Session 18a – Plateau of the Aarakocra

 

Characters:

  • Shin (level 5), Tabaxi Fighter (Arcane Archer), Outlander; big-game hunter, has no patience for weakness, Shield Guardian Vorn in tow
  • Kalohan (level 4), High Elf Wizard (Evoker), Inheritor; noble Elf, ill-suited for adventuring life
  • Leon (level 3), Human Monk (Way of Shadow), Outlander; long dead hunter whose tribe worshipped Zotzilaha, has been reincarnated due to recent events
  • Anfi (level 2>>3), Locathah Fighter (Eldritch Knight), Outlander; medicinal herbs collector, wants to see how is life above water, Muck Dweller companion in tow

Pursued by the Pick & Axe Dwarves, harassed by batiri Goblins, the PCs had not much choice (1) in going northward, toward the Mistcliffs mountains.

Valley of Mist

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The valley ahead was covered in mist. Was it natural? Kalohan inspected it with a Detect Magic and could see small shapes slowly coalescing. She did not wait any further and cast Burning Hands, evaporating the mist-shapes (2) into oblivion.

Rocky Promontory

Later in the day, the PCs could see  from their vantage point  a rocky promontory with some activity on it. Most impressive was the huge Quetzacoaltus perched on top. Lower, on a ridge, small figures (hard to see what kind of folks they were from the distance)  had gathered together for some purpose.

Kalohan and Shin did not agree as to approach the promontory or not and had somewhat of a heated argument about it. (3) Finally, it was decided that Kalohan would go see what was over there, alone, while the rest of the group waited for her. An arduous trek led her up to the ridge and she could now see that the place apparently served for commerce. Aarakocra (bird-folks) owned the place and the Quetzacoaltlus, loaded with leather bags, was their pack animal.

The leader, an energetic female Aarakocra, was also the lead trader. Also present at the moment were two Albino Dwarves (father and son), a Batiri Goblin and three Grungs.

Kalohan spoke with the Aarakocra trader (who spoke common fluently) and asked if there was perhaps a way to get out of this valley? Turned out that maybe they could help each other as the Aarakocra’s trading partners, the Albino Dwarves, were in need of help. There was a recent increase of attacks from lizardish humanoids at night, the Albino Dwarves could not root out their foes as the place where those laired was taboo for them (4). If Kalohan and her friends were able to clean out the threat (5), the Aarakocra, in exchange, could provide airlift transportation near their destination, Port Nyanzaru. They agreed!

Rock-Cut Portico

The two aforementionned Albino Dwarves, Poï Pà and Poï Pok, would serve as guide up to the creatures’ lair.

The entrance looked like this (6):

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There was a lot of footsteps around but no trace of the humanoids yet. There was Giant Wasps though! The PCs killed 3 of the oversized insects and got closer to the portico. In one of the open room, they could see a dead Giant Spider on its back. It started to twitch… Then its bulgy abdomen bursted open and an Insect (wasp) Swarm flew out of it (7)! Horror-struck Kalohan annihilated a big chunk of the swarm with a cathartic Burning Hands

DM’s notes

  1. They could also have tried to forced their way through but that would have been a big risk as they could not easily take to the river without dumping Vorn, the object of their mission in the first place…
  2. Mist mephits
  3. I did not want to sway their decision but to myself I was like “Noooooo! All my prep for naught!”
  4. In my homebrew Chult, albino dwarves don’t want anything to do with underground places
  5. The PCs did guess (easy) that the Sting of Decay, a jungle spirit they had vouched to destroy, was the cause of the increase of attacks in the sector
  6. The remnant of an older civilization
  7. real-world braconid wasps lay their eggs in their preys, I mean, how cool is that!
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Batiri Tribes from NW Chult

Okay, back to Chult. Here’s a few jungle goblins tribes that I’ve created for my campaign.

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Art: Raph Lomotan

Canopy Drummers

Live on tree platforms, at least 100′ above ground. They have an alliance with the Dwarves of the Pick & Axe co.

Steeds/Pets: Giant Spiders, Spider Swarms,

Favorite tricks: poisoned javlins, spider riders, spider swarm descending from trees, poisoned arrows, velociraptor ambush, snares, pits

Black Stripes (Tasloï)

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Live in underground lairs. Have recently started to worship a jungle spirit: the Sting of Decay.

Steeds & Pets: Giant Wasps

Favorite tricks: poisoned javlins, waspriders, pits

Wandering Tremors

Live on top of large dinosaurs. No fixed territory. Constant warfare with other tribes which they bully for tribute.

Steeds & Pets: all kind of dinosaurs

Favorite tricks: triceratop charger, brontosaur “fortress” with 20 batiri on it

Mystic Creepers (Kuro)

Live in round wood and hay huts. Have a long and strong tradition of shamanism. Learned magic long ago from a wizard with his soul trapped in a gem.

