Sep 30, 2018

28th Day of Harvester, CY 580 - A Party Defeated

Today it happened. What may have been the party's first significant defeat, and the first time they have been forced to retreat outside of the Temple of Elemental Evil. This time it was giants - and lots of them. So many, in fact, that we were unable to get all of the oversized miniatures on the board. This Sunday was mostly one very long, dragged out fight, and thus a short blog entry.

On the morning of the 28th Day of Harvester, the party departed Istivin and booked passage south along the Davish River, through Mittleberg, down to the town of Headwater nestled in the foothills of the Jotens. By staying on the boat, the group was able to avoid random encounters and getting sidetracked. On the morning of the 2nd Day of Brewfest, the party departed Headwater and began to trek into the foothills in search of the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief.

With a ranger, barbarian and druid in the party, finding the steading was easy. Hill giants don't cover
tracks very well, and through a combination of aerial scouting and tracking, the party was able to see exactly where hill giant forces have been marching from. By late afternoon, the fortress was in sight.

Though there were signs of much activity at one time, the place was relatively quite right now. Sarril cast Invisibility in a 10 foot radius to cloak the party as they investigated the outside. There was a watch tower rising up from the building and although they couldn't see inside it, they could hear the sounds of snoring. The party decided to walk in the front doors, using their invisibility to gain surprise.

Inside the front entryway were two sleeping hill giants - sentries who appears to be passed out drunk. Dalron used his exceptional giant-slaying skills to kill them both quickly without making any sounds. He then headed up the stairs into the watch tower and found one more sleeping giant and did the same. So far, this was looking like an easy mission.

The party decided to take one of the small (by giant standards) doors in the southwest corner which opened into a hallway. Going forward into the first room, they found themselves in an armory full of helmets, shields and bits of armor pieces. All forged metal and sized for hill giants. Dalron, who has some expertise when it comes to giants and giant-kin, noted that this was highly unusual, as hill giants don't have the skills to forge weapons and armor. Someone must have supplied this. And there was not only a lot of it, it was clear there was once a lot more - likely outfitting the raiding parties currently attacking Gorna.

The party then moved forward into an adjacent room and found a large weapons stash. Similar to the armor, these swords and axes were forged by someone and supplied to the giants. A set of double doors connected this room to a large hallway. Cadwin cracked the double-doors open in order to listen. The sounds of singing and revelry were coming from down the hall and cracking open the door attracted the attention of some ogre guards, who came rushing into the room. The party hid behind weapons racks and attacked as soon as the ogres came in, killing them both in a single round before they could raise an alarm. Sarril invisibly stepped out into the hall to get a better look and saw a large gathering of giants in a great hall, feasting and reveling. There were at least 20 hill giants, 8 ogres (standing guard), a hill giant chief and his wife, a cave bear, a cloud giant and 3 stone giants. Sarril relayed this information to the party and they began making plans.

The plan consisted of Cadwin summoning a fire elemental to rush into the room and cause a lot of damage. The party would then take advantage of the resulting chaos to launch a surprise attack that would include a lot of mass damage spells from Sarril. The only difficulty being that summoning the fire elemental takes six rounds, and Cadwin wanted to summon it as close to giants as possible. This required keeping the door open for line-of-sight with the wall sconce being used as a conduit, and waiting six rounds as the fire began to grow into an elemental. The first couple of rounds went unnoticed, but about half-way through the summoning, the cloud giant noticed what was going on and attempted to cast a Dispel Magic (which failed) while the chief alerted all of the giants into action. The remaining 6 ogres charged down the hallway and into the room, where they were quickly killed, but now the giants were aware of the party (except for Sarril, who was still invisible, waiting for the right moment to unleash a fireball).

The fire elemental soon came to form, but Cadwin realized it would not be enough and quickly followed-up by summoning an earth elemental. Because elementals require magic weapons to hit, the ogres and hill giants could not damage them, but the stone giants and the giant chief were high enough hit dice to overcome that resistance and they focused their efforts on the elementals. The three stone giants went to work on the earth elemental as the chief used a large ballista to shoot at the fire elemental (doing only moderate damage). Sarril unleashed his first fireball on the stone giants, which was fairly devastating, but not enough to kill them before they took down the earth elemental.

