SB08: Into the lizardmen’s great northern swamp

The first part of the session involves some expeditionary decisions. Luckily our GM has done quite a lot of homework on this so our choices are simplified. I’ve listed the results briefly below. Players (such as me) who haven’t assigned characters level 3 gains also do that.

The characters for this session:

  • Thomas, cleric of Cuthbert
  • Belmont, paladin of Hieroneous
  • Barky, southron
  • Edgar, wizard

NPCs already with the party

  • Oswald, halberdier
  • Mesym, ranger(1)
  • Vert, cooshee

Added to the expedition:

  • Hodd the muleteer and
  • Siward the guard;
  • Jenny the mule and
  • Bess the mule.

The men get 30gp each  up front. Tools of various kinds, and tents, go with the mules. Jenny has a crowbar, sledge and splitter, while Bess has a spade and woodsman’s axe, for example.

Threads in play

  1. Seek vengeance on the Hextorite slavers: trace a route through the great swamp to where they pass into the Duchy over the Dragon Mountains
  2. Locate the ancient fort that wards the pass (possibly the same pass), with or without its gold hoard
  3. In both cases, do not cross into the Duchy

Into the swamp

“I think I have found the way,” announces our guide Mesym, striding up crossbow at rest. “I cannot be sure, but the secret of tracking is to reckon where the quarry must go.”

In response to the general questions he further supplies:

“It’s part under water, but is a path one or two abreast. Visibility will be reeds and occasionally more if you count standing on the odd piece of dry ground.”

The damp expedition descends the last slopes from the foothills down into the swamp, under leaden and usually raining skies. All are glad they invested in sturdy Explorer fit-outs. They pass what is most likely a border marker/idol, and decide not to investigate it or place “offerings” in it.

Party order: Mesym and Barky, then a short gap, then Oswald, Edgar, Thomas, Belmont, and the mule team. Siward is rearguard.

It has taken us 3/4 hour to get this far with minis chosen for each.

As Mesym promised the trail is very wet, but firm enough underfoot to allow a regular gait. The expedition makes good progress and camps on reasonably dry ground, with a cheery campfire to dry feet off.

 

The ever-victorious army, part one

Night is interrupted by an attack! Mesym, on watch with Barky, shouts in annoyance as a kobold-directed pebble beans him.

Waking, Edgar (who speaks draconic) hears:

“The ever-victorious army of the swamp rules all! Mow them down my braves!”

Various party members creep out of tents and in Barky’s case (as he is also ready on watch, and has heard something) covers the camp opposite the apparent danger! On the off-chance, Edgar tries:

“Why are you firing on us? We’re the mercenaries come to help you against the lizardmen!”

It doesn’t seem to work. More stones come in, and Mesym wears another couple. He begins wading across to the elevation the kobolds are slinging from.

“Your warlord will be furious!” Edgar persists.

“I’m the fucking warlord! Keep pouring it on my braves!”

Barky is right: the real attack comes from the rear where two punts ferry in kobolds intent on the mules. Barky rages and leaps across onto a punt, sinking it, and Oswald and Siward support him from land. All but one kobold is drowned or killed.

Mesym finishes wading across, destroys a few kobolds including quite possibly the warlord, and the others flee. He has been bruised by several sling-stones and Belmont and Thomas heal him.

 

This marks the half-way point in the session.

 

Lizardmen lying in wait provide loot

Edgar nearly gets into action when Barky signals potential ambush the next day. Enemy seem to be hiding beyond a small rise. But by the time Edgar and Thomas have made ready the lizardmen waiting in ambush have barked, and Belmont has charged. Barky follows.

A brief skirmish deals with a couple of lizardmen – and Barky discovers that charging reduces defences and suffers a couple of serious clawings – but again there is a rear force where the real danger lies! The uneven terrain creates perils – Barky discovers a chest-deep step-off – but eventually enough fighting types get back in time to save Hodd and Siward.

