TI3.39: No plan survives the first shot

The characters for this session:

Fennec, L3 wizard, combat specialist: “I have three cunning plans all at once. Which one, you ask? Ahahh…”

Cauleigh, L3 warrior: “My cunning plan is to sweep the leg. Again. And be ready to run away.”

Jotunn, L5 warrior: “My cunning plan is to claim whatever works was my plan.”

Crompton, L3 rogue: “My cunning plan… and this is the cunning bit… is to stand still, then shoot.”

ably assisted by the Herbal Teas:

Sage, L3 wizard: “My cunning plan is to be the worst target in the room.”

Trefoil, L2 warrior: “My cunning plan is to stand right behind the tank.”

Heartsease, L2 warrior: “My cunning plan is to stand right behind the two tanks.”

Wolfie, L2 wulfan: “Plan?”

Dwarves with a plan! But first, probe the spell-trap!

Once more on Level 2! And this time, with a plan for taking down the snakey-Samuel and a semi-plan for the Elf pistolier.

Planning and a quick flashback to find out how field surgery on Trefoil went lasts about 50 minutes including some prep, such as building a mantlet for Jotunn. The Herbals signal what they can and can’t agree to. Then we throw to a flashback to deal with searching passages. As expected there’s nothing the Dwarves feel like really delving into, but it does assure us all that there’s no obvious alternative path. And Jotunn extracts a couple of fire-beetle glands which are of value, and Crompton and Sage bodge up a ‘carapace buckler’ using their chiton. Potions/gadgets are discussed but without doing more than clarifying some workings.

Crompton is keen to scout as a group, but highly discourages Cauleigh on using Blindsight paste to solo it round. The mooted idea of scouting west first doesn’t meet with consensus, so the strategy is to follow familiar paths, use the magical alarm to find out what level the caster is, and go to the ‘scrag Sam’ plan after that, depending. The action kicks off 75 minutes in.

Keeping light limited to two WoW they steal across the grand passage and to the nearest door north. It’s not the fastest but it will ensure they are not to be surprised by any stray black Dwarves.

Unexpected pistolier! Change of plan!

About twenty minutes of cautious door-opening later they reach ‘that room we got ambushed in’ and Crompton, just as he’s opening the door, sees a light beyond. He closes it swiftly…

But not so swiftly that the pistolier fails to react! The door is immediately forced open and Cauleigh is once more just quick enough to throw up his buckler: BAM! The shot ricochets off.

Lock Tight” squeaks Sage. Fennec is alert enough to throw LF on Cauleigh.

“Let’s get after him!”

Fennec feels the surge of a mana pool, as Sage works up through the crowd and undoes his locking spell.

“It’s open,” the Gnome murmurs.

Ambush – again!

Cauleigh yells fiercely, leaping into the room – and finding that once more, there are black Dwarves on all sides! Too many to be sure of in the terrible light, but he notices that the Elf pistolier, trailing his large snake tail, is disappearing out of the one-way door south onto the grand passage. He leaps back out:

“Ambush!”

Fennec throws up a HH and WoW are pushed forward.

“They’re all there! We found them!”

Ambush and the pistolier thwarted and a pile o’ dead

Lights floating in ahead, the warriors charge back in, to find the black Dwarves have arrayed in two flanks. Jotunn leads his shield-wedge forward and Cauleigh decides to sweep the leg on the left-most of that group, while Crompton decides to tangle the leg on the right-most. Of course that leaves nearly half the defenders able to simply charge the rear, catching Wolfie trying to defend the wizards. A potential disaster – averted only by Cauleigh still having LF up and being quick on his feet. Meanwhile Jotunn and the two Herbals warriors wreak terrible damage to the four caught to their front. Two remain standing, more or less cramped with backs to the door.

As the fighting continues, the door to the left is pushed open – and Sage again LTs it before the pistolier can get a good bead.

Shorn of their deadly support and spoiled by OGA the seven black Dwarves are slain to a man. The party forays ahead when ready, finding that there are no immediate enemy, then pulls back to recover from fatigue and re-strategise. About 30gp worth of coin is garnished from the corpses.

