March 19, 2011

Red Hand of Doom - Session #2 (February 1st 2010)


The trials of our heroes Desmo, Asterion, Father Hagerty, Magnus, and Ashgrim as they get their first taste of a Goblinoid beat-down.
Please refer to this post for an overview of the encounters, as well as a general description of the game mechanics of the NPCs.
Catch Phrase of the Night: “Shimmy”

The session started out with some thunder, as my first two words to everyone once they all got in were “Roll Initiative!” The first real encounter of the original adventure, now we were actually getting into some action with a well-planned Hobgoblin ambush. The ambush itself, despite being designed as a Level 7 (N+3) encounter, was surprisingly easy for the heroes to handle. The terrain and terrain powers were fairly bland in this one, with the collapsing building never even coming into play. I opted to use the fairly open dirt road poster map of the original adventure as a battlemat. Spread out and with the enemies’ tactics fairly straight-forward and obvious, the PCs cut these guys to ribbons.
Afterwards, the group continued on their way to the village of Drellin’s Ferry. There, they spent quite a bit of time conversing with local townsfolk. They befriended the druidic circle outside of town, discovered that there was a cunning ranger (Jorr) living in his hermit cottage outside of town, and bought several ritual scrolls and potions from Sertieren the Wise. Kelin Shadowbanks immediately connected with Ashgrim, but the relationship went out the window when the burglar stole a few loose coins from the pockets of Ashgrim. The PCs are extremely risk-averse, and will almost never lose a known quantity (gold coins) for the chance at an unknown reward (Kellin’s use in combat). The druidic leader, the elf maiden Avarthel, agreed to travel with the heroes on their quest. Magnus befriended a Dwarven smith, Delora Zann, and commissioned a new, masterwork blade to be forged. Since my campaign uses inherent enhancement bonuses and no common or uncommon magic items, I handled this mechanically by creating a boon that gave the brutal 1 property to Magnus’ fullblade. Unfortunately for him, the Red Hand will be storming in soon, and there might not have enough time to have the blade complete. The group had heard about Captain Soranna, and decided to ignore her. They then received the impossible-to-complete “Kill the Goblins” quest from Speaker Wiston.
The group then set out into the Witchwood forest, and received a map of it courtesy of their new travelling companion, Avarthel. They were ambushed again by the Red Hand, although this time it was by a “easy” to defeat patrol of wolf riders. This fight (at Level 3) was, in fact, more difficult than the previous fight (at Level 7). The combat took place on a wooded  hillside, with a steep slope that favored the goblins. The PCs were bewildered by the one-way difficult terrain, and with the wolves’ excellent speed, were split apart. Ashgrim killed off a goblin rider, and attempted to calm down a vicious wolf to use as a pet. Mechanically, I handled this on the fly by treating it as a Level 2 Complexity 1 Skill Challenge, with Nature and Diplomacy used to calm it down, and Athletics to hold onto the reins of the bucking wolf. In the end, he succeeded, but was out of the fight for almost the entire encounter. Asterion did his best to get in the way of as many wolves as he could, but this fight really ended up as a maneuverability contest, with the wolves escaping his grasp just too easily. Desmo got rocked, repeatedly, by the wolves’ savage bites and dropped. Level N-1 Encounter. Dropped. After finally defeating the goblins, the group set out with two mounts now: Desmo’s horse, and Ashgrim’s wolf.
In hindsight…
+ The ambush encounter should be a little more visceral, a little more cunning, and a little more brutal. The goal of the encounter is to try and draw the ire and interest of the party towards these goblins, to make sure they know that this isn’t just some random encounter, and that these enemies are worthy of their attention. I’m not advocating increasing the XP of the encounter, but I do think replacing some creatures with something that can get up in the PCs’ faces very quickly, like a Lurker or a Skirmisher, would be helpful.
+ Sticking to the calendar gives me a few good tricks to keep around. By dangling the stick of lost time, I can match that with the carrot of various rewards (such as the new, brutal dwarven fullblade) to manipulate the tension and pacing in the adventure. This could have been exploited a bit more.
+ I think the soft defenses of the Wizard isn’t meshing well with the player’s high-octane style. Maybe he’ll wise up? More likely he’ll die.

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