The Scales of War

Of bar fights and dungeon crawls

Where it all began

The first session of the 4th edition game took place today, and although not everyone managed to show up (we ended up with only 3 players this session), the party did get a head start into the campaign. I am using a published adventure path and so I implore my players and anyone interested in playing to NOT look it up online. It’s no fun when you know exactly what you’re facing. Sometimes, your eagerness to keep things in line with expectations can stop me from improvising and making up stuff that could potentially save the party from imminent doom (or pose a challenge should the encounter prove to be too trivial).

On another note, I thought it would be nice to have a campaign journal where I can keep track of the events happening in the game, so players who missed a session or readers who are interested in playing can follow the story thus far and jump in without too much finagling and explaining. With that said, I present to you the first chapter of our tale:

Of bar fights and dungeon crawls:

Our story takes place in Elsir Vale, a fictional location first encountered in the 3.5 adventure Red Hand of Doom. The town of Brindol is where the adventure kick starts, and our three heroes all find themselves there in some way or another.

Our first member is the brave Kobold Warlord, Meepo Pun-Pun, a veteran of under-appreciated minions. After a few decades of serving under cruel dungeon masters and evil overlords, he grew tired of watching his kinsmen suffer under their employers’ cruelty or the swords and sorcery of rag-tag adventurers. One day, he decided to break away from the bonds of his fate as cannon fodder, taking up arms and becoming an adventurer himself. Now his goal is to gain fame and fortune, so as to prove the worth of kobolds in the world.

Then, we have the ale-loving Dwarven Fighter, Gustav. A resident of an entirely different sort of Vale (Nentir Vale, to be exact), the warrior who hailed from Hammerfast found himself stuck in a campaign world he was not first created for. Grumpy and callous, Gustav has rather straightforward philosophy to tanking: dead things don’t do harm. Wading into battle with a hefty axe and a tough hide that can absorb multiple blows without flinching, Gustav plays an important role in keeping the party alive.

Last but not least, the final party member (for now) is Model 8XZetcetc., or more commonly known to his companions as Thunderwolf, the Warforged Druid. A former warrior, Thunderwolf was ambushed by some elves and lost most of his body’s functions. He was left for dead and lied dormant in the middle of a forest for 18 months, during which time he gained an earnest appreciation for nature and its bounties. This may or may not be attributed to the moss that had grown on his body, or the various critters that have settled in his joints and various other body parts.

Like about 78% of all DMs out there, I started my adventure in a tavern. The Antler and Thistle tavern, to be exact. It was a slow day, and relatively peaceful compared to other days where hobgoblin raids plagued the town of Brindol. A bit of trouble seemed to be stirring as Meepo ordered a cuppa wine without the monetary resources to pay for it, having spent all his gold on throwing war picks. Needless to say, the bartender was none too pleased at this, and he tried to catch the fleeing kobold, even as Thunderwolf stepped in between them and offered to cover the little guy’s tab. The whole thing would have ended there, and our heroes would have never set out on an adventure, had the hobgoblins not picked that exact moment to storm in the tavern and try to wreak havoc.

Waves of hobgoblins swarmed into the place and started attacking the tavern’s patrons as well as our kobold, Meepo. Fortunately, none of the patrons were hurt and our heroes fought valiantly, effectively holding them off before they could launch their volatile torches and set fire to the place. Meepo was hurt badly, but a timely Chill Wind from Thunderwolf cleared out the minions and saved the little guy. The kobold recovered quickly, thanks to a quick pep talk from himself (Inspiring Word), and together with the drunken dwarf, Gustav, they managed to end the encounter swiftly.

Hardly a moment passed before they learned another threat was coming their way. An ogre pulling a wagon full of explosives was rampaging in the streets, followed by two goblin archers. A bit of quick thinking from Meepo later, and the wagon soon exploded into smithereens from an accurately thrown molotov cocktail. The explosion softened the enemy up for Gustav to charge into the fray, attracting their attention while Thunderwolf summoned nature’s help and restrained the monsters with conjured vines from the earth. Meanwhile, Meepo launched himself from the tavern’s second floor, ignoring the damage from the fall, and rushed into battle throwing war picks aplenty. Despite the ogre’s resilience, it went down quickly from the coordinated assault, and its goblin allies soon followed suit. The heroes celebrated their victory and learned that the remaining hobgoblin forces have retreated.

The next day, the party was summoned by the town’s newest council member, a half-elf named Eoffram Troyas. He requested their help in rescuing several townspeople who had been captured by the hobgoblins a scant few days ago. He promised they would be rewarded fairly should they complete the task, and mentioned a further bonus if they would also return all the relics of the previous Red Hand war that were stolen from the town’s Hall of Great Valor. Our heroes agreed to help, and they interrogated a hobgoblin captive by the name of Morrik in hopes of finding their way to the enemy’s hideout. They learned that the leader of the raiding parties was a hobgoblin named Sinruth, and he had apparently set up base in a place called Castle Rivenroar. Thanks to Meepo’s convincing speech, Morrik agreed to lead the party there, and they got Eoffram’s permission to release the prisoner, even at a risk to his reputation (Morrik was originally supposed to stand trial and most likely be executed for his crimes).

