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MATT: The small village of Bronbog has recently come under a baneful curse. The young are born deformed and demonic. The denizens are driven to madness and suicide. Those that remain, stubborn as they are, have fallen silent. The nature of this curse has drawn the attention of one man.

VIN: I am Kaulder, the witch hunter. An 800 year old immortal. (growls)

MATT: Now, Kaulder, you've seen such curses before drive whole communities to ruin. But from what your experience as a witch hunter has taught you is that the usual purpose of such a curse is not just to spread pain and suffering, but to prepare the land with enough misery and darkness for some ulterior motive. To transform the fane of the land into a site ripe for dark ritual. You, in seeking the source of this curse, have gathered up a handful of proven warriors in the land to investigate what is actually going down in Bronbog.

LAURA: I'm Vex'ahlia, the stealthy half-elven ranger. Separated from my twin brother and on the hunt.

TRAVIS: I'm Grog, a goliath barbarian with a love for combat, women, and ale.

JESSICA: I am The Headmistress, a human monk whose family was killed during a civil war and who's now out seeking vengeance!

DAN: I'm Dupont Dupont, dwarven rogue and if there's coin to be had, I'll be there!

MATT: As the five of you trudge up to the outskirts of the Dreamseep Marshlands, the sun slowly begins to set. The mildewed, awful set water smell of the swamp begins to take over your senses. As darkness slowly descends upon the landscape, you can see a bit of light poking through the trees. As you slowly become aware, you've reached the outskirts of Bronbog proper. You see tons of huts and small villages all darkened, left desolate. You hear the cricketing sound of various insects in the swamp begin to swell. The frogs calling out into the darkness. You approach what looks to be the only true sign of life in your vicinity, a small hovel, mildewed on the outside, with a single window that is aglow against the darkness.

LAURA: Can we peek in the window?

MATT: You go up to the side of the window and peek in the corner. The interior is almost a hoarder's home. There are a series of crates and barrels and papers scattered about like this place has been packaged and unpacked multiple times. Someone's been trying to decide whether to leave or stay. You see in the light a female form, humanoid, sitting over a desk in the corner, currently sobbing to herself silently.

LAURA: She seems distraught.

DAN: We should probably knock.

VIN: Hmm.

JESSICA: We're all going to get destroyed by this girl.

DAN: She's a hoarder! Is she going to put us in a box, label us?

JESSICA: Tons of d20 lying about.

TRAVIS: It smells really good around here.

JESSICA: Knock. Who's knocking?

LAURA: Leader.

VIN: Am I knocking? Is that what we're doing. Did this turn into Kaulder the knocker?

MATT: Every journey begins with a single knock.

VIN: I can't be surprised, so I guess I'm--

JESSICA: Shouldn't we perception the house first?

VIN: Maybe.

JESSICA: I feel like we're walking into--

MATT: Roll a perception check.

VIN: I will. My perception bonus is plus six.

LAURA: I think that's a 14.

VIN: I like a 14. It's a little bit of a fail roll.

MATT: As you approach the door, the door itself is not as mildewed as the rest of the building. There is a general appearance to this that the rest of the house, while old and weathered, this door is much fresher than you'd expect. That's the best you can ascertain of that nature. It does catch your eye.

DAN: Well, at least she cleaned the door!

TRAVIS: Is everybody all hesitant? I'll knock! Let me show you how we do this. I go up and pound on the door real hard.

MATT: (thudding) The sound echoes through the interior. You hear a voice go (startled yell) on the other side. A couple of footsteps pitter up to the side. The door slowly opens with a creak. A young woman in her early to mid 20s, her face streaked with tears and dirt, very simple clothing. She looks through, peering at the group. "I'm sorry. Is there a problem? What's going on?"

TRAVIS: I don't do well with emotions. I'm really the group knocker. Somebody else want to take it from here?

LAURA: Are you upset, dear? What's been happening here?

MATT: "It's best you not be here. Death awaits those who come. What are you doing? Flee! This is my cause! I chose to live here. Let me take this onus. You still have a chance to get away!"

VIN: Onus?

LAURA: We don't run.

DAN: Get away from what?

MATT: "Curse."

VIN: We pillage.

JESSICA: I'm with him. We pillage.

