Our runthrough of The Owlbear Run with a few small alterations from the DM, and a few huge alterations from the party.
The party heards toward Telvorn and meets up with Griss and his neighbors. Presented with the first possible choice, to head south towards Telvorn or to stop and talk to Griss, one of the party, a chaos sorceror named Mona, declares they should go north…
After a few minutes of argument between them, they read the sign Griss has posted. “Let’s destroy the sign” is the next helpful suggestion from a minotaur berserker named Olo. Griss says “Well you can destroy it if you want stranger, but I’d be obliged if you didn’t. I’d just have to make a new one.”
Things proceed at a better pace and they get some information from Griss and his neighbors, although Griss has trouble pronouncing the word Astrazalian and the party now wants to take a detour to “Assland or whatever the old guy said.” A neighbor clears up the confusion. Hearing about the other groups that are participating, the tentative plan is to hire Brandok’s Brute Squad to run an owlbear for them.
Once they arrive at Telvorn, they see some kids running around with owlbear bobbleheads and decide they each need one. Mona ends up with a stunning rendition of a carved owlbear, each feather showing up in detail. Olo managed to get one with each eye pointing a different direction, and a vaguely phallic beak. Olo returns his to the shop, angrily, while Mona fashions a shoulder attachment and wears the bobblehead there for the rest of the adventure.
Meeting up with the Ramshackle Twins, they are asked what their group is called, “Poundcake”, and what their specialty is, “Patience, obliviousness, comic relief”. Listening to the details of the contest, Mona is quite perturbed upon hearing the rules about teleportation and flight, and uses her Ham of Wonder. This causes one of the Ramshackle Twins to begin to grow larger and larger. Both of the brothers find this quite hilarious, and they use their own magic to take it beyond the limit of the spell, until one of the brothers pops into a cloud of confetti. “Don’t worry folks, he’ll turn up soon enough!”
The following hour is spent going back and forth between the sponsors and having various conversations, and checking out the owlbears.
- Lady Fazgahrd comes across as a bit snobbish, but they keep prying for information. After checking out Lucky Lady and seeing how aggressive she is, they decide it’s not the right fit, but have a sneaking suspicion that there’s going to be something on the mountain that only dwarves can pass.
- Moving on to Lord Burl, they get along well with the man, and are pleased to hear that his daughter has named the owlbear ‘Kitten.’ They do not investigate the owlbears other than to glance at their attitude. They make a note that this is probably the right sponsor for them.
- Lord Klavin does not make a good impression with the party, and just rubs them the wrong way. The sight of Manslayer seals the deal, as they have no interest in dealing with such a beast.
- Sir Tomire doesn’t have much in common with the group either, though they are impressed with the size of Terrible Tharizdun. They do ask a few questions about the owlbears coloring and feathers. Though they have no interest in Tomire, they decide to try and impress him anyway with an arm wrestling competition.
- Finally checking out Rolling Boulder, they make note again of his coloring and begin to ask questions of how the owlbears were gathered. Are they all part of the same breed, the same pack? Do the spots on one owlbear math up with the others?
The 3rd member of the party joins late and starts catching up on information. They head back through all the sponsors again and question them about how the owlbears were caught. More questions about the coloring and any similarities between the owlbears. At this point they return to Lord Burl and the details of sponsorship are hammered out. He quietly suggests that they should visit the church as they seem like a nice bunch of kids. They head to the church and donate enough to grant them Avandra’s blessing, and 3 rituals.
(So I should point out that the party is actually level 18, and have a few years worth of unique items saved up. I assumed that just bumping up the DC numbers and making a few changes would be enough to deal with any eventualities.)
After a few minutes of deliberation, they come up with the idea to have the ritual Reduce Beast written to 3 scrolls. Happy with their decision, they head to the inn for the night. They see members of the other groups there and eavesdrop on conversations, oberve behaviour, and try to hustle any information they can about their competitors. They like what they see with the Stormhammers, are apathetic about the Fey Band, and strongly dislike the Brute Squad.
The morning of the race, they are gathered by Kitten’s wagon. When the wagons are unlocked, they proceed to wave pieces of meat in front of her and say things like “Who’s a pretty owlbear? Yes you are. Woozaboozapwetty girl?” They are angered to learn that Liniel’s Fey Band has simply opened the gate and started walking with the owlbear towards a path. From a couple hundred yards away they hear the loud snap of a beak and some screams, and assume that Manslayer has claimed another victim. The party manages to slowly coax Kitten out, plying her with treat and praise, and head towards the mountain.
