Thursday, October 15, 2020

Castle Xyntillan Session 22: Lair of the Vampire Countess

In the last session, the party dealt with business in town, foiled Angela's strange plot and returned to castle Xyntillan. There, they took their time clearing out the areas which had given them trouble early on in their careers. Still high on supplies, where will they go next? What challenges still remain, and what treasure do they hold? All this and more in this week's session of Castle Xyntillan!

The Party

Longo Lightfoot, Halfling Thief, wears a sky-blue headscarf. Played by CaptainSabatini.
Corby the Joyful, Human Cleric of Sucellus, wears a short, conical hat. Played by diregrizzlybear.
Idred the Most Omniscient, Human MU, wears a full-visored greathelm. Played by David Perry.
Boroth Swinney the Joyous, Human Fighter, wears a masked helm depicting a happy human face. Played by Justin Hamilton.
Francois, Light Footman, noticeably dogless. 
Rodolfo, Heavy Footman, running from a warrant in town.
Hubert, Heavy Footman.
Gwynefa, Arbalist.
Emil, Lightbearer, strange obsession with some Malevols.
Karo, Arbalist.
Allan, Arbalist, claims to know a great secret, pursues a Malevol for past crimes.
Clovis, Heavy Footman.
Eric, Light Footman and cart driver.
Oscar, Arbalist of unusual strength
LaBeouf, Camp Cook.
Raymond, Mule.


Crystalline teeth, 1800gp
Iron-linked heart necklace, unidentified
Various precious stones, 6000gp
Eldritch manual
Billowing cloak
Golden heart-ruby brooch, 6000gp
Diamond spider ring, 4500gp
Fine goblets, 240gp
4 bottles Gran Roulette Reserve brandy, unidentified