VIN: She's saying we should run away from the curse.

MATT: She seems honestly distraught in hopes of trying to instill you with this same fear.

LAURA: But maybe she knows more. Have you done research? Why are you here when everybody else has fled?

MATT: "Because my family's always been here. It's not much, but it's still home. If we all leave, there's no chance anyone will come and save us. This whole land will fall to ruin. At the very least, if I die here, maybe that'll be enough of a reason for someone to come and alleviate this terrible night's bane."

VIN: Who's responsible for the curse?

MATT: "I don't know for sure. We hear voices in the night in the far ends of this swamp. We hear laughing and terrible gurgling in the swamp. Voices of languages we don't know. We've had a few folks go out to try and stop this and they never came back. Recently, I've heard terrible, wistful howling of voices moaning in the morning mists."

VIN: Do we know which direction the swamps are from this?

MATT: You're currently a good hour's worth of travel into the swamp to meet this. You're in the heart of it right now. It goes further out towards the distant mountain range. You gather from what you have traveled, it gets more desolate, more murky. The water level seems to sink even further.

TRAVIS: There's laughing, gurgling, moaning. We sure it's not a bar? Might be so bad.

JESSICA: What can we get out of this?

MATT: "I can collect some change from the few that have stayed. I've only got a bit of gold to my name as well, but we'd be happy to put it up if you'll be of help. Please, I ask."

DAN: A bit is much better than none.

TRAVIS: You're greedy.

MATT: "I'll speak to the denizens around. If you come back, alive, that is, we'll have all of our money ready for you. Yes, please!"

JESSICA: I think we should get half up front.

DAN: You drive a hard bargain!

TRAVIS: What do you have on you?

MATT: Go ahead and roll a persuasion check.

JESSICA: 11 plus one. 12.

MATT: Okay. She goes, "I'll offer you what I have." She stumbles off and start thumbing through all these boxes, making this loud clattering noise. Comes back about five minutes later. "Here. 120 gold. It's all I've got to my name, but if this means to you that we have your service to aid us, please. This bravery is a welcome change around here. If you'd like, I can take you to these ruins outside the village."

JESSICA: I grab the gold purse and I say: Go ahead and show us the way. As I put it in my backpack.

MATT: "All right! This way!" She walks out past you, closing the door behind her and locking it with a key. Turns around. "Follow me into the marsh." She steps out into the night air, deeper into the swamp.

TRAVIS: Yeah, we follow.

VIN: No mounts?

MATT: No mounts to get here. You figure the swamp is hard to traverse with beasts of burden. As you step into the swamp, about an hour's worth of tense travel continues. You hear the occasional call of an owl into the night air. The swamp itself grows more and more sticky. You're finding yourself with each sloshing step finding more tension and drag against the back of your feet. A slow fog begins to roll in as the night truly takes hold of the Dreamseep Marshlands. I would like you all to roll a perception check.

LAURA: Oh, Jesus, really?

JESSICA: Mine's so bad.

LAURA: I rolled a one!

VIN: 13 plus six.

MATT: 19.

TRAVIS: 20!

MATT: Okay! What'd you get? Perception.

JESSICA: Eight.

DAN: Three!

LAURA: Natural one!

TRAVIS: Great.

MATT: As the woman and part of your party begins to travel forth, Grog and Kaulder.

DAN: Perception is plus zero for me.

VIN: It is?

DAN: I'm not a wise man.

JESSICA: Can't even see your hand in front of your face.

VIN: Thank god I've got some wisdom here. After 800 years, he learned a thing or two.

MATT: Pressing forward, part of your party steps forward. Grog and Kaulder, both of you guys stop for a second, your senses kicking in. the fog that's rolling, while swirling naturally, is beginning to coalesce and gather into shapes. You see slowly piercing beyond the veil of the mist. You can see arms appear and then vanish. Occasionally a face chuckles and disappears back into the surrounding vapor. You notice, just beyond Vex, it begins to coalesce behind her in the form of a humanoid wraith-like entity that begins to reach out for her.

LAURA: I'm trying to pull my foot out of this muck. I can't even see what's going on right now.

VIN: How far am I?

MATT: She's probably 20 feet ahead of you.

VIN: I should attack.

