Second Session Report – The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

We pick up where we left off, with our intrepid group of heroes exploring the Haunted House. Wikki, still suffering side-effects from the mushrooms he was force-fed after being poisoned, passed out. With the group unable to wake him, Finias Jinx reappeared to drag him back to town (both players were absent this session, so this was a convenient way to remove their characters).

Unperturbed by this set-back, the group pressed on and continued exploring the mansion. In the final bedroom on the second floor, they found a bundle of clothes that Ned proclaimed to be his belongings (stolen by the people who tied him up). They then proceeded into the attic and it it was much like the rest of the house: empty save for old clothes. Unfortunately for them, one stack of junk was home to a nest of stirges. The oversized blood-suckers flew around them, one latching onto Lorelei and drinking a considerable portion of blood before Kelos could splatter it. For their trouble, they found a fairly nice ring in the nest.

Once they decided the attic was thoroughly explored, they headed back downstairs to check the cellar. The stairs from the kitchen area led into the wine cellar. As Lorelei set foot on the first step, they heard terrible screaming from the basement (someone made the sound of ultimate suffering). They rushed downstairs and found broken bottles everywhere. In the middle of the room was a recently-deceased corpse clad in plate mail (though not recently dead enough to be the source of the screams). Lorelei decided she needed new armor, so she set about stripping the corpse while the others checked out the rest of the room. Unfortunately, grubs burst out of the corpse and started burrowing into her flesh! They tried brushing them off to no avail. In an act of desperation, thinking of leeches & ticks, Kelos doused Lorelei in lamp oil. Still nothing.

Then their DM threw them a bone* and *cough*fire*cough*

After setting Lorelei ablaze, the rot grubs were killed and they proceeded to burn the corpse, filling the wine cellar with the putrid stench of burning flesh. Lorelei, slightly burnt, but not incapacitated, took the dirty, nasty armor anyway and they continued to search the room, finding a secret door. As they prepared to open the secret door, Ned showed his true colors and attempted to kill Kelos. Unfortunately, Ned wasn’t a very good assassin (the fact that Basic D&D didn’t have assassination rules did not help him) and the party put him down in short order. Then took his stuff (what little he had).

The secret door led to a very well-maintained barracks. Food, drinks, bunks… all recently used and recently vacated. They deduced that the occupants of the barracks high-tailed it out of there upon hearing them set their companion on fire to deal with the rot grubs. Searching through the foot lockers, they found nothing. Herrick decided to pour leftover gravy from the dinner table into each of the footlockers and between him and Pat, they took all the remaining food and unopened brandy. They also found a stairway in the middle of the room which apparently led nowhere**. A short corridor at the end of the barracks led to two door, once of which was barred and had a sign reading “DANGER.”

Despite the temptation, they opened the unbarred door first and discovered what looked to be the leader’s bedroom. They looted it, procuring more books, more oil and some candles. They then turned their attention to the “danger zone” (as Lorelei put it). Upon opening that door, they were beset by undead! Six skeleton came out of the darkness, hacking and hewing. Herrick’s faith was insufficient to turn them, but the axes of the dwarves proved sufficient to destroy the abominations before they killed poor Lorelei and Herrick. A note they found upstairs reading “Beyond skeletons” came to mind and the group made a concentrated effort to search for secret doors. The door they found led to another room where they saw a figure in wizardly robes sitting at a table.

Taking no chances, Pat brought her axe down on his head, shattering it and scattering the long-dead remains. There was a brief moment of nervous laughter as they realized he was neither alive nor dead and the slight embarrassment of having been fooled was replaced by elation as they looted the room of all the gold in it (including a book entitled Ye Secret of Ye Philosopher’s Stone***. Also found was the dead wizard’s spell book and a small, curious-looking rock.

At this point, the group decided they’d had enough of the Haunted House. They went back upstairs and doused as much of it with oil and brandy (not much brandy though, as by this point, the dwarves had drank most of it) and set the house ablaze.

Yes, they burned the house down. *cue sound of a train derailing*

Our intrepid heroes returned to town feeling smug and victorious to take stock of their winnings. What challenges will they face next time?

That is a very good question. The group failed to discover a crucial secret door in the barracks that would lead them to the rest of the clues they would need to proceed to part two of the adventure (if this was regular campaign play, I would NOT be talking about this). Part of the point of the Doctor StrangeRoll campaign is to run the adventures as written, and now, there is a significant bridge needed that is not part of the original adventure. It wasn’t the only thing they missed, but it IS something that is plot-crucial.

