SB09: The lizardmen strike back

The characters for this session:

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

NPCs:

  • Oswald, halberdier
  • Vert, cooshee
  • Hodd the muleteer and
  • Siward the guard;
  • Jenny the mule and
  • Bess the mule.

The state of play: About three days into the great northern swamp, a harpy lures most of the night-camped expedition out across islets towards its lair. Mesym, who is on watch, goes missing presumed drowned. Belmont, also on watch, is pulled up out of a deep spot, minus his sword and shield. The harpy itself, downed by Tasha’s Hideous Laughter and caught by Animate Rope, is being towed in. 

Threads in play: 

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

Mesym’s soggy requiem

The harpy is towed in, and has drowned by the time it slushes up to the islet. Thomas sums up:

“He was wearing chainmail, would have gone in right here, he’s not going to float to the surface, so let’s get the bullseye searching, take a good look, then failing that, it’s night, it’s cold, I think we’ll need to head back to camp…”

Edgar, more optimistic about chances of finding the ranger, tries Detect Magic. No luck. It does prompt Thomas to try a more detailed version though, and for quite some time he moves patiently around islets trying scans of the water.

Meanwhile Edgar, with the rope off the corpse, focuses on two things: there’s a tree on the harpy’s isle that may be a useful anchor, and getting across to it. When not ensorcelled, getting to it is merely a matter of probing out from the current islet and finding a wadable channel. He picks wrong way first up, but right the second attempt, and is soon across.

Oswald follows and makes the rope firm to the tree. Edgar clambers up and retrieves the light, a lantern. Belmont has now arrived and checks a collapsed shack for signs of Mesym. There’s an old corpse. Suddenly forgetting Mesym, Belmont loots in detail (Oswald kibbitzing). The loot is useful: a pouch with gold coin and a black pearl, a chain shirt, a sabre, and a composite longbow.

Edgar uses the spare lantern to get on with the rescue. He checks a second tree. No ranger. Plenty of bones. He walks back and announces stage two of the rescue: operation deep-dive.

The rope’s end is paid back, via Oswald on the next islet, to Barky on the original ‘drop off point’. (Barky’s quite startled to learn he’s the diver!) The southron swims down through the black murk and gropes around [rolls a 19 on swim!] and with the aid of hearty types hauling away on the the rope, recovers Mesym and Belmont’s sword, to boot. Thomas checks, but it’s obvious that Mesym is dead.

It’s been a quite exhausting trial. The survivors manhandle Mesym’s corpse back, account for events to the others, and lay out the body. Then sleep.

I’ve skipped side-argument. Maybe my choice of at least checking the harpy’s islet (she might have swooped, grappled Mesym, and dropped him onto her lair) and only then plumbing the depths was the wrong way round, maybe not. I only felt confident about asking Barky to dive once the rope was tied off. The whole section, from Thomas summing up, to dragging the corpse out of the water, takes 30 minutes real time. 

During his morning ritual Thomas prays for a holy abjuration that will prevent Mesym from being zombified. The ranger’s corpse is buried properly, and the march resumes.

 

Snarvil, prince of guides

Snarvil expresses his concern that the party has had a fatality.

“On the other hand,” Edgar coaxes, “he was the one muttering about burning you at the stake, or some such, so be of good cheer!”

“Oh, I don’t bear grudges… I am a prince among kobolds! But ah… bad luck really… bad luck!”

“But you know…” Edgar pursues, “this does present you with an opportunity to make more profit than on our first acquaintance.”

“Just for speculation’s sake… what does that mean?”

“We would like to reward you for… guiding us in the correct direction. Now, a cynic would say, ha ha I’ll just guide them in the wrong direction, and when they die I’ll take all their treasure. But that cynic would be wrong-thinking. For we have very wrathful people with us, who would be sure to take you with us. So, what I’m getting at is, a good guiding job, and there’ll be more than just virtue its own reward. You could indeed become a prince among kobolds. I gather they’re short of a warlord, as well.”

“Well it’s… very attractive offer… but part of me is always a free spirit.”

“Of course, you are a wanderer. But part of the charm of wandering into a village… nest… lair… is picking up kobold chicks… hens… females… you know: mo’ money, mo’ booty. All those kobolds females that said your belly is a bit saggy – you won’t hear that anymore!”

 

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

 

Ogres of the swamp

The fog lies deep upon the swamp, and only Barky’s keen senses prevent he and Snarvil from walking into a huge figure standing in wait. Barky draws back – Snarvil sees his draw and raises on that – and there’s a pause as some guttural, deep-chested voice speaks.

Thomas, obscured from seeing what may be the problem, speculates it’s probably the ogre version of ‘halt who goes there’ and seeks more information. (He is quite right, but no-one can come up with a way to act on it.) Barky advises his spellcasters to buff, graciously waits off the count of one hand of fingers then:

Round 0: “Who goes there” – in Orcish. It is met by another deep-chested and unintelligible challenge.

Thomas throws up a Bless, calling Barky back to him.

