Unfortunately, this post is going to be more narrative, less hilarious conversation between the team. I forgot to make a copy of the chat log, and it seems that no one else on the team did, either (most times, I can count on Amber to back me up, but she was away this week.) Anyway, I’ll do my best to keep things interesting.
The three scouts return to the village square, cold, wet, and clearly exhausted. It is nearly midday by this time, and the group gathers in the square to plan their next course of action. Millia and a middle-aged dwarf approaches the group as they chat amongst themselves.
Millia introduces the man as Atra’s husband, and he apologizes for the attacks the night before, mentioning that the six dwarves who attacked were his former employees. He also mentions that these employees stole all of their equipment from him, and that the equipment was on loan to him from his cousin, a dwarf who specializes in supplying equipment for inn guards and many other roles. He needs to get this equipment back, desperately, otherwise he won’t be able to return it to his cousin, and he and his wife will very likely lose their inn.
The dwarf takes a scroll out of his coat and unrolls it for the group, revealing the faces of the four dwarves who escaped from the previous night’s assassination attempt. The innkeeper begs the group to find them and recover the items they stole, particularly their cloaks with the insignia pins. The group agrees, and Millia and the innkeeper head off in the direction of her home.
Shayla makes the argument that the group should immediately find and assault the bandits’ base. There is far too much to defend, and not enough defenders to do it.
During Shayla’s argument, Jin was in contact with me through gchat as he brought up this point, and called it the team’s “Maginot Line Problem.” The argument he was giving in the MapTools chat to the rest of the group was worded beautifully, full of wolf metaphors and the like – I ended up having to give him some bonus xp for such a well-spoken argument done in character.
Lazan strenuously objects, stating that the town will likely be attacked as soon as the team leaves, thereby leaving the entire village undefended and vulnerable. Millia has returned by this time to offer her own thoughts, and she comes up with a solution. She will get all of the remaining townsfolk together, and head to the nearby city of Ardenor. They can keep to the forest and move in small groups to remain undetected by the bandits, and should be able to make Ardenor by the end of the evening. Once the team is finished, they can contact Millia in Ardenor, and they will return to Camlain.
The team immediately returns to the crossroads from the day before, and follows the second path that Lazan, Caelissa, and Shayla discovered. They work slowly and quietly up the path, keeping their eyes open for clues, and they hear arguing in the distance. Attempting to remain stealthy, the team comes upon a group of hobgoblins, griping at each other and shoving for emphasis. The team tries to get closer to get a few early attacks in, but Kevara steps on a twig and gives away their position. Dorn immediately shouts a battlecry, and one of the hobgoblins answers in kind: “Big Grigbad will CRUSH YOU!”
I love doing guttural voices for villains. It really gives me the opportunity to ham it up and get into some real scenery chewing. Sure, all of the villains usually do that anyway, but let’s face it – it’s a lot more believable from something big, bulky, and dumb.
Kevara curses Big Grigbad, and rushes in to breathe fire on the hobgoblins. Lazan, in an effort to back her up and increase the amount of area effect damage, hurls a flaming seed at the foremost hobgoblins, but misses the attack. The seed flies wide, goes out, and bounces harmlessly off a tree. Undaunted, he shifts into a badger form and rushes into melee. Dorn rushes in, sweeping his blade in a wide arc, aiming for Big Grigbad and the hobgoblin soldier standing near him. Grigbad ducks out of the way, but the soldier isn’t so lucky, taking a mighty hit to the chest that crunches his armor and sprays blood. Shayla calls upon the spirits to deliver a powerful strike against her enemies. Her attack misses all but one of the soldiers, who is driven to his knees by the resulting bolt of power. As the bolt hits, our six heroes are imbued with a healing aura. Caelissa moves into range, her shortsword and dagger flashing. The combination of strikes dishes out a bit of pain to the soldier she attacked, as well as knocks his weapons wide, setting Caelissa up for a mighty attack next round.
