SD challenged herself to draft a one-shot D&D adventure from scratch in about 2 hours and run it that same evening. A few of us were able to jump in as her players. It was a blast! She has given gracious permission to post this log (note it has been edited to remove ooc chatter, most mechanics, notes that everyone understood lines in Common, and to improve flow where some lines got typed and entered a few beats late. One or two very minor typos were also corrected).
The three of you were aboard a ferry - the Wavedancer - set to take you from the City of Splendors to the ports of Neverwinter. It is the coldest month of winter, and the weather along the High Road is harsh at this time of year. You were one day away from your destination when a storm struck. Great, pale clouds gathered up along the horizon, and the wind blew freezing gales across the sea. The last thing you remember is the way the sea churned and buckled, the whiteness around you, the screaming of the other passengers drowned out in the howling winds.
GM: You come to in the dead of night. The moon is pale behind a veil of thin clouds, and the last dusting of snow has settled around you. Beneath you is the sand, rough against your face. Behind you, the tides crash against the broken remains of the Wavedancer, shattered against the rocks. It's bitterly cold. You can feel it down to your bones.
Tartak heaves and coughs out a generous portion of the sea.
Wickwock: "Twigcrackles!" The diminutive woman flops over in the sand.
GM: The two of you spot one another. You're nearby, but as far as you can tell, you might be the only survivors. The winds have died down, and your belongings have washed up beside you.
Tartak shoves himself to his feet unsteadily and tries to get his bearings. He shakes sand out of his hair and spits out a lump of kelp. Blech.
Wickwock levers herself upright, coughing and shivering, to her full three and a half feet. One foot hooks under a staff gouging a furrow in the sand and flips it up to her ready hand.
Tartak [common]: You in one piece?
Wickwock leans on the staff to poke at her pack. (Common) "Seems like! Oh, bramblecatch, how about you?" She peers uuup at the green man.
Tartak [common]: Apart from having inhaled half the damned sea, yeah, I seem to be fine. What in the Nine Hells was that storm? Never seen anything like it.
Tartak does a quick equipment check from the gear that fortuitously washed up with him.
GM: A crab scuttles amid Tartak's personals. Anything that wasn't carefully waterproofed is soaked and cold, if not frozen solid.
Tartak curses, hoping he can later salvage the waterlogged torches.
Wickwock fusses with her pack, hand darting in to see what's too waterlogged. "Winter, it's supposed to do things like that, so I have read, do you read? Deneir will approve your reading. So you should do it."
Tartak [common]: Uh. Yeah, I can read. We should uh, see if there were any other survivors. Then get a fire going, lest we catch our death of cold. I'm Tartak. Tak is fine.
GM: Alas, Wickwock, your incense sticks are ruined. Excellent Calimshani sandalwood, too.
Wickwock: "Wickwock! I was on a mission! And this cold is not at all good for it."
Wickwock sighs at her incense and tosses it aside in a scatter in the sand.
Tartak [common]: Right. Stay close, then. You any good with that beatstick?
DM Silverdawn: Your stuff's a mess, but you should be able to salvage enough to get a fire going if you want.
Wickwock twirls the staff. "I don't know! I have only practiced at the temple. Are you any good at fires?"
Tartak [common]: Not with wet tinder and no good firewood. Let's see what we can find.
Tartak steadies himself on the staff of his halberd, then looks out over the beach.
Tartak [common]: Hello! Anyone there? Anyone alive?
Wickwock: "Anyone dead?" Wickwock joins the calls. "I can say your rites!"
GM: A quick survey of the beach reveals this: to the west, the sea, a black expanse with pale lines of churning foam. In the moonlight, you see the silhouette of the shattered ferry creaking against the waves. To your north and your south, the beach continues on past your vision.
Wickwock hops up to brace herself on the staff as it digs into the sand, peering about from this higher vantage point. She is still under Tak's eyelevel.
GM: To your east, the beach blends gradually into high reeds of dead brown. Here the ground becomes marshy and dense, interspersed with low bundles of vines and creepers.
GM: Your calls echo into the distance. Only the waves respond.
Wickwock: "We need a shelter from the wind. A rocks place."
