Where the heroes of the Big Fish adventure find themselves running around Baldur’s Gate looking for magical children’s toys.

If this is your first time checking out our little D&D Adventure Blog, you might want to check out this post that explains the setup and format of the game. As always, I’m in black and Jon (our DM) is in blue. Our last adventure was “The Treasure Map“. You can check out all “Big Fish” content on this nifty landing page.

The last time we had a little session in the tavern as our future selves, a mysterious voice came out of the shadows and informed us that the next adventure would not be one of the good times.

It would be the story of the time that L’Eau Dur (our Genasi Warlock) “messed up really badly”.

Ominous.

So I guess the idea is that whoever hasn’t picked a story by the end of a “cycle” gets an extra bad story where they make a mess of things?

Yeah, I mean it’s never going to be pure punishment but I dig that there’s a little motivation to grab stories rather than wait for the perfect one, and I also kind of like putting people in the hot seat occasionally.

A Flash-Forward to a Character Death

The session starts off with Jon describing the scene in front of the party:

The Gelugon is standing over L’eau Dur’s dead body.  A Gelugon is also known as an Ice Devil or Ice Fiend, and they are typically among the Lords of Hell.  Like a General Patton in the Devil army.  They look like a big blue ant, only the front section is lifted up like a centaur.  Like an angry ant devil centaur.  It’s 15 feet tall, and its claws are razor sharp.  It reaches down and severs one of L’eau Dur’s legs, and carefully unwraps the flesh from it.  Almost daintily, it puts the exposed femur into its mouth and chews.

So true story, my notes on the session had me writing “Goolagon”. I wasn’t that far off.

24 hours earlier…

I think I’ve only ever seen DMs do this a handful of times.  Flashback story framing is super common in movies and books.  Why not at the table?  Of course you need to acknowledge that some part of the story is happening “on rails” without the PCs really having a chance of avoiding it.  There can be consequences to that… but I think it was worth experimenting with, and in the context of this game it fits perfectly.  The whole game is a framed flashback.

L’eau Dur has gathered his friends at his distillery.  The first batch of Dwarven spirits (gin) is ready, and eager to share it with his friends L’eau Dur tries the first batch.  Spoilt!  The second however is delicious and once shared everyone agrees that it is a fantastic blend.  The door bursts open, and an ancient elven woman strides in.  L’eau Dur immediately recognizes her as an agent of the fey court.  She immediately asks him to give her some privacy so that she can explain herself, and he leads her to a back room.  Once there, she grits her teeth and introduces herself as Failure.  

This is clearly a public shaming punishment given to her for some mistake in serving the High Queen.  She tells L’eau Dur that she was given a task in which she has failed.  She was to deliver to him the components of a ritual.  A ritual designed to halt the summoning of a terrible devil.  However, she was robbed on the way to meet him, and the ritual components were stolen.  She suspects where they have been sent to, but she says that her task was to deliver them, she cannot complete the task, and she is accepting her punishment.  Basically L’Eau Dur needs to clean up her mess.

Calling the character “Failure”. Subtle choice.

L’Eau Dur tells us about the components. They are basically magically enhanced Elvish children’s toys. They are a little whistle that tells terrible jokes, a little ball that shows slapstick comedy scenes and a little bell that plays beautiful music. All three of them should be in Baldur’s Gate.

These are stolen from Bridge of Birds, the most delightful young adult adventure book you haven’t read.  Barry Hugart. If you get the chance, I promise you won’t regret it.  How often do I make promises?

I am going to start a “Jon Promise Tracker”.

Let’s Find Trinkets!

Thus begins a comedy of errors as the rest of the party heads off into the city to make a pretty big mess of things.

Out of nowhere, Brubax decides to ask a cat where the coolest ball in the world is by using Speak to Animals. Cat is like “this way” and he takes this cat’s advice super seriously while Jim Clocks makes fun of him because cats don’t know anything and best case we find literally any old ball. Somehow we follow this “lead” for a bit and we end up breaking into a warehouse for no reason. That didn’t really amount to anything.

In these games your most important resource is time.

The party asks around the slums and susses out a merchant who is in possession of the magic bell. The merchant wants 1000 GP for it which would be about the entire party’s savings. We are like “no dice” and Jim Clocks (a pirate with the Bad Reputation background no less, which I did forget to mention) rolls to intimidate the fellow into handing it over. I roll a 24. Jon decides that this makes the guard attack me with a wand.

I got to say, I’m a little bummed that you ruled this was harder than a DC 20 Hard check. Just who the hell was this shopkeeper in the slums? Waterdeep man.

I guess my only real question about the situation would be if it would have been different if I actively pointed out that it’s my background?

Bad Reputation: “No matter where you go, people are afraid of you due to your reputation. When you are in a civilized settlement, you can get away with minor criminal offenses, such as refusing to pay for food at a tavern or breaking down doors at a local shop, since most people will not report your activities to the authorities.”

The difficulty of an action will change depending on circumstantial factors and how much effort is made.  In this case you had both working against you.  If you guys had approached the situation more tactically you would have been successful.  

As for the background, yeah, if you had mentioned it it would have been an instant pass.  I try to make the background bonuses into super carte-blanche cinematic effects.  It’s just better for the game if they’re both powerful and reliable, makes those backgrounds mean something special.  In that regard I’m really bummed that we forgot because it would have been very memorable and on-brand for Jim.

We don’t come to blows because for once in the history of D&D, cooler heads prevail. We bounce before guards show up, but now we know where the bell is. Partial success?

