January 11th, 2015
Weather: Cold, sunny.
Characters: (approximate net point total)
Al Murik, dwarven cleric (267 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (389 points)*
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Vryce, human knight (468 points)
Gort of the Shining Force, dwarf adventurer (unknown point total, NPC)
Antonios, Demitrios, Leonatios of Meepos, human spearmen (unknown point totals, NPCs)
Father Keef, human initiate (125 points, NPC)
Sssra Ssys'lak, snakeman warrior (unknown points, NPC)
Korric and Orrie, human guards (70 points, NPC)
Jon Greenbow, human archer (?? points, NPC)
Deadeye Slim, human slinger (125 points, NPC)
Orcish Bob human(?) squire (125 points, NPC)
Melchior the Malevolent and his zombie, human necromancer (130 points, NPC)
6 Assorted archers and crossbowmen, human (?? points, NPC)
Still in town:
Asher Crest-Fallen, human holy warrior (250 points)
Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (265 points)
Mark Strawngmussel, human laborer (62 points, NPC)
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (372 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)
We started in Stericksburg.
The plan was, raid the castle the orcs are holding, kill all of them that could be found, trash the place, and get into the dungeon and kill more orcs if possible. At least, as I understood it.
Because of this goal, and a series of extraordinary rolls by Vryce's player, many NPCs were available. They took them all, including a snakeman from Morthand, Sssra Ssys'lak, Melchior and his zombie (who ran home after running off a session or so ago), Orcish Bob, Gort, and more. They came for their usual - Gort for tips, most of the lesser NPCsd for 30 sp for the day, the better ones twice that, and some for shares. Sssra asked for 400 sp or a share, whichever was more, with the 400 in advance. Dryst groaned and asked for a discount since they were raiding orcs. Sssra replied that this was his discount rate. Since he seemed skilled with his twin swords and bow and pretty well armored, they took him up on it.
Vryce also decided to contact the cone-hatted cultists. He rolled a 4, so I figured that was good enough for a peaceful contact. Then, how about their reaction? Vryce rolled a 16 for the reaction roll, +1 for his reputation, -4 for having killed a bunch of them before, -2 for Overconfidence, for a net 11, which still isn't bad. So they offered 5 sp per orc left ear, and someone (they decided Raggi) would have to submit to a Truthsayer to verify their origin. They weren't interested in coming along.
The PCs got their rumors and and stocked up on potions, spellstones, healing stones, etc. and headed out. They marked a rally point halfway up the mountain, and then headed to the dragon's cave mouth. They didn't enter, but instead geared up and sent up a Wizard Eye to spy on the castle. They saw that the orcs had closed off all of the exits, covered the roof of the central structure with tenting and wood, filled the well, and otherwise had fortified the place. They had a few guards in some of the towers, but otherwise no watchers or patrols.
So the plan was, send up an Invisible Dryst, Levitating, to the wall. Use Shape Stone to dig a tunnel through the wall, covered by a Simple Illusion of the intact wall, and then sneak as many people in as possible and storm the orcs.
So that's what they started to do.
It started well. Dryst picked the closest section they could charge and went to work, despite the -10 penalty from Magic Resistance on the walls and its fill. But they realized the enormity of the task. The entire thickness of the wall had been painted or mixed with anti-magical material, so it was all -10 and 6x cost for being worked stone. Next, the wall was 9 yards thick (they'd assumed it was more like 10-12 feet, despite the map in their hands, since no one had marked the scale on it.) Also, the tunnel needed to be 6' high, so it was going to take 9 castings to get through with heavily penalized rolls.
Despite this, Dryst got to work. He got through 5 iterations of casting, resting, moving stone, etc. before, suddenly, he had to resist a Will-based spell. Without hesitation he put on Invisibility (which he'd dropped to do his work) and Flight (at the faster level) and blew out of the hole. He just missed two "orc ninja" - orcs with twin long knives and blackened armor - and flew back to the group. The orcs punctured and removed the illusion.
As the PCs rested and tried to decide what to do - realized a sneak attack was now out of the question - the orcs went to work. More orcs climbed up the wall, then down, and started moving the loose stone Dryst had shaped back into the hole. They worked furiously, covered by archers above.
