D5 Eternal Love is All You Need

Gate-crash an eternal faerie wedding party and make off like bandits.

D5 Eternal Love is All You Need
The Beatles

Played again online last night via WhatsApp video conference, a mixture of real dice and dice roller apps, and a shared Google Drive with campaign resources such as region map and editable calendar - no virtual tabletop. I always will prefer in-person play, but when that isn't possible, this is my setup. I previously would waste considerable time chasing a pale simulacrum of computer gaming with virtual maps, minis, lighting - I admire those for whom this works - it wasn't for me. Once more major spoilers for Winter's Daughter, and generally parts of Dolmenwood, are forthcoming.


  • Clover, the Breggle Friar.
  • Ebbli, the Mossling Squire of Lord Ramius.
  • Shank, the Human Thief.


We rejoin the party at the base of the white marble tower in this frozen otherworld. They are initially rebuffed by Griddlegrim atop Grimmelgridge because "they aren't on the guess list." Ebbli easily twists their arms' to permit entry for sampling from the formers mystery mushroom pouch: Ebbli doubles in size and Hulks-out through her pinecone armour, while Clover is blessed with an all too literal wormtongue, having unseemly bouts of annelid and larval emesis. Shank is put-off after this, slinking around the back of the tower to attempt entry via a second-story window.

Inside they find on the second floor the expectant wedding party, an intimate gathering of frost-elf knights and nobles. Shank has been unable to scale the ice-slicked stone walls, so under cover of Clover's gastrointestinal affliction, they open a window and pull him up via a rope. Wafting between the nattering cliques, they catch a few treasured words between so much flotsam and jetsam of vapid social pleasantries:

  • Princess Snowfall-at-Dusk was spurned by her father, the Cold Prince, for accepting an engagement to the mortal enemy Sir Chyde. She has been imprisoned in this tower since, the eternal wedding reception awaiting the arrival of the groom.
  • The Cold Prince would more than handsomely reward whomsoever brought him a means to travel from his lands in Frigia back to Dolmenwood, for he yearns to reclaim sovereignty over that thorn in his side.
  • His Excellency, the Prince's Ambassador, is looking to ally with other Faerie lords: the Blind King of Gloomhold, and the Duke Who Cherishes Dreams are both mentioned, though doubtless others exist.

The party then leans on the guards, compelling them to permit entry to the Lady's bedchamber upstairs, to deliver their message from Sir Chyde. En route their fungal effects dissipate. Snowfall-at-Dusk receives them favourably, having always had a soft spot for mortals:

  • She admits that despite knowing Sir Chyde has passed, she has not called off the ceremony, as she did not want to wait for eternity alone in this tower.
  • They carefully establish her reaction to being given the ring of soul-binding bearing Sir Chyde, and she claims she would gladly remain here imprisoned and release the wedding guests, if she could be with the lingering spirit of her betrothed. The thinned veil between here and Dolmenwood will quickly repair, preventing travel once more, though the warding spell her father placed to trap her here would remain.
  • She is indebted to receive the ring, and it comes out that she somehow manipulated events involving the premature death of Shank's relative, and the letter guiding him to the barrow mound.
  • Having been granted her heart's desire, she asks Shank what it is his heart desires, and to watch is words carefully. He convenes with his allies, and they permit him to speak freely: he wishes to rule a castle. She therefore permits them to take her considerable jewellery box, as castles need gold, though cautions him to listen closely to his heart, as there are many paths through the wood yet only one can lead home:
30 ice-jewels (200gp each), 12 necklaces of fairy silver (150gp each), a sapphire set in a platinum brooch wrought like spiky hoarfrost (1,000gp)

They attempt to scamper off back to the barrow mound, but find that a pack of dire wolves have reached the tree line and are hunting for food. Ebbli grabs some of the feast goods from inside and alerts the knights, who gladly join her for a bit of sport. They charge across the frozen lake, flanked by their frost-elf defenders, but unfortunately must face one of the wolves themselves that blocks their escape beyond the warding circle that the elves cannot cross.

A couple of rounds of pitched battle ensue, and though they swiftly fell the beast with their blades, Shank sustains a serious lower limb bite (5 of his 6 hp lost). They rush through to the stairs up and looking back, see only the chamber with the pale statue surrounded by a shallow pool in the tomb once more.

They return to find it is early dawn, and so travel straight back to Lankshorn with the great Zabul (though as I record this now, realise he somewhat let them down, as I forgot he would have told them what is to be revealed a little earlier). Upon arriving there, they learn 3 days have passed in Dolmenwood for what was less than a night for them, and Ebbli is due to have collected her charge, Berryld (daughter of Lord Ramius) in High Hankle that morning. They force a march south, not sparing the horses, and arrive in early evening.

Yet nothing is so simple: Berryld never entered Hogwarsh's court. Ebbli squeezes the guards for more information, and they admit that Berryld actually took off to Redwraith Manor - the residence of her father's nemesis and half-brother Lord Malbleat. Realising that 'losing' her Lord's daughter would not play well at court, Ebbli sets to follow after her and discover what would drive her to abandon the arranged courtship with Hogwarsh.

Now flush with gold and needing rest after the day's forced march, and Shank's battle wound, they agree to spend the coming day resting in luxury and performing errands in the tarnished jewel of the south High-Hankle. Ebbli takes the ancient full plate armour of Sir Chyde to Griselda Helmsmith and in 5 days for 500 gp shall have it suitably fitting. Shank asks around for leads on further gold, while Clover tries to find a needy but worthy cause to which she might divest her burgeoning wealth, and so they gather a healthy stable of rumours.

Everyone gained enough XP for GP to hit the cap per session (1 XP less than a second level up): Clover is level 2 (3,499 XP), Ebbli is level 2 (4,499 XP), and Shank is level 3 (4,799 XP). Where will they go next?


Questlines & Sandboxes. As planned, I opened the session with a couple of minutes explaining how I saw rumours, quests and apparent plots working in the broad sandbox campaign style of Dolmenwood. I know that my players still carry a fear of missing out on stories or content, but we're all working to embrace a more experiential and exploratory mindset, rather than the task-like completionism that modern video games have inculcated.

Another Castle. I felt a bit guilty delivering the rug-pull of Berryld's absconding, but it was a good example of where prior commitment and random rolls help diffuse the sense of narrative authority and referee fiat. After session zero, I had decided that Berryld had done a runner, and the exact timing of the party's return to High Hankle came down to a die roll for how long they had spent in Faerie due to the odd flows of time there. You can get away with harder 'GM moves' if they are set in advance, deferred to the dice, or at least well-telegraphed.

Maximum Reward per Session. Each player was somewhat unpleasantly surprised to learn about the following rule, though all took it in stride after a brief discussion of the (presumed) rationale underlying it:

A character cannot advance more than one Level in a single session. Any additional XP that would take a character two or more Levels above their current Level are lost, leaving the character at 1 XP below the total for the next Level.