Sunday, March 29, 2015

DF Game, Session 59, Cold Fens 2

March 29th, 2015
Weather: Cold, but clear.

Characters (in Swampsedge): (approximate net point total)

Asher Crest-Fallen, human holy warrior (270 points)
     Koric, human guard (~70 points)
     Orrie, human guard (~70 points)
El Murik, dwarven cleric (254 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (250 points)
Hannibal the Flammable, human wizard (254 points)
Rahtnar the Vegan, dwarven martial artist (254 points)

Still in town (Stericksburg or Swampsedge):

Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (265 points)
Bjorn Felmanson, human barbarian (250 points)
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (395 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (372 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Vryce, human knight (468 points)

We started with the group assembled in the "town" of Swampsedge, east of Stericksburg along the Silver River, where it disgorges into the Cold Fens, in the County Eorna. Further east of the Cold Fens - which stretch a couple hundred miles or so - is the troll-plagued city of Molotov. We added a pair of new PCs - Gerry the Necromancer and Galoob, who'd heard rumors of hot naked watery murder nymphs and had to come see for himself (he's got Lecherousness with a self-control roll of "Why would I roll a self-control roll?")

The group gathered rumors, including one about an old lizard man civilization centered on the Cold Fens that men destroyed centuries ago, rumors of swamp cows (which they decided meant hippos), that the swamp isn't so deep that you couldn't walk if you didn't mind wading, and to usual warnings about leaping leeches. Also, that you can't kill watery murder nymphs because they are made of water.

Hannibal also found those seashells were from nowhere near here - very old, and way out of place this far from a warm sea.

They purchased a lot more rations (the least anyone took was 6 days worth) and headed out using skiffs borrowed from the people whose skiffs they recovered last time.

They headed out, following the route OCW showed they last time, but not taking him this time. They made good progress, since they now had slightly faster boats, two skilled boatmen, and two people with Survival (Swampland) to support each other. So fresh water wasn't an issue (it's general not - it's not a fetid swamp), food was stocked up, and the boats moved pretty easily. Good rolls ensured few encounters, and a lot less stinging insects. They did see the usual bats and normal sized snakes and swimming rats, and fog shrouded large sections of the mangrove-like trees that tangle the waterways here.

One the second day, near dusk, they heard poling-like splashes and voices speaking Goblinese. So Galoob yelled to them, "Stay away, we're dangerous people here." Pretty much, that's what happened. They hushed, and the noises ceased. The PCs quietly poled away and found a good spot to camp, choosing Comfort and Concealment as their two camp location perks. But the critters the voices belong to figured out too closely where the PCs must be, and stalked them. The PCs had their skiffs tied side by side in a sheltered spot near a tangled "shore" of mud and roots and earth. They heard movement on foot and boat noises, so they split up - half moved "inland" to the edge of the trees, half stayed on the boats.

They quickly found they were being oh-so-slowly pinchered by hobgoblins. Ten came overland, and then a raft with five more came into view. Those on the raft had one in the back poling, two with crossbows mid-raft, and two crouching with shields in front.

A fight broke out when the infravision-having hobgoblins started to shoot at the PCs and advance. Rahtnar rushed out at them, and Hannibal used Rain of Fire to light drop flaming rain down on the battlefield ("As the Good God intended!") as Galoob moved to try to secure a flank (aka, hide while sneaking) and Rahtnar tossed an axe and then ran into melee. Gerry tossed a Skull Missile in here, too, nailing a crossbow-toting hobgoblin.

On the other side, El Murik used Sunbolt to zap incoming hobgoblins, who kept shooting at him with eerie accuracy (they kept rolling 7s, every time they fired at him) which led us to surmise that the Crossbow Bolt Guild has a thing against dwarves. Or at least El Murik. Asher waited behind the boats chest-deep in the water, while Korric and Orrie hunkered down waiting for melee. Much sniping went back and forth, with Al inflicting some injury. The raft was followed by a second, and they came into mid-range and then stayed there, sniping away as their shield bearers blocked for reloading crossbowmen. That was okay until Hannibal showed up and thew an ineffective Fireball and then used Rain of Fire on the rafts. That and some good hits by El and Gerry (who kept up a solid rain of Skull Missiles, thanks to Great Haste, and despite a critical failure leading to a skull biting his hand) kept them off balance until Hannibal set one raft alight with a 5d Explosive Fireball. The other escaped, but not unscathed.

They counted corpses and figured they trashed one raft and killed 14 hobgoblins (one of the ones from the landside attack never did turn up). They got a few weapons and some silver and copper as loot, and turned two hobgoblins that weren't decapitated or had their legs broken by Rahtnar into zombies.

After that, they headed to the temple. They reached it at nightfall, and chose to rest until morning. They did, worrying at the especially thick and active fog and twisted and nasty vegetation near the temple.

In the morning, they decided to scout around the island for another way in. Long story short, they moved in, dodged the watery nymphs (and took a pot-shot at one with a Sunbolt, and it dodged), and checked the trap door. The altar stone had been moved off, and broken with hammer blows into pieces too small to usefully block the entrance. (They decided it was impossible to do this from below, but I pointed out it was merely less-easy to do move it from below.)