MATT: All right! Seeing this.

VIN: Specter, wraith, something's got to die.

MATT: There you go! You, rushing forward seeing this entity, you burst forward with speed, sloshing through the mud. As it reaches out to claw, you run forward arcing your sword down in a large strike against the creature. Go ahead and roll an attack.

VIN: 13.

MATT: 13 is what you needed to hit its armor class. Go ahead and roll damage on that. Cool, so that's a total of five damage.

LAURA: I spin around. What the what? What are you attacking?!

VIN: I'm attacking the wraith that's behind you.

LAURA: Oh!

MATT: You see coming up between the two of you--

LAURA: It's a wraith!

MATT: Grog, you're prepared for this, you pull your axe out in preparation. I want everyone to roll initiative.

DAN: It must have been terrifying to see a witch hunter sprint toward you with its sword.

MATT: Kaulder is up first and then coming up the rear end, we have Dupont.

DAN: Someone has to do it, may as well be me.

MATT: As you see a second wraith beginning to form behind you in the center of the group. You're up first so, Kaulder, what do you want to do with your next round of combat?

VIN: Let me light up the sword.

MATT: You use your quick action, you bring the blade back. As you concentrate on it, closing your eyes, drawing on the mystical power from your training. Reddish-yellow flames begin to burst up the outside of this metallic blade. It lights up the exterior of the swamp. The wraith recoils in fear. What else are you going to do now?

VIN: I'm going to attack!

MATT: You get two attacks with your sword. Go ahead and roll twice.

VIN: Nice!

MATT: That'll hit. Go ahead and roll the first attack damage with an extra d6 because of the fire.

VIN: Baller.

MATT: Right? That comes to a total of four damage plus the four from the sword, so that's eight against the entity. As you streak down with your first attack, the flames send the creature separating for a moment, the vaporous mist bisected in the middle of the air. It slowly reforms. Using that action, recoil for a second strike downward. Go ahead and roll your next attack.

VIN: 17.

MATT: 17. Roll damage for the second strike.

LAURA: That's beautiful.

DAN: Just obliterated.

VIN: What is that, 20?

MATT: With the second attack, you swipe down. This time the orangish-yellow flame burning a bright vibrant white with the intent as your witch hunter instinct brings the blade down. The wraith screams out in pain as it dissipates into the swamp air, completely destroyed with Vex standing there looking dumbfounded by it.

LAURA: Gah! Kaulder! Thank you!

VIN: You're quite welcome, Vex!

MATT: However, at that same moment, you hear the creeping sound of the second wraith that seemed to draw up behind you. Next in combat, that would be--

VIN: Where's our friend right now?

MATT: She's currently back with Grog at this moment, hiding behind the large goliath barbarian. So what do you want to do, Headmistress?

JESSICA: Extra attack, I guess.

MATT: You dart up, your monk fists up. You see the focus of your ki energy causes the exterior of your flesh to momentarily harden like iron.

JESSICA: Hell yeah.

MATT: You rush up with unnatural speed. The wraith not even realizing your presence. Go ahead and roll three attacks.

JESSICA: 11.

MATT: That hits. Roll two more times.

DAN: Punched a ghost!

JESSICA: Two.

MATT: That is going to miss, unfortunately. Third attack?

JESSICA: 12.

MATT: That hits. Roll damage twice. It's a d6 plus four each strike.

JESSICA: Two.

MATT: That's six. One more time.

JESSICA: Five.

MATT: Nice! Nine damage. As you rush up, you punch the wraith from one side. You see its form shimmer from the impact, you go for a secondary uppercut, it seems to disperse around your fist, completely missing in the air. You rear back for a kick, this time it's unprepared for the secondary attack. You smack it upside. For a moment, you feel that the wraith has physical form around your fist and it takes the impact, drifting back about five feet. That concludes your turn. Vex, you're up.

LAURA: I think Grog was next, he had 17.

MATT: Okay.

TRAVIS: I take the greataxe and I swing it and I go for a frenzied strike so I get an additional attack.

MATT: Leaving the woman behind you, fearing for her life, you go into an angry rage, froth forming at the corner of your mouth. You charge up against the wraith, flanking it from the side with the Headmistress.