“Woo haws yaw” – Merrow, attempting the challenge in common

Round 1: “Keep back on the dry side of this channel,” Barky encourages the others, hoping the big shape advances. Edgar hurls Glitterdust at the vague shape, with success! Its angry cries hearten the adventurers. Thomas imbues Barky with Bull Strength [great roll, STR leaps to 18 before rage]. Belmont and Oswald wait.

“Let’s get into it” urges Thomas, eyes glittering with bloodlust.

Round 2: Barky sets his toes at the channel. “Wait a few seconds,” Edgar urges. A huge stump, hurled by the blinded merrow, misses everyone and splashes down far away. Edgar imbues himself with True Strike. Belmont, hearkening to the bloodlust in Thomas’ voice, feels the same surge rising in his own veins and vaults the channel heading for the blinded creature – but the two merrow lying in wait off in the water both spear him! He ignores the pain and finishes at a charge, smashing his two-hander into the near-helpless merrow.

Round 3: Barky checks that the water-bound merrow aren’t able to simply leap out, and hurdles after Belmont. One spear hits him, but like Belmont he ignores that and slices a massive blow into the blinded merrow, shearing through a shoulder and into its ribs – it collapses in a froth of blood!

Edgar hurls an end of his rope at one of the water-borne merrow:

“Loop and tangle!”

It is immediately in difficulties.

“Have at it – it can’t hit at you!” Edgar encourages. The other merrow notices this unfair tactic and steps towards Edgar, long spear reaching out – but missing. Thomas cries Doom on the non-tangled merrow. It seems to work. Belmont plunges back, headed for the party. Oswald attempts a move against the probing spear and drops his halberd.

Round 4: Barky lines the tangled merrow up and runs, leaping over and down with a smashing blow. Edgar incapacitates the Doom-laden merrow with Tasha’s Hideous Laughter. The tangled merrow attempts to swim away, and Thomas ably grabs the Edgar end of the rope!

Rounds 5-7: STR based contesting between a tangled merrow and Thomas, Belmont, Barky and Oswald, more or less (OK, less) assisted by Snarvil and Edgar. Edgar contributes with his last True Strike by shooting the merrow with his light crossbow.

“That’s it for me,” Edgar says regretfully.

“You can reload those you know,” Belmont reminds him.

“You can? – why… yes!”

Round 8: The merrow loses the tug-o-war, then charges the islet and a melee ensues. The merrow narrowly misses Thomas.

Edgar reloads and calls: “Don’t worry Thomas, this won’t get anywhere near you!” and misses completely.

Round 9: Barky leaps high, and smashes the merrow. The response misses. Thomas wields his mace, striking hard, but the merrow still stays in the fight.

Edgar fires and hits Barky.

“I hear there’s some type of training you can do, for shooting accurately,” he waffles later.

“Yes – get it!” Thomas advises.

Belmont wields his longsword with ferocity while Oswald flails inefectually with his sabre.

“Oswald – pull back and get your halberd – you’re not doing very well with that sabre!” Edgar advises unhelpfully. “I haven’t shot anyone yet!” he snarks back.

Round 10: As the merrow lunges forward he’s cut hard and dies. And sinks, taking the rope with it.

 

Obligations, part one

Edgar pays off another 50′ of rope from a mule, and congratulates everyone, encouraging them with the thought of a lair up the trail. Thomas cures Barky. Belmont heals himself.

The expedition pushes on, Snarvil and Barky privately agreeing the merrow will not have a land lair on the trail. When they find a fine big isle they advise a good rest or camp.

 

Agreeing that camping is fine, the expedition begins to assemble tents. Edgar asks Snarvil to use the wisdom of his ancestor Kirk Took Muck to string up alarm-traps. Snarvil scavenges twine to go with Edgar’s supply and sets to.

Edgar notices Thomas brooding over the contents of his pack and takes the chance to speak privately to him.

“The last couple of engagements I’ve been expecting you to take charge, and it hasn’t happened. We don’t want the dunderheads to take charge… it would be far better if the wisdom of Cuthbert guided us than the arse of Hieroneous. So please…”

“I hear ya,” retorts Thomas.

 

Obligations, part two

Edgar himself is sought out by the ever-loyal Snarvil. Who has heard lizardman drums, and wonders if they herald trouble with the lizardmen. Did they pay the toll?”

“No…”

“No???”

“I thought of doing so but [sotto voce] we’re in a party that won’t pay tribute(1) to foreign gods.”

“Gods? That was just a toll(2)… and then they attacked you?”

“Yes… you’re looking at me as if you don’t believe me, Snarvil. But I assure you lizardfolk did come up behind us, with weapons. You weren’t there.

“But – you’ll be able to guide us through, to where we can apologise and pay reparations.”

“Hmmmm….”

 

Thoughts of the trail and other options

Thomas decides to use his orisons to purify water taken from the swamp, minimising the need for fire. A small fire inside a tent dries necessaries off for the morrow.

On watch Snarvil returns to the subject of not needing him. During this time, Snarvil briefs Barky on the directions required to get to goblin lake.

