SB2.04: Battle by the Dancing Leaf – Guffinfetch part 4

The characters for this session:

Brother Thomas, L6 cleric of Cuthbert

Sir Belmont, L6 paladin of Hieroneous

Edgar, L6 wizard and his faithful kooshee Vert

Barky, L6 southron,

Oswald, NPC L6 fighter

ably assisted by Arward, forester/guide.

 

Some character notes:

Our GM states we should use E6 feat rules to expand skills and feats into areas we want. For example, sez he, there are two characters riding in a wagon owing to class skills, and they could pick up ride as their post-L6 experience permits.

  • Thomas plows his L6 skill ranks into ride.
  • Barky has picked up Spring Attack to capstone his mobility feat tree.
  • Edgar has chosen an E6 feat, Expanded Caster Stamina, as his L6 character feat: and his option for it is an additional 3xL1 spells.
  • Belmont has chosen Ride-by Attack.
  • Oswald has gained the Power attack/Cleave combo

A recap of our heroes’ path so far:

Their mission has been to travel to Safeton on the eastern side of the great Rangerward forest, there to recruit Guffin the sage. The early leg from Commandery is uneventful. The first stage into the forest, guided by Arward, is more challenging! The five adventurers realize their strength when four Ettins seek their blood at a fording. They briefly shelter a pair of wandering peddlers, Evart and Fumgard, and indeed Edgar buys a pretty riband from them; but bidding them farewell continue on to Midpoint Stockade.

At Midpoint Stockade Thomas receives the attentions of fellow-Cuthberian Glory Be, and it is with sincere thanks he departs. En route east from Midpoint Stockade, the adventurers cut the trail of a large band of monsters. Arward tells them that the band is slave-driving men women and children, and includes goblins, orcs, larger humanoids and even four ogres!

“If it’s not us, it’s no-one” is the sentiment that determines the adventurers to break off and pursue!

Pushing on

It’s after midday by the time the adventurers have slung packs onto mounts and set out south.

“Arward, is this the Branching Leaf River we’re headed towards?” Edgar asks from his pillion position behind Oswald.

Dancing Leaf, yes, we should find ourselves on its east bank I judge, if the slavers keep on their way.”

The slot or trail the slavers have left is impossible to miss. As Arward expects, the east bank of the Dancing Leaf is gained and from there, the trail continues south, give or take intervening obstacles. As best he can, Edgar takes an ethics review, that unfair tactics will be permitted.

The afternoon deepens into evening. The talk turns to pushing on into the dark. Wild speculation as to what the enemy may do or see courses up and down the line. Arward’s advice is that four hours won’t kill anyone, and Edgar presses the case for pushing on, using torches to make sure the horses don’t stumble into holes. He gains Barky’s support and despite Belmont’s gloomy predictions of how poorly the non-paladins will fare, the vote is for pushing on!

[It’s time for CON checks! Four rounds of increasing-DC checks later, Thomas has taken double figures of subdual damage, and everyone has taken some.]

 

We are close!

Rubbing his numb backside Edgar stumbles about the camp, and Thomas just slumps wearily down after unsaddling his warhorse and performing the minimum check. As they stolidly chew cold trail rations, Oswald asks:

“So what sort of watches? We have about six hours…”

“I’d say one pencil-neck to one strong, so I’ll stick with you Oswald,” Edgar suggests.

“What’s a pencil-neck?” Belmont wants to know.

The two-hour watches are otherwise taken by Barky and Thomas in the second watch and Thomas and Belmont in the dawn shift. Vert reluctantly rouses as Edgar makes ready to leave. This big green dog likes his eight hours solid!

The talk this fine day, as the bright sun filters green through the canopy, is of tactics. Thomas has Calm Emotions, Edgar convinces him to reserve it for a retreat. Thomas also has a powerful debuff for an enemy spellcaster. Belmont reluctantly agrees he is reserve, so that his ride-by can be best utilized. As for Edgar, he learns that the others trust him to pick the best choice and they will adapt.

 

The slavers’ camp suggests the adventurers have gained some ground on them. They are not running as though the whips of Hextor are behind them, they are walking as though the short legs of human children are setting the pace.

“How close to the coast are we?” Thomas asks. Arward shrugs: as he’s said before, he’s not familiar with the woods between the main road and the coast.

“My feeling is that they are near the jetty and making best speed,” Thomas continues.

“That’s not my feeling at all,” Edgar counters, “Let’s just push on.”

Thomas explains how long his best buffs will last.

 

The enemy is in sight

Not long after, the trail begins bending to and fro following the slavers’ ascent of rising ground. Arward follows on. As the riders reach the crest, Barky – and to a lesser extent Belmont Oswald and Edgar – realize they are riding into sea breeze, a gull is wheeling in the distance, and there’s a strong suggestion of a large group, an hour or so ahead of them in the lower ground that leads towards the coast. The weather ahead of both parties is clear.

Arward steals beyond the crest and soon reports back:

“There’s a ship out there – and a ridgeline maybe a mile and a half ahead – they’re strung out in a long column, heading towards a bald peak, probably just shy of the coast – it should still take them a couple hours.”

