Session 22: Snotbone and Toadwarts

Salutations wayfarer, welcome to another D&D blog post where I take an in-depth look into the previous sessions I ran as a dungeon master. As with all previous blog posts, I expect to explore as many elements of the story narrative as possible as well as breaking down any encounter mechanics as and when they happen. For an individual as methodical as me, writing these recaps is a good way for me to improve any future games I run with my players and hopefully, this also inspires the upcoming games of anyone reading them. Those readers are you, reading this right now, and I am forever thankful for your continued loyalty and support for my work. You uphold and strengthen my resolve and anything you can do to spread the word about both my Patreon and maps would be vastly appreciated. Tell a friend, tell them to tell their friends and if you want to make it feel truly magical, use a sending stone and tell the random stranger on the other end. Anyway, as we bid adieu to the end of winter with a spring in our step, itE28099s time to move on to the subject at hand, session twenty-two. If you are new to my blogs; I suggest clicking here to read all the previous posts, although I’d recommend getting much more comfortable if you plan to do that as well.

Firstly, before we begin, you might be wondering what this monthE28099s blog title is all about, and if you are, donE28099t worry, it will soon become very obvious indeed. For now, letE28099s just say it involves a very popular D&D race that is small in size, but gargantuan in spirit. Well, they are when I play them. To recap from the last post, I detailed some lore and worldbuilding revisions as well as a homebrew race handout sheet for readers to add to their worlds should they want to. The race is a wisdom-based mischievous badger/racoon-folk called qE28099thon who have an obsession with gems, an affinity with nature and inhabit a vast network of underground tunnels named the deep root. If you missed the PDF handout, click here and scroll to the bottom of the previous blog post to download it. I then went on to describe the puzzling time our adventuring party faced as they headed deeper into the crypt of Nakila. They found themselves baffled by an unknown force that they confused for a cursed chest as well as encountering one of many puzzle rooms this labyrinthine dungeon had to offer. Whilst trying to solve this colourful riddle, they also had to contend with a fire elemental summoned as a consequence of their actions. This is where we joined them in session twenty-two, having just defeated the fiery creature in a long and gruelling, yet rewarding fight.

As with most situations when I royally screw with the health of my players, they were in desperate need to recover some valuable hit points. Firstly, however, they needed to check that the main stone doorway was the only way in and out to avoid any potential mid-rest ambushes. As with last month’s post, here is the Instagram map post if youE28099d like to use the map as a visual reference of their journey. They checked the northmost corridors of the room to make sure they werenE28099t alternative escape routes and found that both routes were connected. These were simply thin corridors that looped back around to the main room. I had put this five-foot-wide corridor here as a plausible tactic for my players to possibly use when fighting the fire elemental in the previous session. The corridor wouldnE28099t necessarily slow the creature down as a fire elemental can traverse a gap as small as 1 inch without squeezing. The party could have used this corridor to flank and confuse the foe if they were able to get it inside. Instead, the party had managed to win the fight without finding or considering this tactic. IE28099d also hidden something else down this corridor, and it was a shame that the party hadnE28099t found the hidden item before tackling the encounter as finding the items didnE28099t have the same overall effect they would likely have had if they had found it earlier. Down this corridor, Jamlamin and Reita found an almost empty vial containing a small piece of parchment that had been rolled up into a scroll and pushed inside. Next to this, they found a used torch, a small bag of coins and a singular dried up flower that had been carefully placed on a pile of ashes. Jamlamin removed and unravelled the scroll, capturing ReitaE28099s attention when he advised it was another piece of the journal entries she had been collecting, it read:

Day 17 – Farewell Hoster

Today the unthinkable happened, Hoster fell victim to his own negligence. He translated the script, he insisted it was dwarven, but he was wrong. Hoster thought he could guess the solution and insisted we wait outside whilst he solved it. The doors slammed shut and when we were finally allowed to enter, Hoster was nothing more than ash and ember. I left items to honour our companion, a toll for the afterlife but I also leave this note. To anyone who reads this, heed my warning, the script is an ancient script relating to the gemstone and we dare not remove it. You would be wise to do the same.

Now, the note itself isnE28099t exactly imperative to the puzzle as they had managed to complete the puzzle without it in the previous session, but, as I said earlier, it was a pity they didnE28099t find the note and deceased adventurer beforehand as IE28099m sure it would have held more of an impact and would have forewarned them of the potential enemy they had yet to face. In spite of that, Reita was simply happy to find another journal entry, this particular entry revealed what happened to at least one of the party members of the previous adventuring party that the journal spoke about. Hoster had been turned to ash by what the party knew now was a fire elemental. If the party had found this before the fight, it would have added an element of mystery of what the encounter may hold for them. Anyway, after finding the note and seeing the corridor looped back around to the same room, the group decided to take a short rest. Lights pointed out to the group that, as impressive as the bardE28099s earlier thunderwave spell was, it had made a hell of a lot of noise so it would be a wise idea to secure the entryway before they rested. They all agreed that this was the best decision, so Furin dragged the door shut ensuring it was firmly closed and Peaches used an alarm spell to provide further assurance as they would then be notified should anything sneak through the door undetected.