Hobgoblin archers take aim at Kevara, and Kevara learns the dangers of running into the line of sight of people who can use you as a pincushion. She staggers from the powerful impacts of two arrows fired from hobgoblin longbows, coughing up a little blood on the fletchings. Two of the soldiers move in on Caelissa, one slashing her across the chest, the other nearly hamstringing her. Another soldier slashes at Shayla’s spirit wolf companion, but overbalances and misses the creature’s hide. Big Grigbad swings his flail around and lashes Kevara, the chain wrapping about her neck and choking her. A quick flip of his wrist catches the flail head on the chain, and he holds her tightly in place – Kevara cannot escape.
Loranys rushes into the fray finally…
This is what happens when you’re last in the initiative turn. It happens to Sara a LOT.
…using her Righteous Brand power to cleanse one of the soldiers with holy fire.
Lazan, knowing that he needs to spread these enemies out before they can be managed, makes a savage attack on one of the soldiers. He knocks the hobgoblin back, and then burns an action point to do the same to another of the soldiers. Dorn rushes to Caelissa’s aid, sweeping his sword out in a harsh arc against one of the soldiers. Cleaving through its armor and cutting deep into its chest, Dorn wrenches the blade free and sets his shield in between like a powerful wall, and Caelissa takes the opportunity to get to a safer location. Burning an action point, Dorn then slams his shield into Big Grigbad, following up with a powerful slash of his sword, forcing Big Grigbad to give ground.
As I mentioned before, Amber was out this week, so Jin was taking the notes for this game. He was having a rough day with his attack rolls, and his notes show it – in fact, this next little part comes straight from his notes; I didn’t see any reason to try to spruce this one up at all. You’ll see why.
Shayla sucks all around, flounders and wastes Spring Renewal Strike AND Elven Accuracy (this ability means, “You screwed up your attack roll, you can use this power once per encounter and reroll it), heals Kevara some with Healing Spirit and goes into the corner to cry.
See what I mean?
Caelissa makes an attack on the soldier nearest to her, misses, and tumbles away to avoid any return attacks. Kevara struggles with Grigbad, finally breaking free of the flail as she uses her arcane abilities against one of the other soldiers, blasting him in the face with dark energy. Loranys calls upon Sorti for strength, and sweeps her blade around in a wide arc, her blade surrounded by ice and snow as it aims directly for Grigbad, unfortunately missing.
Two of the guards move in to attack Caelissa, their blades narrowly missing her small frame. The two archers fire at the spirit wolf, and it explodes into spiritual energy and dissipates. Shayla reels from the pain of the feedbak, and snarls in anger. Big Grigbad has decided he’s had enough, and he runs away. Dorn and Caelissa get a swing at him as he rushes past, both scoring a hit. The two archers hit Dorn with arrows and retreat with Grigbad; the two remaining soldiers move to cover their escape.
Lazan pounces on one of the guards, knocking him to the ground, filling the hobgoblin’s face with flashing claws and gnashing teeth. Caelissa twirls her blade and punches it through the nearest soldier’s armor, neatly gutting him as she pulls her sword free. Kevara blasts one of the soldiers with dark energy again, dropping him to the ground. Shayla resummons her spirit wolf and calls upon it to attack another one of the soldiers; it immediately falls to the ground, bleeding profusely from the throat. The group manages to finish off the remaining soldiers in a few moments, but the archers and Grigbad have escaped.
The group takes a short rest to heal and recover their strength. They continue up the path at a normal pace – by now, the bandits know they are coming, and there’s no reason to hurry. Coming around the side of the mountain, they reach a large cave concealed by other rock formations; at night, this entrance would be impossible to see, and explains why the group was unable to find it the previous night of their search.
Dorn leads the team into the cave in his usual manner of charging off recklessly while the party is left with the choice of rushing in after him to assist, or leaving him to die while they catch up at their own pace. As they round the corner of the tunnel, they are ambushed by a large group of hobgoblins. The team sees the archers from before, as well as Big Grigbad, and another hobgoblin they haven’t seen before: one greatly feared by his own soldiers.
Dorn rushes into melee, taking out two of the weaker hobgoblins, and avoiding attacks from two others. In response, the new hobgoblin leader shrieks, “Ashurta will bury you all!” Ashurta then sweeps his blade out to the side, killing the two hobgoblins who missed Dorn.
The team realizes that they are fighting the worst kind of enemy – one who is completely and utterly insane.
