The party was standing in a clearing, a stag-faced rock framing the backdrop of the area which housed a large dirty pool of water…as well as being the origin point of the low, angry growling which they could hear. It didn’t take long before a large, manic-looking bear showed itself from the cave area, slowly advancing upon the party. Gavriil the Human Arcanist, having spent some time with Jhod gardening, had learned some things about Erastil and quickly pantomimed his holy sign, sending a brief prayer up to the god. The bear appeared to be under some sort of curse, the party decided after a bit of discussion. All the while, the bear continued to advance, still growling threateningly. Noruas the Human Gunslinger aimed her musket towards the bear, sighting up and preparing to fire if it got too close. Gavriil attempted to put it to sleep three times with no effect, before switching to a Color Spray that barely stopped it for a moment before it continued. Taking stock of their situation, the group decided to collect Jhod from Oleg’s Trading Post before returning to the Lost Temple of the Elk, to gain his aid in restoring the temple.
When the party came to rest that night, Eneko the Human Bard/Cavalier was on watch, quietly training his horse, when he caught a slight noise on the night breeze– a crack-snap coming from the brush! He alerted the group, and so it was that everyone was awake and aware as a hulking monstrosity of an Owlbear shambled its way into their camp, hooting and growling in quite the odd mixture of noises! The owlbear focused its attention upon Elyssia the Half-Elf Ranger, who was the closest that it could see (as Noruas and Eneko began to move their horses away, while Gavriil and the reformed bandit Trytor were sleeping up in trees). Elyssia, having ample time to prepare, began to loose two arrows at the creature, the first magical beast that she’d encountered (her hated foe!), but stumbled and lost her footing, falling prone to the ground! The owlbear took advantage of her unfortunate situation, and pounced, slashing her claws across the Ranger’s chest and drawing blood! A rifle shot from Noruas drew its attention, but that attention was then redirected to Eneko as the Bard too fired an arrow into the creature.
The owlbear charged after Eneko, receiving an axe blow to the leg from the Ranger along the way, and nearly knocked the Cavalier off his horse! The rest of the party recovered quickly, and soon another shot from Noruas took the owlbear out of the picture– the party was victorious, and only a little damaged! Elyssia and Noruas spent some time skinning and preparing the owlbear meat, and then the Gunslinger and Arcanist devoted time and owlbear pelt to making new Grigg shoes for their faerie friends. Once again they were of excellent quality (though not *quite* the same as their last attempt– only one of the rolls was a natural twenty, the other came to a total of 24 for the player who put ranks in Profession(cobbler) ), and appeared to be received with gratefulness the next morning.
Heading south the next day, it was near evening when the party came across a lair, an old tree that created a hollow which was littered with small animal bones. With the knowledge given to them by the hunter they encountered just a few days ago, the party deduced that this was the lair of Tuskgutter the boar, a nasty animal who Oleg was brokering a bounty for. Elyssia was more than happy to suggest setting up the group’s bear traps around the hollow, so as to catch their prey when it returned to its home! With a plethora of bear traps set and ready to go all around the hollow, the heroes took up a silent vigil, some in nearby trees and others a distance off with the wagon and horses.
Three hours later, Tuskgutter made his appearance! The wily boar had an old hatchet embedded in his back, and was carefully snuffling at the air. It moved through the traps with ease, missing every single one, to arrive at the tree where Gavriil was perched…then began shoving at the tree, attempting to shake the poor man out! Yes, the boar wasn’t fooled by the traps or the hidden party, and seemed ready to take them on! Elyssia’s arrows were able to hit home, causing dual punctures in the creature’s hide, while the rest of the party laid into it as well. Tuskgutter was able to shake Gavriil down, but the Arcanist recovered himself well, and took out the boar with a gout of flames from his fingers!
