Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Tower of Zelligar - 3rd session

Friday saw the boys come round for another session of our D&D introductory game. Having decided that B1 is just too much of a meatgrinder for a First Level party with no magic items or real idea what to do, and being somewhat unsatisfied with the B1 introduction, I decided that the watchtower built above the complex, and the immediate environs, might provide a useful area for encounters before the main action, the assault on Quasketon, begins.

The players decided that the best course of action was to explore a little further but to leave Mohag behind at the tower to recover. They pulled up the ladder and let themselves down with a rope as it would be easier for Mohag to pull it up after them. Then they wandered off to the west, away from Threshold, in search of Giant Spiders (which is after all why they came adventuring in the woods in the first place).

Their first encounter was with a single Goblin, who was standing in the forest path doing something with the saddlebags of a horse. I was interested to see how this was going to play - they're a bit unpredictable as players, and I wanted to know whether they'd just charge in (or shoot the Goblin full of arrows) and ask questions later; or if they'd hide and sneak up trying to spy on it, or capture it even.

But they didn't do any of those things, they hailed the Goblin, and started a conversation with it. Now, in some ways, that's an incredibly dangerous thing to do. If there were 10 of its Goblin mates in the bushes and it was busy robbing the saddle-bags of a traveller they'd waylaid, the party could have ended up with a big fight on its hands. But, perhaps because they're inexperienced, they don't really know that I suppose.

I take it as axiomatic in my campaign that alignment is a matter of personal philosophy not any kind of racial or genetic bias. It's entirely cultural and can therefore be rejected. Bork, the Dwarf, is from a race labelled 'Lawful' in the monster lists. Yet, the Bork the individual is of Chaotic alignment. The overarching Dwarven culture may be Lawful, and most Dwarves will therefore be Lawful, but some throw off aspects of their culture and think and act differently.

So it is with Grrk the Goblin. Far from being a cave-dwelling wolf-riding back-stabbing terrorist of Chaos, he is gainfully and Lawfully employed (if that's the right word) as squire to Sir Norrin of South Reach, a rather bluff and posh (though not particularly wealthy) human Knight from the lands around the capital. It wasn't exactly a trap for the party, but I suppose in some ways it was a test (it wouldn't have mattered either way, either the party encounter some friendly NPCs or they encounter some unfriendly opponents so whichever way it goes, they get an encounter out of it) but to their credit (I think) they didn't just assume Goblin automatically equals bad guy.

Talking with Knight and Squire, they learned that Sir Norrin had set off from Threshold the day after the party, having also heard some rumours from trappers and the townsfolk about goings-on in the wooded hills to the west. Sir Norrin had heard some different rumours to the PCs - 'funny chitterin's from the Old Watchtower' were mentioned (the Stirges that Tuh the Fighter dealt with last session) and 'horrible fierce humanoids roamin' the woods' (the Hobgoblins soundly killed by the party in the first session). Sir Norrin also told them he knew who they were, as he'd met a 'rum fellow in a robe' (Yor, the Magic User), shared his camp with him the night before, and sent him on his way back to Threshold that morning.

Of course, I now have to keep up the personas of the bluff Knight (a bit like Sir Ector from Disney's 'Sword in the Stone', but with a more convincing English accent) and the Goblin Squire (a cross between Dobby the House Elf and Yoda). I suppose it serves me right.

As all were united in their desire to go and kill Giant Spiders, they teamed up and headed on up the forest path (actually, there were a bunch of paths - luckily the one they took did indeed lead them to a Giant Spider).

Massive panic on behalf of the party as I describe something with a body the size of a cow or maybe a hippo and legs at least 12' long. Only, as these are British kids, they don't really know what 12' means even though all the adults they know use feet and inches most of the time. They've only been taught metric in school so I'm converting on the fly.

Anyway, those with missiles use them and the rest of the party charges. Both arrows (Jericho the Elf and Grrk the Goblin, using some stats for a Halfling I found lying around, remembering to apply a -1 penalty for full daylight) went wide. The Spider is somewhat bewildered it seems by the sheer number of attackers and only manages to get one decent strike in on Bork (a 14 I think), but as he's dressed like a tin of pilchards the Spider does no damage. Bork, Tuh, Sir Norrin and The Mystical One all take swings at the Spider but only two of those connect. Spider won the second initiative roll but failed to capitalise on it (I think this is when it chewed on Bork's armour). Tuh (who kept hitting it but rolling 1s for damage), Bork (who managed to drop it by about 6hp) and Sir Norrin all had another go and it was actually Sir Norrin who offed it taking the last 2hp. He was of course a total pillock about it and claimed it was 'his' kill.

