Posts Tagged ‘Game Matrix Campaign’

Sessions 54 and 55

May 17, 2011

The adventurers spent the winter chilling out in the Chateau d’ Mila (previously Chateau d’ Awesome before Mila pulled the Throne card from a Deck of Many Things). They had their own little projects going.

They went back to the ruins of Earthstrike to suss out the place again and check which magic items were for sale by the weird glowing men in the basement of Presa Maximo’s tower. All overpriced, alas.

They traveled north to the Sunken Grove and encountered Goblins who claimed to not be connected with the ones who destroyed Earthstrike. The adventurers killed them anyway. During the fight the PCs took two Fireballs in succession from a Goblin magician, taking down their Illusionist Arkeshi. They used their one precious Elixir of Life to raise him from the dead. At this point everyone has used their bath in the Fountain of Life and nobody has any Raise Dead ability. They have the spell, but nobody has 9th level Healing magic skill.

In the following session the adventurers left their horses and a trained leopard above in the basement level of the Sunken Grove and explored the first dungeon level (below the basement) for about the fourth time. They found it picked pretty clean. They encountered some skeletons and some bats but nothing special. They descended to the second level and found the sinkhole down to Level 3. But they explored south throughout the hidden Toad Shrine, braving a permanent Blade Barrier and several floaty wispy monsters that zapped them, finding some treasure. Then they explored north and completely destroyed a colony of Mushroom Men with Fireballs. As the remnants escaped down an underground river they looted – a few potions. A bit underwhelming. But the XP they gained from the fight was incredible.

I changed certain spells to require spell components (basically a monetary cost to cast the spell). The Identify spell used to figure out what a magic item does now uses 10 GP worth of powdered pearl per item examined. Because this was a change in the rules with the new revision they convinced me to let them swap out some of their sapphires for pearls on a 5:1 ratio just this once. Such a softie.

So we’re now officially on version 1. I saw a couple typos in the text but they’re not too bad. Need to add to and edit the magic item book, but again it’s okay. Working on the referee book now, and after that the monster book which should be pretty easy.

Sandbox Within A Sandbox

May 13, 2011

I realized something when I despaired that my sandbox campaign was too far-flung and didn’t have enough cool adventure sites in it, and those adventure sites weren’t expansive enough, so you end up with scattered sites 2-4 (5-mile) hexes apart wherein each location has 1-6 sessions of adventure possibility.

I fixed the first problem by adding random site encounters and expanding random monster encounters on the fly when I roll that the creature was near its lair. These both end up becoming new sites that I add to the map.

I just realized the fix for the second problem. Before I thought of each adventure site as a little nugget based on one or two cool things that I wanted to place. But you have up to 5 miles to explore. Why not design the adventure site like a little sandbox? This follows the module design for Isle of Dread, Lost City, and Dwellers of the Forbidden City. And now that I type this, I realize that I have already dropped a bunch of these down without thinking, and didn’t remember them because I haven’t gone through any effort to develop them yet.

I made the connection when I thought, maybe I need to refine the sandbox arena to a more densely-detailed smaller locale, like a single mountain valley or something. I have some initial notes for a bunch of these campaigns. Why not just cram the valley sandbox into my big sandbox?

I don’t need to be careful about the adventurers getting sidetracked in an offbeat site that has a lot of depth. It happened accidentally with the Sunken Grove, which was the first dungeon explored on the very first game session, plumbed down to Level 3 but not completely explored (chased off by Mushroom Men). The party returned with a different composition later and scoured Level 1 and 2 again, not discovering the entrances to Level 3. Now they’re back.

Sessions 52 and 53

April 18, 2011

No idea how many sessions we’ve actually had in this campaign. I didn’t keep track. We haven’t had many lost weekends, and no Great Summer Blackout, so I’ll just guess.

I guess with 52 weeks per year, so 52 sessions, that in the first year (Jan ’10 to Jan ’11) we had 45. Then another 3 per month until now, which is Feb, Mar, and halfway through Apr ’11. That brings us to 53, so the last two sessions were 52 and 53. Close enough for horseshoes.

(For some reason I’m now thinking about how the bank will generally let you start with Check No. 1001 or so. I didn’t want to cheat, but I caved and let them start me at 101.)

