DGA8.04: The Black Road, part four – Hunter

The Long Roaders for this session

In the order of march most followed

Seck, level 8 rogue;
Vir, level 8 ranger;
Cat, level 8 warlock:
Phoenix, level 8 barbarian

Current side-quest: Rescue the sage Brecbry or retrieve her body for rez, and rescue/retrieve the tags of the Flaming Fist mercs sent to find Brecbry

Props and spoilers: The 5e adventure Hunter, by Will Doyle and James Introcaso, is a D&D Adventurers League product, purchased through DriveThruRPG

Prep

The light-light loadout each Long Roader has packed covers an iron ration each, one waterskin each (Phoenix carries his bottle of containment), some torches, some pitons, a hatchet to double as a piton hammer, and 50′ rope.

Phoenix begs a shield and one of Sir Fenton’s men at arms, a veteran named Saul, gives him an older one of his own as a gift. He dons half-plate at Ingramhurst, and plans to use shield and mace if the enemy happen to be undead. He also lays down his totem pact and takes up his pact with Mocair.

Cat has chosen Dimension Door, a useful spell if needing to flee with Brecbry. Cat is carrying both the rez-quality diamond and the free-rez pass.

Vir leaves bow and arrows (save for four that he tucks in his belt) at Ingramhurst.

Seck has his Elven cloak over his anorak, and has his hood up.

XP: lvl9-154

The path in

It’s definitely single-file country, especially once the adventurers get a few yards past the furthest point that Ingramhurst villagers leave food offerings for the “wee folk.” The trail is suited to child-size beings, and the evergreen shrubbery presses the waists arms and shoulders of those forcing their way along. It doesn’t bother Vir (long-strider) and Phoenix (boots of jungle travel), but the overall party pace is about half normal.

The party is rolling hot! Seck is tracking with Vir giving him advantage, Cat is making a Dis-related check, and Phoenix is back-scanning to mark the trail and check weather.

DM

About two hours’ walk in, Dis warns Cat that creatures are watching, and they don’t smell quite right. She flies up and warns them (in fey, and more or less inaudible to the others) they best not cross Cat the Magnificent, beloved of Titania!

Dis returns with a smug aura about her and assures Cat things are under control. The creatures are probably boggles in service to Oberon. Light-fingered, apt to steal unattended gear.

Seck pushes his way through to a rocky gorge letting into what appears to be a lower valley. The sound of running water can be heard below the constant drum and rattle of rain of foliage. With a couple of agile scrambles he gets a glimpse of a small hourglass-shaped lake, and a fire, seeming too bright to be a simple hearth. While the trail is not directly visible beyond the gorge, he gets a sense of where it must wind from the way the trees grow.

As the party trails in, the gorge is sealed by a mudslide that carries boulders with it.

A world of hurt

Seck, the only Long Roader whose vision is not hampered by the teeming rain, spots a grisly, body-hung tree. It’s not all that far into this valley beyond the mud-slide that has trapped the party.

With due caution, the tree is scouted and approached. Phoenix checks the ground then clambers up and cuts the tough vines. Three bodies soggily, bloodily splat down. Vir examines the wounds in more detail. These three Flaming Fist mercs were savagely injured by claws, possibly finished off with a deep, long-toothed bite. Their tags are collected and tucked away.

Phoenix states that he found marks of both a large cat-type creature and a two-footed creature under the tree, before the falling bodies ruined the faint traces. He doesn’t recall seeing the two-footed creature’s tracks before.

With only around 30 or 40 yards to go to the lake, Seck shakes the scout order out once more and moves cautiously forward. He gestures for the team to stay put and creeps forward to where two large humped shapes are visible at the lakeshore.

Expendable Assets

Scouting with care and virtually invisible in the conditions, elven-cloaked Seck returns and reports that those shapes are two bivouacs, maybe two-man affairs. Cat approaches and hails the camp. The mud-covered Flaming Fist survivors here are:

Flame-rank Corum, Teulon junior scion: “Simple set-up. One-day operation.”