Recognizing there was a spellcaster at the end of the hallway, the chief began barking orders and focusing his attention on Sarril. Overall, the hill giants, which are normally pretty dumb, were using some decent tactics thanks to having a leader present. Luckily for the party, none of them was a shaman that could heal or cast other spells. Only the cloud giant was a spellcaster, and even he was a 6th level caster with a limited number of spells.

Sarril kept himself alive by casting mirror image while continuing to unleash a barrage of spells - lightning bolts, Boccob's Rolling Thunder and fireballs. Cadwin joined in with lightning bolts of his own for devastating affect. Dalron used his thrown daggers and giant-killing bonuses to kill at least one giant every single round while Pontus drew the focus on the fight to himself and Luapan healed the party as needed. Overall, the teamwork the party showed was excellent, with each member playing to their strengths and helping each other for maximum effect. But in the end, the enemy's numbers were too great. Once both elementals were killed, all damage was focused on the party, and it added up very quickly. Soon, the spellcasters were out of spells and the party was dipping into healing potions. Sarril started to burn charges on his staff out of desperation, and it wasn't enough. The party needed to retreat.

Dalron held the door open on the far end of the hallway and cleared a path for escape. The party began slipping through the doors one at a time. The last to go was Sarril, who expended one last charge from his staff to cast a Cone of Cold at the hill giant chief. It was enough to knock him unconscious, but not outright kill him. There were, in total, four hill giants and the chief's wife remaining as Sarril ran out the doors. The wife ran to attend to her husband rather than give chase, allowing for what looks to be a clean escape (for now).

It is the afternoon of the 2nd Day of Brewfest, CY 580. The party has dealt a severe blow to the hill giant chief, but were unable to finish the job. They now must find a safe place to tend to their wounds and regroup so they can come up with a new plan. You can be sure the chief is doing the same.

Sep 9, 2018

16th Day of Harvester, CY 580 - Travelling south through Geoff

Over breakfast in the morning, the party spoke to the dwarves who made camp with them. These dwarves were from a clan in the Crystalmist, part of the once mighty Kingdom of Dumderim. The dwarves explain that one of their clan, a dwarf named Obmi, went seeking an artifact of great importance that was lost long ago. The artifact was rumored to be discovered by the Fire Giants in the Hell Furnaces, and when Obmi never returned, they believe him to be captured or killed. These six dwarves are a hunting party, seeking to find the location of the hidden lair of the Fire Giant King Snurr. They were tracking the pair of giants that the party had just killed in the hopes of capturing them and making them talk. They were not disappointed, however, as the giants are ancient enemies of the dwarves and they do not mourn their deaths.

The party explained that they were one their way to Istivin to investigate the black bubble, but have decided that they should assist in fighting the giants, as they are sure these things are connected. The dwarves offered some useful information by telling the party that the hill giants that have been relentlessly raiding Sterich, and are now marching north into Geoff, come from the Jotens - a small mountain range on Sterich's southern border. They did not know the exact location, but they were able to point out the general area where the Hill Giant Chief is believed to have his fortress. The party decided that with this information, plus their superior aerial reconnaissance, they should be able to find it easily. This was the push they needed to make their decision. As a small party, their best help would be infiltration and stopping the problem at it's source, rather than getting involved in a large-scale siege battle. And so they broke camp, said goodbye to the dwarves, and headed south.

They took a slight detour west in order to avoid running through the siege surrounding Gorna. This added an extra day of travel, but it was uneventful as the giant activity seemed to keep away any wandering monsters that might otherwise cause trouble. 

On the 18th Day of Harvester, three days after departing from the dwarves, the party entered the hills known as the Stark Mounds. Peace would be disrupted that evening by a visit from a group of soldiers who came into camp that evening. Luapan was on watch at the time, and he was already on edge from the eerie wailing sounds that had been disturbing him earlier. Luapan demanded that the soldiers identify themselves. One that appeared to be a leader identified himself as a captain in the Yeomanry army, and he didn't look friendly. Before he could state his intended warning, however, Luapan brandished his holy symbol and called upon the name of Celestian to rebuke the men before him. A bright light washed over all eight soldiers causing them to cringe in pain and, for a brief moment, cancelling out the illusion of living flesh, revealing the desiccated skeletons underneath.