Steeds & Pets: Giant Centipedes, Giant Ants

Favorite tricks: entangle spell, ensnaring strike spell, shoot immobilized foes from distance, spore bombs

Egg Stealers

Live in temporary huts. Far ranging hunter-gatherers. Even more adept than other batiri at stealth.

Steeds & Pets: troodon mounts

Favorite tricks: jagged arrows, ambushed archers, hit & run troodon lancer

Session 12 – Terrible Mandibles

Characters

  • Lucky, Half-Elf Cleric of Tymora (Trickery), Street Urchin; the lowly will be exalted
  • Shin, Tabaxi Fighter (Arcane Archer), Outlander; big-game hunter, has no patience for weakness
  • Corpos, High Elf Wizard (Necromancer), Archeologist; antiquary, strange fixation on the undead
  • Kalohan, High Elf Wizard (Evoker), Inheritor; noble Elf, ill-suited for adventuring life
  • Phileas, Half-Elf Bard (College of Swords), Archeologist; “it’s not tomb-robbing if you do it respectfully”
  • Goro-Tso, Human NPC (Berserker template), Mercenary, devotee of Malar; bought by promises of gold and tej, have yet to see much of either

I had a cold and was dead-tired but it was still a worthwhile session, if a little of the filling sort. Guillaume had to look after his baby son (the joy of parenthood!) but he managed to join us halfway in the session.

Spider Riders (1)

The previous session the PCs had a fight against a small patrol from the Canopy Drummers (batiri goblins)  and had emerged victorious. They had then tried to put some distance before nightfall, between themselves and their goblin foes, and had crossed into another tribe’s territory. This, apparently did not suffice to deter pursuit, or at least, from some fast-moving skirmishers: Spider Riders.

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An Insect (spider) Swarm descended from the trees upon the poor, terrified Kalohan, while 3 Spider Riders moved to attack the PCs from a distance. Shin, quick to assert the main threat, let loose 2 magically-charged shadow arrows, killing the leader of the skirmishers, a goblin wearing a weird spider hat. The cleric of Tymora and the Elf wizard blasted to bits the Spider Swarm with magic bolts and divine fire while the bard tried in vain some mind trick on a Giant (medium) Spider.

The 2 remaining spiders failed to catch anybody with their webs. The goblins threw venom-dripping javelins and one downed Kalohan and the other wounded Philleas. However, the adventurers still clearly had the advantage after these first exchanges and they finished the skirmishers despite their annoying shoot-and-hide tactic.

A few antitoxin vials and healing spells from the cleric later and the PCs were ready to go.

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Jason’s character is now wearing this, on his head… The start of a new trend?

The Mantis Warrior

On top of a huge fallen tree stood a Giant Mantis, eerily still (2). Already upset with her recent encounter with giant spiders, Kalohan immediately hurled a fire bolt at the thing. The Giant Mantis dashed towards the PCs but their combined attacks forced its transformation into its true form, that of a disgusted-looking goblin shaman. The latter didn’t wasted time and transformed back into his more threatening Mantis shape and attacked savagely Philleas with spiked forelegs and bite.

The Mantis Warrior proved to be a worthy adversary but he was alone against 4. His wild shape once again used up, he tried to flee but the adventurers shot him in the back

Should have killed that dude the first time

Later the same night, the PCs were alerted by some ruckus, something was approaching. In fact, it was Corpos and Goro-Tso, running away from a pack of ghouls (3). Scavo, the ghoul they’d freed earlier, told them that he wasn’t such a big fan of goblin flesh after all…

The 5 ghouls caught up with the 2 they were pursuing, but the cleric of Tymora intervened and his Turn Undead sent 3 of them sprinting wildly the way they came. The PCs had no intention to let them flee however, they used their always efficient ranged attacks to mow down the flesh-eating monsters.

Scavo attempted a pathetic plea for mercy (yet again) and Philleas the bard responded: “indeed, I know, I totally agree, it’s just a big misunderstanding”, then he lopped the ghoul’s head off…

A Giggle in the Dark

Now near exhaustion from back-to-back fights, the PCs  saw goblin scribblings on the trees that Lucky deciphered as a warning to Batiri, that further ahead laid a dangerous area. That certainly posed a conundrum, it would mean a place away from the goblins but at what risk? What if whatever it was that rendered this area dangerous for the goblins proved too lethal for the depleted adventurers? They tried their luck.

But what was that they heard? A giggle? (4)

They were fortunate to have stumbled (5) in a friendly, somewhat over excited dryad’s territory. After some chatter to satisfy the social-starved fey, the PCs could finally have a decent rest. Next day, after offering them a delicious breakfast of berries and nectar, the dryad asked if they could solve a problem of hers: a burrowing monster was damaging the nearby trees’ roots to her great dismay. She had gifts for them if they would be so kind…

Acid-Spitting Giant Motherfuckin’ Centipede!

