Madness at Gardmore Abbey: Session Three

Past sessions: Session OneSession Two


The group left Winterhaven, escorting Sir Oakley to Gardmore Abbey on his quest to purify the main temple on top of the mountain. He explained that he knew of the existence of a secret stair to take the party up the back side of the mountain and straight to Dragon’s Roost (the  mountaintop). After an hour or two of searching, they uncovered the stair and made their way up the long climb.

At the top, they found four buildings still standing. The main temple was the grandest of these, and only partially ruined. The stair came up directly behind a squat, columned building. To the south was a long, ruined structure, and to the north was the relatively intact gate house that guarded the road down to the orc village.

Since they were right next to the squat building, they peeked inside and saw webs all over the ceiling. Recalling their earlier, unpleasant run-in with deathjump spiders, they moved elsewhere.

Our intrepid explorers decided to poke around the long, ruined building to the south next. Peering inside, they saw some broken bunks, a well, and a rubble-covered stairway. This building had evidently been a barracks. After debating for a few minutes whether they should go inside (the well was strangely tempting for our elf hunter, who had enjoyed drinking from the Font of Ioun earlier), I had them roll a stealth check… which they failed.

Suddenly, a big-ass bug popped out of the ground in the middle of their group, spraying rocks and debris all over them. It was a bulette! And so battle ensued.

This was Encounter 19: The Barracks. With a party of five, it would include the bulette and two carrion crawlers. I scaled it down for my three-PC party by removing a carrion crawler. Having Sir Oakley in the party made it a pretty easy encounter.

Running the bulette was fun; I was happy to let him get opportunity attacked if need be in order to dig back into the ground and burst out later, creating zones of difficult terrain all over the place. I had the carrion crawler make stealth checks for the first two rounds to get close to the doorway where the fight was taking place, and the warpriest who chased the bulette into the main barracks had to make a quick decision whether to fight on or retreat when she saw the tentacled monstrosity clinging to the wall inside the door. She fought on, and the day was soon won.

Our elf hunter was disappointed to discover that the well only had water 30 feet down, with no bucket to fetch it. Mature character that he is, he decided to poop down the well in frustration. Okay then. He also searched the ruins and found a skeleton with a small amount of gold and two potion vials. These turned out to be an Elixir of Flying and an Elixir of Accuracy (I’m so loving Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium).

The group asked Sir Oakley about the stairs, which he explained led down to the ancient vaults far beneath Dragon’s Roost, in which there were chambers devoted to all of the gods worshiped at Gardmore Abbey. He said that, while he would one day love to cleanse the entirety of the abbey from evil influence, including the vaults, his main goal for now was to cleanse the temple.

Thus, the party headed for the grand building. Inside, they saw altars devoted to Kord, Pelor, Erathis, Ioun and Moradin, in addition to the grand altar to Bahamut himself. Bahamut’s human knight avatar was also represented in statue form in the middle of the temple.

The temple was not entirely uninhabited, however, as the group soon learned. A disgusting half-woman, half-vulture creature swooped down and invited the group to come and pray for Bahamut, but she wasn’t making a lot of sense. Her sister in the rafters was babbling incoherently. Our dragonborn swordmage recognized the creatures as harpies. Sir Oakley didn’t like this one bit, saying that harpies are not known for their worship of Bahamut, and this harpy’s preaching was nonsensical and sacrilegious. He drew his sword, as did the rest of the party, and the harpies began the fight. They were soon joined by a pair of angels of valor; creatures that normally would defend a temple, but that seemed intent on destroying the intruders, even though Sir Oakley was clearly a paladin of Bahamut. Thus began Encounter 21.

The lead harpy soon enthralled most of the party with her bizarre hymn to Bahamut, pulling them closer to her so that the angels could zap them with lightning. [Side note: I LOVE the descriptions of the harpies from a role-playing perspective on page 7 of book 4. Giving these monsters not only names but also personalities and descriptions of their songs was fantastic!]

Once our hunter had escaped the enthralling song, he decided to pull out the Elixir of Flying and take to the air. As he got close to the altar of Kord, his deity, he felt a pull in that direction and discovered that fighting while near the altar of his god made him more powerful. He took great pleasure in shooting the angels out of the air and sending them crashing to the floor.

Our swordmage, who is firmly unaligned and worships no deity, asked if she could do an on-the-spot conversion to worship Ioun, whose altar was the easiest for her to get to. I absolutely allowed this – and oh, there will be consequences!

Eventually, the swordmage’s ongoing lightning damage felled the final angel, and the group could rest for a moment in the temple. They discovered they harpies’ chamber, where the gaps between the bricks had been stuffed with gold coins. They also discovered a mace hidden under a harpy-dung-covered pile of fabric and furs, which had clearly belonged to an original defender of the temple. This was revealed to be a Mace of Disruption (yay Mordenkainen again!), which I thought was a perfect fit for the temple and a useful weapon for our half-elf warpriest.

Sir Oakley then attempted his ritual to purify the temple, while the PCs assisted (since they now each worshiped a deity represented here). Sadly, the ritual failed because three religious relics were missing from the main altar. Sir Oakley asked the party to find the relics and bring them back to him in the temple, confident that they must be somewhere in the area of Gardmore Abbey.