TRAVIS: Say: Here, Moppet. (yells) That's really good! That's a 24.

MATT: That'll hit! Next attack.

TRAVIS: That's a nine.

MATT: Whiff. Third attack now.

TRAVIS: That's 14!

MATT: 14 does hit. Go ahead and roll damage twice.

TRAVIS: d12. That's nine. Dang. 12.

MATT: That's twice. You missed the one. As you swing up, you swing the axe wide. It cleaves through part of it. There's now a burst of blue ectoplasmic energy dissipates from the immediate blast of the attack. You swing back with a backhand, it dodges out of the way. It's going for your throat. As you do, you bring the axe, backhanding it to the side. The wraith is pushed off of its axis. It's angry and now intent on you. It is now the wraith's turn.

LAURA: Why?!

DAN: Directed by M. Night Shyamalan!

MATT: It turns to you, reaches out, its face contorting from these large, angry ghostly fangs. That's a 21 to hit.

TRAVIS: That'll hit.

MATT: Second strike as well. That's a 14 to hit.

TRAVIS: Nope! You miss.

MATT: As the wraith reaches out, it claws the front of your chest, but the claws seem to seep into your chest cavity, the arm going up to the wrist. You feel a cold grip on your heart like it stopped beating for a moment. You take 21 points of necrotic damage and your hit points are permanently lowered by 21 points.

(yelling)

VIN: That's kind of harsh!

MATT: Wraiths are harsh, yo!

LAURA: That's major!

VIN: Harsh DM alert!

MATT: You don't stroll into my danger. You got to want to live!

DAN: Total party kill incoming!

MATT: A third wraith begins to drift out of the mist behind Grog. Now it's your turn.

LAURA: I see what it's doing and I Hunter's Mark that wraith.

MATT: As you concentrate on it, your experience hunting ghosts clarify its vision. Go ahead and make your attacks.

LAURA: Oh no! I'm so excited. Oh jeez, that sucks. 12.

MATT: 12 just misses.

LAURA: I'm going to do it again. That's better, that's 18. No, that's 20.

MATT: The second arrow finds purchase inside the ghostial entity, keeping its form semi-coalesced to attack Grog last round.

LAURA: Ten plus Hunter's Mark, what's that? Is that a five? 15.

MATT: 15 points of damage. As it goes back to try and reach into Grog a second time, your second arrow finds it. You see the face burst around as the arrow just barely misses the side of your head, disappearing into the distant swamp. The second wraith is destroyed.

LAURA: Yes!

MATT: The third wraith, however, is still coming up from behind Grog.

TRAVIS: Why me?!

MATT: Because you're big and scary.

TRAVIS: Makes sense.

MATT: Go ahead.

DAN: I've seen some really impressive things so far, so I'm going to try to not shortchange this. I'm going to sprint with all of my might, try and backflip over Grog and the wraith and try to stab it in the back.

MATT: All right! The dwarven rogue lowers his head, ninja runs across the surface of the marshlands like his body has no weight momentarily. Leap off of the air. Make an acrobatics check.

DAN: 29.

MATT: 29! With a deft silent landing behind the wraith, you pull your daggers and go in for the dual attack.

LAURA: This is epic.

DAN: That is 18.

MATT: 18 hits, go ahead and roll the second attack.

DAN: That is a 17.

MATT: Both hit, go ahead and roll damage and sneak attack damage on the first attack.

DAN: Oh man, I need 4d6.

LAURA: Here's a d6. Here's a d6.

MATT: That's a d4. Oh that's for the daggers, right. Gotcha. Nine damage on the daggers.

JESSICA: I know, it's so tiny!

DAN: Plus seven so 16 plus nine, 25 damage.

MATT: 25 damage, nice! As the newly formed wraith sneaks up behind Grog, you flip over it unnoticed in the shadow, you being your stealthy roguish self. Slam them both into the center of this mystical center of the wraith. You see a flash of blue ghostly energy and it screams out from the pain, disperses. Your daggers no longer have any physical purchase in the creature. It reforms around, turning and looking towards you.

DAN: Uh-oh! Surprise!

MATT: That's your turn. Coming to the top of the round. Kaulder, you're up next.

VIN: How far am I from the dwarf?

MATT: I'd say you're probably 25 feet.

