DGA10.02: Red Hand of Doom part I – Marauder attack

The level 10 heroes for this session

In order of advance

Seck, wielding Maelsauga his stirge-souled throwknife;
Ulric, wielding Kinslayer his warhammer;
Cat, soul-linked this episode to Dis his familiar;
Phoenix, wielding Mocair his totem great-axe;
Vir Onden, ranger/Hunter, wielding Ulruf as warhammer

XP: the heroes begin with 1250xp each and 10% story bonus, and gain 1,775 and a further 5% story bonus

Introductions all round

Vir is right behind Phoenix. He has rounded up the four riding animals. Since Ulric has never met him, Cat performs formal introductions again so that everyone knows everyone, before they go to rest or set watch.

Ride-a-cock Owlbear? Chores for all

After a restless watch and slumber Seck is up early. He walks over the crisp sward to the owlbear corpse, not focusing on much else.

Carrion animals and birds habits can tell a hunter a lot about the locality but Seck makes a poor Nature check

Yep, that’s a riding harness, big enough for a hobgoblin captain. Having confirmed what he guessed, Seck returns to the ward. Cat is up now, looking pleased with himself (as usual) and as they chat about the day’s business Ulric joins them, having completed his lauds or dawn prayer.

The chores are soon split among them. Seck will wake Phoenix and go a-hunting, Cat will borrow Vir’s expertise and speak to that druid, and Ulric will follow up his official business with the Margrave.

My husband is still indisposed, and, what about them hobgoblins?

Grafin Elis receives Ulric not in the Andron but in her own withdrawing chamber. She apologizes: the dawn light can be harsh on ladies of a certain age. Ulric nods non-commitally. She thanks him for his understanding, her copper-colored eyes studying his face.

She again apologizes: the Graf von Klarch is still indisposed as he has been for some time. In his stead, she will answer for their difficulties.

The recap: the north road has become steadily more dangerous from what seemed at first bandits of no particular order. It is hard to see a pattern but Grafin Elis agrees that it could have been a planned campaign. The net result is that Lighaven – which could quickly pass news onto the emperor in Tarfondom – is unlikely to hear of danger let alone react to it.

The hobgoblins commanded by the Devil of Murder Cliffs infest Ironwood Gorge, but may have expanded towards Windtop the dwarf city, and the Witchwood east of here. If so, there is no doubt that the druid is behind it, helping the devil.

A pit trap, and dug some time ago

Seck and Phoenix enjoy the peaceful crispness of the upland woods but find game scant. Wrong season of course, but there are signs of hunting having driven game away. They settle for edible vermin of the Muridae. Circling down to a less-prosperous trail, Seck finds a large pit trap.

It has been dug and used some time ago, so no detail can be picked out about who dug it.

I could have sworn I left him right here

Cat walks confidently to the stony scrubland and calls.

Nothing.

“I could have sworn we left him right here. I mean one patch of soil looks exactly like another, but still…”

Vir gazes about. The Witchwood, partly deciduous but favoring evergreens as it rises towards the Giantshields, dominates the eastern horizon. A cloud catches his eye.

He turns back to find Cat incensed about something and threatening whatever it is with Eldritch Blast:

“Calm down Cat! What’s with you?”

“Cheeky little… I am Cat the Magnificent, no mere boggle flips me the bird and farts in my general direction!”

“Look, calm down. We may have trouble. Look east.”

“Uh… a cloud?”

“Moving against the wind, and dark on a fine day? That’s a murder of crows, Cat. We should get back.”

Picnic and plans

Ulric learns that the point of catching small game is to have a decent meal. No-one even wanted to try breakfast, and tummies are rumbling. He excuses himself: whatever his own thoughts about the Grafin it would be ill-mannered to not sit at board with her.

Phoenix sets up a dry woodfire near the keep, and trims out the small bodies, quickly burying the offal under turf. The game is easily cooked, though he sets 10 fatback strips on a frame to dry.

As they enjoy a tasty all-meat no-wobbly-bits picnic and call for wine or beer from the inn, the Long Roaders discuss what they have learnt.

Ulric joins them – for politeness extends only to the meal – and over a dirt sketch of their environs, they decide to shift south towards Drellin’s Ferry, allow Vir to recoup his spells come dawn, then set out again.

Yes, the “plan” turns out to be “advance south a short ride, then decide later.”

Marauders at the old Turnpike

B – Doomblade
C – Cleric
H – Hellhound
R – Raider (bow, longsword/shield)

Seck’s keen senses tell him that insect noise and bird movement are too absent, but as he swings in the saddle to warn the others, two volleys of six arrows slam around them all! Seck is unlucky and three shafts penetrate his good armor. Behind him darts bounce off the tank Ulric, but towards the rear Phoenix takes two heavy shafts.

These are the same heavy longbow arrows as the keep attackers used and Seck, throwing himself acrobatically off his mount and into cover, is not at all surprised to find a near-identical hobgoblin archer some 10′ away in cover.

