Sometimes the problem with writing an adventure in advance is that there are changes that come up that would make what you had written and planned moot. This pretty much almost happened at this meeting.
I suspected when I wrote up Squeeze's group coming to the Lodge to get their paperwork from the vault that the power level of the mercs was going to be a bit beyond the party, especially since some of them would need to arm and armor up. So I had boosted the figures staying at the Lodge and then added a couple of St. Bernard dogs to sort of even it out.
The group, of course, started the combat with a couple of well placed critical "struck in X, dead" rolls and that swung the pendulum the other way. Then it was a few sleep spells and the mercs were outclassed. The only remaining plan they had was the burning of the place down - if they couldn't get to the vault, make sure no one can get the paperwork then that might hang their employers/benefactors.
So the group COULD have run for the front door and lost their shit but made it out of the lodge before it went up too much and then walked back at night with no real equipment, shoes, belongings to Thak and missed the entire cave portion I had planned. That would have been ok as well - but they didn't - and it was close that they were going to.
As long as they are having a good time, that's all that matters.
Write up follows:
After the group had gone to sleep we were awakened by the sound of banging and yelling coming from the front door of the Rolling Ridge Lodge. Gerti was announcing that she was “a-comin’! Hold the fuck on!” and then she was arguing with some people about the time of night and that they should come back tomorrow.
We heard Daggers snarling and then her two dogs were making angry sounds. The group looked across the hall at each other and nodded our heads as we could tell the argument was getting heated and it sounded like there were almost a dozen voices getting upset. Most importantly, we were able to identify Squeeze (Talbor) voice as the main instigator, Braddock Brinster’s main enforcer. A few of us went off to buckle on armor, others grabbed weapons and pants.
We noted Thedge had opened his door, the drunkard stonemason was holding a 7# cobblestone in his hand and that Starfin had opened his door and was buckling his knife bandoliers across his chest. The sounds were getting very violent and then we heard the sound of flesh smacking and Gerti screaming once in pain. Daggers’ shrill kobold voice became fever pitched and then Squeeze was screaming to, “Get it the fuck off of me!” while haranguing his men to get in there and get him to the fucking vault.
The group (half of us) came out of the room and ran to the hall, turning south to engage the brutes from Brinster Demesne. There were 9 of them all together, two with crossbows and a number of them with spears. Gerti was on the floor, face growing red as she was struggling to grab a hand axe from under the couch. Her two dogs attacked the closest spearmen while Daggers was hanging upside down on Squeeze, one hand wrapped in the ¼ ogre’s belt while his other claw was shredding the bare skin of the enforcer’s gut.
Thedge hurled a huge cobble at one of the spear wielding dwarves who raised his shield up in time for the hard wooden edge to fold over and splinter. Starfin ran forward and hurled a pair of knives, catching one of the front rank foes and skewering his in the throat. The rest of the group was coming forward when one of the mercs shouted out some arcanic words and the fire in the fireplace suddenly blazed up and blocked off the hall. Squeeze managed to rip Daggers off his body, the kobold taking the ogre’s belt with him, and hurled him at the hearth where he bounced off, his reptilian body bouncing hard from the impact.
With only Starfin close enough to react, the merc flipped one of the tables over and used it as cover as more knives went flying. Gerti stood with her two dogs, brandishing her hand axe and swinging it wildly. The two St. Bernard’s were getting hit and hurt and savaged the defenders. And then there was a blast of magic from our end and three of the enemy mercs went down from a sleep spell. This stopped the spell affecting the fireplace and the flames rolled back down and returned to the hearth.
Connal rolled his way past the fighting and hit the back sorcerer, keeping his attention firmly fixed on the monk. Squeeze seeing this was getting out of hand shouted to his men, “Screw this shit! Plan B! Burn it all and let’s get the fuck out of here.”
Oil lanterns went smashing followed by flashing torches and then the mercs were trying to retreat but as they made it outside another sleep spell went off and dropped them on the porch. The fur lined common room and dried wood was going up fast, the fires coursing up to the thatch insulating overhead and setting it ablaze as well. Connal rolled through the doors and hit the three sleeping mercs on the porch with a knife to the throat. But Squeeze was long gone.
The group was not going to get out the front door as the fires were getting too strong and even Einar’s precipitation spell wasn’t enough to do more than momentarily quench the fires. Connal rolled back in through the fire and Gerti and Daggers informed the group they could try to get out through the old mine tunnels Gerti’s grandparents had used some 40 years plus ago. We would have to rip through the walls but it should work.
But what about the vault? And for that, Daggers showed the group the belt he had torn off Squeeze when he was thrown, with not only the ¼-ogres’ pouch on it, but his key ring as well. We all grabbed our stuff and ran down to the basement.
While the majority of us were taking oil lamps, shovels, picks, and even one of the kegs of poor quality beer, Larry was working on the vault door with the key ring we managed to take and opened it up while the floor above us was getting red and hot. Inside were a few binders of papers, a bag on the edge of the door with some helms and a few swords, and a door that lead to the tunnels Gerti had mentioned.
We opened that door, all went inside, and shut the door behind us, the group now in a tunnel under the back of the Lodge amidst opened and broken packing crates and other packing material. We all took stock of ourselves; all accounted for, and healing was handed out to those who needed it. A few of us went ahead in the caves, noting it sloped down and went on into the gloom, while the rest of us looked over the material.
At least a dozen crates of assorted sizes and from the stamping still visible on it, could be from weeks to up to 6 months or so delivered here – all from Bork Keep and the Terror Dungeon. Looks like some members of House Brinster were shipping dangerous and possibly illegal monsters and creatures from adventurers and the Terror Dungeon and were trying them out here before settling on what to send to Fingelt’s Mine (which eventually was the Grue).
What we could see here were things like pyroclastic fungi, long-toothed talpidea, shrieker spores, subterranean rock-squids, and other esoteric sounding monsters. The suspicion was that these beasts might be running loose in the caves down here.
That’s when Einar decided to use his giant bat and send the animal to fly around; trying to find what might be down here and maybe a way out. He went down the sloping corridor for some distance with a few other party members until they got to a place where there was stagnant water on the ground. From there a light spell was cast on a rock and Darius slung it into the cave. We heard rats and the water was about a foot or so deep.
A speak with animal’s spell followed and the giant bat flew out, returning to talk about dark and rats and water and some sort of steps out and something flying in the dark so it turned around and came back.
The group set up as much of an area to sleep in as we could (it was after midnight) and after setting up watches, the group fell asleep. During the night the fire continued to rage and consumed the Rolling Ridge Lodge. Parts of it fell into the basement and when we awoke and tried the door back to the vault, could only open it a foot or two and it was blocked and choked with hot and smoldering broken timber. We couldn’t see the sky and decided to risk working our way out of the caverns by finding the way out.