These were swordwraiths - a unique undead creature from the World of Greyhawk that are somewhat infamous in the Stark Mounds (but are also found in other places where great battles have taken place). They had a resistance to being turned from their own burial sites, which was enough to avoid Luapan's strong rebuke. Now angry, they swarmed in on him while Luapan shouted for the others to
wake up. Cadwin, who was sleeping outside, woke immediately, as did his pet mastodon, but the rest of the party were inside a Leomund's Hut and did not hear the alarm. Luapan, Cadwin and the mastadon decided to fight, which proved to be a mistake. Each hit from these 7HD undead drained a point of strength, and they attacked twice every other round. The mastodon wasn't even able to damage them, as they required +2 magic weapons to hit.

Realizing they couldn't win this fight alone, Cadwin turned into a bat and flew away as Luapan cast Wind Walk and rushed to the door of the hut to warn the others. This left the enraged mastodon surrounded by the wraiths as it tried in vain to fight them. Though the wraiths did not kill the mastodon, they drained it of enough strength that it could no longer support its own weight, and it crashed to the ground. The wraiths then turned their attention to the now awake party that just emerged from the hut.

The battle was difficult. A combination of lightning bolts and magic missiles from Cadwin and Sarril did the most damage. Dalron realized quickly that his thrown daggers were useless and had to rely on a +3 mace that he was not as proficient with. Once Dalron's strength was drained, his melee attacks became of limited use. Pontus, on the other hand, relied on magical strength from his Gauntlets of Ogre Power, so the strength drain did not affect him so much. As a barbarian, he was able to damage these creatures even without a +2 weapon. Soon, the wraith numbers began to drop, and victory was in sight. As the last three, nearly destroyed wraiths were taking their last attack, one got a critical hit on Luapan, dropping him to -12 hit points (DM's Note: I have borrowed a new house rule from 5th edition in which I give a character a saving throw against a "killing blow." A failed save is death, but a success means that the player character is stuck at -10 HP and "clinging to life." They will have a chance to save each round to stay alive and any healing magic applied during this time will stabilize them.). Luapan managed to cling to life for one more round - long enough for Sarril to come to his rescue. Sarril noticed, as he cast his healing spell to save Luapan, that Luapan was holding a prayer bead and muttering something with his dying breath. The prayer bead turned to dust and disappeared.

By the next round, all of the wraiths were gone. Sarril continued to cast healing spells on Luapan until he was able to move again. As the party gathered themselves together and assessed the situation, they noticed what looked like a really bad storm begin to form directly overhead. Thick, ominous clouds began to swirl and coalesce. Lightning began to strike around the campsite. The party looked up and watched as a large metallic object began to emerge from the clouds. The object, unlike anything anyone had ever seen before, had flashing lights all around it. A door slid open on the underside of the object and a staircase extended from it and touched the ground. As the party looked on in awe, Sarril began furiously documenting what he saw, having a vague sense of familiarity and trying to remember where he saw something like this before. A figure emerged at the top of the stairs and began walking down toward the party. It was a tall man with blue skin, white eyes with no pupils, and no body hair. Wings appeared to be tucked behind it. Some of the party recognized this as a Planetar - a type of angel, but not dressed as expected. This one was in a full suit of very strange armor - the breast plate of which was recognized as the same that Luapan is wearing. It was wearing a belt with several objects attached to it, and on either side were objects that looked vaguely like hand-crossbows (at least from the handle and trigger) - though exotic and with no sign of an actual bow. This planetar carried no sword. It spoke in a booming voice that echoed all around "Who has summoned me!?"

Luapan dropped to his knees before this great being and declared that it was he who summoned it. He said that during his near-death experience, he felt cut-off from Celestian as his soul wandered through darkness, and he was frightened. During his crisis of faith, he called out for help. The Planetar responded "Celestian has not left you. When all other gods are gone from this world, Celestian will remain. You have been chosen for a special purpose, Luapan. The black bubble to the south threatens all life in this world. You must find the source and stop it. Only then will things return to the way they were."

