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The 18th full game session. Dean (Thic Duc), Matt (Barron), Mariel (Leah), Nathan (Kevin), and Larry (Michael) are returning cast members.
As we left the party, they had just arrived at the docks in Saltmarsh, hoping to find out what had happened to the Scooby Gang. The party took rooms at the local inn, and enjoyed the nostalgic comfort food of "fish stew". The wizard and barbarian they met on the ship took rooms at the local inn, but declined to follow the party into the swamp, at least not right away. As best the party could tell, the barbarian was drunken to the point of insensibility when they left the next morning, and the wizard was occupied with his spellbook (or perhaps one of the local girls of negotiable virtue, depending on whether you ask the wizard or the bartender). Kriselle is in a Shrodinger's Fighter scenario; no one thought to check on her today...
While Michael prepared his spells (choosing from those suitable to swamp life, such as "snake charm" and "augury"), Barron acquired three large baitfish, and Thic Duc a new spear with a spiffy metal loop on the end for reeling in whatever he happens to spear with it. Then the party split up, with Barron searching for a native guide to the swamps in the local tavern (Saltmarsh only really has one), and Thic Duc along with the rest of the party seeking out the local herbalist for advice.
After paying the herbalist a single gold piece to reveal the name of a local guide familiar with the swamps and able to lead the party to success in the wilderness, she pointed to Kevin the Druid, "a worthy woodsman recently in search of employment". Not without reason, the party felt they had perhaps overpaid for this advice. They proceeded to the mayor's residence on the first floor of the lighthouse, and after a brief discussion among themselves about whether they would be blamed for the missing horse they had borrowed, asked about the Scooby Gang; the mayor said the gang had taken their wagon and tried to find a ship that would drop them off at an undisclosed location within the swamp with no docking facilities while carrying a wagon pulled by a huge creature accompanied by mysterious noises. Finding no sea captain willing to offer passage under those conditions, the Gang had chosen to travel overland.
Barron, however, had a little more luck: each corner of the local tavern was occupied by a cloaked and hooded figure brooding ominously over the midday fish stew.
A little interrogation, fast talking, and a forged electrum coin display convinced the disguissssssed figure that Barron was affiliated with the smugglers who had previously arranged to provide the lizardfolk with weapons, and a little more that he would be in contact with the settlement to discuss making the missing shipment reappear. Though the disguised lizardman did not seem entirely impressed with the explanation for the missing goods, he did provide basic verbal directions and a warning of froggy danger on the path to the settlement. The directions weren't very helpful anyway; they amounted to "Follow the road, continue on after the road stops, and eventually the road will start up again." However, surely a party with a ranger and a druid will not balk at venturing into the uncharted swamplands...
Reunited after their various errands, including the purchase of rations for the journey, the party arranged to share a pair of rooms and retired for the night. Having noticed the lizard men bedding down in rooms nearby, they made a hasty decision to sneak out of the inn in the early morning rather than wait to be followed.
In the morning, their sneaking out went without incident. Thic Duc went downstairs quietly, collected some of the remaining drunks, and helped them up the stairs into the rooms the party was about to abandon. This switcheroo enabled everyone to leave their rooms while leaving sleeping lizards to lie.
The road to the west along the coast started out clearly enough, passing the familiar turnoff leading to the not-so-haunted house, and continuing on into the swampland. Every mile or so, a sign marked a campsite by the side of the road, each one a small stone ring around a fire put surrounded by a larger ring of trees. None were occupied when the party arrived, though an opened package of scooby snacks had been dropped at the second campsite.
Shortly after the third campsite, the road gradually turned into a series of swampy trails. Leah and Kevin traded off the lead position, scouting ahead and hoping to encounter any creatures before the rest of the party could do so. It wasn't long before the Leah head a splashing sound coming from ahead of her, and stopped to listen. Sure enough, the rest of the swamp sounds were much quieter; the splash was unusual. Looking around carefully, she noticed a large (but not giant) frog perhaps a hundred yards away. After a moment, it hopped and splashed again. Leah was faced with a dilemma; what should she do? Kill the frog, as the party had been warned they were hostile? Return to the party to warn them? Follow the frog as it hopped to... whereever frogs hop to? The party had not planned for this.
Eventually she decided to let the frog continue on its way unharmed, and return to the party to warn them. Unfortunately, the news of the frog sighting reminded the rest of the party they had yet to have lunch, and so they stopped to eat from their rations while debating what to do about the frogs. Shortly afterwards, the frogs ambushed them.
Only Leah and Michael were alert enough to notice their approach. They drew their weapons just as a line of frog creatures appeared from the north, landing just outside of melee range. As the party begin to reposition to enter combat, the frog creatures hopped over their heads, landing to what the party had just assumed would be the rear of the fight... and three more units of four frogs landed, one group on each side, until the party was surrounded. Each unit had one frog with a broadsword and shield, the rest fighting with their front claw-hands.
Though none of the party fell during the resulting melee, it was a near thing. Michael's healing spells kept people fighting, and the dynamic duo of Leah and Pyro managed to clear one whole unit of attackers by themselves. Pyro got a delicious taste of revenge for nearly being eaten by the last giant frog the party met, finding that these large frogs were much more palatable than a giant frog. Kevin's Entanglement spell by itself took three frogs mostly out of the fight as well. (Though he had to leave early, one of the cats took over his character!)
Ultimately, the only party member lost was Mr. Crackers, who landed on a frog, attacked it with his claws, and was promptly eaten. That particular frog spent the rest of the fight trying not to throw up what he just ate, but managed to flee as the rest of his amphibious friends met their wet and soggy fate. Michael immediately used his healing spells to bring the rest of the party back to reasonably healthy status, while Leah examined the trail and announced she could follow it easily so long as the party left in the next half-hour or so.
To be continued...