After their successful short rest, they left the fire puzzle room and headed along the northmost corridor. This corridor then looped back around in a westerly direction. They then ignored a split in the corridor that headed north, instead, they continued down the unexplored southwesterly corridor. As well as the map I linked you above, here is a further Instagram map link to the map they are about to explore. The group slowly and cautiously made their way through these uncharted dark corridors, each twist and turn lit up by the light cantrip Furin had cast on the front of his shield. In my opinion, this is the most paladin way to lead a group onwards, a beacon of hope lighting the path before them. I know there is only so much inspiration you can dish out per session but you should always make a point to praise your players whenever they do something characterful. Doing that will likely encourage further characterful behaviour from your players, even if it might not all be good; but even bad character traits that can reap equally memorable moments. After a few minutes of Furin leading the way, he gets to a point where the faint sound of bubbling water can be heard ahead. He immediately stops the rest of the group from moving any further, suggesting the stealthier party members cautiously scout ahead. The party agree and both Jamlamin and Lights proceed to silently approach the corner expecting to find enemies, instead, they find something completely unexpected.

The players readied themselves to plan an ambush, they were expecting to find enemies around the corner. The fear of the unknown is a powerful tool at the disposal of a dungeon master, use it as and when you can. Keep your descriptions purposely vague to allude to something mysterious, your players will undoubtedly use their own imagination to fill in the gaps. For me, my only fear was that the secret murderhobo in all of them would prevail, especially based on the typical stereotype of what the players were about to discover. Jamlamin and Lights edged themselves further along the corridor, the strange sound of bubbling water getting steadily louder. Nearing the corner they both poked their heads around to get a look into the room beyond. Strangely, they didnE28099t see a warband of gnolls ready to tear them limb from limb, instead, they saw what looked to be a makeshift shop of bric-a-brac items. The room itself was dimly lit by numerous candles dotted around both the shop stall and the edges of the room. The bard and the rogue rolled well on both stealth and perception checks which allowed them to further inspect the area from afar without being discovered. As they scanned their eyes across the table stall, they saw an assortment of pots, pans and various wooden utensils as well as a plethora of further oddments that cluttered up the table. ItE28099s after this the bard and rogue noticed two small humanoids behind the counter, neither of which had noticed the half-elf and tabaxi peering around the corner yet. At first, Lights and Jamlamin mistook these small humanoids for halflings or qE28099thon (the small badger-raccoon race I described earlier). Only on closer inspection did they realise these two humanoids were in fact goblins, members of the goblinoid family and from which it gets its name.

With goblins in mind, I donE28099t know where in the spectrum of evil you place them in your campaign but I always work on the pretence that any race can be overtly good as well as evil. Alignment is not predetermined by race, instead, alignment is determined by each individual character and the life they have led so far. In terms of the pair of goblins Jamlamin and Lights were observing, they currently showed no signs of evil intent. One was polishing the brass pans on display, briefly pausing for a moment, spitting on one of the pans and then continuing to shine it with a dirty rag. The other appeared to be tending to a pot of simmering liquid propped above a small fire, which explained the bubbling noise the players had heard on their approach. An aroma drifted across from the pot towards Jamlamin and Lights, and it didnE28099t smell half as bad as the players had assumed. Instead, it gave off a pleasant smell like some sort of broth or stew. Neither goblin had yet noticed the two adventurers staring intently at them and the bard and the rogue heard the goblin who was stirring the pot say to the other in broken common to keep an eye out for a nice juicy rat, as it was exactly what their stew needed. The two adventurers briefly ducked away and relayed their findings to the others, and to my delight, they recommended a non-hostile approach.

The group cautiously moved around the corner and approached the weirdly located makeshift goblin shop. Startled by the arrival of the adventurers, the goblins seemed unscathed by their arrival, one even making a point to nudge the other and uttering the word E2809CcustomersE2809D as if to remind the other goblin to be on his best behaviour. The two goblins went on to introduce themselves as Snotbone and Toadwart, and that this store was their shop of the same name. As promised, we have arrived at the reason behind the blog title: Snotbone and Toadwarts, which the goblins described as the most well-known and best shop in the entire dungeon. I mean, technically itE28099s the only shop in the entire dungeon but that only goes on to reinforce their statement as correct, and we all know that being technically correct is the best kind of correct. Anyway, because the adventurers were now a lot closer to the table, it allowed for a considerably more detailed description of what items could be found on it. The stall was mostly made up of a collection of random objects acquired from around the dungeon as well as some obviously poorly crafted items by the goblins themselves. As well as the assortment of pots, pans and various wooden utensils that littered the table, the party also saw the following items: a fist-sized rusty cog, a bracelet made of fish hooks, a very badly taxidermied rat, a pair of engraved dice made from bone, a small bag labelled E2809CmarblesE2809D, a three-legged stool missing its third leg, a small bag of saffron, a glass jar labelled E2809Cbone dustE2809D, several vials of red liquid and finally a torn piece of parchment with the words E2809CDay 22E280A6E2809D scrawled on the top corner.

