Due to a few scheduling conflicts, this one took a bit longer to get together than the previous games. We were also expecting to play the weekend of the 4th, but since only two people remembered… the next game is for the 10th. Anyway, with the end of each adventure, I try to offer several different plot hooks for the group to decide where they want to go next. In this case, I had three hooks in different locations with different goals; the group can only choose one, and the other two options are essentially lost forever as the Sagemaster assigns these tasks to other groups. On these other tasks, I use a group of characters with level appropriate stats, make a few rolls, and see if they succeed. If they do, they might come back with a new plot hook for the group to choose from, or they might even come back with information regarding something from one of the player character’s pasts. It’s a little more work on my part, but it gives the players sort of a choose-your-own-adventure when they play. Most people seem to like it.
In the morning, the group returns to Sagemaster Volrane to hear of the new tasks he has requested they undertake. He provides a modest breakfast (and cookies once again at Shayla’s most adorable request), and speaks to them from his chair, steepled fingers held thoughtfully before him.
“I have three potential tasks that you may undertake. These are the events that I consider most important at this time, and must be addressed as soon as possible. Rest assured that I have other groups who can undertake whichever tasks you do not choose, though they are still somewhat untested. Either way.
The first option you might undertake is for the village of Heartwood. I have a colleague who lives there, and he has not responded to the last several missives I have sent to his home. I have tried contacting him magically, but I have been unable to reach him that way as well. I fear that something has befallen the village, and it must be investigated.
The second choice is a task in the Fireharrow Region, near the Cities of Knowledge. The report I received from the gnomes who reside in the twin Cities tell me that an organization has been wandering the borders of the Cities, mapping and investigating the region – something that is expressly forbidden by the Pact. The gnomes have engaged this organization several times, but it seems that every time they put down one group, another appears in another location and resumes the duties from before. They have requested assistance from the signatories of the Pact, who informed them that they would be entrusting the task to me and my associates.
Finally, I have received word from a paladin in my service who is in the village of Camlain, in the Kingdom of Thraxis. Bandits have attacked the village, and she is requesting reinforcements to deal with the group.
Which task will you undertake?”
The group confers briefly, and agrees to go to Camlain to deal with the bandits. Sagemaster Volrane supplies them what little information the paladin has been able to provide, and asks if there are any questions. The group is in a hurry to leave, and Lazan asks what the fastest route to Camlain would be, and if they would be able to procure mounts in Three Hills. Sagemaster advises the team that he will be able to provide them with transport to Camlain, but they will be on their own for returning, as the method of travel that will get the team there fastest is one-way only.
Volrane takes the group to a room at the back of his home, decorated with colorful tiles with a fountain against the far wall. The team gathers behind him as Volrane begins casting, his arms weaving circles in the air until he stretches his arms before him, touching his fingertips together as if opening a bag. He presses his thumbs to his first two fingers, then slowly parts his hands, tearing open a rift in the air as someone else would open a sack.
Chris, Lazan’s player, let out a brief chuckle at this point and said, “Pix, that was pretty cool.” That sort of thing makes me smile – it means I’m doing a good job of impressing the players with the magic of the game. It made my day.
The group can see villagers moving back and forth in front of the rift, going about their daily business. Sagemaster Volrane says that due to the distance and an undetermined side-effect of the casting, what they are viewing is a scene from roughly two hours in the past, and that when they step through, it will be current time, and they should be prepared for whatever they run into when they arrive. Dorn steps through first to no one’s surprise, and the group emerges into the middle of a battle.
A quick scan of the area reveals the paladin that the group was told to expect, unfortunately she is surrounded by hobgoblins.
This is one of the best adventures yet. It had, by far, the most in-character conversation, and fortunately, I was able to preserve it in its entirety. I love sessions like this – the group does the job of moving the story forward, and my job is to handle any NPC interaction. It’s fantastic – it’s less work for me, for one, and more enjoyment for the players. I hope that we have more sessions like this – it’s totally worth it.
Shayla: “I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but I believe she’s surrounded.”
Kevara: *counts quickly* “They won’t quite outnumber us two to one, so that’s not so…” *notices a hobgoblin fire an arrow at the paladin* “Oh, archers. Fuck.”
The group rushes to the paladin’s defense, with Kevara firing off a blast of energy toward one of the hobgoblins. The shot streaks over her target’s head (causing a string of profanity to pour forth from Kevara’s mouth), leaving the next attack to Lazan. Lazan shifts into a wolverine form, using a spirit attack that cleaves the hobgoblins that rushed forward and surrounded the paladin. Dorn cuts another hobgoblin in half, Shayla’s spirit wolf makes an attack on yet another, dropping it, and the paladin finishes off the last. The two archers, safely out of melee range, throw down smoke bombs, obscuring the party’s view. The group rushes through the smoke and to the other side, only to find that the two archers are gone. Kevara grumbles at her ineffective attack, and Lazan grumbles that he didn’t have a chance to be even more awesome.