Luapan stood up and said "Yes. I will complete this mission. I should not have lost faith. It won't happen again." With that, the planetar walked back up the staircase, the door closed, and the object in the sky disappeared. The clouds parted, leaving the party stunned by what they just witnessed. Sarril realized that the scene he just observed reminded him of a tapestry he saw hanging in the Temple of Celestian near Greyhawk.

The party realized they were not safe here in the Stark Mounds, and decided to immediately head out, not camping again until they were clear of the area a day and half later. It seemed that as long as they kept moving, the swordwraiths did not attack them again. Although exhausted they managed to clear the Stark Mounds and arrive in the lands of Sterich at the end of the 20th Day of Harvester. There, they camped and rested for the night. In the morning, those who had suffered loss of strength at the hands of the swordwraiths found some small amount of that strength recovered. They realized they would need four more days of this to be fully recovered, and set out looking for a village or abandoned farmhouse they could take hold in while they wait. They soon came across the village of Hilden's Grange which has managed to avoid the wrath of the giants (so far).

During their four-day stay at Hilden's Grange, a group of riders arrived wearing the insignia of King Skotti of Keoland. A proclamation was read, urging all able bodied and capable men to come to the service of the king to deal with threats to the kingdom. The party stepped forward, saying they were ready to help. They were directed to seek out the King's agent Lashton, in the manor of Alforas the Seer outside of Istivin and were given directions. As soon as the four days of rest were over, and the party was back at full strength, they headed out, arriving at Istivin on the evening of the 27th Day of Harvester. They immediately noticed that it was pitch black here - not a star nor either moon was in sight. The only light was that of very distant campfires from Keoish armies camped around the city. The party decided to camp for the night and seek out Lashton in the morning.

At the light of day, the situation was much more clear. Where the city of Istivin once stood, in its place was an arc of blackness which reflected no light whatsoever (making it look flat and surreal against its surroundings). Pontus, who had previous seen the affects of the black shards, immediately recognized the similarity. All of the color was drained from the land for miles around the bubble as well - much like the shards found in the forests, but on a much larger scale, and also not unlike the lands surrounding the Temple of Elemental Evil. The only parts of Istivin not covered by the bubble (at least not yet) were the very outer suburbs and farmlands, which were now covered in tents and crawling with Keoish soldiers. The party made their way down toward the city and followed the road that led up to the manor house of Alforas, the Seer.
Lashton, the King's Agent
Alforas, the Seer
On the way up, a few things were obvious. First, is that the armies camped around the city were in defensive positions facing toward the bubble. Secondly, and perhaps as important, there was a lot of movement and coordination in the works as a large number of the armies were packing up and marching west, back toward Keoland. The party made their way up to the manor house and, after being made to wait for a while, were ushered into a room with two men in robes who were arguing with each other - with one man, who appeared to carry some authority, telling the other man that his books were worthless. It was obvious to Sarril, even before introductions, that these two men were both powerful mages. They were then introduced as Lashton, agent of King Skotti of Keoland who has been entrusted with overseeing the investigation of the bubble, and Alforas, a local sage whose home has been commandeered to act as headquarters for the king's agents while the threat of the bubble is being assessed and dealt with. 

Seekers of the Arcane
Sarril picked up on some other obscure information about these two men which may explain why they were not getting along. Lashton wore a pin on his cloak that Sarril recognized as identifying him as part of an organization of mages known as the Seekers (or more formally, Seekers of the Arcane). This loose-knit group of mages seek artifacts and other ancient magics in order to unlock their secrets. While not necessarily evil, some of their members over the years have been known to have gone too far and become corrupted by dark magics. Much less is known about their ancient enemy, the obscure Silent Ones of Keoland, whose membership is unknown by even the most powerful wizards. The Silent Ones, who formed in the Sheldomar Valley after the fall of Vecna, dedicate their lives to finding ancient artifacts and other powerful magic and destroying it or securing it away in the hopes of preventing it from getting into the wrong hands. Sarril is only aware of their existence and purpose because of discussions he overheard during his apprenticeship with Otto of the Circle of Eight (the Silent Ones also seem to work at cross-purposes with the Circle), but his knowledge was just enough that he suspected that Alforas may be a member, in which case, he very well may be working to prevent Lashton from learning anything about the bubble.