As you can see, it was mostly junk, either way, it was enough to entice the players into interacting with the goblins further. I knew some of the items were so ridiculous and silly that the bard would most certainly buy something. He did not disappoint, and immediately started haggling down the price of the very badly taxidermied rat. Even the rogue joined in the fun, successfully convincing Toadwart that he had some E2809Cmagical stonesE2809D in his possession that he would be willing to trade for the red liquids, which the party had discovered were healing potions taken from long-dead adventurers. To confirm, there was nothing remotely magical about the stones Lights sold to the goblin but when a dice roll is good enough, it canE28099t hurt to try. The others also purchased a couple of healing potions and Reita took an expected interest in the torn piece of parchment with the words E2809CDay 22E280A6E2809D scrawled on the top corner. This turned out to be precisely what she anticipated it to be, another piece of the journal she had been collecting throughout the dungeon. This time the clue would allude to an area they had not yet explored, it read:

Day 22 – Farewell Shin

We lost another one of our dear friends today. Shin was such a sweet soul, but she couldnE28099t help but run off ahead sometimes in her excitement, today was the last time that would ever happen. She ran into a room shouting something about a gemstone and the doors slammed shut before we could get there, a few short moments of pounding on the door felt like an eternity. Eventually, the doors loosened and reopened. We ran in, desperate to see her smile once more, but we were greeted with a very damp room full of vines and keys, and there she was on the floor, pale, lifeless, all smiles washed away. She had drowned, but how? We ignored all possible explanations, left the contents of the room untouched for fear of the doors closing and decided this adventure was over, we needed to leave. We did, however, have a slight problem, which way did we turn when chasing after Shin, left then right and left and right, or was it left…was any of that correct? We set up camp nearby where I write this now, I hope the last of us make it.

This note offered a clue to another puzzle room the party had yet to locate, Reita made a note of the details then placed the entry in her pack along with the others. The party decided before they continued, they would try and gather some intel about what enemies they might locate elsewhere around the dungeon. This was a wise decision and for the most part, the goblins spoke a large quantity of meaningless nonsense. However, the group were able to decipher some of the information and work out what other creatures might be present throughout the dungeon. The goblins spoke of demons and a large lady dragon to the north as well as gnolls to the south settled in the more accessible areas. It was also clear to the party that these goblins had been in this dungeon a long time as they also had no knowledge of the elven city outside. Unaware of the opportunities outside the dungeon, the goblins had made what they perceived to be a lucrative business. Collecting adventuring gear from perished dungeon explorers to sell on to the next dungeon explorer, whose items may eventually end up back in the goblinE28099s possession to sell on to the next perishable adventurer. It was, what they considered, a pretty profitable enterprise.

Nevertheless, I hear some of you ask, why in the world would any dungeon master even consider putting a random goblin shop in the middle of such a serious quest in the first place? Well, to explore my intent, my motivation was simple, and that was to simply break up the overall seriousness of such a heavy dungeon crawl. When players are flung headfirst into a dungeon crawl, the potential monotony of stab-stab, moving to the next room then more stab-stab can become tiresome very quickly. Yes, you can break up each fight encounter with enemy monologue or a puzzle room but even they have an overall gravity about them that can make an adventure become more of a drag than it should be. When running any adventure or campaign, you should always keep in mind that not every session has to be heavy on the mind. Even if your players love dungeon crawls, placing a lighthearted interlude hidden inside the adventure can be enough to break the tiresome monotony of a seemingly endless mission. Not only that but it will also give you, the dungeon master, a little break as well as fuel any players who jump at the opportunity for a more laidback roleplay session. Either way, this is why I added what my goblins went on to call the best, and only, shop in the entire dungeon.

Eventually, the party departed ways with the goblins, wishing them a temporary farewell and heading north. They headed back past the fire room and arrived at a room that looked very similar in style to this fire room. However, what they found instead of coloured vials, were algae-covered vents and many keys intertwined in damp vines very similar in description to the journal entry Reita had purchased moments earlier from their goblin friends. This is where I ended the session, leaving the players curious as to what this next puzzle might entail…

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