Fist-rank Luskar, iron-jawed veteran: “If it bleeds, we can kill it!”

Crossbow-toting Bax: “You lose it here, you’re in a world of hurt.”

Spear-toting Uili of the Plains Tribes: “There’s something out there waiting for us, and it ain’t no man.”

Do we have something together?

While Cat and Corum speak inside the latter’s bivouac, Phoenix zeroes in on Uili. He hasn’t got those clay tiles he meant to woo her with, but he has mustered the courage to speak to her. Mocair provides him with the ability to speak her language.

Phoenix hopes that Uili will introduce him to her tribe so he can, firstly, repay some of the wrongdoing of his pre-adventuring days, and secondly, be initiated to gain Mocair’s full power.

Something is bothering Uili but she warms to Phoenix and soon the pair drift away to a more secluded part of the forest.

Stick Around!

Corum’s team attacked a goblin village, in the belief that Brecbry was there. They may have killed as many as 200 goblins. They took one prisoner, but she’s not co-operating and they are about ready to escalate the questioning.

He’s aware something is stalking his squad but is inclined to think it a worgrider. And is inclined to dismiss ideas of a big panther-like creature and some other biped.

He does want to stick together for security, especially since they are both hunting Brecbry. But Cat proposes that the Long Roaders take this uncooperative prisoner back and negotiate. It takes an effort, but the idea that a non-officer, non-noble might have an idea does slowly penetrate Corum’s thoughts. He warns that buying off goblins would be beneath the dignity of the Flaming Fist!

This is the first occasion the Long Roaders can confirm total number. There were eight. The merc lost at the village is Fergo, a halfling scout. Missing, presumed dead.

XP: lvl9-153

The jungle, it just came alive!

Corum leads Cat a few yards lake-ward, where a water-filled mud pit with a lattice of stakes sealing it contains a female goblin. Thanks to all the water she is cleaner than the mercs. Cat has no language in common with her, so he heads back for help.

Seck speaks under-common and the goblin has the bare minimum in that. But Seck lacks the empathy to communicate Cat’s plan to help her.

She seems quite terrified and mutters some gibberish about when she was little, and something coming for them all. It’s lost on Seck.

It looks as though their only recourse will be to leash her and bring her unwillingly along.

We’re all gonna die!

Phoenix strolls back out of the dense forest, his grin visible through the rain. He glances back to see if Uili is following, then there’s a horrid scream from where he left her!

Uili staggers, bleeding already. She drags her hunting knife’s blade across her skin, and staggers further away back into the forest so as to lure the enemy away from Phoenix!

Good Acrobatics check from Phoenix with Inspiration spent. He does not slip over, and only loses half his movement.

Phoenix rushes back to the bivouacs, seizes up Mocair from beside his pack, and calls:

“Brave men go forth not expecting to return”

“It has been a time” – Mocair

Vir grabs his sidearms out and heads towards Uili. From over at the pit Seck and Cat head there too, though Cat pauses to check if the goblin seems to be expecting something. (It flinches away as though expecting something terrifying.) By the tents Luskar quotes “I’ll be bock” and seizes up his longsword in a way that make his biceps flex then runs towards the cry, Bax readies her crossbow, and Corum begins finding his helmet.

Inits: Shadow agents, Cat, Phoenix, Luskar/Bax, Vir/Seck, Corum

Round 1: Seck and Cat sprint forward as best they can, Seck coping easily with the ground. Phoenix, raging, dashes back into the forest, closely followed by Vir.

Luskar shouts “She is gonn! Oaaahhh! Whur Ur Yoo?!!!” gazing wildly about; Vir catches up to the bloody ground, and he and Seck scan quickly. It looks from the blood on the foliage that Uili and her attacker are moving roughly to the tree of death.

Round 2: “To the tree!” Cat yells, doubling back to the trail. Phoenix follows, overtaking Cat. Vir Seck and Luskar follow the blood trail. Behind them Bax and Corum reach the original scene.

