Having thoroughly enjoyed watching Critical Mole’s One-Shot D&D games, I asked to be put on the list of interested parties for future episodes, and dragged my long-time friend Nosi (Nosirrah151) along as well. Nosi and I had, in private conversation, expressed an interest in playing alongside each other, and I felt that being in one of Mole’s one-shots would be a good way to get started, even if we didn’t really have the opportunity to be in a campaign together.
And so it was that Mole invited the pair of us to be in Episode 3 – we gladly accepted, not knowing what a big deal the episode was going to be: A tribute to the late, great David Bowie, featuring Jareth, The Goblin King from the movie Labyrinth. What’s more, all donations received by Mole would be given to three charities: Save The Children; Macmillan Cancer Trust; and The Children’s Respite Trust. And if that wasn’t enough, we would be having a special guest: artist, model, singer, cosplayer and honorary De Rolo,
CC Mason 🙂
The charity donations were also to serve a game-related purpose: donators could choose to nominate either the DM or the party to receive “Bless” dice and “Bane” dice. These worked in a similar manner to Bardic Inspiration, but with the “Bless” dice being used to bolster one’s own rolls, and the “Bane” dice for sabotaging opponents’ rolls.
So, on with the motley!
- CC Mason as elven rogue Xzandria
- Me as dragonborn fighter Hooktooth Savageblade
- AZ_Rune as minotaur sorcerer/paladin Xerx’ses
- Starstuff84 (Cleric of Kord) as halfling Wild Magic sorcerer Ehrma Gerd
- Nosirrah151 as human barbarian/cleric Jaark
- Banjelerp as Dionisia
[Note: Rather than use “IC” and “OOC” for “in character” and “out of character”, I’ve chosen to use character names and usernames instead, for the respective cases.]
[Note 2: Wherever possible, I’ve linked each of the spells used to a wiki entry, in case you’d like to find out more about the spell :)]
Although the name of Banj’s character was known to those viewing the stream – which some of the party was doing – we didn’t know where she would be coming into things. Banj was in the TeamSpeak call with us, but she wasn’t starting the adventure with us… a nice bit of mystery to be going on with.
Now, here’s how the first two episodes of Mole’s one-shots have gone:
- The party members are unceremoniously teleported to The Nexus, a place run by Thadius Zho, who recruits interested parties to be teleported off to who-knows-where, in the hope that some foe can be defeated;
- Thadius provides the party with a magical item each, a handful of potions, and one Gooberberry each – these are Thadius’ own invention, based on the druidic Goodberry, and on consumption before a short rest, conveys all the benefits of having taken a long rest;
- The party jumps into Thadius’ teleportation circle, run the encounter – which usually starts with a little puzzle, before the boss battle – and then come back to The Nexus for the well-earned rewards.
But this isn’t what happened to us… In Episode 2, Thadius had had that episode’s party rescue a prince, whose dominion had been taken over by a changeling. We were to take on that changeling – but before Thadius could send us anywhere, blue and orange dust settled on all of our party, and we were teleported away by someone else…
Upon materialising, we find ourselves in a small hallway, the focus of which is a stone pillar – which is magically transformed into a spectral form of Jareth. He challenges us, not to recover a stolen child (thank the D&D gods), but a treasure chest. How difficult this would be remained to be seen.
We cautiously proceed down a dimly-lit tunnel, while making stilted small talk and introductions, and complaining about the lack of warning from Thadius in his methods of bringing us to The Nexus. I comment that I was in the middle of doing my shopping, and had a bag of vegetables with me; Xerx’ses asks me for a carrot, and a sudden discussion about what to do with the vegetables breaks out amongst the party – possibly to Xzandria’s annoyance, as she urges us to focus on the task at hand.
[I was nervous as hell, hence my rather ham-fisted – or possibly carrot-fisted – attempt at roleplaying Hook. Sorry, viewers.]
The tunnel eventually opens out into a room which features a stinking river, and a bridge traversing it. At the nearest side to us is a young, dog-like lady who reveals herself to be Dionisia, daughter of Didymus from the original Labyrinth… and Ambrosius the dog is still around, as Dionisia’s companion. Charmed (though not in the magical sense) by Ehrma’s heavenly sweet rolls, Dionisia not only gives permission to cross the bridge and proceed, but she also joins the party. Emboldened by the addition of a new friend, we make our way towards Jareth’s new labyrinth.
