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Author Topic: [D&D] Sons of Grumsh over the 4th of July weekend  (Read 1948 times)

Posts: 221

Fresno, California

« on: July 07, 2006, 08:59:48 AM »

The gathering:
Zach got his grandparent's trailer for the weekend.  Seven of us showed up; Katie and Jonathon, Scott (me) and Jennifer, Zach, Jim (my Dad), and Tony. The goal of the weekend was to get in much gaming, both board and roleplaying.

This was the second year we've gathered at the trailer.  Last year the same mix of people showed, except Tony.

The people:
Zach is a friend of mine of 6-7 years.  He left town ~4 years ago to get his film degree, then settled in the LA area last year.  I gamed with him extensively before he left town, and continue to play board games with him when he comes through town 3/4 times a year.
Jim is my father, who has roleplayed in a few games with Zach, and often board games with us when Zach comes through town.
Jennifer is my fiancee, who has roleplayed with Zach once or twice-- she met him after he was already at film school.
Katie and Jonathon are friends of Zach's from film school.  We met them at last year's 4th of July gathering.  They did not join us for roleplaying, though we all board gamed together the first night.
Tony is a friend of Zach's.  They met while Zach was in film school (I think), and roleplayed there.  For certain, they roleplay with a group in LA regularly.  This was my (and Jennifer and Jim's) first time meeting him.

The Environment:
We gamed in a trailer at Three Rivers.  There's not a whole bunch to do but game and wander down to the river and get wet.  Sequoia Nat'l Park is 15 minutes away; last year Katie and Jonathon visited the park, this year no one did.

The Game:
Over the weekend, we played a long D&D module: Sons of Grumsh.  It was one of the best games Zach has ever run in any system (IMO), so I thought I'd report on the session and why I so enjoyed it.  This is also a warning-- thar be spoilers ahead, yarr!

We created characters early Sunday afternoon.  At the time there were four players; Me (Scott), Jennifer, Jim, and Tony.  Jennifer and I had created characters about six months ago for this adventure.  Tony and Jim still had character generation to go.  Tony knew he wanted to play a Monk, which made the characters a halfling Shukenja (mine), a human Ranger (Jennifer's) and a half-orc Monk (Tony's).  After much dithering Jim decided to make an elven Rogue.

Zach uses a very generous ability score generation scheme [4d6, reroll ones, drop the low die and arrange as you like], so we all rolled instead of using the elite array.  Jim generated his character via the PHB2 appendix, which worked out very well.  For the first step, he placed the rolled abilities and placed them in the book's priority order.  After that, he followed the generation steps exactly.  In no time flat he had his character filled out and ready to go, even with a few modifications (like substituting one feat for another).  I can't praise the appendix generation guide enough.

Then Zach asked us why we were at the town, etc.  At first, we gave individual answers, but I asked if would be better if we came in as a group.  When he said yes, we have a great discussion, coming up with a fun collection of reasons to be here all tied together.  It turned out that my Shukenja, Purifying Rain, and Ter Or [Tony's Monk] were from the monastery.  We were overseeing the rehabilitation of Althian [Jim's Rogue] and responding to a plea from the town.  Jennifer's ranger Darthian(?) had been hired as guide and protector- he was in the area to hunt Orcs.  He made it his business to be a thorn in their side (Favored Enemy) due to being the only survivor of his village's massacre as a youth.

I loved the way we interacted; it wasn't a standard "and you're a party, who of course do good things".  I also really enjoyed that we were clearly a group intended for this adventure, not just a group shoehorned into a stock adventure.  This was easier as one-shot characters—they could all be invested in this adventure without having continuity to worry about.  [It reminded me of AG&G situation generation in a good way.]

So we show up to town and present Kidnappee Father #1's seal to the guards.  If not for that seal, it's clear that we wouldn't have been admitted; the kidnappings and movements of an "Orc army" have the town up in arms.  We go straight to the first father.  He tells us he wasn't involved w/ his kid, though he offered us handsome pay to retrieve the kid.  A little suspicious, but we said sure and wandered on.  The second father was grooming his son as heir to his business, but didn't know much about his son's other activities.  As most of us talked w/ the dad, Ter had a chat with the maid who revealed a bit more—that the son had been attending Temple of Tyr ceremonies and seemed to have acquired a suit of armor.  He also hung out w/ a dwarf in a tavern downtown... along with the other missing nobility's kids.

