So the big snow mojo we were supposed to get on Wednesday kinda blew over without too much actually hitting the ground around Boston, so we picked up on Thursday, and had a real rip-snort of a session, with a couple of calamities mixed in.
Anyway, so the group was standing around the wolve's den deciding what to do about the mother wolf and her cubs inside. The two sides of the debate were A: we'd been charged with clearing the wolves out of the Kellman woods. and B: it was the worgs what put the normal wolves up to attacking humans, and we'd wiped them out. None of us were really had the heart to go after a mama and her babies, so we tried to lure them out with a wolf's call from Liam, but that didn't work, so we just decided to go back to Amos the half elf's dad Almox and let him make the call. (I think that's his name. I've had a lot of trouble getting the names of NPC's to stick. I need to start bringing a notepad to these things so I don't keep embarrassing myself on the blog here...)
Before we set out for home, we still had a couple of worgs to skin, figuring their hides could be worth something (at least cloaks, or rugs) so Liam our elf ranger set about that messy task with Klint's help, while the rest of us stood watch for any trouble.
Koode the Magic User settled down on a nearby boulder to watch the skinning. As he sat there, engrossed in the process, a huge python slid down from the trees above and latched onto the startled mage's head, dropping its massive coils around him like soft serve from hell!
With a cry of alarm, the party encircled the snake and started striking at the beast with swords and quarterstaff. With the huge reptile distracted, Koode slipped out of its encircling coils and stumbled away, debating whether to cast his sleep spell on the creature or not. He decided not to, as his spell would knock the party out before it would knock the snake out if we were unlucky. (And being unlucky is kind of the natural state for an adventuring party, especially if you ask our dice...) We ordered Melchoir our henchman to keep back, as his crippled knee made him no help in the fight anyway, and we didn't rescue him from being dragged away to the wolves' den just to leave him a henchman shaped bulge in a snake's gullet.
Deprived of its initial victim, the snake wheeled about and fixed its cold gaze on Liam, leaping for the elf and throwing its coils around him and squeezing, causing the hapless ranger's eyes to bug out and his skin to turn an alarming shade of lilac (He's an elf, after all. Humans turn purple, elves turn lilac.) In desperation, his arms pinned to his sides, he tried to bite the creature as it tightened around him.
Mercifully, the party's harrying of the creature left it too distracted to continue squeezing him, and after a few more furious blows with our blades, Klint (I believe) managed to decapitate the monstrous serpent with a sneak attack, and we hastily pulled the thing's coils loose from Liam.
The poor elf was in a pretty bad state, coughing up blood with his internal organs crushed. We lacked healing magic, as the fight with the wolves had depleted the Deacon and Yogund's resources, so we pulled out the potion flask we'd found in the catacombs and fed Liam a dose. This brought him back from death's doorstep, and pretty close too to hear Paul tell it. We decided to high tail it back to Restenford as quick as possible, since we were pretty beat up. Liam declared that he hated the woods and nature, which was a pretty major reversal for the elf who originally preferred sleeping outdoors to sleeping in the inn. I can't blame him, after nearly being pulped by a giant snake. That'd put anybody off of camping.
We hied ourselves back to Almox's home on the outskirts of town, to tell him we'd cleared the wolves out of Kellman wood, and also to use the mystic pool of healing in his sylvan glade of a backyard. We told him about the she wolf and cubs, and he said he'd take care of it, and gave him the worg pelt we'd managed to obtain before the snake incident. As we bathed our wounded in the mystical pool, we discussed our next endeavor, and decided we'd go after the gnolls and their ogre on Tritop Hill.
Persuant to this, we all rested up at the Dying Minotaur for a couple of days, bought some equipment, and went around to the Red Cask to pick up another henchman. As we bellied up to the bar, Falco told us the diggers we'd hired were mad we hadn't showed up to employ them, so over the protests of the rest of the group Deacon Silver gave him two crowns and told him to give a half crown to each of the laborers for their trouble should they show up again. (My argument being, sooner or later we're gonna end up with a crowd wielding pitch forks and torches after us, the fewer people we piss off in our home zone, the smaller that crowd's gonna be. Besides, we might need diggers again someday.)
So after dealing with that little bit of bother, we asked Falco if there were any fighting men about looking for work.
