We had a party death here. One of our members was killed during the surprise attack by Glitterbell, the druidic treesprite. It happens, and although I am NOT a fan of Tomb of Horrors style "save or die" rolls (although I do allow it when the situation merits it), during the normal course of things - a character can and will if the chips are stacked against them..die.
He had been caught in a call lighting blast radius, was down to -3 and multiple flasks of oil in his backpack burst afire during the lightning strike and he was turned into a living torch. That's it. Be the time the party was able to even get to him, he was at -14 and burning away. I feel that after that, it changed something at the table - something specific was added and altered by the players around my gaming table.
They could conceivably die. And no amount of healing potions could save them.
Write up follows:
We resumed the game at the exact moment we left off, around 3:15 PM on Watermonth the 11th – At the instant that Glitterbell (one of the 3 "mains" in the Circle of Thorns) did a "Call Lightning" on the party – and a stroke of 5,000,000 volts, 40,000 amps - crackled out of the sky and in the space of .03 seconds – radically changed the playing field that the party plays through.
In order to fully appreciate what happened, I will have to break down this .03 seconds in such a way that you can accept the depth of what happened to our group.
Glitterbell the treesprite pointed to the heaven's above and arced down a bolt a lightning at the thickest congregation of the party members as possible: Karis, Detheron, Puck, Amal, and Fodder. Just as the bolt slammed into the party, the forgotten black rod we took from the feral orcs near the monolith absorbed half the raw force of the bolt and grounded it out "somewhere" else. The damage that impacted the group was still sizeable, enough to drain tons of hit points and toss everyone impacted skyward.
The destructive force of the bolt slayed Puck outright (down to -3) as well as coursing through everyones equipment. Metal became super hot and weakened, wood burned, leather charred, clothing smoked. Karis, Detheron, and Puck, all carrying numerous flasks of oil were set aflame by the splashing super-heated flammable liquid – turned into living torches. Magical items were consumed and damaged but it was the explosion of Detheron's "Sabrefrost" wand that added insult to injury – with 25 to 30 bowling ball sized 9 lb chunks of ice bursting in a circular spray and bashing into Detheron, Karis, Fodder, Smokey, and Gwyn (who took the largest brunt of the icy barrage).
And then the bodies landed.
Yeah – it was that bad. Puck was burning uncontrollably, the sorcerer unmoving. Amal and Osgar doused their water on Detheron and Puck, Karis rolled around. And the fairies and wild elves were grimly racing forward in the mighty wind.
But Zoltan raised his lone crossbow and single Blessed Bolt of Sutur – and let fly! The space between us and them was lanced with a single burning brand that Glitterbell was able to partially dodge (but still badly burned) but one of the wild elves and fairies behind her were not so lucky and were immolated by the godborne blast. Kalarig took a single lucky shot in the storm winds and was able to pin the angered treesprite to the ground.
The two remaining fairies went invisible and Glitterbell summoned a cloud of fog to obscure her and her friends. And then Detheron summoned his own lightning bolt from the sky above! The bolt burst into the fog cloud and we heard some screaming within as we assumed Glitterbell and others were struck and killed. When the fog cloud cleared, there was no one there except for the very burned and dead tree sprite – her companions fled.
We talked long here about either going forward (Detheron could have another 4 lightning bolts at his beck and call in the next 30 minutes) or retreating and healing up. The group went to Puck and although Karis and Detheron did what they could – the sorcerer's wounds were too grievous and he…died. Yes, our first party death. It dampened the mood around the table and Zoltan and Kalarig brought the burned and dead Puck back – heading towards the ruined temple to Odin we had holed up in earlier.
Once there we briefly looked him over and decided to take the potion of tempestskin, rejuvenation, and the healing wine off of him – leaving what was remaining there for now until we figure out what was to be possibly done. Certain priests can raise the dead – but to date, we don't know of any. There was talk about going to Cymbarton and petitioning to the Order of Heimdall, but according to Detheron, the cost would be high – very high.
