(R3: the torture chamber; R4: the chasm; R5: The war room)
Down in the cramped Mite tunnels underneath the old sycamore, the party was faced with a Kobold, black-scaled and slightly dinged-up, tied to the roots sticking out of the soil walls of the tunnel. Gavriil the Human Arcanist was the first to move, coming alongside the Kobold and cutting him down while Noruas the Human Gunslinger and Eneko the Human Bard/Cavalier climbed down from above, rappelling along the side with the aid of rope. The newly freed Kobold, who introduced himself as Mikmek, thanked Gavriil profusely for his help, and said “would you be able to help me on my….secret mission?”
Mikmek told Gavriil how he and his friends had been tasked to retrieve their most sacred statue to return to Shaman Tartuk, but they had been caught and captured, tortured by the evil Mites who were delighting in their squeals of pain! Mikmek was the only one left, and he was desperate to regain his statue, promising that Shaman Tartuk would shower them with riches if they were able to help him return the holy relic! The party quickly armed Mikmek with one of Eneko’s two whips and Gavriil’s starknife, then Elysia the Half-Elf Ranger made her way forward to examine the next area.
Here, in the direction that the remaining three mites from the torture room fled, Elysia found a dark chasm, with overhead roots formed into loops at certain intervals to allow for crossing the fifteen-foot-gap. Gavriil used his magics to illuminate a stone and dropped it down into the chasm, allowing him to judge that it was about twenty feet deep. After a bit of discussion, it was decided that they would attempt to cross by using the roots, how the Mites likely crossed the gap. Elysia went first, but halfway across one of the roots gave way under her grasp! She started to fall, but was amazingly able to recover, leaping back to the party to grab onto Gavriil and then one-handedly cross the gap! Now with two across, Noruas made her own way to the other side, at which point the trio on the far side got their first glimpse into the area beyond…to be greeted with figures moving into sight!
In this new room, which held a table with what could be accurately described as a pile of detritus on top of it, as well as scads of Mites! The three which had previously retreated from the torture chamber stood in the back, having clearly warned the remainder of the foes. Five more Mites were present, wearing a patchwork collection of leather and metal scrap armor, and wielding tiny crude daggers and some throwing darts. Finally, the centerpiece of the foes was a man-sized tick, its mandibles clacking, with a slightly taller and more muscled Mite sitting atop it, wielding a longspear which looked much more like a shortspear to those assembled. Raising his spear, he shouted out, “Death to the invaders! CHAAAAAAAARGE!”
The Mite leader, Grabbles, initiated the attack, spurring his mount Tickleback to run forward and bite at Gavriil, who suffered a large blow to his body. Grabbles, on the other hand, thrust his spear into Elysia’s shoulder, and cackled with glee at the wound he inflicted! Eneko responded by climbing across the chasm himself, to then let loose an Ear-Piercing Scream at Grabbles, who clawed at his ears in pain! On his way across the chasm however, the Bard was able to spot a creature beginning to stir in the darkness, slowly raising its head up out of the depths to reveal a giant Whiptail Centipede slowly emerging from the bottom of the chasm!
Mites began to swarm over to the four grouped adventurers, but the close quarters prevented many of them from reaching. Two swung their crude knives at the Ranger and the Arcanist, while others threw darts at the rest. A burst of fire from Gavriil heavily burned a few of the mites, while Eneko began to inspire his allies to greater feats of bravery. Elysia attempted to slice into Tickleback with one of her beautifully crafted axes, but hit the carapace at a bad angle, sending the blade down and opening a light cut on her own leg! The three mites not in armor retreated back further out of the war room, moving out of sight and, for the time, out of mind. Trytor, the reformed bandit that the party had brought along with them, fired an ineffectual arrow across the gap, while Noruas struggled to bring her musket barrel in line with the tick, firing into its mandibles and making quite the mess for its mouth.
