Honus's player couldn't make it last session, but he was in town this weekend. No one else could make it, so he ended up going on a solo trek. Not foolish enough to either brave the caves of chaos or the cold mire, he headed out to investigate the massacred merchants and then to hunt down some owlbears.
Keep in mind that I've scaled up the map of the Keep on the Borderlands and changed it significantly. So if details and distances don't match, it's probably because squares became 1/2 mile instead of 100 yards, and I re-routed the road, expanded the swamp, and added or moved encounters.
Saturday, December 4th, 2011
Characters: (approximate net point total)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (260 points)
Honus returned from his last trip to the caves, mourned his lost brother Volos, and headed out camping and fishing like he usually does. After a week and a few days he headed back, only to find he'd missed his friends who already left for the caves.
So Honus bought himself 10 days of rations and headed out at dawn on a brisk day to investigate the massacre. Carefully approaching the site off the trail and with the sun to his side instead of his back, he snuck up on the spot. He found where the attacker - singular - lay in ambush. A humanoid of honusian proportions (Honus is 7' and a lean 285) with cloven hooves, stinking of cattle, and covered with brown cow-like hair had found a dip in the ground almost 30 yards from the trail. It had rushed out, killing the two mercenaries with the merchants before they moved more than a step or two, then the older merchant, and then ran down the fleeing mule and young merchant, killing them one after the other.
The bodies were long gone but not the bloodstains and prints on the rough dirt road, which Honus easily read (Honus criticalled Tracking twice, once cleanly and once due to bonuses.) There were marks from where the mule had been dragged, three copper coins overlooked by looted and the patrol that found them, and a broken knife tip. Honus decided to carefully follow the drag marks and what he decided must be a minotaur. Not the Lord of the Maze, though, as he had been thoroughly killed.
Honus tracked the marks to the edge of the woods. As soon as he entered the woods he found where the mule sat for a couple days, and drag marks off to the side. There he found an owlbear, bent over the dead mule and eating. Honus snuck on it with Stealth and the owlbear (unbeknownst to Honus's player) rolled a freaking 18 on hearing, so it wasn't noticing anything as it tucked in. Honus snuck up to cover 15 yards away, aimed his bow and fired at the vitals (15 skill, +1 AOA (Determined), +3 Acc, +2 aiming, +2 size modifier, -3 vitals, net 18 skill!) and hit but rolled a paltry 4 damage. It was enough to wound the owlbear seriously and send it crashing away through the brush. Honus pursued, but slowly. This cautious approach saved him.
See, owlbears aren't stupid. They aren't smart like men but they are smarter than the average bear. Wounded and angry, the owlbear led Honus on a merry chase. It headed back towards its den, but after a few miles of pursuit it stopped to wait for Honus. He spotted it, half-crouched behind a large fallen tree trunk, between two tight clumps of trees - one uphill and one downhill, near the stump of the fallen tree. He took aim, but suddenly the owlbear reared, roared/hooted, and crashed into the uphill stand's cover. Honus missed (it Dodged). Honus advanced to the log but although he could see the owlbear over it, a short distance away and waiting, he couldn't shoot his longbow over it. So he started to go around the downhill side. The owlbear rushed up and slammed the fallen tree and shoved hard, then turned and ran. A pair of (mated) wolverines, nesting temporarily in it, rushed out at the interloper - Honus! They attacked furiously but were no match for Honus. He got a few cuts from teeth but otherwise was unharmed. He smashed one to death with the Flail of the Gales and then kicked the other one off his foot and over the log. When it ran back he killed it, too. Then he stopped and skinned them. As he finished, he heard humanoids approaching. He hid and watched as three goblins, bearing bows and spears and sticks impaled with foxes, squirrels, muskrats, and more squirrels, stopped at the game trail and muttered in goblin and common about the blood trail they saw (from the owlbear). Honus waited until they left and started in on the pursuit.
He followed the owlbear's trail (blood and paw prints) and found it had crashed off the trail through a bush. He followed, watching the ground carefully - which again paid off. The owlbear had stepped directly across an old, rusted, but functional saw-toothed animal trap - monster size. The owlbear clearly tried to lead him onto it. He avoided it, checking for secondary traps, which was unnecessary but a good idea.
He kept on pursuing, passing up another game trail to follow the blood marks of the owlbear. Suddenly he came over a rise and spotted it, and it charged. He engaged it with shield and morningstar. They duked it out for a few seconds, Honus getting slashed with a claw (and disabling the paw in return) and then bitten with the beak. He pounded the owlbear with his morningstar until it dropped senseless. He quickly cut the arteries around its groin and bled it out, then spent the afternoon cleaning it, cutting out choice bits of meat (heart, paw meat, etc.) and skinning it. He ended up with a the fur and a skull and plenty of meat to eat when darkness began to creep up. So he headed up the trail where more owlbear prints were - and found its cave den.
He lit his helmet lamp and looked in - two baby owlbears, little guys all of 300 pounds or so. Honus tossed some dried meat down, and when one scampered out, he whacked it with his morningstar! The fight was brief - both attacked but he took them in turn and killed them in short order. Then he bled them, skinned them, and camped out. He hung the adult's hide over the "doorway" and lit a fire, and had roast owlbear for dinner. He also looted the place. Amidst remnants of prior meals (aka people) he found a book on wilderness survival, a load of fox furs, some coins, some gems, on a nicely made kilt. He took the lot.
Honus slept in the cave, woken occasionally by the sounds of critters taking bits of his abandoned owlbear kill. In the morning, he breakfasted on more owlbear and headed out, carrying a few hundred pounds of extra stuff! He avoided the game trails, and any real encounters. He had to scare off a bear at one point, and avoid a trapper's fox lines, and found a skinned fox a little later. But in the end he got back to the keep. He disposed of his loot (getting serious coin for his 3 owlbear pelts, actually) and settled in to rest and recover from his wounds.
Fun session, and interesting too. Barbarians are ideally suited to solo wilderness adventures, something no other of the party could do. But even so, I was rolling 2d+lots cutting attacks for that owlbear, and one or two better rolls and Honus would have been owlbear food. His caution helped immensely, and saved him from "extra" damage from the wolverines or bear trap, too. But again the game is set to "lethal" so death was right there waiting for him. Good play and clever uses of his skills, plus a stubborn refusal to stop checking his rear, his flanks, and his visibility, kept him alive.
Plus now the group has some clues about that massacre . . .
Thanks to Jim Ward, who had some of these tactics used by the owlbear in an encounter in the Book of Lairs, and I shamelessly stole them.