We parsed out what little healing we had left on everyone and Detheron spent the better part of the next hour using the rest of his healing kit as well as some of Karis' to tend to everyone's wounds. We kept watch that night and waited – but even though the Circle KNOWS we are here (here being in the forest), they left us alone if they knew where we were holed up - and the group got a decent night's rest (for a change). One of the things we did note was that just around 3 AM, the magically summoned storm just sort of ended and blew itself out – which gave the storm gem a 12 hour duration by our estimation.
The following morning we talked long on our options and what we were going to do. Striking out at Tehpaguar, the rest of the Circle, how many more druids would we face, the use of another Storm Gem, Puck's death, our strengths and weaknesses now – and the need for surprise and decisive action. One thing that the group did do was begin to divest themselves of whatever oil they were carrying – seeing at how Gwyn was affected (during the fight against Vanir) and how it proved to be fatal to Puck and damaging to Karis and Detheron – it was thought to be better off without.
Detheron wild shaped himself into a falcon again – this time with a bit more skill. He tried to get airborne, but realized that under the thick canopy he was not skilled enough yet to clear the trees – not even when Karis tried to "boost" him with a arm toss upward. So we walked about 45 minutes to the clearing we fought Faranath and Glitterbell in and the druid cum falcon ran off and took to the air – a bit better and more sure of his skills.
He winged his way west in an increasingly wide spiraling pattern – spotting 2 clearings on the way – one south west of our position – and another one past that some ways and a bit north – neither one specifically large or interesting. But there was the main one – the ground rose almost 500' over the forest, the sides of the great hill mostly denuded of trees and the base of it surrounded by 15 to 20 large 12' tall monolithic standing stones. At the top of the hill was a tremendous keep in very poor repair, with a "shanty" village to the north of it composed of tents and naturally built structures. The keep itself was surrounded by some sort of glittering field (it did not encompass the "village").
In addition, the druid's keen falcon eyes caught sight of 2 very large, 15' tall, 25' long, five headed lizard-like monsters being tended to by a four count of wild elves – and a pacing centaur nearby with bandages on his back who was fletching new arrows.
There were many birds in the area: 1 eagle, 2 falcons, 4 hawks, and a number of smaller robins and crows. Detheron felt he had pushed his luck enough and winged over and began flying away. A hawk paced him and the two of them squawked at each other threateningly (actually talking though in "bird" language) until the hawk discounted the strange “falcon” and went back to patrolling. Detheron came back to his friends and landed (better!), turned back to a human and got dressed, talking to the party about what he had seen.
We debated what to do and how to approach. Karis looked in his notes after the mention of the hydra's and came upon a piece of paper from Vanir's study back in Ponyboro – where it mentioned the Lycos Suns had gifted the Circle of Thorns with a pair of mated cold-fire hydra's for their efforts in making the Lyreth wards at the Wolverton Estates. We then talked about cold fire and what we knew about it (Zoltan a font of hydra knowledge and other stuff btw) and we figured on a plan (involving fire of course!) on how we would take out the hydra's when we would face them.
But it was the two clearings on the way that we wanted to go and visit – as it what posited – don't leave a potential enemy at our back. Zoltan took point and we followed along – going in the direction of the 1st clearing. It took a little bit but once there, Zoltan stopped us as he scouted it – spotting the self-same ranger from the very beginning who cold cocked our thief and suspended him over a bear trap head down!! He was near a table made from a large tree trunk, with the remains of a cooking fire and simple tent near by. A robin was sitting next to him as he fletched some arrows and another was perched on the tent pole. Zoltan whistled a quick ditty and sent a magical whispered message back to Karis telling him what was what and that he was going to make a move VERY soon!
Karis related the tale to the rest of the group and we split up – Gwyn and Kalarig going right – Karis, Amal, and Osgar running up the middle, and Detheron, Evian, Smokey and Fodder swinging left. Once they were as close as he liked, Zoltan loaded up a magical sling bullet and let fly – cracking the ranger in the jaw. Arrows were flying and crossbows as well and the ranger sighted back, striking Evian and Kalarig with pin point excellence. He took cover as low as possible and the group closed more. The ranger sang in a strange language and one of the robins took wing and began to fly west and north.