The PCs accepted gladly. Following her advice, they baited the monster with dead animals placed near its lair. The thing did showed itself and combat ensued (6). The well-rested adventurers had many tools at their disposal. The Tabaxi blinded the (Large) Centipede with a special arrow. The beast’s tremorsense couldn’t detect the levitating Kalohan, Shin perched on a branch, nor Corpos and Lucky whom were too far. It left the tough Goro-Tso and nimble Philleas as targets. It did managed to grab the bard between its fearsome mandibles, grievously wounding him, but it soon succumbed under the combined onslaught of its attackers.

The Dryad was overjoyed with this victory and gave the PCs well-crafted bows and magic mu-ngyengyue bracelets.

DM’s Notes

  1. I’m a bit cruel with my arachnophobe sister…
  2. The Mantis Warrior wished to make a deal with the PCs. It just didn’t happen the way I planned!
  3. A player that is late is very often the cause of such a dissonant scene, whereas his character oddly re-appear just like that…
  4. Okay, turns out that  I’m totally inept at giggling! Ha! Ha!
  5. Lenient DM
  6. Took an ankheg from the monster manual and boosted it a little.

 

Session 11 – The Hanged Man

Characters:

  • Lucky, Half-Elf Cleric of Tymora (Trickery Domain), Street Urchin; the lowly will be exalted
  • Phileas, Half-Elf Bard (College of Swords), Archeologist; “it’s not tomb-robbing if you do it respectfully”
  • Corpos, High Elf Wizard (School of Necromancy) , Archeologist; antiquary, strange fixation with the undead

Short session. Sadly, both my brother and sister couldn’t make it. That changed my plans. That, and we started awfully late. It is what it is…

Reinforcement

Corpos and Lucky were recuperating from their previous ordeals inside the ruined Camp Righteous when a supply convoy heading to Camp Vengeance made a quick stop. They were happy to see Phileas disembark to join them. The half-elf was spying on the Pick & Axe Company and had a few intel bits to share.

Also, Corpos, anticipating the difficulties ahead, managed to hire a fearsome-looking Chultan named Goro-T’so (1) with promises of gold and tej.

The Canopy Drummers

As to be expected in Batiri territory, the PCs saw that they were tailed by goblin hunters, with trained velociraptors.

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With Tymora’s opportune help, Lucky managed to spot more batiri ambushers further ahead. Acting on this knowledge the PCs started the hostilities before the trap could be fully sprung on them.  A well-placed Sleep  from the Elf wizard put the small but ferocious velociraptors out of combat early on. The bard charged one of the raptors’ handlers while Goro-T’so went the other way to attack 4 Batiri archers, with Lucky firing his crossbow at them too.

The Chultan hireling got severely wounded but he also skewered 2 Batiri, with Lucky finishing a third. The fourth managed to flee. Phileas dodged several poisoned arrows and killed 2 more Batiris with the help of Corpos flinging spells from behind.

Corpos, after the fight, decided to keep one velociraptor (tied up) with the idea to try to befriend the diminutive dinosaur with time.

The Hanged Man

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The PCs walked at a brisk pace, wishing to put distance from themselves and a tree platform batiri village they had spotted after their skirmish. A few hours later they saw an unusual sight, a man, or what looked like a man anyway, was hanged by the feet, some 10′ in the air. Closing in, with a horrible stench now assailing them, they could see that the man was in fact a ghoul!

The undead creature, a non-chultan male, immediately started to plead with them to let it go, offering information in exchange of its freedom.

After some back-and-forth (2), the ghoul, going with the name of Scavo, revealed many things:

  • an old creature, sporting a blue triangle on its forehead, was responsible for his present state
  • he was a Flaming Fist mercenary prior to his demise
  • those had been asked by powerful people from Baldur’s Gate to eliminate “prince” Jobal but had not (yet) complied
  • he had overheard a meeting between Pick & Axe members and Batiri goblins to cement a deal against a rival tribe

The PCs finally cut the rope and let him go, suggesting that he could make himself useful and eat some goblins nearby…

DM’s notes

  1. An evil devotee of Malar, that could be troublesome at some point…
  2. including some unsavory methods of intimidation

A note on Batiri Goblins

Most intelligent creatures in Chult fear the
Batiri. They are relentless trackers, skilled in
jungle lore and the use of the bow and spear.

That comes from the Jungles of Chult (1998). That makes sense, I mean, the Batiri have been in Chult for a long time, in the middle of friggin‘ Dinosaurland! They have to be some tough goblin mofos, don’t they?

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Art: Raph Lomotan

But guess what, in Tomb of annihilation, the Batiri are comic relief… With the dumbest combat strategy EVER!

Anyway, I rarely see eye to eye with the writers of 5E on a storytelling perspective, that’s just one more thing that bothers me.

The point is, battlestacks and catapulting villages aren’t for me. In my campaign the Batiri goblins are clever little killers…

They’ll have some annoying tricks too!

  • poisoned arrows
  • jagged arrows
  • snares, nets, exploding spores, etc.
  • steeds & pets: giant wasps, troodons, giant mantis, spiders, bats, etc.
  • shoot & hide tactics (hide as a bonus action) is PERFECT for jungle warfare
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A Tasloi from the Dwellers of the Forbidden City module