My group of players and I sat down for a virtual game of D&D! This is a chronicle of their tale. (This post contains spoilers for “Ghosts of Saltmarsh”)
The trek south from Burle to Saltmarsh, a journey of about 30 miles, was a long and tedious one for Chips Ahoy. No monsters, no terrible beasties to hunt and dissect, no fun to be had. Still, she brought her equipment – what kind of a hunter would she be if she didn’t bring along the tools of her trade? The road wound through the hills, and passed by several very small hamlets and villages, and the occasional manor with adjoining halfling farmsteads that benefit from the protection of the king’s guard that patrols to keep the road safe.
While traveling, Chips pondered about the nature of her quarry, the thing from the Dreadwood that escaped past the boundaries of that awful forest. What could it be? How dangerous is it? Is she prepared to face it? This is her first solo hunt, after all, and she would not want to disappoint her mentor. It was heading in the direction of Saltmarsh, but the initial reports from the bustling fishing village have not reported any disturbances. It’s her task to discover if it’s still alive, and where it’s hiding.
She arrives at the northern gates of Saltmarsh in the late afternoon, the sun hanging in the sky almost perpendicular to the hilltops surrounding her. She greets the older guards at the gate, and questions them regarding her mission. While brushing her fiery red hair back behind a slightly pointed, half-elven ear, she presents a letter from the castellan of Burle, Kiara Shadowbreaker, and they point her into the city, and recommend the three inns and taverns of Saltmarsh: The Wicker Goat, The Empty Net, and The Snapping Line.
She eventually makes her way through all of these and finally to the third, where she purchases a room and a meal. As she eats, she keeps her eyes and ears open and on the many locals within: mostly fishers and traders, merchants and farmers. Of them, mostly human.
Not far behind this arrival from the north comes another: a tall, lean, handsome elf wearing fine traveling clothes of pale, winter colors, astride a leopard appaloosa. His long, white hair is pulled back into a high and loose ponytail, and it waves with the ocean breeze.
He has had an even longer journey to Saltmarsh, but his purpose is still crystal clear. And it is with that purpose that he wields the king’s seal on a scroll he carries to the old guards at the gate. Staring back up at him with a mixture of awe and trepidation, they direct him down the hill and across Sharkfin Bridge, to the Council Hall across from the market by the docks. There, Faban the Azurine can find the Saltmarsh town council.
He makes his way there, observing the town and its occupants closely as he passes. While crossing over the aforementioned Sharkfin Bridge, he finds himself feeling inexplicably queasy. Perhaps it’s the sight of the water flowing beneath the bridge and out to sea – a sight he is not incredibly familiar with. He marches his horse past the market, where merchants, mongers, and brokers are finishing their day’s work, and beginning to pack up their goods and wares.
He passes by a tavern, and finds the Council Hall next door. As he pulls his horse to a stop, he cannot help but notice the sturdy but weatherbeaten platform and gallows that stand in front of the hall, and wonders when the last time it was used.
A stable boy rushes up to Faban and offers to take his horse, to which he agrees, and dismounts in order to approach the doors to the hall. He sees before him a large brick, stone, and wood building with a small tower that rises from the top of it. Above the double doors hangs a wooden sign depicting a net filled with fish.
He goes into the Council Hall and finds a small foyer where a human woman dressed in modest clothing sits at a wooden desk, reviewing several pieces of parchment. She looks up at Faban and smiles, and he once again presents the king’s sealed scroll, stating that he is here to see Eliander Fireborn.
Keeping the smile, the woman states that he is currently in a closed council meeting with the Saltmarsh town council, but it should be ending in about an hour. He is welcome to wait here, or maybe come back then. Faban eyes a chair nearby that does not look any comfier than the seat he’s sat in for the last several days, and his stomach growls. He opts to come back, and finds his way to the tavern next door: The Snapping Line. Going in, he turns his nose up at the rowdy fishers who have come in from their day’s work and finds a table to be served some supper.
Ravenna finds herself with one thing on her mind: when will this goddamn rope cut?! Her shoulder and arm muscles burn from the fast, back-and-forth motion as she watches the dagger in her hand slice through the many threads of the thick, braided rope at a pace that is wholly unacceptable. It’d be fine, she wouldn’t normally be so tired, if it weren’t for the other ropes she’s already had to cut through. She’s going to have to have a word with her contact about this….
