After just finishing a session (#36) with only two players at the online table this session saw a "full" table. Now with five players although one was still away this week and one player was mainly a spectator. For me, a group of five players is my maximum. Even in a face-to-face game, I prefer to max out at five but I can do more. For an online game with the current technology (Discord) I would recommend not going over five players. There is still the issue that not everyone can talk at once. With five players it is going to happen on occasion. I think with more people some players are not going to be heard. You want the players to be more than just dice rollers. During the combat portion of the session, I did find myself scrolling back up the chat a few times to catch up on a few attacks by players that I missed.
It was also nice to have more than one player in the group who was assertive. It led to more roleplaying. I actually found I had stretches of five minutes or more when I could settle quietly into the background while the players interacted. It greatly reduces the stress on the Gamemaster. This session was a fairly straight forward one with travel and a short troll encounter. It will be interesting to see how this works in future sessions. There is the possibility, depending on what the players decide to do, of the players heading into an investigative session. That could be interesting.
This session was one where the players did not burn through everything I had prepared. I find that I have more than enough written and set aside for the next session for once.
Session 37: New friends and Old Enemies
Players: Lakima (Human Magic-user), Eathwund (Human Fighter), Moonshadow (Elven Thief), Carric (Elven Thief NPC), Domago (Human cleric NPC), Lantosh (Human Fighter PC/NPC).
With the Tome of Artifice carefully stowed in a sack and packed away the adventuring party of the Black Dragon set out following the Crescent stream south. They have a four-day journey ahead of them to get to Edgerton. They need to reach Edgerton before the Blue Dragon Synastarax returns. The deadline is one week away.
On the first day, they pass the ford that leads to the village of Garanton. From here they see their tracks in the snow are covered over by wagon tracks. Carric examines the tracks and declares it is several wagons that are a half-day ahead of them. That night as they make camp Carric scans the river valley ahead but sees no sign of any campfires set by fellow travellers.
The next morning Lakima decides to tell the charmed ogre Otun to go back to the wild. Figuring they would have a problem travelling with an ogre once they left the wilderness. The adventurers set out again. Around noon Carric, in the lead, holds up his hand to halt. Ahead on the frozen river they see an empty wagon has fallen halfway through the ice. On the shore, there is a confusion of tracks. The tracks of at least two wagons head south. Another set of tracks created by a large creature dragging a large sack head east into the wilderness. Carric examines the tracks and suggests they were made by a troll who appears to have ambushed some merchants on the trail. Lakima agrees but says there is no need to investigate.
They continue south and after a short distance spot a thin figure approaching from the south. The adventurers fan out in case this is an enemy. As the figure approaches and tosses back her hood they see it is a pale-skinned elf. The elf introduces herself as Moonshadow. She was travelling with a merchant out of Garanton. The day before they were attacked by at least one troll in the early evening. One wagon got separated from the rest. Once the merchant leading the wagons realized that four travellers were missing he stopped. Moonshadow volunteered to go back and look for them. She found the wreck of the wagon and followed the tracks to a cave entrance. Wisely deciding she would not be able to fight a troll in its lair she proceeded back to the trail looking for help. Looking over the group with some suspicion she asks if they will help her find the missing merchants.
|A new friend on the road|
The members of the adventuring party confer. The blue dragon Synastarax’s deadline should be Dechem 27. It is only Dechem 21 or 22 by their reckoning. They should have a few days to spare to get back to Edgerton in time to meet the dragon’s deadline. Lakima tells Moonshadow they can spare a day to look for the missing men. Moonshadow corrects him - three men are missing and one Halfling.
Nash suggests he wait by the river with the horses once Moonshadow explains that the troll cave is only a few hours away. But Lakima tells Nash that this would leave him all alone with trolls wandering about. He quickly decides to come with them. Moonshadow leads them through light snow to a large hill. On the side of the hill, a frozen stream emerges from a cave. She points at the cave indicating that it is the troll lair. Nash sets up a camp while the rest of the adventurer's don gear and ready their weapons. Outside the cave, Lakima suggests that the two elves enter first and scout ahead since they can see in the dark. Moonshadows gestures, “after you” to Carric and he enters first. Moving as quietly as they can, the two elves enter the cave and follow the frozen stream to a cave. A scattering of broken wood crates is piled on the cave floor. The stream continues into another cave where Carric spots a mound of fresh dirt with an entrance in the front. He hurries back to Moonshadow to confer. Then the two elves return to the exit and tell the humans what they have found.
