Spoiler alert: if you plan to play The Evils of Illmire don’t read this!
So this is it… the last session report of our The Evils of Illmire campaign which has been running for well over 12 months and 35+ sessions.
When I started preparing for the campaign earlier in 2020 I knew The Evils of Illmire was something special; a clearly structured hexcrawl with detailed dungeons in each location, a darkly twisted evil cult causing upset, powers beyond the characters understanding behind it all and numerous other interesting and unusual threads for them to explore. The organisation made The Evils of Illmire easy to use in preparation and at the table as most sessions were focussed around one or two locations, so I knew what I had to prepare in advance.
In my planning I did make what I consider now to be bogus decisions:
- Using the wrong system. I wanted to try out Saga of the Splintered Realm, one of these OSR with modern rules things. I’d read a good review and liked the sound of it. While it worked in play the characters felt quite overpowered compared to OSE which I think would have been a better fit for The Evils of Illmire, plus it had some oddities such as a FEAT score which was overused and didn’t really make sense. I wish I’d just gone with OSE from the start.
- Choosing Fantasy Grounds as the VTT. I’d had Fantasy Grounds Unity (FGU) for a little while in beta and had created a character sheet for it which ‘kind of’ did the job. I’d spent hours preparing assets and uploading them into it; maps, images, monsters, NPCs. But despite the expense and effort that went into using FGU, when it came to using the thing for a game, I just hated the thing. A clunky, outdated interface and an inability to ping a map and crappy drawing tools annoyed me for starters. To make things worse FoundryVTT had come out in that time and it was clearly superior and would have helped massively. The more I used Foundry for other games, the more I hated FGU. If there’s one thing I’m not sorry about it’s not having to use that piece of crap again.
Beyond those two decisions, everything else was fantastic. I had a wonderful bunch of players who really engaged with the setting and brought their characters to life (massive thanks @chrisesharp, @Dragongirl74, @Hastati100 and @JimjimTheGrim, it’s been an real pleasure GMing for you). They put up with my GM shortcomings, and each session brought their best to the virtual table. I would say after that we’ve become good friends, I look forward to catching up with them face to face when the current situation allows.
As the campaign progressed the land of Illmire unfolded before us; I had no idea how the players were going to engage with the adventure and it went in directions I could not have predicted. I’ve read other GM’s reports of the game and in each instance their experience has been totally different; some encountered The Observer earlier on and negotiated with him, some discovered the nature of Esmeraldra earlier and learned more about the history of the region… so much potential is wrapped up in this book. It amazes me that The Evils of Illmire was released as a ‘zine as it’s packed with content, and I can’t wait to see what @SpellswordGames does with The Dragonwilds, a new setting which overlaps with The Evils of Illmire. If you’re looking for your next campaign setting or just something to mine for great ideas, I’d highly recommend grabbing both The Evils of Illmire and The Dragonwilds (when it is released).
It’s great to finish a campaign like this though, to reach an epic finale, but I shall be just a little sad to leave Illmire behind; for my group it’s on to Yoon-Suin, this time with the Whitehack 3e system which I have a lot more confidence in. I’ll be running Yoon-Suin with two groups, much like I have been doing with Night’s Dark Terror, but with it being much more of a sandbox it’ll be interesting to see how that unfolds, I can’t wait to get started.
And so it’s on to the final session report, once more supplied by @Dragongirl74 who has done a great job these last few sessions, producing nicely detailed write ups that bring the game alive. Really appreciated.
Anistor is holding his bottle of rum in his pocket, deciding whether to drink it all or to save some as a Molotov cocktail. The party head back through the fountain room and back down the stairs to the second room they passed through, this time taking the corridor to the north that they skipped before. They follow it right and see stairs leading back to the pool room on the left wall and a large heavy metal door at the east end of the corridor.
Kristos listens at the door to see if there is any noise to be heard behind it but hears nothing other than his own breathing. At that moment, they realise that the severed head has stopped it’s scream of aeons of pain and rage and the silence rings in their ears. Anistor opens the door into a large room filled with villagers and trades people in a bedraggled neglected state. They are so scared they back away.
“We’re from Lord Crellmont, he sent us to save you” Anistor says holding his hands out placatingly. They shrink back, he looks like a demon covered in mud to them. Kristos then steps forward, looking less martial than Anistor and manages to reassure them somewhat. Ava, a small girl speaks up “Are you really from Lord Crellmont?” she asks, her voice quavering with a mixture of fear and hope, “it’s not another one of Verica‘s cruel tricks”, Kristos replies “The time of Verica‘s tricks is past child”. Ava‘s voice takes on a tone of hopeful entreaty “will you take me back to Illmire, my parents are still there, I thought I’d never see them again?” Kristos smiles and says, “after we’ve dealt with the Fearmother and Verica“. The noise level in the room increases as more and more of them come forward, sharing what they know and their tales of how they came to be trapped here. Verica always enters through the door our heroes came in, they think she has a room off to the west somewhere.
