Red Hand of Doom one-shot: Mercenary Gold!

The level six and seven heroes for this session

Luth Starag, fighter/Battle Master, duelist style; Luth is a strapping 6′ sporting luxuriant dark whiskers. He has learned a little cunning over the years.
Dany Sacreddust, cleric/Life Domain; Dany is slim but powerful, with classic Teulon blonde good looks.
Grimefoot, druid/Spores circle; Grime is just… weird. He bears a spear and shield for battle and talks to his little darlings that encrust his scrawny frame.
Churdo Murdo, paladin/Oath of Vengeance, duelist style; Murdo’s massive teeth, jaw, and brow ridge are evidence of orcish ancestry. He is very impressive, almost regal in bearing. His skin is a deep tan, and he wears his black hair tied back.

Mercenaries for Brindol

“Now that we’ve all introduced ourselves, I’ll hand over to my nephew to explain the quest,” Deillyr of the Six Blades states. Eyebrows rise here and there: Deillyr is an older human woman, and the tartan-cloaked carrot-top beside her is most definitely a dwarf.

“Thank’ee aunt: ma name’s Sam Samepace – got the moniker as I c’n keep up wi’ you longshanks! An’ I call ‘er auntie and she calls me nevvy – it’s a godparent thing – ah ye dinna come tae hear all this… the mission!

“Lord Jarmaath ‘as bin bargaining fer Hammerfast Holds tae help in th’ war – on’y turns oot, a strong company o’ mercenaries named th’ Shinin’ Axe has formed an’ is fer hire. Th’ holds other than that voted tae defend themsel’ agin all comers. Many’s the long day ah bin racin’ back an forth…

“So here’s the matter: Lord Jarmaath sent a wagon and four sturdy guards tae pay Cap’n Helmbreaker! But word is that enemy scavengers and foragers are up aboot Dauth way – and like tae intercept th’ wagon! Quick as ye may, git up th’ road an’ shepherd th’ wagon th’ last leg tae Hammerfast!

“As fer reward, ye’ve most all bin given consideration: Luth, a knighthood; Dany, rank in the Brindol temple; Murdo, a knight-inquisitor; and ye, ye skinny weirdo, ah dinna ken!”

“Hee hehe,” Grime titters, “a little plot where my spores can grow…”

“I think we can arrange that,” Deillyr agrees, and after a few moments of thought, all there agree!

Samepace draws forth a letter, hands it over. “This is yer authority, a twin tae the one the four guards have wi’ them. May The One ride wi’ ye!”

The spy at the trail-fork

It is day two on the road, after a hard ride to Prosser and a short night’s sleep there. The road from Prosser to Dauth is well founded, but not more than one wagon’s width in most places. The heroes ride thus: Luth in the van, Grimefoot and Dany together, Murdo as rearguard.

A fork in the trail can be seen ahead. Right, it dwindles to a mere bridle trail that leads to some steading. Left lies the main way to Dauth. Six hours until nightfall.

Luth’s horse’s gait changes: skittish sidling and shying. He scans the road and verge keenly! Yes, too many hiding places for ambushers. Signaling back, he guides his mount onto the flower-sprinkled meadow.

Realizing the chances of being trapped are high, a goblin scout hidden about seventy feet forward mounts its worg steed and swings away onto the trail to Dauth.

Behind Luth, Dany has already dismounted. Now, she runs up the road and sends a Guiding Bolt after the rider! But in vain – either distance or poor aim saves the goblin and it is gone.

“We should ride fast,” Luth judges, but he is outvoted three to one. Caution seems better advised to the squishier pair, and Murdo backs them.

A Fateful Dauth eve

In the taproom of the Tired Giant, the village council meets to discuss what may be done about the crisis at hand. Innkeeper Galadan Ryethresher has the chair, as usual. The others on the council are Sister Esmeralda (Galadan’s daughter); Evelyn the senior weaver; Vitspur, whose family has the richest grain-fields; and Martin, owner of the stud bull. Barkeep Julbea watches with jaundiced eye and keeps everyone topped up.

Then the noise of horses clattering into the stableyard. Armored tread. A broad-shouldered, handsome, be-whiskered and trail-dirty man enters, longsword at hip. Makes his way to the bar. As he rests, a more definite entity enters. The council draws a collective breath: she is a cleric of the One True Faith!

As introductions begin, a mighty-jawed inquisitor and a weird-smelling older guy join the first pair. Galadan glances at his daughter and other like-minded councilors: surely these heroes are divinely sent!

The Interlopers

“We are here to meet with four Brindol guards,” Luth explains. “We’re here to make sure their wagon makes it safely onward.”

“We buried what was left of them, out in the cemetery,” Galadan states bluntly.

Interlopers from the horde arrived, seeming to know what they were looking for. Two giants (ettins, as it turns out) bashed the guards to death and broke the wagon apart. There’s a goblin worg-rider that acted as go-between, demanding food and drink from the village. He watched carefully to make sure the provisions weren’t jinxed. The whole gang of them are camped up in the ruined keep above Dauth, and it’s only a matter of time before they demand more supplies or even daughters!

“How many worg-riding goblins?”

Five or six, and two ettins.

“Any way in other than the gate?”

“I used to play around the ruin when I was a lad,” Martin volunteers…

Grimefoot becomes a fly-through scout

Peering up at the old square keep, the heroes can see that a watchfire or some such burns in the ward. Now, how to scout? At first, Murdo doffs his armor and prepares to set out. Having watched all that process, Grime giggles:

“Hee… hehe… I can become a cat, or a bat.”

