Nov 5, 2017

22nd Day of Reaping, CY 580 - Luke, it's a trap!

In this session, Jarrus stepped up to lead the party. He had a plan that they would push their ruse as far as possible, and spring the trap if that's what this was. I'm never good at timing these sessions to end where I want them to, so we played a little bit online to push the story forward, but we still ended mid-encounter. Part of the reason for keeping this blog is to track myself when these things happen.

The party was led through an outer courtyard, and then through another portcullis to an inner courtyard where they were able to stable their horses. From there, they were led to a garden where they were told to wait while Icar spoke to the lady of the keep. The party spent quite a while waiting here as the sky darkened and the storm clouds rolled in. During this time, they became keenly aware that they were surrounded on the rooftops by archers, while other creatures under the influence of the keep waited to pounce. They also saw that a hobgoblin was walking with a Boggle on a leash - using
it as a bloodhound to sniff something out. Eventually, just as the thunder and lightning cracked overhead and the rain began to pour, the double doors to the inside of the keep opened, and a goblin women name Guliyet and her pet winter wolf welcomed the party inside.

Guliyet informed the party that Alforas was still at the keep and that the Lady Markessa would welcome them to dinner, where they will have a chance to deliver their message. She said she is looking forward to speaking with each of them. The party was led to a waiting room with a sofa and chairs and told to wait until summoned to dinner. Sensing a likely trap, the party decided to play along for now.

While waiting in the room, an eerie moaning sound started coming from the chimney. Suddenly, a white figure fluttered out from the chimney. "Run!" yelled Jarrus as he and Pontus went crashing through the door from which they came. Cadwin immediately transformed into a bat and flew into the corner of the room. Sarril, suspecting an illusion, risked staying in place and tried to disbelieve. He was able to immediately tell it was a sheet blowing out from the fireplace and pulled it down. Jarrus and Pontus high-fived each other, regained their composure, and walked back into the room like nothing happened. Still, the moaning sound didn't stop, and Cadwin sent his weasel companion up the chimney to investigate, where it was immediately stabbed by a dagger and nearly killed were it not for a quick heal spell Cadwin was able to get off. Pontus and Cadwin then decided to climb up the chimney themselves to investigate and found a crawlspace in the ceiling where a madman with a dagger was attacking them. Working together, Cadwin and Pontus were able to subdue the man, take his dagger and investigate the rest of the area.

Their search eventually led them to Judith - an escaped slave woman and her baby. She explained that the madman was also an escaped slave who was protecting her by setting up elaborate illusions and traps to make the area appear haunted. As a result, the hobgoblin guards were too scared to come down this hallway, allowing them to be safe for the time being until they could escape. Now that he was incapacitated and unable to maintain the ruse, she was certain they would soon be found. Sure enough, within an hour, two hobgoblin sergeants with boggles on chains came into the room, searching for the escaped slaves. The party pretended to know nothing as the search party passed them and went down the hall. As soon as it became apparent they were going to sniff out Judith, the party sprung into action, using spellpower to quickly take out the hobgoblins and silence them before the alarms could be sounded. Using the hobgoblin's swords, the fighters finished off the boggles to save Judith. During the fight, a human in banded mail carrying a two-handed sword - a captain perhaps - showed up with more hobgoblin guards, but a fully armed party was able to deal with him pretty easily.

For the next hour, the party carefully hid all of the bodies and cleaned up all of the blood, determined to stick to the plan and not spoil their cover. No sooner did they finish cleaning than Guliyet returned, with two strange looking cavelings in tow. She informed the party it was time for dinner, and led them away through the keep. They passed through multiple doors, around winding hallways, around obvious traps and through barracks packed with hobgoblin and other humanoid guards, eventually coming to a set of double doors, behind which was a large dining room with several people sitting around it, one of whom the party immediately recognized as Hazzard the Mage. A beautiful elf at the head of the table introduced herself as Lady Markessa, and bid them each to take a seat, saying she had been looking forward to speaking with the party.

