SB15: To the stronghold

The characters for this session:

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

and NPCs:

  • Oswald, fighter
  • Vert the cooshee

State of play: intent on wreaking some measure of vengeance on Hextorite forces the party has sacked Fort Champion and initiated the draining of the lake south of Dragon Mountains. Now, the mission they accepted from the Glove, Sentinel, must be prepared for!

Part one: When the boat comes in

Side thread: Enhance prospects of making money on this venture by shipping the keelboat loot to Fort Champion; from there the Templars will make best efforts to get the aggregated loot to Corsair Crag.

The strange case of the missing memories

We (or at least Oswald and Barky) drag our jolly-boat to the lake-shore opposite our keel-boat. Which Oswald has christened “the Stolen.” And at that point it is discovered that the terror of the owlbears has driven our plan out of our heads. Five riders, five different notions of what we came back here for.

Belmont looks about blankly – weren’t there a couple of pack ponies here? He determines not to part with his newly-acquired warhorse, and begins tending the five mounts tethered here. Edgar, having suggested that we all sit down and discuss this calmly, demands we get on the fucking boat. Eventually we calm everyone down, recollect what brought us here, and (mostly) agree that indeed, we are here to get on the fucking boat. Belmont votes a minority report: he’ll ride back and keep the other four mounts on a trace lead.

An unwelcome cabin-boy

The four who have decided to sail row across, and Barky vaults athletically onto the deck, midships. At first, he doesn’t notice the cabin door slowly opening…

As more of us clamber aboard, the cabin door opens fully and a loathsome greenish rubbery humanoid monster, perhaps 9′ tall, unfolds itself out.

Initiatives: Barky, Edgar, Belmont/Oswald, Thomas, Troll

Barky rages, leaps in and takes a savage swipe [11dmg] as he does so, but scores a gouge into the troll’s hide. Edgar scrambles behind the muscle and dives to where the spare oil is stored. “I’m going for the oil!” he hollers to let everyone know he’s not just hiding. Oswald courageously charges [knowing that Barky has taken the AoO] and chops deep in with his halberd. Thomas focuses and calls Doom on the Troll. The troll rams a clawed fist deep into Barky’s gut [crit, 19dmg].

Belmont is fully aware of the fight, can see the troll, and seizes his shortbow out of its boot.

Barky coughs blood and his next blow is just as telling. Edgar scrambles back out clutching oil skins, casting True Strike and updating Thomas on his plan. Thomas steps close to Barky, casting a healing spell defensively [he has the combat casting feat] on Barky. The troll avoids Oswald’s next strike and claws and bites at all three targets as its wounds begin closing. Thomas’ heavy armour protects him. Oswald, who stripped down to reinforced jack, is not so lucky, and Barky takes another wound.

Barky’s weakening, blood-spraying arm misses. Edgar’s throw oils up the troll as planned, and he moves closer behind Oswald. Belmont’s arrow sails past Oswald and sinks into Brutus ‘the barber’ Beeftroll. Oswald manages a good chop. Thomas heals Barky some more. Brutus Beeftroll looks wobbly but sinks a clawed fist into Oswald [crit, 19dmg] and pulls away – the return strike [AoO] from Barky sends him prone to the deck!

“Here’s some more oil! Pour it on!” Edgar cries urgently.

Barky follows up with the oil and doses Brutus. Edgar sends a wash of flame across Brutus’ gleaming body with Burning Hands [11dmg] and soon some judicious chopping finishes the job. Thomas heals Oswald and himself.

“How are you going over there?” Belmont hollers.

“We’re fine, thanks, no need to worry!” Edgar calls back, slopping through the running blood.

With a few more healing spells the crew is fit enough to sail, and the good boat Stolen heads west, Belmont riding parallel on the shore. Edgar and he holler back and forth as Edgar attempts to explain where the pack-mules are and what the point of all this boating is.

 

Intruder! Oh… never mind then

Night, and Belmont can’t keep riding. Time for a real sleep! After a short debate (again, across the water) it seems that Belmont is trusting to his horses to alert him as he sleeps, and Barky and Oswald will stand a full watch each on the boat.