On a table nearby was a map of the region in which someone had marked a path in red ink going northwest/southeast along the border between Keoland and the Principality of Ulek. Based on previous intelligence the party had gathered, this may be the path of the tarrasque, which was known to be rampaging in that area. If so, that may be the reason the king's armies were being sent back east.

Lashton was not a pleasant man, and seemed more preoccupied with asserting his authority than actually providing any useful information. He left it for Alforas to explain what is known about the bubble and how the party may help. Alforas explained that the bubble originally formed the citadel, immediately enveloping the Earl and his officials. "While the exact cause is unknown, there have been rumors. Some say that a mysterious stranger arrived with a gift for the Duke - a small box containing a magical device that went undetected by his mages, and which turned out to be a trap. Some say they witnessed a demon appear in the middle of the citadel one night and utter a terrible curse. And some say," he looks directly at Lashton as he says this, "it is the result of someone meddling with powerful magic that ought to have been left alone." Alforas went on to explain that the bubble has been growing slowly ever since it appeared. Because the citadel was enveloped first, Earl Querchard and the rest of the leadership of Sterich were cut-off, leading to immediate chaos. King Skotti sent troops to declare martial law and restore order, but any such order in the city has been short-lived as the bubble has continued to grow. Many people evacuated east to Keoland, while others pushed out into temporary shelters in the suburbs. Still, others chose to go inside the bubble and take their chances. It seems that anyone native to the area can freely enter the bubble, while anyone not native finds that it is solid and impenetrable. No human has ever emerged from the bubble, but on some nights, demonic creatures emerge and have to be dealt with by the troops. The king suspects these attacks are testing his troops and that a large attack is imminent.

But the more immediate threat, Alforas explains, are the giants who started invading several months ago. He believes that with the earl and his forces preoccupied with the bubble, this has given the giants, who have always had an enmity for the humans in the valley, an excuse to escalate from occasional raids into a full-scale attack. As long as this bubble is here, the king cannot expend resources to deal with the giants. But a group of strong and capable adventurers may be able to carry out a covert counter-attack against the hill giant chief directly and stop the attacks. This is why they have been summoned here. Of course the party agreed to seek out the hill giant stronghold and take care of the problem (which they were already planning to do anyway). In exchange, they are given all of the treasure they find tax-free.

And with that, they party departed on the next leg of their adventure. In search of the hill giant fortress in the Jotens. It is late morning on the 28th Day of Harvester, CY 580.

Aug 12, 2018

10th Day of Harvester, CY 580 - The rest of the party goes west

I now have the wonderful challenge of trying to keep timelines straight between two different parties within the same campaign. When last we saw Sarril, Pontus and Cadwin, they had decided to go investigate the black bubble around Istivin while Jarrus and some new party members focused on business around Verbobonc and Furyondy. It was on the 9th Day of Harvester, CY 580 that the full party attended Sir Jarrus' knighting ceremony, and on the 10th Day, Sarril, Pontus and Cadwin left for Istivin. Joining them were Luapan, who had just returned from the Temple of Celestian in the Kron Hills with a mission to find out more about this black bubble, and Dalron Sharpe, one of the rangers from Gareth's old party who was looking for a crew to connect with. These five are now the Sarril-led branch of the BAMF (given that it was Sarril who wanted to go on this mission first).

Wanting the make the trip as swift as possible, Sarril exchanged his favor with Lord Wilfrick to ask for magical teleportation for him and his four companions. Master Juehlim of the Silver Consortium agreed to perform a teleport, but informed Sarril that the town of Hochoch on the border between the Grand Duchy of Geoff and the Gran March would be as far as he would be willing to take them. Word within mage circles is that the black bubble around Istivin was disrupting both arcane and divine magics, and teleporting too close would be dangerous. Hochoch is located on the river Javan, which flows south toward Istivin, and the party could obtain transport by boat after the teleport.

What happened next was unexpected, even for Master Juehlim. While the teleportation was successful, it didn't seem instantaneous like it should have. As the party warped out of existence of the Prime Material Plane, they found themselves floating in an in-between place - somewhere between planes and dimensions, where purples tendrils of mist flowed around them. It felt like eternity in here, as the essence of this. . . place began to eat at their minds. But it wasn't forever, it only felt as if it was. Soon, reality began to penetrate the mist as the sun pushed its way through as the party found itself standing in the middle of a field just down the road from a walled town that must be Hochoch.