And a fiendish thing it is. While not a conventional labyrinth in which a minotaur like Xerx’ses might well feel at home, it has traps and tricks of its own… controlled by the chatroom… Each turn, Mole ran a poll for the viewers, choosing a colour out of red, yellow, blue, and green. The results were used in four ways at once:
- The most popular colour would be used as the trigger for a spell to cause us to break out in uncontrollable dancing for the rest of our movement phase, should we step on a tile of that colour;
- The second-place colour determines which four of the sixteen rooms would rotate – each of the rooms had been marked with a coloured dot;
- Third-place colour denotes the rooms’ direction of rotation;
- Fourth-place colour indicates which type of saving throw must be made to avoid being forced to dance.
Additionally, Mole had liberally sprinkled traps of other types around the place, visible only to him on his DM overlay – something which would be considerably trickier to do, were we not using Roll20.
Oh, and before I forget: There were also four automata, piloted by goblins, armed with claw attacks and missiles. Lovely.
Xzandria’s plan was… well, we don’t really know what her plan was, really, because the rest of us weren’t privy to it (communication amongst party members is key, folks). But, given her nature as a rogue, sneakiness would doubtless play a part. I immediately manage to break that plan, apparently, by just going on ahead and stepping on one of the tiles – thankfully to no effect. Facepalming, Xzandria makes her way into the labyrinth, and we all follow suit.
Mole wasn’t certain how long the encounter was going to take, and had planned a second room before the encounter with Jareth. In actuality, he had to skip the second room, because we took three hours to get through the thing. That said, a sizeable chunk of that time was taken up by donation announcements, polls, and giveaways. While Xzandria went on ahead, the rest of us took on two of the four automata – mainly because the wretched things started firing on us.
Ehrma was a huge help with her sorcery, in that her use of Dispel Magic resulted in the nearest half of the labyrinth tiles being deactivated. I, doing what fighters do, went up close and personal with the automata, taking a couple of claw attacks while doling out some rather nice damage – hurray for three attacks per turn, and an Action Surge! Jaark and Xerx’ses also make magical contributions to the fray, each of them casting Shatter to whittle down the automata’s HP. And Xerx’ses ends up managing to yank one of the goblin drivers out of his automaton, throwing him over his shoulder, and carrying him along – while simultaneously beating on the beleaguered creature with a scimitar 😀
We were rather slow to use the Bless and Bane dice at first, but once we got the hang of it, all of us were making good use of them to improve our situation. AZ_Rune helped out by making donations on behalf of the party, which was technically cheating, but Mole had generously chosen to allow it, given that the donations were going to the charities.
Unsurprisingly, Xzandria made out of the labyrinth first, and then had to cool her heels while the rest of us slowpokes walked, danced, and fought our way to the exit. Xerx’ses’ goblin passenger, who had tried to escape his captor a couple of times without success, ended up being dumped on one of the tiles… Xerx’ses had encountered the tile previously, and it had teleported him on top of the automaton from which he had yanked the goblin. But Jareth had magically protected his goblins from the maze’s traps, so Xerx’ses just saw the goblin lying on the tile, albeit unwilling to fight Xerx’ses (who was the last one to leave the labyrinth).
We opt to take a short rest to regain Hit Dice – given that Banjelerp and I (out of character) had realised belatedly that we hadn’t been given Gooberberries, like previous visitors to The Nexus (We did, at least, receive the magical items, like previous parties). However, Jareth intervenes, granting us a long rest instead. It was really nice of Mole to do that for us, but we were wary of any malicious intent that Jareth might have had from his seemingly generous action.
Duly rested, we enter into a cinematic montage (narrated by Mole) of us making our way through the depths of Jareth’s cave system, before emerging in his throne room. We find him lounging on the throne, up on a high dais, spinning his ever-present crystal balls in his hand, and he says, “Congratulations, not many can survive the Labyrinth and make it to my throne room. As promised, below me you will see a chest containing your prize. All you have to do is cross the threshold to this room with it, and I shall return you to Thadius.” He tosses the crystals into the air, where they briefly blink out of existence, and three large orbs appear in the room.
