Sunday, December 30, 2012

Adventures in Adventureland

If I haven't mentioned it previously, I play various tabletop roleplaying games, especially Dungeons & Dragons, and have done so regularly for the past 19 years.  Recently our gaming group has become very partial to the Pathfinder system, which is an offshoot of D&D.  We've had several Pathfinder campaigns running concurrently over the past couple of years.

I used to document our gaming sessions as a sort of blog on another site, usually writing up the session summaries as journal entries or letters told from the perspective of my player-character.  Gradually I found that my hand-written notes were not enough detail to inform these stories, and if I spent enough time taking notes to make it easier to write the stories, I was paying more attention to my note-taking than to participating in the game.  I even tried recording the sessions on a small voice recorder, but found that playing back the recordings to turn them into a coherent narrative was even more work than transcribing my notes.  These days my notes consist of very basic details about what happened during the session:  important names, documentation of any loot my PC received, and any spells cast or wounds received if the in-game day laps over into more than one gaming session.

I decided that since we've started a brand-new campaign in the past 2 weeks, I'll document our adventures here.  Like my note-taking, I don't plan to go into a massive amount of detail, or try to turn the events of our sessions into a basis for fiction.  It will just be a basic description of the high points of what happened in the latest session.

Our gamemaster is running a published adventure module, so be warned that this blog may contain spoilers.

Two weeks ago (Dec. 16, 2012), the campaign began.  The party is made up of five characters: Landon, a dwarf alchemist/ranger; Silverleaf, an elf cleric (me); elf fighter SanKari (my husband), a halfling ranger/rogue named Thim, and a human inquisitor/monk, Garrick.  We started at 2nd level with maximum hit points, using the epic-level point buy system of character creation.  I must say that I don't think 25 character creation points constitutes "epic", since it's nearly impossible to get even one ability score above a 16.  My character ended up with no Strength modifier, which isn't my favorite way to play. 

The premise of the adventure is that the rulers of territory bordering on some disputed wilderness have decided to take a stab at incorporating this wilderness into their lands.  To accomplish this they've given some adventurous folks charters that grant them some law-enforcement powers, and encouraged them to go out and start running off (or killing) any bandits or monsters inhabiting the area.

Our PCs have all signed such charters, and were told to visit a trading post in the disputed area to get more information about their duties as charter-holders.  On arriving they were introduced to each other, and then the owner of the trading post told them about some trouble he'd been having with a local gang of bandits led by someone known as the Stag Lord.  The bandits had been returning once a month to steal supplies from the trader, and had also been plaguing various local landowners and fur trappers.  As it happened, the following day was when the trader expected the bandits to return for their monthly "tax collection".  The adventurers decided to inaugurate their relationship by getting rid of the bandits who came to take the trader's goods, and possibly get some further information about the rest of the gang.

The trader usually saw about a dozen bandits, so the adventurers' first plan was to gain the aid of some dwarves who happened to be spending some time at the trading post/tavern/inn while searching for a lost dwarven mine.  The dwarves were amenable to going along with the venture.  The next day, the party members took up positions around the trading post property to avoid arousing the bandits' suspicions.  The dwarves hid themselves under some furs in a storage outbuilding, while Thim climbed up to the hayloft of the stable to snipe at the bandits with his bow.  Landon waited in his tent in the inn yard, and SanKari lounged around the base of one of the stockade towers (the stockade had been burned down recently so it wasn't possible to fortify it against the bandits).  Meanwhile Garrick and Silverleaf waited inside the tavern.

When the bandits arrived with their wagon, SanKari and Landon in the yard started taking out some of the "mook" bandits, assisted by Thim's archery skill.  Indoors, the NPC dwarves attacked one of the bandit leaders when he made the mistake of going into the storeroom.  The other two leaders went into the inn and found themselves in a fight with Garrick and Silverleaf.  It was a little difficult for Silverleaf to stand up to his opponent, although that was in part because I'd miscalculated his armor class and this was making it too easy for his opponent to hit him.  I did manage to enjoy using one of his special cleric powers, the ability to place an invisible rune on the ground that would explode when stepped on.  That gave his foe a little trouble.  In the meantime Garrick trounced his opponent using a hefty dwarven drinking mug and his ability to improvise a weapon out of almost anything.

Once the battle was over, only the two bandit leaders who'd gone into the inn and one mook survived.  We took them prisoner, and after treating their wounds just enough to keep them from dying, we threw them in the midden pits behind the stable to consider their deeds while our intrepid adventurers discussed how to persuade them to divulge the location of their encampment.

Today we took up the story again.  That same evening, we decided to set out for the bandit camp before our captives could be missed.  Garrick and SanKari convinced one of our prisoners to act as guide in exchange for his freedom.  We took the bandits' wagon, and the dwarves who had helped us agreed to come along for the assault on the camp.  Our guide told us that there would probably be at least a dozen people in the permanent camp, including a drow mage and a dual sword wielder whom he considered pretty skilled.  On the way there the rest of the group discussed whether to try sneaking into the camp or going in disguised as the gang we'd eliminated, while Silverleaf meditated in the back of the wagon to prep for recovering his spells in the morning.

