Saturday, February 12, 2011
2) Boarding House
3) Enforcer's Post
4) Woolly Gator Pit
7) Tavern/Gambling House
8) Punishment Post
11) Fish House
12) Butcher/Smokehouse/Hide Trader
14) "Old Witch"
16) Weapons Shoppe
The dots in and around the harbor area are pilings for boats to moor to when visiting town. A series of elevated walkways and bridges connects the buildings and keeps them high and dry above the River Phol and the swampy riverbank.
The village has a lot of possibilities and I expect that it may become a frequent launching point/destination for adventures in campaigns to come--maybe even in my current one...
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Special thanks go to he who managed to get me a copy of the battle map from Night’s Dark Terror. I have the module in a second-hand, incomplete form and it was missing. I would have gladly paid the $5.00-$10.00 for a PDF of the module and just printed out the maps from that, enriching the coffers of Hasbro a little, but they still remain convinced that hoarding the PDFs of their products makes the best business sense. I think I’ll go buy a Pathfinder PDF on general principle.
As the party crossed the courtyard they could see a three-story stone tower attached to the hall that peered down at them with crenellated eyes. To their left, the settlement’s barn was now an inferno and the palisade that connected it to the tower and gatehouse was a sheet of flame. From out of the smoke came more high-pitched cries and a half-dozen goblins charged through the flames and smoke to cut off the party’s run to safety. Green-skinned and clad in crimson from head to foot, the chittering humanoids were thirty for blood and battle.
While the man and woman continued their run towards the hall’s main door, the rest of the party angled to meet their attackers. Lyrax fired the first of what would be many arrows that night, taking down two of the attackers with arrows through the throat. Raijek’s crossbow dropped a third, and Baragkus, Grumble, and Mars Markus made fast work of the remaining three. With their assailants dead, the rest of the party reached the hall and the warriors held a quick debate over whether they should hold their ground or let themselves be bottled up in the (possibly flammable) hall. Grumble, Mars, Baragkus, and Fisk decided to hold the line while Lyrax, Raijek, Korlack, and Kaldar headed inside to take position atop the stone tower that kept watch overhead.
As the courtyard warriors prepared to dispatch the next wave of goblins, they heard more screaming coming from the smoke around them. The sooty clouds parted briefly to reveal ten wolf-riding goblins racing their way. Then, the slavering fangs and serrated blades of their enemies were upon them.
After Grumble was bitten and stabbed, and Mars Markus took a serious wound, the fighters determined this was one melee they had little chance of winning. Their own attacks had only slightly injured the massive wolves and the goblins’ spears were all too sharp. Mars and Fisk broke and ran through the hall door while Grumble and Baragkus covered their retreat. The spider cleric and hired fighter reached the hall just as the panicked inhabitants of the settlement were closing it, stout locking bar held at the ready. A cry of warning was shouted and the dwarf and fighting man in the yard retreated with haste, taking more wounds as they turned to run. Despite these new injuries, they dove into the hall just before the door was sealed and barred against the invaders.
Inside the rough timber hall, the party made the acquaintances of “Fort” Wolf’s Head’s residents: Pidar, the patriarch of the clan, his wife, Darya, his 10 winters-old son, Matthias, and their aging manservant, Steg. Also in attendance was the weeping, recently widowed, Masha, and her infant daughter. The young couple they had met at the gatehouse was Tars, Pidar’s eldest son, and his wife, Allana. Pidar’s mother, Kumuk and her granddaughter, Irina, were also in the settlement, but were currently cloistered in their room in the tower above.
Pidar explained that two tribes of goblins had attacked the settlement at dusk, striking from out of the woods without warning. There seemed to be two distinct tribes: the orange-skinned wolf riders and the green-skinned, crimson-clad goblins. This attack was one of several which had occurred along the frontier over the last two days. Pidar was hopeful that with the party’s help, the settlement could hold out until dawn, at which time it was likely that the sun-hating goblins would slink back to their lairs. With this information in their possession, the party began making preparations for the long night ahead of them.