We make our way to the Trading District of Baldur’s Gate and kind of get our ears to the ground about magical trinkets that recently came into town. We get a bead that a lot of the successful traders are currently trading the magic whistle back and forth for shits and giggles. As traders are wont to do. It’s like the talk of the town and a fun little party gag.

A spice trader named Munda is currently in possession of it, we try to arrange an audience with her but she wants none of it. Another location though. So there’s that. We didn’t openly threaten to kill anybody so maybe we’re getting better at this (spoilers: we’re not, more on Munda soon).

We head down to the docks and Brubax tries to bribe some street urchin kids to find us the magical ball. An enterprising little girl approaches us and offers the information, for a price. Giddeon (the Bard) just yells at a kid and makes them cry. But the little girl coughs up the location of the ball.

Turns out the ball is in a burnt out little hovel, being held by a sad little girl who is the last surviving member of her family.

Tragic.

Somehow Giddeon doesn’t want to make this little orphan girl cry (he had no issues a few minutes earlier) so through a series of events we manage to acquire the ball and also bring the young girl back to L’Eau Dur’s distillery where she’ll clean the stills or something.

I figured this would be a funny little gimme scene.  It was!

Add “Little Girl” to Inventory!

If you start training little children from an early age they can be pretty useful.

Time to double back and get the rest of the items!

We had back to the merchant in the slums and with much calmer heads we apologize and propose a temporary trade. He loans us the bell and we leave Brubax’s magical bow and arrow as collateral. I hope that works out.

I honestly forgot about that.  Maybe he can take a downtime action to go get it back?  Haha, poor guy.

We head back to Munda’s mansion and come up with a pretty solid plan. If you remember the Hags from the Treasure Map adventure, you might remember that Tidus bought a love potion from them. The plan is to sneak into Munda’s house, sneak the love potion into her cup, and make her fall in love with Jim Clocks. I think.

It goes great! Nothing to talk about here!

Just kidding. Jim stealths into the mansion and lo and behold, there’s Munda just reading a book and sipping wine. Jim sneaks up like the stealthy ass Rogue he is and drops the love potion into her drink.

Success! Now she’ll be in love with Jim Clocks the Pirate!

Or, she’ll stand up and start bleeding from all her orifices, fall down and die. One of those two things happened.

Good thing she had the magic whistle on her.

Yeah man, Hags are super evil.  What could be a better lesson than horribly killing the person you love because you tried to enchant them?

With all three items acquired we bring them back to L’Eau Dur so he can complete the ritual that Failure wants him to perform.

When you decided to set up a “go around town and get items” session, how badly did you think we would do? Did we surpass your expectations? Personally, I am amazed that we didn’t trigger a single combat. I mean, we came close a few times and did a murder, but that’s not bad.  I guess nobody ended up in jail.

I will admit there was less death than expected.  This whole scene went essentially perfect.  It was just 3 tiny scenarios where the easy solution was morally bad, and the only constraint was time.  People role-played, you have a new servant, the story moved on.  The only way that could have been a failure is if you spent the whole session there and never got to the island.  Remember that this session became a 2 parter, which means that the night had to end exactly at the time of the surprise ending.

That shit is not easy to time!  

Uh Oh, Cultists!

Reddit User jake55778

L’eau Dur has arranged a skiff to get to a small island off the coast of Baldur’s Gate.

The island is a small fortress, with scores of plate wearing guards.  In the hands of expert seamen, the small sailing vessel L’eau Dur has acquired easily avoids the patrols and lands on the far side of the island, where the party finds an old well, or perhaps a cavern, leading deep under the island.  L’eau Dur hangs back, mentally and magically preparing him for the task ahead while the rest of the party battles their way through the traps and horrible diseased monsters in the tunnels.  Thanks to an extremely lucky secret passage find, the party scampers straight to the ritual floor.

I had back to back crits on disarming one of the rune traps and finding that secret passage. Good times.

6 black robed cultists are chanting around a pulsing blue tear in reality.  L’eau Dur is suddenly stunned.  This might not be a summoning ritual.  Maybe it is a containment?  Will the ritual he has actually stop this summoning or empower it?  L’eau Dur takes the bell and rings it.  He blows on the whistle.  He spins the orb.  The rend in reality grows brighter and bluer and colder until the Gelugon stands before him.  It turns, and as he wonders if maybe this wasn’t the best idea, the Gelugon howls in Abyssal directly at him:  “I will crush your bones.”

The party has limited time to escape the tunnels and get back on their skiff and steal away into the night.

to be continued…

That’s right, for the first time ever in this campaign: Jon has deemed this to be a two-part adventure.

I think it’s important for us to all remember that the cold open of the adventure was the Gelugon standing over L’Eau Dur and eating him. We flashed back to “24 hours earlier” and in-game it is. sundown. We still need to make it through the next morning.

Tune in next time for The Time The Warlock Messed Up (Part 2).

Still lots of time to mess things up worse than they are.

Cultist image from Reddit User jake55778
Gelugon image from the Forgotten Realms Wiki.

Keith does all sorts of things here on 9to5.cc, he works with the other founders on 9to5 (illustrated), co-hosts our two podcasts: The 9to5 Entertainment System and Go Plug Yourself and blogs here as The Perspicacious Geek.

Jon is a Master of Dungeons of the highest caliber. He podcasts with me over on 9to5 Entertainment System and occasionally blogs here in Jon’s Junk.

Not mentioned in this blog, this little lady spent most of the session on my lap so it was also the best session ever for non-game reasons:

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