Christmas holidays have made for a slight break in my regular session posting schedule– but we’re back with the latest account of our brave party’s adventure!
Having fought off a daring night-time ambush set by the Stag Lord, the party decided to take the fight to the enemy, breaking camp after tending to their wounds in order to surprise the Stag Lord and his men in the pre-noon hours. Their previous time spent at the fort (brief though it was, a month or more back) gave them a general impression of the area, and they were able to come up with a plan of attack while traveling.
Like all good plans however, this one too did not entirely survive contact with the enemy. Setting up a good distance away out of sight, the party….split up. Gavriil the Human Arcanist called upon his knowledge of the arcane to cause Elysia the Half-Elf Ranger to grow an extra few feet in height and bulk. After this, the Arcanist and Noruas the Human Gunslinger quaffed potions of Invisibility which they had previously acquired through their adventures. The two of them set off across the hillscape towards the south-eastern corner of the Stag Lord’s Fortress, a spot which they had previously noted was under the least amount of scrutiny from bandit watchtowers.
The reason for this soon became apparent, as the ground beneath the duo’s feet began to churn and break apart, spewing forth the corpses of the long dead! The poor corpses found themselves confused at the sight of nothing, milling about searching for someone to eat. Noruas and Gavriil, noting the presence of the zombies, edged around to the eastern wall, only kicking up a few more zombies out of the earth while they did. Arriving at the wooden palisade wall, the two grabbed their oil of Wood Shape (handily provided to them earlier in the adventure) and formed a large doorway in the wood for entry. With the advent of the zombie menace, the Gunslinger and Arcanist whispered a change of plan, wishing to attract the attention of the zombies to draw them into the fort. Their efforts, consisting of throwing a food ration at a zombie and lighting up a magical spark, failed to gain their ire and they continued to mill about, leaving the PC’s to shrug and head inside.
While Gavriil’s spark did not attract the zombies, it did catch the eye of Eneko the Human Bard/Cavalier. Taking this to be a signal, he and Elysia began to charge down the hillside, a man on horseback and a large Half-Elven woman, barreling through the zombies to arrive, from a breakneck pace, at the wooden palisade. This charge did not go unnoticed; two of the three watchtower guards spotted the commotion, and shouted the alarm!
Gavriil and Noruas, still invisible, had meanwhile circled around the inside yard and began climbing a steep set of stairs. At the top, they were treated with the sight of a set of walkways connecting the various watchtowers, as well as the broken and ruined roof of the stone building contained in the fort. Atop this roof sat a large lunk of a man, who the two could recognize by description as Auchs, one of the Stag Lord’s lieutenants. Auchs, busy playing with his set of knight and dragon toys, was quickly and angrily interrupted by the raised alarm, standing up and grabbing his club while muttering about how he was busy playing! Noruas continued her invisible journey to set herself up behind one of the watchtower guards, then fired off a surprise shot with her musket, sending the bandit into oblivion. Gavriil too attacked then, attempting to send Auchs and the silent bandit next to him into a fitful slumber. While the silent bandit dropped, Auchs merely shook his head clear, stared at the now-visible Arcanist, and charged forward swinging his club!
The battle was on, the alarm rung, and the zombies attracted! The next minute or so was filled with a great deal of frantic fighting. Elysia, Eneko, and their bandit-turned-good friend Trytor all came in through the wood-warped hole in the palisade, rushing up the stairs to join Noruas and Gavriil in their fight. Auchs put a decent amount of pain into the Arcanist, while Noruas faced off against the bandit Falgrim Sneeg, who was wanted dead or alive (but worth more alive) for crimes committed in Restov. The Gunslinger danced a careful duel with him until she was able to put him down carefully, stabilizing his wounds so that he wouldn’t bleed out on her. By now, more bandits were running up from below, with Trytor calling out the names of some of them as he saw them.
The heroes started picking off bandits at range as they maneuvered their way across the walkways, with Elysia and Noruas finishing Auchs while Trytor fished out one of Gavriil’s potions to bring him back into the realm of consciousness. Ayles Megeson, a bandit sorcerer, stood back and continued to throw spells towards the party, tossing rays of fire and balls of heat into their midst. It was not long after that the party saw the beginning of the zombie horde spilling through the palisade and into the yard below them, quickly heading towards the group with a likely murderous intent. Around the same time, Akiros Ismoort, a gentlemanly bandit the PC’s had dealt with on their last visit, moved into view below the ruined roof, ushering forward in a reasonably frightened manner an angry, hooting owlbear!
As if each of these developments weren’t enough, Fat Norry, a corpulent man wielding a wicked-looking battleaxe, finally reached the party and let loose with a ferocious bellow and swing, dealing the enlarged Ranger a grievous wound which left her at -7 hit points (out of -10). Fat Norry was brought down, the Bard healed Elysia, and it was then that the Stag Lord made his presence known! Arriving out of hiding from the stairs down below, he greeted the party with a slightly drunken line: “So you’re the ones who have been causing all this trouble. You will die with my arrows through your heart!” A surprise attack dealt Noruas a hefty blow, yet she quickly responded with an honest “I’m sorry,” before firing two shots into the man’s chest, ending his scourge and menace over the Kamelands.
