|Meeting the gnome king from Tsojcanth*
Mordecai, a Cleric-7: Adam
Forlorn, an Elf F/MU 5/5: Bo
Mister Moore, Magic User-6: Mike
Shy, a Fighter-6: JR
Leonidas the Paladin-5: Nogal
Digit, the Elf Thief-7: Z
Konstantine, Magic User-5: Smitty
Phat Kobra, a Dwarf Fighter-5
Grumble the Smug, Halfling Thief-7
Meatshield 1, Ranger-1
Meatshield 2, Ranger-1
Ireena, a Fighter - 5
Vlad the Inhaler, Magic User-1
Meatshield 3, Cleric-1
*Italicized characters are back in Barovia
Since there hasn't been a lot of dungeon crawling lately, I'm endeavoring to keep these game reports brief.
The day after defeating the trio of hill giant brothers, our intrepid adventurers looted their cave, then sojourned through the southern passes towards the gnomish vale. Mountain highlanders were encountered and befriended, in part due to the party's own clansmen, Meatshield 1 and Meatshield 2, and within a few days, they were escorted to the bucolic gnomish vale; the highlanders were vassals of the gnomish king. (I have skipped copious roleplaying and blah blah blah).
I know the typical reader couldn't possibly remember the details of what's important in our weekly game sessions, or why the group is obsessed with finding an entire vale full of talking lawn decorations, so here are reminders why the group believes the gnomes are important: 1. They're convinced Tosjcanth is near the gnome vale. Their target is still THE LOST CAVERNS OF TSOJCANTH, after all. 2. Leonidas had a vision of a sword in a stone in the gnome vale, and is convinced Zeus granted him a vision of a holy sword he's meant to recover.
During a feast with the gnome king, they learned how the vale was under attack by minions of "the Black Temple", an evil place south and west of the vale. A long winding tale was told by the DM (back story monologue…. ZZzzzzzzz) about the Elder Elemental God, the awful priests that sought to wake it, and a mighty patriarch and the Knight Valorous that broke the strength of the cult 150 years ago. The knight died, his sword was sunk in a stone, and the surviving priests of the Black Temple looted the place and went elsewhere. Now a new power seems to have claimed those ruins, a furious mountain giant, who seems to be building an army of gnome-hating minions. The vale has been attacked repeatedly, and the stone that held the golden sword was carried off as booty. Muhaha. The DM chortles.
Now the group has a dilemma. The mission they chose for themselves is to find THE LOST CAVERNS OF TSOJCANTH and recover the Demonomicon before their enemies find the book. Their enemies, all seeking the Demonomicon for themselves, include: a Witch with her army of orcs; a vampire with his army of ghouls; an evil wizard they had once trapped and mortared in a brick cell; the Red Duke (whoever he is); the Prince of Lost Dreams (whoever that is); and the Demon Prince Orcus - because Forlorn read Orcus's Book of Unspeakable Shame and now has godly wisdom for it. Drawing really poorly from The Deck of Many Things (twice) might have something to do with Orcus's hatred, too.
On the other hand, the group really like the gnomes for some reason, and feel bad for the little guys. One of the gnome guards even said, "I used to be an adventurer like you, until I took an arrow to the knee", in a wee Scottish accent. So cute.
Intense meta game thinking ensued. "The DM clearly has two dungeons in mind. Surely one is harder than the other, and that will determine the proper sequence. Quick - everyone watch his face for a tell-tale sign." Blink blink blink.
"Your move, players."
The gnomish king wouldn't actually tell them where THE LOST CAVERNS OF TSOJCANTH could be found. "State secret, need to know basis, very hush hush". The gnomes promised to send out patrols looking for the miscreant trespassers the party complained about (the witch, the wizard, the vampire, and so forth). The gnomes promised to keep the entrance to the caverns hidden and safe.
"Oh yeah, you little buggers'll keep it safe all right", slurred the magic user Konstantine, standing up and interrupting the gnome king; Konstantine is frequently role played by Smitty as a vodka-swilling lush. "You little cone heads can't even protect yourselves! A bunch of monsters stomped all over your vale and carried off the magic sword!"
Funny how all that hard work by the diplomats in the group can go 'poof' once the drunken loud mouth with the 8 charisma spouts off to the king. There was no immediate reprisal - the gnomes know by reputation how capable is the group, they defeated Strahd after all - but the angry king, all 3' of him, stomped out in a huff, and various gnomes dropped insults and f-bombs towards Konstantine on their way out of the hall.
In the interests of making an apology and restoring goodwill, it seems the group will end the threat of "the Black Temple" and help the gnomes out, after all. Good job, Smitty, the check is in the mail.
*I think this one is by Jim Holloway, from S4 THE LOST CAVERNS OF TSOJCANTH