Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
The Favorites of Selune - Trollhaunt - Session 3

In the previous session the Favorites of Selune fought their way into the troll warrens. This session started with them deciding to take a long rest, as they tend to do after every remotely challenging fight to recover their daily spells. Note to self: I need to have a mechanic like a time limit for every dungeon in the future to prevent this; respawning trolls would be another option, but then they'd just rest again. At least in this case they had found a good location for the rest, a neighboring cave in which human prisoners from Moonstairs and the prince's expedition were held. The prisoners were in no condition to fight, but were willing to keep guard while the group rested, in exchange for being freed and led out of the troll warren the next day.

Having entered the warrens via the river flowing out, I would have thought that the group might continue further into the warrens that way, which would have been an option. But they decided to do the more conventional thing and followed the tunnels instead. That led them to a cave where an elderly troll shaman was circling a mound of skulls on an elevated platform, with a giant bear pet at the foot of the stairs. Their first concern curiously was to find out whether the bear was actually a bear or a transformed troll druid. Nice idea, but in this case it really was just a bear. While observing the bear they were seen by it, but the bear was content gnawing some bones and didn't attack. A further incursion into the cave likewise didn't result in an attack, neither by the troll nor the bear. And one of the two exits was thus clearly possible to reach without a fight. That caused some discussion, with the rogue being in favor of leaving no troll alive, while the rest of the group preferred to preserve their strength.

The next cave was empty except for a portal with runes on it. The runes apparently were relatively fresh, and in the script that both dwarves and giant-kind uses. With a comprehend languages ritual the priest deciphered it as announcing this door to lead towards the troll king Skalmad, "nobody escapes his eye". The door had a lock, and the rogue was able to pick it, so the group could continue this way.

The next large cave was illuminated by patches of luminescent mushrooms, with an old woman tending a patch of those mushrooms in the middle of the room. From the ceiling hung cages containing troll skeletons. After their experience with the non-hostile troll, the group approached the women with little worry. Which was a mistake, because she transformed into her real form, a briar hag. There was a second hag in the back of the cave, and from the cages descended five troll skeletons and attacked.

As the group had advanced into the cave, and not kept rank, the fight didn't have a clear frontline, and there were skeletons or hags all around and between the characters. While that has obvious tactical disadvantages, at least it made the area effect of the briar hags, who grew patches of briar to entangle the adventurers, less effective. Being right in the middle the cleric used a great combination of turn undead after an area effect spell which allowed him a total of 10 attacks where he needed only to roll a 10 or more on a d20. To general amusement he managed to miss 9 of those attacks. After this bad start the fight was a rather tough one, with lots of healing and use of daily powers needed to survive. The troll skeletons hit hard, and the hags had ranged spells to immobilize adventurers. With the adventurers being dispersed and hindered in movement, they were unable to concentrate their attacks well, which led to several rounds of combat with no monster dying. But then the skeletons started to fall, and so did the first hag. The second hag tried to get to the door to the next room, but was slowed down by some attack, and never made it.

After the fight the group found some treasure, and we ended the session there.

One of the few things I dislike about D&D 4th is the "daily" part of "AEDU", since it constantly tempts cautious players to be timid. This is true, of course, in every version of D&D, but it really makes pacing tough for this edition.

One solution is to put some time pressure into the setting -- wandering monsters does that, so do goals that are time connected. But next time I run a 4th edition game I might also allow the use of an action point to recharge a daily during a short rest. This would allow flexibility in how they expend resources, and might tempt bolder play.
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