The party comes to a Rough Crossing and Kitten plants herself in the dirt, refusing to move. They stop trying to coax her across and start to play with her and give her more treats. Mona(the player asking rather specifically, “are we friends with Kitten now?”) gets out a ritual scroll and proceeds to cast away. Kitten seems very disoriented as she shrinks down to a pocket sized owlbear, and is scooped up by Mona and put into a birdcage.
(I can see where my night is going, and as usual, it didn’t take long for the group to throw me a curve.)
Kitten is inside the cage, but is now screaming a tiny, pigeon-like scream as she runs in circles. The group heads across the bridge, trying to stuff more scraps of meat into the cage as they they pass by this first challenge.
The Lord of Death is upon them soon enough and makes his demand for a sacrifice. Olo offers his bobblehead owlbear, claiming it was a great prize from the carving master, granted to Olo as a reward for his perfect carving skills.
“Your offering is empty” replies Khazal the Destroyer. “I can hear the screams of damned souls”. Kitten is still in her cage, screaming like a pigeon gone mad. Mona offers up a jar of glow worms, placing it on the ground before her.
“The souls are trapped in the vessel.” is all Khaz volunteers this time, stepping closer with his rusted axe draggin behind. Mona begins to shoo the glow worms out of the jar and offer them to Khazal. Olo offers the Death Lord a piece of chicken, saying it was a valiant beast that fought to the end.
“The sacrifice is welcome, let me show you to the Gates of Death.”
“OOOOhhh, it had to be something dead. We should have stepped on the glow worms.”
The party is lead to a mining tunnel, and Khaz waves them inside, saying “Beware the souls of the damned, they lurk inside. Teeheehee!” as he giggles and runs off. They determine it must have been one of the fat, giggling wizards in disguise.
Traveling again, the sound of a tiny snapping beak and some growling from the cage causes the group to look around. They find themselves in a stretch of berry bushes. Fetching some berries to quiet the owlbear, they notice the world shimmers and changes, and the path is no longer nearby. It’s quickly determined that it’s an illusion, but no real effort is put into dispelling it, as Sever, the assassin, recalls owning a special boon, obtained long ago. Whereas everyone else forgot it ever existed, Sever likes to hang on to things, for years even, waiting for the right time. The boon is used to change any terrain that is not-as-it-seems, into something more hospitable and beneficial to the party. The illusion rights itself back to the natural path, and the party quickly forges ahead on The Lost Trail.
Coming to a cottage, the tiny, caged Kitten, throws a couple of low grunts into her screams. Unable to deduce the cause of the noises, it’s decided that it’s ‘a trick to slow us down’. As they walk past the cottage, they are ambushed by Brigands throwing daggers from various hiding spots, in the trees, the cottage, apparently all around. Trading blows, the 2 groups wound each other before Olo catches a glimpse of one of the sponsor badges peeking out from under a lapel. With some quick thinking from the party, they discover the brigands are working for Lord Klavin. The late joining party member, the assassin Sever, bluffs them from the shadows with “The jig is up, let’s get out of here before they can identify us all to the sherriff.” The brigands slowly lose their nerve and retreat. Once they are in the clear, the party notices that the cage seems to a bit more full than before. Kitten is getting bigger again. A few calls to the heavens of “shenanigans” and “that’s cheating” ring out, before they recall the ritual only works on friendly animals. A constantly terrified, pocket sized, screaming owlbear becomes less friendly over time, no matter how much meat you poke through the bars of the cage saying “treaty num-nums?”
The path leads them to a Dead End Ridge. Looking up, another path is seen above the ridge, and it seems an easy climb. A ‘sproing’ noise alerts them to the cage, where a single, meaty, owlbear hindleg is hanging out the cage, bent metal bars around it. The top is quickly ripped off the cage by Olo, allowing a schnauzer sized Kitten to firmly plant herself in the dirt, scowling and growling at those nearby. Apparently rubbing berries and meat on the owlbear’s beak has no effect, other than to cause injury to the food wielder’s fingers. Obviously this is an oversight of the universe, so they continue to apply berries and meat to the situation, in hopes the universe will right itself. Mona climbs the ridge easily, and Olo leads his horse to the top with little difficulty. The plan now, is for Olo to pull Kitten’s leash from the top of the ridge, while Sever remains below, prodding Kitten with a 10 foot pole. This is eventually effective, with the horse’s help, though it does little to ingratiate Kitten to the party. She grows constantly more foul. As they get her to the top of the ridge, she has now regained most of her true size, and her struggles cause dirt and debris to expose a rune covered stone at the base of the ridge. Investigating it, they realize it must be some dwarven magic, and deduce it’s something of Lady Fazgahrd’s design, likely to be used to help Grembul and his men to the finish line. The party buries the rune stone under rocks and branches, and hurries along their way, dragging Kitten along with them, tethered to the horse.