We left and debated a bit, finally deciding to go on to family 3.  The butler was described as greasy; he didn't talk until we showed him the seal that had gotten us into town... after which he started calling us lackeys and summoned guards, who were very conveniently available.  We worried that the butler was in cahoots with the kidnappers- but when the lord leaned out a window and shouted at us, we decided that they were just rivals w/ family 1.  We left the butler w/ a black eye and fled the scene, as the town watch had also been summoned.

Here we really disagreed about the next step.  Tony wanted to investigate the Temple of Tyr and stand his ground with the town watch.  No one else wanted to get wrapped up with the watch; Jennifer and I wanted to get to the tavern and check up on the dwarf.  We compromised; while I'd previously suggested that my character would have made a better emissary to the Temple (being a religious figure), we sent Ter instead, since it was his player's interest.  Althian snuck up on the watch/butler conversation to overhear what they were claiming, while Purifying Rain (henceforth PR) and Darthian went to the tavern to track down the dwarf.

This resolved quickly; the butler/watch conversation didn't reveal anything underhanded, the tavern investigation revealed that Donal(?), the dwarf warrior, had trained the aristrocrats and had been missing the same five days.  In parallel, Ter talked w/ the priest, who revealed that Son #2 had recently taken Paladin vows, and hung out w/ the dwarf and other kidnapees.  When everyone made it to the tavern, we had a diverting scene about the bartender and drinks, grabbed supplies, then set off for the stables.

Hey, I'm Scott Martin. I sometimes scribble over on my blog, llamafodder. Some good threads are here: RPG styles.

Posts: 221

Fresno, California

« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2006, 09:03:24 AM »

We improvised a fun scene about the very tall elf Rogue having been assigned a pony as an element of his penance, as he bribed the stable boy to "rent" him a larger horse.  As we started to leave the barn, we were ambushed by a gang of thugs.  The fight was tough; since this was our first fight with the characters, we weren't as smooth as most 4th level groups would be.  A lucky critical in the first round had the DM intervene [under the advice in the encounter for "if things go badly..."] with a couple of dwarven warriors from a different house.  Some lucky rolls from the dwarves evened (and more) the fight.  The PCs quickly won and thanked the dwarves for their aid.  At the dwarves' advice, they set out for the road north, where the Donal and his protogees had left-- seeking out the Orc temple two days hence.

The adventure really shined so far.  The structure of this first segment felt very free; while we knew it was a module, it was clear that we could visit as many families as we liked, or leave after we got the lead.  Family #2 pointed us at the tavern where we'd hear all the we clues we needed to get on with the adventure, so all other exploration was gravy.

The module did a really good job of getting Zach to ground us in the world of families and petty lords squabbling-- the normal life he usually overlooks when he GMs.  I was very pleased with the whole way the adventure begun.  (After the first fight it was also clear that our group was very non-standard; no solid tank with a high AC for starters.  We each enjoyed the abilities we used, as many of us were playing classes very different from our home game's characters.)

The next stretch involved our travel north along the road; the Ranger got to shine with some spot checks that revealed a pair of orcs overlooking the road.  There was some fun roleplay about what to do; Ter wanted to gather info from them, while the Ranger just wanted to kill them for being orcs.

We decided to have the Ter (the half-orc Monk) approach openly, while PR minded the horses and Althian and Darthian covered him.  This worked out great; the Orcs invited their brother to sup with them and babbled about their mighty leader Thrall and the army he was gathering.  When they started talking about laying waste to the region, Tony surprised us all by having Ter motion for the kill.  A quick and once sided fight later, and the orcs were dead.  Jim was particularly pleased with his Rogue's performance in the fight.  Since it was storming out, we decided to take over the orc's campsite and make use of their fire, already blazing under the cover of a tarp.  Night fell, we set watches and rested.

In the middle of the night a Dire Wolf attacked our guard (Ter I believe).  Ter rousted the group (after some OOC debate about elf-meditation vs. sleep) and began fighting off the beast.  It gave some solid blows and took a few in return, then fled.  Ter raced after it and Althian shot arrows after it to drag it down.  [In retrospect, the heavy rain probably should have had an effect, but it was tense enough.]  They downed the beast and Ter brought it back to roast for breakfast.