Advantage Athletics from Cat and Phoenix, they keep pace through the restraining foliage.

Advantage Perception for Vir, he notices the blood trail suggests the creature has taken to the treetops.

Dis whispers that she smells the stench of Shadowfell.

Round 3: Decent lines of sight, despite the rain, alert those chasing that a large man-size creature with bloated head has reached the tree in question. Vir catches a glimpse of it pulling Uili’s body out of a vast gullet.

Phoenix hears Luskar bellow some kind of warning, from behind him. The mighty vet is in Defend mode, yelling “Box! Corum! Whur Ur Yoo?!”

Phoenix confuses Luskar, who stays where he is; then turns and resumes his run.

From back beyond Luskar there’s a horrid scream where Bax is attacked next.

Seck has a vague line of sight, hurling Maelsauga at extreme range. It hits! He calls the blade back. The creature drops Uili’s body…

Phoenix’ player makes a last Death Roll for Uili – just in case, since she has taken multiple death-level wounds – but rolls a 1

Round 4: And disappears, reappearing next to Seck. Seck uses Skirmisher to zip back to Vir. The creature’s enormous tongue licks out searing Seck with necrotic damage and yanking him in close! Cat, who is now within 40′ of the tree, manages to get the gist of where the creature is: twin violet blasts Repel the creature back away from Seck and Vir. Cat continues towards Uili, though she looks very dead. Reluctantly, Phoenix turns back and races back to Bax. He scans the rain and leaves, hoping to see a target. He does!

WIS SV with Advantage to resist a wave of fear: no problem!

Phoenix charges towards the dark, four-footed creature he sees over Bax’ body.

Seck wiggles out from the tongue’s grip and Vir runs at the creature and hammers into it with Ulruf and his shortsword, adding Hunter’s Mark and Colossus Slayer.

Meanwhile Bax is being grievously injured. Spitting a stream of obscenities and tobacco juice Bax is down.

Round 5: The big-mouthed slurpy thing hammers Seck with its tongue again and Vir responds (Sentinel) with a crit! The creature disappears into shadow but seems badly hurt.

Cat closes on Uili’s body and tries Spare the Dying, but no breath remains in her. Phoenix roars a challenge at the vaguely catlike pink-eyed creature: suddenly it is in his face!

He uses his Shield brooch to avoid its bite, and a Luck point to avoid claws, but the next clawing attack sears across his arm. Judging it to be very agile Phoenix measures his attacks: Mocair misses once and chops through a tree; then hits. The radiant damage produces bluish flame, and the creature seems to endure great pain from the strike.

Seck hurls Maelsauga – which strikes deep – and closes on Vir who also shifts within 30′, jams his 4 arrows in the ground and deploys a Cordon of Arrows around the scene.

Round 6: Meanwhile Cat glimpses the shadowy big-mouthed creature up above, between he and the bivouacs. He successfully hurls twinned Repelling Blasts and calls a warning.

Vir’s cordon pays off immediately! The cat-like creature leaps away from Mocair but Phoenix reacts with a cut and the cordon’s arrow strikes home. Following up sharply Phoenix jams Mocair in his jaws and (spending a Luck point) rages up the trunk of the tree the panther-like thing is in, two-hands Mocair, cuts its head near-apart, and falls – taking a last dying claw – nimbly into a thief-roll, rising safely to triumph over his dead foe!

“That’s for Uili! Where’s the other one?” – Phoenix

Seck and Vir re-orient themselves from Cat’s warning as the latter races – brushing the foliage aside like a veteran ranger – back towards the camp. They race back, and Seck gains a vague line of sight on the shadowy big-mouth thing. At extreme range he strikes the unaware foe! It tries to pull itself back into the shadow realm, but fails, falls limply, and as it strikes the ground its head shrivels into a shape reminiscent of a squash!

“Next…” – Seck.