Falco thought for a bit, and nodded across the bar to a clean cut fellow in leather armor with a spear, who he referred to as Strang the Unlucky. We looked at each other dubiously as he beckoned the fellow over. As he crossed the bar room, he managed to trip over someone's foot, smack someone in the knee with the butt of his spear, nearly spill a tray full of soup on himself. He came up to us and snapped to attention, banging his spear on the floor beside him, and nearly falling over as the spear butt shot through a knothole in the plank, driving down three feet into the cellar below. After struggling for a moment to extract his weapon, he turned to us again and introduced himself. He seemed honest enough, so we offered him the same wage we were paying Melchoir (At which point our senior henchman chose to grumble about his own pay. We pointed out to him that we could have happily let the wolves have him, and spent as much healing on him as on other party members, so quit bitching.)
We paid Strang half his wage up front, and told him we'd all meet first thing in the morning tand be on our way. After consulting with Falco about the best way to reach Tritop hill, which turned out to be skirting the Kellman woods, we called it a night.
The following day, the group set out. Our travel to the hill was largely uneventful as we moved into wilder lands. As evening fell, we made camp in the Kellman woods, building a blind of tree branches to keep any eyes on the hill from spotting our fire. Liam took a chance to do some tracking and found large, pawed footprints that were made by something walking on two legs, and we figured these were gnoll tracks. We kept careful watch in the night, knowing that the vile beasts might come prowling.
The next day, we packed up and planned out a scouting formation for the party. Liam the elf would lead, followed a distance behind by Klint, who would relay signals to the rest of the group, who followed at a distance bearing tree branches so that we might disguise ourselves as a hedge should trouble loom. After agreeing on hand signals, we made our arduous way up the gravelly hill, heading for the tripartite peak.
It was late afternoon by the time we'd scaled the hill, and we waited while Liam scouted. Eventually, he and Klint returned, and the elf described a gravelly platform nestled between the peaks, with several crude huts where he saw gnolls skulking about, trying to keep out of the grey sunlight of the wintery mountain. He saw females and younglings as well as warriors, and in the midst of the village there was a larger hut, that might be the ogre's, and/or might belong to the tribe's chieftain.
Not wanting to engage an entire village of the towering, hyena headed beasts on their own turf, we came up with a plan to lead small groups away piecemeal. We decided to set a false camp fire, and then hide within bowshot and ambush them. We searched out a large boulder to hide behind, took the branches we'd brought for camoflage and set them alight, the green boughs giving off a column of smoke, and waited.
Presently, a trio of gnoll warriors set out from the village to investigate. As they came into range, Klint and Liam opened fire with their longbows. Sadly, the dice were kinda huffy that night, and all they managed to do was hit the ground by the creatures' feet. With a snarl, the beasts charged us, and the battle was joined.
Now, a bunch of gnolls are a pretty tough encounter for a bunch of 1st lvl mooks, especially when the dice are acting all squirrely. Liam, the Deacon, Yogund, and Strang all kept missing horribly, while Klint fired his bow into combat, doing a bit better in damaging our foes. Finally, Melchoir struck a mighty blow and killed one of the beasts, causing the other creatures to turn tail and flee. Not wanting them to get away and call more warriors, we did our best to stop them. Koode cast his sleep spell, and caused one of the creatures to fall into a magical slumber, as Liam and Klint fired after the survivor. Klint (I think.) managed to get one final shot off, felling the straggler before he crested the hill in view of the village. Yogund ran up to the sleeping gnoll and securely bound the beast. Our position blown, the group hurriedly gathered up the fallen gnolls and scampered away into the gathering night, eventually finding shelter in a small copse of trees on the hillside after arguing about whether we should go all the way back down the hill or not.
Once safely out of sight we searched the bodies of the dead gnolls, finding purses heavy with gold on their belts, which we split up on the spot. The Deacon decided that for his valor in slaying one of the gnolls, Melchoir deserved a little reward, and gave him a bonus silver shilling, followed by an exhortation not to be a jerk when he started lording it over Strang.
Then we set about interrogating the prisoner, who we'd stripped of his armor, bound tightly, and muzzled. Liam spoke gnollish, and with the Deacon standing by to give the critter raps on the nose with his staff if he snarled or snapped, we plied the beast with questions. We learned the gnoll chief, One Eye, paid the ogre in food to act as defense for their village against the "dead things" from the haunted ruins on Bone Hill. The beast had little to no concept of numbers, and could only tell us there were "many" gnolls in the village. Once the stream of information trickled off to threats and insults, we muzzled Yellow Fang again and settled in for the night, keeping watch on both him and the surrounding area.
