Sunday, August 21, 2016

FR #12: Cliffside Ambush

(Edit: Post title updated to better reflect the session content.)

26 Mirtul, middark

Following the interrogation of the bandit, the party weighed its options, lacking an obvious trail to the smith's wife and daughter. Finally, hitherto silent, Rumolt imparted that he possessed the means to locate Whisper's hideaway, and would do so in exchange for the jeweled scepter and an amicable parting of ways upon returning to the road. As he had no desire to risk the dangers of the forest alone, Rumolt furthermore offered to aid the party in an assault and rescue attempt against the bandits, after the camp was found. The PCs deliberated the arrangement at length, but ultimately agreed.

At dawn, Lincoln handed the captured highwayman a roll of fifty gold coins in exchange for his departure and a promise to live an honorable life upon returning to Luskan, or wherever he might go. The bandit consented eagerly, addressing the dwarf with many a "Yes, sir" and bow as he scattered into the trees to the west.

When all were ready, the party followed Rumolt's lead, the father, son, and uncle trailing closely behind. As they journeyed eastward through the forest, Arendeth inquired how Rumolt would locate the encampment, and Rumolt revealed from his tunic a compass rose made of cast iron, hanging by a thin chain around his neck. The compass, he explained, had come into his possession several years prior, and over time he had learned to utilize its magic, which enabled the wearer to know the direction of specific places or persons through intense mental focus - clearly the same method employed to find the orc ruins, days earlier.

Shortly after highsun, the company arrived at a fifty-foot ridge descending a two-hundred-foot wide canyon, at the bottom of which flowed a river that provided a ford. The opposite side of the canyon sloped gradually upward to a plateau ceilinged by a rocky overhang which began a near hundred-foot climb to the continuation of the forest. A winding trail led upward from the left side of the plateau: the only discernible path up for anyone lacking the ability to scale walls.

A few minutes of surveying the plateau from tree cover revealed bandit activity afoot, but no immediate signs of the captives. Unwilling to risk descending the canyon, the party made its way downriver a considerable distance after Merlin the owl scouted the terrain. A short time later, the party located a reasonable crossing and easier ascent to the opposite cliff. Once atop it, they formulated a plan while waiting for nightfall.

Wren approached the plateau area from the ridge above it at twilight, spotting a burgeoning fire underneath its overhang, which was surrounded by a cluster of highwaymen. Honoring their promise, Arendeth drew forth the magic scepter and handed it to Rumolt, who tucked it away securely in his pack. Together, the company moved in, thieves repelling down the ledge while Arendeth, Aranos, and Rumolt took to the trail.

As the latter group neared, arrows volleyed to and from the plateau, and Aranos was felled by magical sleep. Rumolt continued to fire while Arendeth closed and Wren, Lincoln, and Riwyn dropped in from above. Jhakine, the Calishite mage, could be seen spellcasting behind the bandits, and as Lincoln was pummeled by magic missiles, a flickering form thrust a blade into Wren from behind, laying her low in a single, deadly strike. The figure disappeared from sight again as a bloodbath ensued; the battle saw Lincoln fall to his injuries before Arendeth crushed the Calishite mage's neck with his morning star and the remaining bandits were slain.

As Wren's body clung to the last vestiges of life, Rumolt rushed forward, removing a potion flask from his belt and emptying its contents down her throat. Lincoln, unconscious but breathing, was revived, and a search of the cavern revealed the smith's wife and daughter - alive, though greatly battered and incoherent - and a dark tunnel leading from its depths.

DM's Commentary

situation
noun

1. a set of circumstances in which one finds oneself; a state of affairs.

I understand that Rumolt has been a point of frustration to the party for a handful of sessions now. In this campaign, my method has been to introduce places, and people within those places with their own histories, motives, and agendas, come what may. I'm not executing to an intricate grand design; I'm creating situations that intersect the party's path, and allowing the plots to weave themselves. In this way, the characters have a large degree of control over their own destinies.