Mars originally suggested that everyone retreat to the tower for fear of the goblins torching the hall. But the tower would be a perfect death trap in the goblins broke in so fortifying the hall was undertaken as the next best option. Tables and chairs where broken up to barricade three of the main building’s entrances while the armory was opened and stripped of arrows. Lyrax and Raijek ascended to the tower’s roof to keep an eye on the goblins. Once there, they discovered that full night had fallen and the wan light from the crescent moon mixed with the smoke pouring from the now-charred remains of the barn, gatehouse, and palisade provided limited visibility. In the woods to the north and east they could see a score of small campfires burning, the shadowy bodies of goblins passing in front of these blazes with great frequency. The sound of drumming and chants filled the night air as the goblins prepared for their next attack.
In the hall below, the party hustled the settlement’s non-combatants down to the tower’s secured lower storeroom. The rest of the family was armed with bows and slings, and then stationed about the building to overlook the north and south courtyards. Baragkus dragged the hall’s largest chair to in front of the main door and sat with sword in hand to wait the inevitable attempt to break in. Kaldar and Korlack kept watch from the hall’s second story on the courtyard to the south. Grumble and Mars took up position in the tower armory, but not before learning that Pidar’s mother was a cleric of the Sovereign Flame when she healed the spider priest of his wounds. Fisk prowled the halls, a free safety ready to run where needed.
An hour after dark, those on the tower found themselves under attack by goblin snipers, slingstones smashing against the stone walls and battlements surrounding them. The darkness and cover made missile fire difficult for both sides, but when Grumble’s shortbow finally picked off one of the hidden snipers, the barrage of slingstones fell quiet.
As the night crept closer to midnight, the sound of drums ceased and a stillness filled the air. Then, from out of the gloom came a charge of goblins. Two wolf-riders led a half-score of infantry across the wooden bridge as another ten skulked through the shadows to take up position in the smoking ruin of the barn. As the wolf-riders and their soldiers laid siege to the hall’s kitchen door (which had been barricaded stoutly), the barn-hiding goblins began letting loose a fusillade of slingstones at any visible defender.
Lyrax dropped a pair of flaming brands into the courtyard, which allowed the defenders in the tower and those in the room above the kitchen to see their targets easily. Lit by the flames, the two worg-riders found themselves under concentrated attack by missile fire and they only managed to strike the door a few times before they fell to ground dead. Their underlings’ morale broke upon their deaths and they fled for the bridge that brought them.
Korlack rushed to one window, taking a vicious hit from a slingstone when he revealed himself. With his lack of protective armor, the warlock paused to wonder why it was that the plate-mail clad spider cleric was the one positioned behind an arrowslit while he was put on window detail. Deciding enough was enough; the sorcerer turned and entered the tower, finding shelter with Kumuk and Irina. The matronly cleric took pity on the injured magic-user and used her last curative spell to heal him.
Kaldar, despite seeing what happened when Korlack revealed himself, cautiously worked his way to a window that overlooked the barn below. Conjuring up a magical slumber, the elf took out most of the hiding goblins and the barrage of slingstones dropped off to a patter. Unfortunately, one of these stones struck Allana, knocking the woman senseless.
With most of the goblin slingers asleep, the defenders were able to concentrate their attacks on the few remaining snipers and it wasn’t long before they too fled back into the darkness. Raijek and Fisk went out to quickly dispatch the slumbering goblins.
The party took the opportunity to further shore up their defenses after this attack, plundering iron stock from the settlement’s forge to lay a series of obstacles about the hall. The unconscious Allana was turned over to Kumuk to attend to, and new positions were taken up around the hall. There came a period of anticipation an hour later when the drums again stopped, but they resumed after a half hour’s pause. The goblins were well-versed in psychological warfare.
It was deep into the night, midnight several hours behind them when the next attack came. Grumble, Lyrax, and his dog companion stood on the tower roof, watching the woods around them. Grumble’s bushy ears detected the sound of great leathery wings in the air above, and the dwarf glanced up to see three warm bodies dropping out of the night sky to attack. Within moments, the rooftop trio found themselves under siege by giant vampire bats!
