Singing Stones Quest: Into Wyrm Writhings
The Net… of Doooom!
“Let us take account: who among us is injured?” asks Guerra. The brief skirmish against the kobolds has left no injuries and he retrieves his javelins and looks for Milgan. “Time to take the lead Milgan and… you may also carry the pick.” Milgan mutters darkly and his umbrage is only slightly assuaged when ½-Jack presses a couple of copper coins into his hand. Guerra and Br Abram follow Milgan as he sets out, Banjo Carrick at the rear.
Another small exchange: Br Abram uses Guerra’s first name, but the Paladin reminds him he has not given him the familiarity of that yet. “Then, I am Brother Gaunt,” the cleric replies shortly. “So be it,” Guerra agrees.
We soon find that the passage Milgan is guiding us along leads to a four-way juncture. “Let’s head left,” ½-Jack suggests, figuring that to be the more easterly of the choices. Milgan drops back uneasily as we cross, muttering something about “I would have gone right,” then he and Carrick are caught in a large net, and kobolds attack!
Round 1: Guerra flings a javelin, missing; and drops the other three javelins, drawing his sword; ½-Jack closes on Guerra; kobolds now attack in two groups: one to the fore and one to rear! Carrick squirms out from under the net [which the GM decrees prevents spell-casting]; Milgan complains loudly as he can’t manage it; Br Gaunt casts Divine Favor and moves back to cover Milgan from the rear attack.
Round 2: Seeing that the kobolds ahead have not closed but the rear kobolds are about to mob Gaunt and Milgan, Guerra shifts hands, draws his hand-ax, spins, and throws it accurately: it whizzes past Gaunt to slay a kobold. Gaunt grunts approvingly. ½-Jack hides in Guerra’s shadow. The kobolds to the fore whip slingstones at Guerra: two stones hit him [5 damage]. Kobolds around Milgan and Carrick fail to hit Milgan but their knives slice at the elf mage [6 damage of 8hp] who reels, battered. In response Carrick unleashes a second volley of magic bolts, slaying the other three near him. Milgan now wrestles free of the net and hurries to Guerra’s position. Br Gaunt, enraged that he has no killing left to do, rushes back and past Guerra, taking the fight to the four slingers! [hustle 50’, right on top of them.]
Round 3: Guerra charges [not an actual feature of this ruleset, just author’s licence] to support Gaunt, and kills a kobold. ½-Jack throws a dagger – a long cast but within effective range – and brings a second down. The remaining pair flee.
Casting while trapped in a net: GM checked it out after the game and agrees that it is possible but advantage/disadvantage are so dramatic he probably saved Carrick’s life by disallowing it at the time.
We were beginning to feel the need to see minis on the tabletop with two separate kobold groups attacking. At some point the need for tactical choices outweighs the need for fast play.
We discuss the amount of hurt we have taken. So far we have not even reached Wyrm Writhings. “I shall provide you some healing grace, but you must sacrifice at Tyr’s Temple at the first opportunity,” Guerra offers, and Carrick agrees. The Paladin also partly heals himself [Lay on Hands: 2 to Carrick, 3 to Guerra]. Having regard to the threat of ambush, Guerra now graciously surrenders the lead to Abram and takes rearguard.
Milgan soon leads us to what he tells us is the ruins of the Foaming Mug. He points across the echoing space to the opposite corner. “That’s the fissure the kobolds come through… and that’s how you’re getting to Wyrm Writhings.” “You mean how we are getting to Wyrm Writhings?” “Yes, we, that’s what I meant, sure.”
½-Jack intently examines the empty stone walls and floor of the old tavern. “You’d think there would be a hearth with flagstones and a chest of gold under it,” he explains. “This has been looted twice over, first by Drow and since by Kobolds. Even things neither you nor I would think rubbish, Kobolds can find a use for,” Milgan asserts.
The fissure is enormous. “One of our tasks is to close the fissure,” reminds Carrick, “but I don’t see how we can – it’s wider than the normal passages hereabouts!”