This was not a town at peace. The party could clearly see two tent cities. One along the southwest wall looked like a refugee camp, while one along the west and northwest was an obvious army encampment. At first glance it looked like the city was under siege, as the army's banners did not match those on the city gates, but further study showed that this army was setup in a defensive position facing away from the city. The party headed down the road toward the city.

The City of Hochoch

As they approached the gates, they could see the walls were heavily manned with archers - far more than reasonable in a time of peace, with a combination of obvious veterans and freshly conscripted men. Nearby, workers were busy patching a section of wall that had collapsed, and the patchwork repair was very rough, focusing on getting the hole filled rather than trying to match the surrounding stonework. In the fields outside of town, facing westward, the army was building additional crude fortifications. Dalron asked the gate guard what was going on.

The gate guard was surprised that the party was not aware of the giant attacks which had been occurring all across Geoff and Sterich over the last 6 months. Being the city furthest east within the Duchy, and somewhat protected by being nestled between the two forks of the Javan River, Hochoch was the last city remaining that hasn't been devastated, hence citizens from around the Duchy were seeking refuge here. It was clear from the hole in the city wall that Hochoch was starting to sustain attacks of its own, and the city was making a last stand. The party announced to the guards that they were here to help with the giant problem, and we told to go see Lord Knight Protector Armstide at the citadel. And so off they went.

On the way through the city, Pontus was feeling upbeat and winking at all of the women he saw on the street. He decided to flip a gold piece to a particularly attractive young woman, but when he reached into his pouch, he pulled out a dead rat. All of his gold was gone. This put the party on high-alert, especially Sarril, who is generally the most nervous party member. His concern was well-placed, as just before the party reached the citadel, the Magic Mouth alarm Sarril had on his bags went off. A halfling who had been reaching into the bag took off running, but Pontus was able to grab him. The party questioned the halfling, using some effective intimidation, and learned that the party had been "marked" by the local thieves guild for reasons unknown - and no amount of protection payment was going to help. While the rest of the party wanted to bang down the front door of the guild and confront the problem head-on, Sarril suggested they just speak to the local lord as quickly as possible and then get out of town. Messing with a thieves guilds is not a can of worms Sarril was prepared to open at this time.

The party eventually made their way to the gates of the citadel where they spoke to the guards outside about their business. As they were removing their weapons to check at the gate, one of the guards inside the gate fired a crossbow bolt at Pontus, which missed. The guard looked horrified and insisted that he was just adjusting the sights when it misfired. Cadwin's keen ears picked up the sound of someone casting a spell nearby, though it was impossible to pinpoint a direction surrounded by all of this stone. Inside the citadel, the party was able to eventually meet with Lord Knight Protector, Sir Horace Armstide, Knight of the March.

Sir Armstide explained that giant raiding parties have been coming out of the mountains for a little more than six months now, attacking villages and cities all throughout Geoff and its southern neighbor, Sterich. The raids began in Sterich, but King Scotti of Keoland sent armies to surround Istivin - mostly concerned about what might come out of the black bubble there - the giants turned their attention further north. Though the bulk of the raids have been hill giants, which are commonly found in the foothills of the Sheldomar Valley, they have recently been bolstered by Frost Giants (believed to come down from the higher peaks of the Crystalmist Mountains) and, occasionally, Fire Giants (from the southern Hell Furnaces). The capital city of Gorna, seat of Grand Duke Owen I, is currently under siege and the rest of Geoff has been devastated, leaving Hochoch the last defensible city within the Ducky. Sir Armstide was sent by Commandant Vrianian of the Gran March to protect Hochoch, which he is able to do, but he does not have the resources to lead any sort of counter-offensive. The party stated they would investigate the source of these invasions and take care of the problem at its source - an offer which met with approval from Sir Armstide. With this, the party was on their way.