VIN: Would it be worth a Mystic Blast?

MATT: Certainly, if you want to! Go for it.

VIN: Critical!

TRAVIS: Yes!

VIN: Critical, guys! Critical! Doesn't matter what decade you're in, guys. A critical is a critical and it's a Mystic Blast.

MATT: Roll damage and multiply it by two.

VIN: Can I just enjoy this critical for a second?

MATT: Heck yeah, dude, take it in.

VIN: Critical's dice is-- Okay.

MATT: Roll it again because you get to roll it twice. That's ten damage plus your bonus.

VIN: Plus three.

MATT: As the entity's reaching up, now facing Dupont. You turn around for a second, glance, and there's a burst of purplish energy from your eyes as you pull on your mystic background. As you pull your arm back, you can see a bit of arcane flame gather in your palm and you release it outward. It goes streaking through the night air, lighting up the forest that's around, slamming into the wraith. You hear it finally scream out into the air as it is dispersed and destroyed from the blast of mystic energy. You're sitting there. The front of your face is a little singed from the nearby impact from the arcane energy.

VIN: Apologies.

DAN: Now that was a close shave!

TRAVIS: I think it's actually an improvement.

DAN: Thank you.

TRAVIS: You're welcome.

DAN: There's a ghost behind you.

MATT: It calms down for a minute, the adrenaline still pumping through your system. You take a few breaths before your realize the mist is recoiling and the swamp before you seems to be unveiled, showing the rest of your path.

JESSICA: It was worth the 120 gold in my opinion!

TRAVIS: Glad we collected up front.

DAN: He only lost half his life force!

LAURA: Oh.

MATT: The woman walks up to you and says, "That power you hold. That's strange and ancient. What are you?"

VIN: It's a good question. I'm a witch hunter.

(laughter)

DAN: We all gasp.

(gasping)

MATT: She steps back with awe. "Well then, I'm going to stay with you for the remainder of this journey."

JESSICA: Oh crap, she's coming with us.

VIN: Oh, she's coming. Okay, cool.

LAURA: Right. We'll protect you.

VIN: I'll need more gold.

MATT: She walks alongside you. You step further into the marsh. Now, the actual liquid of the swamp is up to your knee and thigh. Each step is arduous. Eventually, you see a form in front of you. A large, stone archway of a ruined castle or establishment that has long-toppled over and fallen into the swamp. As you look forward, I want you all to make a perception check.

VIN: 13 plus six. 19.

DAN: 16.

LAURA: Nine! I suck!

JESSICA: 16.

TRAVIS: 20.

MATT: Barbarian being so perceptive!

TRAVIS: That never happens.

LAURA: I keep looking at the purple coming from your eyes and I get distracted.

MATT: Kaulder, Dupont, and Grog, as you guys approach, you see in the center of this ruin elevated beyond the rest of the swamp water. There's a large stone platform, a table, much like this, that has on top of it a series of small trinkets and bone shards. It has some sacrificial nature to it. It is relatively fresh blood, meaning probably over the past two or three days. Make an investigation check to truly ascertain the nature of how long it's been there.

VIN: Plus four.

MATT: So what's the total on that?

VIN: 11.

MATT: It's hard to really get the nature of how long it's been there. You gather it's probably been a few days. You can't tell if it's human or not. Regardless, as you approach the table, the moonlight seems to slowly wither and the room goes very dark around you to the point where it's pitch dark.

TRAVIS: I don't like it. I go into a rage.

JESSICA: Already?

TRAVIS: Yeah. I don't like the dark.

DAN: Should I light a torch?

LAURA: Yeah.

MATT: As you're all here lost in darkness, Dupont, you light the torch. It bursts, but it seems like the darkness is constricting it. You're still getting light, but it's very low.

DAN: That's not good.

MATT: The night air is trying to strangle it.

LAURA: Can we hear anything around us? Anybody's voices?

MATT: As you take a moment to take this in, the silence hits and you hear this whispering beginning to surround you. Directionless, it has no real source, but it is enough to grow louder and louder to instill a lot of you with fear.

JESSICA: I grab our tagalong and yell at her: Where have you taken us?!

MATT: As you look for her, you do not see her. The darkness is too constricting at this point. You hear a voice come out from the darkness from the other side of the ritual table you're standing at.