Is it her dagger? Is it dull after all these years? She remembers back when, only a few short years ago, she was living the adventurous life at sea with her mates, and was gifted this dagger by the captain. It had seen a lot of use in her confident hands already when it was passed to Ravenna, and then she has got a lot of use out of it as well. Perhaps it’s time for a new dagger? Or maybe to sharpen this one up?
By Gods, when will this rope– SNAP! The dagger finally cuts through. In a hurry, she pulls the now-loose rope from around the figure, and tosses it into a pile with the rest of it. Then, she places her boot onto the shoulder of the body before her, and gives it a swift kick. She watches it fall through the convenient hole in the floorboards of this cabin, which was built out over the sea a little bit, and then disappear with a sullen splash beneath the surface of the water beneath.
That makes two more people who won’t be bothering her employer anymore. Maybe, one day soon, they’ll entrust Ravenna with the actual act of silencing them, and not just disposal. Still…there is the matter of the third person who wasn’t caught….
After gathering up all the rope in a large sack, and putting that sack into a wheelbarrow, she heads back into the town-proper, looking more like another fisher walking through Saltmarsh and not a dark-haired elven woman with more than one secret to hide. She goes to one of the shops, dumps the wheelbarrow in a lot out back, and then heads inside to find her contact in the back room. Ravenna thumps the sack onto his desk, disregarding the papers and ledgers he had there, and warns him that the next time he asks for his rope back, he shouldn’t tie the knots so impossibly. She doesn’t have all day to do a dump job. And then she leaves as he stares after her, flabbergasted.
Tired, reeking of fish, and hungry, Ravenna heads to the closest tavern and inn, where she has room-and-board on retainer through her employer at The Snapping Line. She goes to the bar and greets the owner, her friend, a normally cheerful human woman named Hanna Rist, who gives Ravenna one look and a nod to get her the usual.
Hanna, not for the hundredth time, offers to get Ravenna a claw wine, but the elf gives her one look and Hanna grins, and heads off to get the food and drink ready. While she does this, Ravenna’s attention turns to the large taproom and all the commotion within.
Thank Procan, Cha-Cha’s crew has brought in a huge catch for the day! The Tousled Hare has returned from its day out in the Azure Sea and bears a massive load of fish, crabs, and even a handful of lobster. As the lutrinian surveys the loads that come off of the ship he rents from Eda Oweland, his smile widens as he claps a hand onto the arm of the ship’s captain in gratitude. Everyone will get paid today, and handsomely at that.
The crew immediately goes to work on salting and brining the fish, preparing them for sale. The sun is still high enough that Cha-Cha can still make market and see an immediate profit off of the catch. He spends the next couple of hours moving fish on the Weekly Market space outside of the Saltmarsh Council Hall building, before he goes and prepares the rest of the haul for shipment down the coast and further inland. He just hopes there will be enough barrels.
He promises the lads and lasses from his crew an evening of revelry in the Snapping Line if they wish to join, and so now he makes his way there just after sunset and tosses a decent-sized pouch of gold onto the bar in front of his friend, Hanna Rist, ordering a round for every person currently in the tavern. Huge cheers erupt all around as he then also orders some dinner and gets to mingling.
Ravenna chats with Hanna for a while, and then sees Faban – an obvious out-of-towner at the bar too. Curious, she goes to him and strikes up a conversation, learning that the elf is far too put-together to be anything less than highborn (or at least trained really well). He is visiting to perform a welfare check on someone in the town council meeting next door.
Ravenna deduces that Faban might be new support from the King for the Loyalists in Saltmarsh, and warns the elf not to keep too high of a profile, lest he piss off some of the locals here. Hanna agrees, and succeeds in getting Faban to try her infamous claw wine, which he actually likes to Hanna’s delight.
About an hour later, another male lutrinian comes bursting into the Snapping Line, rushing from person to person, wildly shouting, “It’s there! I saw it! It’s true!” He finally finds Cha-Cha and approaches his fellow otter-folk. Cha-Cha looks around at the other patrons, stifling laughter at his father, Fre-Cha’s expense.
