Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red, Session Twenty-One

The party having been hit by a fireball, they now found themselves attacked on multiple sides– a massive two-headed troll (which Noruas the Gunslinger fondly remembered from when Hargulka had come to visit the Sootscales) was pushing itself through the tunnel to the party’s left, grunting and roaring his defiance from dual mouths!  Noruas wasted no time in filling the newcomer with bullet holes as she stepped away from the mouth of the cross-tunnel to avoid the next fireball streaming in between the bodies of several other trolls within sight.  Elysia the Ranger’s white wolf, Tyr, was forced to retreat as his fur started to burn, and Gavriil the Arcanist followed behind, administering magical care to the creature.

As Eneko the Bard sent an Ear-Piercing Scream into the two heads of the monstrous troll flanking them, Elysia ducked her head around the corner and fired multiple arrows into the trolls facing them, who until this point had stayed back from the chokepoint.  At the provocation, the trolls moved in– led by a large, stony-skinned rock troll who seemed very unhappy that the party had intruded upon his home.  As it turned out, the rock troll wasn’t very smart, and blocked up the choke point so that none of his fellow trolls could get past and attack.  Even so, the fireballs from the back didn’t stop– another came rushing from the darkness further back, and exploded into the midst of the fray!

These trolls didn’t last long at all, and soon all but the mysterious foe shrouded in darkness were slain.  The shadows shifted, and as the party prepared, he stepped into the light…revealing none other than the troll king himself, Hargulka!  His arrival was met by an immediate salvo from Noruas, which he was barely able to weather.  His response was a mighty set of blows aimed back at her, with two huge swings of his spiked club walloping her upside the head.  With her last vestiges of strength, she was able to fire off one final round into Hargulka, putting an end to the king’s life.  As he bled out on the cave floor, he gasped out his final words:  “No…this cannot be…she said…she said that I would win…but at least…it’s too late….for your city….”

With those foreboding words, the caves grew quiet once more, and the party had little trouble examining the rest of the fortress.  Spoils were collected, treasure counted, and rooms were explored.  With some time still left in the day, the group got together with the rest of their leadership present (Chief Sootscale, Davik Azazael, and Jamandi Aldori) to discuss what to do next.  Gavriil expressed great concern over what was happening back at Elbat Dnuor based upon Hargulka’s last words, and Elysia agreed that they should make all haste back to the capital.  Noruas reminded the group that they still had the Lizardfolk tribe to deal with, and so the plan was made for the party to travel by themselves (for they were much faster than the remaining armies) to the Lizardfolk island in order to pull them properly into line.  The remaining forces were to head back to the capital, led by Jamandi Aldori, with an expected arrival of several days from then.

Negotiations were short and to the point:  The PC’s had King Vesket’s head, and what few old and weak Lizardfolk remained were in no position to argue with the terms the kingdom dictated upon them.  That situation settled, the group made speed for their home, arriving on the morning of the second day after the battle against the trolls.  What they saw…was destruction.  The wall they had built around part of their settlement had been broken down in several places, and as they walked through the town they came across many a shell-shocked citizen staring at the destruction that had been wrought.  Many structures had been damaged in some shape or other, but the worst seemed to have been dealt to the monument to Brigh and the shrine of Nethys, which were both utterly decimated.

Gavriil and Noruas were quick to offer their help in aiding survivors, while Eneko began making his way through his city, offering words of encouragement to those he met on the street, helping to console their losses and bring them new hope.  It did not take long for messengers to find the PC’s and let them know that their Councilor Eleo Massim had set up several relief stations around the town for the citizens, and that she would be able to provide them with an account of events if they would find her in the Silver Knight Inn.  Elysia made her way there immediately, while the rest would find themselves slowly trickling in to see her afterwards.  The Ranger reported on the results of the fight with the trolls, and then got Eleo’s perspective on what happened at the city.

Early that morning, before dawn, a great commotion had been heard along the shores of the Tuskwater lake.  This noise was so fierce and great, the town guard had been sent to investigate…and never came back. Not long afterwards, the creature was upon the town itself; massive, angry, and destructive, it wreaked havoc upon the capital before finally leaving the area about an hour before the PC’s made it into town.  Eleo could not confirm it herself, but had gathered from others that the monster who had attacked was a massive bear-owl-creature!  She also mentioned to Elysia that Arcanus Toklo, the kingdom’s Magister, was busily attempting to divine more information about the creature and the attack in his tower.  Once the entire group heard this news, Noruas went out to the walls to begin looking for ways to track the beast, while the rest of the party met up with the Magister, who was quickly able to summon up a picture of the Owlbear in question, a massive brute of a beast, and give them an idea of the direction it was heading.