During the first watch Barky sees a great humanoid shape hulking out of the woods. Its heavy footfall also wakes Belmont, but he can do little as it brains a horse with one blow, slings it over its shoulder, and slouches away. Barky has bent his bow, but decides not to antagonise it when Oswald points out that it’s leaving.

There’s a pause, and a hail from the shore.

“I’m coming over to the boat” Belmont calls.

“What?”

“I’m coming over to the bloody boat then!”

Belmont bids a sad farewell to “his” warhorse, unsaddles and unropes all the horses, and he and his pack are rowed across. Depending on how well they were treated in the fort, the horses might find their way back there – but their future is now up to them.

 

Parting ways

Barky helps Oswald tie off at the dock and we begin the next stage, packing our personal packs with two weeks rations, and any gear we think we will need for the march up Adlerweg Pass. Edgar staggers under the weight of he and Vert’s rations – Vert, who will travel with Edgar, is eating as much as he is. [Everyone is medium load] He’s also made sure he has plenty of crossbow bolts.

Finally we bid farewell to the templars – with some guidance on their report from Thomas, and some needless advice on jettisoning gear if need be, leaving markers for us, and making deals with kobolds from Edgar – pay and farewell Hodd and Siward, and wish Niamh all the best for her future. Edgar makes a note of her next of kin’s address so as to follow up, all going well.

 

 

Part two: To the stronghold

Threads in play:

  1. Scout Adlerweg Tower that wards Adlerweg Pass
  2. Defeat the force that the Gauntlet is raising at Adlerweg Tower

Fine and clear, with a chance of goblins

The weather remains fine during the entire march along the Gann and up the pass. As the road ascends the riverbed becomes a deep riverbed, then a gully, then a deep ravine.

The first stage up is marred only by a brisk foray against goblins, up a steep slope to prevent them swamping us. Vert stays on the sidelines for that one. We take no prisoners, either because we assume they would lie about everything or because the moral quandary of what to do with live goblins is too time-consuming. Edgar, rushing bravely up into the second line, is counter-charged by a goblin and discovers that Sentinel’s power Shields him at all times. Nice! He destroys the goblin with Burning Hands.

[Interesting in that steep-slope penalties are involved. We judge a rush up the slope as best we can, the GM is ok with it.]

The goblins appear to have recently fled somewhere – they have no gear for living rough – but since they could be out of Fort Champion or points north of us, we draw no particular conclusion.

After Belmont has laughingly healed himself of collateral wizard damage (Thomas is now the only member Edgar hasn’t blue-on-blued) we resume the march.

 

Who the Gauntlet is pwning this week

On the third day of the pass ascent, we are climbing into cloud. Vert scents a trail. It leads us to a badly-injured gnoll laid up down a narrow cave. After negotiation he accepts terms and Belmont squeezes down to lay on hands.

[We have a useful discussion about whether Cuthbert would prevent Thomas healing an ‘evil’ humanoid. The GM indicates that direct evidence of evil would be required for that.]

Rufus, as Edgar names him, was the leader of a large pack of gnolls. He was unseated by the Gauntlet, being worn by an ogre. That ogre led the pack to the stronghold. A number of wargs also joined him there. Goblins on the other hand fled south from him. (No need to worry about them, Belmont remarks.)

Rufus is granted the right to leave with weapons and gear intact.

 

Decision time: which of these three?

It’s now time to learn what Sentinel can tell us of ways into the stronghold. There seem to be four possible choices, though the fourth, a climb down and across from higher ground, is so far out of our reach we scratch it off immediately.

  1. To the wall and over to the lower section of battlements;
  2. Up a side path and in through a sally port, to the second level of battlements;
  3. Up a side path, to the wall, and over to the second level of battlements.

Of course a further option is “leave Sentinel to manage Edgar and report back to Commandery” but as everyone is good-aligned this does not enter our thoughts at all. At all, at all.

 

The strategy is agreed

We scout the stronghold next day at around the second hour after noon, when the westering sun will play on the battlements. Edging along a hairpin bend to where the cliff face is on our left, the stronghold juts from it ahead of us, and the ravine on our right: Barky reports back from his advanced position, and we discuss plans based on his view and what Sentinel has explained about it.

