Murder, fight, slay, kill!
Wards and traps, Hydra Surprise!
Tonight was marked by two notable events. First, I had three players not show up. Second, it was the first time I put of the screen and was more secretive and less helpful about what the players should do, and really made an effort to just react to what they did do.
The players not being there was a minor hiccup, the game was a lot more relaxed with just three people instead of six. I think four is a really good size. I'd like it if players could just come when they liked, and not feel constrained to show up to every session cause they have to. They seem to be having a good time. I was worried for a bit, but then was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly everything went.
I also think I did a bit of a better job not speaking so much. I did mention some things I feel in retrospect I should have been quiet about. But overall, there were several things they could have interacted with that I did not have fully prepared, and I just went ahead and described them as if they were there. I finally feel confident enough in my abilities to prepare on the spot something spontaneous for them, since I've been back in the saddle for two years now. :-) This week, I will begin preparing an 'unexplored environment package' to help facilitate this process, as well as reorganizing my folder and my ability to identify things on the map.
One of the things I mentioned had to do with the obscene number of henchmen the party is carrying around. Now this is traditionally a good idea, the problem is that each player wants to bring every henchmen along. I posted about it on Dragonsfoot, (WARNING PLAYERS: SPOILERS here), where I got a number of good replies. Most assumed that I'm not doing it by the book when in fact I am - they are paying their upkeep, giving them appropriate shares - the consequences of being broke and taking forever to level are just starting to hit home with them now. If they don't start leaving some of their extra bodies behind, they may find them leaving due to the limited amount they are being paid, along with decreased loyalty and failed morale checks.
So the party set out from the Lizard-man village of the Hightide Fen Clan, Spiritspyre the boarman cleric, Zeltara the currently deaf, elven, beastmaster gladiator, his mount Null, the silver drake, and his aide Kalen, and Aroldo Venti and his loyal whipping gnome Niles, the illusionist thief. Their goal was to retrieve the treasure left in the Mabden Treasure Cache (referenced here).
They headed out across the lake, and saw several drifting stony platforms, which they avoided. Exiting along the northern shore, they moved east, until it began to thunder (determined randomly using the weather tables) so they decided to seek shelter in an old abandoned watchtower. While passing this way before the Lizard-men guides mentioned that it was haunted. There were several destroyed buildings, and an entrance up to the watchtower. In the courtyard there was a damaged statue, with it's hand raised up in salute, missing it's head and other arm. It had a pattern of scars on it's chest, and wore a carving of woolen pants, tied with a string.
They entered the watchtower and saw a mural of this same creature, which they could now see had a shaven head of a panther. They climbed the stairs and entered the open air top of the watchtower, and set up camp in the middle. I mentioned at this point the platform had a spiral staircase, but I believe the players thought I was referencing the original staircase they climbed up, so they chose not to investigate it.
Surely at the strike of midnight the Nhadragh Skeletons spirits rose from the dead, climbing the spiral staircase and catching the players. They in fact were not surprised, but on the engagement distance, they rolled poorly and they started 20' away.
The fight was vicious and brutal. Several criticals were taken. Kalen received a terrible critical hit to the back of the head, shattering his basilar process of the Occipital bone, knocking him down. He fell, unconscious at -1 hit point. Aroldo cast Summon Monster I twice, summoning Ork-kin Bandits, and Corpse Skinks, filling the battlefield with blockers.
Six rounds later they managed to defeat their opponents. Kalen was close to death, hovering at -7 hit points. They did not want to use any cure spell less then a Cure Critical, because that would end up leaving him with permanent penalties and damages. They needed to stop the bleeding. Only having access to first aid, not healing, they had to staunch the blood flow by cauterizing the wound. This however also causes damage to the patient. A successful skill check was made and the damage was rolled, A 4! penetrating and getting a 3 for 6 total damage. And thus Kalen died.
They rested eight more hours and then prepared their spells. In the morning they examined the spiral staircase and found a 60' diameter chamber filled several feet deep with the bones of the dead Nhadragh. Something terrible had happened here. They again set out east.
They encountered a Hydra, which left them well enough alone. Not satisfied with this, they attacked it, and after getting in a round of attacks, they paralyzed it with Null's breath and made short work of it. They traveled on to the Mabden Cache. Reaching it, they gathered up the easily potable treasure, most importantly the ancient image art worth an incalculable fortune. Though heavy, they were determined to drag it to the boarman city.
They traveled north, and barring a bit where they became lost, they managed to reach the city on the shores of the s-shaped lake, where we ended for the night.
Normally I'd stop there, but I wanted to say, it'll be interesting to see next week when the rest of the party attempts to make the same journey, if they will make the same decisions.