Meanwhile, down in the hall, Kaldar’s keen ears detected the sound of breaking glass. He cautiously crept forward with bow in hand…
Back on the roof, the first bat landed atop Lyrax’s dog, delivering a painful bite and causing the canine to begin twitching and frothing out the mouth before falling motionless. Grumble and Lyrax glanced at each other and mouthed “Poison” as they fought against the flying menaces, now with a heightened sense of fear.
In the corridor below, Kaldar peered around a corner to see two more of the giant bats awkwardly climbing through a broken window. “Crickey!” he cried. “Look at the size of those beauties!” That was enough to draw Baragkus’ attention and the so far unneeded fighter dashed up the stairs to take on these new foes. Unfortunately, Kaldar’s cries also attracted the attention of Darya who had been stationed in the room across from where the bats entered. As she opened the door to see what was amiss, one of the creatures launched itself at her and the two combatants stumbled back into the room out of sight.
Up on the roof, Grumble managed to dispatch one of the bats, but the remaining two put up a stiffer fight. The dwarf took a bite for his efforts, but was able to resist the bat’s paralytic enzymes. Lyrax’s arrows dropped a second bat just as Grumble launched a flurry of axe swings at his own opponent. With a solid “thunk,” the axe met meat and the flying assailants were dispatched completely. In the hall below, Baragkus made short work of the bats with his great sword, but not before Darya had succumbed to the bite of the bat and fell into a deep coma. She too joined the unconscious Allana under Kumuk’s care.
Dawn was fast approaching and the defenders, although tired, found their spirits on the rise. Just another hour or two and victory would be theirs. They were injured, half-delirious with exhaustion, and completely out of spells, but the sun would be their salvation. It was with these thoughts in their heads that the sound of drums stopped one final time.
To the east, Lyrax and Grumble saw a horde of goblins appear at the tree line, a score and a half in all. Great, tall ladders were held in their green hands and they stared with undisguised menace at the unprotected windows along the halls’ eastern flank. With one last chant, the mass of goblin attackers charged out of the woods and headed towards the hall.
Lyrax and Grumble began firing at the charging horde, with the human archer cutting down goblins like a scythe. Arrow after arrow connected to send his targets falling to the ground to be trampled by their comrades. Grumble kept up a steady rain of death as well, and soon found himself to be on the last of his arrows.
Inside the hall, the defenders scrambled to meet the goblin charge. Kaldar and Raijek bravely fought against the first of the goblins to reach the wall while Mars and Fisk raced down the stairs to support them. Korlack, with no spells remaining, grabbed a sling and pouch of stones to join Grumble and Lyrax on the tower. Baragkus remained seated near the main door, suspecting this might be a feint.
As the goblin ladders were thrown up against the walls, the party found themselves locked in one last, desperate melee. Goblins were cut down as they topped the rungs, ladders were pushed away to send their climbers falling to their deaths amongst the horde below, and all the while, Lyrax, Grumble, and Korlack continued to rain destruction down upon the screaming masses. Under their hellish hail, more than half the goblin’s numbers perished within the shadow of the hall’s eastern wall. Grumble unleashed his last arrow before throwing his bow at a goblin’s darting head and then rushed down the stairs to join the melee.
Several of the goblin attackers managed to clamber through an unguarded window and stabbed at the unarmored Raijek while others clashed with the armored form of Mars. Down on the hall’s ground floor, Baragkus finally heard what he had been waiting for—the sound of axes hacking at the main door. Gripping his sword in hand, he took up position next to the barricaded portal, Pidar joining him on the other side. After thirty seconds of hewing away at the valve, the door gave to admit a trio of the largest goblins Baragkus had ever seen, each clad in crimson and led by a battle-axe swinging warlord. The fighting man clashed with the humanoid potentate as Pidar slashed at one of his henchmen. Raijek abandoned the battle upstairs to bolster the defenses at the front door as Grumble arrived from the tower.
Outside, the last of the goblins perished under Lyrax’s arrows and the scattered numbers inside the hall were cut down by Kaldar, Mars, Fisk, Grumble, and Tars. The last goblin stared at the steel wall arrayed before him…and dived out an open window to land on the hard ground below with the sound of snapping bones. Struggling to his feet, he limped away, straining to reach the safety of the forest. Lyrax nocked one last arrow and sent it barreling through the goblin’s chest, dropping him to the muddy ground with one arm still outstretched towards the forest’s gloomy sanctuary.
