Thursday, January 8, 2015

Wrath of the Righteous - Session 3: Duels in the Dark

We begin at the entrance to the village of Neathholm, 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)
  • The Cleric with No Name of Erastil (spell and bow)
(Red was busy so Jaren peels off in the village and doesn't take an active role in this session but we added a new character, a cleric of Erastil, played by one of my longtime players, Dave.)

Lann leads the party past the guards to meet Chief Sull, leader of the mongrelmen village. A nice bit of roleplaying follows where the party actually treats an NPC with some respect - that's a relatively rare event here. The conversation covers a little history, a little current events, speculation on the reason for the cave-ins and the demon attack, and some personal details. The chief is impressed enough to offer the aid of the mongrelmen in the defense or retaking of the city. They are descendants of the first crusaders and they feel that they have a duty to assist. This should be good news if the group can ever get back to the surface.

Then the conversation turns to what lies between the party and their return. The nearest path to the surface is blocked by a tribe of hostile mongrelmen who have turned to evil and who have been consorting with demon cultists. Things go well enough in the discussion that the chief offers the party some healing potions and his trusty enchanted morning star from his fighting days to help the heroes clear a path through the fallen mongrels. While the party clears out the miscreants, his warriors will spread the word to the other tribes so they will be ready when the call comes. At the end of the discussion everyone shakes hands and retires to prepare for the next day.

Rested up, the party moves out, intending to wipe out the pocket of evil that lies ahead and finally -finally! - return to Kenabres. Deciding for once to scout ahead carefully, the wizard drinks an invisibility potion, moves up and casts Sleep on the two-man guard station that he has discovered. One guard drops but the other resists. Graiden is out of ideas and so calls for help and the Paladin charges in, hurdling the barricade and striking out at the remaining guard. The Cavalier is right behind him and manages to finish the mongrelman off.

The rest of the group (including NPC's Anevia the gimpy, Aravshnial the blinded, and Horgus the unpleasant) shuffles forward and while debating how to proceed Relyn the Paladin detects evil through the door, senses it, and kicks it in.

This is some kind of common room and while there is a fire pit and some bedrolls there are only two unfortunate mongrel-traitors in the room and they are clearly overmatched but they open a door and let in a large pinkish cave lizard that makes things interesting. Soon enough all 3 are down (with the help of a summoned Celestial Wolf). There are several doors in the room and the party decides to check the one to the north.

This time the Cavalier charges in but it quickly becomes apparent that the opposition knows what they are doing this time. The inhabitants of the room are a pair of armored humans, a male and a female, wielding glaives and using some actual tactics. The girl maneuvers Arken away from the door while the male steps in and blocks the doorway behind him, holding off the rest of the team. A vicious two-part battle takes shape as Arken attempts to duel his opponent (who is clearly a little better than he is) while the Paladin and Cleric attempt to fight their way in to aid him. Graiden manages to summon a Dire Rat into the room but it does little to change the circumstances of the fight.

Finally, Arken tires and the female bashes him with the butt of her glaive, dropping him to the floor. Before she can do him any further harm though, her companion goes down with a gurgling cry as  the Cleric cuts him down and the Paladin rushes in, shoving her away from Arken's unconscious form. Already battered form her duel with the Cavalier, she is in no shape to fight fresh opponents and is quickly slain.

The rest of the party moves in and checks out the room (some kind of trophy room decorated in dead animals) and get Arken back on his feet - he is more than ready to continue their crusade.

DM Notes:

 I said it before:
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. 
...and my feelings haven't really changed. It's still not how I would handle it but I'm going with the flow.

There were really two main parts to this session:

First, the interactions at the village, mainly with the chief. This was fun and while it didn't take a whole lot of actual time it felt "right", like the kind of thing a band of good-aligned adventurers on a quest would do. I am amazed at how easily my players fall into the flow of this adventure - that's been a very iffy thing with published adventures I have run in the past but this one seems to be right on their wavelength and it's working really well.

Second was the invasion of the evil mongrelman outpost. They blew through the first 4-5 rooms in the place and once again the contrast in speed of combat with 4E is pretty strong. I like my 4E but there is no question that we are getting more done in a session with this game than with that one. 

They had been having a fairly easy time of it but the last fight with the two cultists was more challenging. I played them with a little more tactical finesse because a) they are classed opponents with two levels, trained fighters as opposed to mutant-man grunts and b) the noise of the previous fight certainly gave them a warning and time to prepare. So they did.

This was not a really long session but it was a lot of fun and got us that much closer to seeing daylight again. Hopefully the next session will get us across that particular goal line and set up the rest of "The Worldwound Incursion".

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