Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Mounted Combat

We hadn't dealt with using weapons and spells from horseback thus far in the campaign, and I was ill-prepared to adjudicate this during the skirmish with the wargs. The 2e DMG discusses mounted combat in detail; below are some of the key points. From p. 76:

Mounts trained for combat (a heavy warhorse, for example) present few problems. These can be used in mounted combat with no penalties. However, steeds not trained for combat are easily frightened by the noise and confusion.

Those fighting from the back of untrained creatures suffer a -2 on their chance to hit, since much of their time is spent simply trying to keep the mount under control.
The horses purchased in Luskan are riding horses only, so going forward this -2 penalty will apply. With regards to melee combat:
In mounted fighting, a character gets a +1 bonus to his chance to hit creatures smaller than his mount. Thus, a man on horseback gains a +1 bonus to his attack rolls against all medium-sized creatures such as other men, but would not gain this bonus against another rider or a giant. Those on foot who fight against a mounted rider, have a -1 penalty; this not applied to attacks against the mount, however.
This would have reduced the first penalty to -1, since the wargs were medium-sized creatures. The wargs wouldn't have incurred a penalty, since they were attacking mounts or dismounted PCs. Missile combat, understandably, is more difficult:
Missile fire from the back of a moving horse is possible only if the rider is proficient in horsemanship. Even then, only short bows, composite short bows, and light crossbows can be fired from horseback by normally proficient characters.

Long bows can be used by those with specialization (if this is used). Heavy crossbows can be fired once, but cannot be reloaded by a mounted man since the bracing and pull is inadequate.
There are details beyond this, including penalties if trying to fire while the mount is moving, but let's leave it here until that situation arises. We don't use proficiencies, but I'll allow short bows and light crossbows to be fired by PCs succeeding a Dexterity check, with failure meaning that the round is lost trying to control the mount (with no ammunition expended). Spellcasting can work similarly. Fair?

I also was too liberal in causing characters to fall from their horses in combat, some of which I corrected during the session. Even Aranos' fall, however, shouldn't have happened, by the book. Here are the relevant excerpts:
Killing the Mount: This is the grim and efficient method. Once the horse (often an easier target) is dead, the rider is certainly dismounted. The steed automatically falls to the ground.

If the rider has the Riding proficiency, he can attempt to land safely on his feet on a successful check. Otherwise, the character also falls to the ground and suffers 1d3 points of damage. The character cannot take any action that round and must spend another entire round gathering himself back up and getting to his feet.
Again in the absence of proficiencies, a Dexterity check should suffice to avoid taking damage from a fall. Aside from killing the steed, an attack roll of 20 will dismount a rider, but a "normal" hit against either party will not:
Weapon Impact: Riders also can be knocked off by solid blows from a variety of weapons. Any time a rider hits another mounted character or creature with a melee weapon 3' or longer and scores a natural 20 on the roll, the other character is knocked from the saddle, suffering 1d3 points of damage (if from the back of a normal horse).
There's a lot here to digest, and more in the actual rulebook. I turned out to be a bit harsh in my rulings, but should be better equipped to deal with this next time.

FR #16: The Road to Mirabar

18 Kythorn

Recovery from the catacomb was long and arduous, absent Arendeth's magical healing for several days while the dwarf regained his strength. Though the fallen were tended to graciously, the party was otherwise left to deliberate its course, and the decision made was for Luskan. Before their departure, the PCs were solicited by the missionaries, Lucido and Winifred, that adventuring work in the name of Tyr could be found under the employ of their benefactor, Elidar Highborn, in Leolin. The offer was considered, but declined.

They reached Luskan two days hence, having encountered a trio of armored riders and a small contingent of wagoners en route. As the sunlight faded over the Sea of Swords, Luskan's gate-guards demanded a steep tariff for entry, taking advantage of the late hour and of the city's inherent prejudice toward non-humans. With a sour taste for the place already, the party made its way to the piers and procured lodging at the Shadowatch Inn.

Inside, they were met by an old acquaintance, Pevrel the gnome, who admitted to following the PCs since their episode at the gate. The gnome, who concealed a trained ferret underneath his tunic, mentioned that a local ranger was seeking arms-for-hire to combat goblin uprisings to the east, in addition to hearsay that an unnamed man was bartering in high coin with magistrates of Luskan's "prisoners' carnival" for its captives, effectively thwarting a number of (gruesome) public executions.