Then they sent Galoob to climb up the back walls of the open-air temple. He did - he fell once, hurting his arm, but they healed him and sent him back up. He spent a good 90 minutes working his way a quarter mile in and up, over deeply tangled roots of twisted, leafless trees covered with dark, dead-looking but moist moss. And the rats. Lots of rats, who chittered and glared at him and seemed to follow him and cut off his retreat.

He finally made it to the highest point he could find and climbed a tree out of the mist. He saw the island trailed off to the south, even more tangled, and was steeply sided. No sign of another entrance. He headed back. It took much less time to get back, but the rats stalked him the whole way. Or maybe it was just his imagination. He came down via rope they'd tossed up to him earlier, and then later he was sent back up to collect some sticks for a fire and bring down the rope.

They made plans - either sit up on top and wait for the bandits to come out (since there was no other place to spot them from, they realized), or sit up on top and send a zombie to tap on the door and see if anyone came out another entrance to investigate. In the end, they decided to just attack the place, since all of the "find another way" or "wait for the bandits to raid again" plans required a lot more rations, time, and resources then they had. So they decided to move in and attack. They set a fire, used it to summon a fire elemental, and rested until they were ready. They plunked a coin in and it rattled down and the trap door opened.

This time, the room at the bottom of the stairs was empty - no table or chairs or wine. The double doors opened easily, and it was dark within. They sent their fire elemental ahead by "herself" (the mini is clearly female) until it illuminated a row of swordsmen back by archers. Hannibal told it to attack. It went with that, since Hannibal promised it flammable people to burn. Out so far ahead, though, it lasted only a few scant turns of sword-swings and arrows. It did stall the bandits for a few turns, though, and let the zombies go rushing in, followed by a Great Hasted Rahtnar. Some miscommunication kept El Murik from throwing a Sunbolt (everyone kept obscuring his line of visition) but Hannibal got off a fireball on the leader of the archers after Rahtnar unfortunately merely nicked the man's arm with an axe throw.

The rest of the group moved in a little slowly - all keeping centered or to the left. Eventually, as they kept tossing lightstones, they revealed the spearmen and halberdiers from last time off to the right, just as they came running in (Yay for silencing spells, at least yay for the bandits). And as Asher and then Gerry passed one of the doors, out stepped the plate-armored guy who attacked them while flying last time. He did All-Out Attack (Long) against the totally unsuspecting Gerry and run him through the vitals, dropping him immediately unconscious. Asher turned, and Koric stepped up and smacked the man in the body with the pick-head of his halberd, injuring him badly.

Meanwhile Rahtnar was carving a path through the swordsmen, one at a time, by crippling their feet. The zombies kept fighting, but one went down and then clambered to its feet only to be cut down once more. Hannibal used smoke to block the charging spearmen and halberdiers. Most of them made their resistance rolls vs. choking and ran right through, but one got hung up in the smoke and others had to veer around. He dealt with that by backing up quickly and trying to drop another smoke next to the first - but it failed. Pressed, he fell back into the entrance room and put a 2-area Fire Cloud (at max power, 5 damage/second) across that.

Meanwhile a small brawl was going on between the two NPC henchmen, the swordsman, and Asher. The swordsman slashed down Korric, but El Murik healed him and got him up. Without his halbered (still stuck in, and annoying the swordsman) he was forced to draw his knife. As he did, the spearman (driven away from Hannibal by his cloud spell) engaged them from behind. His buddy Orrie kept stabbing away at the swordsman, so he could retain his defenses. But in the end a solid hit put him down, leaving Asher backed by El Murik facing the swordsman and spearmen.

Two spearmen who'd gotten past the cloud found trouble - one is trying to hit Hannibal, who is good defensively with his staff, and the other ran through the cloud only to have a hidden Galoob smash an alchemist's fire directly on him and then stab him, too. He's doing the stop-drop-roll thing to little avail.

Situation? Archers retreating to shoot more, most of the swordsmen down with crippled feet, both zombies down (one was finally hacked apart by the halberdiers). Gerry is down, and unfortunately hurt by an attempted healing spell (but not dying, although he needed to make a death check). Korric and Orrie are down, one out. Asher is cut off. El Murik is facing a number of spearmen. Rahtnar is far away from help, and while he's good, he's down to his last turn of Great Haste and he's in danger of getting surrounded and shot in the back with arrows if he turns to make space. And the wizard is somewhere . . .

It was getting too late for me to stay - honestly, I needed to end an hour earlier - so I gave the players a choice. I'd stick around and run a few turns of "try to break out and flee as best we can" or we'd stop right on the spot if the intent was "fight until we win or die." After a brief discussion they decided on the latter.

