SC2.06: Butterskull Ranch, or, the Importance of a Good Cover Story

The level two heroes for this session

Garth, mountain dwarf fighter;
Dakeyras, wood elf rogue;
Zachery, human bard

Ably assisted by Mayberry, Akaros, Druuk and Lok

The adventurers end on level 3!

The adventure so far

Hot from their success in clearing Tresendar Manor ruin of vermin and with a quest from ghostly Grace under the belts, the adventurers pick up the next promised mission: bring supplies to Townmaster Harbin’s kin out north, in a logger’s camp.

At the same time they agree to help Akaros, the orc chief from the old dwarf ruin, to settle his rebels out at Butterskull ranch, which as it happens has been posted as another well-paying mission.

Warned by a last lone miner on the road, the allies prepare for trouble ahead, at Conyberry ruins, about a half-day shy of Butterskull. It’s night, it’s pouring with rain, an attack will be the last thing the vicious Dale gang expects!

The Dale gang fights back, giving nearly as good as it gets! The sweet disharmonies of bard Zach make the difference and the last two gang-members flee. Rescued cook Mayberry the halfling tells them that ADoun the Miners Exchange merchant she arrived with bought his freedom, so maybe somewhere in the ruins there’s a nest egg…

The Strays

Under the continuing downpour the victors can do little more than assess their own wounds, move Vincent the ox and their cart in closer, and set up a comfortable camp in the makeshift pantry/tavern the halfling gang assembled from ADoun’s supplies. And sort out the watch:

Watches: Vlad/Druuk; Garth/Akaros; Dak/Lok; Zach and Mayberry on breakfast duties.

No sooner has Garth’s head hit his makeshift pillow than Vlad is nudging him awake:

“I heard hooves… maybe a horse?”

Indeed not one but three horses, all bearing the brand BAK. With some difficulty Zach gentles the first one, and stables it nearby. Seeing their stablemate being petted and fed the others are easily stabled as well.

Dakeyras has had his shift and is comfortably elf-dozing as Zach and Mayberry begin breakfast prep. The dawn is quiet: at some point the rain eased off and only gentle dripping remains. The sound of nervous horses reaches his ears! Easing open the door, he sees the first light of dawn playing on a tall, bulky individual fiddling with the stable gate. And those garments look familiar: that is the mysterious big-jawed spellcaster last seen retreating from Tresendar ruin!

A dawn chase and a profitable search

Dak calls a warning: in reply, a violent orange burst of energy from the caster’s fist! It chips splinters from the door frame as Dak ducks back. The caster legs it north! Dak gives chase! Some of the others follow! But the caster has been making for support – his two “generic bandit” buddies are waiting not far north, under cover. Dak decides this is not the time.

“We’ll have words with that guy sometime though,” Garth vows.

The best Mayberry can do by way of a clue as to the “nest egg” is that she overheard one of the two top Dales say something about south of the tower.

There are two likely towers, and (with an excellent Investigation check) Dakeyras finds some disturbed stones just south of the most obvious tower, where the downpour had not washed away the ingrained earth.

XP: lvl3-4, good choice to leave the caster for another time.

Loot: 700 gold coin is added to party loot. No doubt a lot of it was ADoun’s. Various useful, tasty or alcoholic supplies also added to Vincent’s load, that can be called on at player discretion and subject to a DM random test. Three horses, each branded BAK.

The plan

Zachery has been putting his imagination to good use: emended by the strays, his plan is

  • Ride the cart right into Butterskull
  • Zach claims he is a trader, looking to expand trade, and Mayberry is his pastrycook wife
  • They want to buy butter
  • Garth is his guard, Akaros acts as guard too until he gets the chance to speak one on one to orc rebels
  • And they may as well string the horses on behind the cart as goodwill.

Although Garth fidgets uncomfortably the others agree to let Akaros take some of the gold, to maybe seal an argument with an orc or two. Akaros seems pretty uncomfortable about this.

XP: Potential of 4xp, this may drop a Deadly encounter all the way to a Routine encounter

The outer fields

Dakeyras and Lok are always going to be scouts not bait, so they loop wide and come in towards the orchard. Almost until they reach the tidy rails around it, they fail to see an orc picking the late-fall crop and sampling the produce!