We set off a little early; much later a listen check indicated an Owlbear.  Again, the three stealthy characters snuck forward through the thick fog, and found the remains of a battlefield and the owlbear snacking on dead orc.  We tried to skirt the fight, but the owlbear's scent ability thwarted it; a short exchange later and the owlbear was dead.  Here we found signs of a battle, including scorch marks, several orc bodies and a dead (and stripped) dwarf.  We deduced that the dead dwarf was Donal and the tracks of horses and orcs headed that-a-way, so we decided to follow that trail.

The trail led through a group of orcs at the foot of a narrow pass.  We quickly IDed the leader, chose positions, and engaged with good tactics.  A dire boar pet messed up Ter as he held the pass; Althian and Darthian rained death down on the orcs, while PR pumped healing into Ter to keep him upright.  Once the orc crossbowmen were thinned, Darthian leapt down behind the orcs to divide their attention.  The fight went well and the PCs were victorious, though PR's spells were mostly used up 

We enjoyed this encounter; our tactics meshed well with the terrain and were rewarded.  Unfortunately, it was here that Jim had to leave; he had jury duty the next morning.  After a break we resumed.  From this point on Tony played both Althian and Ter, playing their personalities off of each other and clearly enjoying the chance to dialogue between the two.  [They'd set up a rivalry/responsibility relationship that Tony continued well when he ran them both.]

A half-orc ranger had watched the fight; we covered him and drew him close to talk with him.  After suspicious noises, we got his story.  Evidently he was a local, not happy with the orcs tromping everywhere.  He'd lead us to the temple and point at a (somewhat) secret entrance, but wouldn't join us, even when we promised him a large fee and an equal share of the loot.  Since PR's spells were low, we rested for the remainder of the day.  In the middle of the night, they were attacked by a troll on PR's watch.  The fight was quick and didn't drain too many resources—though the guide-ranger's wolf was slain.  We did what we could to console him [blessed and buried his wolf, etc.] 

Here, Zach also realized that this was already a very long module... and read the part about the PCs leveling twice by the end of the module.  He gave in to urgings and allowed us to level our characters while he started drawing the large complex.

In the morning the PCs had an uneventful all day trip to the drop off point.  He told us about the approach; the wall at the back of the complex was collapsed for a segment, but it was still 20' up a rock cliff.  We approached, he left, and we tried to sneak in.  We didn't do well until Ter finally succeeded on his climb and neared his position.  He was almost caught by a guard on patrol (but took cover), then lowered a rope to get the rest of the PCs up to him.  After some comically poor rolls, PR was finally hauled up since he couldn't climb worth beans.

A raven descended from the sky and landed on PR's shoulder.  [After almost getting skewered by Althian's arrow]  It rasped that its mistress was being held in the dungeons below, warned us of a dragon guardian, then flew off into the night.

Our sneak in plan was immediately thwarted. Just a few feet later, as we crept through the collapsed wall's rubble, the "dragon" called out alarm.  We were going to flee the "dragon", but via OOC urging by the GM, fought what turned out to be a Wyvern.  It dealt a few solid blows, mostly to Ter, then died.  (It never landed a stinger blow.)  Unfortunately, that was just the beginning.  Basically, the whole level (many many) Orcs began streaming toward us, a few shot down from the walls above, etc.  We tried to find a defensible space, but only drew new foes on ourselves when we'd open a door and encounter new bad guys.  There was a pretty constant 15-20 models after us; as they died, others would "finally" reach the battlefield.  They varied greatly in strength and endurance; a few were one-shot kills, while others dealt out 10-15 damage and lasted for several blows.

Finally, in a scene similar to MMOs, we retreated up some stairs, while they trained after us.  Here an OOC argument broke out.  Background: PR had near drained himself of useful spells during the waves before we retreated up the stairs.  Jennifer's Darthian decided to make a last stand guarding the stairs, since he was at 10 HP and we were out of healing.  She explained her character's logic, pointed out that the defense was strategically sound (her Ranger could bottle the orcs in the stairwell, killing them as they advanced until she missed).  Her argument for sacrifice was ignored; Tony insisted that Ter wouldn't leave her.  [This was a frustrating exchange; our tiredness showed through, as it was ~ 2 am at this point.]  Finally, she promised OOC to come, the retreat began, she fled.  We realized that the bridge we were fleeing across was a rope-supported plank bridge, so we cut the ropes, eliminating the monster's pursuit.  Tony and Jennifer continued to bicker about her decision to sacrifice herself.  I pointed out our exhaustion and suggested that we resume in the morning; my suggestion was shot down.  We broke for the restroom; Jennifer justified her choices again (to me privately, as we walked) and I mentioned that there was a lot of discussion online about systems and groups that allow for statements of sacrifice like the one she'd tried to make.  We returned and resumed.

