Recovering from the hard fight they had just left behind, the party began the session with a brief talk with their new bandit friend, Trytor. Gavriil the Human Arcanist was very interested in Trytor’s past, and got out of him the long, sad story of a boy whose parents were killed by bandits, some further hardships, an eventual joining up with a group of bandits, where he was forced to kill three times– the backstory went on for awhile. He was hopeful that he’d be allowed to leave with his freedom, but the party decided to keep him around for awhile. Trytor did in fact hold some valuable information for them– he was able to gain the party’s favor by revealing that he knows of the Stag Lord, he knows where his camp is, and he knows that the bandit leader is a pretty big drunk!
With the reveal of the Stag Lord’s drinking habits, and the knowledge that he is waiting on a new shipment of his favorite ‘Greenbelt Special’ wine which the party now just so happened to own, a plan was quickly formed! After some discussion, Noruas the Human Gunslinger set out to find some local herbs and plants that would aid in creating a slow-acting poison (just in case the Stag Lord had a personal taste-tester!). Trytor also let the group know that, due to the number of bandits in the area, everyone was told to use a passphrase at the Stag Lord’s fort in order to be known as a real bandit, and not a pretender. A rough plan was made to follow the Thorn river south to the point where it met the Shrike river, then follow that to the south-west until they hit the Stag Lord’s fort, where they would send the shipment of newly poisoned wine inside.
The next morning they set off, exploring the west side of the the Thorn River near the bandit’s camp, and remaining on the western bank as they traveled further south. Before leaving, Elysia the Half-Elf Ranger woke up finding that the entirety of her exposed skin was covered with a black greasy dye! Clearly, more Fey pranks were being had, and steps were taken to attempt to reconcile matters. That night, however, things took a turn for the worse as, during Eneko the Human Bard’s watch, Trytor made his escape! Elysia and Noruas both attempted to track him down, managing to follow him across the nearby bridge to the eastern bank of the Thorn River, before realizing that they’d be unable to move faster than him in the dark.
Returning to the camp, it was settled that upon the morn they would track him down on horseback. Upon waking, Noruas was the first to notice that Gavriil had a note on his back– ‘I R Stoopid Sorccarar!’ Another note was left for the Fey, Eneko putting in his two cents about all of the tricks needing to tone down– ‘good fun is fine, but don’t do things that might get us in trouble’ was the gist of the message. After a bit of discussion, the party decided to split up– Trytor had been tracked heading south on the east bank, and in the suspicion that he was attempting to get to the Stag Lord’s fort, the party made the decision to head him off at the ford where the Thorn and Shrike rivers meet, which he would have to cross in order to reach the fort. Noruas and Gavriil took the wagon and explored their immediate surroundings, while Elysia and Eneko both made directly for the ford, where they set up hiding spots to wait for Trytor to cross.
It was at this point that, quite randomly, the exploration team found themselves being herded along through the tall grass by a pack of wolves! Gavriil used all of his spells in an attempt to put each to sleep, but every time one went down, another appeared! (In reality, the six wolves I rolled for the encounter only showed three at a time (one on each side of the pair, and one behind), and every time one dropped to a Sleep spell, another of the six dropped in to replace it…I feel my poor players may have wondered if they’d found an endless supply of the wolves!) Realizing that they were being herded against the river, Noruas and Gavriil attempted to veer to their right, back towards their friends at the ford. Things came to a head however as a wolf leaped from the grass at Gavriil’s horse, and was promptly blown to bits by Noruas’ prepared action.
The noise of the musket and the now-snarling and running wolves was enough to startle the horses, sending them in a panicked rush towards the riverbank! After a few moments Noruas was able to regain control over her wagon, and began steering it to the right, forcing Gavriil’s horse even faster to escape the wolves. More attempts were made to direct the horses, and the remaining wolves attempted to bite at the horses to take them down, but were unsuccessful. Moments later when Noruas fired her musket a second time, the lone remaining wolf peeled off to retreat, deciding that the reward wasn’t worth the risk.
About three miles away, Eneko, scoring a natural twenty on his perception check, picked up on the faint noise of a gunshot in the afternoon air. Letting Elysia know he was checking something out, he grabbed his horse and rode at top speed towards the noise, eventually reaching the pair and hearing their story several minutes later. Elysia kept her watch in hiding at the ford, but her vigil produced no results. When the rest of the party returned, both Eneko and Elysia set out on the opposite side of the Thorn river to explore the rest of the available territory, and by the end of the day had completed two thirds of the hex. On their way back to the ford, as they neared the river, they were able to pick up on a set of tracks– perhaps their quarry! Following the tracks along the Thorn, they lost the trail within sight of the ford, where the tracks disappeared onto rockier soil.
Working off a hunch, Elysia crossed the river and picked up more tracks there– it appeared as though Trytor had crossed the river just north of the ford, and continued south– in a direction alarmingly similar to the spot where the bandit had told the party the Stag Lord’s fort was located! Elysia and Eneko decided that, with his tracks reasonably fresh, they should be able to run him down on horseback, and not too much later they came upon him, choosing simply to run him into exhaustion, at which point they tied him up and began dragging him back to their campsite at the ford.
