Dungeon Fantasy Nordlond #13: “Knights Rush In…”

by mshrm

This month, we managed to get nearly the whole gang together… and in light of the party’s expectation of a hard fight this session, Blixa’s player, who could not attend, extended “assistant puppeteer” rights to The Kid’s player. This meant that we had all the PCs in the same place at the same time, for the first time in a long while!

Last session, I expressed some frustration at the technology, and a longing to return to physical maps and counters. Due to that frustration, since then, I’ve dedicated some time to changing the technology. We’ve abandoned Roll20, and switched over to FoundryVTT, using Chris Normand’s excellent system implementation, self-hosted. It was a good time for it, since the party was returning to a map they had already seen, one that was already prepared in Roll20. If the FoundryVTT version of the map was a failure, we could easily fall back to the old solution. As it happened, though, it turned out quite well! I hope to dig in to this subject further in the future, but all the tech is in service of the game, so first, here’s the synopsis of the session itself…

Spoiler Warning: The campaign (beginning here) is set in Nordlond, Gaming Ballistic‘s Norse-themed campaign setting. This session began as an encounter from Forest’s End pulled from its original context.

Who’s Who

PCs

  • Blixa, Half-elf Barbarian. Crushing it… with a warhammer.
  • Esen, Human Mentalist. Crushing it… with his mind.
  • Ilmarë “Ray” Kem, Elf Cleric. Rebuking it… with the power of love.
  • The Kid, Nymph Bard. Singing it… back into the grave.
  • Orvynth the Clanless, Dragon-Blooded Knight. Crushing it… with a shield bash.
  • Slingshot, Human Scout. Blinding it… with an arrow from thirty paces.

Henchmen

  • Ganthas Half-Man, Halfling Slinger. Quick to anger.
  • Ragna Bjarndottir, Human Brute. Her love for you is like a truck…

What Happened

After their great success last session, our heroes were feeling pretty good about their situation. They disposed of their rich loot, and most made some improvements to their gear, particularly armor. Even so, most members of the party had a substantial pile of coin stashed away. Orvynth, on the other hand, had to borrow from the joint party fund to finance their new epic plate, and ended up with barely enough cash to cover their stay at the inn.

They had left the redcap’s lair after defeating Ynfalchiawn, chasing off Elunad, and rescuing a bunch of hostages, including Ylsa, the person they had been trying to rescue in the first place. They hadn’t explored the whole place, particularly the walled-off passage reputed to be haunted. They also hadn’t killed the redcap, even though they had spotted it. So, they decided that they had to go back and finish the job.

Anticipating a hard fight, our heroes went looking for henchmen to accompany them, offering higher than average wages, and a week-long contract for what was hoped to be a day-long expedition. They got two volunteers for little more than the asking. Ganthas Half-Man was a Neveri halfling, dressed in furs and new to town; in only a few short weeks, he had already garnered a reputation for being touchy and fierce. Ragna Bjarndottir was a local warrior and known berserker. Our heroes approved, and welcomed both.

They also took the time to pay their respects to the gods. Ray had recently achieved a milestone: if she used all the energy in her power item and reduced herself to exhaustion, she could cast a second-level Bless. She spent a day, blessing the party members (but not the henchmen) one-by-one. In between, she recovered with hot tea, tasty finger foods, and foot rubs from her growing circle of Nordvorn admirers.

They had hiked to the location last time, but with their newfound wealth, several of the party had purchased mounts. Shouldn’t they ride out in style, this time? And wouldn’t they need someone to watch over the horses? They tried to find volunteers, but the only inquirer bowed out after learning exactly where they were headed. (Ragna and Ganthas hadn’t asked.) So, they decided to hike it again.

There had been discussion, earlier, about picking up some nicer gear for delving, particularly siege stones and anti-magic countermeasures. As it happened, though, they forgot to actually make that trip to the shop.

After a week of shopping, henchman interviews, and prep, they decided they were as ready as they were going to be. Retracing their steps took little effort, and so after a few hours of hiking, they arrived at the narrow cleft in the rock that led to the redcap’s foul lair. Ray cast a full-power Continual Light spell on Orvynth’s shield, and a torch-level spell on Ragna’s shield. As is their practice, they rested and had a light meal, recovering their Fatigue before entering the cave.

Once inside, Ray cast Seeker, hoping to locate the redcap, even if it was lurking around invisibly. When it came time to name the target, though, she got the names mixed up and asked for “Ynfalchiawn”, and nobody caught the error. Of course, the spell claimed that Ynfalchiawn, being dead, was nowhere. Concerned and not really sure how to interpret this, the party carried on.

