Waking up in the morning, the party prepared themselves for more exploration! Taking the day, they were able to map out the remainder of the plains and the little bit of forest that was to the west of Oleg’s Trading Post. Poor Gavriil the Arcanist was subjected to another Fey prank in the form of a frozen-over backpack that morning, but quickly rectified the situation by warming himself by the fire. Another gift was given to the Fey, yet it didn’t seem like they were quite satisfied with his donations yet…
That night, it was Elysia the Ranger on first watch who was able to spot the large snake-like form slithering towards the campsite in the light of the rebirth moon. Quickly recognizing the figure to be a Tatzlwyrm, she woke the rest of the party. Noruas the Gunslinger quickly led the horses and wagon to safety about sixty feet away from the creature, while Eneko the Bard scrambled to the other side of the campfire. Gavriil quickly informed the party of his knowledge of the wyrm, as he too moved away from the quickly advancing draconic creature.
Having gained their little bit of motion due to the far advanced knowledge of their stalker (thanks to a natural twenty on Elysia’s perception check), Noruas was able to act again, firing her musket into the Tatzlwyrm and grievously wounding it. Eneko and Elysia loosed arrows at the creature, yet the arrows merely bounced off its scales, having struck at bad angles. The Tatzlwyrm was angry– and it took its anger out upon the Bard and Ranger, who were close together and took a face-full of poisoned breath. While Eneko was able to hold his breath, Elysia got a lung-full. A second failed save later, and she was down four points of strength by the end of the encounter, which came to a close just moments later with an Ear-Piercing Scream from Eneko. Noruas and Elysia stayed up for a time, skinning and cooking the dragon to make use of its meat and also save its hide, perhaps for later use in crafting.
The next morning saw some more forest exploration, and it took only a bit of time for the party to run across a river! This presented a problem, as the party was traveling with a horse-drawn wagon that Noruas was terribly fond of (using it to carry around her portable forge, which she occasionally used to melt down metal in order to craft more bullets for her musket). The wagon would not be able to cross the river, which at that point was about fifty feet across and twenty feet deep in the middle. It was at this point that Noruas discovered that, every time she said the word ‘wagon,’ a gallon of water would dump upon her head, seemingly conjured out of nowhere! After a bit of experimentation, she decided to make the best of this and grabbed a bucket, using this water to refresh the group’s horses.
Deciding to follow the river downstream until it thinned enough to get the wagon across, the party spent the rest of the day exploring just the eastern half of the hex, moving further south along the waterway into a new hex. They camped for the night with no issues, making certain to sleep a short distance away from the river itself, and set off again the next morning to continue looking for a crossing. Upon waking, Gavriil discovered that his horse had mysteriously changed colors overnight– it was now speckled brown and white, and when it made noise instead of the traditional whinny or neigh, it uttered a low, loud MOOOOOOOO!
Close to mid-day, the party came to an area where the river became shallow enough to take the wagon across, yet it was at this point that Noruas, riding in the wagon as usual with Elysia ‘helping’ her (Elysia was still down a few points of Strength, and was ‘resting’ in the wagon during the day to help her recover faster), was able to spot a hidden bandit figure in the nearby trees. Cautiously, the Gunslinger stopped the wagon under the pretense of needing to fix one of the horse’s shoes, subtly communicating the location of this hidden figure in the tree to her companions. The Arcanist immediately began to cast a Sleep spell, while Elysia ducked down, came up with a bow, and fired upon the man in the tree, her arrow finding its mark in the man’s chest, dealing maximum damage! Seeing this roll, I had to laugh, because Elysia was using her old longbow instead of the compound bow looted off of Happs Bydon back in the first session. If she had been using her compound bow, she would have had an extra point of damage to deal to the bandit, which would have slain him outright, but thanks to the Tatzlwyrm encounter not long ago, she didn’t have enough strength to properly wield it.
Gavriil’s Sleep spell went off, but the bandit rolled just high enough to make his save, and was able to react next. Sending out a cry, he threw a Thunderstone to the ground, making a loud CRACK and alerting the rest of the bandits in the area to the presence of danger. The party could hear a lot of movement to their right as more and more bandits were roused from their activities, and the fight was on! The bandits split into two groups of three who began making their way into melee range, while the lookout in the tree and his companion about a hundred feet away fired arrows into the party. Eneko and Elysia began firing arrows back at their foes, while Noruas began to pick off bandits one-by-one, every hit securing a kill. Gavriil was able to drop a group of three bandits by casting Sleep upon them, causing them to fall into the small stream of water trickling across their path. Despite a few hard hits from the two archers, the fight seemed to be going in the PC’s favor– if only barely.