The paladin approaches the group, looking obviously relieved (and a little gore-spattered, thanks to Lazan).
Loranys: “I don’t know who you guys are, but thanks.”
Kevara: “The Sagemaster sent us. Apparently, just in time.”
Dorn: “We’re here to support you in your fight against the bandits.”
Lazan: *still in wolverine form, growls in greeting*
Kevara: *glancing down* “That’s Lazan, by the way, and I am Kevara.”
Loranys: *acknowledging Dorn* “Well, I didn’t think I would NEED that much support, but the details about the bandits weren’t quite up to speed.” *she nods to the group* “I am Loranys.”
Shayla: *smiles shyly* “I am Shayla. Can you update us on what is going on here?”
Lazan shifts back into his halfling form, and Kevara goes to investigate the hobgoblin bodies.
Lazan: *raises an eyebrow* “Hungry, Kevara?”
Kevara: *stops and turns to look at the halfling* “If I were hungry, I wouldn’t eat carrion, oh snack-sized one.”
Loranys: “Basically what’s going on is that I have a lot of hobgoblin guts in my hair now.” *Loranys eyes Lazan approvingly* “That was you, eh?”
Lazan: *Grins and bows*
Kevara: *Kevara wanders over to where the archers were last and grunts* “We shouldn’t let them get away.”
Lazan: “Did you see which way they went? Cause I sure as hell didn’t.”
Dorn : “They’ll be back, and with greater numbers.”
Thanks, Obi-Wan Dorn-obi.
Loranys: “Well, when I spoke with the Sagemaster, he told me that there was a small group of bandits, something I could handle myself. As you can see, it wasn’t exactly like that. There were even more than you just saw, mostly hobgoblins too.”
Kevara: “Bandits have bases of operation, even if only a camp.”
Dorn: “Are they attacking from a specific spot? A lair maybe?”
Lazan: *headshake* “Well, at least hobgoblins are world renowned for their massive intelligence.”
Loranys: “Well, their leader is … something else, I haven’t been able to tell what, but he is smarter than the rest of them at least. He stays in their lair, it’s not far from here.”
Dorn: “Then lets go attack him.”
Kevara: “For once, I agree with Dorn.”
Shayla: “I, however, do not. At least not immediately. Assaulting a lair with this little information seems ill-advised.”
Lazan: “I’m with Shayla, for the moment. Blindly attacking something we know nothing about is about as smart as charging in through a wooden door, blindly.” *glares at Dorn*
Loranys: *Loranys laughs wryly.* “NOT a good idea. Like I said, they have a lot more than I initially thought. At least 50. I told the Sagemaster that it could even be more than that, though they don’t seem to go out in groups much larger than the one we just … exploded.”
Shayla: “So have you been able to contact any of the local people to ask more? Is this where your information is from?”
Loranys: “I’ve picked up some things from talking to the locals, that’s what helped me find the hideout. But that I saw with my own eyes.”
Kevara: “Well, we can’t just call this done and leave, becuase if there’s that many of them they will just return. So greater numbers or no, we have to do..something.”
Lazan: “Nor am I saying we should, but blindly attacking something we know little about is just as irresponsible.”
Loranys: “Well I can show you where their leader is so you can decide for yourselves, but my recommendation would be trying to find them in smaller groups away from the base. Because, yeah, they just ambushed me as I was headed back to inform the Sagemaster.”
Kevara: “Whittle them down? A reasonable course of action, assuming he doesn’t have a source of reinforcements.”
Lazan: “You said the leader was ‘something else.’.. What exactly do you mean?”
Loranys: “Well he was obviously not a hobgoblin, he was bigger for one thing, but everything at the base is dark, so it’s hard to tell.”
Kevara: “The next step then is…recon!” *she turns and looks expectantly at Caelissa*
Caelissa: *Caelissa is absently picking her fingernails with a dagger* “Huh?”
Lazan: *Lazan shakes his head* “You said you’ve seen the lair. What can you tell us about it? Is it fortified in any way? Any scouts? Any loose threads on the ground she might trip over?” *motions towards Caelissa*
Shayla: Perhaps we can use some of the spirits in the area… where is this lair located?
Loranys: “Well,” Loranys motions at her plate armor, “clearly it’s not that hard to sneak up on the place. It’s in the woods not far from here, and I honestly thought there weren’t any scouts, but there must have been since I got followed and jumped.”
Kevara: “We might as well at least take a look around for ourselves.”
Shayla: “Hmm… strange. Well I suppose going to have a look is our best option for now. Should we rest before we go?”
Lazan: *Lazan shrugs*
Kevara: *Kevara shakes her head*. “I am hale enough to continue.”