The best option: we rely on Barky’s excellence at climbing to get up to the lower battlement, and use his levitation potion to get heavily-armoured Thomas right onto the battlement at the same time. Barky will tow him with the knotted rope then use that to let the rest climb up quickly. Thomas can use Calm Emotions to keep guards calm. We agree that an attack in the first long shadows of the evening will suit us best.

Edgar asks Barky to rig a rope harness around Vert’s chest and forelegs so he can be pulled up. We shuck packs, Edgar carries Oswald’s crossbow for him, and we are ready!

 

 

Order of battle (Look! A Plan!):

Barky, towing Thomas, runs at full speed, climbs while Thomas rises, mounts the battlement, ties off the rope while Thomas’ Calm Emotions prevents guards getting upset about it;

Belmont counts three slowly then runs after Barky. Given his slower speed the rope will be tied off by that time, he will climb it, and assist either end as required;

Edgar counts three slowly then runs after Belmont, with Vert running with him. He ties Vert onto the bottom of the rope;

Oswald counts three slowly and runs after Edgar. By the time he arrives Edgar is finishing the knot. Oswald climbs the rope, and he and Belmont become available to either pull Edgar and Vert up or assist Barky and Thomas.

Vert is pulled up and untied, the rope becomes available for Edgar to animate if need be.

Spell notes

  • Thomas will bring two Calm Emotions;
  • Edgar will bring three Sleeps, two Webs and two Glitterdusts;
  • Belmont will be wielding a Blessed Weapon spell.

Barky runs full speed [less the inertia of a fully-armoured Thomas – see likely movement schedule below] along the deep-shadowed path. No alarm is sounded! Arriving at the base of the stronghold after some five rounds at his pace, Barky releases the rope and clambers up like an ape from his sun-drenched homeland [with his ring of climbing and skill he scores 36 on climb!]. Thomas floats up and lands gently near two gnolls peacefully swilling grog and snacking on rations as Barky hand-overs himself out below the parapet and catches the rope Thomas is dangling. Then scrambles up and vaults over as Thomas’ Calm Emotions chant resounds!

The gnolls look at one another and finish their drink, then rise and head inside through an open door. And as Barky ties off the rope to a merlon, drops the loose end, and Belmont begins pulling himself up, the session ends.

Likely movement schedule:

Round 1: Barky runs, inertia limits him to 80′. Belmont counts to 3, starts running 30′. Edgar counts to 3.

Round 2: Barky runs 120’=200′, Belmont runs 90’=120′. Edgar runs full round 90′. Oswald counts 3, starts running 30′.

Round 3: Barky runs 120’=320′, Belmont runs 90’=210′, Edgar runs 90’=180′, Oswald runs 90’=120′.

Round 4: Barky runs 120’=440′, Belmont runs 90’=300′, Edgar runs 90’=270′, Oswald runs 90’=210′.

Round 5: Barky runs the last 100’=540′, Belmont runs 90’=390′, Edgar runs 90’=360′, Oswald runs 90’=300′.

Round 6: Thomas ascends. Barky climbs 20′. Belmont runs 90’=480′. Edgar runs 90’=450′. Oswald runs 90’=390′.

Round 7: Thomas arrives, begins chant, plays rope over for Barky. Barky finishes climb to parapet. Belmont runs 60′ to end of rope, steadies rope. Edgar runs 90’=540′, reaches wall. Oswald runs 90’=480′.

Round 8: Thomas continues to chant while passively anchoring Barky, who finishes the climb over. Belmont steadies the rope and waits for it to be secured. Edgar twists the rope through Vert’s harness leaving slack for him to step in. Oswald runs 60′, reaches wall, rests his halberd at wall and grabs the rope.

Round 9: Thomas continues to chant, gnolls decide they’ve finished and rise, heading inside. Barky ties off rope (one move action) Belmont begins the climb (second move action). Edgar and Vert are waiting, Oswald steadies the rope.

Round 10: Into the keep! Belmont is climbing, Oswald starts climb, Edgar is stepping in the loop below Vert and grabbing the halberd.

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