This site is an online accumulation of the Post Reports for my current ongoing D&D Campaign - for anyone who might be interested in reading them.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Behind the Screen - Initiative


Lots of games over the last 35 years or so and none of them have a perfect initiative system. However, it’s the most important role when it comes time for turn based combat – unless you take the stance of all damage is done simultaneous.

I was introduced to the game a long time ago and we played it as best we could, reading the books and adhering to the written word specifically until one day I was lucky enough to have my older cousin come by and during one moment when my buddies were bickering over a rule he took the DMG, flipped it to a particular page, feigned reading it, and then flipped it behind him on the floor and said, “It’s a guide. The DM makes the rules.” It was such a profound thing for our 13 year old minds that it began my love of tinkering, crunch, and fiddley bits in my games.

Fast forward some time my game is a Frankenstein of 3.5, B/X, and 1st edition but we’ve also trimmed off the parts that don’t work and streamlined it down. One of the things that never goes fast enough for me is combat. I love the idea of weapon speed – but it drags down combat. I love tactics, but it slows the game. I want some semblance of reality, but I also want the game to flow.

I have used and tweaked and discarded and adopted so many initiative options during the years. Primarily, I want the damned game to flow fast. Combat – fast. No waiting 20 damned minutes for your turn to come back around again. After many ins and outs and tweaks, our current initiative ruling is as follows:

Each side roles d6 – ties get rerolled – highest number gets FIRST resolution in each step. Then loser gets LAST resolution in each step. You CAN hold your action from step 2 or 3 if need be in order to wait for the enemy to get into a better layout or your own group to spread out and get out of the way.
Step 0: We have the party leader map out over 1-2 minutes (we use a stopwatch to mark time so there isn’t any lolli-gagging) what the party wants to do and whiteboards it.
Step 1: Declare a flee. Whichever side won initiative who has someone declaring a flee can flee off the battlefield. You cannot “flee” into another enemy occupied area unless/except if you are surrounded and trying to force your way out.
Step 2: Missile weapons. Bow and Xbow can move 5’ and shoot, hurled weapons (spears, axes, etc) can move and hurl. Again, the side that won shoots first, then the other side can shoot.
Step 3: Long range/2nd rank melee weapons. Speaks, pikes, quarter staves. Typically they would get into position and then strike. Anything that can be poked or prodded from back rank strikes first next. Again, winning initiative hits first, then losing initiative.
Finally Step 4: All other melee weapons and spells (limited to 5’ step) would move into position and then strike. Winners first then losers.

It gives some tactics, works well, simple, and everyone is on board and can track how combat goes.

However, after the last meeting, we had some strange situations and people wanting to move, can you flee towards an enemy, gaming the system by throwing a spear just to move early. I wanted to land on it early so we actually stopped the game and I spelled out what was going on in more detail than I normally would so the group wouldn’t get worked up and upset.

Rule # 1: Always Have Fun.

We settled on what was going on, discarded the “gaming” and “min-maxing” and then rolled on to the end of the round and ended the game.

After that we then talked about where we were and what was going on. I reminded the group that a combat round is not an actual representation of what occurs. Obviously the archers aren’t shooting and everyone is just standing around. The guy with the spear isn’t running across the room while everyone is watching him. It’s supposed to provide a simulation of the combat. We could always change it to be more realistic and have done so in the past, but the combat then slows to a crawl and that’s pretty much all that happens that night. Not a solution.

We also said making it super easy: d6, winner goes first and does everything then loser goes. Very Warhammer-esque but hinges the entire battle on a single d6 roll. Not acceptable.

So we discussed (4 of us) a small adjustment to the Initiative system as we have it:

Step 0: Map out what’s going on.
Step 1: Declare a flee. Winners then losers.
Step 2: FIXED missile weapons (bows, xbows, ballistae, etc.). 5’ steps allowed. Winners then losers.
Step 3: Movement. Everyone moves their allotted space AND hurled missile weapons (spears, axes, darts, atlatls, daggers) go. Winners first, then losers.
Step 4: 2nd rank weapons. Winners/losers.
Step 5: All other melee/spells. Winners/losers.

It made some sense, everyone felt comfortable with it, and we’ve all had a week to digest it. Now, we are NOT going to implement it this Saturday since we are in media res at start of evening and you cannot make a change to the game while combat is going on. However, at some point in the next few weeks we’ll try it out and see how it plays.

Some small notes/caveats.

Improved initiative allows you to act 1 step higher. Broad sword? Attack with the 2nd rank weapons. Hurled spear? Attack when bows do. Firing a bow? Hell, you attack when people are trying to flee!