Back near Phoenix Corum has found Bax’ body and holds her up, calling on her to stay with him… Luskar closes on the pair.

Round 7: Cat bush-crashes across, jinking and dodging through the clinging wet branches, and reaches the mercs. He casts Spare the Dying. “Get her to the bivouac, she’ll be with us again in no time,” he assures Corum. “Ah, my friend Cat, the Flaming Fists owe you,” Corum responds warmly and he and Luskar evac-drag Bax away. Cat casts about and retrieves Bax’ crossbow.

Phoenix calls on Vir: he wants the creature skinned out. No-one answers him. He begins dragging the beast back to camp then remembers Uili.

Combat ends!

XP: lvl9-150

No trophy

The muddy bivouac does not make for great first-aid conditions, Vir slaps a damp compress on Bax’ gouged hide and pronounces her “not dead.” Cat warns them all that the Shadowfell is out there.

Phoenix arrives carrying Uili’s corpse – cleaned off by the rain now – and begins campaigning for one of the party rez facilities to be used to bring her back. He plants this idea then leaves and eventually drags back the mangled panther-like creature and asks Vir to skin it out and remove useful bits.

Vir has only the most basic equipment with him so, beyond pointing to a hatchet, has no useful reply to this idea.

During tending Bax, Vir learns from Luskar that goblinoids are an increasing menace along the Black Road.

During Phoenix’ effort to talk the party into carrying the panther-like creature out, Cat learns from Dis that she has the Floating Disk ritual now. He chooses not to share this.

Corum and Luskar decide to fort up while Bax recovers, leaving Cat and Seck to their original plan of bringing the hostage to the burned-out village.

There’s a survivor!

Mainly by demonstrating that they are not killing, torturing, or raping her, Seck and Cat win some tentative trust from the goblin as they and Phoenix and Vir (still discussing trophies) slog counter-clockwise round the lake-shore to where the village smolders.

The inhabitants of what may have housed quite a number of goblins have vanished, and the Long Roaders find ten goblin-size corpses, well-grilled from the fierce heat. It is possible that one could be a halfling so Vir inspects each.

As Vir finishes his inspection of the bodies there’s a “psst” from the bushes nearby.

Fergo the halfling scout has been lying low, disguised as a goblin, dreading some nameless horror. The Long Roaders reassure him that they have dealt with the nameless horror. And that a couple of his comrades are alive back at the bivouac.

Friends all

The goblin now trusts them enough to not need a leash, and tells them her name, Rhana. She stays with them as they circle back clockwise, more or less opposite the burned-out village.

The tiny fishing settlement there is really just an extended family’s worth of huts, coracles and nets. As far as can be seen through the persistent rain, it does not appear to have been attacked.

“It’s time for us to speak to these goblins, they may know something about Brecbry,” Cat explains. Rhana looks at Seck doubtfully as he explains. She heads in the direction of the huts, pauses to check if this is not some cruel trick, then finishes the distance and calls.

A goblin family peers out, then so does Brecbry!

It seems Brecbry was unduly delayed recording local information, then as terror struck sheltered in place here. (She doesn’t remember Cat, a blow to his ego.)

The goblins are willing to help dig out the mudslide, so all’s well that ends well!

Brecbry explains what the goblins have told her about the terror beast and its master the gatherer, and that she will be heading on to Grimmsgate with the relic. So they’ll be heading on together!

Inspiration all round!

XP: lvl9-145

DM Note

This was our first face-to-face game in many weeks, we all enjoyed the luxury of a longer session and the chance to poke fun. It’s not the same online!

I made some changes to Hunter to fit the shape of this season, and used my instinct to time the attacks. But the basic bone-structure, a homage to Predator, is still intact. Good fun!

I would keep one major environmental change, even if I ran this at AL – the as-written version sets this at night. In no possible way is this a good idea. Nighttime removes the whole “jungle comes alive” FX except for characters that can see in the night: and if that’s the case, why bother?

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