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Music by Kevin MacLeod.
Token art by Jimmy McClure.
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Ten years ago, the Ghoul Imperium of the Underworld and the vampires of Morgau marched into Krakova and conquered the kingdom entirely, establishing the Greater Duchy of Morgau and expanding the borders of the Blood Kingdom.

The undead occupation has been kept in check by resistance from the Court-in-Exile, as well as opportunistic reaver dwarves who sailed across the Nieder Straits.

But the hidden machinations of the ghouls swirl beneath the surface. Rumors abound of an even more sinister plot that threatens not just one kingdom, but the entire world of Midgard.

Empire of the Ghouls is designed by Richard Green, and published by Kobold Press. It takes place in Kobold Press’ fantasy world of Midgard.

Chapter 2: The Holy Robes of Sister Adelind
Episode 9: The Dread Fortress p1

Active Party:
Alaric, level 5 dhampir Death Domain Cleric/Bard
Bahn, level 5 kobold Bard College of Whispers
I/O, level 5 gearforged Circle of the Moon Druid
Kovac, level 5 ratfolk Dawn Blade Rogue
Lucian, level 5 dhampir Clockwork Soul Sorcerer

Having successfully defeated the Ghost Knight trackers at the ruins of Castle Yarosbirg, the party interrogates the lone survivor.

The young Ghost Knight conscript, Kasper, admits that he fell into a “join us, or die” ultimatum when the Ghoul Imperium conquered Orzelbirg. It doesn’t take much intimidation before he starts spilling the beans on the castle’s defenses: the living guard during the day, the dead at night.

He’s normally a lowly guard at the gatehouse, but recently a high-ranking member of the Imperium, Vukas Shroudson, showed up a few days ago. He was sent out with many others to capture the Spear Maidens. His superior is an Imperial Ghoul named Carrionmaw. He’s serious, ruthless, and knows everyone in the castle by name, making any duplicity at the gate a challenging task.

There is one bit of hope — Kasper has heard rumors of a secret escape tunnel somewhere in the castle. The former lord of the castle was believed to have used it to flee during the attack, and the Imperium were never able to find it. If anyone knows about the tunnel, it’s the people in the town outside the castle.

After a short rest the party, with the Spear Maidens and a bound Kasper in tow, set off toward Orzelbrig, where they hope to rescue the captured Spear Maidens from Castle Orzelbirg.

They arrive late at night to a small village with nervous glances and shuttered windows.

The only place open to them is an Inn, the Hungry Wolf. Inside Kasper points out an old acquaintance, Rutem. While Alaric orders whiskey from the bar, Bahn slaps down some coin and gets the nervous man talking.

Rutem delivers supplies to the castle on a weekly basis using a wagon. But he’s no fan of the dead, and when the party asks about a possible tunnel he confirms the rumor. After a few more coins pass his palm, he agrees to lead the party into the nearby woods, where a large rock formation hides a cave opening.

The cave reeks of wild animal and rotting meat. But it may be their best way inside the castle.

With Kovac in the lead, the party head inside. Not far in they come across a pair of owlbears enjoying their latest meal. With their territory threatened, they attack!

I/O transforms into bear form to meet the owlbears paw-on-paw. The beasts are undeterred, crunching Bahn against the wall and serving him his second lingering injury in as many sessions! Kovac nearly goes down to a nasty swipe, but soon even the mighty owlbears can’t stand up to the blades, spells, and paws that the party unleashes.

With their foes defeated, they continue deeper into the cave, through a dark tunnel that gradually slopes upward. The poor I/O-bear can bear-ly (I’m sorry) squeeze through.

Eventually they open a trapdoor into a musty storage room. As they pile out of the tunnel, they disturb a nest of skin bats, nasty little undead creatures that like to latch on and paralyze with their bite. They get in some painful bites, but the party soon puts them down for good.

Outside a window they can see a large undead hound prowling around. Kasper identifies that area as the inner bailey, meaning they’re quite a ways inside the castle!

Before heading out, however, they decide to check out the upper levels of the tower they appear to be in.

Empire of the Ghouls chapter 2 episode 9 dread fortress p1

Kovac sneaks upstairs but rolls a nat 1 on the stealth check. A nearby door opens to a gnome merchant. The confused gnome sees right through Kovac’s blunders and begins shrieking for help as Kovac runs up and stabs him! The rest of the party surges upstairs, with I/O-bear tackling the gnome to the ground.

Inside his room they discover a treasure trove of potions. The merchant reveals that he came to the castle to sell potions to the Imperium, including a special formula called elixir of corruption. As the party presses him, he reveals that the elixirs can remove a person’s immunity to disease.

Alaric immediately realizes what he’s done: an elixir like that could remove a paladin’s blessings. Paladins such as the Spear Maidens! What kind of evil is the Imperium doing to them?

The realization hits the party like a wave of nausea. Even I/O growls her approval of what comes next: Lucian grows white-hot with rage, stabbing the merchant in the side, and Alaric takes his rapier and slits his throat. Damn!

The arms dealer is dead, and the party help themselves to his potions and profits.

However, the shouting from earlier attracted some attention. Heavy, armored footfalls echo off the floor above them. Alaric successfully tricks the voice into thinking all is well, and the footsteps retreat.

With a little forewarning, the party decides it prudent to deal with this threat next. Alaric calls the Ghost Knight downstairs while the others hide behind closed doors, ready to spring their trap.

The infiltration of the Dread Fortress has only just begun!

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