JESSICA: We're all going to die, guys!

MATT: "How eager they are to walk on. Unknowing they come to the seat of their destiny." Another voice comes from behind, it's the voice of the young woman following you. "An offering of outsiders."

JESSICA: I knew it!

MATT: "It cleans the palate. It tastes to come." "Shall we begin the next offering, dear sister?" "Yes, yes we shall." The woman steps out of the darkness, her head turned to the side. You see her form shimmer. Behind it, you see her flesh extend as her arms grow overly long, her form large and hunched, this disgusting swamp hag vision. As she looks forward and cackles, a second one of the same type of physical presence steps in the opposite side of the ritual table surrounding you. "Witch hunter, it seems you've come to your final bout." What do you want to do?

VIN: I like this! Attack!

MATT: As your sword, still peeling with flame behind you, you rush towards the first hag before you. Go ahead and make a round of attacks.

VIN: That's a 17.

MATT: 17 hits. Roll a second attack. Yeah, it does.

VIN: Critical! Guys, I don't make this up. It's all 20s.

MATT: Go ahead and roll damage for the first attack.

VIN: Seven.

MATT: So 12 points of damage on the first strike. Streaks across the front of the hag. She pulls back, the flames erupting from the wound in her chest. You can see black, brackish blood beginning to flow from the wound. She looks at you. Her face, her crooked nose and evil, deep, sunken yellow eyes. "It'll take more than that, Kaulder!" Roll damage for the second strike.

VIN: For the critical?

MATT: Yeah.

VIN: Ooh!

MATT: Double both dice.

VIN: Yeah. That would be 26 plus--

LAURA: Three.

MATT: So 29 point of damage. How do you want to do this? This is your finishing blow on this one hag. Describe how you want to do this death blow.

VIN: Oh my god. This death blow's just so delicious. Can I throw a little spin in it?

MATT: That's what I'm saying. Go ahead and describe how you want the death blow to be.

VIN: Guys, stand back! This is going to get really-- I literally have to throw a spin on it because that's what Kaulder would do. My first one is a beautiful swipe and as I spin, I reposition my sword and lunge deep into the heart.

MATT: Second strike cuts through the front of the torso. You can see her ribcage exposed as her upper body's having a hard time keeping its physical form. Strange spirits begin to streak out of her chest screaming. She reels back, "Kaulder!" reaching forward on the blade as you've brought the hilt up. You can feel that cold crimson spill over the front of your hand.

VIN: Beautiful.

MATT: Her face is in yours. You can see the eyes twitching as life beings to leave her form. "There are more. They will find you!"

VIN: Silence!

MATT: As you push in, her breath escapes the throat, her eyes fall back and the body falls limp against your grasp. You draw the blade out, flicking blood off, some of it onto the Headmistress and Grog. The other hag, who had just revealed her image, goes, "Another time, then." Backs out, seemingly very frightened by the fact that you just instantaneously disabled her sister.

LAURA: Yeah, run!

MATT: Disappears into the darkness. The moonlight creeps in again as the shadow that seemed to consume the vicinity seems to fade. You're now left amongst these cold ruins. The tension and curse seemingly now vanishing. The light and liveliness of the local fauna and greenery slowly returning around you.

VIN: We have done some good.

LAURA: And we got the money up front.

JESSICA: Always ask for it up front.

TRAVIS: I never liked the old woman, I'm just saying.

MATT: As your merry band of mercenaries head back towards the city of Bronbog, you are greeted by the remainder of the partially insane, but very grateful survivors of this recent curse. They come out to you. The rest of the money they collected amounts to about 320 gold pieces as well as a handful of currently unidentified magical artifacts that you keep at your side for future identification.

LAURA: Gimme.

MATT: That's for you guys to decide. As you step out of the bog, with a sense of accomplishment, the five of you look on to consider one- where your next venture will be. And two- where this other hag may be wandering off to possibly set another trap and gain vengeance for the death of her sister. And that, my friends, concludes our adventure for today.

(cheering)

MATT: As Kaulder and his band of mercenaries left the small, saved, cleansed village of Bronbog, they went out into the night air. What adventures did this world hold in store?

[heroic brass music]

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