The Skull & the Eye Sessions 8, 9, & 10 Reflection

The campaign is coming to its first major villain: Angrboda, the rogue Frost Giantess. But just finding her is a good portion of the adventure. Being of the Hrímþurs, she had the distinct advantage of traveling straight across the Frozen Crown Mountains to the sites around Frost Doom Peak. Crossing the Kingdom of Oesel, taking a path through the Shingnak Forest, and crossing the Nainkein flood into Toell’s Bed, the adventurers have made ample effort in their journey

At this point in the campaign, I wanted to have the party encounter Angrboda but not fight her. Or better yet, see the threat of her violent capacities. However, listening to my players I kept hearing murmurs of them wanting to do a dungeon crawl. Frost Giants do not lend themselves the best to cramped spaces, so initially I was not sure how to integrate this want of theirs.

Reading through Dragon+ issue 18, I saw the “Crypts of Kelemvor” adventure, converted from the Neverwinter MMORPG. Effectively it is the starting area of that game made into an adventure for 3rd-5th level characters, spot on to where my players are. Between traveling northward and a dungeon, I figure I had a solid amount of content to work with and build up to the fight with Angrboda, while also ensuring the characters are on par to confront a frost giant.

I have 15 stirge miniatures and I used them! Twice!

Traveling and camping in open territory is dangerous work in D&D and I wanted to reinforce that. While camping and following along the river guiding their travels, I had the party ambushed by stirges. This was a fun little encounter where they were able to annihilate 30 stirges in a matter of four rounds. My inspiration here was mosquitoes and being close to water, as the area is a bit of a meadow. I even threw in a few giant wasps.

An unknown band transverse the same abandoned portion of Toell’s Bed north of Nainkein. But who are they and what do they seek?

Now this is where things got interesting. So the aforementioned “Crypts of Kelemvor” involves a confrontation with grave robbers loose in the tomb. The adventure has them as pretty basic NPCs, just a hodge-podge, that the players can either annihilate or persuade into teaming up. What I wanted to do is make them real competition, another party adventuring with goals, but not the same goals. This means there is room for teaming up but also for confrontation. I managed to get their entrance to the crypts to make sense in the story: they are chased by Angrboda’s winter wolves after having a skirmish with a competing party that initially tries to get them to turn away. The wolves chase the adventurers into a mausoleum that stands above a crypt. They lock themselves in knowing that a dozen or so giant wolves lurk outside, along with the dread Angrboda.

This scene was a lot more rough than the song would lead you to believe.

As for the “Crypts of Kelemvor” I adapted it to use the deity of death and mourning in my campaign, Flins. In addition the “final boss” of the adventure, a flaming skull, was upgraded and made into a Vol Lord’s enchanted skull (the Vol being a religion believing they can become gods). Having the party stumble upon the corpse of one of the opposing party members they encountered earlier, they knew they were not alone. This adventure was super easy to adapt and scale. I did take some effort and procured materials to be able to recreate any of the rooms in 3D, as picture below.

One of my favorite photos to come out my games.

Session 10 was to be the battle with Angrboda, however a lot of my players could not make the date. What to do? Well I expanded the dungeon. Working with the premise that this crypt was not originally of Oeselian construction, despite having iconography to their deities, that maybe it was originally a Vol crypt that had been sanctified by the Oeselains, early in their kingdom’s days. Little mysterious lore to keep the players guessing is always a fun thing. I also made it a point to use materials I had not previously. Namely, I pulled a few creatures and traps out of Tales from the Yawning Portal. This side of the crypt held the legion that the Vol had used, so lots of armored skeletons and even champions.

Had a bone naga miniature I never used. That changed, all for the better.

But overall just more danger and excitement before the end of this first chapter of my campaign. Feel like I dragged out the Angrboda saga for a bit too long. Everyone is now 5th level, which means they are tough. Post 5th the game gets more interesting, I can throw hordes at them with ease, larger monsters, access to 3rd level spells, multiple attacks, etc. Getting stoked and I can tell my players are enjoying the growth, immersion, and unfolding storyline.