Inside, they advanced cautiously through areas they had seen before, but found the place apparently abandoned. Last time, the wildmen’s barbaric kitchen had sported an oversized iron cauldron over a fire pit. Now, the pit remained, but someone had gone to the great effort of removing the cauldron. Trash and debris remained, but all the better pieces of furniture were gone. Nevertheless, they were careful to check every door, for fear of having some enemy sneak around behind them.

Our heroes made their way to the “crossroads” cavern, where several doors led in different directions, and one passage had been boarded up and painted with an ominous red “X”. As before, the floor was littered with trash that the wildmen had thrown out over the years, with paths, kicked clear, winding about the room. They checked the redcap’s mockery of a throne room, where they had battled Ynfalchiawn, finding it, too, bare.

They moved to the next door to the left. They hadn’t previously explored it, but their interrogation of the vargr led them to believe that it had been a sleeping chamber for the redcap’s band of cannibal wildmen. They tried to door, finding it suspiciously locked. Despite lack of training, they managed to pick the lock and threw open the door.

On the threshold: Blixa and Orvynth on the front rank, and The Kid standing well back

… and came face-to-face with a band of armed and battle-ready wildmen bearing stone clubs, and one leering troll. “It’s time to rock and roll!” the troll roared. Then it roared again, in a different pitch, as Slingshot put an arrow into its eye.

Neither side was surprised, and so battle was joined. Blixa and Orvynth forced their way into the room, killing and maiming the front line of foes. The troll fell back, seeking cover, but not before flinging something at the doorway, where it burst, revealing itself to have been a hornet’s nest! Angry hornets poured out, with swarms moving both into the room to attack the warriors, and out of the room to threaten the bulk of the party.

Just then, the redcap made its move. As they had expected, it attempted to strike from invisibility and gain the advantage of surprise. But this time, forewarned and expecting it, Ray’s keen elf ears detected the fae’s approach. She whirled and Commanded the redcap to drop its weapon. Then, the redcap’s real tactical error revealed itself, when first, the hirelings moved up and badly wounded it, and then, Esen blasted it into oblivion with his psychokinetic lash.

Even with that victory, things looked precarious. Then, the warriors realized that neither one was really threatened by any amount of mundane hornet stings: both Orvynth’s reptilian scales and Blixa’s weather-toughened barbarian hide provide armor that insects can’t penetrate. So, while the party outside took a moment to swat their swarm to death, the two fighters turned their complete attention to the gang of wildmen, doing terrible damage.

As soon as a gap appeared, Slingshot darted through into the room, harassing the half-blind troll with arrows. The troll tried to charge Slingshot in a desperate attempt to stop the continual pokey-pokey, but the archer was able to reduce it to unconsciousness, at least briefly, before it could cover the distance. One wildman tried to avenge the fallen troll, only for Slingshot to stab it to death with a hand-held arrow. The other wildmen broke, routed, and were mown down accordingly.

Victorious but tired, our heroes stacked the bodies to one side and took advantage of the wildmen’s fires to sit and take a rest. First, they searched the room, finding two containers: a wooden chest and an iron strongbox. Inside the unlocked wooden chest, they found some loot of some small value. An extremely fancy boomerang that gathered some brief admiration, a horn that The Kid took ownership of on the grounds that it was a musical instrument and therefore bard business, some mundane armor, and a smattering of coin.

The strongbox, however, was locked. Furthermore, as Slingshot examined it, he realized it was also trapped.

Once again, the party felt the pain of lacking a dedicated thief. Working from default and using a spare set of lockpicks, they were able to unlock the strongbox. Disarming the trap, however, stumped them. They didn’t have the appropriate tools for the job, and no one felt that they had the proper combination of “enough skill to eat the penalties” and “enough HP to eat the cost of failure”. In the end, they pushed the box to one side, crowded up against the far wall, and had Esen open the box with his mind.

Esen glared at the box, the box opened, and a fountain of fire erupted! It had been rigged with a flask of alchemist’s fire. Once the blaze died down, they checked to see what had survived. They found some charred but edible elven rations, which they shared out and munched as they rested. They also recovered several lockpicks and a sizeable amount of coin, but were unable to salvage a badly-damaged scroll case and whatever fragile documents it had contained. The paper had been burnt to ash in the fire.

Still, it was coin that they hadn’t had in their pouch that morning. Feeling cheerful, our heroes rested until they felt restored. Then, they returned to the garbage-strewn crossroads cavern and turned their attention to the supposedly-haunted, walled-off passage.

To get better access to the crude barrier, they started sweeping trash out of the way. As soon as they started this, several rats of remarkable largeness burst out, hissing! Our heroes responded by stomping their feet, rattling their sabers, and shouting battle cries. Orvynth smashed the biggest rat in the face with their shield. That was enough for the rats; badly intimidated, they fled.

The party was able to clear a path to the barrier and examine it at close range without further incident. They noted a draft coming through the cracks in the crude wooden wall, bearing a dry, unsettling smell. The wall seemed to have been built with more haste than good design. It was the work of minutes to dismantle it enough to allow passage.