The Long Roaders do what they usually do, and Urlic vaults up from his ambler to the clay bank right, instructing his war-steed:

“Bestellen, lead the mounts to safety!”

“Zu befehl,” Bestellen replies in high Teulon and hustles about herding the other horses rearward.

Bestellen equipped with a magical bridle is smarter than his rider and yes, he can speak.

DM

As a fight it is a slog. Two hellhounds are unleashed as soon as the battle starts, and Seck, Ulric and Phoenix get lightly cooked. A greataxe-wielding, spell-capable hob warrior known as a Doomblade arrives from the ruins of the old Turnpike, and to make Vir’s life more interesting, he falls prey to Hold Person as the Doomblade arrives! Dis alerts Cat to a danger from the ruin, but by the time everyone has overcome five warriors, two hellhounds and a doomblade, the ruin is empty save for captive townsfolk from Drellin’s Ferry.

The second wave of six did join the first wave survivor, but they decided to fall back and report as Zar fled. I did not count them in xp.

DM

Drellin’s Ferry is the target!

The townsfolk, untied, reclaim some of their property and coin. “We’re a militia, just been appointed to stand watch about here. Hadn’t even had time to build walls before we got jumped,” the squad leader Etgar Weaver explains. He goes on:

“The big chap with the axe was Uthlar I think. The one as got away is Zoom, or Zip, or Zar. They answer to a high-ranker name of Karkilan.”

“So what would they be here for?”

“They was braggin’ it up – sayin’ as how warbands is closin’ in for a Day of Ruin! Drellin’s Ferry is gonna be attacked by a whole horde, from both side a’ the river! I reckon they’s probably about ready to strike!”

Some more notes picked up from Ulric’s local knowledge and Etgar’s updates

Drellin’s Ferry is ruled by a Town Council, with the local baron Norro Wiston its Speaker. The Faith is represented by Br Derny, who is in good standing with the Inquisition. The Arcane wing of the Faith is represented by Sertieren the Wise, a halfling who deeply respects The Rules. The best inn is named the Old Bridge Inn (for once upon a time a dwarf-built bridge spanned the river) and it is run by halfling Kellin Shadowbanks. The Green Apple Inn is about as good though. Finally, though Ulric disapproves, a Druid Conclave is also present, represented by Avarthel.

Thanks to money earned running the ferry the town affords a professional captain, Soranna Anitah, whom Ulric respects. The regular work of the town guard is run out of the Old Toll House and often falls to Sergeant Hersk. The rising danger has seen a small company of the Flame Fist mercenaries employed as well. Etgar is unsure whether they were employed directly by the town council or have been sent by the Countess. They are led by a well-muscled Sergeant, Luskar.

Drellin’s Ferry is a long day’s hard ride from Murder Cliffs above Ironwood Gorge, and Terrelton, seat of the Countess, is a short day’s ride the other way.

The cleric that fled, Zippy Zarr Zoomfeet, bore as a holy symbol an icon with five vari-colored claws as its design

And as the heroes consider how much of a rest they can afford, and the afternoon draws towards evening, the session ends.

DM Notes/Props – only for those interested in how I’m integrating RHoD with Dimgaard

  1. The whole of it ties to the “we won, dragons lost, where did all the dragons go?” back-plot to my version of Dimgaard.
  2. It also ties to the “who overthrew Maglubiyet’s idol” mystery of first Dimgaard adventure (the one that took three sessions!)
  3. Flags were raised in two seasons where hobgoblin diplomats and escorts appear.
  4. Heightened danger was signaled after Adelina the Evangelist directs the Long Roaders to Ironwood Gorge. Hobgoblins may be masterminding the hill giant and bandits.
  5. Elsir Vale is tacked onto the far east of the Alshon, so as to link with both the desert Khanate of the orcs and the Dragon Teeth mountains, east.
  6. The short arc, “return to Gold Hill” acts as a prelim, linking the new PC Ulric with the Long Roaders and providing Cat with a purpose for venturing to Elsir Vale. It has its roots in Barrataria Games’ BL2 module, Terror in the Gloaming.
  7. The adventure Ironwood Gorge is available for me to adapt depending on if and when the PCs actually search there. It has its roots in Ludibrium Games’ Blackmarch module, Ironwood Gorge, by Eric Jones. The Bleak Tower from the module serves as last session’s introductory adventure.
  8. The adventure Devil of Murder Cliffs, (Casey Christofferson, Frog God Games) is mashed up with both the Bleak Tower and RHoD, because it fits the general gist and has some great NPCs.
  9. Owing to the last three points a good deal of RHoD’s western geography is dropped or bent, and the timeline accelerates.
  10. I am using the 5e conversion guide by Daniel C Pryor, but ignoring it when I feel like it. This session’s hobgoblins had regular hp but could all multiattack, for example.

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