Trytor, dropping for the most part his demeanor of pitiful man scared for his life, seemed to have found at least some kind of backbone and offered to Eneko a challenge for his freedom– allow him to fight the Bard, and if he wins he goes free, while if he fails he would die! Eneko, however, did not much like the idea, and denied the bandit’s request, spending the remainder of the ride back to the camp attempting to use his diplomatic skills to improve Trytor’s attitude.
The time that Noruas and Gavriil spent camped at the ford was not wasted– making the best use of their earlier wolf kills, the duo skinned the creatures, cooking the meat into more rations and taking the time to craft some absolutely magnificent tiny Grigg-sized boots with the wolf hide, to give as a gift to the Fey creatures tailing them that they had come to believe were a group of Griggs through a few knowledge checks. To both of the player’s chagrin, both of them rolled natural twenties on their profession: Cobbler checks, which resulted in quite a few laughs as I spent a minute colorfully describing these amazing shoes! They were so fine that they granted the two of them a +8 bonus on the next diplomacy check they made with the Fey, though they have yet to see the results of their work! The session ended with the return of the Ranger and Bard, and the party making camp for the night.
PLAYERS, DO NOT READ!
Another successful session behind us– and the PC’s leveled up at the end! After session zero, the group had essentially told me that whatever method I wanted to use to keep track of XP, just let them know when they leveled up and they’d accept it, and so I’ve decided upon a guided milestone method to level them up. It’s been five sessions and they’ve accomplished a decent amount– they’ve explored the top portion of the map pretty thoroughly, had a couple random encounters, and finished off the boosted Thorn River Bandit Camp. They’re headed for the Stag Lord’s fortress at the moment, which means before next session I’ll have to brush up on that area again. There are still plenty more things for the group to do in the first book, including the conflicts between the Mites and Kobolds, and taking on the Stag Lord himself. When book two starts, the party is expected to be level four, which means I will likely level them up to three after they’ve dealt with the Kobolds and Mites, and then once their kingdom begins to be established they will earn their fourth level in time for the important events of book two!
During session prep, I had decided that the bandit Trytor would be less afraid of the PC’s, and more hoping to get away from them than comply unquestioningly. As such, in my notes it said that he’d attempt to break free of any ropes that they’d put him in at night, then make a run back to the Stag Lord’s fort in an attempt to gain the bandit boss’s favor. The first night, right after he was captured, Trytor attempted to escape during Eneko’s watch but was unsuccessful. As it turns out, the Escape Artist check to escape ropes has a DC of 20 + the CMB of the person who tied him up. Since Eneko tied him up, his CMB was actually a -1, which was fortunate as I realized the bandit’s Escape Artist check would only be a +2, making it very unlikely for him to ever escape. Therefore I was pretty surprised when not only did Trytor manage to roll an 18 on the die to escape, but Eneko also failed his perception check to notice his charge escaping!
So, what was his plan? Being right next to the rickety bridge which crossed the Thorn river, Trytor would attempt to throw the PC’s off the scent by crossing and following the Thorn south to the ford, where he’d cross just north of the shallows and head directly for the fort. The party’s reaction was to guess at his destination, get there first, and wait for him to show up– reasonably successful. Except…after the party split up, two hanging back to explore while two went directly to the ford, I had both groups roll for random encounters separately. The exploration team got low enough to trigger one of my planned Hill events…I rolled to randomly choose which of the three they would get, and instead of the friendly hunter or four fiddling Griggs, they got the pack of six wolves!
As Eneko reacted to the noise he heard by leaving just Elysia watching the ford, I had a brief moment of evil GMness, and decided that it was just the right time for Trytor to have arrived, ready to cross. Trytor was unable to spot Elysia, the lone character waiting for him at the ford, yet Elysia with her large bonus to Perception was also unable to spot Trytor! And because he crossed just north of the ford, they didn’t meet until much later when the Ranger and Bard found tracks on the east side of the river.
At this point, the Fey are only going to be pranking Elysia– the double nat twenties ensured that Noruas and Gavriil earned the fey’s respect, and the Bard has now long been in their good graces. While I don’t really want them to follow the party quite this far out of the forest, they made the boots specifically for the Fey, and one of them is indeed a Grigg, and the boots are amazing…it would be a complete shame to waste this gift, and so they’ll definitely take the boots. I guess I’ll just have them leave back for their forest at this point, and Elysia can get tortured a bit more when the party returns to the Narlmarshes.
Going forward…the players are, last I heard, planning on poisoning the wine meant for the Stag Lord. They want something slow-acting, that doesn’t take effect for a few hours, so they can make their escape after it’s delivered. Noruas has Craft(Alchemy), and I’m allowing her to use that in leiu of poison making skills to do something to the wine. Taking a look at the Stag Lord’s stats, while he may have eight class levels, his Fortitude save comes to a grand total of +4…not the best chance against a poison. Still, I find it unlikely to actually kill him in any way shape or form, but it might be interesting if they manage to make him sick enough for long enough to have an impact for when they eventually confront him! I’m expecting that they’ll bug out after delivering, then hang around the general area waiting to hear cries of dismay (or maybe joy?) at the death of the bandit leader…but I don’t know, it’s quite possible they’ll attempt to assault the fort itself, and at level two I’d expect them either to run away with casualties, or simply abandon all hope upon finding the seemingly unguarded hillside approach not as easy as they thought…