After about 40 minutes, they scurried back up ropes and then down inside (all witnessed by the overhead Wizard Eye), leaving four archers on the wall despite the glaring sunlight. They took the ropes with them inside, so attackers couldn't fly up the wall and seize the ropes (the orcs and time having removed all other ways up and down.)
The PCs decided a direct attack was still in order. So they buffed up Vryce with all sorts of magic, Strength and Agility potions (he rolled a 4 for ST and 6 for DX< giving him ST 24 and DX 20), put a Flight spell on him (for Move 12) and made him Invisible and sent him in to hold a bridgehead. They also used Create Object to make a bunch of rope, since they hadn't brought enough.
Vryce flew up, and as he left the rest of the group started to move across the snow - slow going, at 2 movement points/hex and 150 yards of uneven terrain to cover, plus a steady slope at the end. Vryce reached the orcs quickly, and executed the first one. He moved down the line on the other three, ignoring their arrows (thanks to Missile Shield) and killing them with massively deceptive attacks at the end of his long steps. All four died quickly.
Vryce saw some wooden structuring built into the ruined castle and some tarps and tenting below filling the gaps (vs. snow, rain, and sunlight, FYI). So he tossed an alchemist's fire onto it and lit it all up. Alchemist's fire being what it is, it made short work of the oiled tarps and wet wood below where oil and flame would have done relatively little. It got a fire going that kept going for a while.
Meanwhile, two arrows came out of the gatehouse's nearer ajoining tower.
(The place they're attacking, with the damaged parts fixed with wooden walls filled with shaped stone rubble mixed with more wood, to annoy Shape Stone users. Click to see a bigger version. Original is from JG's Castle Book II)
Vryce flew to the door there, tried to kick it in twice and failed, and then started to hack it down with Gram. It held up well enough, but even a heavy ironbound door can't take too much 5d+23 attacks (Gram, plus Forced Entry @ stat+2) and started to buckle. But Vryce decided he was vulnerable and turned to check his six - and saw an incoming arrow just miss him. An orc with an axe and shield and one with a bow were below by the fire, so he flew down and engaged them. A couple seconds of combat put them down - and he had to resist a Will-based spell from an unseen foe, and he returned to the door. He finished cracking it down and flew in and then up to the next level, into the waiting axe of an orc. Claaaaang! It bounced off his armor. He finished flying up and chopped that orc up, and then dodged another who tried to shield rush him into the ladder hole. The orc hit the wall and then Gram took him apart. Vryce flew down.
That was all of the resistance on the ground level. The rest of the PCs arrived, and Vryce flew got and got the ropes and secured them. Then, he helped ferry up the poor climbers as the others climbed up at combat speed (1 ft/second), and then reversed the process except now with the archers and crossbowmen covering the ruins below.
They stormed into the ruins and cleared the rooms, finding evidence the orcs used them but no habitation or garrison.
Then they checked the trap door entrance in the ruined tower and Vryce was zapped by black fire (1 HP damage, 6 FP). So they headed to the main entrance:
Below, checked via Dark Vision and Wizard Eye, were fully manned pillboxes and three spear-armed orcs apiece near the opened portcullises. After some discussion, they decided they couldn't crack the main entrance - no bridge, no ladder across, and no way to open the soon-to-be-barred metal doors. So Vryce flew in and attacked the orcs on the right. They died quickly, and the ones to the left fled, with the portcullis dropping behind them. Both metal doors were shut and barred. Vryce stopped, under arrow fire, and took their left ears (even off one who was simply horribly wounded, but not dead - he complained before he passed out) and flew back. Missile Shield is sweet.
They went back to the well - nope, full to the surface with wood, stone, dirt, and other crud (yes, this includes orc waste and probably corpse bits.) So the only way in was the trap door.
In the meantime, Melchior created a zombie, Raggi killed the wounded orcs and took ears, and the archers were set up to ensure no orcs stormed out of the main entrance.
