The Only Thing Worse Than The Death of a Campaign

This is a hard update to write, and I didn’t know if I was ever going to write it at all. On Monday 18th May 2020, my partner Sian James died unexpectedly. For those who read this blog, Sian played an integral part of the campaign, which was essentially designed to give her the ability to learn about roleplaying and gaming in a simple way. She played characters like Elanna and Sunblayze, adding her quirks to these characters and making them her own.

The shock of her passing hit me hard, and forced many unexpected changes in my life, including a move back to my flat in Dagenham. However, her passing didn’t just change my real life, but also brought our campaign to a complete standstill. We were in the middle of a major encounter with a tribe of orcs when Sian last played a few days before hand. It feels wrong, somehow, to even attempt to continue the encounter with her gone, let alone continue the campaign.

I know Sian wouldn’t want me and Ouro to stop gaming, and since Sian’s passing, Ouro has kindly been running an experimental western game using our own designed system based in his Blaze of Silver world of Dethen. I won’t be covering this game here, and I don’t know if I will be running another game any time soon, let alone updating this site.

Rest In Peace
Miss Sian Rhiannon James
Friend, Partner, Gamer.

The Black Isle

Last Saturday was Ouro’s birthday, so for a birthday present, Sian and I decided that we would treat him to a series of gaming sessions, as there’s not much else we can do in these lockdown times. As it turned out, we ended up with four sessions, the first two of which involved the four remaining party members – Darkblade, Peregrine, Sunblayze, and Thordar – cleansing the Black Isle.

The adventure started with the kidnapping of Elder Pane’s daughter, Kera. According to the elder, she had been kidnapped during the night, and a thorough search of the village was ordered. Later that afternoon, a snagged piece of white fabric was found in the brambles blocking the covered bridge to the feared Black Isle. Thus, the adventurers are called to go and explore the Black Isle and rescue Kera.

Crossing to the Black Isle

The adventurers were hesitant to explore the supposedly haunted Black Isle so late in the day, but there was no guarantee that the Elder’s daughter would be alive the following morning. So the party steeled themselves, and pushed their way into the brambles practically choking the bridge leading to the island.

The light was dim within the wooden covered bridge, and the party almost stumbled into thick webs stretched across it in the darkness. Although they avoided the sticky snare, they didn’t avoid the three giant spiders to which it belonged, and a tight fight within the narrow confines of the bridge ensued.

Upon defeating the spiders, the party managed to emerge from the covered bridge, and discovered that the forest-covered island wasn’t much lighter. The island had grown wild, and the trees merged together to form a sort of dungeon made of foliage. The sunlight of the late afternoon shines weakly through the canopy – bright enough to light their way, but also low enough that the party quickly realises that they only have about two hour before sunset.

The Tower

Exploring the island, the party finds an ancient tower pushing through the trees. The roof has fallen in, exposing part of the top floor of the three-storey tower. The tower itself lacks any windows, and the door is locked, although this is no problem for makeshift thief, Thordar, who opens the lock with a  deft click. Within the tower is empty apart from a spiral staircase heading upwards.

The first floor of the tower is filled with junk, which inconveniently hides a lurking Grey Ooze. Before the party knows it, combat with this deadly menace ensues. The creature is capable of dissolving metal on contact, and the largely plate-mail clad party realise that they could quickly end up unarmed and unarmoured if they don’t take care when fighting it. When the fight is over, the creature is dispatched, but not because it has dissolved Thordar’s greataxe, and severely damaged Peregrine’s magical broadsword, weakening it’s power.

The party are about to call it quits in the tower, before they hear a muffled banging on the top floor. Heading upwards, the party finds two coffins. The banging comes from within one, and the party fears the worst – they may be facing a powerful vampire. They cautiously open the coffin to discover Kera Pane bound within one, and the other appears to be empty.

Kera tells the party that the creature that kidnapped her said that he would return for her at sundown, which is now about an hour away. The party decides to set a trap for the creature. Peregrine will hide in the coffin Kera was in, and Darkblade will hide in the other. Meanwhile, Thordar and Sunblayze will protect Kera on the floor below, ready to engage the creature from behind if neccessary. With a definite plan agreed, we ended the session for the evening.