Around the table sat several of Markessa's inner circle, while in either corner stood two intimidating presences. In one corner stood a 7ft. tall, dark-skinned man in black plate mail and a helm with no
Lady Markessa with one of her guards
eye-holes that the party knew as Icar - ready to draw his awesome two-handed sword at the first sign of trouble. In the other corner stood a familiar looking dwarf, whom the party learned was Agnar, brother of Ragnar who was itching to avenge his brother's death. Against one wall were three barbarian-looking men with hand-axes, also ready for action.

Jarrus, recognizing that the presence of Hazzard has given away their identity, quickly adjusted his story. He handed over a letter the party recovered from Sturm Bucholtz that incriminated Edralve (one of the inner council of Slave Lords) in plotting treason against the other Slave Lords. He told Markessa that the party was undercover, working for the council to try and flush out other traitors. He said they allowed themselves to be captured on purpose in order to determine what Captain Garana was up to and offered to reveal information to Lady Markessa privately, as he did not feel that everyone at the table could be trusted. The ruse seemed to be working on Lady Markessa, even while Hazzard and Agnar grew agitated and accused Jarrus of lying.

It was then that the party may have pulled off their most daring, and best coordinated maneuver to date. Jarrus turned to Agnar and said "That's right, I killed your traitor brother" which sent to the dwarf into a rage and started an argument amongst the group. While Markessa was distracted with getting the dwarf under control, Sarril let loose with one of his few remaining spells - Boccob's Rolling Thunder - and sent it right over the table at Markessa and Hazzard, hitting them both full-force and getting a few more people in the process.

For all of the times that the party complains that I roll 20s against them, they rarely notice all of the times I fail to roll well. This was not one of those times. As I went around the table rolling saving throws for each NPC, the players cheered as one after the other failed the roll. Many of the NPCs had massive bonuses to their saves, but I was rolling 3 and lower. At the same time, the damage roll for the spell was really massive, creating a double-whammy and doing enough damage to kill Markessa and her cleric. While the damage was just shy of killing Hazzard, the secondary effect of the spell is to stun anyone who fails their save. This one action eliminated all of the enemy spellcasters in one swoop. Now the fight was on.

Taking out the magic users made the fight survivable, but not easy. The fighters quickly realized that Agnar and Icar were no joke. And those three barbarian-looking guys turned out to be wereboars. Unfortunately, the session ended mid-fight, so we won't know if the party survives or not until next session. It is now early evening on the 22nd Day of Reaping, CY 580.

Oct 22, 2017

22nd Day of Reaping, CY 580 - Wherein the party takes out an entire orc army

I've probably mentioned before that the party never does what I think they are going to do, always keeping the DM on his toes. Today's session was no exception.

The party woke up after camping overnight in goblin territory. These were the Hill Beater Goblins, and the toll was paid, keeping them safe overnight. Upon waking, most of the party member felt stronger than before, having leveled up overnight. New spells and more hit points all around! After studying spells, and Cadwin summoning some bears and wild boars to escort them along the way, the party headed off along the road.

After a few hours, thanks to some overhead scouting by a familiar, they were informed that there was a hill fort  a few miles up the road, and also what looked like a small army of orcs marching on the road toward them. Expecting the pay another toll, the party engaged in discussions with the Flaming Skull orcs, whose numbers were around 150, and included 10 Verbeeg giants in their ranks. Jarrus introduced the party as slavers in the service of the Slave Lords, but instead of demanding a toll, the orc leader declared that they hated the slave lords and all who served them, setting up the inevitable fight.

