Sunday, July 17, 2016

FR #11: Forest Banditry

The vote prior to this session set the party's direction as Luskan. After a short reprieve at the Slumbering Manticore, supplies were replenished and the company set out west along the game trails leading to Port Llast.

24 Mirtul, darkmorning

Traveling conditions were favorable over the course of three days; at the end of the first, the party divided into two rooms at the Drunken Mermaid in Port Llast, ere they departed early the next morning and pushed on into the night, camping and trudging on again into the following afternoon, their booted feet worn but happy to be journeying amid comfortable spring temperatures and underneath clear, blue skies.

During the party's first watch, in the shadows of its campfire, Arendeth cast detect magic on Rumolt as he slept. This mention is to serve as a note of that, though the dwarf has yet to relay any findings to his companions.

As the day began to wane and the party began to anticipate reaching the crossroads, they were approached by a southbound wagon driven by a middle-aged man and woman outfitted in travelers' garb. The wagon, piled high with stacks of tanned leather and hides, slowed as it drew near, and the man aboard it hailed the adventurers through a thick, graying beard, warning of highwaymen further up the road. He stated that the would-be thieves were less than formidable, and that the pair had escaped unharmed and unhindered after the lady shot an arrow through one brigand's hand as he came hither.

Thankful for the warning, the party pressed onward, and as twilight loomed, a fretful voice called out from the east, demanding gold for passage. As two bowmen advanced between the trees, Lincoln stalled them with words and Wren fleeted into the grove, hidden from sight. The companions refused to proffer payment, and the lead bandit's demeanor quickly crumbled into emotional distress as he slumped against a tree and wept.

Through tactful discourse, the PCs learned that the brigands were not highwaymen at all, but a metalsmith and his brother made to rob travelers along the road by thieves who held the smith's wife and daughter captive in the forest, and threatened to kill and defile them should the brothers not acquiesce. Hiding deeper within the grove was the smith's son, a boy of sixteen winters who cradled his right arm, its hand impaled by an arrow.

The PCs pledged their aid to the family, and agreed that the smith's son would lead the party to the encampment where the trio was to report before nightfall, while Berwyn remained near the road with the father and uncle. The men explained that the camp was being manned by a mercenary called Kirtak (a name that Lincoln recognized from his prior dealings with the bandit leader, Whisper), but that the captured wife and daughter were held elsewhere, at an unknown location in the forest.

Kirtak's camp was situated halfway up a tree-covered ridge; a burgeoning fire bellowed amid a gathering of armed thieves as Wren surveyed the scene from an adjacent hillock. Shortly, a bandit scout crested the same hill and was felled by Lincoln's bow. The adventurers fanned out, archers taking to either side while Lincoln and Arendeth marched for the camp, the dwarves in plain sight of the thieves but shielded by underbrush.

Arrows volleyed up and down the ridge; after the first three bandits fell, Kirtak and a lone remaining brigand rushed past the dwarves, heading for the hill. The party gave chase, and as the fastest PCs began to gain ground, Kirtak drew up his sword and wounded the ally that ran alongside him, delaying the bandit while Kirtak fled into the night.

While the dwarves captured and bound the injured man, Kirtak's attempts to escape were thwarted by Riwyn's magic as she and Wren continued their pursuit. At long last, and many yards removed from the rest of the party, Kirtak turned on the women and stood to battle them for his life. Blows were exchanged over gruesome rounds of swordplay, ere Wren dealt a killing strike to the mercenary, laying him low. Injured and exhausted, Wren and Riwyn rejoined their allies, and after healing magic was expended, the party gathered the father and uncle from the road and claimed the bandit camp as their own, in possession of a single captive.

DM's Commentary

Another successful session for the party, which managed to plunder a hostile camp with its ranks fully intact. Though Rumolt continues to travel with and aid the PCs, the uncovering of bandit activity connected to the thieves that set upon them earlier in the campaign has at least momentarily overshadowed the matter of the scepter.

In the climactic melee between Kirtak, Riwyn, and Wren, Riwyn's casting of enlarge upon the mercenary's longsword was particularly interesting, and stirred up a bit of debate regarding the mechanics.

The Player's Handbook doesn't go into great detail on the effects of enlarging a combatant's weapon, and I needed to make some split-second rulings on how to handle it. I wanted to itemize here the decisions I made in the heat of the moment, both to explain why I ruled the way I did, and also illustrate the amount of quick-thinking that needs to happen "behind the screen" at times. It's not always easy, and pretty much always subjective.

The three on-the-fly rulings I made for enlarge were:

  1. That the weapon wouldn't receive a saving throw. Per the spell description, "Unwilling victims are entitled to a saving throw vs. spell." - but an object carried by such a person has no will to measure. This seemed straightforward, but still warranted consideration.

  2. That Kirtak needed to succeed a Strength check (which he did) to avoid dropping his sword. It stands to reason that a wielded weapon could fall from the grasp of even a seasoned fighter upon unexpectedly becoming heavier and unbalanced. If a grease spell had been cast on the sword instead, a Dexterity check would have been appropriate.

  3. That the increased size and weight of the sword would result in a -4 to attack rolls made with the weapon. Here, I was challenged in that I allowed Kirtak to retain the benefits of weapon specialization when fighting with the enlarged longsword. I can see the argument, and had considered, alternately, treating the sword as a two-handed bastard sword, and having it acquire such a sword's attack and damage properties, negating Kirtak's specialization. In the end, the -4 penalty was imposed as a means of rendering Kirtak's attacks objectively (or "strictly") worse. I don't think a longsword increased to 130% of its original size would be the equivalent of a different, albeit larger type of sword. It would instead retain the shape and overall function of a longsword, just become unwieldy.

Interesting how a single game ruling can be wrapped up in so many nuances. As we have other unanswered questions about weapon specialization as well, I might post some of this to the forum to see what others have to say.

No XP awards at this juncture, but it’s beneficial to list the items found amid the bandits:
  • Longsword, longbow, and banded mail carried/worn by Kirtak
  • Kirtak’s gold necklace and coin purse containing 33 gp (taken by Riwyn)
  • Bandit swords, short bows, sheaf arrows, and leather armor
  • Bandit coin purses totaling 29 gp and 19 sp (taken by Arendeth)
  • Miscellaneous supplies not individually described (rations, water skins, packs, lengths of rope, etc.)
I'm planning to put up a subsequent post momentarily to give the PCs an opportunity to speak with their captive between sessions.


  1. I like your ruling. Would also have been fair if it just canceled his specialization bonus. I don't think an enlarged longsword = a bastard sword or greatsword. The increase in size proportions likely would create a totally unbalanced weapon, and while still sharp enough to use effectively, it wouldn't be as easy. Like asking a pro MLB player to hit with a bigger bat.

    Spur of the moment calls like this are what keep the game fresh and fun. Good call, and great use of a spell by Riwyn.

  2. Thanks for the props. I didn't like the idea of the enlarge spell negating weapon specialization only, as the penalty wouldn't scale to other classes. I can see a case for the -4 attack roll penalty *in addition to* loss of specialization benefits, but I'll have to think on that some more. I also try to factor in how I'd rule things if the situation were reversed (enemy mage casting enlarge on a PC's weapon), as to not show bias for one side or the other.