The characters for this session:
- Thomas, cleric of Cuthbert
- Belmont, paladin of Hieroneous
- Barky, southron
- Edgar, wizard (wearing Sentinel, the legendary Glove)
- Oswald, fighter
- Vert the cooshee
The round-by-round account of our ascent (last session, foot of entry) proving believable, we pick up the action as Barky and Thomas peer after the retreating pair of gnolls into a chamber seemingly chock full of gnolls. None of the gnolls react to the near presence of men, being busy drinking and joking.
Into the keep
Thomas cautions Barky back with a gesture, and the southron turns back to check how things are moving on the rope. Belmont hauls himself up, Oswald is not far behind.
His chant ended, Thomas keeps an eye on the gnolls. Meanwhile Barky welcomes Oswald up, and Belmont readies his gear into better fighting order. Barky whips back to see how things are, at Thomas’ side. To his ear, the boisterous sound has altered, as though someone was trying to make himself heard…
Oswald and Belmont haul Edgar and Vert up. It’s slow going since Oswald is doing most of the work. Edgar helps haul himself up over the parapet, passes the halberd to Oswald, and squeezes through the crenulation. He slices at the harness that tethers Vert, glancing around to get the lay of the battlement. Oswald too gets himself ready for battle.
Thomas chants anew: the ten gnolls return to their happy carousing. Seeing a door opposite he strides confidently past the backs of the nearest gnolls. Barky heads in with him: there’s some uneasy moments as the paladin and fighter attempt to silently work out what they’re supposed to be doing.
And with all his blades ready Thomas signals for the killing to begin!
The GM gives full credit for the strategy and mostly, this is a process of one or two men moving to kill a single gnoll, though seldom does one get killed outright, so wounds are received. In terms of spell wastage Edgar fares badly, using a Glitterdust and a Sleep. Barky reserves his rage and Thomas does not need any more spells than the two used so far.
Trap averted, a descent
With Sentinel’s advice Edgar is ready at the closed exit door by the time the last death-rattle sounds.
“It seems the next room has portculli that will trap us. How long are those forms the gnolls were sitting on?”
By good fortune the two forms are short enough to angle through the doorway while largely upright. Since it’s Edgar’s scheme he organises pairs to handle the forms and set them up in each doorway below each portcullis.
[The GM rule STR checks are most appropriate to get across a smallish room very quickly with an unwieldy form. Both “whip across” lads, Barky and Belmont, make good rolls.]
At the time, we do not pay much attention to the “play” between the still-raised portculli and the form end. A stair leads down and left to a door, and we move down as quickly and quietly as we can. Sentinel has explained that a guard room lies beyond.
The chamber at the stair foot beyond the door is a typical small tower-chamber but a passage leads straight out parallel to a curtain wall then left into darkness. Edgar has made ready to cast Sleep and does so as he spots departing gnoll. Two gnolls fall asleep just beyond the passage. And we race on!
Open battle in the great hall!
To come to a skidding halt as we realise this passage opens up left into an inner hall, high and vaulted, with what looks like a dozen gnolls in various stages of startlement! Thomas casts Endurance on Barky and Barky rages!
The fighting men form a rough ‘ready to receive’ line in echelon left-flank-forward towards the gnolls, who attack directly, save for one that half-circles to get near the sleeping pair on the right flank. There’s not much to be done about him, all four have their hands full! Edgar reduces the odds by using a scroll: Lightning Bolt takes three and injures two severely. As gnolls hammer at the fighters and are put paid to, the flanking gnoll wakes the two sleepers. Edgar uses a Sleep off the scroll to send one back to sleep. Then his last Sleep to even the main melee down further. Belmont, then Thomas, close down that right flank but one gnoll proves one of those elusive targets who won’t die.
By the time he has cleared his flank Barky is bleeding freely and Oswald is battered. And before the last gnoll facing Oswald can be killed, four gnolls enter with three identical female gnolls behind them. Oswald weighs up his best options… and charges the gnolls, to fix them back where they entered.
At a command from the witches, Barky drops his sword. Oswald’s drawers would not bear inspection at this point.