The Game
  • Fresh from their earlier successes, the party finally got up the courage to explore one room they were always to scared to try: the lair of Countess Maltricia, the vampiress. This was the same room that Giacomo had gotten captured and drained trying to infiltrate, weeks before the party even arrived on scene. Needless to say, it loomed large in the party's imagination. With Boroth's ability to sense the presence of vampires, however, they were confident in their ability to avoid her.
  • The door to her room was secured with an iron lock shaped like a bat. Instead of trying to pick it, Idred cast Knock, which set the lock going through a series of mechanical motions and triggered a trap, with the party safely out of the way.
This week in punny imitations
  • It opened into an opulent bedroom decked in silks and satin, which the party set about carefully plundering. A rolled up carpet contained a chewed-up body with crystalline teeth, the dresser was full of moldy dresses inlaid with gems, and the cabinet contained a seemingly magical necklace. Corby took the corpse's head for... unclear reasons. Her coffin, however was empty. In a side room filled with crumbling books, Idred located another eldritch manual, which he pocketed.
  • Turning the bust on the fireplace opened a secret door to the outside, overlooking the precipice above the lake.
Idred: Is this her landing strip or something?
  • They already knew about the balcony connecting the vampires' suites, and Boroth's vamp-sense indicated that Count Giscard, Maltricia's husband, was inside. Given how afraid they were of running into the Countess, they wouldn't risk it with another vampire, right?
  • Wrong.
  • The party took a deep breath and burst open the door. Sunlight poured in, revealing a bedroom done in black and red, with a pale, imperious figure at his desk. Count Giscard Malevol. 
  • Who, as it happened, took umbrage with random murder-hobos busting into his room at all hours. He transformed into mist when the party lifted their sunstones, and disappeared under another door. But before the party could congratulate himself, a half-dozen wolves appeared, crawling out from under the bed and desk, from between seams in the walls, and charged. The party retreated back onto the balcony, and while the wolves scratched and barked at the door, they could not open it.
  • Not expecting the vampire to appear in sunlight, they took a breather, during which the wolves quieted down. Their rest was interrupted, however, by a ten-foot-long python dropping from the floor above.
  • This was Meandering Malevol, Serpentina's pet snake, which moaned and complained ceaselessly, about the stones it had eaten, about the decrepitude of the family, and about how the characters were all douchebags. 
GM: It's clear the python could swallow a smaller party member whole.
Boroth: We'll keep that in our back pockets as leverage against Longo.
  • It made no secret of its immense dislike for them, but did not attack, so the party listened patiently. In the end, it expressed gratitude to the party for listening (which depressed it even further) and informed the party about a secret passage by which they might find Adelaide's room. 
  • Meandering disappeared, and the party resolved to return through Maltricia's room and investigate the prison area to the north.
Idred: We want to zeitgeist - no, blitzkrieg, the skeletons.
  • However, the party got outmaneuvered; the wolves had moved around and ambushed the party as they exited! The party retreated to the chokepoint at the door and fended off the wolf attack for several rounds. Giscard was present in mist form, but didn't interfere; he seemed to just be watching, not taking damage from the sunstone in that form. When the party dispatched the last wolf, he took corporeal form again.
Count Giscard: I really cannot stand to fight commoners. I don't suppose there's some arrangement wherein you give yourselves a good stabbing and carry your dead back to your hovels?
Party: No.
  • The party brought everything it had to bear against the creature. It attempted to hypnotize Boroth, but he managed to resist its control. The battle would likely have taken many casualties, if not for one fact. In town, Idred had identified the wand he found in the last expedition. It was a fully charged Greater Wand of Cold. 
That'll do it
  • He bore down on the vampire with a 6d6 Cone of Cold, ripping through its hit points. It was then that the vampire started fighting for real, but the action economy was against it. It was defeated in the second round, when it transformed again into mist and drifted in the direction of its coffin. Idred once again used the wand, freezing the mist in the air into a humanoid shape and arresting the vampire's escape.
  • Thus began a brief debate about how to permanently kill a vampire. The decided method was everything. They sawed through the ice to remove the head, chiseled a stake through its heart, filled the mouth with holy water, and tossed the whole thing into the sunlight. This turned out to be effective.
  • The vampire's body crumbled to dust, and they looted his clothes. Of note was a fashionable black cloak, a very valuable gold-ruby brooch, and a diamond ring with tiny spiders crawling around inside the diamond. Along with Maltricia's jewelry, this was the most valuable haul the party had ever recovered. 
  • They supplemented this with a pillage of his old room, recovering four bottles of fine Gran Roulette Reserve brandy from his liquor cabinet.
  • But they were in for another nasty surprise. Jean-Luc Malevol, the pirate ghost, appeared from the shadows and yelled 'En garde!' as it attacked the party, raving about how they would never find his treasure. They chose not to turn it this time, but instead to stand and fight. They managed to defeat it handily, but not before Boroth got struck by the shade, and got drained!
  • Recovering from that encounter, they explored the Count's study, which featured various pieces of floating furniture. They turned the furniture using the hammer and sickle, and they fell back to the ground. Ghostly energies floated around an alembic, which resolved into the visage of an elderly man. This turned out to be the ghost of the master alchemist Girolamo Bartoldi, who was shocked to learn someone had slain the Count.
  • Before the party could ask any questions of him, however, they heard the sound of a dozen pairs of feet coming down the corridor. Popping out to take a look, they saw a procession of undead ladies, attended by headless manservants, and at their head a skeleton in bohemian clothing painting a mural on the dungeon wall.
  • And that was where the session ended. What will be the repercussions for killing the Count? Who is this auteur skeleton? Will they get even richer this expedition? Find out in next week's session of Castle Xyntillan!

I didn't play Count Giscard very effectively in combat, and I'm pretty sure that's the right way to do it. The Count refused to directly fight the party until his proxies had been overwhelmed, and didn't take them seriously as a threat until they pulled out high-powered magic. By that point, it was too late. One vamp down, three to go! Maltricia will not go down as easily.

Boroth lost a level, going back down to 4th, making him the lowest level member of the party. Luckily, the HUGE loot from this session alone got him more than halfway to 5th level again, and with luck he might regain his former vitality before leaving the dungeon!


  1. A level 5 party is a scary sight to behold. I wonder how fast my players will advance. (Last session’s TPK sure did not help.)

    I love that you decided the snake can talk, makes for a much more interesting encounter. Will probably crib that if my players ever do come across it.

    How did the player handle being drained? I’ve decided I will go with the alternative energy drain rules presented in the module. I expect draining levels will be too much of a downer for my group.

    1. It seemed to me that the talking snake was the intended route in the text: "He knows many secret places, and will tell of one to a company listening to his woes." At the start of the campaign, I asked the party if they wanted to use traditional drain rules or the alternative ones, and they decided to go with traditional rules. I expected draining to be more common, but just like general mortality, it's happened much less than expected, and this is the first time. The player exclaimed his shock when it happened, but that was it, and they reassured me they'd be fine with the ruling. I may be a new GM, but these guys are veterans of the old school. This ain't their first rodeo!

    2. I misremembered that bit about Meandering. Such an amusing encounter. Sounds like you really lucked out with your group! (Mine is awesome too, many of us have been gaming together for decades, but only recently have we been playing old-school D&D.)