vampyr Death Master was cornered and beheaded.
As the heroes licked their wounds, an arrow infused with electricity struck the floor nearby with a crash of thunder. Another vampyr hung upside down from a bell rope, firing his magic longbow.
Cynfael scurried up a ladder and jumped for the hanging rope, while the other characters discovered a hidden stair. They confronted the powerful vampyr on the ledge outside the bell tower.
This unnamed foe was especially tricky, enshrouding himself in a cloud of darkness. However, outnumbered and outmatched by the assembled characters, he volunteered to throw himself from the ledge, smashing to the ground below…then inexplicably vanishing!
As our heroes reach “second level” at last, they still don’t know the purpose of the strange sphere, nor the extent of the vampyrs’ influence in Boswin.
But that’s an adventure for another day…