“Why didn’t you mention that earlier?”

“You didn’t ask <snicker>”

Murdo is a mountain of patience and Luth and Dany help him back into his armor as a wee bat flits up and makes a fly-through:

The cleansing of the keep

With their advantage of height, Luth and Murdo are able to run and vault over the rough timber barricade, then draw swords and begin hacking!

Goblin defenders are commanded by a goblin boss. His tactics are to use the worgs as shock troops while his minions shoot into melee. But both tanks are well armored [AC18] and the worgs fail on their favorite bite-trip move. Luth’s Riposte maneuver pays off! Soon one worg limps out of combat and two are dead. Grime clambers in, using Shillelagh to boost his spear.

Only then do the ettins make their appearance!

Two huge creatures, each uglier than the last, stumble wearily, belching, down from the inner ward. Dany, peering over, activates Spiritual Weapon – a mace – and tries an attack on the goblin boss. He is merely scratched. Irritated, Dany tries Guiding Bolt and misses. Murdo has two worgs on him: Smiting time! He chooses to use his Channel Divinity and a Bonus Action to move Hunter’s Mark. Another worg falls dead! He swings on the next, but without Hunter’s Mark, and it is sadly wounded.

Luth uses Second Wind and finds that a mushroom-tasting healing wind surrounds him as well. He can see the boss directing goblin activity. But chooses to clear Murdo. He back-swings on the wounded worg, twice, and it dies. “You and me, Murdo!”

Four goblins, a goblin boss, and two ettins remain. The boss and three goblins take cover behind the boss’ worg and use bows. Luth takes a boss arrow. The earth erupts under the clump of goblins and worg: the three luckless goblins die. “That’s what I used to use to till the earth!” giggles Grime. The light of the bonfire dims, but Luth’s sword provides plenty of light. Grime advances.

“He ain’t worth eating” – ettin head

“Shurrup! I like mushrooms” – ettin head

The ettin survives its DC15 CON SV and is uninfected. Grime is struck once only, by an axe.

“Ya not doin’ a very good job with that morninstar” – ettin head

“Shurrup! It’s a genuine weapon attested by treatises!” – ettin head

The other ettin advances on Murdo and Luth and seems to reach a decision.

“Don’t attack the pretty one, I wants ta keep his head as a trophy”

Murdo takes 20 piercing but is still on his feet.

Dany swings her Spiritual Weapon mace on the ettin attacking Murdo, Misses. Clambers over the barricade. Hands Grime some healing word.

The worg turns in surprise as his boss slips away. Finds that it can’t follow through the crack in the wall. It and one severely wounded worg slink away into the interior. The heroes are alone with two ettins. Murdo moves Hunter’s Mark to the nearest ettin and heals himself and is topped up by the last of Grime’s mushroom flavor heal. Luth swings at his ettin with Distracting Strike. The massive creature squeals.

“Told ya we orta stay back an’ throw goblins!” – ettin head

“Look, I’m th’ boss o these goblins and a boss leads from the front!” – ettin head

“Ya obviously haven’t discovered management theory…” – ettin head

Grime spears the ettin attacking Murdo and infects it too! “You be great mushroom compost, look at those muscles, they gonna love you” giggles the druid. The ettin turns on Grime!

“I likes mushrooms… but more n that, I likes human. Are you human or what?” – ettin head

“Don’t stop to ask, just squash ‘im and decide later over soup” – ettin head

“Why don’t we find out what you are?” – Grimefoot

“I’m me I reckon. I think therefore I am” – ettin head

“That’s just a solecism, stupid” – ettin head

The ettins – despite the bickering – continue to the attack and seeing it is about to attack him again Murdo argues that he is better looking than Luth! It agrees and misses Luth and takes a Riposte. The ettin attacking Grime misses and as Grime dances about, spores shake off and infect the wound it has further. Dany uses Spiritual Weapon to batter the heads discussing which tank is prettier! She casts Spirit Guardians and a celestial throng begins whittling the ettins down. It looks to Murdo that with a couple of major Smites he can drop one: and with a flourish of a crit, thrusting in and pulling down with his sword he rips its groin apart!

Luth turns on the remaining ettin, clambering slowly over bodies, and using Goading Attack! The creature roars with rage!

“Ya killed ma buddy, pretty boy! I’m a-gonna mush you!”

Grime sees it is weakened: “ooh, my little wormies love meat…” and from the fungus on his body, insects fly out and eat the ettin from the inside. Grime dribbles and cackles “mmm, yummy!”

Dany waits, smirking. The ettin crumples under the angelic beings in her aura.

Victory!

Loot: other than the three locked coffers of coin and the key to them, there is only one vaguely valuable piece of loot.

The heroes make a party Persuasion check to the town council and with two terrible checks and two great checks gain begrudging help with transport. It’s not so much the weight of the coin as the hefty iron coffers that require transport.

Brindol or Nimon Gap?

On arrival at Hammerfast they hand Captain Helmbreaker the three coffers and key. Now, where away?

Party vote: march to Nimon Gap!

DM Note

This one-shot is adapted from the Red Hand of Doom encounter of the same name, to make it less an encounter and more an adventure. I also left the option of where the dwarf mercs will go up to the heroes, because my version of RHOD does not assume that the entire vale is left at the mercy of the horde while all defenders pull back to Brindol.

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