The group heads off into the woods, following Loranys. Lazan and Shayla find three trails: one marked with a tree cut by a claw, one marked with a tree cut by a knife, and one marked with a bit of string. Lazan shifts into a lynx form and lopes off down the claw trail; after a few hundred yards, the path doesn’t seem to go anywhere, so he returns. Shayla sends her spirit wolf down another trail, finding nothing as well. Both the spirit wolf and Lazan go down the third path, finding a fairly recent campsite, maybe no more than a week old. A few humanoids used the camp, but apparently traveled off in different directions.
Loranys remembers a few other facts about the village while the group waits, and begins to share a little more. She informs the team that the village’s militia has been destroyed, and it may be that the camp they found once belonged to some of the former members. Kevara blinks with the realization that the village is now entirely undefended; as she comes to this conclusion, the group smells smoke on the wind, and looking back in the direction of the village, they see a giant plume of black smoke rising into the air.
The group rushes back to the village to find a building burning wildly, and the villagers working frantically to put the fire out. Slowly, the combined efforts of the village and the group get the flames down to a manageable level, but the damage has been done; the building is completely destroyed, and, worse, Kevara has spotted blackened and burned bodies on the lower floor.
Lazan: *to Loranys* “So…. you lead us out into the woods, to a place you can’t exactly remember how to get to, and the village has no defense whatsoever.”
Loranys: *Loranys puts her hands on her hips.* “I never told you that I was good with planning. Remember how you found me?”
Kevara: *Kevara looks clearly distressed. She rounds on the paladin, angry* “You should have told us they had no defense before we started traipsing through the gods-be-damned woods!”
Lazan: *to Loranys* “We were sent to help.”
Loranys: “Hey, my job was to take care of the bandits, not protect the village!”
Kevara: *Kevara makes a strangled noise and stalks off a few feet.*
One of the women of the village takes notice of the group, coming over to them. She is clearly angry, yelling at them for even being in the village.
Lazan: “You…. don’t sound very pleased that we’re here.”
Village woman: “Of course not. You’re here NOW after all this time?”
Shayla: All what time? How long has this sort of thing been going on?
Village woman: “We’ve been dealing with this problem for months. We sent a message to Volrane early on to ask for his assistance in getting us help, but apparently it wasn’t important enough for him to sully his hands until now.”
Lazan: “We only just arrived, in time to see a mass of hobgoblins attacking the *benevolent* young lady.” *thumbs back at Loranys”
Loranys: *shrugs* “I was told that there were a lot of dead messengers, so …”
Kevara: *Kevara has turned her attention to the conversation but she is still clearly agitated.*
Shayla: *hands Kevara a cookie she stashed away from the Sagemaster’s house*
Village woman: “Either way, it’s irrelevant now. The damage is done, and if you’re all that we can count on, then I guess we’re just going to have to be comfortable with the fact that we’re all doomed.”
Kevara: *Kevara blinks at the cookie. She then turns to snort at the woman.* “We aren’t that bad. I swear when properly informed we’re at least moderately useful.”
Lazan: *stifles a laugh*
Loranys: *angrily, at the village woman* “It’s not as though you people wanted my help when you got it, I had to bribe someone to even tell me about the missing people. Maybe we’ll be less doomed if you tell us what is even going on.”
Shayla: “Perhaps you are doomed with our help. You’re certainly doomed without it. You can help us help you or not, your choice.”
Lazan: *nods* “They have a point.”
Kevara: *Kevara takes a deep breath. And eats the cookie.*
Dorn: “Perhaps the sagemaster did not send help sooner because he did not have anyone who could handle it.” (Kevara: *aside, to Dorn* “Because we were off frolicking with the animated corpses of dead children?”)
Village woman: *sighs* “That may be.”
Lazan: “Let’s not worry about that now. We ARE here to help. What can we do?”
Village woman: *She turns to Loranys* “I’m sorry that we were not more forthcoming. I’m sure that much of this could have been avoided. Please, come with me, all of you.”
Loranys: *Loranys stares at Dorn and Kevara* “I knew you guys were weird. And you wonder why it took me so long to tell you what I know.”
Lazan: “Yes, because our weirdness has ANYTHING to do with what we were sent to do, am i right?”
Kevara: *Kevara follows the woman while answering* “I didn’t mean really frolicking. They were trying to kill us. It wasn’t very frolicsome.”
The group arrives at the woman’s home. It’s a large place, away from the village square, moderately furnished and comfortably fits the entire group in a single room. Kevara decides not to risk the furniture, so she stands, and Dorn stays back near the doorway. Loranys takes a seat in a nearby chair, and Shayla finds a place on the floor with her wolf.
Village woman: “It has been difficult here as of late; I’m sure you’ve noticed. I do apologize for being so short with all of you, but before we go any further, perhaps I should introduce myself. My name is Millia Kaedas; I am the Reeve of this village.”