In the main hall, Baragkus and the goblin leader remained locked in battle. One of the goblin’s bodyguards moved to flank the towering fighter while the other pressed his assault against Pidar. The clan patriarch lost his footing on the blood-streaked planks of the floor…and his goblin opponent ran him through with his blade, dropping the stout frontiersman to the cold, bloody floor, dead. With his host slain, Baragkus went into a rage and started to hack through the goblin king’s defenses. Raijek arrived just in time to stem off the bodyguards’ counteroffensive.
Moment later, the goblin king’s head sailed across the hall, tumbling to a halt in a dusty, forsaken corner of the room; his bodyguards fell dead in the doorway soon after. The defenders were victorious!
As the sun rose above the trees, the party stared wearily about at the destruction surrounding them. This would just be the beginning of their quest to end the hobgoblin threat to the Uncertain Lands.
Recaps will resume in two weeks. See you then!
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
When it comes to having different possibilities available, I’m not ashamed to borrow from published source material. The session’s adventure was just such a case. Perhaps tellingly, the players noted that this game felt different from the rest, largely because part of it was lifted wholesale from a module. Those of you familiar with Night’s Dark Terror will undoubtedly recognize certain events in both this session and the next.
The Society returned to town and began preparations for the next day’s trip upriver. Supplies were purchased, a porter was hired, and an extra fighting man brought into their ranks to help in the upcoming raid. Cleopos the Porter learned that his employer, Grumble, assumed that he possessed some form of superhuman strength as he was gradually laden with more and more supplies until it became nearly impossible for him to move, thus providing a valuable lesson about encumbrance. Luckily, the dwarf took pity on his two-legged pony and redistributed the burden.
In regards to party composition, it was deemed more cost-effective to hire another fighter, a young swordsman named Fisk, than to pay for either the raising of Rondo Fleagle or to use the bloodgem to resurrect him from the grave. Due to certain time limits, this was likely to be the party’s last chance to rescue the slain dwarf’s shade from the grim lands—unless they reconsider using the gem to return him to life. It looks like a trip to the dwarven capitol to return Rondo’s corpse to his familial crypt will indeed be in order.
On the following morning, the party assembled at the river dock to meet Ayvok Sulg, owner and captain of the Otter, a merchant riverboat. Sulg and his crew were hired to take the party upriver to Fort Wolf’s Head, from which they would foray onto Hob’s Hill in search of the Citadel of Iron Might and Furious Devotion. The party was somewhat taken aback by Sulg’s first mate, a towering lizardfolk named Kryhiss, but nevertheless got settled aboard the cramped riverboat. As the last of the provisions were loaded, the Otter cast off and the crew went to work rowing the loaded vessel upriver.
The trip was quiet and pleasant despite the cramped conditions. As the party watched Blackpool fade in the distance, the land became wetter and stands of reeds and bulrushes began to appear. The water took a darker hue, becoming nearly ebony as the wetlands grew around them. Flocks of ducks soared overhead and the occasional twisted and stunted tree could be seen atop a hummock of dry land. The party began to nervously recall the tales of a giant turtle that was preying on boats and Kaldar took the opportunity to acquaint himself with the lizardfolk sailor to see what he could learn. He did gain some knowledge of Kryhiss’ homeland (“Murkmire,” the grey-green first mate said, sweeping a clawed finger across the rush-filled marsh around them) and that there was a turtle of enormous size attacking ships. But the scaly humanoid had a crew to direct and Kaldar wisely left him to his chores.
As night approached, Captain Sulg informed the party that they would be mooring for the night in a small swamp village with the unpleasant-sounding name of Scuttlehole. It was a necessary precaution since most sensible captains avoided traveling on the river after dark. The party had already observed one lumber drive passing them on the River Phol. These massive collections of stripped timber were poled downriver by the woodsmen of the Howling Wilderness, and Sulg had no desire to run into one of these drifting hazards in the dark of night.