Xzandria immediately goes into stealth mode, casts Spider Climb on herself, and begins skittering along the wall to the south-west corner. What she discovers, in the corner of the room – and indeed, in all four corners – are automated crossbows. The nearest one to Xzandria takes a shot, but misses.
Meanwhile, I head up the centre of the room, planning to hack away at the green orb, and Dionisia grabs Ambrosius and Ehrma, using Dimension Door to get them right to our target: the chest on the floor beneath the dais. Xerx’ses casts Storm Sphere, covering the green orb and part of the red orb with a damaging storm; I can’t attack the green orb without being hurt, so I abandon that, and prepare to head for the blue orb instead.
At the start of Jareth’s turn, Mole realises that he’d forgotten to perform a Lair Action at the start of his turn: Dark Delirium, cast on Jaark in this instance. Jaark fails the save, and is charmed into believing that he is lost in a mist-covered otherworld.
The orbs – conduits of Jareth’s arcane power – unleash their attacks. The red orb hits Dionisia with Dissonant Whispers, though she saves; in fact, when Roll20 rolls that save for Dionisia, it comes out as a “double natural 20” (since the character sheet macro is set up to roll two dice, in case advantage or disadvantage is in play). Amused and delighted by the “double crit”, Mole generously grants advantage on all saves to Dionisia for a couple of turns. As Mole has pointed out often, he can be evil, but he’s also fair with it.
The blue orb focuses on Ehrma, sending three Eldritch Blasts her way. She uses a Bane die on the second and third attacks to make them fail (there was no way she could have used a die on the first attack and be successful), and escapes with only 12 damage.
The green orb gives Jareth a die of Bardic Inspiration – because of course Jareth is a bard.
Mole reports that the party’s stock of Bane dice is running low, so AZ_Rune makes another donation to fix that. Mole makes us all laugh when he comments that D&D isn’t usually pay-to-win 😀
Jaark manages to make his save against the Dark Delirium charm effect – he too gets a “double crit”, so Mole extends the same benefit to him as he did to Dionisia.
Xzandria gets up closer to the throne, and activates her magical item… which creates a double of her – and she throws a dagger at Jareth, but crit-fails the attack. I was hoping we wouldn’t resort to attacking Jareth, because even though we’re playing a game in a fictional world, and Jareth is a fictional character, it still felt disrespectful to me.
I start going nuts on the blue orb, burning my Action Surge to get six longsword attacks – as it turns out, only three hits actually land, but it’s better than whiffing all of them. Incidentally, my magical item is a special shield which, upon utterance of a command word, spends one minute floating in the air in my space, allowing me to perform two-handed attacks instead of one-handed. On reflection, though, while writing this post, it strikes me that this wasn’t actually a good strategy. Because I have the Dueling perk, my one-handed attacks score 1d8+2 (so 3-10), but my two-handed attacks score 1d10 (so 1-10 instead). Ah, well… at least it felt frigging cool to have a floaty shield 😉
Ehrma takes the time, at the start of her turn, to berate Jareth (zeerae, in Twitch chat, commented in all-caps, “SHE’S SCOLDING A MAN IN HIS OWN CASTLE”). She then whips out her Wand of Wonder, uses it, and ends up turning herself invisible! She also ends up with a Wild Magic Surge… the effect of which is to make the invisible Ehrma also glow. She’s like the Invisible Pink Unicorn! At Angie’s suggestion, Ehrma grabs the chest – so now the chest is floating, a couple of feet off the ground (Ehrma is a halfling, after all). Stealth is key, ladies and gentlemen.
Dionisia calls out to Ehrma that she was going to take Ehrma with her through another Dimension Door, back to the start, but Ehrma doesn’t respond. Suddenly, hissed in a stage whisper, Ehrma replies, “SHHHHH! I’M INVISIBLE! I’M TRYING TO SNEAK OUT OF HERE WITH THE CHEST!” The resulting laughter from everyone leads to Mole awarding a DM Inspiration die to Ehrma 😀
Xerx’ses attempts to move the Storm Sphere, but it turns out that it’s not possible, so he switches tactics, and drops an Ice Storm on the red and green orbs instead.