Lazan summons up a spirit strike of his own, killing three more hobgoblins and greatly damaging a fourth. Kevara fires a bolt of dark energy at the one that survived Lazan’s attack, finding a weak spot and blasting a hole through its chest. Dorn slams his shield into a hobgoblin, weaving his sword in an X pattern, cutting another hobgoblin down.
Minions are fun enemies in 4th edition. They have one hitpoint, and still do a fair bit of damage, so you can send a small army of the little buggers at your players, and they can happily cut through them all and feel awesome while they do it. It adds a certain level of heroism to the game, one that I feel was sorely lacking in AD&D and 3rd edition.
Caelissa sweeps her dagger out in an arc, distracting one of the hobgoblins as she delivers a backhand cut with her shortsword, slashing the much taller creature across the belly and dancing away as it falls face first into its own entrails.
Rogues have some of the coolest attacks to play up.
Shayla’s spirit wolf leaps in and overpowers another hobgoblin, making a meal out of it. Loranys moves closer to the fray, calling upon Sorti to bless her greatsword for a powerful strike. Big Grigbad moves toward a nearby wall and suddenly disappears from view. Ashurta attacks Dorn, misses, and whirls about in fury, slaying another one of his own soldiers. The archers fire at Kevara and miss. Big Grigbad suddenly appears behind Caelissa and strikes with both daggers at once, impaling her on the blades and causing massive internal injury.
Grigbad had a very powerful attack that he was holding in reserve on this one. I rolled a critical strike on it, and did full damage automatically; it took Caelissa from full health to a single hit point in that one attack. Yeah, she was hurt BAD.
Dorn moves to intercept Grigbad, slashing with his sword to get his attention. One of the other hobgoblins, a warcaster, points his staff at Caelissa. It pulses with energy before firing a bolt of lightning… right into the wall. The spirit wolf charges Grigbad, making a devastating strike on Grigbad’s throat. Grigbad drops dead, and Caelissa is healed by the surge of spirit energy. Shayla follows up with a healing spell on Caelissa, who is no longer so terribly close to death. Loranys swings her greatsword and cuts a deep gash into Ashurta’s chest, wounding him terribly. The group, finally having the upper hand, moves quickly to mop up the remaining hobgoblins, and then moves deeper into the tunnel.
The party comes up on a large chamber that appears to have once been the lair of a very large dragon. A lone Dragonborn stands near the center of the room, and the pile of treasure behind him appears to be a very good haul. To the side, the remaining four dwarves lie dead on the ground, near a small pile of bones.
The Dragonborn speaks calmly. “I see you’ve gotten past all of my minions. Inevitable, I suppose, but this is where your assault ends. As you may have guessed, I am Gravash.”
“One of you, six of us,” Dorn says. “You’re outnumbered, outmatched, and out of time. Surrender.”
“Oh, I think not,” Gravash replies, a slow, feral grin spreading across his face. “You make a great assumption that I am alone.” At that moment, he raises his hand to the sky and cries out, “Ustizarmo! Come, dispatch these fools with me!”
The light in the chamber has been very bright until a shadow seems to detach itself from the wall, and giant bat-like wings unfurl as a large form swoops to the ground to land behind Gravash. The wings flare wide, sunlight shining through the blue membranes and glinting from the sapphire-colored scales and the single silver horn on its snout.
A blue dragon. A small one, to be sure, but a dragon all the same.
The dragon’s voice is a deep rumble, thick with boredom and distaste. “You disappoint me, Gravash. You allowed these fools into my lair, and now command me to assist you in destroying them? I think not.”
A look of confusion crosses Gravash’s face just before Ustizarmo’s maw crosses Gravash’s face. Devouring the Dragonborn in three quick bites, the dragon begins shimmering with strange auras as it turns to face the party.
Yes, it’s totally a “TOO SOON, EXECUTUS,” moment, but given how bruised and battered the party was, I had to make this fight a little more even. The way this was supposed to play out was a battle between the adventurers and the combined might of the dragon and Dragonborn, but that would certainly end in a TPK (that’s a Total Party Kill, for those unfamiliar with the term.) Nevertheless, it served as a pretty good cliffhanger for the following game.