With that information, the group was provided with a new direction– south-east, to track down and stop his city-destroying beast!  Tune in next time to see what the fate of the party and their owlbear prey will be….




Painting Mansions of Madness: Streets of Arkham, Diana Stanley

Pure Black 09037 for the cloak and shoes, a mix of Pure Black and Dragon Red 09401 for her dress. I used Harvest Brown 09200 on her hair and the knife handle, Linen White 09061 on the candle, skin of Fair Skin 09047.

I fussed over her dress and ended up using Dragon Red because I thought it tied the mini in nicely with what’s been done so far and because I felt Diana’s taste would run dark, reformed or no.

I used Reikland Fleshshadeon her skin, her hair, the candle and knife hilt.img_20180612_131742


More layers. Grey Liner 09065 highlights on the cloak, the blade is 09053 Honed Steel and the flame Clear Yellow 09095. I opened Casandora Yellow shade for the flame and used Nuln Oil everywhere but her skin and hair– even the candle.

Slightly better shot of her dress and I hit the handle with Dragon Bronze because it was so close to her hair.


The concept art colors aren’t super clear in the lighting depicted. I wish I’d gotten the candle a bit more orange but it’s not terrible.


I’m nearly halfway through this project and still not 100% sure that the techniques I’m using– all the layering and minimal highlighting– are working.

Also still not 100% sure about not doing the eyes.



Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red session twenty

The party, with their four armies, had traveled far enough south that their scouts were able to report back on the position of Hargulka’s forces:  up against a nearby cliff, several encampments were made showing a large grouping of trolls, somewhere around a hundred fifty of them.  A short distance away from the trolls were camped an army of lizardfolk, close to fifty in all.  The scouts reported of some kind of entrance into the cliff a distance up the rock face, with a narrow ledge pathway leading up to it, and a tall watchtower jutting out of the top of the cliff.

With their foreknowledge, the group decided upon a plan of attack:  mobilize just before dawn, when the Lizardfolk would be sluggish from the early morning chill, and attack at the first sign of light when their armies would have no sight disadvantage compared to their opponents.  Sentries posted at Hargulka’s stronghold only had minimal warning to give their forces as they caught glimpse of the PC’s advance units, and soon the camp was a bustle of activity as the monsters were roused and began to organize themselves!  When the party’s own unit of undead breached the clearing, they gazed upon the hastily assembling ranks of Trolls, and saw on the ledge above a large specimen of the species, a golden crown resting atop his head– the Troll king himself, Hargulka!  From his perch he shouted down upon the gathered beings:  “The ascension of the monster kingdom begins this morning!  Forward into battle!”

The trolls charged, organized into two groups; the larger of the groups made for the Seventh Lodovkan Platoon, seeking to tear apart the well-trained soldiering unit; the smaller group dedicated itself to fighting the White Wolf rangers, while the Lizardfolk clashed against the undead and their masters.  The party’s armies retaliated in kind, some of them getting off a volley of arrows before the armies met, and the battle was on!

Though it only lasted about an hour, it was still quite the impressive battle.  Heavy losses were suffered on both sides, but in the end it was the kingdom of Tolemac who came out on top!  The Seventh Lodovkan Platoon and the White Wolves were, tragically, dismantled in the course of victory, though not before managing to take apart the largest army of trolls.  The Sootscale Kobolds, held in reserve in the back for the majority of the battle (under Noruas’ suggestion after Gavriil expressed his concerns that an army with a single hit point might get hopelessly slaughtered), were able to cut down all survivors of the smaller Troll force as they scattered and fled, their morale shot to pieces by the arrows of the White Wolves.  Finally, the Trollsmashers, the PC’s personal undead army, were able to put down the last of the Lizardfolk, ending the mass conflict in their favor.

Even with the terrible casualties taken, there was a glimmer of hope:  both General Azazael and Swordlady Jamandi Aldori were able to escape death amidst their forces, and thus the possibility of long lasting harm to the kingdom was avoided.  As the PC’s gathered themselves together, they reviewed the situation.  Davik Azazael was given charge of organizing the cleanup of the battlefield, and the party made their way up the narrow cliff path towards the interior of Hargulka’s stronghold, ready to put an end to the troll’s machinations.