Despite this setback, Tickleback bit into Eneko next, causing more massive harm to the Cavalier and even infecting him with disease! Grabbles attempted to stab into Elysia but was deflected by her axe, and continued to spur his minions to attack the invaders. More darts found their mark here and there, while Elysia attempted to take out Grabbles, who avoided the blow. Gavriil sent another burst of fire from his fingers, burning some of the Mites to death and heavily damaging a small few others, including Grabbles. Eneko sent out a wave of sound, a Chord of Shards which took out another Mite and Grabbles, who fell to the tunnel floor in a short scream of pain! This obviously enraged the remaining Mites, who were joined a moment later by reinforcements from the room beyond! The last remaining Honor Guard, clad in the patchwork pieces of armor, cried out in horror at his leader’s death, and shouted at his reinforcements to attack Eneko! The creatures fell upon the Bard with a frenzy, stabbing at him with daggers and throwing darts into his body!
In the meantime, the centipede in the chasm had fully awoken, looming out of the darkness and striking at Noruas from behind. The Gunslinger took some heavy hits, and felt herself slowing down as a poison entered her veins, draining her of a good deal of her dexterity. Attempting to ignore it for a moment, Noruas fired another shot at Tickleback, and succeeded in slaying the creature, sending another cry of sorrow up from the Mites. Mikmek the Kobold made numerous attempts to flay the centipede with his borrowed whip, while Trytor sent a few arrows at it with little effect, the two of them remaining on the torture chamber side of the chasm. The Centipede attacked Noruas once more, but she managed to avoid the blow.
Unfortunately, the rein of darts and newly invigorated dagger blows proved to be too much for Eneko, who fell to a dart from the back. Eager to capitalize on the killer of his leader’s misfortune, the remaining honor guard rushed forward and stabbed into the Bard again, sending him further into the negatives. Fortunately, Gavriil was able to aid his friend and brought him back moments later, further enraging the honor guard. More mites fell to attacks, and Elysia followed not long after, in danger of bleeding out if not attended to soon. Noruas, who had by now suffered yet another attack by the centipede (further feeling the swiftness draining from her) decided to grab Elysia and make her way back across the chasm, shouting to her allies to retreat across the way and make the Mites come to them.
With a second wave of reinforcements boiling in from the tunnels, the Mites were proving hard to be rid of, and the party began fleeing back across the chasm to meet up with Mikmek and Trytor. The two of them had, up to this point, had little effect upon the battle, but as it turns out Mikmek accidentally broke the whip he was given by Eneko, and then proceeded to throw, against Gavriil’s instructions, the starknife into the centipede’s back which proved to be the first (and only) time someone had managed to harm the creature. Unfortunately this left the Kobold without a weapon, and Gavriil scolded him as he lept across the chasm to join the party. Trytor was instructed by Noruas to search Elysia’s pockets for healing potions, and was able to dump the precious liquid down the Ranger’s throat. Unfortunately it was not quite enough to bring her back to active duty, and so another potion was poured down to bring her back into the fight.
Eneko made his way over the chasm next, almost falling down yet managing a successful recovery much like Elysia had earlier, allowing him to even grab the starknife embedded in the centipede’s hide. Now the party’s goal changed to staying out of the reach of the centipede, and taking care of the remaining Mites. Four mites jumped the gap, not quite able to move fast enough to attack their foes. The centipede, in the meantime, had decided that it was ready to attack a fresh foe, and lunged its head at Trytor…striking him with such force that he was instantly put down, bleeding profusely. As Gavriil flooded the tunnel with a gout of flame, putting down all four Mites with ease, Elysia attempted to save Trytor’s life, just as Trytor had risked himself to save her. The centipede, ready for the Ranger, struck once, twice at the retreating Half-Elf…but Elysia was able to dodge the blows, dragging her friend to safety!
Noruas was able to remove the final Mite in sight with a gunshot, taking out the last of Grabble’s honor guard. And thus the group was left with a choice: They could stay and attempt to remove the rest of the Mite threat for good, knowing that more Mites had retreated back through the tunnels; or they could leave and recover, as Gavriil and Eneko were low on spells and everyone was feeling poorly. After a brief discussion (well out of the reach of the centipede, who did not seem to be keen on leaving his crevasse), everyone agreed that it was best to try and take out the rest of the Mites, but carefully– they clustered around the hole that earlier they had climbed down, with bows and guns and spells prepared. Thus when the remaining seven Mites showed up and clambered down to attempt to put the party to a final rest, they were quickly decimated!