The group asked Sir Oakley if he would stand guard while they took an extended rest in the temple, and he agreed to do so.

Thus ended session three. I have not yet revealed the treasure hidden in the altar to Bahamut, but I think it will come up soon. I also have yet to remember the Key card from the Deck of Many Things that the party carries, but the players haven’t remembered it yet, either. I’m looking forward to session four next weekend!

Later sessions: Session four

10 thoughts on “Madness at Gardmore Abbey: Session Three

  1. Nice.

    Looking into the encounters descriptions, noticed that the treasure found was not in the book and was assigned by you (also, Mordenkainen is post Madness anyway); is the treasure chosen by you, or from a wishlist from the players?

    • I chose these myself. The adventure does recommend a rare weapon, for which I picked the Mace of Disruption. The potions were just something I tossed in because I’ve been enjoying Mordenkainen’s so much, and one of my players thought to search through the bunks and rolled well. Also, I’ve never given consumables as treasure before aside from Potions of Healing; it’s something I will definitely do a lot more. They’re fun!

      I’m not a fan of wish lists. They suck some of the fun and mystery out of the game for me.

  2. Also, liked that the players were wary around webbed environments, to the point of avoiding a site.

    Looking forward to what you will come up regarding consequences coming to the religious-when-it-suits-him swordmage.

  3. Regarding the cards powers, you probably also been missing the fact that the cards powers manifest during the combat encounter, regardless of whether the players have them in their possession or are just somewhere on the grounds (book 1, pg 22, “Environmental Effects”).

    IMHO that is a fun mechanism, as the new card is mixed with the ones the players already have and there is a chance (bigger at the beginning) that the new, unforeseen effect activates in an unexpected place, giving a new layer to the combat.

    According to the info on the same page, such occurrences happen in encounters 6,13 and 21 (two you already went through).

    Of course, you may rule otherwise.

    Also regarding the cards powers, i have a doubt on an issue which i havent found a ruling for and would like your opinion: some cards, like the Key card, manifest themselves adjacent to his bearer (at the beginning and after using the power); should the token move with the bearer of the card (following like a shadow) or stay put until someone activates the power, which will also move the token?

    • Yeah, I’ve pretty much forgotten the cards entirely so far. Oops on me.

      As for the question of whether the token should move, I personally say no. It manifests next to the bearer and stays in that square until it’s activated. At least, that’s the way I plan to run it once I remember it!

  4. I love these! I’m running a the same adventure and you seem to be just one or two sessions ahead of me. I’m about to run my next game in a few days and they might get to some of what you discussed above. Reading these session notes is a great way for me to prepare for some possible outcomes.

  5. Reading Madness, I’m struck by how stingy it is with treasure. Other than the Deck of Many Things, there are:

    – The two treasure card Rares. These are pretty cool. I’m going to re-cast Moonbane as an axe, since nobody in the team uses swords. I’d rather not see them *sell* this thing.

    – Two specified magic items (which my PCs will probably sell unless I also convert them to items they typically use; the staff can become a wand, for instance), two healing potions (really? 33 encounters and only *one* guy thought to bring healing potions?) and a Handy Haversack.

    – Three or four more unspecified items (two of which are in encounter 33’s drop, which is probably among the last encounters the PCs will attempt). I think the highest level one is 11th level, IIRC (I don’t have it in front of me).

    – Most of the encounters have no treasure parcels at all, and the module doesn’t instruct me to roll for treasure for them. For most of them, it makes some sense to have no treasure drop: They’re guards or soldiers on watch. Though from my understanding of history, successful mercenaries were often dripping with looted jewelry and fine clothes — wearable money. Maybe they keep it stored somewhere they trust?

    – Most quests have no financial reward stated up front. You have to have really bored adventurers who are incredibly trusting, it seems. “Find the Lord Warden’s ancestral awesome magic sword in a dangerous tomb and bring it to me so I can give it to him. I’m not paying you for this.” “Bring me a copy of the Winterbole Codex, which was used by a wizard to do some horrible things. I promise I won’t follow his footsteps. Honest. Also, I can’t afford to pay you for this.” “I paid you handsomely for scouting the orcs. Now do these other things for me without pay.” “Hey, I know I said I’d pay you two grand for escorting me to this temple, but there’s a hitch, see, and I need you to do some other dangerous things before I’m done here. Will you help? Also, I’m not paying overtime for this.” “Hey, I want to claim these cool magical woods as my own by ancestral right, and I’m so rich I drink famous wine all the time. Will you risk your hides and fight some owlbears so I can get them? For your help, I’ll give you, let’s say, nothing.” “Thanks for saving my sister’s life from displacer beasts. Here’s a huge sack of gratitude and a glass of my fancy wine. Now get out of my face. And leave the glass.” and on and on….

    What do you think?

    • I see your point, but it hasn’t bothered me so far. I’ve felt free to hand out treasure as I felt appropriate.

      I agree that the adventure should give more guidance to the DM on this point. But it’s something that’s easy enough for me to correct on my own, so I don’t care too much.

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