As the group moved up, they found that the entrance to the cliff interior was actually part of a stone-crafted room, with arrow-slits offering only a small glimpse into the darkened room beyond.  An open doorway, the remains of what used to be a stone door, offered the only route inside to a darkened chamber.  With Eneko’s mind-linking Teamwork feat active, Gavriil embraced his new favorite tactic– turning invisible!  Moving inside, he was able to relay valuable information to the rest of the party; two Trolls and two large, ugly Trollhounds were stationed on either side of the doorway, preparing to pounce upon any unwitting heroes!

Forewarned is forearmed, and thus the group was able to enter in safely, surprising the trolls by firing through the arrow slits and into the monsters’ backsides, and the group made quick work of their foes.  During the fight, Tyr, Elysia’s wolven companion, nearly got smashed by a boulder that rolled itself down a nearby flight of steps into their midst, but thankfully was able to avoid the rock and leap to safety.  Noruas quickly moved up the stairs to check out where the boulder came from, while the rest of the party moved down a second set of stairs further into the building, where they found more trolls and hounds.  With Noruas declaring their back relatively safe for the moment, she rejoined the group as they decided to head into a nearby storeroom, the back wall of which had been long ago torn down to reveal an entrance into a rock passage.  Traveling through the passage they encountered more hounds, and when they got to a split in the path they were able to get a brief glimpse of a gathering of trolls in the chamber to their right.  Though it was difficult, Noruas was able to pinpoint the location of one of them and fired into it, provoking grunts and growls and howls, though the trolls did naught but retreat.

As the party started through the chokepoint towards the retreating trolls, they were met with an odd sight:  A faintly glowing red dot coming from far back in the dark cave, moving towards them…expanding….and suddenly exploding on top of them in a massive fireball!  It seemed they had found a much more formidable foe!






Players, do not read!






Here, have some stats for the various assembled armies!

Of course, half of the PC’s armies are now defunct, but that shouldn’t trouble them overly long– they just eliminated the greatest threat to their kingdom, it may be some time before another cause for large armies arises.  I decided to organize the remaining trolls into the two sized armies I did for a number of reasons, but the greatest was that with the party only bringing four armies to bear, I didn’t feel it was a good idea to have six armies of enemies engaged against them.  With such small armies while their destruction was almost guaranteed within one to two rounds, they’d also likely get off a few good blows, and possibly eliminate all the PC forces even as they were destroyed.  Even though the Medium army of trolls could hit hard and had a ton of HP, I felt reasonably confidant that they would be taken out before they could deal a death blow to more than one army– and indeed I was correct, as they were the main focus of a Ranged round and then set upon by the party’s greatest army, destroyed at the end of the first Melee phase.

The loss of two armies of course was nothing to sneer at, but I was very thankful that the commanders were not killed in the fight– if the worst had happened, it was possible up to three of the kingdom’s NPC leaders could have lost their lives and sent the kingdom into chaos!  This didn’t happen, so all worked out in the end though.

The crawl through Hargulka’s lair is well underway at this point– I changed around the encounters a little bit to bring it up to the challenge level the party is playing at, and so far so good.  I expect next session will see the end of the troll king, and the revelation that his agents had set a massive Owlbear loose upon Elbat Dnuor!  I fully believe that Rivers Run Red will come to a close in the next two sessions– and then I expect we’ll keep quite a bit of downtime before starting up the next adventure, the Varnhold Vanishing.  With the party interested in setting up close diplomatic ties to Varnhold, I want to foster that for a bit before they go off the grid– as well, I want to think up of some kind of contact that would be suitable for Hannis Drelev to have with the PC’s kingdom.  Due to the backstories of both Eneko and Elysia, neither of them enjoy particularly close relations with House Surtova, with Eneko often treating NPC’s in accordance with their beliefs as to who has the rightful rule on the Rostland throne.  I was able to use this suspicion of his to frame the PC’s opinions of their neighbors to the right and left– Drelev supports the Surtovas, while Varn was more neutral in flavor.  Because of this the party has been predisposed to trust Varnhold more than those of Fort Drelev, and I expect this to continue throughout the next two books.

And….that’s about all I’ve got!  Probably no new kingdom turns next session as the party takes care of Hargulka and then the giant owlbear, and I’m looking to slip in a reference to our big bad evil girl from the troll– so we’ll see how it goes!