The next morning we decided to try our decoy plan again, only this time we'd use our captive as the bait. Returning to our boulder, we set the bound and blindfolded gnoll down in bowshot from our position, loosing his muzzle and telling him that we were leaving the hilltop since we didn't want to fight the ogre. Then we waited, until our captive got up the courage to start howling for help.
After about an hour, another party of warriors from the village wended their way down the hillside. There were three gnolls, one of which was larger and fiercer looking, with black, hollow socket where one of his glazed, red eyes should be, and following close behind was a hulking brute of an ogre, dully dragging huge club behind him.
As they approached our bound captive, things kind of went all pear shaped, as one of the warriors spotted Klint in his hiding place. Barking and snarling, the beasts leveled their spears and charged him, wounding him. He ran over to the main party's position with the jabbering monsters in hot pursuit. The chief turned to face us, and snarled an order at his ogre minion to attack.
As the hulking brute hiked up his bearskin kilt and came trundling up the hill, Koode cast his sleep spell in their direction. The ogre, sadly, shrugged the magical slumber off, but the gnoll cheiftan's one eye drooped shut and he dropped in a snoring heap where he stood, while our captive frantically craned his neck trying to find out what was going on.
Faced with an ogre and two gnolls, things went kind of rough for the party. The dice were doing their best to get us killed, and we were having trouble. Strang initially panicked and dropped his spear when the ogre loomed over him, and was told to man up. Unfortunately, his show of fear must have attracted the brute's attention, because he proceeded to rain heavy blows on the hapless henchman, forcing the Deacon to use his healing spell on him to keep him in the fight. Eventually, this was only a delaying measure, as another crushing blow to the chest laid the hireling spearman out.
That wasn't the worst of the fight, however. The real calamity was one of the gnolls, battling furiously with Liam, struck a mighty blow to his shield arm, severing it at the shoulder. The elf fell back, screaming in agony, and things looked bleak for the players. Klint finished off the healing potion, restoring his health to full, and Yogund laid hands on Liam so that he wouldn't bleed out, but the elf, now unable to use a bow for the rest of his life, was seriously considering death.
In desperation, the Deacon reached into his pouch and pulled out the gold ring, and caught the ogre's attention with it as the brute loomed over the wheezing, prostrate form of Strang. As a dull light of greed flickered in the nine foot monster's piggy little eyes, the Deacon sent the bauble rolling down the hill with a flick of his wrist. By the mercy of the Allmaker, the ogre turned and shambled off after it. Thanks be t' him what made the truly evil often the truly stupid as well.
Meanwhile, Koode slipped around the side of the fight and made his way down the hill with a blade drawn. In short order he beheaded the sleeping gnoll cheiftain, and slit the throat of our hapless captive as well. As he turned and raised the one eyed head skyward, roaring a threat, the party managed to take down one of the two remaining gnolls. I'm not sure if it was Yogund, Melchoir, or Klint who struck the final blow, but fell it we did. The final gnoll looked around, saw his companions dead, beheaded, or stumbling dumbly down the hill after a glinting, bouncing gold ring, and took to his heels. Klint took some parting shots with his bow, but the beast scampered over the crest of the hill and was gone.
After conferring hastily as to what our next step was, we decided we didn't want to have anything to do with the village, as it probably still would put up a pretty stiff defence, especially with two gravely wounded companions on our side. We decided we'd rush down the hill after the ogre and try to finish him off, as that was the mission we'd embarked on anyway. As we steeled ourselves to give chase, the session came to a close.
All told, a real action packed session. As we talked about it afterward, Liam's player warmed up to seeing what he could do with a one armed elf. Between that and biting the snake that was trying to crush him, we have the makings of a legendary badass. We left Paul's house, discussing trick prosthesis' and the possibility of him switching to crossbow as a weapon. (You can operate it one handed, it probably would just take a whole damn lot longer to load. Maybe he could hire a henchman to do that. The possibilities are endless!) So here's to Liam, the elf who'd just as soon bite you as shake your hand...
Thanks to Paul, and the rest of the 10d gamers for another thrilling session. I'm so glad we managed to not call it off altogether.