Where our heroes are still in the goth infused majesty of to 1991 when vampires were the absolute coolest. They are on a ghost ship, not any ghost ship: The Ship of Horrors.

An adventure starring Jaxxo the Lizardfolk Monk, Jim Clocks the Half-Aquatic Elf Rogue, Brubax the Goliath Barbarian, Tidus the Triton Cleric and L’Eau D’ur the Genasi Warlock.

 I’m in black and Jon (the DM) is in blue.

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How To Get Off The Ship of Horror

One of the issues that creeps up in this game is the fact that this group has faced a lot of nonsense scenarios and come out of them relatively unscathed. The Expedition to Barrier Peaks alone would be enough for most parties to become unflappable heroes. Throw in being trapped in The Underdark, sailing through space in SpellJammer and occasionally squaring off against high level Demons and Beholders and you have a crew that has absolutely no problem with marching up to the Captain and telling him a thing or two.

It takes a lot to phase this group of adventurers.

I’m guessing the fact that Jon didn’t want to drag this module out for more than two sessions helped a little two with the pace of discovery.

Time for lightning round part 2, as before Jon, your comments are a treasure.

  • We basically mean mug the Captain into revealing that he used to ferry corpses for the Grabben Family for a lich
    • Actually not a lich.  Boring old Necromancer.  Would have been great to tie his background into Grabben Island and had a few clues about him to earn there.
  • When he suddenly developed a conscience, the Captain threw the corpses overboard and tried to break his deal with the family, thereby invoking the wrath and curse of a lich.
  • The ghosts want their bodies laid to rest, so we need to find their bodies under the ocean and bring them back to Grabben Island to bury them.
  •  Again, this would probably be pretty tricky but we’ve all got swim speeds and some of us straight up breathe under water.
  • The lady and Madeline want to be buried, but Jacob wants vengeance.
    • Tidus decides to give into the demand and accepts a creepy ghost hug.
    • Jacob is now a set of glowing eyes in a sack that Tidus carries and to try to reason with him is to possibly be consumed by the darkness of the wraith.
      • Man I hope none of this comes back to mess with Tidus later.
      • I just liked the imagery from Hellboy, obvs, plus I had some lingering desire to mess with Eric after letting the sword go.
  • Superior Ranger and tracking abilities allow us to nope the hell out of encounters with:
    • A Monstrous Sea-Star
    • Some Vodyanoi, aka, Aquatic Umberhulks.
  • The heroes head to Grabben Island to bury the bodies and track down the lich that started all this nonsense.

Grabben Island in the Sun

Our adventures on Grabben Island, home of the Grabben Family are pretty run of the mill by D&D standards. Which is to say we take something that should be relatively simple and make a pretty big mess of it.

  • The seaside town seems pretty poor, but the Grabben Family seems pretty rich.
  • We witness a spooky funeral that is spooky.
  • We bury the bodies of Madeline and the lady.
  • We head to the Grabben Estate to try and find the location of the lich and the following happens:
    • We witness a couple of farmhands joking around and when one of them accidentally cuts his own arm off they just casually laugh about it and put it back on.
    • The Rogue and the Monk sneak in to the main house to get some coordinates of where the lich might be.
    • The Barbarian intimidates the shit out of Colin Grabben and tries to pump him for information.
    • The Rogue actually gets said coordinates, but hey, why would that be a reason to go quietly into the night?
  • In no particular order:
    • The Monk steals from the house.
    • The Barbarian rages and smashes through the house.
    • The Rogue chops Colin’s head off when he is sick of his shit (revealing that the Grabben family is immortal, but gross, with worms and maggots where their insides should be).

Also fun fact, we basically had the coordinates for where the lich was based on the trade routes that the Captain of The Endurance had kept log of. The Lich was on Todstein island and we knew exactly where that was the whole time. All that nonsense was for nothing. Well, nothing and a 4000 gp necklace that we stole. D&D at its finest.

Yep!  I was always a little baffled by the detail that made it into Grabben island.  Like it’s not 100% laid out in the book, but you remember how nice that map was?  There was 3 towns on there! Why make Garvin know where Todstein was? Probably better to have him forget/need new logs and then use that as the motivation to mess with the Grabben family.  Heck, he’s a level 20 necromancer, why not make a little side quest where you can isolate and kill his familiar to mess with him (2nd ed dead familiar had some consequences).

Anyways, Here’s The Necromancer

Level 20 necromancer.

This is how Anne K. Brown decided to end the module. “Here’s the Necromancer!” Not even stopping for a second to wonder if a party of adventurers Level 8-10 might have, you know, a bit of trouble handling a LEVEL 20 NECROMANCER STANDING ON TOP OF A HUNDRED FOOT TALL WALL OF ICE. (So it turns out, after talking with Anne, she just has a lot of faith in player ingenuity. Check out Part 1 of our interview with her here. Perhaps she gives us too much credit?)

