Saturday, 9 January 2021

I think we will just skip that

During last week's session of my Swords & Wizardry campaign, I had three short adventures written and waiting for the players. They were just coming out of a multiple session large dungeon and I felt they would likely appreciate being able to pick something short to do. They proceeded to skip 2 of the 3 I had written and I ended up scrambling a little to make up something on the fly. Luckily I had some ideas floating around in my head for the next adventure so I did not have to completely ad-lib.

I also took the opportunity to give the players some downtime. They are in the 4-7 level range now and have enough gold that they can afford to take their time picking up their next job. So I gave them several weeks in their home town to do research and buy equipment.

Session 35: Hill Giants & Dragons

Players: Lakima (Magic-user), Eathwund (Fighter), Alonso (Fighter), Carric (Elven Thief NPC), Domago (Human cleric NPC), Lantosh (Human Fighter NPC).

Upon leaving the Plundered Tomb just in time to avoid it collapsing, the heroes set out for Caster’s Ford through the snowy Valley of Heroes.

The sun has barely reached its peak as the heroes leave the tomb so they decide to get started immediately. Everyone is loaded down with a large sack of loot and this slows their progress as they march toward Caster's Ford. As the sun begins to set it starts to snow lightly. Up ahead around a bend in the stream they spot a campfire. Lakima asks Carric to scout ahead. The elf goes forward and comes back a few minutes later. He reports a fire surrounded by four statues (3 humans and one wolf). The adventurers decide to approach the statues carefully. The campfire is in a small hollow and they fan out around it. Footprints in the recently fallen snow show one set of tracks heading south into a dark forest and many tracks heading back and forth across a ford in the stream. A pair of the tracks seem to be laden down with something heavy. They note that the statues depict a mage, cleric, and fighter with expressions of fear or surprise. Assuming there must be a medusa or cockatrice nearby, the heroes decide to leave quickly and push on for a few more hours before camping.

Thus avoiding a pair of encounters I had set up. One encounter with the bandits they chased from the Plundered Tomb and one encounter with a Medusa in a series of caves. I figured they would do one or the other but they skipped both using logic. They were weighed down with a lot of loot.

They stop a few hours later and camp for the night in the cold. A campfire is built and they take turns on watch. Other than spotting a few curious animals everything is quiet through the night. They set out again the next day. At about midday, they pass the track that leads to the Well of Woe. Lakima suggests coming back to the well another time. Right now they are heavily laden with loot and need to make haste for the nearby town. That same loot slows their progress through the snow so that they decide to camp another night outdoors only 4-5 hours walk from Caster’s Ford.

Avoiding the second prepared adventure. Lakima had been talking about recharging his staff and wand at the Well of Woe they found back in session 30. I had a new group occupying the Mana Well temple. They might come back to this one some day.

After an uneventful night, they set out again, cold and a little hungry. Just before noon, they spot the road that leads into the town. But to their surprise, several merchant carts are stopped on the road, and merchants, guards, and common folk are standing around talking. Eathwund and Lakima approach a nearby caravan guard. The man tells them that three giants are laying siege to the town. They are set up on a nearby hill that allows them to hurl boulders at the town walls and onto the road into town. Several wagons had to be abandoned outside the town and one merchant was killed. When Lakima asks what the town guards are doing about it, the man tells them that a sortie of town guards left the town a few hours ago, headed up the hill, and then came running down in fright a short time later.

Lakima confers with the rest of the adventurers and they decide that it will be up to them to deal with the giants. Lakima lets the merchants know that they will be taking care of the problem. He manages to convince them to let the group have the cart of the dead merchant. One of the merchant guards asks to join them. He tells them his name is Alonso. The adventurers welcome him figuring the more the better.

Unable to avoid my third short adventure as the way into the Town is blocked by the giants. They could have headed south or run to the town but they would have come under attack. This also allowed me to introduce a new player character named Alonso to the group.

The Hill Giants are situated on a hill with a gentle slope facing the town and a steep cliff 40 feet high on the other side. Trees cover the back of the hill. The giants have set up giant wooden caltrops to deter horses from approaching on the gentle slope. Lakima and Carric look over the situation and decide they will climb up and hope to surprise the giants from behind. Carric manages to climb up the cliff face with ease and he lets down a rope to the others. He also makes several hand gestures that no one is able to decipher. The rest of the hero's climb up one at a time. Pausing only when a giant comes toward them and stops before a small tent that barely reaches his waist. The giant converses with someone in the tent and then moves back to the front to hurl more boulders at the town.

