There was a time in my life when I didn't like wandering monsters. I looked at them as an interruption of the adventure's flow and it seemed silly to have strange baddies walking about, looking for tasty adventurers to eat.
Happily I've canned that. An adventure is not a scripted play and too many DM's run them like that. I MUCH prefer loose and fast (for almost a 2 year stint, I had actually run a campaign with no prewritten material - winging it every night - it was one of the better times I've had DMing), but I also have a life now that isn't just exclusively gaming - so I make my job easier by writing things down in advance. A pacing for the adventure.
But just because I planned for something doesn't mean that either A) The party is going to go there or encounter that hing, or B) That when it comes time for that thing to happen that I am going to do it! And wandering monsters make an already dangerous experience in my opinion fun.
So this meeting had a number of wandering monsters - some of them truly wandering about, others were from rooms with baddies in it that decided they wanted to "roam about" and stretch their legs.
Overall, I liked it! I think the group enjoyed it too.
Write up follows:
The group at this point decided that there was a lot of area to cover – and wanted to split up into two parties. One party would search the upstairs portions of the warrens (the homes) and the other would search the shops on the ground level. The access to the upstairs of each place was a dwarven sized set of steps that went up along the buildings faces about 12' to the landing and homes above. Each set of steps was only 2' wide – and there were no handrails.
Karis, Zoltan, and Amal went upstairs – while Detheron (and his animals), Gwyn, and Coruth'tae handled the lower level. Happy (sort of) with the way we divided up the group, the party went back into and over the 1st place we had visited: with the countertops, rusted cages, and many hundreds of rodent bones. The exploration of the upstairs revealed it to be dwarven height (Karis was tightly packed in) with a couple of rooms and some long abandoned amenities. Meanwhile the downstairs shop was turning up little if anything.
While looking out a bedroom window facing the street, Zoltan happened to see a strange large glistening and translucent cube like shape passing in front of the building. The ground behind it was scoured clean. He called for Karis and Amal and they watched the strange thing ooze its way forward slowly, turn down the next alley, and head that way. They went to the side window and watched as it squeezed itself thin and took up a large part of the narrow alley – passing in front of the window and leaving a cleaning smear behind it in its wake.
The group got back together and the passing gelatinous cube was discussed and more talk of NOT going down the dark alley was said. Detheron's lantern was almost empty and he filled it halfway with a flask of oil, going on the assumption that when it gutters out, we are going to rest for the "night". It was also talked about that searching the entire Warrens like this, not knowing what we are looking for and going through home after shop after everything would take too long – and we only have 6 days.
It was discussed at length and then the party decided we were going to walk down the street and stop only at any place that looked interesting. And at that time we would go in and investigate. Yes we would most likely miss a lot of things, but we needed to find the treasure room/vault (assuming it's even identified as such). After going back home we could/would then broker for more time and come here to clean/clear out the place at our leisure.
We followed the main road, noting locations as we passed them. At one of the shops, there was a thick oily and lumpy residue coating the entrance area and doorjambs, with smaller flecks of it scattered everywhere both in and out. It seemed to be a shoemakers. The group decided they didn't want to mess with it and walked passed, voices raised. Their noises carried and they then heard something moving inside the place. The group froze.
Zoltan went back a few steps and stopped. Coming out of the door was a tremendous beetle. It had long antenna covered in fine cilia and as it "sensed" about, it waved them, making a "zzzzz-ing" sound and causing the two of them to generate sparks. The beetle moved about a few minutes and then went back inside. Alrighty then….that was weird.
We looked at other places until we arrived at the end of the block. The shop here was a wheelwright and from what the group could see, the interior was surprisingly clean. Hmm – that gelatinous thing was down here at some point. The hall ended, and there was a larger accumulation of junk on the back corner and area, testament that the cube doesn't come down and around to this area.
We wanted to get out of this road and back to the main hall, so we crossed the street and followed the wall there – noting old lamp areas where dwarven lighting would have been maintained – now long cold and dark.
At the Great Hall we proceeded onward passed the barracks till we came to the "next" street. There was the same area in the front where the place could be closed and defended but heavily rusted and unusable. This had the same set up as the last road – except there were homes and shops on both sides of the street – and it stretched off into the darkness. There were odd echoes here and there like one would hear from living things. Lovely.
There was much discussion of proceeding onward here and the group noted that the 1st building was much larger in dimensions than the others on the right side. So readying their weapons and gear, they proceeded closer. It was a millers, but the great millstone was long gone. However there were LOTS of thick spider webs all over the place – not in layers so to speak, but in the dimensions of the webbing itself.
As they were backing off, their light source flaring about them, gigantic figures dropped from the ceiling and skittered towards them. The group ran back to the street and readied weapons. 5 large spiders about 3' tall and 2 giant ones closer to 7' tall emerged and gave chase. The battle ensued. Swords were plied, scimitars whistled, wands were sparked and fired.
The spider's sunk their fangs into soft flesh where able to, trying to get around such armored foes like Karis to get to easier prey beyond. Detheron called on Frey for aid and a black bear materialized adding its own efforts to driving the spiders back. Gwyn had been knocked down but the feisty dwarf battled back to his feet and when the opportunity finally came, Karis was able to fully ply the efforts and skills of his great sword against the arachnids, cleaving limbs and legs with wild abandon.