Tartak [common]: Yeah. Let's see what we can find. Poor bastards. Hope some of them made it.
Wickwock nods, rapidly, several times, and falls in at the half-orc’s side.
Tartak heads east, inland.
DM Silverdawn: steeples fingers.
Tartak [common]: Where do you think we ended up? Trying to guess how far it is to the next settlement.
GM: The two of you begin the slow, steady journey eastward. As you walk, the sound of the ocean begins to gradually recede, and the sandy beach gives way to dense, hard soil and reeds as tall as Wickwock's shoulders.
Wickwock trots along trying to keep up. "It is hard to say without a star fix and a map. But at least we are on the mainland or we should be if north is that way." She points left.
GM: You remember enough of your journey to know roughly where you must have washed ashore. You're anywhere from 120 to 150 miles away from Neverwinter as the crow flies. This part of the Sword Coast is especially marshy, and your best chance at finding shelter is toward the east, where the landscape tends to have more craggy cliffs.
Tartak [common]: At least it's a little drier here. Let's get a fire going if we can.
Tartak tries to see if his tinderbox is dry enough on the inside to be of use here.
GM: It is.
Tartak breathes a grumbling sigh of relief. Small miracles, at least.
Wickwock [common]: "Hold on hold on hold on, let's get to the cliffs first, this is just marsh and mire."
Wickwock points ahead in the darkness. East!
DM Silverdawn: What's the plan? Eastward until shelter?
Tartak [common]: Easy for you to say, you're not the one in fifty pounds of cold mail armor.
Wickwock looks up at the half-orc, her cloth garments plastered to her and crackling with ice in spots, shakes her head, and trots east.
Wickwock [common]: "Are you extra buoyant, Tak? You should not have reached the shore in that. Maybe you were hurled. That can happen!"
Tartak [common]: The Red Knight was looking out for me, I suppose. That or I'm dead and in the Nine Hells. You know, it's been that kind of day.
Wickwock [common]: "Pretty sure that second part is wrong. The Nine Hells wouldn't smell of brine marsh. And Deneir wouldn't toss me there, I have done ALL my scribe practice RELIGIOUSLY."
Wickwock sighs. "But my writing stuff, that wasn't in my pack because I was testing penmanship in heavy seas."
GM: You march onward, and the cold follows you. The beach becomes a marsh, and the marsh grows more dense and thick with every passing mile. Still, the cold hasn't let up. If anything, it's become worse as the wind picks up, rustling through the high reeds. Your boots crunch against frozen mud, and you're beginning to the feel the cold bite into you, when...
GM: ...After your third hour of marching, you push through a curtain of dead reeds and stumble into a clearing. Almost a glade. In the summer, this place would be a wetlands, but now, ice and a thin layer of snow cakes the ground. Just on the other end of the clearing, you see a grand building of exquisite black stone, shimmering in the moonlight. A woman stands before the door, with black hair and ghostly white skin.
Tartak stops and angles the halberd across himself protectively, sinking his weight a bit.
Wickwock looks at Tak, looks at the woman, and holds her staff slantwise in front of her. But its ends tremble with her shivering.
-> Wickwock: The crypt has elements of both elven and dwarvish design, and some runes and sigils that suggest that it was once holy.
Lothuialeth slides her fingers down along the stone door, her back turned to you both. She seems somewhat oblivious to your approach for the moment. The woman wears simple dark robe, damp from being in the water, and holds no obvious weapons in her hands.
Tartak keeps his voice low. "What do you think, some kind of bog witch?"
-> Lothuialeth: The cold has been bothering you as well. The crypt promises warmth, and you sense magic from the door. But you've been unable to open it.
Lothuialeth speaks to the door in a strange tongue.
Lothuialeth [sylvan]: [translation] You will give your secrets to me, one way or the other.
[understood by: lothuialeth, wickwock]
Wickwock licks her lips. "Or a scholar. Let's see. We need to say hello." She raises her voice. "Greetings and salutations, possible madam, possible scholar, we are also interested in the secrets there but mostly in a place to be warm."
Lothuialeth continues to explore it by feeling along its surface with her fingertips.
