Thursday, February 13, 2014

SSoI - Session 13: Red Hand of Doom - The Great Debate

Our Heroes (6th level):
  • Lt. Alex Gravis, Water Genasi Warlord (and Ivan, teenage owlbear sidekick!)
  • Zarra, Drow Vampire
  • Gartok, Dwarf Earth Warden
  • Izenheim, Dwarf Cleric of Marthammor Duin  (off frolicking in the mountanis)
  • No-Name, Elf Bow Ranger (off frolicking in the woods)
  • Sir Abel Primies, Human Paladin of Torm
(It is the 9th of Flamerule, 1450 DR, in  Drellin's Ferry, in the Elsir Vale, Impiltur)

After saving the village the heroes rush to deliver their news. Speaking to the town leadership, the party recommends an evacuation of the village without delay.

Iormel, speaking for the wealthy landowners & merchants, is completely against that, and isn't too happy that they destroyed Skull Gorge Bridge when that little tidbit comes out. He proposes fighting ("we have property here!"), dismissing the invaders as just a larger than average bunch of marauding bandit goblin trash.

Kellin, the halfling innkeeper suggests buying off the horde if they cannot stand against it militarily.

Soranna, captain of the militia, is in a hard place. She doesn't want to appear cowardly but she knows that the village militia cannot beat the things that are scouting for the invaders, much less the actual army. She proposes a rearguard action while evacuating the area.

A new arrival, one of the (locally) famous Knights of the Lion informs the group that her patrol was ambushed to the north on the Old Rhest Trail and that it is possible the invasion force is maneuvering to cut off any retreat from the western parts of the vale.

Speaker Wiston, the leader of the village, waffles and appears to be leaning towards sending emissaries to the invaders to determine their intent.

At this, Sir Primies stands and delivers an impassioned plea for realism and compassion, that there is no way to stop the army with the forces available and that attempting to do so will only get the militia killed, along with the entire population of the village shortly thereafter.

Gravis chimes in citing numerous historical accounts of successful retreats - and heroic defenses that ended in massacres.

Gartok shares stories handed down from the primal spirits of the world, imploring the elders to take a larger view of things.

Finally, Zarra glares at the assembled leaders and very loudly whispers - "LISTEN ... TO ... THEM"

Amid hushed whispers a decision is made to evacuate the village, retreating east down the Dawn Way with an ultimate goal of Brindol, the largest city in the vale, fortified, and home to the Knights of the Lion. The militia will defend their people on the road. Sura the Lion Knight has to get word to her order in Brindol, but will meet the evacuees on the road with more knights.  

The heroes, satisfied that the village's plan is sound, plan to investigate the Old Rhest Trail and root out any forces the invasion has in the area. This will both serve notice that the vale is not defenseless and will help shield the evacuation. Gravis also wants to investigate the cryptic "Saarvath" note in the area on Koth's map. They requisition/borrow some horses, transcribe the notes from the captured map for Sura to take back east, and then head out on their next adventure.

 The ride north is uneventful until they are just west of the southern section of Lake Rhestin. Here they come across a large timber ... fortification ... blocking the road. This is no ambush - it's a roadblock! A pretty stout one too, built like a castle's gatehouse with the road passing right through it. It also appears to be manned by the by-now-expected hobgoblins plus some large, brutish humanoids - ogres.

As they come under bow and javelin (large javelin) fire, our heroes once again go with "Plan A" and smash open the wooden gate. As the warden, paladin, and warlord rush in to attack the ogres on the ground, the vampire floats up over the "battlements" and tears into the archers up on top. One of the hobgoblins turns out to be a spellcaster as lightning flashes out and into Sir Primies. He engages the warcaster as Gartok and Gravis (and Ivan!) tackle the ogres. Fresh out of archers to massacre, Zarra joins in on the ogres as well. As Gartok locks them down, Zarra tears them up, both assisted by Gravis. As soon as he finishes off the caster, the paladin turns back to help against the last ogre. In a very workmanlike display the party rips through the roadblock and the garrison, setting things right once again.

DM Notes: Lots of out-of-character party debate, lots of in-character speechifying, lots of NPC interaction, then a nice little combat to round things out - it's another good run. If you're interested, here are my notes on the debate:

Conclusion of Part 2 – The Great Debate
Fight, Talk, or Run

  • Speaker Wiston
  • Captain Soranna – Reluctant but Run – suicide, can't fight off thousands
  • Innkeeper Kellin (halfling) – Talk (buy them off with gold and prepare to fight later)
  • Stablekeeper Delora Zann - Run
  • Wealthy Landowner Iormel - Fight

Level 6 Complexity 3 Skill Challenge – 7 Moderate (DC 15), 3 Hard (DC 23)
Primary: Diplomacy, History, Intimidate, Streetwise
Secondary: Arcana, Nature, Religion, Insight
Raids repelled = 1 automatic success each
Using Koth's map = 1 hard success

The paladin kicked things off with diplomacy, the warlord went with history, the warden went with nature, and the vampire wrapped it all up with intimidate and it went very well. I think everyone appreciated the change of pace after the fight-heavy sessions before this one. Our last talk-heavy session was with Warklegnaw back in Session #10.

There are various ways this fight can go and the adventure is pretty good at covering the implications of all of them, including a pretty detailed description of what happens if the decision is made to fight. I kept the main parts of this and built it into a skill challenge to give it a mechanical framework - thank you 4E, this is exactly the kind of thing they were made to handle.

This concluded "Part 2" of the adventure and after this they leveled up! I told them ahead of time that they would jump to 7th in this session and to bring sheets for both. We all use a character builder so it's easy enough to do.

The roadblock is another set encounter in the adventure and I stayed pretty close to it, from map to garrison. There were some nuances to this one, from breaking things to climbing to levitating to dealing with their first enemy spellcaster in some time. It lasted 11 rounds which was quite a bit longer than I expected but it was a cool fight, and only having 4 players probably made it a little tougher than it would have been normally.

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