Painting Mansions of Madness: Streets of Arkham, The Skeletons

After zenithal priming and highlighting I started with thin coats of 09271 Dirty Bone and thinned 09037 Pure Black. My initial idea was the give them grey overcoats, darker vests and pants and black shoes.img_20180608_211514

I darkened the bone with Agrax Earthshade– a bit too dark:/


I lightened it with a dry brush of more Dirty Bone, but things were getting a bit too monochromatic as I layered and the dark. I tried a crimson shade on the vest and liked it.


I still had some 09401 Dragon Red on my palette from the gunmen, so I used that on the jacket and 09061 Linen White on the shirt and cravat. The cravat was sooooo small that I decided not to try to pick it out with color. I also shaded the bones again– Seraphim Sepia this time.img_20180611_200939

After more thin layers and using crimson and black shades on the jacket I picked out watch chain and buttons in 09449 Dragon Bronze and hit the eye sockets with 09078 Surf Aqua.


Then I remembered that I share the concept art too– see how well it matches?


Painting Mansions of Madness: Streets of Arkham, The Hired Guns


Concept art and unmatched figure. The figure has been zenithal primed. The idea is that if the sun were at its zenith the brightest highlights will be on top and the deepest shadows underneath.


I used Army Painter primers and invested in an airbrush which hasn’t come in yet.


Reaper’s Bright Skin 09233 on the face and hands and Pure Black 09037 on the shoes. Took several coats of the Bright Skin– but I thin mercilessly.


See how thin those coats are? Woodland Brown 09162 for the trenchcoat, vest, hat and tie. Oiled Leather 09110 for the pants. Later I decide that the hat and tie should match the pants instead of the coat and vest. I also tried this on the belt but ended up painting the belt black.


Things begin to come together a bit here. I tried Dragon Red 09401 for the underside of the tie and it looked off, so I ended up reddening the entire tie a bit with it. Citadel shades, Agrax Earthshade for the darker browns and Seraphin Sepia for the lighter browns. Until now I’ve just avoided his shirt collar. No shot, but I did some bright skin highlights as well.


Finishing touch time– Linen White 09061 for the collar and Blackened Steel 09205 for the belt buckle, metal bits on the trench coat and the guns. I also used Nuln Oil in here someplace for the guns and shoes. Several coats of Reikland Fleshshade for the flesh– to tone down those highlights.

I used the red in the tie in the hatband as well– it’s half brown anyway. They need their final clearcoat and maybe some eyes– just not sure about that.

Bad lighting alert, but I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.






Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red Session Nineteen

The beaten and bruised party made the trek back to Elbat Dnuor that night, finding the city in an uproar.  Soldiers and guardsmen rushed through the streets in an almost panic, and soon a courier found the leaders and brought them to General Davik Azazeal.  The general reported that survivors from the farm had made their way back to the city a mere hour before the PC’s, alerting the council to the danger that the trolls presented, and Davik was busy rallying the troops to sally forth and face the foe.  He was of course overjoyed to see the return of the kingdom’s rulers, and saddened to hear of the loss of Noruas the Gunslinger.

Though Gavriil the Arcanist made sure to inform Davik that the trolls had been beaten, he nonetheless insisted upon sending out the Seventh Lodovkan Platoon upon the morning to the battlefield, to ensure the defeat of the monsters.  Not giving an argument, the PC’s slept through the rest of the night.  Upon the morning, they informed their council of the short trip they’d be making to Restov to get Noruas Raised, and then left, arriving in the early morning of the fourth day of travel.  Several thousand gold later (approximately the cost of just about everything they’d looted from the Ruined Keep of the Dancing Lady), their Gunslinger stood again before them, immediately brandishing her rifle in a bout of brief confusion!

The trip back to the capital was uneventful, and once the group had returned they had some work to get done.  General Azazael reported that his army was still stationed at the Fangberry Farm, but that they had sent out scouts to track down the trolls and find where they came from.  The scouts had yet to report back, but they estimated that it would not take long before they had more information.  With this in mind, the group decided to set about a week’s worth of downtime activities– Gavriil crafted a Wand of Cat’s Grace, Noruas began making her Mithril armor from the metal smelted down out of her looted statue, Eneko the Bard/Cavalier retrained some more of his abilities, and Elysia the Ranger decided to visit the guildhall of the White Wolves, discussing with them the possibilities of organizing their members into a defensive force for the city.

