In the dark basement, a blue light shines through the cracks in the door, pulsating slowly, begging to be investigated. But first, Inseron, panting and out of breath shouts down the stairs from the kitchen above.
“Firebrand, you there?”, he bellows, “the Captain wants the mage back in town to handle some mage business.”.
Together, Trull and Thaylin head back to town. Thaylin had her fill of adventuring and was glad to leave. Inseron, reluctantly stays to help the party in their task on clearing out the haunted house.
Sometimes players can’t make it to the game and you have to make the call if someone will play the character for them (risking death of the character) or come up with a credible reason why the character wasn’t there for the night. On this night, unexpectantly, we had two MIA’s, Trull and Lucien. So we split the difference and one character was played by another player and one was called back to town. We’ve since set up a house rule to cover this.
The party opens the door to see a skeletal figure, clad in robes with glowing blue wisps of light for a beard. In his skeletal hands he holds glowing blue balls of a magical vapour. In a voice that is felt, more than heard, they hear “Secrets found and lost then found again, you’re paltry minds cannot fathom. now leave my lab.”
With a swift motion, he hurls the balls towards the party who quickly close the door. The hit the other side and slowly begin to melt holes in the door where they landed. After a quick discussion, the players decide to leave the mysterious skeletal figure alone and block the doors to future wanderers.
And so they head through the secret door they had earlier found, that leads into natural caves that slope downward. Through the twisted wet and dank cave corridors, their torch dimly lighting the way, our adventurers are suddenly dripped on by a green slime from the ceiling that starts to eat into their clothing and armour! The torch comes in handy as they burn it away, inflicting only minimal damage to themselves, and they quickly retreat down a different corridor.
This corridor opens up to a fair-sized cavern, in it are a pile of bolts of cloths and stacks of kegs. Taking cover behind the bolts of cloth are three bandits, who unleash arrows on the adventurers as soon as they are in range. Our heroes retaliate and then close the distance to the bandits, leaving their flank open for a magic missile attack from a mage who was hiding in the kegs. Arrows and spells fly!
The mage, however, recognizes Edward Firebrand, calls his name and stands down his men. Revealing, that he also had a monstrous bugbear and two more men who just came up from behind the adventurers from the corridor the just entered in. A parlay is in order as these old “friends” catch up, though the weapons aren’t put away as both sides are wary of each other. Sanbalet, the leader of these smugglers, reveals that he too survived the destroyed ship that Firebrand was once on (Firebrand had believed he was the lone survivor of the ship mage going mad). Sanbalet demands that the players leave his operations and that they pay reparations for the damage they’ve done. Our adventurers refuse. And when Sanbalet find out that they had ransacked his quarters and took his spellbook, he immediately attacks.
In a flurry of blows and magic, the adventurer’s defeat Sanbalet’s crew but not without cost. Firebrand ended the disagreement with a sword through Sanbalet’s throat, thus discouraging any more discourse, and the blinded Lucien used his Ki to power a flurry of devastating strikes on the bugbear mercenary (despite having disadvantage on attack rolls, he landed almost every blow! and only took one hit despite the bugbear having advantage on attack rolls). All the players took heavy damage though, and the gnome ranger, Zita, came close to a final death before being stabilized by Firebrand.
While I sometimes use pre-made adventures, I try to tie them into the characters backgrounds or overall goal. Sanbalet, as a smuggler in the Saltmarsh series of adventures, becomes part of Firebrand’s past as the apprentice to the mage who destroyed the ship in crew on Firebrand’s earliest sea voyages.