Kevara: “I am Kevara Bloodbane.”
Lazan: *Inclines his head* “I am Lazan Silvershaper.”
Loranys: “Loranys Songsteel.”
Millia: *She nods to everyone in greeting.* “A pleasure. Now, to the point. We have been dealing with this bandit group now for some time. Initially, they were content to raid infrequently, taking only what they could carry, and be chased off by our militia. Lately, however, things have taken a turn for the worse. A month ago, we discovered that the old leadership of these bandits had been displaced. The old leaders, Ashurta and his lieutenant, Big Grigbad, were disorganized but clever. They would rarely fight our standing force, and hid in the forest and mountains between raids. Since then, they have been under the leadership of a Dragonborn. This Dragonborn, Gravash, came to us one day to bargain, asking for supplies in return for “protection” from the wilderness. We declined.”
Kevara: *Kevara makes a disgusted noise.*
Millia: “After that meeting, Gravash began making regular strikes on the village, taking what they could, killing anyone who tried to stop them. We lost our blacksmith in the first raids. The building you saw burned today was an inn called the White Lion. The owners were still inside.”
Lazan scowls at Loranys, who looks back, making a ‘What, me?’ face at him.
Millia: “Our militia tried to seek them out, to put a stop to all of it, but these bandits were much more organized than they once were. Our village once had over a thousand residents, and nearly two hundred fifty for our military. That force has been destroyed or chased off, and our population is now closer to four hundred.”
Kevara: *Kevara swears softly.* “We are many things, but a replacement for an army we are not.”
Millia: She nods. “This may be true, but our militia was largely untrained. Newer recruits from our lord’s military. They were never expected to deal with any organized force. Gravash’s group, until this morning, numbered 50.”
Shayla: When hunting prey in large packs, a smart wolf picks off the weakest and most foolish first.
Dorn: “Shayla’s right, we pick off their numbers and we have the advantage.”
Lazan: “Yes… Goddess help any doors that stand in Dorn’s way.”
Dorn: “I’ll remember to use you as my shield next time.”
Loranys: “In my defense, that’s what I told you we should do, but you guys wanted to check out the hide out.”
Shayla: *hands Loranys her last cookie*
Lazan: “But you mentioned nothing of the hundreds of people already killed… which MIGHT have swayed our decision a bit, don’t you think?”
Kevara: *shrugs* I wanted more information than she could give.
Millia: “I will understand if you all choose to leave, but we are desperate. Lately, when we have been unable to make a payment, they have been taking villagers as food.”
Kevara: “And I–” *Kevara gags.* “As food?!”
Kevara: *Kevara crosses her arms.* “This stain upon my race must be done away with.”
Millia: *She frowns* No, dear, Gravash claims it is for the hobgoblins. Gravash is a soldier, not a cannibal.”
Shayla: Bandits and thieves are not known for strength of conviction… if Gravash is the source of this newfound organization, perhaps his death could be the end of it.
Millia: “That may be true. We can only hope. I know it is much to ask, but please… PLEASE help us. We have no other course.”
Kevara: “He’s a bandit. He needs to die, regardless.” She adds grudingly, “Or be apprehended, but when I get my hands on people I don’t tend to leave them apprehendable.”
Lazan: “Like I said, we were sent here to help. We may be late to the party, but we always bring the good times along.”
Loranys: “I’m here to do a job, so my sword is yours until the bandits are gone.”
Shayla: And it’s my job to make sure this one doesn’t die before I have a chance to beat him in a fair fight. *gestures at Dorn*
Kevara: “So if until this morning they numbered fifty…we did away with, hmm, how many this morning? The archers got away, but the hobgoblins…”
Lazan: “Sorry.. I lost count while I was busy *eating them* all. Er…. not literally eating them, that is.”
Kevara: Kevara pats the Halfling on the head.
Lazan: “Oh don’t give me that. You were almost offended that you couldn’t kill any of them.”
Kevara: “Oh no I wasn’t almost offended. I was offended.”
Lazan: *chuckles* “Move a bit quicker next time.”
Kevara: “Next time you’re in a rose bush… I’ll let Dorn help you again.”
Lazan: “I think Dorn will be a bit too busy browbeating old men or running headfirst into doors while I’m escaping wild rose bushes before you incinerate them. I should be just fine.”
Kevara: Kevara coughs. “So. Um. I think we killed roughly 10 this morning, so that leaves a force of forty. Assuming he doesn’t have a source of reinforcements.”
Millia: “Well, they have never attacked twice in the same day, and I doubt they’ll start now… Gravash is too methodical in that regard. So please, stay in our village tonight. The Heavenly Hearth is still open, run by our own dear Atra. She will put you up for the night.”
The group agrees to the arrangement, and heads for the Heavenly Hearth to rest for the night.