Edgar has the last lizardman hypnotized and looting his comrades but decides things are getting too complicated when party members want to kill it. They kill it.

The loot includes steel-bladed handaxes made in the Duchy, some oil for weapons or armour, and a bandolier of 60pp.

 

An ancient bridge  is of interest, but a cross-trail puzzles

The following day, the expedition passes near a lichen-covered stone bridge. There are no tracks to be seen marking it and the trail leads away, so they pass on.

During the afternoon Mesym calls a halt.

“Bugger me days!(2) A crosstrail, plenty of tracks, and no way of knowing which is ours!”

The trails lead NE-SW and NW-SE. Discussion follows but at least it is brief. The group majority vote NE.

Camp is set without arriving anywhere in particular.

 

The ever-victorious army, part two

The NE track, followed the next day, leads to a mere dock, and a few kobolds. All but one flee, but that last one looks at Edgar in surprise:

“Bait?”

“Oh – I remember you!” Edgar exclaims, “you’re our eh… helpful ally…”

“Snarvil am I! Snarvil the loyal and brave! Snarvil the wanderer!”

Snarvil explains the geography. Not clearly. However the main point is that the trail north can only be reached by trekking SW through lizardman land, then by taking to boat from the goblin docks. From his say-so, the boats will carry the mules. The party brings Snarvil along. At the van Mesym mutters darkly about ‘petting a snake’ and ‘he’ll turn on us.’

 

Peril of the harpy’s call

This night’s camp is on less-hospitable ground and a number of islets offer all manner of cover to possible enemies. Oswald bagses not standing watch with Mesym. Belmont agrees to do it, but just this once.

During the night, Oswald hears an enchanting siren song and it is clear, as the others crawl out of bedding and wander towards the sound, they are all bespelled. He tackles Edgar, who snaps out of it and looks around blankly.

“There’s no sign of the ranger and everyone is wandering into the swamp!”

“You tackle Belmont I’ll tackle Thomas!”

Edgar rushes Thomas, and bounces off him. Thomas walks through the swamp towards a distant light. [A successful stop allows a re-test on Will, with +2] Oswald is more successful with Belmont, who, being on watch with Mesym, is armoured and slow. Belmont stops Thomas from going towards the siren song. Running after him, they catch the southron. There’s no sign of Mesym.

Much laughter as we immediately write our ranger off. The GM, who has done such a good job alienating us from the ranger, now has to remind us we have good characters and can’t just say ‘we lost a ranger but on the other hand we lost Mesym, let’s call it a wash.’ 

The mule half of the expedition seem unaffected, so Edgar recommends they “mind” Snarvil while the fighting half look for Mesym. First, they’ll need to gather a few things…

Hearing words like ‘gather a few things’ prompts Belmont to charge ahead without a light and in heavy armour. He gets what he deserves, falling into a sinkhole.

Luckily for him Oswald has seen where he disappeared and dives in, eventually assisting him back up onto land minus his shield and sword.

Meanwhile the source of the siren song, a creature with the face and breasts of a woman but the feathered body and claws of a vulture, swoops with an evil scream of laughter! Edgar, who has followed up with his lantern, hits her with Glitterdust then Tasha’s hideous laughter, and ropes her out of the water with an animated rope. To where the people with weapons can kill her.

And as Belmont begins thinking about deep-water gear retrieval, the session ends.

(1) Our GM would like to make it clear that Mesym isn’t just aggravation on two legs, he does useful things like noticing ambushes and tracking enemies, while lecturing characters on what they ought to be able to do.

(2) Our goddie boys frop the f-bomb pretty freely, but if translated from NZ culture to fantasy, this would be a mildly rude word.

2 comments

  1. Minor correction.
    “Edgar nearly gets into action when Barky signals potential ambush the next day.”

    It was Mesym that said that something was ahead and it meant ambush. Barky was just passing that judgement on.

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