Spring attack still works, if you have movement left over after your attack, you CAN move again. This means if you have won initiative, you can conceivable attack and then get far enough away the enemy can’t hit you again.

I also killed most “attacks of opportunity” – the system is too weighty and collapses in real world. Instead, regardless of how many people are around you, you try to move into/through an area – you get effectively 1 attack against you for every 3 people you “pass through”. Exception is of course if you are flanked on 2 sides – then the 1 in 3 doesn’t apply. This limits the number of people beating at you to a max of 3 under optimal circumstances. However, if you ARE hit, your move stops as you are engaged in combat and the other person is keeping you from moving on.

Is it perfect? No, no combat system is. That’s why all the books are guides and tinkering is not only acceptable but should be encouraged.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Meet 121, Adv 7, 9/24/16

This goblin cave is not quite as straight up as the party had been in before. This isn't a "home" base to the greenskins, they are doing something specific here until a certain time and then moving on. Having Sisspak with them for the last 2 months has been a boon for the goblins.

So when I planned this out, I thought, "Say? Why not have a dungeon where one of the main goals is right there at the entrance?" Hence, Sisspak showing up for the main assault at room encounter marked #2 on my map (#1 was the entrance of the cave and the stack of travois poles).

The other 30 odd greenskins only make the fight a bit more "one sided" for the goblins. It is their lair, damned if they aren't going to limit themselves to 1 10'x10' room armed with a sword and guarding a chest.

Write up follows:

The group hit the trail out of Shakun one more time after getting a stipend of coins from Farthing Leatherworkers, heading north once more into the Grassy Hills to find the trail of Whelan, the goblin who took him out, and eventually Sisspak. The dwindling trail was melting away in the warmer weather but signs of our passage were easy enough to spot. By 10:30 we were in the vicinity of where we had the warg attack, and could see carrion birds wheeling in the sky. We decided NOT to visit the area and moved around the valley to the tune of an eighth a mile at least.

It was about 1 PM and we were some 4 hours north of Shakun when it was decided that we should break for lunch. A fast meal of cold trail rations was all we could do for now and it was shortly after that that we were once again trucking our way through the barely seen trail. Tranis kept us heading along, weaving our way about as we searched for a decent place to make camp.

Finally about 4:30 or so, perhaps 6 miles from Shakun, we settled on a section of hill with some tree cover. A large hole was dug for a fire pit, branches were gathered, camp was established, and we settled down for the night. Marcus attempted to write a copy of the Summon Monster 3 spell but failed. It was 7 or so, after sundown, when we settled in for the night and posted watch to keep guard.

Outside of a distant pack of wolves out hunting but gave us a wide berth during the night thanks to a banked fire, the night was uneventful.

Restmonth the 28th dawned cold, the temperature had dropped to the mid-teens during the night and the low clouds in the sky did not bode well for the temperature to rise far beyond the mid or late 20’s. After breaking our fast, praying, and breaking camp we were walking once again by 6:30, the terrain becoming difficult to walk on due to the refreezing thin layer of snow that had become ice.

It was around 9 AM that we arrived at what we assumed was the area known as Shadowfeet Crossing. There was an oily scent to the air and upon climbing one of the hills we looked into the next valley. A section of the hillside on the east had sloughed away, running down to the valley and revealed a blackish gravel to the elements. Also, what trees and grasses were here were not growing in gentle mixed natural patterns but showed clear lines where the oily ground ran beneath the surface.

It was thought that this was oil shale and that would explain why the goblins would be in the area. We had seen before how the Du’uk Sarathians would collect or mine for the black petroleum so its presence here was not too surprising. But as of now, no goblin or yuan-ti sign. Flimflam spoke to the 2 birds (owl and raven), informed them to go up and search for ½ mile or so NE and NW and then return and let us know what they discovered.

The rest of us got a closer look of the gravel. It was slick feeling and left a residue on our fingers but did fade after a few moments of touching. Also, the residue seemed to be flammable as Link tested out for us, but it was short lived and left behind only a charred scent.

The birds returned and Flimflam conferred with them. There were 3 other hills showing this sort of oil shale gravel about, but one of them had some sticks with cloth tied to it. Most likely a goblin fetish marking. We gathered the direction to travel and set off.

