We begin in a long-lost shrine of Torag, deep beneath the city of Kenabres, on the border of the Worldwound. Our heroes (all 1st level) are:
- Relyn Steelguard, young Paladin of Iomedae, (longsword and shield)
- Graidin Cratchet, aspiring Wizard (hand of the apprentice staff-tossing)
- Arken, newly minted Cavalier of the Order of the Lion, in service to Queen Galfrey of Mendev (longsword and shield)
- Jaren, Dragon Sorcerer (claws)
After cleansing the shrine the party is fully healed and feeling ready to continue their climb to the surface. They spend some time talking to the other party members and learn a little bit more about them.
- Aravashnial seems to have come to grips with his blindness and has warmed up to the party as well. he offers to use his magic as best he can given his current state.
- Anevia too is more talkative and is now armed with a bow so she can aid in battle even if her leg keeps her from charging in.
- Horgus Gwerm is still scowling about the whole situation and is only interested in getting to the surface as quickly as possible. He does not appear to have any skill in combat or with magic and is depending on the party to get him out, which seems to chafe him even more.
After moving ahead for a time they come to a sizable cavern. Within, the heroes notice the walls are carved with depictions of armored figures dating back to the first crusade. Then they are ambushed by a a pair of flying tentacle monsters. Jaren is engulfed and drops after a brief struggle while Relyn and Arken attempt to cut the things apart. Graidin uses some minor magics and also finds his staff quite useful. In short order the beasties are slashed to ribbons and the group takes 5 to revive the beaten spellcaster.
The only way out leads to an adjacent cave, also large, where the glowing remains of a campfire can be seen. from the entrance. What is not seen is the levitating dwarf who opens up with a color spray as the team enters the cavern which floors most of the party. Arken remains conscious and charges in, using his dragon scale (see below) to levitate up and engage the dwarf. Anevia fires a few bow shots from the entrance but has a hard time connecting. In desperation, Aravashnial summons a celestial dire bat and sics it on the dwarf as well. Even though he is levitated, blurred, and mage armored, Millorn the insane dwarf wizard is not going to last long against that kind of firepower (longsword CHOP! celestial dire bat SMITE!) and he soon falls to the ground, extremely dead. After reviving the rest of the party and searching the camp (spellbook!) they press on.
Leaving the dwarf-cave the passage begins climbing - finally! Time and distance pass and the group eventually comes to another cave with what appears to be a collapsed tower in the middle. Near it, two humanoids are pulling a third from the rubble. Somewhat to my surprise the party approaches cautiously and tries to communicate with them! After a quick conversation in broken common the fighters are helping to pull a battered humanoid from the wreckage and making some new friends.
The beings are tough to look at, being a mix of various creature types. The leader, introducing himself as "Lann" appears to be a mix of elf, goat, and lizard and the other two are equally exotic. As they bandage up Crel (the injured humanoid) the mongrel people share that they have a village nearby. The new ruin was a watchtower located here because one of the passages leads to their village. It collapsed in the earthquake and they are concerned that their village may have suffered also and they wish to return to it as soon as possible. If the party wants to travel with them they would appreciate the help and would happily share food. Our heroes agree to this plan.
Moving out with their new friends the party makes good time. As they approach the village though a new problem arises: the tremors have split the passage ahead with a chasm. The mongrel-people know this is the most direct route home and are desperate to find a way across. Undaunted, our heroes work out a solution involving crossbows, a lot of rope, and the magical levitation scale that works for everyone, even the injured members of the party. Taking their time, everyone is moved safely across and then the group makes their final approach to the village.
(In Session 1 the party found some silver scales, fallen from the silver dragon who was slain during the attack on the city. Each of them has some minor magical effect. One of them is "levitate", which came in handy during this part of the adventure.)
Lines of the session:
"Perception? Ok - nat 20! ... So that's a 21 total"
(A few minutes later)
The NPC's the party is saddled with at the beginning are a mixed bag. It's good to have living, breathing setting hooks right there in the adventure and it's very disaster-movie-esque having a random group of strangers thrown together after a catastrophe but it's cumbersome for me as a DM to have three extra party members to manage regardless of their impairments. If this was happening later in the campaign it might be less of an issue but having it right at the beginning with higher level NPC's running alongside 1st level characters it's an odd mix of baggage and advantage and just more stuff in general to keep up with. I think one character would have been enough to convey the info with less overhead but we are past that now. For the moment they are sort of "pokeball" NPC's - they stay back out of combat until it's over then come in and impart useful information if they have anything relevant to the current area.
The darkmantle fight was fun. I haven't really seen them in 4E but they were an early "signature" monster of 3E so it's nice to see them again. Steve knew what they were but the boys had no idea and were worried about the flying octopus monsters, particularly after one took down the sorcerer. This fight gave us the opportunity to re-familiarize ourselves with the concentration rules and the dying rules so it was very educational.
Millorn - this was a fairly swingy fight. Color Spray is nasty but after that he doesn't have a lot of attack options other than that old wizard staple "light crossbow". This is one place where having the NPC's along did help as it gave the players with downed characters something to do. Firing into melee is still challenging but it's better than nothing. The NPC wizard is blinded which is pretty impairing but he is a summoner so many of his spells do not have a target. I ruled he could summon a creature right next to himself but not at range. The combination of "half of party down during the surprise round" and "target out of melee reach" caused them to hit the panic button and yell at Aravashnial to summon "the biggest thing he can" - which he did, which led to the inevitable harsh-voiced Batman impressions all around the table.
Mongrelmen - In any other universe they would be "mutants" but here they are "mongrelmen". I was glad to see these guys show up to as I have not seen them used in many adventures since their debut in "Dwellers of the Forbidden City" a long time ago. This is the perfect place for them and they make for fine low-level allies and enemies that are not overly familiar to the players. The adventure sort of assumes that eventually the party makes friends with the mongrelmen, either here or at the village though it is not strictly required. I was fairly sure we would have a "misunderstanding" here at first but I underestimated my players - they are playing knights after all! Chivalrous behavior came to the fore and made for a much better session than plowing through a few more monsters.
In 4E crossing the chasm would have been a skill challenge with relevant skills already determined. Here it was far more free-form and I let the players come up with their own solution. It was a solid one, with contingencies for failed climb checks and a lot of good work. I was very happy with the way this went.
In fact, this was a really good session with a nice mix of combat, poking around, and interaction with NPC's. My players exceeded my expectations and we got a lot done. One of the "first time all over again" experiences I am having with Pathfinder is that combat moves quite quickly. This is the lowest level of the game but the point stands. It allows us to run through quite a bit "more" in each session and that's been really nice. We probably spent more time on crossing the chasm than we did on any single combat this session and I like that.