The Beast Arrives

On Friday, we commenced as the sun set on the Black Isle and the party waiting for the creature to attempt to retrieve Kera. They didn’t have to wait long, as about fifteen minutes later, Peregrine heard a thud as something landed outside the coffin. Grasping his dagger, Peregrine decided to try and surprise the creature by attack it when it opened the coffin.

Unfortunately for Peregrine, things didn’t quite go as planned. Although the creature was surprised that the coffin contained a plate mailed paladin rather than a young maiden, Peregrine’s dagger attack missed as the creature stepped back in shock. Darkblade also clumsily emerged from his hiding place, and was unable to strike the creature.

The creature, who was called Restad, offered to let the party leave unharmed, if they gave him the girl. Peregrine answered for the party, engaging with the creature instead. The fight was on, and despite a shaky start, the party quickly gained the advantage over Restad. But the vampire wasn’t so easily bested, and instead of being killed, Restad turned to mist and fled the tower. The party saw the mist head towards another abandoned building on the isle and disappear within.

The Legend of Verminslayer

With little choice, the party decided to pursue the vampire to it’s lair. They couldn’t let it live, and quickly headed to the ruined building. It was an old temple, once dedicated to the Holy Defender. As they approached, they heard scrabbling nearby, and before they knew it, zombies lurched out of the darkness, having dug themselves out of the ground.

The zombies were tough, but the party was tougher, and soon the undead were dispatched. Yet, upon entering the ruins, the party discovered that it too was occupied, but not with undead. Instead, they disturbed a nest of bats, and whilst most eventually fled, a host of giant bats stayed to fight. Sunblayze attempted to work her way around the creatures, but was soon cut off. Thordar valiantly carved his way through to save her, and was quickly awarded the dubious epithet of “Batslayer.”

Thordar proved himself not only adept at killing bats though, as the party headed downstairs into the temple cellar, where they were set on by a swarm of giant rats. Thordar proved his worth once again, slaying these as well, for which his nickname was upgraded to “Verminslayer.”

The Beast Defeated

The party were concerned – besides the rats, the cellar was empty, with no sign of where Restad could have gone. But as the party slew his minions, the vampire soon emerged through a secret door from his lair to attack the party. The final showdown was upon them, and the party knew what to do. They focused everything they had on the vampire, and eventually Restad was no more. This time, the vampire didn’t turn to mist, but crumbled into a pile of ash before their eyes. Turns out the beast wasn’t a true vampire after all, but was still powerful enough to give the party a good fight.

Exhausted, Darkblade, Peregrine, Sunblayze, and Thordar emerged from the Black Isle with Kera alongside. Her rescue greatly delighted Elder Pane. The Patriarch was also pleased, as within the temple ruins, the party had recovered a metal coffer that still contained 100 gold pieces. The party had decided that since the coffer was marked with the Holy Defender, they would return it with the gold, and the Patriarch gratefully decided that the coffer was worth more than the gold, and let the party keep it as a reward.

Of course, this wouldn’t prevent the wily Patriarch from getting it back, as the party were reminded of tithes, and the cost of identifying items they had found, as well as restoring the magic within Peregrine’s damaged broadsword. With a sigh, the party rolled their eyes – Easy come, easy go…

The Mystery of Undertown

With the current situation regarding Covid-19, Sian’s ongoing ill health, and Ouro having family issues, we have been finding it hard to keep to our regular gaming sessions. However, we were able to make up the time with a super-session on Saturday, where we managed to play from 3 pm to 10 pm. This 7-hour session meant that were were not only able to complete an entire adventure, but also get an introductory tour of the town of Haven.

Tour of the Town

The introductory tour featured me pointing out the features of the town, and the services and people to be found within. This allowed the players to put some context to where they were getting their training, and where they we able to get supplies. It also meant that they could see where they were staying, and gave them a little more investment into the town. Whilst it was very quick and light on roleplaying, it was fun by all to put some names to places when we were prepping between adventures.