It was 15 minutes of hard walking over icy grasses and gentle slopes before we came to the crest of a hill and looked down. The valley was densely packed with trees that ran up part of one slope where a goblin fetish marker had been erected out of bones, metal plates, and lengths of wood; dangling from two skeletal trees lashed together. There were 4 wooden poles set in the ground and lengths of red cloth fluttered from it. We let Avidius sneak down to investigate the fetish; it was 4’ around and hung a few feet from the ground. It clattered slightly in the breeze and some searching showed a pit trap situated beneath it. Sharpened stakes 15’ down and the scent of goblin feces made the trap a potentially nasty one. Once the rest of the group came down the hill Flimflam was able to let the party know that the fetish had the feel of “Hades” upon it.

Since this was not a residential fetish, we knew the goblins were not going to stay in the area. But we still wanted to find them out, take care of Sisspak, and maybe see what happened to the other 3 hunters. We fanned out and searched the area, Tranis discovering travois or cart tracks running out of the woods. We back tracked the tracks into the trees and discovered a natural opening in the earth, 7’ wide by 6’, sloping down in the oily scented gloom.

We queued up for exploration purposes, Avidius in the front to check the area for traps, and proceeded down. The slope ran for almost a dozen paces and then the ground became chipped crude steps that ran a bit longer, ending at a landing. A half dozen travois poles were stacked here and some lengths of leather as well. But we did note the steady yellow glow of an oil lamp coming from the somewhere below as the steps kept going. We had our own lantern out (thanks Link) and Ben had a lodestone with a continual light spell attached to the front of his shield.

We went down slow and took a look at the base of the stairs. The chamber was sizeable, 9’ ceilings, 30’x50’ with 5 other exits out of here (NE, SE, S, SW, and NW). There was an iron chandelier looking like 2 squares suspended off the ground, the guide rope ran to the east and was tied off on a cleat. Otherwise, nothing. The room was clean, unmarked, not even grit or dust seemed to mar the place.

Avidius gave the room a 10 minute search, heard some faint echoes from elsewhere in the place and the thin moaning sound of distant breezes, but found no traps and the party came in. We then lowered the chandelier until it was about 4’ off the ground, retying the rope in place. The group spread out sort of listening around in order to hear anyone coming.

As we were trying to take the oil lamps off the chandelier and put them out someone heard a faint single wooden squeak coming down the NW corridor, and then what sounded like something spinning coming from the south. Already on edge and expecting something, the group was not surprised by the goblin attack but it was obvious the greenskins had waited for the entire party to enter before springing their trap.

From the south darkness 4 ceramic oil flasks shot across the chamber from spinning slings, three of them hitting the steps and ceiling by the entrance, a 4th unlucky one shattering on Link’s shoulder and coating the torchbearer in oil. Then 2 flaming crossbow bolts shot from the darkness and set the entrance on fire. The resulting wall of 4’ fire forced those party members still by the steps to stumble away or risk getting burned. We then heard roars and goblin forces started charging down the OTHER FOUR corridors! Fuck fuck fuck.

Caidius slid to the SW corridor and took to the closest corner, blackened blade in his hand. Ben ran to help out, shield up and ready. A few of us tried to grab a couple oil lamps from the chandelier and Flimflam was roaring for the group to huddle together now. Geld and Steiner who were situated the furthest from the room heard Sisspak’s sibilant hissing coming from the SE corridor and ran as fast as they could, warning the party of the yuan-ti’s approach. And coming down the two northern corridors were goblins pushing a wooden platform and rack with spears sticking out of it, while other slingers and spearmen were safely behind. Even more goblins could be seen behind and they were clamoring for a fight.

Flimflam and Marcus were calling out spells while the group made their way to the SW corridor where Ben and Caidius had set themselves up…to see over a half dozen shield and axe wielding greenskins yelling their heads off as they made their way to hit the party. Marcus’ spell went off…summoning a ghoul! Which he sent towards’ Sisspak and the goblin running before the yuan-ti who had 5’ lengths of chains and manacles on his wrists. It bit, scratched, and clawed at the goblin who dodged most of the ghouls’ assault, then wrapped it’s chain around the undead’s throat and beat the hell out of the ghoul with the other. And then Flimflam’s spell went off and he summoned a 400 lb. gorilla who charged down the NE corridor as Sisspak came alongside the ghoul and two sweeps of his sword ended the ghoul threat with a simplistic ease.

The gorilla struck the goblin wooden barricade and tore it to pieces as he was then struck and stabbed by the goblin spearmen and battle line there. The gorilla was a pale furred figure in the dark but we did hear the bloodcurdling roar it gave a its wounds drove it to blood-searching frenzy.

