As the party trudges along towards their doom goal, Gundren Rockseeker points out a huge pile of boulders, reckoning that the original entrance to the mine lay somewhere at the bottom. What he and his brothers found was a split in the cliff face likely triggered by the eruption of Mt Hotenow 30 years ago, creating an entrance into a natural cavern that connects to Phandelver. He hitches up his britches and they all proceed down into the dark.
They emerge into a cavern and spy a drop-off up ahead, and a small camp site nearby. Gundren rushes over the camp, while Taranion peers down over the ledge…only to get blasted in the face by a gust of green gas. The wave of fumes spread through the cavern, sending everyone tumbling into darkness.
In the darkness, each of them feels a chilling presence and hears a voice, and sees a dark specter approach them:
_You are adrift…no longer on the material plane
You entered this cave 10-strong, but you are now each alone…in the dark.
Each of you must face your darkest fears alone, as do all mortals.
The challenges you face tonight come not from evil or chaos, but from the darkness within your own minds.
I am the spectre of fear itself. I come not to stand in your way, but to offer you the gift…of self-knowledge.
Fear is the proving ground of heroes. Are you ready for the test to begin?_
Part 1: Mistria’s Dream
The party all regains consciousness, seemingly no worse for the wear. Gundren sees a narrow ledge running along the cavern wall, extending out over the drop-off, and he runs along the ledge into the darkness of the cavern, which seems much larger and deeper on further inspection. Gundren proceeds, indeed, he dashes along the ledge, leaving the rest of the party behind. The rest of the party all agree they should have Mistria, the dwarf and a Rockseekre in her own right, lead the party. They all grab onto a rope and proceed along the ledge. Before long, the ledge narrows and party members start losing their footing. In horror, Mistria watches Taranion and Chinny tumble down into the darkness.
She doesn’t have to long to think about it before she sees another dwarf up ahead, and is surprised to meet her sister, Conundra Rockseekre! Conundra snottily states that as real Rockseekre and dwarf, she’s right at home in a mine, but that she’s surprised to see Mistria here. She calls out into the darkness, and their parents, Hercule and Agata Rockseekre appear in a heretofore unseen cable car. They’re pleased to see Mistria taking an interest in the family business, but patronizingly tell her to be careful, just as the rocks give way and the rest of the party slides down the cliff. Mistria hangs on to the rope, holding the weight of the surviving party members over the ledge. Conundra refuses to help, telling Mistria she can just let go and move on. Mistria refuses to let go, and as her muscles strain she slips back into darkness.
Part 2: Hank’s Dream
Hank awakes…in his bed. In the bed in his childhood cottage in Thundertree, as a matter of fact. Thundertree is not as he remembers in his most vivid memories, covered in burning ash and swarming with zombies, but rather is intact. Nothing seems to be stirring, so Hank wanders over to a house he seems to remember. He knocks upon the door, only to be greeted by…Hank.
The two Hanks briefly marvel at each other, and Hank feels he has finally found someone who understands him. However, their conversation attracts a third Hank, and now it’s a crowd. Hanks decide to go get BBQ to talk things over, but when they venture into the town square they find their favorite patio eatery is crawling with even more Hanks.
A flubbed insight check only tells Hank that he is Hank, and suddenly he catches on to the idea that these many other Hanks might in fact be doppelgangers. The extra Hanks simultaneously begin kicking each other in the teeth, which results in the original Hank taking damage.
As he reels around, he sees that the statue of the local hero in the town square is also a Hank wearing a brilliant gold breastplate.
Hank decides that the old wizard’s tower on the hill is the key to solving this riddle, and as he suggests they all proceed there a terrible rumbling comes from the earth, and an earsplitting sound emanates from the tower. The tower explodes into rubble, and a giant dragon soars from the wreckage. As it swoops low over the town square, Hank sees that the dragon is ALSO A HANK and with a David Lee Roth screech, it bathes the town in flames, sending Hank back into darkness.
