Sunday, April 27, 2014

RL #17: Unwelcome Return

Last night we resumed in Morningsong, with the party quickly deciding to further investigate the mysterious cave by the river. Calling a meeting in the Lion's Head tavern, Alaric imparted the danger of the mission at hand, offering a chance for any unwilling man to stay behind. All pledged their allegiance to the journey, though before the group could part ways for the eve, Rooks entered from outside, accompanying an injured young man who brandished sword and bow. The wounded hunter, Ainsley, brought word of a vicious orc trio that had slain a fellow woodsman near the forest outpost. Alaric healed Ainsley, who offered his aid to the contingent as well. With heightened urgency, the band departed at middark, aiming to reach the cave shortly after sunrise.

Their ill-advised nighttime passage through the forest ushered in a veil of thick fog as they closed proximity to the river. Without warning, the din of a marching army sounded off in the distance, singing to them like a nightmare. Recognizing the omen, the PCs bade their allies to close their ears and focus on the trail ahead. One of the men-at-arms (Vedrane) fled with all speed from the group, disappearing into the mists. The remaining eight travelers began chanting a bold chorus of "Stay strong for Morningsong!" to drown out their fears. When finally they found the river, the phantom noise was gone, and the fog began to break. Rooks and Ainsley led them to a shallow crossing and they made quickly for the cave.

Outside, no activity was detected, and the party filed into the rocky passage beside the running stream. Nora traversed the precarious ledge, toting a grappling hook attached to a hundred-foot length of rope. Securing the grapple in place for the others, Leilana followed next, slipping on a wet section of rock and plummeting into the chasm below. Nora scaled the cliff to administer healing in time to save her friend, though lifting the half-elf to safety and helping the rest of the companions across consumed a great deal of valuable time. Worse, as they toiled, kobolds slung stones from a ledge across the waterfall. Bowmen picked off two, frightening away the others.

Finally, the party took to the tunnel, traveling more than two hours and passing multiple forks before encountering a lone orc backed against a heavy, iron-banded door. The orc turned tail, but when the party followed, they found themselves inside a kobold lair. A battle ensued, the PCs routing the kobolds into an expansive cavern blocked by an underground river - the same cavern they'd travailed on their venture from the well in the village, this time entering from the opposite side, mere yards from the pit trap where they'd nearly met their demise.

The kobolds proved unprepared for the assault, and the party's combatants (with the help of Leilana's dust devil) made short work of the minions, slaying them all.

DM's Commentary

This was a pretty fun session, though admittedly, allowing Leilana to fall from the ledge nearly ruined it. A 5% chance to slip followed by a failed Dex check had her toppling fifty feet to a rocky chasm below. In the end, she took 17 points of damage (average rolls on 5d6), falling unconscious at -2 hp and dropping all the way to -5 before Nora made it to her side. These are the kinds of unlucky mishaps that I find myself most tempted to fudge in the party's favor. I had a bad experience several years ago where I allowed something similar to happen to a player, whose PC died and who ultimately decided not to play D&D anymore afterward. Despite that incident, I stayed true to the dice last night and everything still played out reasonably OK. Those are always tough calls to make, especially in the heat of the moment.

That said, I probably was a bit lenient in allowing Leilana to retain her spells and continue to operate at full capacity after being brought back to positive hp through magical healing. I didn't care to take the time to look up official rulings, and we've spent enough time playing with a party member completely debilitated in recent sessions. I think I made the right call on that too.

Of note, Alaric entrusted the black mask to Aginot prior to leaving Morningsong (Jason was good enough to agree to this via text even though he wasn't playing). Also, the party recovered coins and gems inside the kobold lair. No XP will be awarded until we reach a true resting point, but as a reminder to myself for later, here are eligible accomplishments from the past two games:

  • Avoiding the dire bear in the forest by way of entangle
  • Slaying 12 kobolds in the dungeon
  • Recovering a haul of copper coins and a handful of valuable-looking gems

Last but not least, remember for the next session that the orc who led the party into the kobold lair was nowhere to be found after the combat ended. As the PCs scoured the cavern diligently, it presumably found an escape.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

RL #16: Shadows in the Forest

Picking up after a couple months off, the PCs assembled a contingent of eight that included Rooks and four other able-bodied men and took to the forest trails outside Morningsong. Shortly after reaching the first outpost, they encountered a twelve-foot tall bear, which advanced toward them aggressively before being held fast by Leilana's entangle. Moving fast, the contingent circled around it and pressed on until it fell out of sight. From there, they reached the river-crossing, and elected to follow the stream downriver.

Toward late afternoon, one of the men-at-arms, Vedrane, spotted a fast, fleeting movement on the opposite shore. Investigating from afar but finding nothing, the party hoped (but did not truly believe) that the sighting was simply a large fox. Continuing on, the contingent arrived at a previously uncharted fork in the river as twilight began to set in. The fork led away from the opposing bank, into the open mouth of a small cave. Rooks pondered the strange formation, doubly concerned that it seemingly had sprung up from nowhere, as Morningsong's hunters travelled this route often.

Deciding to camp for the night, a fire was set ablaze and watches were arranged. In the early hours of the morning Nora caught sight of two yellow eyes peering near the cave opening, but as with the earlier phantom, a shake of her head and they were gone. Unsettled, Nora awakened Leilana and passed the remainder of the night in the druid's company.

Rooks advised that the river could likely be crossed a short way further down, so the party continued on, traversed the shallows, then doubled back. Near the cave mouth was a semi-concealed rocky passage that led behind the stream, into a cavern and along a precarious ledge that ended in a man-sized tunnel. The river fork itself poured down a fifty-foot waterfall, ending in darkness below. Wary of delving too deep underground, the contingent marched back upriver, back to the outpost, and finally back to Morningsong before nightfall.

In the village, the PCs and Rooks convened privately with Jorah, Kleigha, and Aginot. The older residents of Morningsong showed grave concern for the findings, citing similar happenings from twenty-five years ago, when hunters would return from the forest bearing tales of inexplicable new landmarks amid well-known territory. Their most serious failing, they believed, all those years past, was in neglecting to root out the evil that threatened them until it was almost too late. As such, Jorah particularly impressed the need to investigate further, and not again leave the village's fate to mere chance.

DM's Commentary

This was a tough one, starting back after some time off. It's always hard to get your head back into the game and recall all that transpired previously. The party's investigative approach, too, didn't feel all that exciting, though it did uncover some interesting new details. No XP to award right now, we just need to play again soon so that we don't feel the lag next time too.