We press on – finding that after a short distance the fissure narrows dramatically – and very soon reach the Writhings itself: a large, circular-cross-section tunnel running either way from our entry-point. Directly across from our fissure we can see a Singing Stone embedded in the wall.
Comedy of Errors
We locate the obvious tripwire [Notice check after announcing suspicions] and plan to turn tables on the kobolds. As icing on the cake, Gaunt decides to drop Guerra’s second pack under the net, which is still suspended above: and sets off the second tripwire: the net drops, trapping him. Carrick throws an illusory sound [Minor Illusion] on the pack, imitating a helpless Gnome.
Surprise round: A pack of kobolds close in from either end. ½-Jack drops one, Carrick slows another with his Ray of Frost [his attack bonuses seem to stack to +6], Guerra shatters a javelin against the tunnel wall, and Gaunt casts off the net.
Round 1: Carrick looses with his longbow, missing; some of the kobolds fail to realize the decoy pack is not a helpless Gnome and attack it; three others sling shots at Gaunt [6 damage]; ½-Jack slays one of these; Guerra misses with a second javelin; Gaunt misses with his mace and pulls back to the fissure.
Round 2: Carrick finishes off the wounded, ice-slowed kobold; one kobold stubbornly continues killing the decoy pack; three open up with slings hitting ½-Jack [4 damage]; Guerra’s third javelin slays one; Gaunt hurls Sacred Flame at another, killing it.
Round 3: Carrick shoots another; the remaining two kobolds flee.
[Player remarks: stacking attack bonuses when casting cantrips seems excessive – are we reading this right? The intent seems to be to make cantrips as effective as someone else attacking with Str or Dex, but the wording is unclear. Examples will help.
The “both sides are surprised” ambush would be useful as an example as well. Players prepped an ambush but messed it up – but kobolds failed their Notice checks to spot where the lurking ambushers were. Is anyone surprised?
Retreat and Rest
We retrieve the Singing Stone and pull back to the Foaming Mug, dragging the net with us. We use it to block the fissure and scatter Guerra’s caltrops at the north entrance, and have a good long rest.
[All wounded fully recover. We forgot the short-rest/long-rest difference on recovery: all rolled to recover hit points. Carrick and Gaunt recoup spells.]
[Player remarks: this is the first experience we have had with rolling HD to recover. It makes sense and feels reasonable. Which given that we mistakenly mixed up rolling (short rest) with full recovery (long rest) is worth noting. A short-rest recovery of hit points would feel more like a computer game.
We soon return to the same ambush-point. Gaunt renews his Divine Weapon. We turn right, and follow the tunnel, ignoring side-fissures and intersecting tunnels, keeping an eye out for crystals. We stumble across citrine and quarry two of them. Our pick has alerted a band of kobolds and Milgan squawks an alarm! This band includes some of the hardier kobolds and we prepare for a tough fight, but when one of the tougher ones, and a lesser kobold, drop in the first exchange of missiles, the others flee.
We hustle after them, until Guerra pulls us to a halt. The tunnel floor ahead is a pit, disguised with a rock-strewn net. He was lucky to have noticed it [Int DC20].
As we investigate (and Carrick hears faint chitterings) five kobolds appear within striking distance on the other side!
Battle layout: we laid out 10’ wide passage to represent the bottom 10’ of the tunnel, which can be easily used as footing. The pit is around 15’ across, the kobolds around 25’ on the other side of it.
Round 1: Guerra and Carrick unleash hell – one kobold is slain by a well-flung javelin and another slowed by a Ray of Frost. [Range is beyond effective, Guerra rolls high.] They fall back a little, to ensure they leave the other members plenty of room. Gaunt waits. ½-Jack shoots (poorly) and drops back. Kobolds close to 30’ range of Gaunt, and miss.