Sulg suggested with much emphasis that the party remain onboard when the moored for the night. Scuttlehole was an unpleasant place, a rough swamp town which didn’t welcome unknown faces. In fact, Sulg explained, the local form of justice entailed the magistrate asking who was responsible for any crimes or disturbance. Whoever was implicated by the majority was summarily dragged to the woolly gator pit and tossed in with no trial or appeal.
As the Otter pulled into Scuttlehole’s “harbor” (nothing more than a collection of pilings driven into the riverbed), the adventurers got their first look at the place. Half the community was constructed on raised walkways that rose above both water and swamp. The buildings were green with mildew and moss, and the few trees along the bank were draped with hangman’s moss. A butcher was lethargically chopping the heads off of fish and casting the bodies into the river below, where the water frothed and roiled with blood. A pair of red lanterns dangled from a large two-story structure built over the river, and the laughter and commotion from within left little mystery as to what purpose it served. A few sputtering braziers produced a pungent smoke, keeping the worst of the mosquitoes and biting flies away. The party decided to give the settlement’s dubious accommodations a pass. Kryhiss and two other crewmen did depart on the Otter’s single skiff to visit town, however. The party posted a watch but other than the crewmembers returning around midnight, the evening passed without incident.
The next morning saw the Otter hoisting anchor and heading back upriver. Soon after the boat sailed out of sight of the swamp village, the Murkmire began to dry up and rolling hills and forest became visible along the banks of the river. The boat passed a ford in the river, easily crossing it with its 2’ draft. A walled town with the unsurprising name of Oldford stood on the eastern banks of the river near the crossing. Small children waved at the vessel as she passed while wagons, cattle and drovers paused partially submerged in the river at the ford to allow the boat right of way.
It was late afternoon when the River Phol widened and another lumber drive with its pole-men passed the Otter. Ahead was Snake Island, a long, narrow isle that sat almost 200’ from the eastern bank of the river. As was custom, Sulg turned the craft to pass through the channel that separated the island from shore in order best avoid any more lumber drives headed downriver. As they reached the midpoint of their trip through the channel, the Otter lurched suddenly and stopped, throwing its passengers and crew off-balance as it unexpectedly hit a submerged snag in the river. That obstacle was the least of their worries because a volley of arrows suddenly rained down on the boat from the eastern shore!
Emerging from the woods was a score of raiders. Some were stripped down to loincloths and bore wicked-looking knives in their teeth. Frothing at the mouth and with wild gleams in their eyes, these twelve dove into the river and began swimming towards the motionless boat. Eight more archers continued to rain arrows down on the ship, killing two crew members before the rest took cover amongst the crates and sacks strapped to the deck. The party bravely rose to their feet and began returning fire or to prepare to meet the boarders.
The party’s arrows were concentrated on a chainmail-clad figure who strode amongst the archers, encouraging them and ordering their fire. After thirty seconds of concentrated fire, this figure lay dead on the ground with six arrows piercing his body. The remaining archers looked uncertain for a moment, but continued their attack.
With most of the party’s attention on the archers and closing swimmers, one crewman almost went unnoticed as he rose to his feet and drew a curved dagger from his belt sash. Creeping towards where Baragkus and Kryhiss stood, he prepared to plunge the knife into the lizardman’s scaly back. Only the cry of a comrade alerted the first mate and the fighter to this treachery, allowing Kryhiss to escape the backstab with a mere grazing of the blade. Facing the angry Lizardman and the brawny Baragkus, the sinister sailor decided to throw himself overboard rather than risk their blades. Alas, he was prevented from fleeing by Baragkus and instead turned and ran towards the port side of the boat. As he prepared to dive over the side, Captain Sulg drew his own blade and killed the traitorous dog.
The last of the shoreline archers were laid low by the party, but not before Korlack suffered a grievous wound from one of their yard-long shafts. The magic-user fell into unconsciousness, leaving him defenseless as the mad-eyed swimmers reached the boat’s starboard side and began boarding. Lyrax ran forward to pour a healing elixir down his throat while Kaldar and the recently-hired Fisk stood on the gunwales and started beating back the borders. Closer to the stern, Baragkus, Kryhiss, Raijek, and Mars Markus held started cutting down boarders as the climbed from the water.