At the end of this time, General Azazael called the kingdom’s council back into session to discuss matters of state.  First on the roster was a diplomatic envoy sent from Varnhold to their east– Caspar Morgarion, Grand Diplomat for Maegar Varn.  Caspar was sent by Varn in order to help establish proper borders between the two nations– Varnhold had seen Tolemac’s rapid expansion in their direction, and were somewhat concerned as to the PC’s intentions.  Fortunately there was no issue in working out an agreement between the two nations; each left the meeting happy with a border set along the Tors de Levienes mountains and Lake Silverstep.  Next on the table to discuss:  The scouts had come back!

General Azazael gave the scouts report to the council:  The trolls were tracked to the south back to their lair, what looked to be some kind of fortress in the side of a cliff.  Unfortunately the scouts were unable to investigate the fortress, due to the armies of trolls and lizardfolk camped outside.  The scouts stayed long enough to observe two of these armies mobilize in a general northern direction, possibly back towards Tolemac, moving at a slow pace.  The General informed the council that there were approximately four days before they believed the armies of trolls would reach their borders, though where exactly they were headed was not yet determined.

After much discussion, the council came up with a plan:  General Azazael would lead the Seventh Lodovkan Platoon along with a group of White Wolves, commanded by Swordlady Jamandi Aldori, out into Tatzlford to set up a defensive location, at which point they would send out scouts to warn of the approach of any trolls.  Eneko, Noruas, Elysia, and Gavriil would themselves travel just outside of their kingdom borders to the south-west, posting themselves and an army of undead which they controlled through Necromancy– a large number of castings of Lesser Animate Dead for three days straight, coupled with Command Undead to gather those remaining zombies from the hilltop around the Stag Lord’s Fort gave the group a decent force of undead to bear, and when augmented by the PC’s themselves I tweaked some rules to let them act as a single army.  The PC’s sent out scouts as well, and thus both groups were alerted when the trolls were within sight.

For the army stationed in Tatzlford, they happened to be in just the right place, as the trolls were headed for the town.  The undead commanded by the players were forced to relocate on the fly however, as they spotted their foes on the other side of the Tuskwater lake!  Fortunate smiled upon them as they were able to move into position before the trolls reached their kingdom, and the armies engaged in battle.  It was over quickly, the undead tearing the trolls apart with no casualties on their own side, Gavriil’s spells helping to burn the trolls to ash before they could regenerate.  On the other side of the kingdom Jamandi Aldori and Davik Azazael led their armies into combat against the second troll army, and had just as much success– the Seventh Lodovkan Platoon suffered minor losses, but the White Wolves cut through the ranks of monsters with ease, and these trolls too were burned to ash with the alchemist’s fire that the kingdom had outfitted their soldiers with.

The immediate threat contained, the armies regrouped in the capital and decided to press their advantage– south, towards the troll lair!  They paused only long enough to gather reinforcements in the way of warriors sent from the Sootscale Kobolds, led by Chief Sootscale himself, before marching south and preparing for the decimation of Hargulka’s armies.





Players, do not read!






Not a bad session– the story moved along nicely, and I was happy to get a chance to throw in some communication with Varnhold along the way; I’d like to have them establish some kind of relationship with the neighboring kingdom before they disappear and have to be investigated.  The mass combats….I could take them or leave them at this point.  Especially when it is one army on another army, both small like these, I feel too much is left up to chance and die rolls; one of the armies was able to decimate the trolls they faced utterly while in the ranged phase, taking them out in a single roll.  I can only imagine that this problem is mitigated with different opening strategy choices (taking defensive tactics to give a bonus to the army’s AC and a penalty to their offensive rolls) and larger HP.

We’ll see next session how battles between several army units will fare– the PC’s now have the Lodovkan Platoon, the White Wolves, the Sootscale Kobolds, and their own undead unit labeled the Trollsmashers to bring to bear upon Hargulka, who will have some combination of armies that adds up to 150 trolls, as well as a unit of Lizardfolk (Gavriil’s player mentioned briefly that once they finished off the trolls they’d catch the Lizardfolk tribe on their way back to the capital).  It’ll turn out different I’m sure– and the fact that the PC’s have so many kingdom leaders in command of their armies makes it all the more deadly to have a unit disbanded with the possibility of killed or captured leaders.  At the very least if the worst occurs I can always rest easy in knowing that they were warned– they were able to capture one of the troll commanders in battle and pump him for information, so they should realize the possibility is there for the enemy to do the same.