GM: As the woman speaks, the door glows with a faint hum. An elven sigil on its front throbs, and then fades with a soft chime. There is one other sigil beneath it, which remains dormant.
Wickwock steps closer. "There's dwarf runes too. Do you know Dwarf? I know Dwarf."
Lothuialeth looks over her shoulder upon hearing the voice calling out. "Halt! Step no further!"
Tartak [common]: Are you trying to get us killed? She could put a spell on us.
Wickwock halts. "Well thornpatch."
-> Wickwock: At your feet you see a rusty arrow sticking out of the ice.
Wickwock toes at something on the ground.
-> Wickwock: And then, another, just to the left of that. And a little ways on, in the reeds, is a rusty sword. And also a spear.
Wickwock [common]: "What a battleground this was! There must be a story to know. Possible madam, tell us the tale. Over a fire. Please?"
Lothuialeth turns to face the two. She has pointed ears, and elvish features. "Let your eyes gaze upon your feet, lest you stumble and fall." She motions at the ground in front of them both.
GM: Tartak, you notice what Wickwock stopped in front of. A rusty arrow. You can see them now that you're looking for them. All over this glade, hidden in the reeds and seen in moonlight, are old weapons thrust into the earth.
GM: You were very close to stepping on an arrowhead.
Tartak [common]: Bah, what have we blundered into?
Wickwock [common]: "Falling's a way of learning, the priests say that, mostly when I am the one falling. Are you friendly, possible madam? Why aren't you cold?"
GM: Wickwock and Loth recognize this battlefield for what it is. You are in the Mere of Dead Men.
Wickwock looks somberly at the halforc. "The Mere of Dead Men," she intones.
-> Lothuialeth: The Mere of Dead Men is an ancient battlefield from 700 years ago, when Phalorm, an old kingdom of Elves and Dwarves, fought against the Horde of the Wastes and were destroyed by them here.
Lothuialeth [common]: Yes. 700 years have passed since Phalorm fell at this very place.
Wickwock perks. This elf seems not hostile and very knowledgeable.
Tartak [common]: History lesson aside -- were you on the ferry? Or are you just out here in a bog being spooky?
Wickwock looks puzzled. Why put aside a history lesson?
Lothuialeth [common]: The ferry. Yes. I sailed the seas, and then fell onto the shore.
Wickwock [common]: "So I am still wondering, about that cold and not being it, can you share your method of it? I am pretty sure hypothermia is going to grab us any moment."
Lothuialeth [common]: If it is warmth you seek, then it awaits within.
Wickwock [sylvan]: [translation] "We indeed find ourselves near frozen and we seek aid, if you have it in your hands."
[understood by: lothuialeth, wickwock]
Wickwock [common]: "And let me guess, inside just isn't opening up? Let me at it."
Wickwock trots over, avoiding rusty metal.
Tartak carefully makes his way over, keeping a wary eye on the pale elf.
Lothuialeth sweeps her arm, as if welcoming Wickwock to the door. "Test yourself against it."
Wickwock checks. The elf activated the elvish part, so let's see, these bits are in Dwarf, and they suggest ...
GM: The three of you see a great door of black stone. Embossed in this door are two elaborate...not runes so much as monograms. Twisting elvish with exquisite flourished, and beneath that, a geometric depiction of dwarvish letters.
(Wickwock): (Also, can I Insight Loth during all this chatter?)
DM Silverdawn: Sure!
Wickwock: +4 [1d20+4 = 7]
DM Silverdawn: She's a blank page.
GM: Loth, when you spoke Sylvan, the elven monogram glowed in response.
Lothuialeth tilts her head, and then speaks again.
Lothuialeth [elvish]: [translation] I am of the blood. Open, for I command it.
GM: The elven monogram glows with a soft hum.
Wickwock squints and sounds out what she can of the dwarven lettering.
Wickwock [dwarvish]: [translation] A .. that's a long a ... way too many k's ..."
GM: The dwarven monogram glows with the sound of a dull bell.
Tartak keeps an eye on their surroundings, shivering the while.
GM: The door opens with a slow grind of heavy stone.