Edgar, who has been performing coup de grace on a sleeping gnoll, retaliates with Glitterdust, while moving to get his hand on Barky’s slung rope. The four fresh gnolls surround Oswald and things look bad: but he escapes unharmed in a miracle of poor swings. Belmont, finally disengaging from the stubborn gnoll-who-will-not-die, rushes to assist the other flank. Thomas is still unable to kill the gnoll who whips away to reposition himself!
Gnolls again sweep forward, two on Barky and two on Oswald: but they again miss, and Barky sweeps his sword up again and gnolls start falling! Especially when Belmont brings his blade to help. Thomas finally catches up to and finishes the death-resistant gnoll.
Edgar hurls the rope while animating it, and one of the witches disappears. Things are looking good!
Half a dozen or so fresh gnolls arrive. Edgar’s rope traps three of them. Barky Thomas and Oswald hack their way forward. The witch, losing her second mirror image and missing an attempt on Edgar, flees. Belmont, now bleeding quite badly, pulls back and heals himself. Thomas uses a scroll, healing Barky to some extent.
Oswald loses his halberd late in the piece. And late it is: The Gauntlet, on the fist of a mighty Ogre, stomps into the hall.
We choose to not outstay our welcome
We leave! We have two main issues: wounds, and lack of area-affecting spells. Our rear is secure (as far as we know!) and all we have to do is delay the pursuit. Edgar (having taken a wound to make sure he has the timing right) uses Sentinel’s power to Hold the door below the stair and up we pound, across the portcullis room. We clear the forms out of the way, blessing the fact they are not jammed! Into the chamber full of dead gnolls:
“We’ll want wine! Grab anything you can!” Edgar calls back, as Barky frantically removes our rope from the battlement and looks up into the dusk, assessing the climb up.
Oswald emerges with sausages as well as wine. “These look like human sausages.”
“That’s what’s worrying me!”
“No really, food for men. I’ll take them.”
Away to covert
Once again, but this time very hastily, an order of climb is worked out. Barky scrambles up, finding purchase in near-invisible gaps in the old stonework. He ties off the rope above at roof level and the strong lads scramble up. Thomas struggles in his heavy armour but he too makes it. Edgar and Vert are pulled up and the rope removed from sight. Just in time! For as the Gauntlet and his gnolls swarm out, the battlements are bare.
We hide out of sight of the few arrow-slits that cover the roof. Two or at most three towers overlook our chosen hiding place. It’s not comfortable: chains to prevent aerial assault are rigged across it: but it will be our makeshift campground. Swigging sips of wine and chowing on rationed-out sausage, we rest and Thomas burns his spells on healing.
We stand watch: Belmont first, since he has a spell to learn now. Below, the search rages on. Wargs are dispatched and despoil our packs out on the trail. But there’s no sign of us and the Gauntlet does not think laterally, or vertically. As a basic precaution the gnoll watch on the battlement is increased to three, and non-drinking at that!
A fresh assault begins
Come the dawn after a chilly rest, it’s time to select spells and a strategy. Since Sentinel can open the sally-port, that becomes our favoured option. But we don’t want to leave the rope behind. The knotted rope we scaled up is painstakingly un-knotted. That will allow a double-line to be hitched, then slid down, then pulled down from the bottom.
Oswald descends first with Vert, lowered by the rest of us. We fare badly and they thump down rather hard. Edgar heads down next, and manages it agilely. Belmont eases down safely. Thomas’ heavy armour proves too much for him: he crashes to earth, winded. Barky descends: really he could have left the rope knotted and simply carried it down – he clambers down the wall as though it were a ladder.
And as Edgar uses Sentinel to open the sally port the session ends.
The GM and I later admitted surprise that Thomas ordered the attack on the Calmed gnolls, but he was proved right when that became the retreat path. The fights weren’t really ‘typical’ D&D fights – no-one has power attack and there were no Bless or Prayer spells, for example. Entertaining though, the pace was good and I was surprised when the GM called time. Again crits were few and far between (Belmont got one), but there were a couple of nat 20s on STR checks later in the piece.
All characters are getting near L5, under 800xp away now. At this stage it’s agreed that once the current game is on hiatus I’ll run a 5e one-off which will move to a season if it doesn’t suck.