Wanting to avoid whatever trouble was stalking them inside the city, Sarril used the Fly spell to transport everyone over the walls within the citadel to a riverbank outside of town to the north. In the meantime, Cadwin went to the druid grove inside the city to see if he could learn the whereabouts of Delvin and Kella (druids from Hommlet, sent by Jaroo to investigate the black bubble). He learned that they did come this way just about a year ago, but haven't been heard from since. He also learned, thanks to his familiar scouting around through the refugee areas, that while the refugees were happy to have Sir Armstide's protection, the citizens of Hochoch were not happy with the current situation at all. They see his presence as an armed occupation from the Gran March, and, although it wasn't immediately obvious to the party, who were treated quite well upon arrival, the city is actually under strict martial law. With all of the surrounding farmlands being effectively wiped out, food supplies were dwindling fast, and severe rationing was being enforced across the city, putting the citizens further against the occupation and the refugees. But none of these political problems would be solved without addressing the current threat, and so off the party went, hoping to track the giants back to their source.

Looking for the Giants

Tracking giants isn't very hard - especially not with a ranger and a barbarian in the party. The problem was figuring out which tracks to follow. Once the party crossed the western fork of the Javan River, giant tracks were everywhere. Some coming from the west, in the direction of the Crystalmists, but most coming from the south, in the direction of the Stark Mounds and the capital city of Gorna. The party headed south, coming into an area with stone monoliths - ancient Flan structures associated with the Old Faith. As the party walked through the area, they were ambushed by six hill giants who popped up out of crude trap doors they fashioned over holes in the ground (DMs Note: I, and the players, recognize how impractical this was for hill giants, but it was written in the module so I ran with it). The giants started throwing boulders at the party on a surprise round, but the ranger and barbarian are rarely surprised in their natural surroundings, and go to act immediately. This is the first time the party got to see Dalron Sharp in action. He immediately threw four daggers at two giants, for an insane amount of damage, dropping them both. Cadwin, who was flying above the party in eagle form, did a dive attack on another giant, with Pontus following up. The battles was over by the end of the second round, with very little damage taken - certainly nothing the two healers in the party couldn't easily fix. It looked like this was going to be an easy module.

DM's Note: Dalron Sharp is a ranger with 18/96 strength who has chosen to specialize in throwing knives as per Unearthed Arcana (or Second Edition rules). Specialization allows him to throw four daggers per round with +1 to hit and +2 damage per throw. His strength bonus (which applies to the thrown weapon) gives +2 to hit and +5 damage per throw, and because he is a ranger, he gets +1 per level (+7) damage against giants. This combined to four attacks at +3 to hit, at 15-19 damage per hit. With four attacks, his chances of rolling critical hits also goes up, and in this case, he rolled at least one critical (double damage) and one near critical (+1d4 damage). There was no doubt about it, this PC was built to kill giants. I also read an article after the session about something called "dart abuse" that became popular in early editions of D&D ( While that does appear to be happening here, I've decided to allow it to continue because I want the players to feel good about their characters and do heroic things. Also, they are now likely to encounter enemies employing the same tactics - so its all good. I am, however, putting two limitations on this. First I am only going to allow half strength bonus for thrown weapons, and even then, only at close range (in this case, it would have made little difference). Second, because of the speed at which the daggers are being thrown, the PC must declare all four targets in advance of the attacks. They cannot throw a dagger, wait to see how much damage it does, then throw the next dagger.

Further down the road, the party caught some fresh giant tracks and, feeling good about their chances, decided to chase the group down. There were ten hill giants on their way to a raid somewhere. The giants managed to see them coming, and started throwing boulders from 200 feet away. Fortunately, Cadwin, still in eagle form, was able to start dive-bombing them, forcing at least half of the giants to stop throwing boulders and pay attention to the large talons coming at them. Sarril was also able to move up just a bit and get a fireball lobbed in their direction, causing significant damage. Pontus, with his insane barbarian speed, was able to quickly close the distance, preventing more of them from
throwing boulders. Sarril, with Dalron riding with him on an Ebony Fly, was able to get in very close before getting his by a boulder, knocking him unconscious. Dalron was able to jump free of the fly and avoid the damage, and next round close the distance on the giants and do his thing while Luapan focused on healing Sarril. Once Dalron was in the midst of the fight, the giants didn't stand a chance, and the battle was soon over. Although it was a close call for Sarril, otherwise, the party did pretty well, and had more than enough healing spells to restore everyone to full hit points.