Once we had finished up with the town, we moved on to the next adventure – the Mystery of Undertown. The adventure started with the Captain of the Watch, Falgur Ironstone, explaining the situation to the party. The Watchtower had been breached from below, and two of the guards had been found dead. The party were to explore the tunnels below the tower and find out what happened, and to deal with any threat found in the depths. Elanna, Michifer, Niles, and Thaddeus –  all now second level characters – took up the challenge and descended the ladder leading below the town.

Into the Depths

At the bottom of the ladder, the party found evidence that something had been camping beneath the tower, as not only were there several piles of goods stacked up in an alcove, but a burnt-out fire-pit and several slept-in bedrolls were on the flow by the ladder. Hidden among the goods, the party found 10 gold pieces in a belt pouch, which had been embroidered with the letter H. Elanna suggested that they keep hold of the pouch, and see if they can return it at some point in the future, as it possibly belonged to one of the guards.

Once they were satisfied, the party headed  to what they assumed to be east, through some tunnels. The tunnels were rough, with small stalactites on the ceiling. These seemed innocuous enough, until Niles led the party into a dead end. Looking to explore the end of the passage for secrets, Niles failed to spot the two piercers hanging from the ceiling. The first dropped on Niles, but missed, and as the party approached to finish it off, the second also dropped on the party, but missed it’s target. Resolving to be more careful around stalactites in future, the party returned to a branching tunnel after finishing off the now vulnerable piercers.


The tunnel seemed unstable, as there were no stalactites here, but a small trickle of dust fell from the ceiling as frequent intervals. Niles warned the party to be careful and picked his way though the tunnel. Elanna and Michifer followed. Thaddeus brought up the rear. Unfortunately, the dust was too much for Thaddeus, and after a severe bought of coughing, the mage lent upon the wall to catch his breath. Seconds later, the dust falling from the ceiling got worse and the front of the tunnel collapsed, engulfing Elanna, Michifer, and Thaddeus in a massive cloud of debris and dust, and covering the ground with debris that partially blocked the tunnel. Busting themselves off, the party pressed on through the tunnel, assuming that they were over the worst. However, this conclusion was in error, as Elanna accidentally brushed against the wall near the end of the tunnel, triggering yet another collapse and cloud of debris, this time engulfing Elanna, Michifer, and Niles.

Beyond the tunnel, the party discovered yet more branching tunnels, and Niles led the way to a dead end. Remembering the piercers from the previous dead end, the halfling no longer trusted the stalagmites and decided to shoot a number of arrows at the suspicious tunnel roof. At first, it seemed like the halfling was wasting his time, as several arrows clattered off of solid rock, but his caution proved wise when a arrow struck a piercer hanging from the roof. Striking true, the arrow killed the creature and caused it to fall to the ground were it quickly dissolved into the primitive ooze it was.

Friend or Foe?

Niles, emboldened by the fact that he’d found a piercer, continued firing arrows at the stalactites, looking for others. Unfortunately for the party, the noise had drawn the attention of a group of small blue creatures which were later identified as being xvarts. Caught off-guard, with weapons drawn and Niles firing at the ceiling, a combat seemed inevitable, but Thaddeus moved forwards and cast a spell that would change the course of the encounter and have lasting ramifications for the adventure, and the campaign – charm person.

Thaddeus’ spell worked on the leader of the group, who instantly become much more friendly. The small blue creature asked the party to accompany them to their lair and see their leader – King Teg. Thaddeus accepted, urging the others to sheave their weapons, and the rest of the party wisely agreed.

Welcome to Undertown

The patrol led the party to the xvarts’ lair, a large cavern that had been barricaded by wooden fences. The leader explained that the party were “friends” coming to see King Teg, and the barricade was moved to allow entry. Beyond, almost 30 of the small blue creatures and six giant rats were to be found among a number of camp fires and dirty bedding.

In the centre of the cavern, by the biggest campfire, stood the mighty King Teg, a blue creature almost as diminutive as the others, distinguished only by the fact that he wore a rather battered headdress marking his status within the tribe. The leader of the patrol, still charmed by Thaddeus’ spell declared their arrival as “friends” of the tribe. King Teg looked skeptically at the armed party, but Michifer stepped forward and presented King Teg with a gift of peace and friendship – a small blue emerald.