We were gathering along the SW section of the chamber but weren’t together yet, goblins were filling the room with furious speed and well-practiced efficiency. Link was covered in oil, and there were 7 goblin axe men holding the front of the battle line with only Caidius and Ben there to rail against them.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Meet 120, Adv 7, 9/17/16

It was another sort of slow night as we are ramping back into playing. I don't mind since I am sleep deprived with a 3 month old son in the house who is still not on a full night sleep schedule (at all!).

However, we had a good night playing and even though the adventure is "short", "One location", and "ship in a bottle" as far as destination is concerned - the time in characters spent getting there and taking care of Sisspak is open and fluid.

So when the wandering monster hit and the random roll came up wargs, I was like. fuck. I don't remember them in detail so had to look. Yeah, they're a bitch. And then the random amount came up 10 and I was seriously thinking, will this be a TPK from some wandering attack?

I forgot briefly how effective old school playing is. Rangers, druids, animal companions, use of terrain, and a plan turned a straight up their side vs our side combat where the group is outclassed into a decisive battle where tactics and well placed spells and support funneled the encounter and allowed the group to prevail.

From my side of the screen? It was very cool.

Write up follows:

We discussed our leaving and through our conversation, came to the conclusion that we’d like to have another person at our back and side. There are a few hirelings we’ve used before who make their home in Shakun but one of the first and still most capable ones was Ben Eiver. Ben normally works as a horse trader for Higrane but when the opportunity calls for it, he does have military background and hires himself out as a Shield bearer. He was happy to be approached and was glad to sign on. His skills have increased since we first did work with him a year ago so he earns 5 crowns/day and a ¼ share.

We also hunted down the 15 year old Etterig who we’ve dubbed “Link” long ago to once again perform as our linkboy, and also on Avidius’ request, hired a porter – falling back on the middle aged Urthar to do the job for us.

With hirelings in place and taking the time to reorganize our packs on last time, we were out the gate by 1 PM and heading north to the Grassy Hills knowing that we would have to camp out in the field overnight. It would mean though that we’d hit Shadowfeet Crossing by noon the next day – hopefully at a time when goblin activity would be at a minimum.

We traveled first to where Whelan had been slain, seeing the spray of blood in the snow from the impact and then the roll down the side of the hill to the bloody snow where he ended up at last. Nothing new came to us here so we followed Whelan’s tracks backward.

At the apex of the next hill we saw another paid of poorly booted tracks had been staying in the doomed hunter’s, stood here for some time, and then turned back and headed back the way he too came from, going to the distant north. By our guess it’s been 6 hours and even with 5 miles visibility, we didn’t see anything or anyone at this time. We did look though and noted it was 350 or so feet from this hill to the one where Whelan died.

Flimflam reiterated his belief that Whelan had been taken out not by a bolt from Zeus, but from a goblin made Luciferian weapon. We had run into them earlier and Fergus had been the victim of one, called an “Elf Rage”, but that was more of a spray and shorter ranged weapon. This one had to be more accurate and defined. Avidius equated it to a heavy crossbow both in stopping power and seemingly potential firing distance.

It was about 2ish or later when we hit Bogun’s Rise, a plateau-like area a mile north of Shakun. The trail(s) had continued on from here with the only exception being the booted figure that had most likely taken Whelan out was moving at a ground consuming loping stride and heading back north with a comfortable haste. We were not going to catch up to him until we arrived at Shadowfeet Crossing.

It was about 3:30 when we heard an ululating wolf cry from behind us. And then a few moments later, another one from somewhere else behind us. The cries were deeper than we expected them to be, and there was an odd trilling to them as well. That’s when our ranger and druid informed us that it was not wolves behind us…but worgs.

And there were no caves or structures in the nearby area.

The best we had was a copse of trees in the next valley, 50 or so twisted elms and scrub pines. The winter grasses were 4’ tall and we had to run now before we were caught in the open. The party pounded down the hill, our line stretching out as we made our headway. The dogs and animals went to the far side of the copse, and those that could climb should get their asses in a tree now while they can.

Tranis stayed down, Ben as well, Steiner also. Flimflam made his way to a tree and stayed behind it and Geld was unable to scramble up as the branches were snapping beneath her.

Two packs of 5 worgs, 500 lb. plus slavering dire wolves, came at us, one from around the side of the nearest hill and the other pack with an alpha male present from on top of it. Tranis tried shooting one but the arrow missed, and Flimflam was calling to Demeter to plant growth the area. The grasses writhed and sprouted seeds, thickening and binding around, even the closest trees bloomed with sudden leaves in the snowy landscape. The 5 wolves hit the mass of now dense grasses and their headlong charge slowed. Then the 2nd group started to move, making a run for the party but they were further and wouldn’t get here this round.