Following their guide, the group made it to Rivenroar within the day and with no further incidents (failure to negotiate the deal would have led them into a Kruthik’s nest, or they might have to figure out the way on their own, which might lead to more random encounters… an adventurer’s bane!). Morrik bade them farewell and promised to rethink his ways, and Meepo offered to scout ahead of the party. The little kobold found an entrance to the derelict castle’s dungeons, and our heroes swiftly dispatched of the small guard forces at the entrance. Dodging the fireball launching braziers in the first room of the dungeon, they ventured deeper into the complex, into an area filled with fungi and toxic mushrooms.

There, they noticed two Rage Drakes that seemed to be guarding a room beyond the wide mushroom covered one they were in. Using the element of surprise, Gustav, Meepo and Thunderwolf mounted a ranged assault at one of the Drakes, and succeeded in luring them to the entrance, where their size advantage became instead a disadvantage. The party took out the two guard dragons with little effort, and with guidance from Thunderwolf, they navigated their way safely through the room without triggering any of the toxic mushrooms (much to the DM’s dismay). The guarded door led to a room where a captive townsperson was held in a magic circle. The old lady Zerriksa, a misunderstood herbalist from Brindol was held here after she threatened to turn some of the hobgoblins to toads using her fake voodoo magic. It took a few tries, but Thunderwolf was able to disable the magic circle, freeing Zerriksa. Not that the old hag was too grateful to the party. She was grumpy from her mistreatment (and probably from hunger too), but she did mention a useful tidbit of information.

Two days ago, in order to scare her into helping them, the hobgoblins showed her the dead body of another captive, whom she identified as Karentix, the captain of the guards. Then, they brought his son in front of her to threaten her, to no avail. The old lady did not care much for the other captives, and she would rather not follow the PCs deeper into the catacombs, for that was the true nature of these dungeons, in order to rescue them. Our heroes decided they would leave her in a safe area in the woods nearby, and send an animal messenger to Brindol, requesting a search party to rescue Zerriksa, and probably the other captives once the PCs get to them. Though the bird created by the ritual looked slightly weak, Thunderwolf believed it could do the job.

Doubling back into the dungeons, our heroes took a right turn from the entrance and found themselves in a room filled with glowing runes that spelled out the name of one of the families that shared these catacombs with the Rivenroar clan: the Von Jallach’s. At the sound of their entrance, swarms of Needlefang Drakes, voracious little beasts that overcome humanoids with their sheer numbers and feast on their flesh. In this case, Gustav suffered the brunt of the first attack, as the swarms descended on him, intending to rip his meaty dwarven flesh open for dinner. Thankfully, he was saved thanks to his own dwarven resilience, and Meepo’s inspiring comments (“Take it like a man! You’re boss!” etc.). While he held off the swarms, Thunderwolf summoned chilling winds that froze some of the critters and blew the rest into the area of the glowing runes, which burned through more of them. Gustav recovered enough to cleave through several more, and Meepo dealt the finishing blow by using his shield to push the remainder further into the burning runes, frying the small menaces like barbecue. Then, a barrage of crossbow bolts whizzed past the kobold’s head, and had it not been for his height, Meepo would have been in dire straits. Thunderwolf was too far away to notice, and Gustav was preoccupied with getting some of the numerous teeth and sometimes full jaws still stuck to his skin and armour off, but the kobold’s keen eyes spotted a skulking Gnome in the back of the room, hiding in the shadows and brandishing a wicked looking crossbow. Yipping with rage, the veteran warlord charged at his enemy and delivered a mighty blow with his War Pick. Thunderwolf immediately joined in and summoned a fiery bird of prey that threatened to bring swift death to the gnomish bugger. The gnome decided to turn tail and flee, ducking under the firebird but taking a blow from the warlord’s weapon. As soon as he was hit, he faded from sight, and slipped under Gustav’s defenses. He thought he was on his way to safety, but he was caught unawares by a well placed Chill Wind attack by Thunderwolf. Shivering with cold and covered in frost, the enemy was clearly visible to our heroes, and a swing by Gustav from the aptly named Execution Axe ended the fight, and the session.

Our heroes managed to get just enough experience to advance to the next level, and when they return, they will be more powerful and up to the challenges that lay ahead. What perils await them in the ruins of Rivenroar Castle? What unlikely allies will they meet on the way? Will they overcome the challenges and save the townsfolk? What magic items would entice them to thoroughly search this place? All these questions, and more, will be answered in our next session, on Sunday January 17th, 2010. Tune in to find out!

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