In normal campaign play, I would have to come up with something and make it makes sense. However, in this case, I think it would be OK for me to just tell the players “This is what you missed and how you were supposed to get to part 2.” After all, we’re going to be playing this adventure at least three more times.

* Since I was running Basic D&D, I should have just let the rot grubs kill her. However, none of these players had ever encountered rot grubs before and had no clue what a devious trap they were in these old editions. Part of me is sad that I pulled my punch here, but another part of me says “We’re playing these as a comparison of the editions–it’s NOT that important to be a rat bastard DM in this situation.” Were this actual campaign play, I probably would NOT have pulled my punch, which may seem like it’s backwards, but it makes perfect sense to me. I would’ve been killing a newbie player’s character on her second adventure which could send an appropriate Old School Play message, but also could serve as a frustrating experience for someone who is still learning how to play.

** Seriously, it’s on the map but it leads NOWHERE in the adventure. I some how missed that detail during game prep. Obviously, the rooms were either cut for space or never developed and someone forgot to remove the stairs from the map. Or I’m missing something REALLY obvious. No matter.

*** The smart ass in me wishes I’d been quick enough to say “Apparently, it talks about how Snape kills Dumbledore who was gay, but was really protecting Harry all along, and Ron ends up with Hermione, and Harry lives and marries Ginny Weasley…but that would have just been silly and cheap.


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7 thoughts on “Second Session Report – The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

  1. I am so ashamed that we made no Talking Heads references when we burned down the house.

  2. Paladin

    Ah, well, Mr. StrangeRoll, the stairs from cellar room no 21 (smugglers’ barracks) are leading up to the secret trapdoor on the ground floor room no. 4 (west side of the house). So, there is a long way (through the northern parts of the house) – and a shortcut. Yes, lots of secret doors here – and the players can miss alot … . Obviously a weak point of this otherwise well made and atmospheric module.

    I enjoyed your AAR.

    • I missed that. I can see the connection now. For some reason, I assumed that staircase led down, not up.

  3. Hi Hans, I very much enjoyed your recounting of the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. A bunch of friends played the module, since I had read it, I bit my tongue on some parts (like on the Sea Ghost with the pseudo-dragon, and the staircase in the cellar…my DM left it out, and turned the secret door on the back patio/porch into a trapdoor). I remember talking my fellow PC’s out of burning down the Sea Ghost. I had strong seamanship in my character, so wanted a ship to command. Fortunately, I made a persuasive argument. The fun was when we were boarded by the sahuagin at night. 🙂

    • Thanks. I was disappointed when my players burned down the house and all the clues that would led them to the second part. I wanted to run the entire U-series, but it seemed forced after they burnt down the house. I may try again, eventually. Maybe after my current players have forgotten all the details.

      • Hi again Hans, well I was the chaotic neutral captain with a neutral evil bosun, and lawful neutral first mate. I remember at a bar in Saltmarsh saying things like “unfurl the anchor, swab the anchor, and shiver my timbers!” One character asked “Captain Blackhearth (often called “black heart”) are you nuts/insane?” I said, “no, just not drunk enough….” Although in the bar, we found the merchant that knew the smugglers, which was a loose end the PC’s cleaned up.

        With the sahuagin I tried a trick that worked, grabbing a sail/beam, cutting a rope, and then elevated to a higher deck shouting, “To arms, my lads, to arms!” With the sahuagin the DM rolled and I suddenly was trying to get to another higher deck, but then the rest of the PC’s hear…”To arms, to arms….shhhhh…iiiiii….*splash*…and silence.

        Although I was an expert swimmer,the sahuagin didn’t know that…so they thought the impulsive human was dead….which was fortunate as I late helped the PC’s after the sahuagin overcame them on the ship. But my fellow players liked my pirate voice/blarney. One constantly reminded me of my ride over the sails of the Sea Ghost into the briny deep off the Javan River. My impulsive chaotic neutral character (I often would say “Blimey….” often created humor/bad situation/saved the PC’s so they let me be the captain/leader for the most part.

        As a group, we entered the Haunted House from the back, like the poacher did after hearing his story. But we never thought of burning down the Haunted House, thinking one of us might stay behind to spy on the activities after the intrepid adventurers departed and very publicly returned to Saltmarsh announcing our “victory”…

        The U-series was great fun, the DM tended to overly detail things…I got in trouble when one of the Saltmarsh town council I called “Well, your pomposity…” and was in jail for insulting a public official.

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