The first two worgs hit the group and Caidius stepped from around the closest tree, backstabbing the first one with an arrow. Tranis swapped to his sword and his lynx jumped on the worg’s back, biting and snarling. Steiner called to Apollo and a bless ran through the party while Ben stood side by side with Tranis and protected the ranger from the sudden lupine assault.

A fifth worg had pulled away and was heading to attack Geld who laid her spear in front of her and set it to receive the worg’s charge. Avidius struck it with an arrow but we noted real fast that arrows were not very effective against the worgs – this was going to require wet work and sword play.

The battle line was spread out and Flimflam then called to Demeter to entangle the now thickened grasses, catching 4 of the potential 6 worgs in the flailing vegetation. Caidius managed to get a solid blow on the closest worg and it fell over dead while Geld’s enchanted boar spear tore through the one distant one. The alpha male and 2 others were forced to run further afield to avoid the entangled grasses which meant only one of them actually made the combat this round.

The worg’s blows were strong and hit points were whittling away with each slavering bite and tearing rend. But we dropped a 3rd one about the same time that one of the worg’s entangled managed to rip its way free. Avidius climbed down from his perch and was going to sneak around to help the fight while Marcus from his tree perch 15’ off the ground called out some arcanic words and summoned a monster – not just any monster, but an 900# almost 8 ½’ tall ogress!. After making short work of the worg Geld was fighting, the ogre and Geld set off to help Ben, Caidius, Steiner, Tranis, and Flimflam who were engaged in the main fight.

The ogre hit the alpha worg and the two of them bashed at each other terribly while Tranis managed to get a lucky blow, scalping on the local worgs so badly that both of its ears and the entire shelf of flesh on top of its head was ripped free, flapping about like a loose hood. The worg was screaming in piteous pain and was out of the fight for now.

We took some more blows but remained standing. The battle was swaying in our direction. Steiner let us know that the blessing from Apollo was going to fade shortly and we should press on hard. Flimflam had transformed himself to a bird and from the sky called out to Demeter and summoned a nature’s ally to help us.

And a 15’ crocodile appeared right behind the alpha worg and attacked. It managed to get a grip on the beast’s underside, tear his guts open, and roll into them spilling his intestines around. We called the rest of our animals in to join the fight and two of the worgs that had been entangled were let free where they ran off into the hills just after the last of the battle was over.

Healing was dispensed and we talked about what was next. There were 8 worgs here, and the skins would be worth over 30 nobles back at town. Do we take the time to skin them and return to Shakun or press on? Well, the party opted to spend many hours hanging the worgs and stripping the skin from them. We managed to get 7 worg pelts and Marcus was able to study Fireball (which we all agreed would have been real fucking handy during the worg fight!).

It was 8 pm when we turned back and headed the long trip back to Shakun. The guards at Northgate were surprised to see us and let us in, towing 240# of wolf pelts. We went back to our Hall (and Tower), gathered ourselves for sleep, and crashed.

The next morning had us at Farthing Leatherworks where we quickly sold the hides and garnered over 240 nobles for our efforts. It was 8:10 AM on Restmonth the 27th and we were going to try and get back out there ASAP. The weather was cloudy today and warmer (high 30’s, low 40’s) so the snow melt and tracks would be fading quickly as the day was going to go on.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Meet 119, Adv 7, 9/10/16

After a 14 week hiatus we've returned to the table. There have been a few shifts in the makeup of players at this time. I suspect that the game with run a bit more serious based upon the changes. There is no right or wrong way to play or DM D&D, it's personal to everyone who sits around the table.

At my age and with the free time I have available to me, I find myself drawn to immersive crunchy games. I prefer campaigns that move along where you aren't a badass out of the box and have to earn it. I like lower magic. I like the threat of death. I like to know my players are having a good time and are getting something out of their time at the table as well as adding their own indelible mark to my world and table.

I don't have the time for lighter, airier games. One shots grate one me. Hobby shop pick up groups feel jarring. Slaughtering the Monsters-Of-The-Day in alphabetical order from the Monster Manual isn't my cup of tea. I also hate joining a game only to have the DM flake out 6 months to a year later and drop it in order to try something else.

Again, that's me. Not you or anyone else. And my likes have been forged and molded after 34-35 years of D&D. All I care about is the people at the table have a good time and if not, let me know and we'll see what we can do to fix that; and if not, not a problem and just a parting of ways. Life is too damned short for regrets or for not doing what you want to do.