Part 3: Ander’s Dream
Ander is thrown from their feet as the wave of gas overtakes them. They awake to the feeling of waves, and the sound of a stormy sea and mournful singing. They find themselves on the deck on a ship in rough seas. They are surrounded by strangers and friends alike, who are all congratulating Ander, who just wants to turn the ship towards land.
It dawns on Ander that not only have they stumbled into a wedding, it’s their wedding and everyone is too excited to acknowledge that the boat is rapidly sinking.
Sildar drags Ander to a makeshift altar, where a bride stands obscured by a heavy veil. Ander already has a ring of course, so Taranion begins a Oghma style matrimonial service, which naturally takes forever. By the time he is done, icy cold waters are swirling around the feet of everyone on deck, and the ship has started to tilt.
As the ceremony ends, the bride pulls back their veil to reveal… the betrothed that Ander left behind, years ago. But they quickly discover it’s an illusion, as the bride’s face distorts and shifts revealing that it’s Vyerith the doppelganger. She clings to Ander as the ship begins to capsize, and Ander must throw her off.
The bard grabs a makeshift floatation device and dives into the icy waters. They fight the undertow as the broken vessel is pulled down into the depths. When they look back, they see Vyerith in her soaked wedding dress staring back at them, motionless as she vanishes into the sea.
Ander struggles to keep their head above water in the rough seas with no land in sight, when the cold and exhaustion overtake them and it all goes black.
Part 4: Tipsy’s Dream
Tipsy emerges, as if from a daydream, and finds herself back in her childhood cottage. It is plain, austere even, and she hears the familiar sound of her mother working at the stove. Dinner is flavorless grey porridge, same as always. But tonight is different, because young Mizandry knows that the harvest festival happens tonight out in the woods. She desperately wants to go, but her mother insists that dancing and music and flavor is for sinful folk, and that Mizandry must do her chores tonight.
As she resigns herself to her boring fate, a pebble bounces off the window she’s busy cleaning–it’s her childhood friend! She urges Tipsy to escape and come to the festival! Tipsy tells her mother she’s going to sweep the dirt outside, and off she goes into the woods following the sound of concertina music.
In a clearing, several long tables have been piled high with the bounty of the harvest. Pumpkins, apples, cider, baked goods, it’s a regular halfling feast. Tipsy and her friend are grabbing handfuls of everything when they spy a man atop a barrel pouring countless mugs out of a single vessel. They go to see the marvel, and each get a mug full of effervescent liquid. As Tipsy brings the mug to her lips, she discovers the contents are actually bitter salt water.
As she sputters and spits out the brine, she sees that the festival has grown dark. The bonfires and candles have faded, and the sun has finally set behind the copse of trees. All of the food lining the tables has turned grey and rotten, and faces of all the merrymakers have turned pallid and gaunt. In the growing darkness she sees all of their eyes glowing with pale blue light.
Tipsy naturally is ready to GTFO, but in unison the spirits tell her that she cannot leave, for the harvest festival is about to truly begin. You see… TIPSY is the harvest. She’s convinced that’s she’s about to be eaten by ghosts, when they tell her not to be ridiculous. They are wandering spirits, and can only eat one’s memories. They beseech her to tell them about flavors and tastes she’s enjoyed, so they can remember the good parts of being alive.
The only problem is, Tipsy’s family is so joyless and austere that she’s not been allowed to enjoy good food and flavors! The spirits grow restless until Tipsy (passing a wisdom check) suddenly remembers that she’s not a child anymore, not in real life, and she’s experienced thousands of flavors since leaving home. She regales the spirits with tales of food and feasts, as the light fades from the autumn sky.
It wasn’t such a bad time after all.
LOOK OUT FOR PART 2: THE REST OF THEM
The inspiration for my Specter costume comes from the Deathless Spectre/Gogolithic Mass from Sword and Sworcery, as does a lot of the music I used during this session.
The Hank-Dragon definitely was inspired by a Skyrim mod. You know which one.
I don’t know if Mistria’s player intended for her name to sound like Mystery, but I took a page out of Chris Perkin’s playbook to give a PC’s family members thematically similar names. It’s not as good Omin, Portentia and Auspicia, but it’s alright.