Let’s see what else awaits adventurers in the climax of The Ship of Horror:

  •  Some Big Ass Stone Golems that can regenerate or something.
    •  Not sure what a Cone of Cold is but it was bad enough that I wrote it down.
    • DnD’s only appearance of the Snow Golem.  Huge like golem. Cold like snow. Snow Golem.
  • A special little section where the heroes are walking down some stairs and then the stairs turn into 1D10 feet of snow!
    • Once they’ve fallen into the snow, the spell is reversed and now whoever fell into the snow is stuck inside of snow and dying!
    • Meredoth was watching you while he was invisible to cast the spell.  In the book it’s like “the players can suffocate under the stone”. Hope you brought a Snow to Stone spell.  J/K you didn’t because you couldn’t. It’s in Meredoth’s spellbook because it is a brand new spell and there is no way to get it before here.  So if you roll a 10 (and are buried to 10 feet) you better have Dispel Magic, Stoneshape or… uh… a dig speed?
  • A room with a solid ice floor and an ice spike maze of death.
    • I mean, I’m assuming, we took one look at the room and said “hell no.”
      • The secret ultimate weapon in DnD
      • Remember players, if something looks insane and deadly, even a a Level 0 Peasant can cast “Hell No.”
  • A horde of skeletons of creatures of every kind.
    • Jono, please insert the description of the skeleton horde, I remember it being ridiculous.
      • Skeletons (100)
      • 15 squirrels, rabbits, ferrets, chipmunks, cats, opossums, birds
      • 30 monkeys, small dogs, sheep, pigs, goats, large birds
      • 40 panthers, cheetahs, wolves, coyotes, large dogs, mules, boards, badgers, and kangaroos
      • 15 bears, moose, horses, lions, and one elephant
  • And finally, the aforementioned Level 20 Necromancer standing on top of a hundred foot tall wall of ice.
    • His name is Meredoth.

Seriously, what the actual hell Anne K. Brown? I am legitimately thinking of messaging her to try to figure out how this even happened. (And I did! Again, interview here.)

First of all, when you arrive in Merodoth’s lair you land in a zone and if you fail a save take one level of Exhaustion, basically rendering any attempts to climb 100 feet of sheer ice pretty futile.

Merodoth is just up there summoning skeletons and blasting off ice fireballs left and right at a party that has basically no chance of being able to even get into range of him. I guess some parties might have someone with Fly or something but nobody in our team does.

Well, the exhaustion came from Sickening Radiance.  But yeah, this is a hell of a brutal setup for a final boss battle.

So what did we do?

After a few rounds of getting our asses handed to us, we come up with a plan:

The Barbarian Brubax, with a Ring of Jump leaps into the air and Fastball Specials the Lizard Monk into the air. There is a Critical Success involved.  Jon rules that, he could get about 40 feet into the air because our Barbarian is absurd and can jump very high and can throw very far. That puts the Lizard Monk to just within range of the ledge to close the gap with a 60 foot teleport.

Jaxo is a shadow monk, so he can teleport 60’.  He’s 6’ tall or whatever, and with his arms he just needs to get his fingers over the ledge so let’s call the remainder 30 feet.  Can a high level raging barbarian throw a 150lb monk 30 feet up.

He can.

Whew! I guess Anne was right, players are ingenious in the face of death.

Jaxxo the Lizard Monk materializes next to Meredoth and unleashes a flurry of bites and strikes and the Necromancer makes a pretty big mistake. As a Reaction, Meredoth encases himself in a protective block of hard black ice. Sure, it negates the attacks from Jaxxo but you know what is easily pushed off a cliff?

A human sized block of ice sitting on ice.

10D6 bludgeoning damage from the fall smashes the block of ice and deals a good chunk of damage to the Necromancer in the process. But more importantly he is now prone and in front of the raging Barbarian and a very stabby Rogue.

We kill him in a single round and it’s a good thing because Jon then reveals that his next action would have been to cast Time Stop.

What the what?

Yep.  Then he would have fled back to his lair, healed and buffed, and prepared to continue raining ice-hell down upon the group.  Shit ain’t fair.

Hold up, you had an ice themed necromancer from a module and didn’t opt for a Glacius Rex/Ice King tie-in? Weird.

I thought long and hard about doing it and decided not to.  I left it at you guys getting a powerful anti-ice ring. Glacius Rex’s history won’t involve Ravenloft.

The Curse is broken, the mists of Ravenloft fade and we find ourselves back on board The Clepsydra on our way to a treasure island.

Oh, we also have The Ring of Frosty Depths. What does that even do?

This was supposed to be the exciting reward for defeating Mr. Frost Wizard.  Resist cold damage and 1*per day Tomb Of Levistus (at level 9). We’ll talk about it at the start of next session.

You know, as I reread my comments I am more and more convinced that there is a modern, mind blowingly amazing ghost-pirate module hiding under some of the early 1990’s edges here.  For all of my complaints above the quality of the storytelling here is still light years beyond say… Barrier Peaks. You can really see that this module is a kind of transitional point between the plotless dungeon crawls of the late 70’s and early 80’s and the more story focused games popular today.

Lich King Ring by Sketchy Stories
Ice Necromancer by Liam Davey (@liamdavey007)
Snow Golem by jesulinblablabla
Undead Army by Alex Factory
Funeral Procession by Draupnir

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 Systemand occasionally blogs here in Jon’s Junk.