And then, near disaster struck! Noruas, who had been firing her musket from the back of the wagon, became the new home for a finely crafted handaxe that was thrown from behind a pile of logs a distance away! Taking maximum damage, the Gunslinger was badly wounded and turned her firearm upon the newcomer, the camp leader known as Kressle, who seemed to be unafraid of their might. She was hit, for a large chunk of damage, the bullet ripping a new hole in her side that caused her to cry out in pain. Even as this was happening, one of the few remaining mooks was able to advance upon Gavriil and struck the caster down with a well-aimed blow of his short sword, sending him into the negatives! Another thrown axe from Kressle struck the Ranger, putting her down to zero hit points, and Noruas was soon to follow as the last of the generic bandits scored a critical hit upon her, placing her at zero hit points as well. Fortunately, some healing potions and well-placed arrows later and the two bandits were downed, with Kressle taking a second musketball and dying outright to the massive damage delivered.
With the action winding down, Gavriil was revived, and Eneko moved to slay two of the sleeping bandits, leaving just one alive in order to act as captive and interogee. The group looted the corpses and camp alike, gathering three tents, a tarp, several more days worth of rations, some dry firewood, and a decent amount of gold for each of them before ending the session with the intention of picking up next time with a talk with their captive (Giving me enough time to come up with a cool and interesting name for him!).
PLAYERS, DO NOT READ!
Another fun session completed– and a big fight that resulted in a win for the PC’s! In pretty much all things I consider the Thorn River Bandit Camp encounter to have been a success, but we’ll take things in order and get to talking about that in a bit.
The Fey have continued to prank the players through their journeys, and they seem especially drawn towards Gavriil at this point, who has been the only one to leave valuable gifts for the tricksters, yet whose Diplomacy rolls, even aided by these gifts, have been abysmal. Thanks to the Paizo forums, I’ve plenty more ideas on what pranks to pull next, and I ended up making the decision this session that the fairy nest (located in the hex where the party first encountered the Thorn river) would be on the western side, and thus only encounterable by crossing the river. Having found a place to ford the river now, though, I expect the party won’t waste too much time in exploring the western sides of these two hexes, so soon they may meet the Fey in person!
I’ve mentioned before how I’ve rolled up a small number of random encounters ready for the party whenever they hit the correct numbers on the percentile dice during their exploration– this session saw them mapping out a forest for the first time, and as such they were subject to a new set of possible encounters! When the d100 came up as 8 that night, I gleefully took a look at what was available. Of the three options, I decided to go with the least threatening encounter– the single Tatzlwyrm, CR2 (The PC’s definitely don’t want to encounter those other two things I rolled up…at least, not at this level. It would definitely need to end up with them running away!). With Elysia’s natural twenty to spot the creature, the party was alerted in enough time (and thanks to all of them wearing light armor, they’ve decided to sleep in such) to move into position and ready themselves. Noruas’ musket shot is absolutely devastating, hitting touch AC when within proper range (which is extended to sixty feet for her musket due to a class feature), and dealing quite a bit of damage– not one of her shots in this session hit for less than twelve damage! After her first shot, the Tatzlwyrm was down to a single hit point, and clearly he wasn’t going to be any kind of threat to the group after that.
Well, I’m not a big fan of pointless random encounters– it might be a good way for the party to gain their XP, but if they so easily slaughter the stuff they encounter with no lasting damage done to them, they’ll get bored of it quick I feel. So, I made a snap decision– this Tatzlwyrm’s poison breath, which normally only affects a target that it has grappled, will be a 15′ cone breath weapon affecting anyone breathing in that area. As such, it made a valiant charge to the campfire, managing to send out the poison cloud into two targets, being just barely missed by two arrows, before the Bard’s magic took it down the next round without the creature getting to act again. Elysia’s failed saves totally made me laugh evilly– I rolled max both times on the 1d2 Strength damage, and was happy to see that this encounter would then impact their adventuring for the next two to four days, which means the encounter had meaning and impact upon the PC’s. Additionally, Elysia thought about skinning the dragon, which after some checks I decided was in good enough condition that they might be able to use it as a special material for crafting armor in the future.
Encountering the Thorn river was another great thing for the group– suddenly they can’t just explore this hex like every other, now they have to find a way to get their wagon across! Everyone has loved having a wagon, being able to carry all their stuff with them– now it’s giving them an issue! They seemed to take it well enough in stride I was glad to hear, and after the session one of my players told me that she thought it was great that they had to navigate a different route due to the terrain, giving a bit more flavor to their exploration. It did occur to me about halfway through the session that taking a horse-drawn wagon through an unexplored forest might slow the party down a decent amount, as with everyone being mounted I’d been taking them through their hexes with the horse’s 50′ move speed. I believe for the future, when they’re traveling through forests with this wagon their move speed will be reduced down to 30′ to account for keeping the wagon with them, which will cause them to take an additional day to explore forest hexes instead of just one day per hex like they’d been doing.