“Do you have anything that can sink a ship?” Thomas asks Edgar.

“Yes, I have a barbarian, but we’d need to get him aboard with his ax.”

More tactical discussions follow. Edgar presses the idea of just attacking the rearguard, quietly. He’ll steal ahead to drop as many as possible, then the murderers can do their work. Belmont is reserve, mounted. Oswald volunteers to switch to chain shirt. Thomas lays both strength and endurance on Barky, and strength on Belmont.

 

The battle before bald peak

What actually occurs is that the goblin rearguard is really just part of the whole mass: close enough to the next goblins in column that the whole band reacts! The ogres wheel about and tramp towards the attackers, followed by a wave of orcs, war-dogs, bugbears and a hobgoblin chief.

Round 0-2: Edgar drops many goblins with an enhanced sleep and a sleep [a total of 16HD across surprise and round 1] while Barky, Vert and Oswald stand, then run up [up to x4, is what we find in the PHB] and start slaying. Back in reserve Belmont gazes about warily, making sure no counter-ambush is being launched. Thomas trots his mount forward slowly, then as goblin cries are heard picks the pace up. Belmont gallops forward aiming beyond the rearguard.

Round 3-5: As Barky and Oswald slay the sleeping, more goblins arrive! Belmont commits himself, beginning a series of dashing ride-by attacks. Thomas also imagines he can ride like a paladin, and falls in front of the first sleeping goblin he attempts to swing at. Barky Vert and Oswald turn to fight the oncoming goblins, then Vert, wounded, is called back by Edgar while Oswald and Barky really mix it up, and between they and Belmont Thomas is saved and the three of them are ready for more. They are supported by Edgar, who eases back towards the reserve, doling out magic missiles sparingly, and Belmont who continues turning Dobbin sharply about and running across the goblins’ rear.

[Barky is screwed over on his Spring Attack feat but I guess it’s caveat feat-bringer]

Round 6: The trees beyond stir, as ogres stomp back to sort out the rear. Barky continues hacking sleeping goblins rather than retreating!

“The idea is to start leading them!” he says, not leading them anywhere.

Thomas follows Barky’s lead, another sleeping goblin is slain. Yes, this is his turn.

The lead pair of ogres pound forward roaring, waving clubs, and ending a couple of miserable goblins who are too slow to get out from under. As they arrive Barky ducks in time [nat 1] but Oswald receives a ferocious blow from an ogre club. [19dmg] He responds with Power Attack twice and the ogre falls! Edgar decorates the other with an unsuccessful Glitterdust.

“Dobbin, call that other warhorse back – and let’s charge these fuckers!” Belmont yells. Dobbin is not capable of the first but he thunders in behind the rear ogres and Belmont scores a wound on only one. [Then there’s another AoO mixup. You CANNOT be AoO’d by your TARGET while performing a ride-by. But you CAN be targeted by supporting opponents, such an ogre standing adjacent along the line of your attack. Belmont should, as the GM initially and correctly rules, receive two AoO attempts. His excellent armor saves him.]

Thomas claims he has missed his turn and takes an extra turn, healing Oswald of most of his damage.

Round 7: Barky rages and with a mighty blow, fells the remaining lead ogre. Thomas is now out of the front rank, so kills another sleeping goblin. The vanguard of the enemy is now beginning to be seen returning to the battlefield, but in the meantime the rear pair of ogres charge over their fallen comrades and club Barky and Oswald. Ouch! Oswald targets the ogre Belmont wounded, and gets hit hard again for no return. [The GM initially allows the ogres each an AoO, then recollects something, but ends up cancelling the unsuccessful AoOs last round and applying them to Oswald?!? I guess it’s justice since Thomas should never have healed him?!?] The GM skips Edgar and moves on to Belmont, who continues expertly cutting away, felling the ogre he wounded earlier. Edgar asserts his right to have a turn, and drops Fireball on the reserve [21dmg]. A couple of the war-dogs die, and the bugbears and hobgoblin are all badly hurt.

Round 8: Barky is now able to correctly deploy his Spring Attack [once Belmont’s firmly-voiced but incorrect ruling on AoO is dealt with] on a single target, savagely cutting the remaining ogre. Thomas edges around threat range and part-heals Oswald. Oswald stands his ground, hurls a hatchet, wounding the last ogre some more. It must be teetering on the brink! Edgar doles out another MM, and with three bolts finishes the severely wounded ogre and the last couple of sleeping goblins.

The entire rearguard of goblins, and the four ogres that ran back to help, are now sprawled in death in one ungainly mound.

A wave of orcs, unharmed by fireball, rush rearward towards the fray! Belmont targets the right flank, lancing two orcs. Close behind two ranks of orcs and war-dogs come two powerful but smoldering bugbears, and a smoldering hobgoblin chief.

Round 9: Barky charges, meeting the orcs some 40′ in advance of the mound of dead! Thomas adjusts his position to cover most of the enemy, and casts Prayer. Oswald charges and downs an orc. Edgar drops Web across all but the front ranks of enemy. Half a dozen orcs are left unwebbed: all others are caught! The orcs bravely continue attacking, lapping both Barky and Oswald: Barky takes a pair of vicious cuts from orcish shamshirs [28dmge after Prayer reduces]. Thomas parries off another. Belmont [bizarro time again] argues he must be unsure of the web’s extent, so [after a successful Spot roll] is limited to halting and thrusting at a flank orc. Crit! The orc falls.

