Sunday, November 1, 2015

FR #2: Delving the Mines

10 Tarsakh, highsun

We picked up in the mines, with the party moving enough large rubble for individuals to crawl into the area sealed off by the miners. The cavern was dimly lit by natural light from above, which shone onto a stagnant pool of murky water. Arendeth led, followed by Pevrel, who was assaulted by javelins from either side after he stepped beyond the entryway. Dodging, the gnome darted back to safety as more party members squeezed through the opening. The PCs advanced, engaging four reptilian humanoids skulking along the cavern walls and slaying them handily. No possessions were found on the bodies; the lizard men fought with crude weapons and carried nothing else.

The catacomb had many offshoots, and the party explored them tactfully, using Berwyn's cat familiar to trace the smell of carrion through the tunnels. The sides of some passageways were shimmering and slick, as though wet, and as Arendeth tapped at the stonework, gelatinous tentacles emerged from the wall and struck him, wrapping him in their horrific grasp. The party acted quickly, severing the tendrils, but Arendeth fell comatose, revived only after imbibing a healing potion from his pack; moreover, the dwarf's armor was corroded from the ooze and useless. With Arendeth too weak to continue, the party retuned to Wolford, arriving shortly before dusk.

In the village, the PCs recounted the day's events to Armandras and Lady Sophia. Arendeth was bade to rest, and the following day, the others took to the nearby forest trails, searching for signs of goblin activity and discovering the remains of a cookfire less than a mile south. Later that night, Wren, Riwyn, and Berwyn visited Swordfall's lone outpost, questioning the guard there and sending Merlin the owl in search of threats. Satisfied that the forest was safe, the party slept.

On the second morning following their return, the party again made the trek to the mines. Delving deeper, they destroyed two more grey oozes before locating a pile of small, humanoid bodies eaten away by rats, and a low, waterlogged passageway that could only be traversed by wading. They braved it, emerging in a narrow, winding tunnel where they were assaulted by and slew a trio of lizard men... but as they skirmished, over a dozen more of the reptilian creatures flooded in from a deep pool in the cavern beyond.

Though the narrowness of the tunnel stymied the party's ability to attack, so too did it limit their enemies, and a combination of spells and sound tactics drove the lizard men off after nearly half were killed (most at the claws and teeth of a rat swarm summoned by Berwyn). Amid the melee, Eryior was laid low and subsequently healed by Pevrel's clerical magic. Having won the day but exhausted of resources, the party again retreated through the foothills, arriving back at Wolford after nightfall.

DM's Commentary

I feel like this session frustrated the players to some extent, despite the success they found. The final battle with the lizard men was well executed by the PCs, but in a way that limited their individual effectiveness. The narrow tunnel barely allowed for two to attack at a time, and as such, spells (especially Berwyn's grease and summon swarm) became paramount. Of course, their position did equally much to ensure their safety, substantially reducing the lizard men's advantage of numbers. Could they have eventually overwhelmed the party, rushing in single file? Given enough time and bodies, yes, but the virtually unlimited duration of summon swarm, in the end, proved too great a barrier for the creatures to continue to press through as their ranks diminished.

I don't like to run NPCs that serve as buffer or cannon fodder for the party. Though the other expedition members assuredly are not that, it does feel like it at times, especially with Eyrior, who in filling a combat function not championed by the core group along with some timely rolls has taken center stage more often than I ever presumed. That said, from a big picture standpoint, the combined party's success to this point certainly justifies Armandras' employment decisions. The Wolford expedition is what it is, and the PCs are free to do with it as they choose.

A final note, I considered but decided against awarding XP at this time. While numerous enemies have been defeated, the seven-way split won't make the totals overly impressive. I'd rather wait another session or two when major story awards have been yielded as well.

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