Ask yourself this though, if you are going to carve out time from the rest of your life and family, wife/husband, kids, job and whatnot to play - don't you want to at least sit down with friends and people you can relate to if there wasn't a game going on? You should try to have more than just D&D in common with the people you play with.

As for this adventure, we are finally going to take out the Yuan-ti. Sisspak has been a thorn in the party's side since Candlewick Keep and with new magic weapons on our belts and backs, we're going to track him to his new and final lair and finish him off.

Write up follows:

After 6 weeks plus of travelling and training, the party had the opportunity to reconnect at the Hall of Heroes on Restmonth the 25th where Avidius’ wife Senna has put together a meal and feast sufficient for everyone to have a great time. A few bottles of our wine, some aged ale from the Pixie Down Inn, braised goat flank steak, winter tubers, a thick stew and spiced porridge.

Sir Flimflam our gnomish leader, his manservant the youthful Taulib, Tranis Fistlorn Ranger and Kingsman of the 2nd order, his henchwoman and lockpicker Viridia, Erdan the elven fighter, his maid and open admirer the buxom Julain Sheepsheerer, Wizard-Lord Marcus, his bodyguard and henchwoman Geld, Brother Steiner of the Apollonian Temple, Caius Avidius and his wife Senna and his two daughters Ria and Gem, our Castellan Fermius, and all the associated animals we’ve collected over the months and then some (Whosea, Princess, Brutus, Hugin, Archimedes, “Squirrel”, Ringer, and a big assed Lynx). The dining room was full, the tables groaning under the weight of the food and drink, and the walls were singing with stories, talk, tales, and laughter.

The weather was still decidedly winter but there had been a warming trend and we’ve had more warmer days than not, bringing most of the snow covering down to 3” or less in many places. In a few weeks it will be the muddy season as the ground thaws and becomes super saturated but that also means the caravans will then start to come with greater frequency and that will be a good thing for Shakun.

Your town has weathered the winter well with a steady trickle of people emigrating to its walls. The new tannery, headed by Joaquim Farthing, hit the ground running after refitting its racks, by declaring a need for any and all skins and was willing to offer 5 commons over market price for hides brought in, was willing to do the initial dressing and butchering, and was willing to deal with the butcher directly getting most hunters a 5-10% better price on the meat brought in.

This has been a good thing since the timber and stone stores around Shakun have not been replenished. In fact after the Hall or Heroes refit and the Tannery rebuild, there have been no real supplies brought in (most stone and timber have been shipped south at a premium to Brewer’s Bridge and other thorps along the Black Water River to help the rebuild after the flooding and Kraken attack). So between the normal compliment of 40-50 hunters, there have been 20 or so other hunters and gamesmen who have made the trip to Shakun in an effort to make a living for themselves, and now you have the 50+ masons, limners, caulkers, builders, and carpenters who were expecting to have gainful employment during the winter months take to hunting to stretch their winter coin and bring some game in – getting a better part of the coin that the Fathering Leatherworks is offering.

This means that for the last 2-3 months there have been 3 times the normal number of hunters out hunting. Game local to Shakun has become difficult to come across so many of the hunters and hunting teams have been forced to venture further and further afield, making their trips take longer than a day to return.

In addition, the party learned that while they were south in Varohelm, Sisspak assaulted a homestead and bit one of the women there, poisoning her but she survived (although weakened). Marshal Westwinter and his people could not find the yuan-ti so sent off to Timberton and Sanric and Company to have them come to town and try to remove and/or kill the snake-man. The bounty was for 15 crowns and it took two days but they managed to find and wound the monster, chasing it north of the city until it was lost in the darkness of the Grassy Hills. Since then, the yuan-ti has not been seen and there have been no further instances.

We did learn through Fermius and some of the others who’ve been in Shakun during the training and travelling weeks (Fermius, Avidius, and Erdan) that about 2 weeks ago some of the hunters hadn’t been returning so Marshal Westwinter put a moratorium on further trips out maybe 7-8 days ago. This has pissed many of them off who have come to rely on their trade and need to keep out there (even though they have had to range much further afield). Three days a group of four left through Southgate as if they were going to visit a Homestead but instead had snuck out bows, nets, spears, and travois during the prior day, collected their hidden supplies, trekked far enough east that anyone on the wall would be unable to stop them, and headed north into the Grassy Hills to do some hunting. This has angered Marshal Westwinter who looks upon it as an affront to his authority and even Captain Thragriel is pissed since it made his men and militia look incapable and easily fooled.