Big Johan

Wanting a semi-safe place to spend the evening, Cadwin was able to scout out a small village down a side a road that seemed to have avoided the devastation that affected the other towns in the area. The party decided to check it out and found the place to be full of people and there was even an inn where they could get a fresh meal. While sitting at a table waiting for their dinner, the party noticed that a drunken man in the corner was harassing the serving wench. Dalron decided to step in and help, and his sheer size, combined with the backup of the rest of the party, made the man back off and leave the inn. A few minutes later, the server came around with a bottle of wine "on the house" to thank the party for their help, but warned them that the man was one of "Big Johan's men," and their actions may have just doomed the entire village. The party members of course boasted about how they will take care of Big Johan when he comes around, which seemed to anger the rest of the patrons. The party decided to eat dinner, wait long enough for Sarril to study spells (which were wiped from memory when he went unconscious earlier) and then to leave. As soon as they left the inn, they noticed that the streets were clear of people. Men who were previously gambling and drinking under a nearby tree were nowhere to be found. And then the party heard giant footsteps - different than others they had heard. And lots of them. They prepared for battle.

Coming down the street was a frost giant riding on the back of a mastodon - this must be Big Johan. Behind him were six ogres, and beside him was the man from the inn. The man pointed out the party
Big Johan
and said "Thems the ones, boss." Big Johan stepped off his mastodon and lumbered forward, carrying his gigantic axe menacingly. Dalron stepped up to meet him. As the giant was about to speak, Dalron threw four daggers, rolling at least one critical, and doing a total of 74 damage to the frost giant before he could act. Big Johan crashed to the ground. Dead.

Normally, this would be enough to scatter his followers, but ogres are stupid and the mastodon just went into a rage at the death of its master. The ogres were easy, but taking down the mastodon took a lot of work. This was a 12-HD animal that attacks 5 times per round. And Cadwin wanted it as a pet. Unfortunately, attempts at casting Animal Friendship didn't work, and the party had to take it down. But it wasn't completely dead. Sensing a faint heartbeat, Cadwin healed the beast to 1 hit point - unconscious, but alive. He then spent the night with the animal, the next day filling up his spell slots with the Animal Friendship spell and casting them over and over again until the animal failed its save. He then healed it completely, and now has a new pet. The rest of the party was offered free meals and rooms for as long as they would like to stay. The village was grateful, but concerned about the next giant that would come along. The next one might not be as willing to spare them as Big Johan was. The next day, the party used the mastodon to help move and get rid of the bodies, then stayed one more night before heading back out.

Attacked in the night!

Continuing south toward Gorna, the party could see that the devastation was getting worse. Along the road, they encountered a band of refugees headed north. They told the party that Gorna, which was a bit more than a days walk away, was completely under siege, and they had to make the long trek to Hochoch. Luapan used the Create Food & Water spell to supply the group before wishing them luck and parting ways. That evening, the party made camp with Cadwin sleeping on top of his mastodon and everyone else sleeping inside a Leomund's Hut.

Sleep was interrupted by a group of bugbears emerging from the woods attacking. Bugbears are not something that would usually bother the party, but following up right after were two Fire Giants. Sarril quickly turned the battle in the party's favor, however, by turning the first Fire Giant into a sea bass (for dinner, later). As soon as Dalron emerged from the hut, the battle was over - but just for fun, they decided to cast Dispel Magic on the fish, turning it back into a Fire Giant so that Dalron could kill it. It died easily. So much for their delicious dinner.

Soon, the party was interrupted again by a group of dwarves who claimed to be from the mountains nearby tracking these two fire giants. The dwarves were impressed that the party was able to handle them so easily and agreed to make camp with the party and exchange information. The dwarves were able to tell them that Gorna was, indeed, under siege at this moment by several dozen hill giants. Though they believe the city could withstand the attack for a while, the real devastation was happening outside of the walls. They also confirmed that while raiding parties were coming from the mountains all around the valley, the bulk of the hill giant forces were coming from somewhere in the Jotens, a mountain range south of Istivin in Sterich.

It was now morning of the 16th Day of Harvester, CY 580 and the party is planning their next steps. Head to Gorna and try to break the siege there? Or let the Duke handle that while they go south to investigate the source? Or forget about the giants all together head to Istivin? Or maybe some combination of these thing.