Explaining further, Fre-Cha says he saw something inside the old haunted house that used to belong to the alchemist just outside of Saltmarsh. This catches Chips’ attention, and brings Ravenna and Faban over to find out more. Fre-Cha says he saw something inside, and ran back, and admits that he was hoping to get inside to try and get his hands on any of the alchemist’s fabled gold hoard within.
Faban, Ravenna, Chips, and Cha-Cha agree to go and check it out with him, with Cha-Cha being familiar with the legend of the old house, supposedly haunted by wails and shrieks, and odd flashes of light. Fre-Cha reluctantly agrees to go with them to show them what he saw, saying that he’ll split whatever treasure they find between them all.
After arriving at the house, four miles out of town, Fre-Cha panics and flees back to Saltmarsh. The rest of the party find the dilapidated grounds, an old well, and trouble when a group of aggressively territorial giant weasels attack the group, biting Cha-Cha in the face, and trying to drag the smaller lutrinian away and back to their den for a meal.
Cha-Cha boomerangs one so hard in the head that it kills it. Faban and Ravenna miss one each with the wizard’s ray of frost, and the rogue’s bow. But Chips’ arrow strikes true, instantly killing a second weasel. Cha-Cha casts thunderwave to try and free himself, but only weakens the two remaining weasels. Chips then kills one, and Ravenna the other. While the latter two retrieve their arrows, Chips also collects one of the weasel’s set of teeth. Cha-Cha casts cure wounds on himself.
Faban finds the door unlocked and opens it. Chips, hoping to intimidate whatever is inside, picks up one of the giant weasels, and chucks it through the door, where it lands in a heap in the entrance hall. Nothing happens. They all go inside.
Within the house, they hear the creaking of the old wood settling in the ocean breeze and the salty air. They explore, and find an old library. Digging through a pile of mostly destroyed books, Faban finds three of interest. He keeps two, but tosses the one involving mathematics, which hits the wall and produces a loose piece of parchment that Ravenna notices. She examines the parchment to find that the only legible writing remaining on it says “beyond skeletons.” Chips decides to keep the math book.
They then go into a larger, empty living area, and Ravenna discovers a set of recent tracks made by a humanoid, which lead to near the middle of the room and suddenly stop. She finds a trapdoor in the floor there. Chips uses her sword, and wedges the lid of the trapdoor up, with a mage hand assist from Faban.
Then, a booming voice shouts out, “Welcome, fools– welcome to your deaths!” and then it laughs menacingly. Faban and Cha-Cha become rattled by this, but not frightened. Chips, hoping to set off any possible traps through the trapdoor, goes and grabs the weasel carcass from the entrance hall, brings it back, and tosses it down through the hole and onto the top of the stairs below.
They hear a gruff voice: “What the ‘ell? What is that?”
An arrow is loosed, but it misses the carcass and hits the wall behind it.
“Why don’t you go and get it, and we’ll cook it,” says the voice.
“Yeah, alright,” says another.
The group in the living area hears a figure coming up the stairs. Ravenna readies her bow to fire at whoever she finds. Sure enough, a human appears next to the carcass, ready to pick it up, but he looks up and sees them all standing by the trapdoor hole. Ravenna fires, hitting the man just below the collarbone, severely wounding him.
The man screams, and falls backwards down the stairs, breaking his neck, and dying.
The other voice calls out loudly, “Hey, get in ‘ere! We got trouble!”
And there’s session 1 for “Ghosts of Saltmarsh!” If you haven’t yet done so, check out my post for our Session 0, so you can get a good feel for the new characters for this campaign (and some character portraits)!
I’m so excited for you all to share in our next journey, just as excited as I am to be running a sea-faring campaign. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun, and this campaign might end up being slightly more irreverent than “Curse of Strahd” was, simply because of who’s playing it.
We’ve all been friends for over a decade, for some of us two. And so the way we all get along is quite something. It’s going to be fun, at the very least.
Anyway, what’s going to happen inside the Haunted House? Who is there? What will happen next? Find out next time!
Until then, Well Met!