Kalarig used the web arrow and struck the ranger who was unable to twist out of the way in time. Then Smokey charged and was roaring and the wild elf was struggling to get free. The rest of the group closed REAL fast and Evian gracefully leapt OVER the webbing and slammed the length of her long sword into the ranger's side. The ranger tried to fight back but a wild shot from a flying arrow pierced his hand and he was unable to defend himself. Meanwhile the flying robin was winging away faster and the group tried some REAL long distance shots to hit it (250') – with Kalarig getting a wildly lucky blow with a blunt tipped arrow and knocked the enspelled robin out of the sky. The 2nd bird was slain and the group was happy.
Zoltan took the ranger's tightly woven elven chainmail shirt and gave Detheron his antler designed magical leather armor – both the bard/thief and the druid getting a couple of AC points in the process. There was also luckily a potion of healing and the strange whistle that made the birds come before – a device Zoltan called an Avianstorm Whistle (according to bardic lore).
Geared up we decided to go and see the other clearing – but after walking for some time, we figured we had passed it somehow. Zoltan climbed a tree and after a while was able to make out some sort of break in the tree line behind us – and we backtracked as we came to the other clearing.
Here were two wild elves armed with cudgels, three tree sprites, and two shaggy backed wolves sort of hanging out and talking amongst themselves. They occasionally looked up to the sky as if expecting something, but didn't seem too worried or diligent. Zoltan whistled up another spell back to the party and told Karis what was going on and that we should wait. The half-ogre disagreed and decided that our last tactics worked – let's do it again.
As the group got real close, Zoltan whistled up a tune and fired a sleep spell into the midst of the bad guys – putting both wolves and one of the fairies to sleep instantly. Arrows and bolts (poisoned where able to be) were shot and one of the elves and fairies went down screaming. Last fairy went invisible and the group closed rapidly – with Kalarig, Zoltan, Gwyn, and Evian holding their action and scanning for the invisible pixie. The fighters made short work of the last of the combatants and while they were dropping the last one down – the fairy turned visible just behind Detheron and stabbed him in the back with a poisoned stiletto – the druid dropped instantly.
The sprite then faded away again and the party fired arrows in that area, none of them hitting. Osgar and Amal were nuts and ran into the area hacking at the sky with their axes – and Osgar – the slayer of the giant beetle – actually STRUCK the invisible fairy on a blind wild shot!
With a target available (for a brief instant) arrows were fired and the tree sprite was blasted out of the sky. We couldn't revive Detheron from the magical sleep from the fairy poison until we remembered we had Puck's potion of rejuvenation and administered that to Detheron until he woke up.
At this point we discussed our option and what was available to us. We redrew what Detheron had seen of the druid's enclave and Caer Dargan and looked at the map and the elevations (the climb up there is a 45 degree angle in some places). We realized we were down a person – and our only sorcerer to boot – which meant we would be able to field less fire power than usual. Talked about tactics on the centaur and the hydras and we came up with a tentative working plan.
We ended it here on Workmonth the 12th, just about noon time. It's about 65 degrees with partially cloudy skies and we are around an hour tops from the base of the hill.
I want to thank everyone for their time and I hope you all had as much fun as I did. I will be talking to Kyle directly (hopefully tonight) and for the remainder of the adventure, I will be giving him Kalarig to hold onto while we come up with a secondary for him to play at the adventure's completion. Yes, you can die – and yes it does suck.
We laughed a bunch at the end and it was a bit nervous, a bit blowing off steam, a bit funny, and a bit relief that "my god – that could have been me!". There is a new term now – "being Pucked" and we all talked about it. Detheron (Matt) talked about how although it does suck – it does feel good to know that there is no safety net and that the party members can die.