It's always been five against one. Rumolt has always been a burden that the party, for all intents and purposes, has commanded the power to rid itself of. The question has always been the terms under which the sides would part ways, and the concern felt by the PCs in allowing a man with unclear motivations to knowingly leave the company in possession of a powerful magic item. But I've never tried to hold anyone's feet to the fire. If any of the group members feel that way, I'd want to explore the reasons why.

Have the events with Rumolt been fulfilling, or dispiriting? Enjoyable, or woeful? My hope, at least, is that they've been entertaining, and memorable.

I can't rightly end this section without a mention of how close Wren tarried to character death during the melee. At 18 hit points, Whisper rolled a critical hit for max damage on the attack roll for backstabbing, reducing Wren to -6. Three rounds elapsed with no healing or attempts to stabilize, taking her to -9. As the "death's door" points tick off at the end of each combat round, Rumolt fed her his potion during the last possible moments before she'd have descended to -10 and died. That's crazy close. I'm really glad I make my rolls publicly.

What's Next?

I don't consider the party to be at a suitable "safe point" for awarding XP, amid the Neverwinter Wood with Whisper still at large. The victimized family, while alive and intact, is in need of safe harbor. In the previous recap I made note of items for which XP would be awarded; we now have pending story awards as well, given the impactful achievements made by the party with respect to the campaign world.

In the interest of attaining safe harbor and setting a firm direction for the next session, I encourage the players to post comments to this thread to help determine the party's next course of action. Depending on what's decided, I may be able to advance the game forward. This blog is here for you; feel free to use it.

3 comments:

  1. A close call for all of us!

    For his part, Lincoln doesn't have a lot of desire to pursue Whisper any further. If the group at large wants to continue pursuit, he won't argue against it, but if the group is divided, his vote is to let him go.

    He (presumably) lost his giant, we killed his wizard, one of his lieutenants, and a dozen of his men. While Whisper is certainly still a threat, it will take considerable time to rebuild from that kind of loss, enough that Lincoln, at least, is comfortable abandoning the chase.

    Further, we know that Whisper is a dangerous combatant with the ability to turn invisible and drop us in one hit with well-timed attacks...we were lucky this time, but next time we might not be.

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  2. Perhaps it was the significant amount of blood lost, or the fatigue that sets in after a major battle, or a combination of the win and near death experience that  left Wren in a thoughtful mood. Either way, it was now or never she thought to herself as she approached Rumolt who was sitting near the campfire.

     Offering Rumolt a small smile as she takes a seat near him, Wren whispers, "Don't worry, I'll try not to bleed on you." She tucks her cloak, which is still damp with fresh blood, under her legs. Pulling her longsword from her side, she pushes it gently into the softly glowing embers, prodding them to come back to life.

    "Rumolt," she says, clearing her throat uneasily, still unsure on how to begin her apology. "I..." she considers her words carefully, pausing momentarily,  "I...I just want to say that....I would not have blamed you had you left; Had you saved your potion and moved on. You had every right, after the way I treated you."

    She nervously pokes at the embers, inspects the ashes for movement, and then continues, "I was your biggest opponent. I threatened you multiple times, refused to travel with you, wished you ill will, and..." her voice trails off into almost a whisper, "...I don't know if I would have saved you had the situation been turned."
    The sword falls from her hand as she says this, the implication heavy in the air. "For that, I am truly sorry and owe you my deepest apology."

    She runs a hand through her long hair, takes a deep breath to steady herself and then looks up to meet his eyes.  "Please know that your presence is welcome, and if you choose to stay, it is as equals. I would not hesitate to fight by your side or to risk life and limb to save you as you have done for me."
    She slowly pulls herself up, taking her sword with her. "I do hope you consider staying," she furrows her brow as she adds thoughtfully, "with me." She smiles as she shakes her head, laughing lightly at herself, and then walks away.

    Yes, the loss of blood was definitely going to her head.

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    Replies
    1. From the corner of the cave, Lincoln can't help but cough, his face a mask of bewilderment, as he overhears Wren and Rumolt. He chokes down commentary, but is clearly grossed out by the exchange.

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