Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
 
The Favorites of Selune - Gardmore Abbey - Session 8

In the previous session we had the first character death of the campaign. So between sessions there was some discussion going on between me and the player who's character had died. He had a decision to make: Did he prefer his character to be resurrected, or would he rather make a new one? In the end made a new one, so I modified the story to fit with that decision.

We started the session with the Favorites of Selune carrying their dead dwarf companion out of the watchtower. After bringing the sword of his dead father to Berrian, the leader of the eladrin nearby (who couldn't help but remark that this was the second family member of his of which the heroes could only bring news of his death), the group set off to Fallcrest to look for somebody to cast the resurrection ritual. Entering the temple of Selune in Fallcrest, where they had previously spent a year in training, they found the high priest in earnest discussion with a beautiful gypsy woman. The high priest called a dwarven priest colleague for the raise dead ritual. But try as he might, the priest wasn't able to make contact with the soul of the departed. Although the body was clearly fresh, the soul seemed gone for ages.

Discussing this curious turn of events, the group explained the manner of their comrade's death. He had died in the watchtower while the tower was still stuck in time on the day of the fall of Gardmore Abbey, and in a different dimension. So technically he died over a century ago, which was why he couldn't be resurrected. Talking of their contact with the Far Realm, the high priest introduced the gypsy woman to the group. She had come to the temple because she was a follower of Selune, and had a connection to the Far Realm (she is of course the new character, a warlock with star pact and a Vistani heritage). At the time where the group returned the watchtower to the real world and time (and incidentally released a beholder), she felt a "disturbance in the force", so to say. And as the beings of the Far Realm are quite dangerous, she felt obliged to warn the authorities, or rather the temple, because the secular authorities wouldn't have listened. When introduced to the group, she and the character holding the cards of the group felt the familiar tug towards each other, indicating they both had cards from the Deck of Many Things. So to follow up on the Far Realm event and to find out more about that card she had held for some time, the warlock (or should I call her sorceress? Witch? Fortune Teller?) joined the group.

The dwarven priest of the temple of Selune offered to organize a dwarven burial for the dead warlord. That caused some tension because the priest wanted to bury the dead with his weapons and armor, and the dwarven fighter in the group wanted to keep the magical equipment. In the end the fighter handed over the lesser items and kept only the best stuff for himself, burying his comrade with non-magical weapons. They bought a barrel of beer and celebrated a wake, and that was the end of the story for that particular character.

Next the group returned not to the abbey, but to Winterhaven, from where they had received the quest to liberate the watchtower. Lord Padraig was happy to hear those good news, and said he would send 50 soldiers with them as an occupation force for the watchtower, which should hinder the orcs from making further raids. But ideally he would like to see the orcs gone from the abbey, so he suggested that the heroes kill the orc chieftain. The court mage Valthrun had recently received information from a merchant who was held for ransom by the orcs and then liberated for a large sum of money. The merchant was part of Valthrun's network of informers, and had used the opportunity to spy on the defenses. He reported that the main gate was only lightly guarded, and held stocks of the hooded cloaks the orcs wore. It seemed possible to capture the main gate, which was a good way apart from the village, without raising an alarm.

[This was basically an attempt by me to rescue two or three encounters of the adventure. But the players didn't bite. I wonder if any group playing this adventure ever did the main gate encounter, it appears so bloody obvious that there are so many better ways to get into the abbey.]

The group traveled back to the abbey and instead of approaching the main gate went back with the soldiers to the watchtower, and crossed the Feygrove from there to get to the back of the keep. They had learned from the eladrin that the orc chieftain was in that keep, but that in front of the back entrance there was a garden full of giant spiders, which the eladrin didn't want to disturb. The group had less qualms about that, especially since they remembered a secret the nymphs had told them, about a magical sword lost in that garden which was a key for a building in the village.

Arriving at the garden it became clear that some of players thought that there had been too much role-playing and not enough fighting going on. Seeing webbed nests in the trees the cleric deliberately threw sticks at it to provoke a fight with a spider. The spider was killed quickly, and the players found a cocoon in the webs, which contained a skeleton and a gleaming sword. Their new fortune teller group member used a ritual to make sure that this was the magical sword they were looking for. The rogue experimented with cutting the webs and discovered that if done skillfully the group could cut their way through the garden without disturbing all the spiders. They found the best path to try that and proceeded towards the back door of the keep. The rogue could completely disable one spider web "alarm system", but two others only partially. And in both cases the other party members passing failed to do so quietly enough, resulting in two more mini-fights against spiders.

Having arrived at the back door of the keep, the rogue examined the door, found no traps, and was able to unlock the door. Listening at the door he heard sounds he thought were big dogs. On opening the door and then banging against the door to attract the dogs, the resulting howling was identified by the ranger as rather belonging to giant wolves. The players tried to lure them out, but then saw that the wolves were mounted by orc riders, who refused to be tricked that easily. So the players decided to go in and attack before the orcs could raise reinforcements. As it was late and that fight would take more time than the small skirmishes against the spiders, we decided to stop there.

The repeated tactic of the players to rather stay outside of doors and hope to attract monsters instead of going into a room to fight them is messing with my encounter maps. Half of the fighting we do happens outside the boundaries of the battle map. I wonder how other DMs handle that. I sure ain't going to let every monster rush into that sort of trap.

Comments:
Yeah, my players have wisened up about not rushing in so I have the same problem with them sitting outside the battle map.. I solve that to a certain degree by making it more advantageous to go inside the building or room than to stay out.

Maybe there's a portal or idol summoning more monsters constantly that needs to be destroyed pronto, or maybe they're about to be pincered, so they jump into the building, clear it out, and hole up in it. Or maybe some role playing encounter devolved into combat, but the players had to have entered the area to do the role playing portion. Or make the enemies set up in a highly defensible position where they can rain down ranged death on the party and it's easier and safer to get up close and personal. Or perhaps if the players dally, some terrible consequence will take place, like a hostage dying, or some loot gets destroyed in front of their faces.

You won't solve every case, a cautious party will still find ways to thwart you, but changing up the objectives of a fight can really add tension and urgency and force the party to rush in.
 
One thing to do is to simply reverse the scenario - tell the players that monsters are coming to them. They'll set up the room. Then have an NPC mention how the monsters might wait outside the door.

The copy the players methods for dealing with it.
 
If the monsters have missile weapons, my players will generally rush them. An example would be arming a monster with a wand. "While you wait, an orc shaman appears behind the warg-riders, raises a wand and launches a fireball from it. Roll saving throw, everyone."

That wand? A Wand of Wonder, with two charges left. :)


 
"it became clear that some of players thought that there had been too much role-playing and not enough fighting going on"

LOL!

Also, orcs should have some idea of tactics and if there are enough of them could send out a squad to flank the party... unless the orcs are afraid of the spiders in the backyard. :P
 
Depends on the number of baddies available but orcs have some basic tactic knowledge. With enough of them a second squad can go around to flank the party (unless the orcs are scared of spiders).

Reading the next Session notes though it seems that there are only 7 of them(?) so that would have been tough.
 
Overall 8 grunt orcs, 1 shaman, 1 chieftain, and his wife. Plus the two wolves.
 
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