Since it was essentially an armored disk with a plug in the middle, they figured out where it probably ended, and dug a < shaped hole in the ground at some excessive mana cost. Once they did, they checked it with a wizard eye. It was safe, so Vryce climbed down. The trap door was sealed with a layer of solid shaped stone. Dryst came down and tried to shape it, but a spell hit him and Vryce. Dryst used Wild Talent to cast Boost Health at +5, which was good, because both he and Vryce made their HT-based resistance rolls by 6, exactly enough to succeed. A Counterspell wiped out his Shape Stone. He tried again and it worked, and they opened the hatch and let in the rest of the party (minus Raggi and a bunch of NPCs guarding the surface.)
They explored around the lower level, finding someone had moved some loose rock into the twinned secret doors to the room they'd once fought some cultists in. They decided it could be trapped and used Detect Magic to check, and sure enough, there was magic. A second check showed it was indefinite, and they figured it was a Link. It was, to a Counterspell that frizzled the first Shape Stone cast by Dryst. They got through in the end, though, and checked the room but avoided its trap door down. They explored a little, and linked up a couple of maps by finding a big room and a "magic testing area" they'd found previously, and then finding someone had shaped shut the way from this area to the orc-held areas. Shaped over, and then worked with tools to increase the cost to re-shape it.
With that, and it getting late (in game and out of game), they decided to return to the surface. They did so. There, using some wood and flint and steel, they lit the remaining wood and cloth on fire and tore down as much of the structure as they could to inconvenience the orcs. Then, Dryst finished clearing the un-shaped stone in his tunnel through the wall so as to make it cheaper next time (shaped stone is cheaper than worked stone). Then they collected their NPCs, climbed back to the outside of the fort, and trudged home with some ears and weaponry as loot.
How often do my players use Defensive Attack? So rarely Vryce's player said this session, "Can I trade some damage for better defenses?" Yes, he could, using a rule we're had in our games since at least 2005, probably earlier. 4d+13 on a DA would be 4d+9 and +1 Parry. On the other hand, I bet they all know the rules for Committed Attack by heart. You'd think with so much damage on tap DA would be used more often, just to trade excessive damage for excessive defenses. But "I can get an extra step and attack one yard further away with Committed Attack" they just know, and use often enough, but ultimately no one feels secure trading away damage I guess.
The PCs spent a lot of resources but the only successful attack against Vryce did no damage, so they didn't suffer any injury.
Little loot this time. 13 orc ears, some spears, swords, axes, and bows. I think it was 121 sp each for the PCs and share-claiming NPCs. Sssra was wise to ask for either/or, and he did no work to get it.
Speaking of Sssra, apparently snakemen can climb. I didn't consider it, but what the heck, No Legs (Slithers) could just mean he wraps his lower body around the rope and more slowly arms it up the rope.
Returning to the room where they fought the cultists was interesting. The guy who won that fight for the PCs - Galen - is run by a player currently away from the game while he's recovering from some medical issues. He's sorely missed. Not just because Galen's bow would be decisive in any ranged encounter, but also because Galen's player fit right into the group perfectly, as if he'd been playing with us for years. Which he has been, just not as many as it seems.
The attempt to attack the orcs was interesting, and probably necessary, but the inability to follow up the defeat of the orcs on the surface meant it was not decisive. Vryce's player pointed out that this is where the forced downtime of "one day of game time equals one day of game time" hurts them - they can't garrison the surface and then just keep the orcs pinned in. They ended up paying a lot - at least 2000 sp + in potions, paut, etc. and close to 1000 sp in wages - for a fraction of that in loot, and didn't have the ability to deal a hard blow to the orcs once they cracked the surface.
What offensive spell was on those Link spells? What spells were cast on Dryst and Vryce by (presumably) the orcs? I only reveal spells by effect, or if Identify Spell is cast. So, I won't tell.
All in all, not a great session for the PCs. I gave them 3 xp each, erring on the side of generosity, and Vryce took home 2. MVP was Dryst, for no reason except resources expended. The orcs were mildly hurt, but the time and cost it took to get inside plus the inability to explore much meant that the expedition was expensive and inconclusive. Next time they hope to raid overland against the orc-held ravine to the north, in the hopes of dealing a serious blow to the orcs - I think, anyway. There was talking "hitting them where it hurts" so if so expect some overland travel (presumably, they'll find some NPC barbarians and/or scouts to help them) and a raid on the orcs. I'll see if I can't squeeze the time in to finish the wilderness map.