Session 52: Robbing and Dragon
The player who lost all her goodies to the Deck of Many Things realized she also lost her spellbooks. The PCs had just traded copies of all their spells to the wise woman of a troll village in exchange for some potions and a few of her spells. They returned, asked for copies of her copies, and she said if they killed the dragon who lived in the Fogspire Peaks to the west she would do it. She gave the unfortunate PC 6 spells of her choice to put in her books before she left. The wise woman wanted the dragon dead because he kept her from picking the special flowers from the mountain valley below his home, and she needed the flowers from that patch for her Love Potions.

The PCs scouted the dragon cave, found him not at home, and ran in to loot. They stole a lot of magic items and left the coins, gems, jewelry, art, and nonmagical equipment. There was a lot left! As they fled, force-marching down the mountain, they saw fire and smoke as the angry dragon searched around for the thieves.

One PC returned (!) using Meld Into Stone to creep in safely. She spoke with the dragon, who was sulking on his nest, and he seemed affable and welcoming. He asked his guest to follow him into the next cave for tea, and she did, and tea was had. She spilled a few more beans than she meant to. The dragon mentioned that he had just lost some heirlooms that had “sentimental value” and said if she found any that had washed down the mountain in the recent storms he’d gladly pay full value for them. He claimed the contents of his nest were really only a portion of his vast hoard, which included a library he would share with them.

Session 53: Getting Robbed Back
Here the PCs did an Augury as to the dragon’s intentions, which results were inauspicious. The dwarf of the group was adamant that the dragon was no good, but the two main spellcasters (one of whom had only 6 spells from the troll shaman!) wanted to trade the lesser items from their haul back to the dragon in exchange for spells and money.

The two went back to the cave and met the dragon. He gladly accepted their magic items and thin lies about how they got them, leading them into the deeper parts of the cave to the library. Along the way, he used a jeweled staff from the returned loot to “disable some magical wards” but he was actually trying to use it to charm them. Some of their saves came close, but because they were both elves they avoided all of them. Eventually he came to a place where he had to fly across, and he asked if they could fly. When they replied not, he offered to ferry them across and they agreed. He later lured them into a side passage and breathed, confident that they didn’t have any way back. One died immediately, the other taken to almost no health, and the survivor fled with the charred arm of her fellow.

This survivor navigated the cave river in the back of the dragon’s lair to a side cave with mushrooms and a tribe of vegepygmies, who honored her as “the tallest,” to some consternation by the slightly shorter vegepygmy warriors. They nursed her back to health and she found a way back to the dragon’s nest, but he was brooding there.

The other PCs outside and down the valley, close to the troll village, sent a mental message to the two wizards and found one dead and the other trapped. They then sent a mental message to the dragon, saying his treasure (in particular a valuable magic sword) were in the troll village. They fled north away from the village and dragon cave, back home. The trapped wizard fled when the dragon left his cave and met up with them later. They raised the dead wizard at the Fountain of Life in the Monastery thereof (using her one “get out of jail free card”) and returned to find the troll village a smoking ruin. Not one stone lay upon another stone. They found a troll shepherd later and told him of the devastation, and he said he would find other kin to live with.


Both outcomes were fine with me. They just got snagged by a combination of greed and naivete. In the end I think they came out ahead, but they would have been MUCH better off knowing when to fold ’em. This was not a capricious DM decision, it was just a tough monster and they got pretty lucky the first time. I rolled for whether the dragon spotted them in his aerial search and he didn’t. I rolled a simple percentile check to see how poorly the village of trolls fared and got a “95” which to me meant they were destroyed and maybe one or two fled, with the dragon surviving.

There was much more dungeon to explore, and they didn’t even touch half the hoard. The troll village held some surprises they missed out on by selling them out to the dragon. But in the end they walked away with one of the most powerful magic swords in the game and a few other miscellaneous magic items. I think in the future they’ll be a bit more cautious about trusting people and monsters – but so far there hasn’t been such a sharp distinction. Just because something is non-human doesn’t mean it’s out to get you. Just because something is human (or dwarf, or elf) doesn’t mean it’s a friendly resource.

Session Update and Other Associated Updates

April 6, 2011

Gaming Group
The group now meets at my dad’s house, where I played with his group years ago. My group still meets on Sundays. It now includes only one original member (Mark) and four other regulars (Kristy, John, Callie, and Zack). We have two who play now and then (Jeanette and Lexi).

Campaign Synopsis
The adventurers explored around the peninsula with the frontier town Earthstrike, establishing themselves in an ancient keep some 20 miles away. They tangled with the denizens of the peninsula forest of Brackenwood, including giant black squirrels, dryads, and angry forest spirits that beseiged their “Chateau D’ Awesome” with an army of pumpkin-men. Earthstrike was menaced by a fort of goblins across the inlet to the south.