Dak signals Akaros who arrives running low and at speed. The orc chief steps over the rails and has a quiet but persuasive word to the rebel (1). Who swears fealty to Akaros and heads west!

The scouts work their way east, spotting a pair of oblivious orcs trying to tame two more horses up in the north-west paddock. Meanwhile the main party, with Akaros once more pretending to be a poorly-cloaked guard, turns in to the lane to the farmstead.

A pair of surprised orcs cease chasing something that can’t be seen below the corn stubble and hurry over. Zach blathers fluently! Akaros confronts the pair (2,3). One immediately pledges, the other is a little more neutral. Akaros (Garth is pleased to note) does not pull out gold to seal the deal. Instead, the neutral orc waits south.

That’s 2 aye, one abstained!

The inner fields

Vincent plods patiently up the lane, by the pond: and a third orc, much incensed at missing out on whatever he and the last pair were chasing, lopes over. At much the same time an orc that manages to stay atop his mount rides down from the paddock, pursued, at a distance and with some discomfort, by another who has been thrown and fruitlessly chasing his mount. (4,5,6)

Zachery’s story is begun a couple of times. Akaros is ready to step in, and manages to get his one-on-one time with each. There are a mixture of reactions. One orc remains fairly hostile, but heads south to sit the confrontation out. The other two pledge and head west.

That’s 4 aye, 2 abstained!

At the farmstead – outhouse brawl!

Dak and Lok ease through the corn stubble, keeping low, and are soon in good position to watch as an orc shakes a privy to and fro, threatening to topple it. Another orc rushes out and a brawl begins!

Meanwhile, Vincent has brought the adventurers right to the sweep below the farmstead itself.

Akaros, alerted by Lok, dashes around to the outhouse.

Separating two furious brawlers is hard even for Akaros and he has to use his naughty-step voice before they split apart (7,8) and the most angry one charges Akaros!

Brawl rules are really simple – Athletics, loser gets the difference taken off the next bonus. Luckily Akaros gets two attacks to the ordinary orc’s one!

Perhaps just out of spite, when one orc humbly pledges allegiance, the other bruised one holds out flat. He’s not about to take Akaros on again, but he’s hostile.

That’s 5 aye, 2 abstained, 1 nay!

The final confrontation

It sounds to Garth and Zachery that there are partying orcs upstairs. There’s steps to a ground-floor door, and quite a number of rather small windows. If the occupants turn hostile, the party could be overlooked by a number of missile-orcs.

Time to get the game-face on and sound like a cheery and naive trader!

“Hulloo the house! I heard there’s some skulls of butter to be bought here!”

An alcohol-flushed orc face shoves itself out of the window above the door. Luckily, no missile. Zachery enlarges on his subject. Is this plan, actually, working!?!

Zach makes a 22 on Deception, a final excellent roll on top of a string of very good to middling Perform checks. I dislike strings of checks but for this plan to work, they had to be made.

DM

Meanwhile Druuk the shaman (whose disguise makes him look like a dirty beggar) positions himself so that he, south-east corner, can signal Akaros, who has walked back from the outhouse to the north-east corner. For his part Garth steps out to just a little east of the farm steps, and facing them.

Dakeyras and Lok are covering as much of the view as they can, while still keeping an eye on the hostile orc. They’ve spotted the rear entrance, just near the north-east corner. And there’s only one small window each story at the east end – someone didn’t like morning sun when the place was built. They’re not likely to be spotted.

Suddenly there’s a roar and an avalanche of hostile orcs bursting from the front! The hostile orc out back runs towards the back door!

Inits: Akaros, Zach, Garth/Orcs, Dak, Brughor, Druuk, Lok

Round 1: Dak and Lok, who are Ready, loose at the hostile. Dak’s arrow sinks true, Lok’s bounces off his rawhide armor. Akaros rushes the orc, head-butts him unconscious, runs on, kicks the door in, and heads in. (Lok dashes after him, end of round.)

Zachery spreads his hand and with the other plays a lullaby on his pipes, the lead orc running out falls asleep – hits the bannister – somersaults over – hits the ground, waking up bruised. Zach backs off along the farmstead wall. Garth steps forward as the next orc leaps at him swinging a longsword – they exchange blows! Garth takes an Action Surge and hammers the orc again, who falls unconscious, bleeding from his ears.

