Wednesday, February 5, 2014

RL #15: Out of (and into) the Dark

Last session left the characters in a particularly bad spot. We resumed with the orc gazing down at them from the top of the ten-foot pit where they were trapped; after growling a few undecipherable orders to the surrounding kobolds, the orc left and I put the players on the clock, with one minute of real time equalling one minute of game time.

They tried a few things initially (searching the walls, attempting to scare the kobolds away with a torch, attaching a grappling hook to the underside of the raft), but didn't seem to yield any real benefit. Finally, seventeen minutes in (three minutes before the orc would return with allies to turn the pit into a cook-fire, though the players didn't know this), Alaric donned Lady Silva's black mask.

Black tendrils of smoke clasped the mask to his visage, and Alaric took the form of a hulking orc chieftain bearing a giant hatchet. Succeeding a few key ability checks, he climbed the already-secured rope and swung to the nearest ledge, pushing the raft aside just enough to fit through. Where prior to the change, the kobolds prodded at the PCs aggressively from above with their javelins, from orc-Alaric the creatures backed away, slowly and warily.

Nora was hoisted up next, and as Leilana followed her out, a half-dozen orcs came running for the corridor. Alaric slung Nora over his shoulder and burst through a line of kobolds, racing for the upriver raft while accepting hits from flying javelins. Once aboard, Alaric cut the tether and he and Leilana paddled with all speed.

The orcs reached the bank and leveled crossbows, but with the party outside the range of their infravision, the bolts sailed wide - and with the last remaining raft still covering the pit-trap, the enemies had no easy means to follow. The companions crossed the river, took to the tunnels, and fled from the well, all alive.

Back in Morninging, Alaric sought healing for Nora, and as she was revived, Leilana organized a team of villagers to collapse and seal the well. In the following days, the trio recovered from their wounds and readied a team of hunters and men-at-arms to scour the forest for additional threats.

DM's Commentary

This was a short session; we didn't have a ton of time, and while I didn't know at the beginning how things would play out, I figured that one way or another, resolution would be quick. Things ended as well as the players could possibly have hoped, and I'm not really sure if the party had another out after the mask (of note, Alaric required a save vs. spell to remove it from his face, though he made the roll easily). Alaric's Strength checks in the pit were key - while failure to climb out quickly wouldn't have caused damage, it would have cost valuable time. When finally the PCs escaped, Alaric was left with one hit point from the javelins (the players saw my actual damage rolls).

Morningsong, while thankful that the well is sealed, is more concerned than ever that orcs and kobolds are lurking barely a mile from the village, albeit underground. To those villagers that survived the battle twenty-five years prior, the fear of imminent danger is all too familiar.

XP

Not a ton of XP to award, but the party's foray in the catacombs wasn't entirely unfruitful:

  • 12 kobolds slain - 90 XP
  • Sealing the well - 500 XP

That's 197 points each (216 for Nora). I think the award for sealing the well is justified; the party could easily have left it intact for further exploration and plundering, but by sealing it off they ensure that no monsters can use it to invade the village, even after the characters leave. XP totals are updated on the right.

All in all, I'm surprised everyone made it out. Had Alaric gone down, Nora would likely have been lost as well. The party had a brief window for escape before the orcs returned, and to their credit they made the most of it.

6 comments:

  1. One thing I wanted to add more detail on were the dice rolls that took Alaric to 1 hp. That round (the final round that javelins were hurled by the kobolds before the PCs boarded the raft), Alaric was holding out at 6 hp. Three attacks were made against him - one roll was low (below 10), but the others were 18 and 19. The kobolds were at -2 to hit due to medium range for javelins, so these became 16 and 17. With Alaric's normal AC of 3, it looked like only one of the rolls would hit, for 1d4 damage.

    That was, until Sean reminded me that Leilana had Alaric's shield slung over her back, and that Alaric's actual AC at the time was 4, not 3. I triple-checked the math to make sure I wasn't missing anything, and sure enough, the second attack was a hit as well.

    The damage rolls were 2d4. I remember looking down and seeing the "4" on die #1 before seeing the "1" on die #2. Alaric got pretty lucky, but props to Sean on being honest about the AC discrepancy. Whew!

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  2. After telling Aginot and Jorah about what happened in the well, Alaric asks to speak with Aginot alone.

    "Aginot, there is something I must tell you about our escape. It is true that our escape seems miraculous, but you have not heard all of the details. While we were trapped in a pit, all hope seemed lost. It was at this point that Leilana made a suggestion that ended up to be what saved us. She ask me to hand the mask to her so she could put it on. As you would expect I dismissed the idea immediately. After a few more minutes with us unable to find a way out, I put on the mask. I had no other choice, and Morningsong had to be warned about the threat. When I put the mask on everyone saw me as an Orc. I was able to climb out of the pit and then help Leilana and Nora out as well. We then were able to escape.

    While we were able to warn the town and get out alive, I feel wrong about having worn the mask. It is an evil item and yet I willingly put it on. I feel ashamed that I have done this. I do not know if I can continue traveling with you, Leilana, and Nora. I do not what to do next."

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  3. Aginot listens to the paladin's tale with great interest. He is clearly relieved that his companions survived, and somewhat abashed that he wasn't there to help in the first place.

    When the tale turns to the mask, however, his regard for Alaric darkens. Aginot looks at Alaric suspiciously. "Where is the mask now, Alaric?" The caution in Aginot's voice is plain, and beneath it, perhaps something more.

    "This foul object must be destroyed--that much is obvious." Aginot watches Alaric's reaction to that statement very carefully.

    "Power such as this, created of evil and spiteful magic, can do no good. It is a threat to you, and to others. This much I know. I do not know the particulars of unmaking the item, however...we shall have to seek a sage, or some resource on such lore."

    His tone turns cold, and he continues, "And then we must seek a way to cleanse your soul, friend. Even though you donned this mask out of desperation, with pure intentions , it has left a mark on you. I shall pray on this, and suggest that you do the same. Until the mask is destroyed and your spirit restored, I fear that it may hold some power over you."

    Aginot tries to mask his worries and doubts behind his matter-of-fact tone....but can't be sure of his success. Aginot's hand cramps suddenly , and he realises that his fist has been clenched this entire time...around a coin in his pocket.

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  4. Alaric shows the mask to Aginot. He says "I still have it though I wish I did not. If I was able to destroy this I would. I do not feel comfortable with this evil object any longer, though I dare not give it to anyone else. The ability to appear as something else might be too tempting for someone else to avoid. However, I will not put the mask on again. I felt the power it had, and I was not certain I would be able to remove it until it was off." At this thought, Alaric hangs his head, as if ashamed of this.

    He lifts his head, and his eyes burn with the determination to see the mask destroyed once and for all. "This object cannot be allowed to exist," Alaric says. "I shall welcome your help in destroying this item, or in seeking one who can. However, we must be careful that we do not unknowingly give this object to someone who would use this. Light knows what would happen if this fell into the hands of the Talons. I will use everything at my disposal to ensure this gets destroyed."

    Once again, Alaric hangs his head in shame at the mention of the mask leaving a mark on him. "I fear I have failed. I have always done what was right and good. Yet it was I that donned this evil mask. I will pray on this Aginot, everyday, I will seek absolution and redemption for this act."

    Alaric stands up slowly, and walks to a different part of the church. He kneels down and begins to pray, "I thank the Light that we got out alive, and were able to warn Morningsong. I do not understand what happened to me, and I need a way to atone for wearing the mask." He trails off and continues his prayers in silence.

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  5. I'll give 50 XP each to Alaric and Aginot for these comments.

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