After they were chased out of there they explored more widely, venturing down into dungeons as it pleased them, realizing early on that the game’s primary reward was treasure, and the best treasure was down in dungeons. During this period they explored a haunted asylum monastery, the City of the Ghosts which comes to “life” again every night, the dungeons under a collapsed village. They were spirited away by a ghost ship that took them to a skull-shaped island where the stars were wrong and a great underground harbor seethed with piratic culture. They worked their way out of the trap-filled caves to escape, only to find on their return that the island was in some other dimension and several years had passed.

Earthstrike was a cold ruin: the goblins had won and left with many captives. The adventurers tracked the goblins to the pass leading into their lands, and shied away at the brink. They got new six-legged troll-horses from a troll village in that green mountain valley and went back to exploring elsewhere. They felt themselves unready for the rescue attempt.

In the dungeons under a wizard’s laboratory near the City of the Ghosts they noticed but did not disturb a dragon – the first they have seen. Later they found a village of dwarves who traded with them, and plainsmen nearby, but no other civilization. One player fell afoul of a Deck of Many Things, losing “all property.” She handled it really well.

Game Design
I’m almost done with the player’s guide rewrite. I’m also having second thoughts on one basic design premise, which was replacing classes with a list of 3E style feats that characters could learn as they gained levels. It’s different from a class-based game, but I’m not sure it’s objectively better. I am sure it’s not better on all counts. I need to solicit last-minute feedback from my players.

The magic item book is done. It’s hot. This magic item book is the pimp snizzle. So palpable.

Next up: the monster book, then finalizing my referee notes into a referee guide.

Of course I’ll put it all up on the blog for free (as in free beer).


September 11, 2010

Guess which blog I blew off for the past few months?

I was laid off and had a period of much work trying to get things in order. We continued gaming, but I didn’t have time to write for the blog. I typically write the session summary some days after the game, so it’s fresh enough in my mind. That didn’t happen, so I’m probably going to be unable to give precise descriptions of what happened in the last 15 or so gaming sessions.

Some things are happening though. I’m going back to school, and in a year and a half or so hopefully there is some measure of economic recovery. Regardless my character sheet will look a little more attractive to potential employers …

Things are happening on the D&D game front too. We lost one player who moved to Bremerton. The following weekend (last weekend) we lost a couple who just bought a house and discovered they’re pregnant! A lack of energy and time is at fault, but it sounds like they would play if they could. We still have 3 players and 0-2 more potentially joining this Sunday.

Things are also happening on the D&D writing front. I’ve been working on an actual list of magic items (descriptions, values, and a table for random selection). I’m up to about 850 and will probably end up with 1000. Artifact details will be a separate task, since I don’t need them right now and they won’t appear on the random selection tables. This is a huge deal. I’m serious, man. There is a cursed potion that will make you throw up for several minutes.

I’m sure you are as excited as I am.

Next on my plate: finish revising the monster stat pages (and adding monsters), revamp the random encounter charts to include the new ones and change the encounter chances for monster rarity (it seems like 20% of the wilderness encounters are with those damn Giant Ticks), revise the Players Guide, and continue work fleshing out the wilderness and the individual adventure sites in that wilderness.

Included in the Players Guide rewrite will be more summoning spells for the Time and Space school, general beefing-up of the Illusion school, more social skills, a few details for the Craft skill, general clarifications, a single blasted tpyo right in the first page, removal of the Troll PC race (sorry Poul Anderson), and a possible split into two booklets: the general rules and the Magic rules.

Part of me says that I should be able to say whatever I need to say in 44 booklet-fold pages (11 sheets) and that it’s nice to need just your single booklet, a pencil, two dice, a figure, and some scratch paper. Another part says the players will enjoy the greater variety in quality skill choices and spells, and the players who don’t want to bother with spellcasting can just leave that booklet in their bags. So it goes.

Anyway, things are still in motion, someone just kicked the plug out of the socket for a couple months. I’ll cobble together a synopsis of the events of the middle sessions and start keeping notes on current ones. That way I can post them in order and get that bit up to the present.

Session 13 Explorations to the North

April 30, 2010

Again, we were missing the same two players this week. But they had sufficient strength, with their horses and many hunting dogs, to be comfortable exploring around the inlet to the north of Earthstrike. They already explored the inlet to the south, where the palisade of wolf-riding green men was.