So that's where we left it.

 photo Battle of the Cold Fens 001s_zpsyy4oxiub.jpg
(As always, click to make it bigger)


I'm waffling on what to do next time - either allow new arrivals to show up as reinforcements (through Old Crazy William, they have access to another raft, and with OCW and Bjorn two guys with Boating), or finish the fight and then have people pull back to town or meet incoming reinforcements. So, three options. #3 would be the most consistent with how we do things. #1 would be easy and fun. #2 would be easier, but a little less fun. So I'm leaning towards #3, with the caveat that we treat this all as one big session for XP purposes. It's not totally implausible, and like I said, it could be a lot of fun. It's not like this big brawl is close to over.

Annoyingly, the five-minutes-to-write-up hobgoblin fight took about 1 hour 45 minutes or so to game out. I deliberately left it off the map so I could use broad distances and rough locations and keep it going, but my players didn't like that much. Without more than vague info from me, they built a map, set up dice as figures, placed their own guys, and made decisions based on distances down to the yard for spell and missile fire. So it took way, way, way longer than any random encounter should have. That's a good reason why we ended in a fight, and ended late - this little nothing brawl took a long time. I need to talk it over with everyone and see what I can do to speed it up. I have two ideas, myself - going back to 1-2-3-next person even in confusing fights off the map, and using Action-style range bands. The former is hard to do when people have legitimate questions, and the second will hurt wizards a bit, but the fight took way too long and I think part of it was people fretting over exactly which hobgoblin was how far from which guy. Generally we've run fights quickly, but maybe with the spread out party no one was in the mood for quick and wanted accurate. Which is fair, but it was a lopsided fight that served mostly to potentially consume or add resources, and the game would have been better served if it had gone more quickly.

Another part of it might have been all of the low-cost-spell sniping. Hannibal did the most with his two Rain spells, and then a big explosive fireball. A quicker switch to high-damage explosive spells might have sped it along.

I'm not sure why my players are so enamored of "cautiously hang back while we send out precious summoned resources out unsupported" followed by "spread out and attack!" but it's in full view in this combat. It's why the otherwise hard to kill Diffuse fire elemental went down so far - damage caps at 2, but when you're alone and taking 3-4 hits a second, that adds up fast. I think they were worried about archers from the dark again, which is fair, but they have a guy with Missile Shield, so that might have been a better move. The elemental would have been lethal hell if it could have been fighting in close supported by the zombies and the other melee fighters. At least I think so.

Rahtnar purchased Weapon Bond, which we haven't seen used in this campaign until now. He bought it once each for both of his matched throwing axes. He also learned shield, because he's a martial artist in scale, with a shield, who uses his twin axes one at a time.

Yes, Skull Missile is a new spell. No, you can't see it yet. Yes, I'll try to publish it at some point.

Hobgoblins make good zombies. I forgot to have the spells to do that rolled at -5, though, for their magic resistance. Bleh. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, but I hate forgetting.


  1. "They sent their fire elemental ahead by "herself" (the mini is clearly female)"

    Fire tits?

    1. The group is way ahead of you on jokes about Bernie and uses for Resist Fire.

  2. I am again disappointed by the kill record for these so-called "Murder Nymphs." Not a single murder so far. Where did they go to murder-college anyway?

    Have you considered asking for your money back and using it to hire some giant dragonfly nymphs instead?

    1. They're self taught, and easily avoided if you're willing to use fire magic to suppress them while you run into the dungeon.

    2. Oooooh - AMATEUR Murder Nymphs. Explains a lot.

      1. "Amateur Murder Nymphs" sounds like a half decent band.
      2. "Professional Murder Nymphs" are doable enough in DF Vanilla, what with the Nymph race and the Ninja template. However, that might be more than most PCs could handle.
      2.a. A troop of three Nymph Ninja professional killers modeled after Charlie's Angels would be wrong. Just sayin.

    3. They'd be more effective if they were clustered together. That there is a way to thread through them, and suppress them with lots of fire spells, is why they haven't killed anyone. But they're lurking there, making for all sorts of fun decisions when the PCs don't have the resources to do that.

    4. In case it isn't entirely clear, I'm being silly. I just like the name of "Watery Murder Nymphs" and am running with it.

    5. Oh, I know. It's totally clear. But I also love the idea of serious watery murder nymphs.

      That the PCs can blithely ignore them from lack of an idea of what to do about them makes me really amused. :)

  3. Maybe it's just the writeups, but is this particular adventure just harder than the ones in Felltower? I seem to see a lot more PC injury, and the entire thing reads like one hair's-breadth escape after another. Did the party just get used to Vryce being the cuisinart of doom? Are you throwing more combined-arms tactics against a party that wants to spread out and fight 1-1? I remember that was nearly our undoing in a few of Nate's games .. . .

    1. It's much harder than Keep on the Borderlands, which is how the original group of 250s started. And it's a tough go to fight organized foes waiting in good order. But to some extent I think they got used to nearly-invulnerable death-dealing Vryce, combined with a tendency to clump up for buffs and then spread out and fight, chasing current-turn opportunities to deal damage.

      They only have two front line fighters in the group, and only one showed up this session, and he's way out on front of everyone else. Doing well, all things considered, but he's isolated and can't help or be helped at the moment.

      So I'd sum up as Harder Adventure - No Vryce - Spreading Out = real danger even from folks they heavily outgun one-on-one.


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