Dak drops south to where he can take a ready action, lining up the orcs in case it all goes wrong.

Round 2: “STAND DOWN!!!” Garth bellows. For a moment it seems to work: the two conscious orcs stop, somewhat intimidated. Zach even lends his mellow tones and things seem to be about to settle in favor of negotiation. Then a third orc checks the bleeding victim and snarls something evil-sounding and Brughor Ax-biter in all his glory, wearing a tall conch-trimmed rancher hat, swaggers to the porch, roaring defiance!

Round 3: Akaros finishes weaving through the house, rushes Brughor from behind and without so much as uttering his casus belli, hammers his longsword into the rebel’s flank! Then he shoulder-charges into Brughor, looking to topple him over the porch rail. It doesn’t work! But Dak immediately sends a devastating shaft into Brughor’s open mouth, it slices open both cheeks as it exits the other side! Keeping his distance behind Garth, Zach utters a dissonant chord and sends Dissonant Whispers into Brughor’s thick skull! He shakes his jowls, spraying blood but resisting the worst of the effect. Then, just as Lok is trying to get an angle past her mighty chief, Dak sends his next shaft punching into the rebel’s temple. The ten-gallon hat topples gently away in the wintry breeze and Brughor collapses, stone dead.

Victory!

XP: All 4xp falls due and the adventurers HAVE HIT LEVEL THREEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Loot: 65 gp, 145 sp, and 220 cp are collected off the fallen or conquered.

With Brughor dead the “abstainers” immediately pledge fealty. The three remaining living orcs (one of whom needs treatment for an arrow wound) pledge fealty as well. They will begin their next journey stony broke.

Big Al wants his Petunia back

They find Big Al Kalazorn still alive, a minor miracle. He has been tied up and abused in the cellar, where sit a large collection of butter pats, all in the shape of a skull.

Once restored to some degree and once more sitting proudly under his ten-gallon hat, Big Al thanks them for rescuing him. He’s pretty sure that all of his hands are dead, save for three that jumped on horses and fled.

Sadly the adventurers return those three horses and report they found no riders. But hey, we have this halfling cook named Mayberry, who is actually a pastrychef, so you could sell fine pastries that use butter, right?

Big Al, who once upon a time was sheriff in Phandalin before the townmaster convinced the others that hiring adventurers per mission would be cheaper, thanks them and accepts Mayberry. Reckons as he will try to make do until spring, and hire some new hands. But what he really must have is his famed milch cow, Petunia. Why without Petunia, there ain’t gonna be no butter. He can’t offer much but he can offer armor from his adventuring days…

It takes Lok and Dak five cold afternoon hours to track and reclaim Petunia. Like the mounts her brand is BAK.

It’s a chance of 1/6 each hour, so I just roll a whole slew of d6 and count along to the first 6 to turn up

And so afternoon has become evening as supper is laid out on the newly-scrubbed long table. Garth Dak and Zach admire Big Al’s Mithral Chain Mail and try to figure out who can use it, and the session ends.

Special loot notes

Loot: Mithral Chain Mail: AC16
Armor (chain mail), uncommon

Mithral is a light, flexible metal. However, you must still have the proficiency to use normal chain mail (ie Heavy armor) before being able to use this suit effectively. The difference between regular chain mail and this suit is that you do not have to have STR 13, you do not suffer Stealth disadvantage, and in this campaign, since encumbrance matters, it counts as 20lb not 55lb.

Made of interlocking metal rings, chain mail includes a layer of quilted fabric worn underneath the mail to prevent chafing and to cushion the impact of blows. The suit includes gauntlets.

DM reminders for next session: Conyberry lies north of Wyvern Peak, Big Al was one of the “originals” that cleared it. May know something more about Shrine of Savras. Big Al supposes that if anyone knows about some haunt named Agatha it would be Falcon. Falcon was also one of the “originals” along with two others, a weird old druid named Reidoth and a half-elf man named Daran. Daran lives in Phandalin and Qelline Elderleaf knows Reidoth.

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