The gnome left after drinking his fill, and the next morning the PCs visited a moneychanger to unburden themselves of the copper, silver, and electrum plundered from the catacomb. While Arendeth and Aranos tended the coins, Wren and Riwyn were quietly approached by a hooded man in the marketplace in search of crew for a southbound merchant caravel; at an offer of a hundred gold pieces per head but requiring immediate service, Wren displayed interest but neglected to commit. Upon reuniting, the party agreed to move on from the likes of Luskan and spent the remainder of the day purchasing and outfitting riding horses before departing the city's north gate with an eye for Mirabar.

The lightly-beaten road rolled over vast stretches of hills and plains, the River Mirar flowing ever at the edge of their view to the south. For three days they traveled without incident, but that eve the tranquility was broken by the howling of wolves, far in the distance. On the fourth night, after Arendeth scribed a protective glyph of warding around those who slept, the howls were usurped by a crescendo of marching, singing, and rolling wagon wheels as a caravan crested loudly toward the party. Its lead rider drew close, hailing the PCs and imparting that a pack of dire wargs lurked dangerously near - enough so that the caravan, a camaraderie of men and dwarves journeying from Mirabar to Luskan, broke camp in the dead of night to distance themselves from the threat.

Denying an offer to return with the company to Luskan, the party continued watches into the early morn, finally being set upon by a pair of the fell creatures as they rode on. Aranos was bucked from his horse and mauled to unconsciousness before the wargs were slain, ere the party pressed on wearily, arriving at Mirabar's gates after middark on Flamerule the Fourth.

DM's Commentary

Overland travel is no picnic, and the PCs are lucky to have completed a 240-mile journey with no unrecoverable losses. Merchants caravan in large numbers for a reason, and while adventurers oft possess skills and defenses that commoners do not, a full pack of wargs had a sizable chance of annihilating the party outright; as it was, though they ventured on in spite of warnings from the company from Mirabar, fortune saw them meet only two of the creatures along the road. Had they been set upon at night, when the entirety of the pack was afoot, the outcome may have proved disastrous (although Arendeth's glyph of warding was a superb proactive measure, to be sure).

Luskan and Brithem feel far removed as the salty breezes from the Sea of Swords have given way to rolling pastures and silhouettes of mountain peaks on the northern horizon. For now, marshes and catacombs, gnolls, gate-guards, and banditry seem little more than distant memories.

(My initial draft included a section here for mounted combat, but it ended up being long enough that I'm making it a separate post for easier future reference.)

Riding Horse Attributes

It bears mentioning the attributes of the riding horses procured in Brithem, whether or not they're needed again soon:

  • Hit dice: 3 (i.e., 3d8 hit points each, rolled randomly)
  • Hit points: 17 (Riwyn's mount), 12 (Wren's mount), 17 (Arendeth's mount), 9 (Aranos' mount)
  • Armor class: 7
  • Movement: 24 (240 yards)
  • THAC0: 17
  • # of attacks: 2 (per round)
  • Damage/attack: 1d2/1d2
PCs can succeed a Wisdom check to control the attacks of their mounts, provided that no morale checks have been failed (in which case a steed is likely to bolt).

XP

Since the party has landed at a (presumed) safe point, I do want to award XP for the wargs, even though the amount is small enough to warrant rounding up to simplify my math (we'll call the total 100 XP per PC and 50 XP for Aranos).

I've discussed at various points previously (most recently here) the Tao of D&D XP system, which awards experience primarily based on damage dealt to and by combatants and spellcasters. I still don't feel that the entirety of this system is appropriate for our game, however I am going to begin issuing individual awards of 20 XP per point of damage sustained by PCs and henchmen, effective this session. In short, this helps bolster the party's XP in a fair and realistic way, while not significantly affecting my bookkeeping. I may continue to refine the XP system later on, but for now I see this as a "quick win."

As a result, Aranos (the only combatant damaged against the wargs after I retracted falling damage from Riwyn and Wren) sustained a total of 15 points, and therefore receives an additional award of 300 XP for the session. Accounting for this and for prime requisite bonuses, the party totals now stand as:
  • Arendeth - 15,472
  • Riwyn - 7,736/7,736
  • Wren - 7,033/7,736
  • Aranos - 2,128
Sean will be happy to see that Aranos has attained second level and may roll for hit points and adjust stats accordingly the next time we play.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Faves

I've added a "favorites" label to the site and tagged a few otherwise-unrelated posts that I like to refer back to often. I'd like to tag recaps from some of our most memorable game sessions as well, but it's hard to choose without giving it more thought (there have been so many!). Definitely open to suggestions.