From here, Zach played the monster's relatively foolishly, continuing train/pack tactics and largely giving up the Orc's home field advantage.  After extensive play, we whittled down the pursuing pack and dealt with the mini-boss. Unfortunately, we dealt with them simultaneously, as Ter led the way down the other stair—then wandered to the point where he drew the mini-boss while the orcs above were nearing our rear-guard (Darthian's) position...

Finally, we finished the fight.  The whole floor level of monsters (mostly Orcs) was slain, others weren't responding [yet], and we were exhausted.  We knew that there was no way we could continue in our current (severely damaged) state, but also that there was no way we could rest for 8 hours—an army was encamped outside and there were levels of dungeon below that would certainly investigate.  Zach reminded us OOC that we hadn't checked bodies.  So we gathered the bodies, found many a cure potion (plus other useful buffs), and some other loot.  At this point, the sky was graying with pre-dawn light.  We decided to sleep and finish up the adventure in the morning.

We resumed the next day early in the afternoon- not long after we got moving.  We were as ready as we were going to be; we'd divied up the loot, healed via potion and were ready to descend to the dungeon.  It took some hunting, but we found the route down.  At the first dungeon level, there were a pair of guards- one at the stair on each side.  Our scout returned and we decided to take advantage of having such a relatively stealthy (though correspondingly low AC) group.  Our tactics were half-thwarted by a good spot check, but we managed to defeat the guards without alarm being sounded.  (We were aided by a large waterfall that drowned out much sound; this was constant throughout the dungeon levels.)  We explored the remainder of the level; nothing useful.

Down the stairs to the next level; stealth worked better, and the Ranger's swords really mangled the foes quickly.  A search, a concealed stair, and down to L3.  Again, a quick fight, then a decision.  Three branches ended in stubby halls, while a door was on the 4th wall.  We decided to investigate the door; we opened it and realized that it was a room of foes.  (Fortunately, ambient sounds helped cover our investigation.)  We decided to skip the fight and try to hurry down; the next level was the bottom.  The waterfall made a large central pool.  Long story short: we bypassed the important door [not knowing that's what we were doing], fought most of the level, got ambushed by a mage, turned around and found a guard at the door we'd bypassed, and fought on two fronts.

For a while I'd been feeling useless; a while back I had discovered that I'd purchased a few scrolls of cure moderate wounds.  Unfortunately, I had to blow through those quickly, so I was back to being an unarmored d4+0 damage dealing skirmisher.  A small part of the difficulty was the lack of a complete divine book; we'd generated PR at home but didn't bother bringing the book... which wouldn't have been a problem until we leveled and I was w/o the book.  (I made a conservative guess and we continued on.)  I also didn't spend my starting gold as wisely as I should have in retrospect...

Anyway, the two front fight finally ends and we concentrate on the door we'd bypassed.  As its defender dies, a wave of reinforcements comes out, led by Thrall.  OOC we were all aware that this was pretty much the final fight.  It went well; Ter died to a glorious critical dealt by Thrall that did something like 30 overkill.  Fortunately, Tony had already been running Althian, so he was able to step up and concentrate on him full time.  The fight was very tough, and Thrall made some sub-optimal choices to keep hope for the PCs alive.  Finally, we won... and rushed to stop the Mage from sacrificing the kids.  There was a little roleplaying, but it was after 6 and we were all heading home that evening, so the wrapup got summarized pretty quickly.

As we moved out to cook dinner, we all reflected aloud about how much we'd enjoyed the adventure.  We thanked Zach for running it, and moved on to cooking our last dinner of the weekend.
-- Scott

Hey, I'm Scott Martin. I sometimes scribble over on my blog, llamafodder. Some good threads are here: RPG styles.
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