The next day saw the group exploring a rather boggy portion of the forest, surrounding a dirty river running south. After they had crossed the river, only a few feet deep at their ford, they came across two small ruined buildings. Before they had much of a chance to explore them, they were met by a frog-like humanoid and his frog-like companion, which they identified as a Boggard and a Slurk respectively. What followed was an impressive attempt at communication, with the Boggard appearing to be at the great disadvantage. Introductions were difficult, and the general feel the party got from the Boggard was that he wanted them to go away under the banner of truce. Thankfully for all involved, a peaceful solution where no one got hurt (but no one got anything else)was brokered, and the group left the area with no further trouble that day.
More exploration ensued, the next day (with the adventurers now a day or two into the month of Gozran) bringing warmer temperatures and an encounter with a poor, trapped Brush Thylacine pacing around the floor of a dug-out pit. Gavriil championed its rescue, putting it to sleep before climbing down and hauling it back out. An hour or so was spent cutting down a nearby tree to lay in the pit, allowing any creature to climb its way back out, and Noruas used her pickaxe to weaken the pit walls to allow for eventual collapse. In this way, the party wished to ensure that no other unfortunate animal would fall prey to the pit. When they woke up the next morning, the Arcanist found a bottle of brownish liquid next to her bedroll, soon identifying it as an oil of Wood Shape, and taken as a token of gratitude from the Fey of the Narlmarshes.
Finally, on their last day of adventuring the party made it out of the Narlmarshes, having traveled as far south as was defined by their charter, and deciding to work their way to the east. It was still reasonably early in the morning, having just spilled out onto the gently rolling hills, that the party spied on a nearby hilltop a small band of cricket-like Griggs, merrily dancing and fiddling with their feet to create a wonderful melody! When Elyssia caught sight of them, she immediately began to storm over to them, placing the large amount of humiliation she had suffered in the forest squarely upon their shoulders and causing them to scatter and disappear. Try as the rest of the party might, they were unable to lure the Griggs back out into the open, though Gavriil did see a note stuck on the back of the Ranger’s armor that said ‘kick me.’
PLAYERS, DO NOT READ
Meanwhile….the Stag Lord, being a cruel and power-hungry man, has sent out a raiding party looking for people matching the party’s description. With Dovan, a crafty man attempting to bring himself back into the good graces of his boss, leading the raiding party, the tactics were to camp out a small distance from Oleg’s Trading Post, with bandit scouts checking the plains around them for signs of the returning adventurers. When spotted, Dovan will lead the raid upon the party in an attempt to slay them, or at least cripple their progress. With success, he is hoping to finally replace Akiros Ismoort as the Stag Lord’s chief lieutenant, regaining his position of power from which he was able to effectively rule the Greenbelt bandits.
The party had several encounters this time around with higher-level CR creatures– their first was the grizzly bear in the Temple of the Elk, which they decided to leave. The players seemed hesitant to harm a cursed bear, being uncertain what kind of curse was upon it, and figured it would be better to just grab Jhod to come down and look at it, which immediately threw off my plans for the session (I had imagined that they would defeat the bear, then head right back to Oleg’s to fetch Jhod and thus run into Dovan and his group). Fortunately I’d taken a good look at the nearby encounters, and thus was prepared for most of what else the group came across. I’d like to note that it became my intention to use the stat block of a regular Grizzly bear for this encounter, instead of the slightly modified Cursed Grizzly Bear (essentially moving it from a CR3 to a CR4 encounter).
This seemed justified enough when the group came across the owlbear, whose detection ensured that it would get no heavy-hitting full attacks. The owlbear, also a CR4 monster, was dispatched quickly enough, dealing a total of 14 damage across two party members (seven damage to each), and having an overall lasting effect of nothing. Tuskgutter too, I raised from an Advanced Boar CR3 to a Dire Boar CR4, and it made little difference. I’m starting to realize that these random encounters (and possibly some of the regular encounters) should be geared more towards many smaller enemies than the single large one– action economy seems to heavily favor the party, especially with the highly optimized Gunslinger build. This leads me to wondering just how the Mite encounter will go eventually– those guys only have two or three hit points, but their numbers and the close quarters may make up the difference….I’m quite interested to see how it will work out.