The boarders, even in their mad rage, had no hope of winning the day and it wasn’t long before the last of their bloodied bodies splashed over the side of the boat to vanish beneath the river’s surface. The party stood victorious once again.
With the threat gone, the party took to examining the few corpses that remained aboard the Otter. The swimming mad men had nothing but knives and loincloths, but the traitorous sailor was another story. In addition to his well-made blade, a tattoo was discovered on his left forearm. Depicting either a crow or a raven, this piece of body art gave the Society the idea that what they had just battled was a Storm Crow ambush. Knowing that clandestine organization’s alliance with the hobgoblins, if the Crows were behind the attack, it could only be assumed that the hobgoblins knew they were coming. What this might mean to their planned assault remains to be seen.
Captain Sulg and his crew determined that the Otter had struck a series of strategically-placed logs hidden under the river’s surface. With night falling fast, the boat would be forced to wait until daylight to free itself and continue the trip upriver. The party took the opportunity to explore the riverbank and loot the slain ambushers. The chainmail-wearing leader was also found to have a bird tattoo, lending more evidence to their suspicions. In addition to the bodies, a trail was found that led to a small clearing that bore the signs of a recent campfire. Another trail led further north along the river, terminating at the water’s edge where three large canoes were concealed amongst the underbrush. This was obviously the way their attackers had arrived on the scene. And since the Otter move twice as fast as any canoe, their assailants must have been in place before they arrived. This led to some speculation as to what the crewmen who went ashore at Scuttlehole were doing…
The party returned with the canoes to find that Captain Sulg had established a camp on the shore of Snake Island, unloading some of the boat’s cargo to reduce its weight and lessen its draft. The party took the opportunity to explore part of Snake Island, a heavily overgrown and forested isle, but night came before they could venture too far from camp. They returned and spent a pensive but uneventful night on dry land.
The following morning saw the Otter freed and the trip continued upriver after the party stashed one of their newly-discovered canoes on Snake Island “just in case.” After another half day on the river, the Otter finally rounded a bend and the party caught their first glimpse of Hob’s Hill. This forested prominence rose above the western bank of the river, a good mile away from the other shore. The Otter pulled along the eastern bank to tie up to a piling near the shore and allow the Society to debark. Captain Sulg informed them that he’d likely be back this way in three or four days after he had concluded his business at one of the northern lumber camps. Giving the party instructions to follow a trail through the forest beyond the riverbank, he told them they’d reach Fort Wolf’s Head by sundown…if they hurried. With that, the Otter and her crew began to pull away and start upriver again.
The party paused to hide their two remaining canoes at the forest’s edge before heading down the trail. The forest was still, shadowy, and peaceful, and the party made good time along what was obviously a regularly traveled path. As night fell, the party heard the sound of a burbling stream ahead…and something less placid. Faintly, the sound of screams and clashing steel drifted through the still air and the woods to the east suddenly began to glow orange and red. Rushing down the path, the party broke through the trees to emerge in the midst of battle.
On the far side of a narrow river stood a frontier settlement ringed by a palisade of hewn trees and under attack by scores of orange- and green-skinned goblins. The settlement’s northern wall and barn were in flames and desperate defenders fired arrows down at their chanting attackers. From the underbrush around the party, ten goblins dressed in wolf pelts leaped to their feet and hurled spears at the new arrivals. Minor wounds were taken, but Korlack’s sleep spell quickly rendered the goblin attackers inert.The party pushed toward the wooden bridge that crossed the small river and terminated at a gatehouse. From atop the parapet of the wooden barbican came a warning cry. A man dressed in leathers pointed to the south and screamed for the party to get inside the wall. Looking down the riverbank, the party saw a dozen goblins riding the largest wolves they had ever seen. The goblin cavalry was headed their way with murder in their eyes.
The party dashed across the bridge and through the gate that opened to meet them. As a barrage of goblin spears slammed into the wooden walls of the gatehouse, the portal shut behind them, granting the weary travelers a moment of respite.
But it would soon become clear that they faced a long and dangerous night ahead…