The adventurers decide on a course of action. Carric and Moonshadow enter the caves first and take up positions covering the hole in the mound with their bows ready. Eathwund, Lakima, and Domago hold back with Lantosh in the back with his lantern. Nothing happens at first but as soon as the mound is illuminated by the light of the lantern carried by Lantosh, a giant lizard rushes out of the mound. It does not see Carric and Moonshadow and rushes right past them for Lantosh. Both elves take a pair of shots with their bows and miss. The 10-foot-long lizard clamps down on Lantosh’s thigh in its jaws. Eathwund comes to Lantosh’s aid, striking the giant lizard and it releases its grip. The rest of the adventurers fire missile weapons at it until it stops moving. Domago checks on Lantosh and casts a Healing prayer on the unfortunate man. Lantosh asks Moonshadow if this is a Troll cave or a Lizard cave?
While the adventurers discuss this, Carric and Moonshadow move further into the caves. Carric sees some large wooden cages with dark shapes inside. Then Moonshadow spots a troll moving about in another cave further up the stream. Moonshadow moves back to the other adventurers and warns them. The entire group moves forward into the cave with the two large cages. The humans are unable to spot the troll in the darkness but Moonshadow assures them that the troll is in the cave. Lakima tells Moonshadow to draw out the troll so she fires a pair of arrows at it and misses. The arrows hit the cave wall above the troll. The troll reacts and begins looking around turning its back to the group. Carric joins Moonshadow and they fire four more arrows. All of the arrows miss. The troll becomes aware of the attack as it picks up a broken arrow. It growls and moves in large, strides toward the heroes. Once the troll enters the lantern light Lantosh and Eathwund move up to block its passage at a narrow point in the passage. Eathwund activates his Ring and his sword bursts into flame. As he strikes the troll it cries out and Eathwund sees that the wound is not healing. He strikes it again but then the flames go out. Forced to strike the troll now without flame Eathwund watches as the wounds on the troll begin to heal. A second troll appears in the passage and moves towards the group. Lantosh is bitten by the troll and staggers. He moves back and Lakima steps up and casts Atanazabar’s Acrid finger. A stream of acid hits the troll doing more damage. The troll decides to flee and it runs north down the tunnel splashing through the unfrozen portion of the stream. The adventurers let it go and concentrate on the other troll. They hit it repeatedly with their weapons and driven to the ground after Eathwund chops off one of its legs. The troll lies on the ground but as they watch its wounds begin to heal and the leg wriggles towards the body. Lakima moves his acid spray onto the troll and slowly dissolves it.
|The Troll Cave - old enemies|
Carric is sent to scout ahead in the direction the troll went. The rest of the heroes look about the cave. Two men are found alive in one of the cages. With some effort, working together the adventurers manage to tip the cage over and free the two men. Moonshadow recognizes the men she knows as Natty and Karker. Karker thanks them for the rescue. He tells them that another man was taken away and eaten several hours ago and the halfling was dragged away still alive a short time ago.
Carric returns and tells everyone the next cave is the last in the underground. The stream continues north in a narrow passage. He was not willing to follow the stream. He could hear the Troll moaning in the distance. Quietly he tells Lakima that he found some gold coins strewn about the cave and picked them up. Gold that likely belongs to the merchants. The entire party moves into the next cave. In the lantern light, they find a troll nest filled with debris, parts of humanoids and animals and bones. Moonshadow identifies the partially gnawed head of the halfling that went missing. Satisfied that they have rescued everyone still alive, the group leaves the caves and reunites with Nash. Domago chants another Cure prayer on Lantosh.