Okay– so the Thorn River Bandit Camp. When they decided to follow the Thorn river downstream to the south, I got all excited– I could see that they were going to head to this bandit camp, which previously they had expressed desires to stay far away from (though I think they changed their mind after finding out that there was a reward for reducing the bandit presence in the Kamelands). After the session, Sarah, Gavriil’s player, admitted to me that she had been expecting to perhaps run into the Mites or Kobolds that were talked about last session, but then realized she must have gotten a bit mixed up on directions– nevertheless, encountering bandits had come as a complete surprise at the time, though she definitely connected it to the knowledge of a bandit camp in the Narlmarshes mentioned back in our second session.
The day that the party arrived at the bandit camp, it’d been a little more than a week since they first came to Oleg’s Trading Post. Since then, they had also faced a group of six bandits in the plains, none of whom were left alive but for Greggor the cobbler, who was back at the Trading Post being kept under watchful eye. Kressle had directed a second party to collect their taxes from the trading post between then and now, who were beaten back by Kesten Garess and his knights. As such, Kressle had enough time to call back her roaming bandits, filling the camp up with eight mooks instead of the base of four who would have been there had the party encountered the camp much earlier in the game. This is fortunate, because I doubt the encounter would have given much issue to the party had there only been five enemies to fight instead of nine.
I will come out and admit here that before the session, believing it possible that the party would stumble upon the camp soon, I had redone Kressle to be a bit more formidable. In addition to her two levels of Ranger, I gave her a level in Rogue to gain sneak attack, as her Stealth check was already pretty high, and only one PC seems to have a Perception check higher than +2. I also bumped her hit points up, anticipating her getting hit by our Gunslinger and not wanting her to die in a single hit. As it was, I checked later and had I not added a level and extra HP, Kressle would have been at 1HP after Noruas hit her for the first time. Glad I bumped her up a bit!
With that done, the tactics for the alerted bandits was simple– the two lookouts would continue to fire arrows at the group, mostly focusing on the party archers (which…in fairness, three out of the four PC’s use ranged attack weapons while the fourth uses ranged attack spells) while the rest of the mooks advanced into melee range in two groups, some of them stopping to fire arrows along the way. Kressle would sneak up to a good spot and announce her presence with a sneak-attack to whomever she saw as the greatest threat– which ended up being Noruas. At first I thought I might have dealt her a slightly too harsh blow, when the damage came to eleven– instantly putting the Gunslinger into the negatives. As we began the next turn however, I realized that I’d made a mistake– she was about forty-five feet away from the party, still in stealth (as, like I said before, these guys had some pretty bad perception checks and Elysia, with the best check, was busy focusing on another area at the time), but not within the 30′ range of sneak attacks. Even so, this was a seven damage hit which brought Noruas down low enough to be worried for her health.
Gavriil was able to take out the entirety of one of the two groups of advancing melee bandits– the will saves that they needed to make were pretty high, and these bandits have a penalty to that save, resulting in the inevitable slumber. Really, it was quite amazing that the first bandit in the encounter made his save, but I had a string of 18’s in the first few rolls of that encounter that put some hurt on the party. With those three down though, the second group was peppered with ranged fire as Kressle got into position, and ended up splitting as one of their number died. One of these melee bandits ran into some underbrush to get cover from the attacks, slowly advancing on the wagon where Elysia and Noruas were hiding out and making their shots. This guy was brought down to one HP by the Ranger, another attack that had resulted in max damage for her and would have been a kill if only she’d been able to use her Compound Bow! He later played an important part in the game as he attacked Noruas after she’d been hit by Kressle, first missing and then scoring a critical hit on the Gunslinger!
Having recently found this resource, I’ve resolved in this game to utilize a critical hit and miss generator (at least to start with, depending on how it goes) in order to give some extra flair to these nat ones and twenties. The PC’s also have the option of using the critical hit generator instead of dealing their normal crit multiplier, but I’m not making it a rule for them– totally optional if they want to. From what I’ve seen so far, the majority of these crits will deal double damage, plus something else– target is dazed for a round, target provokes extra Attack of Opportunities that round, target is pushed back five feet, and so on. Critical misses on the other hand, I will be giving them a result from the critical miss generator to see what happens. So far this hasn’t happened, but I’m waiting for the day….
Anyways, this lowly bandit had managed to deal a critical shortsword attack upon Noruas, and this was the first time I got to use the generator in combat! I eagerly pressed the button, and what should come up but a…gory blow. The attack dealt normal damage, but the target became sickened for 1d6 rounds, taking -2 to pretty much every roll. While I’m glad it didn’t cause some horrendous amount of damage (as it was, the damage put her down to zero hit points), it would have been nice for some big damage to go off as well as a neat effect, in order to show my players just how cool this crit generator could be! Ah well, it was still fun to do.
In the end the party triumphed, but the encounter caused them to use two potions of Cure Light Wounds and all of their spells per day– I’d say in all, it was a great session, a great combat, and part of a great story!