Let’s plan again, like we did that time before

The mood is upbeat, in base camp, for the OI cast on the cross-passage Ding says the caster is Level 7. That means when throwing eight daggers or axes at once, the last will get past the Healthy Glow, and Crompton will have his arquebus ready for the finishing shot. And wizards are notoriously glass-jawed, right?

“Yes, except that glass jaw’s right behind his enormous snake body” Cauleigh reminds Trefoil.

A key decision – how long to rest – being made, they set out after barely enough time for Fennec to recoup his mana. Sage reserves his spells so his mana will recoup as he walks [off a low base he healed Trefoil, so starts 12 down].

That means the party walks in very low light. And Crompton no longer has the tempus fugit option for the day.

Bloody corpses have not been tidied, quite

On this foray the party feels bolder and strikes through the more direct passage around to the ambush chamber. All goes well. But on opening the door to that so-named chamber, Jotunn finds that there is an interesting state of change. Bodies have been dragged away north-east, leaving huge blood smears, but two corpses remain, and not all equipment has yet been gathered.

He grunts “keep close on me” and steps along the trail to the door north-east. Crompton checks it briefly and the trio push through, light floating high, finding that the blood smear runs in the expected tight arc south to the secret panel. This panel, they know well, leads to the guard hall, on the enemy side of the water-pit. Fennec casts HH and throws his WoW up to the roof.

Jotunn motions Crompton to check again, but then Wolfie growls:

“Coming”

In the heat of conflict innocents die unmourned

The two Herbals warriors look silently and expectantly at Jotunn. Seizing the initiative – and fearing he will be locked out – Jotunn flings the door wide and the trio see faces, surprised, in front of them.

Jotunn shouts his challenge and in a blur of speed smashes one down – with an echoing scream Heartsease lunges her Demilune blade through the other woman’s throat – “Are we doing this then?” Trefoil screams and the footman’s spear ends any chance of survival.

[I get as far as saying “face to face with two…” when Jotunn signals his attack.]

Jotunn realises too late: these were two pregnant human women, and now he has to deal with the rest of the work gang, female black Dwarves, armoured in ill-fitting corselets and with shortswords belted on. They grunt in shock and horror but draw weapons and prepare to sell their lives dearly.

Black Dwarf women defend in vain

However, they make little impact on the ready-for-battle party. With Cauleigh and Crompton tripping, Wolfie cutting them off from retreat and the “shield wall” of the other trio barging forward the last of them fall in a great pile in the mouth of the passage east out of the guard hall. Cauleigh and Wolfie are to the east, in very limited light, near the passage’s north-turning elbow.

The mortal cries of their womenfolk are not ignored by the last heroes of the black Dwarf folk! Their hasty approach is heard by Cauleigh and Wolfie. Cauleigh sounds the alarm. Sage briefs his fighters:

“They’re coming! The heavies are coming! No no! To your side!”

While the warriors attempt to re-form on Cauleigh, Sage and Fennec find themselves somewhat isolated. Fennec calls Sage into the guard hall (out from the secret panel) and they take cover in Fennec’s HH.

Reinforcements! The Black Dwarf Heroes!

While he can still see him and is in range, Fennec powers LF onto Jotunn. Jotunn makes a prodigious leap over the mound of dead and joins the new front line. Crompton slips along the wall. The other two warriors grimly wade, using polearm as staff. Cauleigh readies his caliver, and it makes a tremendous difference! As the massive-shouldered wielder of the Frostbrand races to the kill he takes another bullet, and again the icy death merely sweeps over Jotunn’s shield. Though their armour chills and they feel the bite, they are fine. [1 spite each!]

[This ends the black Dwarf Champion, Cskurr]

Fennec moves to line of sight, the WoW following on high, and LFs Cauleigh.

Cursing, two black Dwarf heroes – one with a blood-stained shoulder –  leap the falling Frostbrand-hero and call on their comrades to join them. A distant answering cry, from the north!