King Teg eagerly accepted the shiny blue gemstone with obvious glee, and instantly warmed up to Michifer and the party, declaring them “best friends” of the tribe. King Teg explained that they had been living in these tunnels for generations, happy to keep themselves to themselves. When Michifer mentioned the death of the guards from the town above, King Teg responded that the Xvarts were not responsible. They didn’t want any trouble with the “big leggers” up above.

King Teg suggested that it might have been bugbears, bigger creatures that had recently invaded these tunnels, which was why the cavern had been barricaded. King Teg explained that a number of tribe members had been kidnapped by the bugbears for some reason, and begged their new “best friends” to help rescue them. King Teg stated that he had no reward for them, besides a shiny blue emerald, but that the party would be safe within the cavern of the Xvarts.

Michifer stated that the party would rescue the prisoners and defeat the invading bugbears, and that no reward was necessary. A grateful King Teg personally led the party to a large barricade on the west side of the cavern, which he stated would lead them to the bugbears. Venturing beyond the barricade, the party continued exploring the tunnels beneath Haven. These tunnels were short, connecting larger caverns that appeared to have been recently dug out and expanded.

Blundering into Bugbears

Rounding one corner into a sizable cavern, the party came across a ladder leading up out of the cavern. Daylight shone dimly from the hole, but before the party could react, two bugbears came climbing down the ladder. The bugbears weren’t expecting opposition, but their martial training quickly kicked in, and the creatures bellowed loudly into the darkness about invaders as they defended themselves. Unfortunately for them, it seemed as if there would be no reinforcements to aid them, as soon enough the creatures fell to the party.

Pressing on, the party came to another large chamber, where there were a number of small blue creatures roped together to the walls. They were some of the kidnapped Xvarts, now slaves to the bugbears and forced to dig out and expand the cavern, including a new tunnel to the surface. These small creatures were watched by two more bugbears, who yelled more warnings and then engaged the party. The combat was swift, and the bugbears quickly defeated, allowing the party to free the Xvarts.

Before the small creatures fled back to their lair, they revealed what they knew of their captors’ plans. The bugbears had invaded the caverns through a tunnel under town, similar to the one the Xvarts used generations ago found their lair. These bugbears were an advance party, kidnapping the Xvarts and using them to prepare the caverns under the town, and dig out tunnels to the surface. All this was in preparation for an attack on Haven by the army of the bugbear king, that was due to arrive and attack later during the night, hoping to slaughter the inhabitants of the town in their sleep.

The Bugbear Camp

The party knew that things were much more serious than a simple murder of the guards, and that then needed to find whomever was leading this advanced party and find a way to prevent the arrival of the bugbear king and his army. They didn’t have to look far, for in the next cavern they came across another two bugbears guarding what seemed to a hastily constructed tunnel. The party prepared to engage the foes, but were interrupted by a menacing voice from the darkness and a scraping sound as two skeletons stepped out from some crates in an nearby alcove.

The voice belonged to a bugbear that appeared to be some kind of shaman, and the party attempted to take him down quickly. Unfortunately, they were not quick enough, as the bugbears and skeletons engaged the party, and the party’s suspicions were confirmed when the bugbear created a small ball of light in his hand, and then used it to repair his wounds.

Shaman of Fear

Hard pressed, the party took a further blow when, soon after, the shaman cast a spell on Elanna. The fighter saw that the shaman covered himself in black fire, before reaching up and tearing his flesh from his face, to reveal the grinning head of a demon, and felling that the situation was helpless, was compelled to flee from the hideous monster towards the safety of the Xvart barricades.

With their main fighter now out of the fight, the combat looked lost, but the rest of the party remained resolved to fight till their last breath for their home town. Niles continued to harass the shaman with ranged fire, even as he was attacked by a glowing black warhammer of pure shadow created by the shaman. Realising their tactics weren’t working, Niles threw lit flasks of oil at the shaman, hoping to draw him out from the alcove that protected him, even if he couldn’t hit him. This seemed to work, and soon the shaman was dead.