Bork cut off its head and put it in a sack and Tuh and Jericho cut its legs off and folded them into more sacks - they had after all promised to bring back a sack of spider-legs to the townsfolk. When Tuh suggested eating the Spider, I told the party that it was black with a red hourglass shape on its back. Bork (who knows a thing or two about spiders it seems, or at least his player does) told them it probably was highly poisonous. I didn't tell him that all the poison is in its head which he had cut off and put in a bag.

As no-one had sustained any injuries they wandered about a bit more but failed to find any more Giant Spiders. What they didn't do was search the area around where the combat took place; if they had they'd have found some treasure from a previous victim and also the half-eaten carcass of a smaller Black Widow. This might have tipped them off that the spider they killed had recently mated. They'd also have found a web-bundle with eggs in it. Of course, they didn't look. In a few weeks there's going to be plague of Giant Spiders hatching from the nest.

After a while, they decided they weren't going to find anything else that day. They made their way back to the watchtower and were relieved to find that Mohag hadn't been murdered, kidnapped, or otherwise invaded while they were gone. Of course, it was at this point that they realised that horses (Sir Norrin's horse is called Betsy) can't climb ladders. Grrk stayed at the bottom of the ladder with Betsy, and the rest of the party climbed up into the watchtower.

The next day saw the party ranging off even further - this time accompanied by Mohag who had recovered enough to walk without dying. I know - but they don't - that there are no more Giant Spiders to find, though there are of course wandering monsters and a few other placed encounters. As it turned out, the party met - or rather heard - a bunch of Bandits coming along the forest trail. Throwing surprise out the window they hailed the people approaching (as yet unseen round a bend in the path) but when the strangers went completely silent, the party all hid in the undergrowth by the side of the path.

Bork and Mohag were in front, on the south side and north side respectively. There was furious dice-rolling on my part while the party argued about who exactly had gone in which direction. Bork saw a human in leather armour and carrying a bow creeping past him very close, and yet again decided to say hello. The Bandit swung round and shot an arrow at Bork - which missed - and shouted "they're here!". At the same time, Mohag, on the other side of the path, shouted "Aaaargh!" as he wasn't so lucky and had been attacked by an unseen assailant. Bork's reaction was to smash the Bandit with his warhammer and he killed him instantly. Then, to 'draw out any others', he leaped into the centre of the path and smashed his warhammer onto his shield, yelling at the top of his voice.

Four bandits raced towards the various shouts - two towards Mohag and two towards Bork. That meant they broke cover and Jericho managed to get a lucky shot in that felled one of them as he was running. Three bandits then fought with Mohag in the bushes, quickly joined by Sir Norrin, The Mystical One and Tuh.

Bork then moved to engage the single bandit left in the path, as Jericho ran up in support. Grrk stayed in the bushes minding Betsy. Bork's impressive ability to hit anything failed him for a moment but the Bandit couldn't get past Bork's Plate and Shield. Jericho, however, having drawn his two-handed sword, managed to get a decent blow in (d10 damage +2 STR bonus) that killed the Bandit instantly.

Meanwhile, Mohag (despite major wounds) killed one Bandit, Sir Norrin and The Mystical One another and Tuh saw off the third. The only injury to the party (bear in mind, the last encounter with 2 bandits left one party-member technically dead, and they'd just seen off 6) was to Mohag - who fainted as soon as it was all over. He's back down to 1hp again - he has no luck that guy.

Just time to loot the bodies before we had to pack up and the party has gained a few trinkets - instead of rolling up treasure from the Treasure Tables, I instead rolled some random treasures from the Aeons & Auguries 50 inexpensive pieces of jewelry table to represent the treasure of the Bandits' last victims. Good table that, very useful. The party didn't care, I ended up converting it back into cash values anyway - though now, as the Dwarf has a "small simple bronze signet ring of a military order" (no. 24 on the list) I've introduced the idea of the 'Companions of the Black Fist', a mercenary company (derived from proper probably 4e D&D which serves as a guild in my campaign).

Next time - maybe they'll get back to Threshold with the spider-legs. Who knows...?

EDIT: forgot to mention one of the dafter parts of the fight between Tuh, Mohag, The Mystical One and Sir Norrin on the one hand and the three Bandits on the other - Tuh suddenly announcing he was going to take the potion that the party had found back at the watchtower, "in case it could help". What Tuh didn't know was that it was a Potion of Levitation. Luckily there being plenty of trees about he had loads to grab on to and didn't float away... but as he didn't have any missile weapons he couldn't help with the two combats that were still going on.

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