They rounded the shores of the inlet and crossed two rivers. Each river had the pylons of an old stone bridge, which they used as support for sapling-bridges so they wouldn’t have to ford the river. Around this time they left the last scraps of the deciduous maple and oak forest behind and entered a mostly redwood and pine forest. They turned back east at the end of the inlet and hugged the coast.

The coast here was overgrown bluff, and the trail was very close to the edge. At one point they fought off a pair of bears that had a cave on the trail. A steep hillside above, a narrow path, and a drop-off to the waves below made for difficult fighting.

Later they came upon a tree with roots grown over the path to form a cage, with scraps of cloth and leather stretched on the outside. A dog sent up ahead found no danger. Inside it was a small hovel, with a dugout cave into the hillside some ways for storage and a cot. It would have been a cheery little campsite if cleaned up. But they pressed on.

The forested coast gave way to grasslands, and inland they saw a great gravel plain of perfectly round boulders and stones. They continued until the coast turned north at the end of the inlet, and to the north their explorer in bird-form found a desert of ashes. They were hoping for more civilized lands, but I reminded them after they asked that this is the frontier. The only known town is Earthstrike.

On their way back they found a fishing village on the coast of the grasslands. While exploring therein they were attacked by great mantis-like insects burrowing from below. At one point, a larger one spit up two globs of acid, one toward a dog and later toward an adventurer. Both missed, luckily. The larger specimen fled once severely injured, but they declined to venture into the burrows.

The trip back home was uneventful, during which they decided to travel normally instead of searching as is their custom. We actually had 14 days in a row, 3 rolls per day, of no wandering monsters.

When they arrived back at the Chateau D’ Awesome, they saw dozens of Giant Black Squirrels fleeing over the walls from the inside. Their supplies and equipment were strewn about and chewed, but there was little actual loss.

Later, on the way to Earthstrike, their hunter encountered a deer with antlers of shining gold, hooves of burnished bronze, and a clean white coat. He gave chase, and the deer led him along until nightfall. He became quite lost, and eventually found his way to Earthstrike by turning into an owl, finding a coastline, and making some guesses.

They were gone in total almost two months, their longest expedition to date.

This session I decided to go back to using party-initiative. That is, the party rolls and the referee rolls, and the winning side goes first. This encourages organized play – little plans every round. It also helps keep players involved rather than zoning out when it’s someone else’s turn. I read a blog post about this the other day but now I can’t find it. So if anyone remembers where it is, I’ll link it here.

Session 12 Return to the Cemetery, and the Women of the Forest

April 29, 2010

This session we had everyone show up.

They decided to return to the cemetery with their archaeologist (she has Read Languages and is trying to learn this lost language).

Along the way, they stumbled across a grove of trees. The men of the party (not including the one who is perpetually in bear-shape) saw finely-limbed, exotic looking women with tan-brown skin and leaves and flowers in their hair, beckoning to them (separately) from behind the trees ringing the grove. One succumbed, walking into the tree and disappearing into it as everyone saw a woman’s arms come out to embrace him.

They tried to stab at the trees, one causing enough harm to pierce the bark and wood, and blood flowed out onto the ground. They didn’t know if it was the blood of their amorous Halfling in the tree, or of the tree itself, or of the tree-woman. Further assaults caused the tree-woman to eject the stunned and half-clothed Halfling.

Instead of fleeing like the others, another man succumbed to the charms of the tree-woman he saw, and almost stepped into another tree. At this point, another player decided to hack at the tree, evidently trying to destroy it. But the trees were quite old, 10′ across, and his attacks only enraged the tree-women. They concentrated their efforts on him, and he failed against one of them. The others began peppering the grove with Entangle spells to stop his friends from attacking the trees.

They saved him at the last moment and fled all at once, having seen enough of this particular grove.

The return to the cemetery was relatively uneventful. The archaeologist deciphered some writing that suggested the cemetery was more recent than other ruins, and was of lower construction quality. The carvings in the nice tomb with the treasure showed that the one interred (and destroyed last weekend) was an adventurer of great fame. It showed him underground, using his sword to battle vast hordes of gangly-limbed green men. Behind the horde a cruel tower and atop the tower a weird demonic creature exhorting them all onward.

She’s quite close to having enough exposures to the language that she will be able to read it without rolling her Read Languages check. That means she can go back to the few things she failed on and try to figure out what they are, including one book they found several sessions ago. I believe it was in the basement of the Chateau D’ Awesome.