Lakima tells Carric to check the tent. Meanwhile, Lakima, Eathwund, and Alonso circle to the right through the trees while Domago and Lantosh circle to the left. Carric sneaks up to the tent and cuts a small slit in the back with his dagger. He peers inside and signals a single finger. Lakima waves him inside the tent. Carric slices an opening in the back of the tent and slips inside. Meanwhile, everyone else runs forward hoping to catch the giants by surprise. Lakima breaks the silence by yelling at Eathwund to get down as he casts Lightning Bolt. The Lightning bolt lances across the hillside striking all three of the giants. The giants roar in pain and are knocked down. They struggle to their feet, their skin blackened and cracked open from the assault.

Domago and Lantosh surround a single giant, the runt of the trio, and start to attack. Alonso runs up to the middle giant and Eathwund goes after the giant nearest him and Lakima. The giant fighting Alonso breaks away and staggers to the tent tearing it open yelling something they do not understand. Inside they now see Carric struggling with a human cleric wearing dark robes and holding a staff. The cleric breaks free from Carric and chants a loud prayer freezing Carric with Hold Person. He then tosses something from a leather bag, raises his arm, and shouts. The heroes see sixteen skeletons erupt from beneath the nearby snow. Domago attempts to turn the skeletons and half of them run away.

Carric was a PC until the last session. I usually like to retire player characters rather than retain them as NPCs. But there was no logical place to do it. Carric will slowly work his way off screen.

The battles continue, Alonso tracking down the Hill giant that got away from him. Three skeletons advance on Lakima and strike him twice with their rusty swords. Lakima yells at Eathwund for help just as Eathwund kills the giant he is facing. Lakima casts shield and that protects him from the skeletons long enough for help to arrive. Alonso kills the second giant a short time later. Further down the hill Lantosh and Domago are struggling with a giant and four skeletons. The cleric takes advantage of the confusion to run away to the north. Eathwund turns about and runs over to help Lakima, dispatching 4 skeletons on the way. Alonso runs over to help Domago who is laboring after being hit several times. As Eathwund arrives on the scene they all manage to kill the last hill giant and destroy the remaining skeletons. Carric eventually becomes free of the curse and runs off after the cleric who cursed him.

The Hill giants are checked for loot. They are found to have nothing of any worth except a short sword that appeared to be a pocket knife for the largest giant. In the ruins of the tent, Alonso finds a pack left behind. Inside are some gold and silver coins and three valuable gems. Lantosh points out the find to Lakima but the mage tells Alonso to keep it. His reward for helping them. The heroes are joined by Alonso and they head into town using the abandoned cart to drag their loot from previous adventures. Lakima starts up a conversation with Alonso and invites the fighter to join the Company of the Black Dragon. Alonso agrees to join for now. As they approach the docks near the central square they see that the ship that brought them to Caster’s Ford has left - the agreed date it was to leave passed a few days earlier. Lakima checks with a boat that is currently unloading cargo and finds that they are heading back to Edgerton. Once a fee is agreed upon the captain of the boat tells them they leave in an hour. The adventurers take the remaining time to exchange the platinum into gems and Alonso checks out a nearby armory but decides to wait until they get to Edgerton to buy new gear.

Exchanging gold to gems is always a little tricky in an OSR game where gold rewards are common and plentiful. I had the locals take a sizeable cut to allow the players to exchange their gold and platinum. I award experience on what is recovered - not on what is spent.

The boat ride to Edgerton takes almost 2 days and is uneventful. The adventurers take the time to get acquainted with Alonso. Once in Edgerton they immediately head for the Chapter House. Nothing has changed. Huntley, their manservant, tells them there were no issues while they were away for a week. Carric wanders off to check in with his contacts. Lakima heads over to Cromly’s Smithy and picks up the necklace he commissioned. He presents it to Alayna who seems to appreciate the uniqueness of it. Alonso goes and commissions some plate mail armor. He asks Eathwund about where he can buy healing potions and Eathwund tells him about Alayna’s shop that is located out back of the Chapter House. Alonso heads over and meets Alayna and Lakima. He purchases a few healing potions.

