Returning in triumph - and in a hurry as their ship melts beneath them - our heroes land in Fallcrest and announce their success! After high fives and salutes and raised tankards all around, Marko sneaks off into the crowd, glad to be done with the whole business. The following day, Lord Markelhay appears - accompanied by Lord Reinhardt himself! He announces rewards for the whole party. First up, each receives a 1,000 gold piece bonus. Then, as retainers of the House, Dar and Gravis receive land grants!
Dar is awarded the Tower of Waiting, a ruined tower on an island in the river. He will be the town's Lord Marshall, and the tower will be rebuilt. This will help protect the northern approaches to the town and serve as a staging area for efforts to civilize some of the surrounding wilderness.
Gravis is awarded Vraath Keep, an old holding of House Reinhardt in the nearby Elsir Vale region. It was attacked and destroyed many years ago but the House is on the rise and looking to reclaim its old lands. Gravis will be a big part of this effort, and he is given both the royal decree that endorses his claim and an old map to help him locate his new domain.
Our Heroes (now 5th level):
- Dar Bloodmane, Shifter Paladin
- Lt. Alex Gravis, Water Genasi Warlord
- Zarra, Drow Vampire
- Gartok, Dwarf Earth Warden
- Izenheim, Dwarf Cleric of Marthammor Duin
- No-Name, Elf Bow Ranger
After several days of preparation most of the party heads out - Dar will remain behind to assume his new duties, while Izenheim has volunteered to help him survey the place to see just how bad it is. Traveling the Nentir Vale takes another few days - uneventful as it happens - and then they cross into the Elsir Vale. Heading for the closest village, Drellin's Ferry, trouble finds them almost immediately.
Moving along a sunken part of the trail, the group spots an abandoned farmhouse and quickly realizes they are in a prime spot for an ambush - the wrong end of an ambush. With a roar somethig throws a volley of javelins at the party, as a blast of flame reaches out from the foliage. Then a humanoid and a huge red hound appear at either end of the trail - hobgoblins! - and they appear to have some hell hounds.
In his element, the ranger with no name unloads a volley of his own, finding a target in the bushes and slaying one of the hobgoblins outright. The warlord, warden, and vampire charge the hidden mage who threw fire - they suspect he is the biggest threat. The hounds and other hobgoblins lope forward into a huge melee around the unfortunate spellcaster.
The warlord is caught in the fiery breath of both beasts as they rush in. The warmage goes on total defense as at least three people are trying to kill him, but is quickly overwhelmed. The ranger nails the hobgoblin commander with two arrows, seriously wounding him, then he scores with two more and slays the humanoid leader as well! The crispy warlord, deeming the hounds to be the next biggest threat lures one into a bad position and defends himself as the dwarf and the drow tear it apart.
Having turned the tide, the rest of the battle goes quickly. The ranger shoots down the hobgoblin spearmen while the melee trio of warlord-warden-vampire beat down the hobgoblin beast-trainer and the remaining hound. After the last enemy falls, the elf scouts the surrounding area and finds no other opposition. Our heroes inspect the farmhouse and decide to spend the night there. They will make for Drellin's ferry in the morning.
DM Notes - This session marked the end of the introductory adventure and the beginning of the meat of the campaign. Cairn of the WInter King is a perfect campaign starter as it has some interesting features but takes place in isolation and is a small 1-level dungeon. This allows the party to get a handle on how to work together and figure out their roles in the group. It also set up nicely to mark the PC"s as upcoming heroes in this part of the kingdom. The land grants served multiple purposes:
Steve was not thrilled with the way Dar was working out mechanically and wanted to try a new character. So, we "retired" him to the Tower of Waiting where he could be brought back in if needed as a replacement, or he could set up to be the first member of a new party if we decided to "fork" the campaign or if we wanted a backup group - clearly the first adventure would be to explore and clear the tower! Also, in the long run, Dar and the rebuilt tower would make for a nice hook to a successor campaign if we ever ran one.
By granting Gravis a holding in the Elsir Vale I have both a reason for the party to go there AND a reason for them to care about the invasion that's about to happen. This is not subtle, but it makes sense within the campaign and the players liked it - plus it's fairly old school to have a keep at all and it's unusual to have one at 5th level in pretty much any version of D&D. Changing things up helps keep campaigns fresh and helps to distinguish them from one another. We had explored the idea of the party claiming an old keep in the previous campaign (at a higher level than this) but they were TPK'd in the process of doing it so we never saw the payoff for all of that setup. For this campaign I wanted it front and center and so here it was.
If you have played Red Hand of Doom then you probably recognize this first encounter. It starts a long road of adventure that we will be exploring all the way through the rest of that adventure and the rest of Heroic Tier play. We've had a lot of fun with it and writing up this first episode has me smiling as I write it. A lot of people thought it was one of the best 3rd edition D&D adventures - I can tell you it makes a pretty good 4th edition adventure too.