Over the hubbub the feeling of fear increases, shaking all the victims and our heroes once again. “The Fearmother must be close” Evalore says, at this the hostages raise their arms and point towards the opening in the north wall as one, arms that are dirty and barely more that skin and bones. Anistor sups from his whiskey bottle, the time has come. Taking a last swig,he holds it in his mouth ready to breathe fire on the vile creature housed beyond. Kristos calls forth Shalmaneser’s Lion in preparation for the battle ahead. As they open the door and follow into the cave passage, they notice the floor and walls become coated with the vile black fluid from the pool room. Anistor dips Flambolg in the fluid and withdraws it, rewarded only with a dripping, stinking sword blade rather than the gouts of flame he was expecting. The room is eerily lit by the flaming sword, but nothing is visible apart from a small part of floor that is not covered in the fluid, where lies a metal treasure chest and several semi-transparent evil looking eggs, the Fearmother‘s children.
The room is plunged into darkness once more, spreading panic through our heroes. Evalore knows that the Fearmother is more than he’s ever faced before, surely unbeatable, and turns to flee, his flight response fully engaged. Even knowing beyond doubt that this response is one of the effects of the Fearmother‘s evil presence, he is powerless to do anything but succumb to the emotions.
Kristos sees green as his eyes fall upon the spot where Anistor was last seen, jealous thoughts running through his mind “Why does he always get to go in the front? Why did he get the flaming sword?”
Vigark sees red, suddenly enraged, and screams in anger.
Gravik has steeled himself and seems less effected than our other heroes and simply backs up out of the range of the darkness spell.
Kristos can hear the crackle of Flambolg‘s flames ahead of him, even though he cannot see them. Sensing where the Fearmother is he cries “Anistor move to your left quickly and get out of the way”, hoping to trick Anistor into bumping into the aberration. He then moves forward, reaching out in front of him, repulsed at the slimy cold thing he feels ahead, hoping fervently that it is the wall.
Anistor goads the Fearmother “we’re making omelettes tonight, Fearmother, ha ha ha” he laughs as he swings Flambolg left and right ahead of him, making a wet cracking sound as he manages to destroy 2 of the eggs. He hears other cracks and realises it is the sound of Fearspawn hatching further on and that familiar stench fills his nostrils making him gag.
Vigark storms ahead blindly swinging the glimmering longsword in front of him in his rage.
Evalore, terrified of everything, backs cautiously away into the room where they found the chained victims. He now looks more distressed than the hostages did when the first found them.
Gravik presses forward hearing Vigark‘s cries of rage, knowing he must help his comrades.
Kristos moves forward slowly, hoping that his trick will leave Anistor weakened.
Some of the newly hatched Fearspawns move up, being able to see in the dark they can pick out their prey with ease, but they are still too newly hatched and are unable to connect in any meaningful way.
Anistor swings Flambolg and separates one of the hatchlings’ head from its body but misses with the back swing on a second attack. Still not a bad effort without being able to see your target.
The lion is stone still, growling, hackles up, knowing his master has been attacked but unable to work out how or where from.
Vigark presses forward, almost stumbling into the Fearmother, a horrific tangle of writhing flesh and bulging eyeballs, its foul presence sensed more than felt or seen. Vigark feels something sharp and leathery lashing out at him, ripping into his flesh like a living whip, leaving him bleeding.
In response, he stabs his sword in the general direction of the creature, using his first strike to help find the target, his second swing hits home eliciting a scream from the creature and the fluid starts sloshing around violently as if a mini tidal wave was in progress.
Evalore tries to collect himself but is still too panicked and keeps moving away from the vileness in the inky fluid.
Gravik follows the scream of pain from the creature and the triumphant shout from Vigark, but the flail just bounces off the slimy blubbery hide of the creature
Kristos pulls himself together somewhat thinking “Anistor can wait, there is a bigger job to do first” but is also unable to penetrate the foul creature’s natural armour.
One of the hatchlings lunges at Anistor, but its tentacle simply slides off the plate armour, leaving a trail of slime in its wake but leaving no other signs that it was there.
Vigark is now paranoid, the effect of the demonic poison injected into his body by the barbs on the tentacles that ripped into him earlier.
The Fearmother attacks Vigark again, missing this time, then turns its attention to Gravik, tearing into flesh leaving its target bleeding and injected with demonic poison once more. Next it strikes at Kristos ripping through armour, clothing, and skin, injecting more of the poison, Kristos‘ arm going numb where he was hit.