Coming to another of the mountain’s many bridges, a transparent image of Delzar appears before them. He tells them to prepare for the Riddle Bridge.
“A bother to its mother, Who would abandon it if she could, Her waif-like, worthless only child That grows up plump and fat lying abed, On the verge of a sea change. ‘
Such a pretty thing,’ the men say one day. They knife the mother, seize the daughter, Bind her to the others…
Mona interjects with, “A pearl! Let’s go.” The image of Delzar seems a bit surprised, but giggles like a fool before vanishing, and the party continues along.
Rolling on down the path, a cottage approaches.
(Did he say a cottage approaches? Hah, it sounds like it’s on legs. Can you imagine a cottage with little legs coming at you? …pause
Well shit, it’s actually on legs?)
A voice calls out from the Charming Cottage, after it settles down and it’s many horse legs disappear underneath it. The smell of a delicious feast comes through the door and windows. As they near the door, a wave of magical badness springs forth and causes some of the group to become famished, and want nothing other than to eat the spread that’s set out in the cottage. Those unaffected decide it’s best to follow along with the others and see what happens. Once all are inside, the charmed dig in, eating with a frenzied speed. Mona and Olo take turns, once they’ve discovered the source of the magic, trying to disarm the spell and dislodge the door. Eliminating that problem, they realize that Kitten is quite content to remain and eat. Some more ‘meat-lure’ tactics and tugging on the leash eventually manage to get her back outside and on the path.
Feeling a bit worn, the party manages to find another cottage. “These cottages all look pretty similar.” Some thought into the subject reveals that lots of neighborhoods use the same design over and over. Smoke wafts up from the chimney, voices come from the door and windows, and Kitten alternates between her trilling, pigeon-like cooing and low, gutteral growls. Olo hangs back, with Kitten leashed to his horse. Heading to the door, the others meet a woman named Lora. She’s preparing a meal while the children play on the floor.
(“What do you think? Did Kitten used to live here? Maybe she was their pet. We should let her in and see what she does. Maybe she likes kids.”)
Sever asks Lora, “Do you live alone?”
Looking at the minotaur, revenant, and crazily colored woman escorting a gigantic horse tethered to an owlbear, she replies, “I’m not really comfortable answering….my husband just went to get some firewood, he’ll be right back.”
Kitten begins to pull with everything she’s got, dragging Olo and the horse towards the cottage. The party starts to yell conflicting suggestions, as Olo tries and tries to keep the owlbear back. Realizing they don’t have time to come up with a solution, and seeing that Lora has slammed shut the door, they yell to her to get out of the house. A scream is heard through the door, “Leave us alone!” Some more convincing pleas send Lora scrambling out the back of the house with her children, as Kitten bashes open the front door. She starts tearing open the cupboards, trashing everything in sight, and pushing a pile of debris into the corner. Circling around in the pile, Kitten begins making horrendous, nasal noises, “Hroonk!” as an unexpected show begins.
(Schloorp) Kitten deposits a wet egg, about a foot and a half high, in the middle of the nest.
(Schleerp. “Jesus, could you stop making that noise”) Another egg, followed by 2 more, along with various other accessories of mammal/avian hybrid birthing. Something akin to a sigh is heard, before Kitten circles and lays gingerly atop Kitten’s Eggs.
(“Well shit, now what?”)
Sever begins to study the situation, as they realize they are more likely to lead her along with her own eggs, rather than random meat-bits. He tries his luck at anatomy and guesses at a bulge of owlbear fleshiness, and slides his arms underneath, up to the elbows. Meanwhile, Mona and Olo have begun to rig some sort of matress/egg carrying contraption to place on the back of the horse. Sever snags an egg and gets it partway back, before it gets stuck on another egg. He quickly exricates both to everyone’s delight, handing off the eggs to be snuggle in the mattress monstrosity. He goes around to the other side of the creature to try again, this time knowing where to dive in. His arms make it in, almost to the elbows again, before he snags on some unknown bit of owlbeariness. Kitten awakes with a start, and turns to look at him, eye to eye. Kitten jumps up to snap at his face, and he dodges away. Some quick communication gets Sever to lure Kitten from the nest, and then hide in one of the back rooms. Olo and Mona manage to sneak up and grab the remaining eggs, placing them on horseback, before Kitten turns around and realizes what’s happened. Enraged, she gives chase. Mona and Olo are on horseback, with Kitten in hot pursuit. Sever is keeping pace. The mottley arrangement manages to get quite far down the path before Mona notices some of her knotwork was a bit hasty, and the egg holding contraption starts listing to left. With one in Olo’s mane, and one on the mattress, she continues along, trying to keep everything from falling off. Sever manages to run astride Kitten, and leaps onto her back. He searches through his mental inventory for a useful poison or sedative, but realizes he doesn’t want to kill her or drive her insane. Ahead, Mona’s mattress begins to shift to the other side, and she sees yet another of those damned bridges ahead. It’s littered with men dressed as soldiers or guards. A bearded man in chainmail squints at the oncoming storm of owlbear and horseflesh, and yells out “Routine Inspection Point! Please cross the bridge in single…please slow down!”