Round 2: Guerra steps to 30’ and unleashes another devastating javelin, killing another kobold, while Carrick finishes the slowed one. Gaunt throws Sacred Flame but misses [kobold dodges]. ½-Jack slays a fourth kobold with his bow. The remaining kobold flees.
Round 3: Carrick and ½-Jack, who both have distance missile weapons, advance to the pit lip, loose, but miss.
Round 4: A Giant centipede, unsettled by the arrows and stones rattling around, scurries out of fissures by the pit and attacks, stinging ½-Jack [1pt] who shrugs off the poison [Con DC17]. Guerra slices the creepy critter in half but Carrick, unnerved by the thing, mashes it into fragments with a tremendous BOOM of shock wave – and more centipedes scuttle up! “Oil!” calls Guerra and ½-Jack swiftly casts one of his oil-flask contents down on the net. And retreats!
Round 5: Two Giant centipedes emerge and attack Gaunt and Guerra, wounding and poisoning Guerra [1 damage, -1 to Dex saves and defense, -5’ movement]. Guerra misses with a swipe at one and pulls well back, yelling “Fire!” Carrick slays one of the pair, but Gaunt’s Sacred Flame misses [Centipede pulls off amazing dodge]. Milgan tosses his lit torch gently onto the oil-slicked net, which catches fire.
Round 6: The flames and Carrick kill the remaining centipedes. The burning net tumbles into the pit.
Having checked that we are safe, we take a short rest, with a caltrop screen behind us and resting well back from the pit. Milgan is rewarded with (temporary) use of a short-sword looted from the kobolds. Carrick recoups his spell. Then we pack up again and set out to cross the pit. Checking the pit and clambering down then up takes quite a while, despite using Guerra’s climbing kit. We are in no particular hurry, since the longer we take the more likely Guerra is to recover, and also because we don’t want to tumble into a pit unawares!
3/4 Of Success Is…
Shortly after finding a scrap of journal that contains dark presages of the “hooded one” and “treachery in the dark bazaar” Guerra, who is now in the van, spots a cluster of gem-rich mineral and searching forward, nearly tumbles into a pit unawares [fails Notice and makes Reflex].
[Player politely reminds GM that searching forward involves probing with javelin butt, not wandering with hands outstretched at boob height.]
As we consider options for crossing, Kobolds attack from a fissure on our flank!
Battle layout: as before but kobolds are emerging from the right flank of the party, not approaching from the far side of the pit, so the party now faces 90 degrees right. Effectively they are attacking the “soft center” of our line, where 1/2-Jack Milgan and Carrick are located. The pit now lies on the left flank of the party.
Round 1: Carrick unleashes a Magic Missile burst, taking down the three kobolds immediately in front of him. ½-Jack flings his dagger but misses, and pulls back right. Milgan swings lustily with the pick but achieves only a notch in the wall as the kobolds flee.
Round 2: Guerra knocks the net into the pit as the first step to clearing it. The party readies itself for centipedes.
Round 3: Centipedes crawl out: Carrick Guerra and Gaunt each slay one.
Round 4: Carrick slays the last centipede with a particularly nasty Ray of Frost [rolls 20].
After laboriously crossing the pit [Guerra gets a mere DC7 on his advantage check for climbing] we retrieve three Singing Stones: we now have four of the minimum six required!
[Session notes: This session was a matter of random encounters with pits, kobolds, and singing stones. It featured several bursts of combat, which was a good test of the “resource management” aspect of the game. Spells were used extravagantly by both casters, so rests were bound to be needed: but in fact only one short rest was used. This suggests that Cantrips are over-powered. The long rest was due to concern about another part of resource management, hit points. Kobolds that act like kobolds and stay at range using slings are a lot more dangerous than kobolds that close to melee!
Overall, while it didn’t have a deadly Old School “explore tunnel, encounter, run away” feel, it was very successful at balancing checks with actions. We did not miss skills being expressed in ranks.
This is the last full August packet session, as we will switch to September packet next rest-up or next level, whichever comes first.]