Anistor stays with the hatchlings missing at first due to the darkness but taking a chunk out of one on the next swing, it retaliates drawing blood the smell of which distracts its nest mate into missing Anistor as it turns toward the delicious scent at the last second.
The lion attacks but with almost no effect, it’s claws and teeth somehow repelled by the Fearmother.
Vigark slaps the vileness in front of him with an arcane dart, causing thorns to pierce through the blubbery hide and the creature again screams and thrashes in the murky water.
Evalore continues backing away, then is finally able to steel himself and turns back towards the danger
Gravik sinks his flail into blubbery evil ripping through its body, the water rippling again with its rage at being so easily damaged.
The Fearmother moves away from the pain dealers, sneaking towards the small entrance at the back of the pool room.
Anistor slices through two more of the hatchlings, all the time taunting the Fearmother that its children are dying.
The lion senses the Fear Mothers retreat but stays with Kristos to guard him.
Vigark follows the slimy creature as it brushes past him but is unable to keep up.
Evalore decides to creep up on the creature from behind and hopes that the small gap at the back of the pool room leads through to the passage they were fighting in, he spots the darkness in the pool room and knows he has taken the right path.
Gravik follows the creature down the passage more easily, being a dwarf and used to being underground in the dark, he approaches close but keeps just out of range.
Kristos retreats down the corridor thinking to approach the creature from the other end.
A hatchling tries to bite Anistor again, once more sliding off the plate armour ineffectually.
The Fearmother stays put thinking she is safely out of reach and sends some magical energy towards Vigark, seizing his muscles and holding him in place.
Anistor hears Gravik calling out for him “bring Flambolg over here, she’s running away” and moves in that direction but it is too far to physically harm the creature, instead he goads it again relating the tales of its hatchlings’ deaths.
Evalore senses the magic coming from the Fearmother, but not precisely enough to send an arcane dart at it. He steps forward cautiously swinging with his quarterstaff but is unable to connect with his target.
Gravik realises he can’t get up to the creature, considers using the horn but realises it will also harm Vigark and Anistor so reluctantly puts it way.
Kristos runs round to the pool room but is unable to do any more just yet.
The Fearmother moves out of the darkness and runs past a shocked Evalore who barely manages to avoid being knocked down by the huge, monstrous creature. It slithers away apace and exits the pool room and is into the corridor leading south, seemingly in the blink of an eye.
Anistor realising he will not be able to catch up if he follows it gives chase down the parallel corridor, hoping to cut it off.
Gravik also gives chase, this time following behind it to cut off a retreat.
Kristos moves into line of sight and fires his arrow into the creature’s mouth, and it slumps to the ground.
As it collapses, the flesh starts to melt into a black sludge as the magic holding it together in this dimension is no longer able to give it form. All the Mindphage Worms in the inky fluid and on the altar start shrivelling and dying, any people infected with them will soon be free.
Closing in on a victory our heroes rest briefly until Vigark can move again.
Kristos is just about to listen to the door in the western wall of the pool room, the only place they have not yet been, when Evalore reminds them about the magical instrument that Verica holds that sends all who hear it to sleep. They block their ears and open the door into a short corridor to the west which turns south then west again ending in a new solid door. Anistor mimes to Gravik that he needs assistance opening the heavy iron door. They heave against it with all their might and the door swings open into a square room. The room is surprisingly well appointed for its location with a new bed and silken sheets, an ornate wooden shelf with three pottery jars on it and some other items that they can’t make out.
Verica stands up from the bed, looking unsurprised at their entry, she smiles smugly as she starts playing the golden harp which she holds in her hand.
Gravik moves up to her swinging her flail with great effect. Then Anistor crosses the room and sinks Flambolg into her flesh. The evil sorceress is looking very surprised now!
Evalore walks into the room, simply stepping aside so the Kristos can enter, knowing he is unable to call any magic whilst moving.
Kristos shoots two arrows from the doorway and Verica crumples to the floor.
Under the bed, something wriggles, Verica‘s secret plaything a naked zombie with no arms or legs, around its neck a key, perhaps to the metal chest near the egg site. Looking around the room they find various treasures, the most notable of which is a page torn from a journal with handwriting in an arcane script – upon inspection Evalore discerns that this is from The Observers journal, describing how it summoned the Fearmother (he was bored and wanted to see what he could summon from the other side).
When they return to the egg site the last hatchling is nowhere to be seen, it must have melted when its mother did, surely?
They return to Illmire as heroes, the pall of fear is banished from the land and Ava is reunited with her family. For now, all is well, but there are places still to explore and their promise to Esmeraldra to keep…
For now all in Illmire is well indeed. Only those steeped in the darkest lore of the land will know whether or not that unaccounted for Fearspawn perished or survived… to become, well best not ponder on that.