With the death of the Stag Lord, Gavriil and Eneko called out the news to demoralize what few bandits remained, causing the majority of them to flee, including Akiros. This left an approaching horde of zombies and an angry owlbear to deal with, as well as the bodies of the Stag Lord and Falgrim Sneeg to escape with. With a still-enlarged Elysia covering the retreat, Noruas grabbed her bounty and Trytor the bandit chief, and they moved back to the walkways from the roof, zombies coming at Elysia from one side while an angry owlbear moved towards them from another.
It was touch and go for a few moments, but not long after the zombies, bandits, and owlbear were all mopped up, with a victorious party now reigning supreme over the bandit fortress!
PLAYERS, DO NOT READ
This session was quite the anomaly for us– the first time we ran without one player (Elysia), and a five hour session that stretched about two hours longer than we usually play for. I had heard no inkling of strategy from the party before the session started, and even so what they came up with for the approach to the fort was pretty good both for them and for the session as a whole. While invisible, I figured that the disturbance of their footsteps would be enough to wake the zombies in the hillside, yet clearly they were unable to see the PC’s to attack, so they merely milled about on the hillside. This was fortunate in that it gave the party the information that the zombies were there, as well as keeping a weakened party from confronting the undead in full view of the bandits on the watchtowers.
Their use of wood shape to enter the palisade was impressive– an oil that I’d randomly given them as treasure that I figured would probably never see much use was able to get them safely through walls I thought they’d have to climb! The idea to make the zombies storm the fort was also pretty neat, but their attraction efforts weren’t the best. When Eneko saw the spark that Gavriil made and took it as a signal to move in (the general idea was for him and Elysia to try and sneak across to the hole and enter unseen while the two in the fort started silently taking out bandits…those outside were just to wait for an unspecified ‘signal’), I loved the roleplaying going on. Clearly, since the two of them only just got in there, they didn’t want the rest of the party attracting zombie attention and bandit attention, but just as clearly Eneko was able to see a ‘signal’ and decided to move forward!
The zombies were later attracted into the fort by Eneko standing by the opening and garnering attention, and so I rolled a d6 to see how long it would take them to arrive– four rounds. When they stormed in, all 18 of them (yay six player conversion!), they were reasonably ineffective at their task, only dealing minor damage to Elysia and the owlbear (but also consuming a bandit who had been magically sleeping on the roof). Most of the bandits were either dead or running away by the time the zombies came in, thereby effectively letting the PC’s shoot themselves in the foot by way of getting them inside.
And then there is the Stag Lord– oh, my poor poor Stag Lord. Very few things can withstand a x4 critical hit from a d12 weapon, and the player who runs Noruas has hot hands when it comes to d12 rolls. The critical hit dealt a total of 72 damage to the Stag Lord, effectively slaying him before he was able to do anything of great import. He had made it up to the top of the roof without being seen by the party (everyone got a few Perception checks, but the Ranger is the only one who has decent Perception and I rolled horribly for her checks), and I’d hoped that he would be able to fire, drop down the side and hide again, before repeating his performance, essentially giving him several sneak-attacks while the party was busy dealing with the zombies, owlbear, and bandits. This was not so, alas and alack, yet sometimes it works out for the better– the five hour combat session might have turned into a much longer session, one which I wouldn’t have been able to finish up due to work the next morning.
We ended the session just a little bit after the main threats were dealt with in the fort. With no visible enemies remaining, Noruas and Elysia retrieved their wagon and horses from the surrounding hillsides, while Gavriil and Eneko did some exploration. Loot was gained, bodies looted, and the group was even able to find a hidden cellar hatch. Moving down, they discovered the mad Druid living below the fort, the Stag Lord’s father, kept in a deranged state to heal bandits when they were severely wounded. Though he was extremely hostile to begin with, a quick natural 20 Diplomacy check ceased hostilities as the group informed the Druid of his son’s death.
We were forced to end there due to time constraints, but when we pick up next time (which may be after a short break due to the holidays again) they may find that leaving him alone for a time, he has killed himself in his sorrow and brokenness.
Moving forward…we are preparing to enter the city of Restov! The party wishes to return the Stag Lord’s body to Nettle’s crossing, explore the south-eastern side of the Shrike river, then head out to the city in order to retrieve their rewards for killing the Stag Lord, completing their mapping charter, and returning Falgrim Sneeg alive. So, I will begin preparing their time in the city of Restov, which will involve those rewards sure, but also the fundraising required to start their own kingdom, for which they will soon receive a charter for! (Paizo forums, thank you so much for your wealth of ideas, because I love the thought of the PC’s getting funds for their town by attaching strings to themselves!)