On Jareth’s turn, he uses a Legendary Action to flip a switch, causing thousands of gallons of water to flow up out of the floor, reaching an inch deep in mere seconds… not good for anyone wanting to use lightning-based magic (that’s my breath weapon out of action, damn it).
The red orb attacks poor Ambrosius with Compulsion, but Xerx’ses successfully negates it with Counterspell. The blue orb hits Xzandria with Dissonant Whispers, but she succeeds in using Evasion to reduce the damage. From the green orb comes Control Winds, and causes a room-wide wind to blow back towards Jareth.
By the time the water in the room reaches six inches deep, another Lair Action takes place: Otiluke’s Freezing Sphere. Xerx’ses fails in his attempt to Counterspell it away, and Xerx’ses and I end up frozen to the floor! Jareth then uses all three of his Legendary Actions to cast Reverse Gravity, so those who weren’t frozen in the water now find themselves slamming into the ceiling. Oh, what a playful creature Jareth is… -.- The original Xzandria is unaffected, due to Spider Climb, but her double takes the damage, and with a shared hit-point pool, both Xzandrias are left unconscious.
At this point, I unfortunately had to leave. When Mole invited me to play, I’d accepted even though it was on the same day as my weekly campaign; I’d reckoned – before knowing what the adventure would entail, of course – that the session would go as quickly as the ones before it. How wrong I was. Thankfully, everyone was gracious about it, especially Mole. And of course, I could hardly end the adventure here, so I watched the YouTube video to find out what happened after my departure.
Ehrma decides to use Banishment on Jareth. Mole counters with a Bless die for Jareth’s save, but Ehrma counters his counter with both Bend Luck and a Bane die, and Jareth disappears. This also has the effect of breaking his concentration, and those who were rocketed into the ceiling now crash back to the floor; Dionisia falls unconscious from the additional damage, but at least makes a successful Death Save. Xerx’ses comes to Dionisia’s rescue with Lay On Hands, and brings her back to the land of the living.
Angie is the next person who has to leave because of the time, but things don’t go on much longer after that. Jaark manages to bring Xzandria back to consciousness by use of Mass Healing Word, and the encounter ends shortly after.
It’s at this point that Jareth makes his final speech, and Mole made it especially charming and poignant:
Jareth reappears and says, “Congratulations on your prize. Let it be known that only Thadius can open the box. […] Time is a strange and wonderful thing: Civilizations rise; empires fall. From the primordial, everything appears like ashes to ashes, dust to dust, they return. […] It is time for my story to start a new chapter. The Labyrinth may be no more, but know this: The Goblin King lives.”
With that, Jareth vanishes in a cloud of blue and orange dust, and we are returned to a rather shocked Thadius. He opens the box to reveal the three crystal balls that Jareth had been spinning in his hand. Xzandria tries to claim them!
Each of the party members receive gems to the value of 2,000 gold pieces (hopefully, someone will bring Hook his share, and I don’t know if Dionisia would receive anything, since she wasn’t in the original party). Xerx’ses asks Thadius to be teleported to Vasselheim, instead of receiving payment: he’s planning to seek out a certain gnome cleric by the name of Pike. Ehrma asks Thadius not to call on her for a while, as she’s sorely in need of a vacation! And Ehrma probably does the best out of all of the party, when Thadius gives her a copy of the recipe for his Gooberberries!
Although one-shots don’t really offer a good chance for the party to get to know each other, it was still a fun time, and I’d happily adventure alongside them again 😀 Thank you to Critical Mole for inviting us, and running a fun one-shot; thank you to all the party members; and thank you to the viewers of the Twitch broadcast – it wouldn’t have been the success it was without any of you! After PayPal took its cut, the final charity total was £401.19 – considering Mole only had an original target of £100, this is amazing! 😀
If simply reading all these words isn’t enough for you, you can watch the whole thing over at the Card-Carrying Geeks channel, by following this link wot I am sharing with you 🙂 Happy adventuring, and fair rolls to you all!