It took us all night to get to the bandits' lair, which meant that Silverleaf was fully loaded with spells the next morning.  On the way we came across some fey denizens of the area, who were convinced by Garrick (the only sylvan speaker in the party) to give us some assistance.  The fey distracted/restrained some sentries outside the camp.  When we arrived we were initially mistaken for the returning group from the trading post visit.  It wasn't until SanKari accused one fellow of having killed his brother (a ruse) and then chopped the bandit in twain with one blow of his mighty great-axe that they realized they were under attack. 

That led to a pretty intense combat (at least, intense for 2nd-level characters).  The drow mage cast mirror image on herself, making it hard to injure her, and the dual sword wielder was also pretty challenging.  A swarm of lesser flunkies prevented most of the PCs from getting into melee with those two NPCs.  SanKari took some very serious wounds (thank goodness for the Diehard feat), and both Landon and Garrick were badly hurt as well.  Silverleaf couldn't use his ability to channel positive energy to heal them, because there were too many bandits who would also have benefited from his aid since he can't pick and choose who is affected by the energy.  At least Thim was free of injury; he had been befriended by a fairy dragon that kept him invisible while he fired arrows at the bandits from outside the camp.

Eventually, with the help of the dwarven NPCs who had come with our party, we managed to get rid of most of the lesser bandits and focus our attention on the two female "level bosses".  Silverleaf got rid of one of the mirror images using his other granted domain power, which allows him to shoot a bolt of fire.  But that wasn't until after he had to resort to using his mundane bow because he had already cast his only offensive spell.  It's a good thing SanKari is a combat monster, because some of the other characters are not.

Finally after a lot of hacking, blasting, chopping and shooting, the swordswoman was dead and the mage was sorely wounded and taken captive.  Our adventurers hope to interrogate her to learn more about the ultimate bandit leader, the Stag Lord.  They're also encouraged by the discovery that she had what seems to be a magical potion storage box, which appears to replenish its contents whenever a bottle is removed. 

And best of all, we leveled!  Third level here we come!  Woohoo!


Update 1-31-2013
And already I"m falling behind on this.  We've had a couple of sessions since the one described above. Sadly I missed one due to chemo (stoopid chemo), but that didn't prevent my character from getting an ability score boost by drinking from a magic spring - yay for +2 Intelligence! - or from getting his share of the loot from the bandit camp.

Our characters have been tasked with mapping the area we're in, since it has long been forgotten and no reliable maps exist.  We've also been asked to look out for a temple of Erastil that was lost long ago, though it is known that it was recently protected by a mad bear (not sure how that was known if the location wasn't).  We had additionally discovered that some bugbears were causing trouble in the area, and we also wanted to find the stronghold of the mysterious Stag Lord who runs the bandit gangs.  A full plate of potential adventure hooks.

We started off by trying to locate the bugbears.  That led us to a cave, which turned out to contain some kind of mage who could raise dead, tougher undead than we really had resources to fight.  After killing a hoard of them and depleting most of my PC's magic, we decided the undead creator was probably over our heads and made up our minds to come back later when we felt better able to combat him/it. 

Eventually we found another nest of bugbears, with another cave, but fortunately no undead.  These bugbears just had some nasty worgs, gnolls, and an ogre hanging around.  We had a tough but thoroughly enjoyable fight with them, which again depleted all my cleric's spells and clerical special abilities.  Clerics rock in Pathfinder, but they don't get a lot of spells at 3rd level. 

After magnanimously telling the female bugbears we found in the cave to leave and never come back, we had a rest to let us recover and let my cleric pray for more spells, then decided to look around for the lost temple.  It turned out not to be too difficult to locate, but not until we first had a nasty fight with some giant spiders in a creepy thicket full of moving, malevolent trees.  I thought we were doomed when Mama Spider showed up with a vast swarm of new spiderlings, but our dwarf alchemist/ranger thought we could take her, and to my surprise he was right.  It wasn't easy, but we did it.  My cleric blasted the spiderlings with his fiery domain power to keep them off everyone else while the other PCs tackled the mama spider. 

The nastiest fight of all turned out to be when we finally did reach the temple.  The rumor of a mad bear was right - only it was two mad bears.  Whatever made them mad also made them tremendously hard to hurt.  We fought until we could barely fight anymore.  Our human inquisitor/monk went down right at the feet of the bigger and tougher of the two bears, and my cleric had to use a stabilize spell to revive him. But once the human was conscious, he didn't bother getting up - he did a 'flurry of blows' from the ground, rolled natural 20s on both attacks and confirmed the critical on one, then basically kicked the bear's legs off.  It nearly fell on one of the other PCs when it toppled.  We discovered the bears were both wearing medallions with the emblem of the Stag Lord, which we suspect is probably the cause of their unnatural behaviour, though we don't know why the Stag Lord would want to keep people away from the ruined temple.  Guess we'll have to find him and ask him.

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