I decided that the grasses of the grove, long though they were, weren’t strong enough to trap someone until the end of the Entangle spell. I gave anyone in grass a new save every round if they spent the round fighting free, at which point they could escape the area of effect. But anyone in the woods, beyond the ring of trees, were subject to the standard Entangle effect (if they failed the save, they were stuck until the spell ran out).

I don’t like using Charm and Geas effects, because it takes away a lot of player agency. But many creatures use those effects, and certainly the PCs have such magic available. So instead of just taking control of the PC, I give them directions. In this case, I explained that there was a magical compulsion to get to the tree and to be blissfully happy with the tree-woman in question, regardless of other responsibilities and friends’ wishes. Love-blindness, you could say. No need to run, but full normal movement toward the tree every round.

This worked fine until one player decided he didn’t want to play along. He tried everything he could to not go toward the tree. He tried to walk through an Entangle spell instead of just stepping a bit to the right to avoid it. He tried grabbing for his friend to join him with the tree-woman, even though he knew his friend was Entangled and could not possibly come with. He did everything short of walking in the opposite direction claiming that eventually he’d go ’round the globe and arrive at the tree by a less direct route.

But then again, if I’m giving the player just one choice, why am I bothering to give him any choice in the matter at all? I really don’t want to just take over completely. In a direct fight it’s much clearer, if a PC is charmed and I say to him that he now views the man in the funny black robes as a trusted friend and his old friends are now his mortal enemies. In these cases, too, there are many potential inefficiencies a player can employ to make sure he doesn’t do too much damage to his friends. And maybe that’s okay – if a Charm merely neutralizes the victim it’s just as powerful as a Paralyze or Sleep effect.

Session 11 The Cemetery

April 28, 2010

This session we had two players missing and one new player. Unfortunately, one of the missing players was the one with Read Languages, which becomes important later.

They had earlier found an old map in a ruined wagon that showed the immediate area, with a mysterious X off to the west. They traveled there this session, along the way getting distracted by trickery.

A woman in white fleeing a gang of horsemen was seen fleeing through the woods. Some PCs gave chase, but only the one on horseback could keep up. After several tense moments of chase, the PCs astride the horse careened headlong into swampy muck. The horsemen ahead galloped across the quicksand and vanished, as ethereal giggling echoed. The whole party helped him clear his horse from the bog and they moved on.

At the X on their map was a valley with a ruined village at the head. Below, orchards and fields overgrown, wild sheep, and some wolves. And a bit of road running from the village down through the orchard and beyond.

They searched and moved down the road into the orchard. The new player, stalking off to the side, happened upon a small dragon and snuck up on it. She blew it out of the sky as it fled, startled, and they rushed to it as it fell. She roped it and healed it, and intends to tame it.

The party continued along the road and found an old cemetery. Previously they had found from carvings that the old civilization here liked to bury their dead deep underground in the Underworld, but here was a surface cemetery. There were walled blocks of graves with headstones, and a hill into which tombs were cut, and a small ruined chapel at the top.

They searched all day, and when night fell the place took on a sinister demeanor. At one point the crickets and toads stopped sounding, and a ghostly glowing woman appeared walking up the hill. Believing it to be more trickery, one PC dashed uphill to confront her. She turned, and I described her countenance and reaction as the librarian-ghost in Ghostbusters. He just barely made his saving throw against instant, heart-stopping death. He and everyone else fled, returning some time later to find her gone.

Searching the tombs the next day revealed them to be full of nice loot. Each had a stone seal on the front, a sort of huge disc. One tomb, much nicer than the rest, held a wiry undead creature of taut muscles and burning, rage-filled eyes. He leapt at them in the tomb’s gloom and their weapons at first proved ineffective. But they had sufficient spells, and one PC with a flaming sword, and they prevailed. The creature fell into ashes, but not before it had struck one of them with its chilling claws. That adventurer felt weak and sick, and their meager healing magic did nothing to cure it.

Among the fine tomb’s treasures were a magic sword, a magic flask, and a magic rope.

On the way back, right at the very gates of their Chateau D’ Awesome, they were ambushed by some Giant Black Squirrels. The squirrels attacked briefly and fled into the woods, taking some small items with them. One PC, enraged, ran after to slay them alone. The squirrels ambushed him in the twilight. The others ran to answer his cries for help, and found him unconscious, scratched and bruised, missing a few pieces of equipment. After they revived him and brought him inside he vowed revenge.