Lakima goes over to confer with Malyn the mage at the Apothecary. He tells Malyn about the Mana Well and Zia/Medamellara. Malyn is incredulous that this could have escaped his keen eye but was found by Lakima. He seems quite put off by it. Lakima asks if there is some group that could protect the mana well. Malyn mentions the Church of the Dark Lady - but there is a catch. He misplaced his bodyguard Humbert that the Church provided him. He needs to get him back. Malyn attempts to talk Lakima into entering the Mazestone but is rebuffed. He does agree to contact the Church of the Dark Lady. He tells Lakima that he cannot provide him with any 4th level spells. Lakima will need to learn them himself.

Here Lakima turned down another adventure. This Mazestone adventure has been available since session 28 but Lakima is not interested. There is not enough of a reward, and being placed into an extradimensional maze does not appeal to him. Eathwund was also offered the job by Malyn at one point. Malyn has been the party's go-to sage and wizard shop but Lakima is now getting to the level where Malyn can no longer be of help.

That evening they had a party at The Dancing Dragon. Lakima gives the innkeeper 200 gold and tells him to give free drinks to every person who toasts Dag Icefoot, their recently fallen comrade. Lantosh nervously asks how often they do this when Lakima tells everyone that it is a tradition. As they leave the tavern, a drunk Lakima thinks he sees Dag amongst the revelers raising a tankard to him. 

Since new jobs that appeal to the group are available right now - and since they are well set financially, they decide to take some downtime. Lakima studies and researches new spells and the Library of Antiquity, Alonso also spends time at the Library researching monsters and legends, Eathwund studies the Manual of Exercise. Lantosh spends time honing his skills with the polearm and Domago heads over to help out and the Church of St. Aleena. Carric drops in every few days and tells Lakima and Eathwund that the opportunity in Edgerton is perfect right now to set up a gang to control all of the gangs in the town. He tells them he will be spending less time in the Company.

There is not a lot written in the Swords & Wizardry rulebook about researching spells. So I assumed it would cost Lakima about what it would cost to buy a spell to research it.

Everything is peaceful and quiet until they are awakened one morning by the sounds of bells ringing and shouting outside their door. Looking out they see people running away from Market Square. The adventurers put on their gear and head over to the square. Here they see an enormous, old, Blue Dragon perched in the center of the square. Town guards arrive and set up a cordon around it. The dragon ignores the guards and casually crushes a few of the market stalls in the square. Lakima steps forward and addresses the dragon. The dragon asks Lakima if he represents the town. When Lakima explains his position the dragon spots the black dragon tabards and asks pointedly if they honor the dragon Aulicus. Lakima tells the dragon that they take their name from the founders of the group who killed a black dragon. The dragon asks him if they think they are dragon killers. As Lakima formulates a reply the dragon informs him that; “You will do!”

The dragon delivers an ultimatum. They have one week to return to this square with a book that can be found in the lair of a long-dead dragon that is in the Shroudlands. When Alonso asks some questions the dragon replies that the book is the Tome of Artifice and he describes it. Lakima asks for two weeks and the dragon bristles and smashes another stall. Lakima then agrees to the terms -but the dragon pauses and agrees to two weeks. He tells Lakima they have a pact with Synstarax. The dragon launches itself into the air and blasts a nearby tower with lightning to further intimidate everyone. It flies off.

This is the AEG D20 adventure Legacy of Madness. Or at least the plot from it. I was thinking of adapting it anyway. It was what I was able to adlib to give the session a proper close.

The square slowly starts to return to normal. The Town Guard captain Colten Brightmoor confers with the heroes. Alonso suggests they prepare for the dragon’s return. Colten says they will bring more ballista to cover the square and turn the ones currently facing out from the city to face the square. When Alonso suggests an evacuation of the town Colten is visibly disturbed. It is winter and the people have no place to go. He does not want to start a panic. He tells them that the Story is that the dragon was driven off and will not return. He impresses on the adventurers that he expects them to stick to this story. He does agree to look into clearing the square before the dragon returns.

Lakima goes over to the Apothecary and meets with Malyn again. The wizard tells Lakima what he knows about the dragon lair in the Shroudlands. It is supposed to be the lair of the so-called Mad Dragon. The Lair is in what is now a wilderness area but there was a village near it at one time. The mad dragon was a silver dragon who would help and protect humans who lived in a nearby valley. But he went mad several hundred years ago. He was working on the Tome of Artifice at the time with the aid of a human wizard friend.

Meeting the Blue Dragon

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