Once again, Cadwin proved his worth to the party. Sarril was able to take out the first several ranks of orcs, including all of the officers with Boccob's Rolling Thunder while Jarrus engaged and took out the leader. The remaining orcs were only a challenge due to numbers, and Cadwin was able to take them all out of the fight with an entangle spell, which, at his high level, worked in a 150 ft. radius. This also took most of the Verbeeg giants out of the fight as well, which was good because they proved to be challenging to Pontus, who was fighting four of them in melee and, despite receiving healing from Luapan, was still nearly killed (good thing he has over 100 hit points!).

After entangling the enemy, Cadwin moved forward and cast the spell again (his high wisdom allows him to cast it a ridiculous number of times). Eventually he had entangled nearly the entire army, leaving them only to fight with ranged weapons. But for that, he cast Obscurement, limiting visibility and making ranged attacks impossible. Once Pontus and Jarrus were finished taking down the remaining free orcs and verbeegs, the party was able to get around the army, under cover of obscurement, and head to the hill fort.

The fort appeared to be well guarded, with hobgoblins looking through parapets with ranged weapons trained on the party. Sticking to the plan, the party boldly went up to the fort, claiming to be agents of Sturm Bucholz with an important letter for the merchant Alforas. They claimed to be on their way to catch him, but with a coming storm, they needed shelter until it passes. The ruse appeared to work as they were let inside to speak with the garrison commander, Icar. Icar did not know the party members and did not trust them fully, so he allowed them to come inside one at a time and disarmed them, placing their weapons in an outer gatehouse before leading them further inside.

At this point, the party passed through a second portcullis, which was then closed behind them. Cut off from their weapons, the party now headed further into the fort with Icar. We were not able to play any further to see if the ruse would continue working, or if they were walking into a trap. Stay tuned as we will find out in two weeks.

It is the afternoon of the 22nd Day of Reaping, CY 580.

Oct 15, 2017

21st day of Reaping, 580 CY - One Minor Slavelord Down

And here today the party did what the party does best - slaughter. Once again the blind druid, Cadwin, proved to be a valuable member of the party as Sturm Bucholz, the minor slavelord and thief below them went on an invisible back-stabbing spree. He only managed to get one attack in before Cadwin exposed him with Faerie Fire and Sarril followed up with Hold Person.

The entire party worked together like a well-oiled machine this session, which was really nice to see for a change. Pontus proved he could be a pincushion and absorb the crossbow bolts from the 10 orcs that were shooting, giving Jarrus time to finish off the 5 giant weasels that were actually quite a bit more scarier than they might seem. Before too long, Sturm, his weasels and all 10 orcs lie dead, giving the party time go through his belongings and recover quite a bit of information about the Slavelords.

In addition to learning that the inner council of 9 slavelords have some members plotting against each other (no surprise, really, as evil always turns on itself at some point), they also learned that the slave are taken to a hidden city in the Drachensgrab Mountains called Suderham to be sold and traded. Only trusted slavers are allowed there, so the party decided to use the information in the ledgers they found to pretend to be agents of Sturm travelling to Suderham to do his business. They learned of a merchant named Alforas who left a few days prior on his way to Suderham and if they were quick enough, they might catch him and free some slaves on the way.

The party decided not to waste time exploring the rest of the temple and instead find the quickest way out. That way appeared to be through a trapdoor they found in one of the tunnels. The trapdoor led into a chapel inside the ruined temple where they were attacked by sturges. But the noise they made fighting the sturges allowed the real enemy, a cleric of something called the Earth Dragon, and her minions to prepare for an attack. When the party barged into the next room, she was ready. It was a tough fight, but the party prevailed, even sparing the life of the cleric if she would answer some questions and provide safe passage out of the temple, which she did.

From there, the party wasted no time going back to town, buying some riding horses, and making their way to the southern road that leads into the humanoid invested foothills of the Drachensgrabs. With Pontus tracking the merchant caravan, the party was on their way, stopping to pay tolls to the humanoid tribes along the route to avoid trouble. It is now the evening of the 21st Day of Reaping, 580 CY and the party has made camp for the night. We shall see what dangers await them next week. . .