Live streamed and uploaded every week on YouTube. Join us live on Fridays at 7:30 pm Pacific/10:30 pm Eastern!

Original character art by Jimmy McClure.
Music by Kevin MacLeod.
Chat with us in the Official Discord Server.
Support the channel via Patreon!

Previously on Rime of the Frostmaiden

Valravn, level 4 Eladrin Bard of Eloquence
Fray, level 4 Halfling Barbarian of the Beast
Celeste, level 4 Half-orc Sun Soul Monk
Edmond, Level 4 Human Alchemist Artificer
Thimbleweed, level 4 Gnome Swarmkeeper Ranger

As the party made their way from Caer-Dineval to their next quest destination at Good Mead, they were hit with a nasty blizzard that forced them to seek shelter in a cave. Unfortunately for them, the cave was full of bloodthirsty gnolls.

When a faced with the knowledge that I’d be running a reduced three-player party this week, I turned a cinematic road encounter into an entire dungeon crawl.

It was not my original intent to put up any combat-based random encounters between their destinations. We’re still on the relative safety of the roads of Ten Towns, and the quests themselves offer plenty of content and danger.

Yet I was in a unique position to craft an entire dungeon as a random encounter. Not only would this provide a session’s worth of adventure, but it was also delay the team until we could be at full strength to start the next quest.

Over an hour outside of Caer-Dineval the Marshals found a destroyed pile of sleds, fresh blood, and a chaotic mess of humanoid tracks. Through investigating, they realized these sleds belonged to other Black Swords members who were returning to Caer-Dineval (unaware of the events that recently transpired there). Something, or somethings, had attacked them, but there were no bodies.

The Marshals decided to follow one of the tracks off the beaten path. Within an hour a horrible blizzard descended upon them, this one far more powerful and debilitating than the one from the first session. Visibility was cut to almost nothing as the winds whipped through them.

In the distance, a white light pierced through the darkness, sending chills up their spines. They turned and ran, stumbling through the storm until they came to a cave. But only three of them made it, the others (the players who couldn’t make it this week) nowhere to be found.

The Gnoll cave dungeon map is from the Roll20 map pack Quick Encounters: Snow & Ice by Gabriel Pickard.

The large cave descended deeper into a branching path, with semi-fresh blood staining the floor. The blood trail ran east but the party turned west, toward the distant light of a crackling fire. Rounding the corner the party found a trio of humanoid-hyenas hunched over a fire gnawing on bones. They excitedly grabbed their weapons when they spotted some fresh meat!

Turns out barbarians can be stellar tanks against non-elemental threats, especially with the proper support behind them. Fray raged, manifesting a tail, and filled up the 5-ft square chokepoint while the gnolls ran at her. Valravn used Enhance Ability (Bear’s Endurance) to make her extra-swol, and the party made short work of the two gnolls and the flesh gnawer.

Further along the main cave tunnel they came across a bone-strewn altar with a bloody hunk of flesh resting atop. I had created some fun rules if someone wanted to eat the ritual flesh: DC 15 CON save, failure = poisoned for one hour, success = Bless spell for 1 hour. But nobody went near it. Instead they were preoccupied with another crackling firelight coming from the next cave, and the unmistakable sound of several more gnolls.

Edmond didn’t waste any time, throwing down a Grease spell at the chokepoint and trying to bait them into approaching. Even with Fray helping, he rolled poorly on the Performance check, resulting in one gnoll cautiously approaching, spotting them, and attacking.

Edmond used Thorn Whip to drag the gnoll into the Grease, but discovered that gnolls are actually pretty dexterous, and it stayed on its feet, running after him! Valravn cast Dissonant Whispers to send it running back into the main cave, where Fray raged (claws this time!) and ran into the, well, fray.

In this final cave room were two gnolls, one gnoll flesh gnawer, and a gnoll pack lord on an elevated ledge in the back. The room also contained several steel cages, two of which held their unconscious missing party members!

Rime of the frostmaiden session 17 gnoll cave

What followed was a bloody, brutal melee battle between the enraged, recklessly attacking Fray and the gnolls that surrounded her.

Fray killed one gnoll but took lots of damage every round as the gnolls continued to rain blow after blow even with their meager +4 attack bonus.

The pack lord raised his hands and bellowed, causing a nearby bone pile to stir, and spawning two undead gnoll witherlings that rushed into battle!

Edmond used his newly crafted Chardalyn Bands of Binding to capture the pack lord in a restraining tangle of metal, Thorn Whip’d him off the ledge, and then into the fire. Thanks to the magic Bands he wasn’t able to move or escape, but could still attack (at disadvantage) and eventually took down the over-eager Edmond with a combination of bow and glaive attacks.

Valravn played his support role perfectly, using another Enhance Ability (Bear’s Endurance) on Edmond, then a Healing Word to get him back up, and throwing another Bardic Inspiration at Fray.

Fray’s player Heather calculated how much damage she took in this dungeon during Frostside Chat, and it was well over 100 total damage! (Highlight if you want to find out). All hail the tiny raging ball of fury!

Things got deadly at one point with Fray at fewer than 20 hit points and Edmond rolling death saves, but the party turned the tide as Fray killed two gnolls in one round with her claws, and Valravn put a crossbow bolt right through the eye of the pack lord, causing the final witherling to collapse.

The party had rescued their teammates, and earned a bit of extra treasure via rolling once on Magic Item Table B (DMG 144). This was totally a random dungeon I cobbled together in about a day of prep (partially based on Cackling Chasm, a dungeon from Chapter 2), and I think it went very well, and was a fun showcase for our three heroes.

Next week, onward to Good Mead!

MVPC – Fray

Post-session live discussion:

Live streamed and uploaded every week on YouTube. Join us live on Fridays at 7:30 pm Pacific/10:30 pm Eastern!

Support my channel via Patreon!