Sunday, January 26, 2014

RL #14: Kobolds in the Well

Our group has decided to keep playing, without Aginot temporarily, under the pretense of the party electing to remain in Morningsong to help prepare for winter. The PCs have delayed their departure for Stangengrad until the situation in the village, under-provisioned and lacking a true leader, is more stable.

In the wake of that decision, what happened last night was far from expected. However the party comes out of it (if they do), is likely to alter the campaign forever.

We picked up a few days after the unmasking of Lady Silva; late one night, Alaric, Nora, and Leilana were awakened by an alert call from one of Ellidora's cottage guards. The guardsman was injured, bleeding heavily from a puncture wound in his side, and nearby was the body of a three-foot tall, dark-skinned creature which Jorah identified as a kobold. Kobolds were known to toil as the slaves of orcs; suddenly, the timing of Azrael's attacks against the hunters after years of apparent dormancy seemed not so disconnected and random.

It felt even less so when the PCs trailed the kobold's snowy footprints back to the dried out well behind the cottage, where Azrael had been spotted loitering suspiciously.

The friends elected to watch the cottage for the remainder of the night, and when dawn came, they descended the narrow well-shaft using a rope. At the bottom, Nora discovered a five-foot-high dug-out tunnel leading away from the village. Alaric bid the remaining guards to send word to Jorah and Aginot, and the PCs took to the passage, following it by torchlight with heads and necks bowed for nearly two hours before emerging in a taller, rocky cavern with slime-laden walls.

Leilana's timely casting of detect snares and pits revealed a hidden pit trap which the PCs averted by sidling along the slimy walls. Seemingly unharmed by the ooze, they traversed a new series of dry, forking tunnels, triggering a lone spear-rack trap from the ceiling and felling two kobolds that threw stones at them from the darkness.

The tunnels led to a massive, underground chamber bearing a two-hundred foot wide river that flowed with a powerful current. The party's torchlight couldn't reach the other side, but as they made their approach, they spotted a lone kobold drifting away from the nearest bank atop a log raft. Acting quickly, Alaric plucked the creature with an arrow, and Nora expertly grappled the raft back to shore. After careful evaluation of the current, the PCs dragged the vacated raft upriver and rode it across. On the opposite bank were two more empty rafts and a single, wide passage that led deeper into the complex. They shipped their raft downriver and made their way to the tunnel, whose entrance was adorned with a six-foot wide barrel-drum, tactfully disabled by Alaric.

Satisfied, the PCs advanced along the passage walls, taking care to not disturb the center of the floor. Stones (many stones) assailed them from the darkness, and Nora hurled her torch forward, illuminating the kobolds' lair. Dozens of the minions scrambled to evade the torchlight whilst bringing more stones and javelins to bear. The party returned fire, Nora and Alaric loosing arrow upon arrow as Leilana conjured a dust devil to attack their adversaries. More than a third of the kobolds were laid low in all, but when finally the dust devil was defeated, the horde united in a final push to drive the invading characters away.

Assailed with flying kobold weapons, the PCs fled back down the passage, utterly failing to exercise the same caution with which they entered. Leilana, in front, sprung a pit trap in the floor. She and Nora both fell, and though Alaric initially kept his balance, the trio had also triggered another spear-rack from the ceiling. The pikes swept down and struck Alaric from behind, toppling him forward into the pit atop his friends.

Nora was incapacitated by the fall, having suffered numerous lesser wounds in the battle. As Leilana worked to stabilize her, the monsters surrounded them from above, dragging one of the large rafts from the river to cover the pit opening. Minutes passed, the companions helpless and injured, kobold guards watching them hungrily. Finally, a larger creature arrived, its towering form shadowing down from above as its pig-nosed face and yellow eyes bore into them like drawn daggers.

The face and eyes of an orc.

DM's Commentary

That's where we had to stop. At this point, we'd been playing for more than four hours and it was well after midnight. The players at least deserve a chance to play this part out with clearer heads, though I think everyone's prepared for the fact that this might be the party's end. It looks really grim. The characters were bold in descending the well with no additional support from the village; ironically, the success with which they navigated the tunnels initially made escape that much harder in the end.

This game was a hard lesson in how one wrong move or moment of carelessness can undermine a whole session of solid play. I cringed when I saw the PCs running for the pit trap, especially after they smartly avoided it by staying to the walls on their way in. The decision to flee (along with three failed Dex checks) negated all the good they'd accomplished to that point. Leilana's spell selection was excellent, Nora had some really insightful plays (studying the river current and throwing the torch to illuminate their enemies and help conceal the party), and Alaric and Nora's attack rolls were efficient.

So where do they go from here? Nora is "stable" at -4 hit points. The players should read this to make sure they know exactly what that means. The kobolds made a lot of high attack rolls against her during the fray, making the added fall all too deadly. Alaric and Leilana are in reasonable shape, but Leilana is out of meaningful spells.

The idea of donning the black mask was raised. Alaric dismissed it immediately, saying there's no way he'd allow it, though I made a point to remind him that not only his friends' well-being, but possibly the entire village might be at stake. Alaric has been willing time and again to sacrifice his body for his allies, but what about his morality? This is by far the toughest dilemma he's been faced with, if the party really does want to try that route.

The players have some time to think (a lot more than their characters do). Whatever ends up happening, I doubt the party comes out of this the same. It definitely will be a turning point, for better or for worse.


  1. Oh no!

    First, bonus points for use of the image from Demonic Hordes. I wish I could find a high resolution of that image to use as my desktop wallpaper.

    Any chance that the guards actually brought word to Aginot, and that I might be able to effect some kind of rescue attempt?

  2. I actually referenced Demonic Hordes last night while describing he kobold lair. The imagery fit the scene perfectly; hence, the picture.

    I'll talk to you privately about Aginot. There was some level of consensus that I should hold off on posting the recap to give you a chance to react to the PCs being missing for the better part of the day. But honestly, it felt too deus ex machina. That's not to say that NPC Aginot can't do anything, but events have happened quickly and their fate will likely be decided before anyone else could arrive to aid. As much as I don't want the whole party to die, they're on their own.