As the battle was wrapping up, our struggle had attracted the attention of a few rust monsters from further in the dark – they were staying just at the edge of visible light range and Coruth'tae thought he would scare them off with a bolt from his shadow wand. It struck one and the beetle like creature ran back squealing and whistling long and loud. The other party members were dragging giant spiders OUT of the street, anticipating bringing them to the barracks and hacking them up for the eyes (which were on the alchemist's list). Zoltan thought it was a waste of time.
And then the rust monsters were coming back – this time a 10 count of them and they looked angry. The party dropped most of the spiders except for the 2 gigantic ones and they ran from the street, through the narrow defendable portion, and stopped just at the Great Hall.
Where they were confronted by 24 roving goblins.
Some attempt to speak was made and the goblins spoke Ogre (or at least a couple of them did) and there was a limited attempt at parley but when it came time to drop weapons and come with them peacefully to see someone called Sakath Slobbertongue the group did what they do best – open the floor up for stabbity stab stab stabs.
The goblins charged forward in a wave, only Zoltan able to act first (I believe the line uttered at this time when it was discovered that the initiative order was going to be: Zoltan the thief, Every stinking goblin, then the other members of the party was, "Way to go at sucking, gang!") and he did so by swirling his cloak about himself and disappearing for a quick portalling jump.
Greenskins choked the hall and they slammed pick and club into the party. Gwyn took the brunt of it, the dwarf getting pelted and battered by the yowling goblins. Karis stood at his left and Amal surged forward to plug up more of the hall – eventually Smokey lumbering in to add his weight and mass against the crazed goblins. The 4 of them blocked the rest of the party from the goblins rampage, stopping them with locked shields and furious blows.
Coruth'tae pointed to the ceiling and shouted "OH MY GOD!", causing an illusion of the dwarven ceiling to come crashing down – slamming 4 of the goblins to the ground under illusionary rubble. Three of them believed the glamour so much they "died" from their wounds (fell unconscious) while one of them nursed its head like it was stunned. Zoltan appeared in the shadows now well passed where the goblins were and drawing his dagger and short sword, stalked through the shadows to the first two goblins he could see and “H'wacha'ed” ( http://poleandrope.blogspot.com/2008/10/hwacha.html )them both from behind. (this being an ancient gypsy word the equivalent of being stabbed by 200 exploding arrows – trust me, you have to be there to appreciate it.)
His blade had gone so deep into one of them, that the goblin was stuck on the sword. Thinking fast, he hid behind the goblin and held it up by the sword in its back, causing the creature to flop about like it was still alive as he inched forward. Most of the other greenskins were roaring to get at the party so didn't notice anything amiss by a strangely acting one at the back of the pack – so the gypsy was getting poised for another backstab.
Detheron shot out healing and the fighters cleared away what goblins they could, but the others ran closer without fear, cutting and stabbing. More back stabbing followed and the party was getting some wounds on themselves as well as on the many goblins arranged against them.
Coruth'tae was about to fire off his shadow wand again when he noticed walking BOLDLY and brazenly past him was a one of the damned rust monsters! It had dared to follow the group (along with another one) and was "stalking" after Karis – the half-ogre templar wearing a large quantity of chainmail. Yummy, tasty, delicious metallic chainmail.
He slapped a bolt into the beetle-like creature and the group was warned. Smokey took one of them out after some clawing and biting and Detheron and Coruth'tae beat the second one into submission.
It was a furious fight (the druid getting the business end of a pick in the side of his head) but by the time the goblins were thinking about running, it was already too late and the party ran over the last 4 of them without issue.
There was talk about harvesting ears and eyes and hearts from the goblins as it is on the alchemist's list, but it infuriated Amal. The orcish warrior explained that the list called for goblin OR ORC eyes, ears, and heart. And he was insulted. Would the party carve him up for a handful of silver? What if there was an alchemist list that needed human fingers? Would the party happily sit back and let Amal carve up a fellow human or elf for fingers to get an 8 count of silver nobles?
Some of the group got it, others just agreed to placate the orcish fighter. Zoltan volunteered to go back and check to make sure the barracks was still open and unfilled when he chanced upon an owl bear who was wandering the area, attracted by the many sounds of fighting the group had been making.
He crept closer and closer and then ran – striking the ursine menace with surprise and skill in the back, seriously hurting the beast. He went toe to toe with it for a few passes of sword and dagger against claw and beak but the beast was strong and dangerous and the fight was beginning to turn against the gypsy. Karis had heard the struggle and charged over to help, adding his great sword to the fight and within a couple dozen frantic seconds, the owl bear was down.
We limped our way to the barracks, covered in gore and blood and filth. Our oil lamp is still gurgling a bit so it is not "late" as we anticipated it would be, but the party is feeling spent and there was talk of resting up here. The group plied dagger to the spiders and harvested a few eyes that were still useable, and the owl bear turned up another precious quill feather for Coruth'tae to use.