Our heroes advanced cautiously through a tight, low passage that opened out into a larger, domed cavern. As they approached, they could see that the floor of the cavern was strewn with dry bones. Just as Orvynth, in the lead, stepped into the cavern, a gang of skeletons armed with axes and swords charged from the darkness!

They came at the party in eerie silence, their fleshly jaws open in unheard battle cries. They met the party’s warriors, as Orvynth stepped forward to give Blixa room to join the line. The Kid struck up a dirge, reminding the lead skeletons of their funerals, throwing them off their game and weakening the power of their blows.

Slingshot moved nimbly up, dashing through a gap in the skeleton’s line and gaining access to the middle of the room. There, he was targeted by skeletal archers stationed around the room, but he was able to avoid their attacks and strike back. From his new vantage point, he was able to see through an exit on the far side of the chamber, leading to another chamber of similar size. There, he saw a chest, sparkling with a dim light in the darkness.

“A chest!” he exclaimed.

“Like a treasure chest?” the others called.

“Exactly like a treasure chest!”

Then he heard an low, evil laugh coming from the other room, and caught a quick glimpse of a dark figure as it passed through the faint light of the chest, from darkness to darkness.

Back at the entrance, our heroes pushed their way forward. Blixa and Esen, in particular, were the end of many skeletal warriors, as their brittle bones didn’t stand up well to brutal crushing attacks. These kills were quickly replaced, as they saw piles of loose bones on the floor gathering themselves together and rising as new skeletal warriors.

“This might not be as easy as we thought,” Orvynth observed.

One of the skeletons got a lucky hit on Ragna, sorely wounding her and incidentally driving her berzerk. She immediately returned the favor, crushing its skull and stomping its rib cage beneath her boots as she charged forward, looking for more victims.

The dark figure finally made an appearance in the first chamber, where the whole party could get a look at it. It was more-or-less humanoid, made of churning wisps of darkness, with glowing eyes and clawed fingers. It laughed again and laid its eyes upon Orvynth, who felt the horrible sensation of having one’s life force drained away.

With a wild shout, Orvynth put forth a nigh-superhuman effort, charging across the entire room to lay in to the mocking spirit with Lögfræðingur, the Law Giver, the legendary broadsword that the party had recovered from the ruins of Logiheimli. The ghostly being’s laughter was cut short, as it learned of the Law Giver’s power to affect even insubstantial creatures. Badly wounded, it withdrew through the cave wall.

Through all of this, Ray had been moving up, intending to turn the undead with her faith. For best effect, she needed to get close to the front line, since the turning effect would radiate from her, and once she activated it, she would need to concentrate to maintain it, reducing her speed. To begin with, she had been hampered by the tight confines of the entrance passage. Then, she had fallen behind as the conflict’s center of gravity shifted deeper into the chamber. Finally, though, she made it into the room and raised her holy symbol.

The skeletons were immediately cowed. They fled from the first chamber back into the second. One skeleton who had been knocked prone after having its leg crippled did its best, crawling slowly away from the cleric as its comrades stepped over it in their haste to escape. The party pursued, taking out stragglers as they went. Essentially, Ray’s faith cleared the first chamber entirely. Some of the archers fled to the far side of the room to get distance to mount a counter-attack, but the skeletal warriors mostly bunched up near the entrance to the second chamber, not quite holding it.

Orvynth displayed another burst of speed, charging into the loose crowd of skeletons. Just as they reached the end of their movement, they stepped into the second chamber… where they could suddenly see the two groups of draugr lurking on either side. “Uh-oh,” they muttered, then shouted back to the others “I require assistance!”

The ghostly presence was visible on the far side of the chamber. It again engaged its unholy gaze, draining life from Orvynth and seeming to draw sustenance from it. The draugr engaged the dragon-blooded, whose blessing evaporated as it turned a critical hit into a regular hit. Reduced to 2 HP, Orvynth reeled away from the door, fumbling for a healing potion. Blixa was just in time to fill the gap thus opened, and stepped up to hold their ground against the mass of draugr and skeletons.

The rest of the party moved up to engage. Seeing that the conflict was again retreating faster than she could advance, Ray dropped her concentration and sprinted forward, apparently wagering that should could get into position and start turning again before the first effect wears off.

At the entrance, the skeletons turned to back up their draug comrades, and Blixa felt the cold eyes of the spirit upon him, draining his essence to make its own….

And that’s where we decided to call it for the night. To be continued!

Experience

The standard award for each member of the group was 5 points. They won a big fight, and put down a named boss.

Cool Point: +1 point to Orvynth, for heroically charging into the heart of the fray, repeatedly, in a manner appropriate to a true Knight.

Booby Point: None. Everyone felt really good about their performance, as a party.