Regrouping with Fire

With the shaman dead, the spell on Elanna dissipated, and she rallied, quickly rushing back to the combat. Sounds from the nearby tunnels alerted Thaddeus that a number of bugbears, drawn by the sounds of fighting, we approaching the party from behind. Niles, was quick off the mark and threw oil into the tunnel that the bugbears were approaching from, backed up by Thaddeus. Several bugbears were set ablaze, but more importantly, the mob of bugbears had been split up, and the tunnel was blocked by flames. This forced the bugbears to detour around through another unexplored cavern, giving Elanna time to reach the party and help defend against the bugbears approaching from the rear.

The party had managed to finally regroup, and they held their ground against the bugbears that were busy trying to reach them and defend their precious tunnel, whittling down their numbers one by one. As the last bugbear fell, the party heard a cheer from beyond the flaming tunnel – more Xvart slaves had been forced to work on another exit to the surface. As the party let the flames burn out, Niles realised that he could easily collapse the tunnel the bugbears had entered by, and soon the darkness was replaced by a wall of solid rock debris.

Welcome to the Alliance

Once the flames had died down, the party freed the Xvart slaves, who led them to another hole in the ceiling that led up to the surface, as well as pointing out several pit traps that the bugbears had set up to defend their own camp. The xvarts helped the party move and destroy the ladders to the surface, and escorted the blue creatures back to their cavern, where a surprisingly grateful King Teg welcomed his “best friends” enthusiastically.

King Teg was happy that the party had defeated the bugbears and rescued the kidnapped tribe members. King Teg once again offered his reward of the shiny blue emerald to the party, but Michifer once again said that wasn’t neccessary. Instead, Michifer suggested that if King Teg was truly happy, and wanted to keep out of trouble with the “big leggers” up on the surface, that the Xvart tribe sould agree to an alliance with Haven, protecting these caverns and sealing all the entrances to the town above. King Teg accepted, and between them, they quickly agreed to leave the entrance to the Watchtower open, with the rule that if the Xvarts wanted to communicate with the “big leggers” above, the would leave a pouch with a latter in it in the basement of the Watchtower.

Just Rewards

Having completed their adventure above and beyond what they were told to do, and the elders of Haven, including Falgur Ironstone and the Patrician, all agreed that the party had done well to broker a mutual alliance with the Xvarts below. The party were rewarded handsomely for their efforts, and left to retire to the Willow Inn for a refreshing pint and to store their new found loot.

Elanna took the time to ask Ironstone about the pouch that they had found. The dwarf revealed that the embroidered H was the symbol of Haven, and that all guards were given a pouch as part of enrolling. The party decided to return the pouch to Ironstone, and because they were unable to identify which guard the 10 gold pieces within belonged to, to instead donate it to start a widows and orphans fund for the guard, to be managed by Ironstone.

After the Session

All in all, it was a really good session, and even though we spent a good hour just talking about the town and preparing the characters for their next adventure, it was good to see the party become invested with Haven, and it’s inhabitants. This was rewarded by the players electing to take roleplaying actions they might not otherwise consider to benefit the town, and the campaign.

Haven itself is no longer just some bland town in a poor valley, but no had valuable Xvart allies beneath it, and the guard have a Widows and Orphans fund of which the party are patrons and sponsors. Hopefully, this will continue, and there will be much more roleplaying like this in the future…

Out on the Town

Although the Vale was created for the Silver Anniversary Fast Play products Wrath of the Minotaur and Eye of the Wyvern, this wouldn’t be the only time the Vale would be used in a product. Alongside these these products, the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Game was released, as a slightly more complete introduction to AD&D.

This product would return to the Vale for three further adventures set in and around Haven. This town would continue to serve as the home base for the PCs, where they rest between their adventures, as well as get services and training.

With the extra space in the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Game, Haven actually gets some love in the setting, as the town is mapped and described, allowing the PCs to finally interact with the inhabitants of the town.

Whilst the adventures are still quite simple, with the first having the players start at the entrance to the dungeon, rather than requiring the party to make the journey there, the new town map allows the first two adventures to be related to the town itself. It easy to see the PCs explore the tunnels underneath the Watchtower and exploring the Black Isle, when you can see these places on the map.

What this means is that there’s now a map of the town of Haven, and this will come in useful as we explore the Vale, not just in these adventures, but also in later ones from the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Game released for 3rd edition.

