Posted by : David Guyll March 10, 2011
With all that out of the way, here's what happened last Tuesday.
I mentioned in my week four report that I somehow overlooked the ending of Chapter 1. For some reason, I thought it was the start of encounter five, and was kicking myself because I was afraid that those players were going to show up next week (this week?) with naught but a recap to catch them up to speed. Thankfully, I got most of my group again (glee), which allowed me to wrap up those perspective-putting scenes. To summarize: the ghost of an adventurer from a long-disbanded (and dead) company shows up wanting to visit his wife, but cannot cross the ritual boundary that Splintershield & Co. created to, well, keep undead out.
Since a sizable warband was just recently clamoring at their proverbial gate, no one was going to entertain the possibility that this was a friendly ghost--especially not after he threatened to kill everyone inside if they didn't send Splintershield out. The players promised that they'd keep the grave safe, which pissed him off, but not nearly as much as when they offered to chuck her remains outside. This exchange didn't last long, with the ghost leaving on the ominous note that while they'd managed to keep him out, that they won't have such as easy time with the Phantom Brigade.
Fast-forward six months, and things have been going pretty well for everyone. No ghost armies, or really ghosts of any sort knocking on their mystical barriers. I asked the party what their characters had been doing since then, and got some typical answers; scout's been scouting, wizard's been helping out Faldyra to try and get into that tower, rogue's been robbing, you know the drill. The guy playing a warpriest made sure to mention that he had kept the grave of Vladistone's wife safe from desecration, going so far as to build a church near the graveyard dedicated to the Raven Queen. I'll need to throw him a boon next week for that.
Things take a turn for the worse when everyone meets at the tavern at the end of the day. One of the hunters talks about how a deer--seemingly rabid--attacked him, and the scout had noticed lots of animal corpses strewn throughout the forest, covered in strange, crystalline growths. None of them feature any sort of wound, and the only thing that the warpriest and mage could determine was that they were the cause of death, and they seem to be inherently magical in nature (but don't radiate magic). When asked if any of the people in Inverness displayed any such signs, I told them no...and then Splintershield showed up.
He made a beeline straight for them, and brought them to the gate, where they had six bodies lined up, each bearing the strange growths. All but one are dead, and the last one manages to sputter out a few words mentioning other loggers, the river, and drinking the water. After he expires, the party heads out with Splintershield in tow (against everyone's protest). They wander through the woods, heading to the lake where the logging team was supposed to be, and run across five of them. Obviously, they have the growths, and the heroes decide to capture them instead of killing them, stating that all of their attacks will be non-lethal.
Due to their combined successes of Stealth, Nature, and Perception used to find them, I allow a surprise round, which they make good use of by almost taking one down, and severely wounding two others in the process. At this point, I'm glad I didn't reduce the encounter. For the following rounds, the scout tries to make sure he can hit two things at any given time, the thief chucks daggers (combined with tactical trick), and both the warpriest and Splintershield maneuver about clubbing the hell out of whatever's closest. The nifty thing bout the plagued loggers was that when hit with energy, they got resistance against it for the rest of the encounter. Thankfully, the mage had fire, lightning, and cold spells, so it was mostly a manner of mixing things up.
Combat went very quick and smoothly, and they trussed up all the loggers for their return to Inverness, when both Splintershield and the warpriest sensed a foul presence. Whatever was the source of this plague, it was close by. At Splintershield's request, they bundled up the unconscious loggers and headed out to find whatever it was.
The highlights of this week's session were the social-role playing bits. It helps to connect them with the town and some of the major NPCs, and I really like the NPC block format that they used. I don't recall if it was in past seasons, but I hope they continue to use it going forward. It's a simple, effective way to call out personality traits. I'm having a lot more fun with this season, and look forward to running the next one if work, school, and personal life allow.