Round 10: Barky kills one of his assailants.

“Jump on guys!” Belmont calls. Dobbin’s opinion of this is not known. [What is it about the battle scene Belmont can see, that suggests it is time to mount three men on a horse?]

Thomas steps past an orc and part-heals Barky [using a L3 Cure Serious]: Barky ceases coughing blood. Oswald cuts an orc down.

“Rescue the slaves!” Edgar hollers from far away, then turns to Arward:

“Look, um, have that horse ready… or right, no, I won’t try to ride… with me, Vert!”

He hustles forward with a torch tucked into his belt.

The trapped creatures struggle ineffectually [Web is really hard to escape from]. Only one orc remains clear. It breaks past Barky: its legs continue running for a few yards. Belmont wheels Dobbin away to go search for his spare warhorse.

Rounds 11-15: The killers begin their grisly work of butchering everything stuck in the web. By the time their prey is out of sword-reach, Edgar is there to help by burning them forward. [Most are already wounded and 2d4 burning damage kills several]

Thomas passes around the carnage, and moves cautiously up the trail. After less than a minute he hears frightened breathing. Looking over, through the trees, he sees the three coffles of slaves. There are perhaps 40 of them.

Belmont rides carefully through the trees [good animal handling check] and finds the warhorse. As he leads it back, he hears Edgar’s voice marking complete victory:

“Praise Hieroneous! Praise St. Cuthbert!”

 

Those escaping

“No need to be frightened,” Thomas assures the captives, “where are the keys?”

“The hobgoblin!” cries one, but a woman calls:

“Where are the tinkers?”

“Tinkers?”

“Peddlers, you know…”

“All we’ve seen are the ones that attacked us and you are the only humans… are these human tinkers?”

A few minutes of elucidation later – it’s complicated by Thomas needing to get the key, while hollering news back and forth with those back at the massacre – Thomas is reminded of the pair the adventurers met a few days back, and west of Midpoint. Oswald assists with the key and details of the peddlers.

“Ask the prisoners descriptions – distinguishing features – I’ll get Arward to have a track around” Edgar calls. When Arward is caught up with matters, he agrees to have a look about. But as Oswald and Thomas bring the captives back, they add enough description to be pretty clear that the pair of peddlers they mean are Evart and Fumgard. Edgar, still not understanding their agitation, encourages them:

“Don’t worry, we saw them days ago, they’ve gone to Commandery,”

“No, they were here!”

“Just last night?”

“This was just ten minutes ago!”

Edgar – who had used the paladin’s powers of detecting evil at the time – reminds Belmont about Nerullites who can screen their natures, and then has a thought. He produces the riband that he bought from the peddlers:

“Vert! Track!”

Meanwhile Belmont, following up on Edgar’s first comment, casts Protection from Evil and walks amidst the captives – watching to see if any flinch.

Edgar and Oswald, with Barky (now mostly recovered from his fatigue) quickly catching them up, run after Vert, who bounds up the bald peak. They pass two peddlers’ packs on the way. At the lookout point, sucking in gasps of air, they see the jetty at the Dancing Leaf-mouth, and rowing past the bar and out to a coastal sloop, a jolly-boat with two figures at the oars, plying them furiously.

Barky tries a shot at random but fails to roll a nat20.

“Ah well, everyone loves a good arch-enemy,” Edgar commiserates, clapping Barky’s shoulder.

“I’ll see what I can find,” Oswald offers and jogs down the descent.

Edgar and Barky wait until they recover their wind, then return the way they came. On the way back, Edgar thoughtfully pauses at the peddlers’ packs:

“We’re still poor… let’s collar those.”

As he and Barky walk back to report, they fall into a discussion about how difficult it will be to detect certain types of evil…

 

The Oath of the Ram? Quick Penny?

“…and we cannot assume that because she was bent on Thomas – for some reason – she is evil,” Edgar concludes as they rejoin Thomas. The cleric twitches reflexively.

“I’m fairly sure she was evil,” Thomas insists, “I just haven’t worked out how she hid it.”

As Arward’s advice – that Safeton is as near a destination as Midpoint – is heeded, Oswald arrives back. He finds the whole party resting and eating in good spirits, while speaking to the ex-captives to learn more about their ordeal. The captives have a small supply of human-ready food, and were not maltreated. They all hail from the area around Safeton. As for the monsters, the orcs seem to have been Rangerward denizens while the others are all Hextorites, save for the tinkers who may have had an independent mission. The tinkers and the hobgoblin chief both obey the “Oath of the Ram.”

[A nat 1 from Edgar to help Thomas fails to help with a Religion check, and Thomas recalls nothing.]

Oswald’s information, based on his nautical experiences, is that the sloop is named Quick Penny. The adventurers mull over the Oath of the Ram and the sloop’s possible destination, and think to find some clue, but before the corpses are thoroughly looted the session ends.

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