While we’ve been chatting about the local news the party had noted the Erdan has been more quiet than usual, rubbing his missing finger, and Julain has been hanging even more on her employer and not-so-secret crush. A bit after 8 PM there is a knock at the door and Steiner being closest went to answer it. There is a young man there, 6’ tall, healthy, has a militaristic bent to him, asking to speak with Sir Flimflam. Identifies himself as Caidius.

Once he is in, Erd seems happy to see the guy. He arrived in town 2 weeks ago, went looking for the adventuring group in order to try and talk and join, and spent the last 2 weeks drinking and befriending Erd, Avidius, and Fermius while waiting to Marcus and Flimflam to return. We talk for a bit and learn that he is the 2nd son of General Pelinor who was intrinsic in keeping the Du’uk Tsarith from mowing over Ferron and Elven Keep by bottling up the northern front. However, as we learn Caidius was too young to do anything more than join the war effort while it was winding down and has not had the opportunity to make a name for himself.

When the stories that have been coming east about the Peacemakers and their plight against banditry and disorder arrived at Ferron and beyond, Caidius gathered up his belongings and came west in order to offer his sword and service. And that’s when it was dropped that Erdan was going to temporarily take some time off from adventuring. With his missing finger and the fact that he has seen a Kraken he has had an opportunity to reflect. At over 350 years of age, the elven fighter knows that it was luck at best that has kept him alive and he wants to reflect upon it for now. So when Caidius offered to try and join, Erdan felt it was perfect – he’s taking a break and Caidius can fill in for him.

We talked and learned what we could, deciding that we can try Caidius out for now. He was offered some time at the table and was given a plate and some ale. The night passed well and we were all happy and well fed.

The next day, Restmonth the 26th, we awoke and after breaking our fast and discussing going to the Magistrate and getting Caidius added to the charter. There was little on our plate and we were debating on what to do when a knock sounded. One of Father Gavilerin’s assistants was here and needed the party to join the Father at the Hospice since there was a dead body there and Marshal Westwinter wanted the group to see it as well and firsthand.

We gathered our gear and set off across Town Square, through the shrines and altars and into the Hospice. Right inside we were guided to a sick room where Father Gavilerin, two of his aides, Marshall Westwinter, Deputy Caladis, and what looked like one of Captain Thragriel’s men as evidence by his tunic and tabard met and greeted us.

The last figure was a male, human, lying on his side and pretty travel worn and scratched up. There were 3 goblin darts sticking out of his back and he appeared to be scratched and bruised a bit. There was a ragged hole in the front of his face, blowing off most of his nose, and part of his upper lip and in the back of his head was a much smaller hole.

The story given was that this was one of the four hunters that snuck out 4 days ago, named Whealan. The guards at Northgate heard someone calling for help and saw this guy running south from the Grassy Hills towards Shakun, staggering and weaving over the hills and rises. Three of them got permission to leave their post and crossed the main road going north in an effort to make it to the running figure when there was a valley separating them and the guard describes a sound like “Zeus himself was clearing his throat” echoes across the land and Whealan pitched forward dead and rolled down the hill. After the Kraken attack everyone has been on edge with the King of the Gods so the guards waited to see if another thunderbolt was going to fly and when it didn’t, went to the body, claimed it, and brought it as is back here where the Marshal had them come to the Hospice and then the party was brought in.

We examined Whealan some more. His backpack had been cut free, leaving only the straps in place. He still had a well-worn belt knife but no other weapon on him. We turned him to the side and that’s when we saw it. His left arm was swollen up, two large fang punctures in his forearm, and greenish tinges running up his bicep to his shoulder. We’ve seen enough of it before – yuan-ti bite.

It seems Sisspak was still alive and hiding north of here wherever Whealan and his group stumbled upon him. We didn’t know where, only his boots had some clue with a black oily gravel in the cuffs of his boots. Marshal Westwinter wanted this matter with Sisspak brought to an end once and for all. He offered the party 30 crowns for Sisspak’s death (and proof this time) and an additional 20 crowns if we could bring back news of Whealan’s companions and their fates (or themselves if possible). 10% of anything found would be the crowns but the rest is for the party to take. We agreed and immediately got on the case.

We learned that Whealan lived at the south end of town with a Morena and Carnish Cicero so we thought of going there; we also talked about going to Farthing Leatherworkers to see if there were any records of Whealan and his hunts – maybe someone knew where they had gone? Also, we could try the Ogre Door Inn if we were desperate; since there was no hunting contracts being awarded right now, most of the gamesmen were whiling away their time at the tavern and drinking.