Sever selects a poison and jams a poison-tipped crossbow bolt into Kitten’s neck. She immediately slows to a fraction of the horse’s speed. Mona holds the mattress ropes together as they barrel into the guards stationed on the bridge. Several go flying down into the water, while Mona herself is thrown from the horse, rolling across the bridge. Olo remains firmly mounted as the remaining guards manage to gain a little decorum and point their spears at the party. The guards appear quite perturbed at this point, but the party recognizes their insignia and quickly display their badges from Lord Burl. The guards take their time coming to a decision, but begrudgingly allow the group to pass.
There’s little good-will left in the group by now, as the events of the race have drained it from them. They draggingly continue to lure Kitten along, although she seems more at peace now that she sees the eggs aren’t getting any farther away from her. The noise of a crowd is heard in the distance, and they realize they must be close to the finish. Skirting across a few small streams, they come to a final bridge, with the town of Milvorn in the distance. As they reach the bridge, another owlbear steps from the trees at the opposite end, eyeing the group and issuing a few growl-barks before rising up onto his hind legs and screeching. Kitten rises up and screeches back.
(“Are they going to fight? Is it going to fight us? Maybe we could just let her go and let them fight and take they eggs? The rules said we had to cross with a live owlbear, it didn’t say it had to be the one we left with.”)
Olo looks ahead and says “I’m going to charge at it”, brandishing his weapon. He races across the bridge in front of them and delivers a glancing blow with his axe, lodging it in the owlbears shoulder. The new owlbear reaches down with his beak and removes the blade from his shoulder. Sever races across and passes the owlbear, continuing down the path. Mona follows suit on the horse with the mattress-egg containment unit. There’s a kerfuffle as she tries to pass the narrow end of the bridge, and the new owlbear latches onto the horse. Olo moves away, and Kitten charges in, also tearing into the horse. She steers the horse out of their grasp and everyone continues towards the finish line. A steep hill drops down before them, and they all hurry down. Sever rushes down and loses his footing, faceplanting and sliding down. Olo hoofs it, literally, and makes it to the finish. Mona nudges the bleeding horse closer to the line, but it’s snagged again. She grabs an egg under each arm and tries to teleport across the finish line. The shenanigan proofing stops her just short of the line, but she steps across quickly. Kitten and the other owlbear each snag one of the remaining eggs in their beak, and proceed to climb back up the hill. The wizards judging the contest are unsure what to make of the eggs, and call for the Duke to come and give a ruling. “When does life begin, when the owlbear egg is fertilized? When it hatches?”
Sever manages to snag the trailing leash of Kitten and wrap it around a stump. She pulls and pulls at the harness, and the other owlbear sets it’s egg down to snap at the harness with it’s beak. Sever quickly runs up and snatches the egg from the distracted beak of Kitten, ducking the other owlbear and grabbing that egg as well, and rushes back towards the finish line. With the entire party now at the finish, panicked looks come from the crowd, as the owlbear snaps the harness from Kitten, and the 2 creatures come galloping towards the line. Placing the eggs on the ground and backing away, the party waits to see what will happen. Kitten and the other owlbear come and take a few minutes trying to place the huge eggs in their beaks, 2 at a time, before turning and heading back up the hill.
Duke Hightower to comes greet them, explaining that they’ve shown up before anyone else has even rounded the bend. All the other paths are clear. With a winner declared, the nervous crowd finally celebrates. Lord Burl comes to the them, ecstatic that they’ve won, Kitten is safe, and his daughter got to see her again, especially with eggs and a boyfriend. He explains they will get their promised rewards, with a bit more on top of that, but first the Duke has to speak with them about another matter…