Not much longer for book two I imagine– possibly three to four sessions to bring it to a close.  And then we will be on our way to The Varnhold Vanishing!

Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red Session Eighteen

Shorter post this time guys– turns out we didn’t get much done except for fighting.

The battle continued long and hard for some time– at different times, everyone went down to negative hit points, and things looked very grim.  Eneko the Human Bard and Elysia the Half-Elven Ranger both suggested to retreat at one point, but fresh plans gave them hope– Gavriil the Human Arcanist used a dimensional-step ability to teleport sixty feet away, backed up some more, and then read his Scroll of Chain Lightning which he had obtained not long ago in the tower on Candlemere island!  This took a large chunk of health out of the majority of the trolls that were clustered around the rest of the party, and the group felt reinvigorated!

Unfortunately, this success was somewhat mitigated by the trolls’ ferocity, who took their anger out upon Noruas, the Human Gunslinger (who had been dealing out fiery death from afar previously).  Though she was deeply wounded and near death, she continued the fight, firing as much as she could and felling green monster after green monster, until finally, unable to continue any further, she was hit by the swipe of a troll’s claw, and collapsed to the ground, the life leaving her eyes and she said with her last breath:  “Don’t….sell my stuff…”

This sent a heavy blow to the party’s morale, but they were determined to take care of the remaining nine trolls.  Elysia, now reduced to a single hit-point, took the only sensible course of action she could think of– she grabbed one of her Tree Feather Tokens that she had received from the Dryad Melianse, and threw it on the ground, grabbing at a branch as a large oak tree sprang up on the spot, launching her sixty feet into the air!  From here, she began firing arrows down at the trolls gathering beneath, while an Invisible Gavriil moved over and healed a downed Eneko and his horse.  From there, the Arcanist used his Quick Step to slide up to a second tree that Elysia magically grew, and likewise started using ranged attacks to soften up the trolls.  Eneko, having been revived, spurred his horse through a large group of trolls that had surrounded him and broke free, galloping away to relative safety.

Eyeing up the situation, one of the trolls barked out some orders in Giant, which Elysia and Gavriil understood to mean “Forget them, we have the food we need.  They’re nothing.  Back to the farm!”  The majority of the beasts began to follow this troll back to their pillaged spoils, which apparently didn’t sit too well with the party.  Gavriil insulted some of the ones nearest him at the base of the tree to taunt them back into trying to climb up (which thus far had been pretty unsuccessful), and Eneko used a spell to rattle the speaking troll’s skeleton around inside his body, dealing almost enough damage to put him down.  Roaring with anger, he and his companions once again charged back towards the party, and those at the base of the trees began trying to shake the Ranger and Arcanist loose, almost managing to dislodge Elysia!

The two in the tree were able to stay safe in their height advantage however, while Eneko continued to use his faster horse to stay at range of the horde of trolls while he fired arrows into them.  Eventually, after a great period of time, the party was able to whittle the trolls away into nothingness, finally emerging victorious…but at what cost?





Players, do not read!





This session was the first in a very, very long time where I walked away feeling like I completely failed.

In preparation for the session, I had thought of several possible outcomes and planned for a bit of them.  My most likely expectation was that everyone would go down, and I would have the trolls capture the party, bringing them back to Hargulka’s stronghold.  From there, they would face the troll king, who would tell them that he’d ransom them back to the kingdom in exchange for large tracts of farmland.  Depending on how the party reacted to that would determine what would happen next– if they accepted this as reasonable, then the transaction would go through and they’d be returned to their kingdom to plot possible revenge; if they were completely against this idea, the rest of their kingdom leaders would send their army down south, tracking the mass of trolls, and fight the army of trolls while Chief Sootscale infiltrated the stronghold and broke the PC’s out of prison.

This almost happened– early on in the session, I had Gavriil, Eneko, and Elysia all down for the count.  Only Noruas remained standing, and she used her turn to grab a potion of healing and feed it to Elysia beside her.  Elysia then revived Gavriil, who then Quick Stepped away, and you know the rest of that.  Thus my second most anticipated outcome– the party would retreat to fight another day once they realized that two dozen trolls was not an encounter they would live through.  If the PC’s started to retreat, the trolls would briefly continue until one of them called them off, to return to their farm and spoils of war (very similar to how it happened in the session when they all got out of the troll’s reach).  This would allow the group to escape alive, while adding a bit of humiliation to motivate their revenge to return and decimate the army.  This tactic was used in the session but instead was met with aggression by the players– they taunted the trolls back into attacking them, which at that point seemed dangerous to me.