Session 10 The Money Pit and the Giant Ants

April 27, 2010

The adventurers secured their castle, which they renamed “Chateau D’ Awesome” and began decorating it with their various surplus gear and random tchotchkes. Now with someplace to leave things, they set up a smokehouse to cure the meat they’ve been getting and some drying frames to cure the hides of the many bears, wolves, and boars they kill. They passed the winter there, unwilling to travel to town through the snowdrifts, and survived admirably well. Cleanup of the Chateau went well and they were able to finish rebuilding the inner stone keep to the first level. It remains roofless, and originally had another two levels, and the outer wall needs repair. The drawbridge is broken and they replaced it with a bridge of saplings. The portcullises and all the doors and furniture are destroyed. And they talk of building a road to Earthstrike to ease their travels. All this makes for a very happy referee!

They found that the ruined city around the Earthstrike palisade could be used as a supply of quarried stone, saving much time and money. They didn’t begin main construction yet, though, using all the fallen stone in the Chateau ruins to rebuild the first level.

One player decided to hire workers from Earthstrike to build a normal building outside of the town. The workers used the local stone from the ruins, so the player got a pretty good deal there. She’s more interested in helping out the town, and her original goal was to set it up as a schoolhouse. To keep the workers employed she left money for two more buildings. She convinced one of the apprentices of Yojimbo the Death God priest, who now runs Earthstrike, to teach and maintain the schoolhouse. In exchange he gets to use the schoolhouse at night for religious purposes, holding rummage sales, whatever.

When they had originally arrived, the lord of the fort of Earthstrike was a military man, an experienced soldier named Lord … something. I forget. The priest Yojimbo, who was on the same caravan boat as the PCs, replaced him as the leader of the colony. Yojimbo’s negligence and mismanagement began immediately, when he diverted most of the labor of the colony to building a cathedral outside town. Yojimbo is enamored with the ancient culture, you see. So instead of a traditional step-pyramid he wants a cathedral in the local style, which he has no idea how to build. And he changes his diagrams daily, so anytime the construction isn’t plagued by disaster it’s being intentionally pulled down and altered.

While the Lord So-And-So keeps his sanity by staying out with his patrols on long hunts in the forest, Yojimbo has a Secret Project which one of the Polymorph PCs intermittently investigates.

There was some exploration of the woods and hills around Earthstrike, and they found several nests of Giant Ants. The adventurers would attack, then become swamped and try to flee. They had some close calls before they developed a tactic of casting Entangle upon the anthill to trap the emerging ants. Ill-prepared, they spent every spell and arrow and random stone lying about but didn’t decimate the anthill completely.

They vowed to return.

Session 9 More Overland and the First Sea Voyage

April 26, 2010

This session we spent some time traveling overland to explore more of the hex map. One player had comissioned a rowboat to be built because he wanted to explore an island visible offshore of the colony town of Earthstrike. It was finished this session.

They found the island rocky and barren, with crabs and barnacles in tidal pools, and some abandoned fishing shacks. Not very interesting. Two players polymorphed into birds and flew west to explore the inlet south of Earthstrike. Along the way they discovered a palisade fort across the water from the colony town, filled with strange gangly green-skinned people.

The fort also had animal pens. One pen held huge wolves they used as war mounts. The two polymorphers really wanted to kill off two of the wolves to eat their hearts and be able to change into that new form. But the wolves turned out to be intelligent and quite vicious, and they had to flee with just one heart. They ran out of healing spells and had to rush back to the island, as their spellbooks were back there. Remember, they cannot carry much with them when they polymorph into fast little birds!

The adventurers then returned to the ruined moathouse where they fought the rats and the ogres. They descended to the cellar and then down the well to the caves below, which were water-filled and alternately waist-deep to 15′ deep. The caves were full of zombies that pulled them under, and there was evidence of fighting down there in days long ago. One dry shelf held the last stand of some doomed defenders, and they found a magic blowing horn and a magic scabbard there. On another shelf, in a recess, was the corpse of a dwarf who had a lovely turquoise-plated belt and a silver helm (among other useless junk).

The water flowed in from an underground stream, through the caves, and out a series of short waterfalls to a bone-strewn stream running out into the daylight. Ancient metal bars there blocking the entrance were bent apart.

The place now cleared, they set about breaking the dam of fallen trees and beaver-works. They enlisted the aid of the beavers by charming them, but they weren’t able to help much. Once the blockage was cleared the land began to drain, and I told them it would no longer be swampy by next Summer.