For now though, I am just going to share the map of the village of Haven here, so that everyone can see the home base for our PCs.


Enter the Wyvern – Eye of the Wyvern: Session 4

Strange times, being in lock down in the UK amid the COVID-19 epidemic. With myself, Sian, and Ouro all free because of the lock down, we took the time to hold an extra session to finish of the Eye of the Wyvern. It was a bit of luck that we did, because shortly after an issue with my PC monitor means that I was unable to run a game last Thursday, and left me without a decent PC for the best part of a week. I really hate not having a decent, working computer, but enough about my woes. It’s time to get into those of the PCs…

We left the party having just defeated the goblin shaman in the ruins of an old temple. There, the party faced off against goblins and wyvernlings, including the shaman’s pet, and discovered a map along with some very useful items – elixirs of health and scrolls of protection from poison. The map showed the falls and the temple marked out, as well as a cave marked out further up the trail.

Heading up the trail, the party soon found themselves heading up a narrow ravine. At the far end, a landslide had revealed an opening in the side where a glint of red shone in the setting sun. As the party approached, the sun’s final rays hit the red object, and the form of a wyvernling started to form in front of it. The party had found the source of the beasts plaguing the farmers of Wyvern Falls – an artefact that they would soon discover to be the Eye of the Wyvern.

Peregrine and Sunblaze decided to advance along the sides of the ravine to approach the glittering gem, covered by Darkblade and Niles. As they approach, the wyvernling solidified, and prepared to attack the party.

Unfortunately, the party were so focused on trying to reach the wyvernling and the gem, that they were surprised when a mighty wyvern, who had been using the cave as a lair, returned over the mountain ridge. With a roar, the wyvern pounced into the middle of the party.

Darkblade was closest to the beast, and was hard pressed to defend himself against it’s claws. Worse was the wyvern’s tail, as it’s stinger struck home, and injected a deadly poison into Darkblade’s heart, stopping it dead. Darkblade slumped down, out of the fight.

Luckily for Darkblade, both Peregrine and Niles used the scrolls of protection against poison, and advanced on the wyvern. Protected, the wyvern’s poison was no longer a threat, but it’s stinger and claws were still  a deadly threat, as was revealed when the wyvern savaged Niles, taking him down from the fight. During this time, Peregrine managed to revive Darkblade with the last of his healing abilities. However, this left Peregrine unable to heal himself when the Wyvern finally managed to tear through the Paladin’s plate mail armour and take him down.

Behind the Wyvern, Sunblaze struggled to fend off the wyvernling. She was isolated and alone, as the other three party members struggled with the Wyvern. It would take all of her energy to defeat the small beast, dispatching it with her blade. After a quick breather, Sunblayze decided to charge the Wyvern. The beast retaliated, stinging the elf, and immediately stopping her heart.

Even as Sunblaze went down, her sacrifice proved to be the heroic distraction that Darkblade needed, for he managed to strike the beast with a mighty blow, forcing it to flee it’s lair. With that, Darkblade managed to revive Sunblayze with the last of his potion of healing. Unfortunately, there was nothing to be done for Peregrine and Niles.

Having defeated and driven off their foes, Darkblade and Sunblayze destroyed the Eye of the Wyvern, deciding that it was too dangerous to leave the gem intact. They took Niles’ bag of holding, to store the loot they had discovered in the cave – a treasure trove of coins and gems, along with several magical weapons. Once they packed everything they could, they started on the long and awkward journey back to Wyvern Falls with the bodies of their two deceased comrades.

Back at Wyvern Falls, Darkblade and Sunblayze were welcomed as heroes. There was a subdued celebration, when an emissary of the Patriarch paid tribute to the heroes. The heroic sacrifices of Niles and Peregrine were noted, before the emissary revealed that she had been authourised by the Patriarch to raise any fallen members of the party from the dead.

The following morning, the emissary raised the two fallen adventurers. Although weakened, the party decided to make the journey back to Haven, where they met up with Elanna, Thaddeus, Thordar, and Michifer in the inn, who had returned from a successful expedition to the Tomb of Alaxus.

Reunited once again, the party would take some time to recover, awaiting for their next adventures. Who knows what the future will bring for our brave heroes?