Thus we come around to my least expected outcome– the party would find some way to defeat all of the trolls, using their wits, items, and lots of luck.  This….only kind of happened.  After throwing out the idea of immediate escape when the majority of the party went down, I think they decided to throw the good money after the bad, as it were, once Noruas was killed.  They’d lost too much to give up, so they had to keep fighting.  I will admit that Elysia’s use of the tree feather token was brilliant– it made for a fast escape route, and later she tied one onto an arrow and shot it into a troll, which I gave a chance to fall off and hit the ground; it did, a new tree sprouted up right next to the previous one, and it ended up giving the troll bark-burn and squishing him between the two oaks.

Once the party was in a position where the trolls would be almost completely ineffective, I felt that the encounter was ready to come to a close.  We’d been running the same combat for about two and a half hours, all of the players looked like they were tired of the fight and ready to move on, but then they decided to draw the trolls back in when they retreated– they wanted to be done, but they still wanted victory.  It was theoretically possible that these trolls could have been defeated by the PC’s in this position– Gavriil had an Acid Splash cantrip, which dealt little damage but would stop the trolls regeneration, and thus the party had an unlimited source of troll killing to add to Elysia’s dwindling fire arrows and Eneko’s numerous acid flasks.  Additionally, as the GM who dictates what is reasonable and feasible in the world, I felt that the trolls would have given up yet again after realizing that they couldn’t touch the party, going back to the farm out of their range.  Yet I felt that wouldn’t meet the party’s wish of totally crushing these remaining enemies, and that they would simply try their hardest to lure them back to kill.

With all that in mind, I did something I usually don’t like doing much at all– I handwaved the rest of the combat.  “Okay, so here’s what happens:  You guys spend a bunch of time, the rest of your fire arrows, half of your acid flasks, five charges from each of your healing wands, and the remainder of your level one and two spells, and by the end you manage to slay the last eight trolls.  The sun is now low to the sky, burned bodies laying across the ruined fields, a haze of smoke from the barn laying across the area.”  It undercuts the narrative in my opinion, and it’s quite possible that I robbed whatever sense of accomplishment that the party might have been feeling for (mostly) surviving the encounter, but if I hadn’t done that we would have carried the fight over into the next session, and that wasn’t something that I think any of us wanted to do.

By the end of the session, I felt like I had failed in the main role of a GM:  to provide the party with a fun experience.  It was also never my intention to kill off a party member– I made sure before attacking each PC to check that they weren’t down, and if they told me they went down, I had the second or third attack from the troll hit someone else.  My hope was that the PC’s would go down and further the story that way, or escape and further the story that way, but a death wasn’t what I was looking to do in this situation.  Thus that night, I learned a very important lesson:  You should always ask for a copy of the character sheet for each player.  As a GM it is not only important to know your party’s capabilities, but it’s important to know of any special abilities or equipment they might possess.  In this case, the list of special abilities on our Gunslinger happened to include something that allowed her to keep firing her weapons even while in the negatives, up until the point where she would die from the damage dealt.

So….yeah.  I was taken aback when she went from up and firing, to taking seven damage and dead.  It felt a little bad, as that was something that I specifically didn’t want to do, and she was the most reliable source of damage of the party, their best chance for destroying every single troll there.  I think perhaps if she’d made it up into a tree, with the fire ammo spell still on her, the party would have been able to quickly finish off the trolls.  Obviously this didn’t happen, and instead we had a fiasco.  Noruas’ player after the session revealed that she wasn’t yet certain if she wanted the group to try and rez her, or if she’d rather just bring a new character to the next session, thinking about an Antipaladin.  Between then and now, she has decided to be rezzed, as she wants to continue with Noruas for awhile longer yet (and multiclass her into a Barbarian archetype that gives a +4 bonus to Dex while raging).

The session ended on what seemed to me at least a pretty down note, but I’m hoping that next time, things will move a bit better.  I anticipate a retaliatory strike at Hargulka’s territory after rezzing their companion back in Restov, which will get them into the endgame of the book– defeating Hargulka, realizing that Elbat Dnuor has been attacked by a giant Owlbear, and tracking and defeating the Owlbear.  Then…onto the Varnhold Vanishing!