The party sets out again heading south with three extra party members. That night they set up camp and set a watch for more marauders. Moonshadow offers to take a shift on watch. The next day they arrive at Wayfarer’s End. The small hamlet consists of a trading post/inn and a few cottages. At the Inn Karker, Natty, and Moonshadow are reunited with Bregor who was leading their caravan. Bregor thanks the group and produces two bottles of wine to share so they do not have to drink the innkeeper's terrible home-made spirits. The merchants have taken all of the rooms so the adventurers sleep on the floor of the common room thankful to be inside and out of the cold. Carric and Moonshadow take a watch together and Moonshadow learns a little about Carric and his companions in the Company of the Black Dragon.
The next day Bregor learns the adventurers are headed for Edgerton and asks that they travel in company. Deciding strength in numbers is a good idea, the large party heads out together. Overnighting in the wilderness for one night before reaching The Goose Inn in Whetwhistle. Their business partner Whexley greets them and makes sure his friends get all of the private rooms. The merchants bed down in the tavern.
Just before noon on the next day, the entire caravan reaches the South Gate of Edgerton. The watch stationed at the gate greets them and ushering them past without inspection. The grateful merchants wave goodbye. Lakima invites Moonshadow over to the Chapter House of the Black Dragon. There she meets their staff and is shown around. Lakima also shows her the vault which she looks at with interest. Lakima explains that the building used to belong to a moneylender. She meets their newest member Alonso.
Once everything is settled Lakima, Eathwund, Lantosh, Alonso, and Moonshadow head over to the Watch Station and meet with Colten Brightmoor. They assure the worried Guard Captain that they have located the Tome of Artifice demanded by the blue dragon Synastarax. They will be present for the hand-over of the book or will make sure it is available to Brightmoor. Brightmoor tells them of the plans he has made for the defense of Edgerton. He also notes he is short of men in the evenings because of a number of killings that have occurred in the Mirdton district.
Upon hearing of some of the details of the killings, Lakima dismisses it as not being a job that would pay them. Colten Brightmoor does not ask for their help with it certain that the extra watch he has assigned to the district will put a stop to the killings.
Lakima checks in with his fiance Alayna and shows her the two potions he found in the Plundered Tomb. Alayna gets to work on identifying them. Later Lakima, Eathwund, and Moonshadow go to the Apothecary and speak with Malyn. Lakima angrily tells Malyn that the Dark Lady cultists are messing with the Well of Mana. Malyn implies that Lakima should have expected this as the cultists are tied to the god of chaos. There is anger exchange and Lakima ends by telling Malyn that he will deal with any cultists at the Well.
There are a few days before the dragon’s deadline so everyone settles down to relax. Lakima invites Moonshadow to join the group and gives her a room at the Chapter House. Moonshadow does not commit to the group. She does spend some time exploring the town of Edgerton which is new to her. In the Low Market, she grabs a young urchin/sneak thief named Snipe and asks the boy about the local underworld. Snipe turns out to be one of Carric’s crew. But the young man seems eager to have another employer. Snipe fills Moonshadow in on more details about the killings of the two women both of whom were streetwalkers.
Back at the Chapter House, Moonshadows tells her new friends what she has learned. Lakima asks what is the pay for getting involved? With no good answer, Moonshadow drops the discussion. Lantosh privately tells Moonshadow that if she wants to investigate he will back her play.
The next morning they hear one of the town criers announcing another murder in Mirdton. The town crier calls it the work of the “Ripper” a killer of legend who killed five ladies of the night over fifty years ago and was never caught. The town crier also yells out that the latest victim is a man. Which would not be the usual pattern.
Lakima goes back to meet Malyn and offers the mage his notes on the Magic Jar spell he found in the Plundered Tomb in exchange for a scroll containing the Wall of Iron spell. Malyn agrees to a deal that includes the added price of 900 gold. Malyn says he will have the scroll ready in two days.
It is Dechem 25, the annual date of the Winter Solstice and Yule festivals but no one in Edgerton is celebrating. The dragon is set to return in two days and preparations need to be made.