Farthing was first. Tanner’s Way was still a mess of missing cobbles and filthy streets, deplorable buildings and homeless wandering about; but there was also improvement. There were far fewer hobo’s in the streets, and the Apollonian Poorhouse that was situated at the western beginning of the Way was open and there were men, women, and children availing themselves there of a place to stay and some shelter.

Joaquim Farthing met us at the Tannery and we were escorted to this office on the 2nd floor. He was earnest and apologetic that his company had anything to do with the hunters that have not returned yet. We assured him that was ok and the conversation turned to Whealan. Records were reviewed. He and his crew had come back 32 times to date. The beginning their efforts were small (fox, rabbit, etc) but as time went on their game grew in size and their payment for the skins, meat and the like grew as well.

Their best to date was a 700# elk brought in 2 hunts ago. It had netted the four men the most money they had seen and for a short time were the envy of other hunters and groups. Their last trip was a few turkeys and some deer but Joaquim remembers the four men talked long about going after another elk, and then the halt was called off on all hunts.

We asked a few questions but the only thing we learned that was of interest was that the elk had heavily black sooty stained hind quarters and feet. The meat was fine and the hide cleaned up eventually after some liberal lye was applied to the leather.

We left and then went off to the Cicero’s. Morena answered the door, expecting someone else (Whealan it seemed) and we then saw a young boy aged 4 than Thanuel (Whealan’s son) who was coaxed to go upstairs. We were invited in and met with Carnish who was a Centurion at one point some time ago and was now retired from military service and spent his time as a hawker and trainer of hawks (which is what he thought we were there for to request his next captured and trained animal).

We told the Cicero’s the bad news about Whealan (making sure Thanuel was not nearby), learned how the bricklayer cum hunter had come to live and rent a portion of the Cicero’s home (his wife had died in childbirth and Morena’s birth had been stillborn – since she and Whealan’s wife had been friends before it seemed natural to invite the bereaved father to stay with them and he’s been here the 4 years since). We asked to look around Whealan’s portion of the home and were led upstairs.

The place was neat, small but neat. His bricklaying gear was prominent near the front door and ready when the building season would restart. There were signs his wife had once lived here (pearl handled comb, hand fasting ribbon, etc...) but it was in the bedroom that we saw a piece of tear off that had come from the job board at town square. It detailed the same deal that Farthing was offering to any and all hunters but it was on the back that we saw something else written.

There were 9 locations listed with strange names (Bogun’s Rise, Thrusher’s Ridge …) that had numbers written next to them and tally marks on the other side. The numbers ranged in no order other than a floating rise from 1 to 8 (Shadowfeet Crossing) and the tally marks were heavier towards the top than the bottom. We thanked the Cicero’s and left, discussing the paper and what it meant.

Bogun’s Rise was a landmark about a mile north of Shakun which we knew about. There were also two other places that had the name Digmund and Malius next to it. Digmund according to Tranis was a local long time hunter. Since that locale had fewer tally marks we deduced that Whealan, not being a hunter himself, might have been accidentally poaching on Digmund’s area and was warned off. The same with Malius.

We went off to the Ogre Door Inn where some money was spent on decent ale and we made our way to a group of hunters who looked on Tranis with some scorn (he is a ranger after all) but the ale loosened lips and we were able to get more information. The numbers were most likely miles from Shakun and the further places would mean any hunter who trekked out that far would not return for a day or two later at best.

As for the places, Shadowfeet Crossing was thought to be too far from Shakun and most likely in Du’uk Tsarithian territory. No hunter would risk going that far for game.

We left and talked about where to go next. We went back to the Hospice where we stitched Whealan’s lip back in place with a brief bit of Marcus’ magic and then had some incense lit. Brother Steiner called to Apollo and he brought life back to Whealan enough for us to Speak With Dead. Limited to two questions tops and a total of 1 minute to answer, we learned that Whealan had been hunting with his friends at Shadowfeet Crossing, the grasses were very high, he was bit by a snake man and managed to twist away and beat it off, his companions were felled by goblin darts, he cut his own backpack away and was running even with a few darts in his back, he had toughed his way through the pain, the poison, and the blood loss and it sounded like he ran through the night, 8 miles back to Shakun before he was suddenly killed. Fucking bad-assed tough bastard. The spell ended and we never got the rest of the story.

With a destination in mind we went off to Marig’s General store and purchased a few quick supplies and a pile of iron rations to help us last the 4 days we expected to be out. Anticipation is we’d leave Shakun today around noon.