Finally victorious, the party made a cautious way through the rest of the Mite warren, collecting loot and other various items as they went. In one room they found a nursery of sorts, which only housed extremely small centipedes, not yet grown to maturity. It was decided that these, when properly cooked, would make a decent meal, and so they were gathered together in order to make a meal. The next room was a common area, filled with some empty bookshelves, broken wagon wheels, and other paraphernalia. Finally, they made it back into the war room, where they identified the pile of junk on the table as a crude map, and found an accounting of the war between the Mites and Kobolds. Also in this room was a statuette, which upon seeing it caused Mikmek to rush to it with delight and glee, shouting “Death to Tartuk!”
PLAYERS, DO NOT READ!
Wow, what a time that session was! We spent the majority of the three and three-quarter hours in combat, but it was very enjoyable. In preparation for this session, and having seen how the party was ripping through the Mites last time (as well as knowing that my house rules had allowed them to be slightly above-average in terms of character power), I stretched out to another source of information for my campaign, co-opting out some of the encounters from the Kingmaker Six-Player Conversion, adding difficulty not quite up to the same level as would be required for six….but still adding difficulty. I love having a lot of my work done for me (read: I am a lazy GM!), so something like this is pretty useful for me to just plug into my campaign as a step-up in difficulty. I’ll probably use it again in the future, especially for the upcoming fight in the Stag Lord’s Fortress.
Tickleback stayed the same, but I took the suggested upgrades to the Mites in the War Room. These became Advanced Mites, and Grabbles, who *was* an Advanced Mite, gained some Fighter levels. Some of the other rooms got a few more Mites placed in them, and the Giant Whiptail Centipede got an upgrade too. In all, it was a pretty dangerous combination, but one which I figured my party could handle alright. And as it turned out, I was mostly correct. Similar to the fight at the Thorn River Camp (which was another fight with multiple enemies), the combat took a heavy toll on them, sent some into negatives (though not for long of course), and drained their resources. Mission accomplished! I feel like this is generally the kind of encounter I’m looking for…dangerous enough to give the possibility of defeat, yet not overwhelmingly stacking the odds against them.
Tickleback and the Giant Whiptail Centipede were fun to get to attack with. With the Gunslinger’s high damage potential, I figured that neither would be a challenge to the party for long, if she remained in the backlines as she usually did. The centipede therefore popped up to be a danger to the party as the last few members popped over to the other side of the chasm, enabling them to be attacked from two sides in close quarters. I had figured that this positioning would cause the party to retreat back across the chasm (maybe leading to a party member falling down the hole!), resulting in a fight on only one front once again. As it turns out, they did indeed decide to do this…just not until much later, almost when it was too late since some of the party had to be carried across the chasm.
Tickleback’s bite managed to disease Eneko, which came back to bite him pretty bad. After the combat was over, it was late and I did a quick run-through of the rest of the dungeon, ending with two nights of rest for the party. The tick’s listed disease, Red Ache, deals 1d6 Strength damage per day without a successful save…the first damage he took was a full six points, and left him at one strength remaining. Thankfully he was able to beat off the disease after that, but it still left him down a good deal of Strength. Similarly, Noruas had been rather unsuccessful at fighting off the centipede’s poison, which dealt a d4 to Dexterity. In all, she lost seven points, though this was not nearly as dangerous to her as the strength damage had been to the Bard.
Going back a bit, after the big fight, I decided to rework the remaining encounters, having already used the entire compliment of Mites: the smaller centipedes that were meant to be part of the encounter in the hatchery. As it was the end of the session, and the group would likely fall over and die if hit with a stiff wind, I threw them a bone and removed the centipedes as an encounter, relegating them down to a tasty snack. Time marched forward as they rested however, and based upon what I’d told them last session when they harvested the fang berries, they now have only three more days to return them to Old Bokken before the majority of what they’d picked would spoil! Add to that the fact that Mikmek was very very eager to get back to his tribe (which I suspect they will want to come along for), and they’re in for a tough choice on what to do next. They do have the two Fangberry bushes that Noruas and Gavriil dug up and replanted in their wagon, which may given time produce enough berries to satisfy their quest.