Edgar returns optimistically to the chance of negotiating. “The lizardmen will settle. They’re pretty cold-blooded, aren’t they, Snarvil?”

“Ah hah hah hah.”

“I’m not with you? …But the alternative would be to return all the way back out, disguise ourselves as a different party, and start from scratch.”

[This is a valid option – we would also have the option of hiring the non-fanatic ranger – but no-one takes Edgar up on it.]

Seeing no-one is interested in this practical suggestion Edgar advises Thomas of his spell weighting and takes his place.

 

Party order: Barky and Snarvil, then a short gap, then Thomas so he can direct the fight, Oswald, Edgar, Belmont, and the mule team. Siward is still rearguard.

 

Lizardman combat I

The expedition almost immediately runs into a lizardman blocking force and lizardman flanking attack. Belmont, in position behind Edgar, wisely delays and deals with the flankers. They all miss, luckily for Edgar.

Thomas uses his Calm Emotions, but since he has to chant continuously can’t direct the fight. But it does halt a couple of attackers. At the front and flank enough harm is inflicted that the lizardmen retreat.

The expedition reviews and Edgar reminds the others that the point of that Calm Emotions spell is to enable us to parley, and is no use if the fight has already begun. Barky is unconvinced.

 

Obligations, part three

Snarvil now feels that lizardman hostility is so evident that he must leave.

“Why would they blame you?” Edgar asks.

“In the heat of battle… mistakes can be made, and then next thing you know you’re a kebab! I think Barky understands the instructions I gave him, and I can leave you in his hands.”

“Let me run over the odd one or two instructions Barky passed on.”

This being done, Edgar proposes:

“Let’s agree on a separation plan. You hand back all the twine and clangers, I give you 10 gold coins.”

This being done Snarvil utters his benediction:

“Farewell – I shall remember you like this – not in a cooking-pot.”

And to Snarvil’s retreating back Edgar calls:

“May we meet again! And may all your wives lay many dozens of clutches of eggs!”

Thomas isn’t pleased about this departure but as Edgar explains it, you want the truly cowardly kobold to survive and breed his cowardice into his race.

 

Party order: as before, but without Snarvil

Lizardman combat II

The weather is overcast now, with scattered showers. The expedition next runs into a very similar lizardman blocking force and lizardman flanking attack.

Round 0: Barky evades back shouting the alarm. Javelins arc in, missing.

Round 1: Barky runs forward and attacks, cutting at a shielded lizardman but having his blow parried off. Belmont holds and again this is wise. He strikes the nearest flank attacker as it sea-lions up out of the swamp, but it stays in the fight. Edgar blesses Celric’s shade as his bracers parry off a lizardman! Oswald is scratched by a claw. Thomas attempts casting in combat but fails his caster check and loses the spell. Edgar backs off and blinds the blocking force with Glitterdust. They flee back into the swamp.

Round 2: Barky runs back and joins the melee. Belmont connects, putting the wounded lizardman down. The other two lizardmen flee.

 

Lizardman Combat III

The final combat of the day is tougher.

Round 0: Barky misses the ambush and a surprise round of javelins catches everyone. Both blocking and flanking lizardmen are more numerous. Barky Thomas and Siward are wounded and Hodd the muleteer falls. Barky nearly bisects one lizardman as they race in past him to swarm the mid-party! Two more flank him! He twists lithely – almost pantherishly – to avoid their attacks and is struck again.

Round 1: The lizardmen attacking the mid-party attempt to push the armoured types into the swamp. Oswald throws one back. Thomas throws up his Bless. Belmont fails to throw back the lizardman attacking Edgar. Oswald uses his halberd against one, striking well. Edgar steps back and Sleeps two of the flankers.

Round 2: Blocking lizardmen pull back. Barky steps back defensively, in support of the mid-party. The flanking lizardmen still conscious wound Thomas twice but Belmont, the pressure eased by two fallen lizardmen, advances and strikes down one of the flankers. Thomas unselfishly heals Barky. Oswald heavily wounds another flanker. Edgar drops a second Sleep on the flankers and two more fall. Edgar, now next to the fallen Hodd, fishes out the captured Cure Light potion.

Round 3: Lizardmen flee. The expedition is happy to let them. Belmont retrieves a large stiffened hide shield. Then a backup large shield.

Hodd is brought back from the brink by Cure Minor Wounds and helped towards consciousness with the Cure Light potion, but more will be needed.

Making an early camp, they lay out a perimeter. And as Edgar sounds out the other share-partners on scratching ‘parley’ signs around the camp in draconic, the session ends.

 

(1) Tribute: Edgar means, payment from the position of supplicant to a local power. This is also known as mail, an exaction for going about one’s business. The root of the word blackmail. 

(2) Toll: Snarvil means, a day-to-day transaction levied for going about one’s business. Pretty much the same as paying mail. Maybe more justifiable in the eyes of Hieroneous furioso and just-plain-mad Cuthbert.

This hairsplitting is relevant because of who is in the party. Possibly with Mesym out of the picture we may not be killed by ‘my character wouldn’t do that’ syndrome. Stay tuned!

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