And in the guardian hall, Fennec and Sage sense something…

The heroes are thrown back or slain

“Aiiee! Hidey Hole!” Sage squeals. Wolfie collects his scattered wits and leaps back past Fennec, and bounds across to join invisible Sage in the corner well out of the line of fire down the passage. The Herbals warriors join Jotunn and Cauleigh and Crompton. The latter – who lucked his way along the bloody passage – uses his bladed chain to tangle the two-hander of the wounded black Dwarf leaving him an easy kill for the warriors.

[This ends black Dwarf leader Saa-Firn-Uuw]

Fennec, feeling isolated, also makes the bloody scramble over the mound, and reaches the space near Crompton. [Makes a sweated-on L3 DEX SR!] The light in the north passage is still inconsiderable. Fennec calls back his progress to Sage and Wolfie.

Cauleigh sweeps and dodges, but fighting defensively the last unwounded hero, also armed with a two-hander, trades space, calling in archaic Dwarven. [It’s a draw and each share some spite] Fennec makes out:

“My king! Save me!”

Fennec casts Shrug. Crompton disengages.

Cauleigh decides not to follow up into the pitch dark. He turns to help the others. He, Jotunn and the Herbals warriors demolish the last two wounded black Dwarves.

By the pricking of Fennec’s thumbs…

Crompton finds himself beside Fennec in his HH, and begins readying his arquebus. Then a thought strikes him:

“How come I can see you?”

“You’re inside my Hidey Hole!”

Then Fennec realises he’s glowing. And from his position he can also see Wolfie, at least in outline, glowing too. Fennec moves east up closer to the warriors!

Jotunn looks north, fronting up with his shield. There’s no light up there. Then he’s joined by the lightly glowing figure of his wizard:

“Enemy caster coming up behind us. Prepare the shield wall.”

Jotunn reverses his position, now facing his mantlet south and west. The other warriors check their throwing items. They’ll need to make ground west, to the edge of the mound o’ bodies, to get better throwing distance.

A bunch of evil this way comes

From over the pit floats a great snake-wizard, easily visible thanks to Healthy Glow floating over his head.

Then the supposedly-locked north door abruptly opens and the pistolier-snake slithers through! [Only Crompton can see this]

[LK SR from Sage]

From the north, accompanied by a mass of armed womenfolk, come two powerful black Dwarves! One’s brow is girt with a simple iron crown.

[Fennec writes down his choice of spell, I write down Sage’s spell. Crompton holds his spell reactively as well. It’s to be Bic Flic so he can fire his arquebus]

Crompton flees! Heartsease throws like a girl?

With a cry of terror Crompton flees north – though [LK SR] he maintains enough self-control to keep hold of his gunne and run across the side-guardroom, not due north.

Jotunn sweeps the mantlet forward and begins casting. Over his shoulders the Herbals hurl daggers – but Heartsease’s is a poor throw and the Glow does not react to it. Cauleigh hurls four well-thrown daggers, all shot down. Fennec throws in his probing/Shrug-cancelling TTYF. He’s not at all surprised when it has no effect.

“One more shot!!” Jotunn roars. [L1 CHR SR]

There’s a thump as Sage – oh, so reluctantly – shoots Samuel with his light crossbow. The bolt strikes home!

Having committed himself, Sage screams:

“Get him Wolfie!”

and the session ends.

Glossary

As there are a few slightly higher-level spells creeping in, here’s a catch-up glossary:

Healthy Glow: A sphere of glowing energy hangs above the caster shooting down (and destroying) incoming missiles: caster level missiles per round

Shrug it off: The next hostile spell attack fails

Upsidaisy: Levitation spell

Good cliffhanger ending – should they live through this one combat, we may wrap up the dungeon next session. Stay tuned!

PS: Not exactly a Prop, but the original-original originator of the misquote I’m using for the title was Helmuth von Moltke (the elder), and his version was a lot less cool. Thanks!

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