In That Epic Struggle, Part Three
By Dwip November 11, 2007, 3:29 pm Comments Off on In That Epic Struggle, Part Three RSS Feed for this post

Part one is here, and part two is here.

In previous episodes, we learned how, in two months in 1370 DR, the merchant kingdom of Amn was saved largely through the efforts of two groups of adventurers, one of whom saved the city of Murann from almost certain plunder, then went on to slay the feared pirate, the Black Alaric; the second of whom raided the city of Esmeltaran, disrupting its monstrous occupants, then fighting a climactic battle in the ruins of ancient Shoonach which killed the leaders of the Sythillisian Empire.

The year is 2006. The edition is D&D 3.5. The time is Mirtul, 1371 DR. Spring has come to Amn. Its fortunes are on the rise, though its coffers are low and its armies and people, exhausted from years of war against the humanoids of the Sythillisian Empire and their Cyricist allies. In the previous month, Tarsakh, the armies of Amn recaptured Esmeltaran from the monsters, though much of the city now lies in ruins. Even now, they move to retake the city of Imnescar, hoping to break through the Small Teeth passes and relieve Murann.

Our Heroes:
Stillgar, Gnoll Knight (Cole): A squire of Sir Ambrose of Helm.
Ishandrie, Wild Elf Ranger (Kat): One of Sir Ambrose’s trackers.
Jae, Human Cleric (Jason): An acolyte of Helm.
Davoren, Human Cleric/Wizard (Jason): An acolyte of Helm.
Mirtul 5-Mirtul 12, 1371 DR (May):

While encamped before Imnescar, the party is tasked by Sir Ambrose of Helm to return to his manor near the city of Perskul and investigate news Sir Ambrose has recieved of hobgoblin trouble in the area.

Travelling north, the party is attacked by a band of hobgoblins near Sir Ambrose’s Manor, and these are summarily dispatched (several flee), though the party is too late to save a number of peasants, whose farm has been burnt to the ground by these same hobgoblins.

In the village, the party talks with Gron Thatcher, the militia leader, who informs them of hobgoblin raids that have been occuring both north and south on the roads. The party helps to train and organize the militia, and begins investigating and patrolling farms. After failing to intercept another raid, the party manages to track the hobgoblin raiders back to Ithal’s Tor, an ancient Shoon ruin in the Westwood.

Misfortunately for the party, they are ambushed by dozens of hobgoblins led by a large, bat-winged, fiendish priest of Cyric named Gralok, and are captured. When they awake, they are in a cell with Matthias Darkblade, a tiefling rogue. By tricking their guards, the party escapes from their cells and descends down a hole in the building’s floor into a warren of tunnels below the earth. Entering a room with a hole in the floor, the party encounters a small, winged creature, a lightning mephit, which flies out of the hole and shoots lightning at them. Stillgar, bravely taking the initiative, leaps out over the pit and tackles the lightning mephit, sending them both tumbling down the hole and killing them both[1].

The party continues exploring the tunnels, encountering many giant ants, rats, and spiders, which prove nearly too much for several party members. Eventually, they come upon an underground river, the source of a creek aboveground. Using giant ant carapaces as boats, the party floats out and over a waterfall, though Matthias almost perishes by drowning. They return, without incident, to the village, where they meet

Oscar the Magnificent, Halfling Evoker (Cole): A flashy wizard who is a legend (in his own mind)

and

Gar Rotte, Human Rogue (Devin): A quiet, scythe-wielding rogue

who are the only survivors of a hobgoblin-raided caravan.

Mirtul 9, 1371 DR (May):

At dusk on the 9th, Sir Ambrose’s Manor is attacked by Gralok and well over fifty hobgoblins. After peppering the hobgoblins as they approached with arrows, flaming barrels of lamp oil, and a flaming sofa (thrown by Gar), the hobgoblins force entry after an invisible Gralok blasts the door open with a shatter spell and confounds the militia with globes of darkness. While Ishandrie and Matthias hold the stairs to the tower top against dozens of hobgoblins, the rest of the party, aided by Gron Thatcher, fight Gralok, who flies in through the window, paralyzes and knocks out Gron, then proceeds to defeat Oscar and grievously wound several other party members before being overcome. Meanwhile, Matthias and Ishandrie are forced up the stairs. A single hobgoblin sergeant, the last survivor of the invaders, drops every member of the party except Davoren, who flees. The hobgoblin gives chase, and Davoren leads him straight into the villagers, who pitchfork the hobgoblin to death[2].

Mirtul 16-Mirtul 22, 1371 DR (May):

Rested and healed from the near-apocalyptic battle of Sir Ambrose’s Manor, the party returns to Ithal’s Tor to clean up the survivors and finish exploring. They are joined by

Argh One-Ear, Half-Orc Cleric of Ilmater (Matt): A tough, very unorthodox cleric of the God of Suffering[3].

Descending into the hole from which came the lightning mephit, the party discovers a long-buried temple of Talos the Stormlord. Here they dispatch another three lightning mephits, who continually fly into and out of a large ball of lightning that still crackles over the altar. While exploring a prayer chamber, the party is surprised by a wight and three skeletons, which drain Jae and Gar before dying the final death. Descending into the undercroft, the party encounters a fearsome lightning quasi-elemental, which kills Jae, knocks Oscar unconcious, and traps Davoren in the temple while the remaining party members flee aboveground.

Once in town, Matthias leaves, citing ill-treatment by the party. Argh One-Ear also departs, claiming the need to do his deity’s will elsewhere in the Realms[4]. The partty is joined by

Barowyn, Dwarf Barbarian (Kasey): A boar-riding dwarven barbarian;

and

Seth, Halfling Barbarian/Fighter (Jason): Who styles himself “The Doglord” (from his riding dog), and claims to be a friend of Sir Ambrose (which is disputed in some circles).

They return to Ithal’s Tor, where they dispath the quasielemental with Oscar’s spells and charges by the barbarians. In a vault, they find a great deal of treasure, including a magical gauntlet, which attaches itself to Oscar. returning to the tunnels, they explore the northern ones, and encounter several ankhegs, who threaten to kill the entire party before Oscar somehow uses the gauntlet to call lightning bolts. The party retreats back to the temple level, persued by an ankheg, who burrows through the ceiling, crashing to the floor and dying.

The party proceeds to spend three days healing at the bottom of Ithal’s Tor. Ishandrie is found to have stolen and hidden part of the party’s treasure, and she is tortured and killed by members of the party, which causes much interparty conflict[5]. Recovering the treasure, they emerge from Ithal’s Tor[6] and begin travelling south to join Sir Ambrose and to tell him the news.

Mirtul 22-26, 1371 DR (May):

Passing the ruins of Imnescar, the party meets with Sir Ambrose and the field army of Amn, which is preparing to fight the last great army of humanoids and Cyricists at the Twin Towers of the Eternal Eclipse, a major Cyricist temple blocking the pass south through the Small Teeth. They are joined by

Seriere, Sun Elf Duskblade (Kat): who is the loyal retainer of another noble Sir Ambrose knows.

Sir Ambrose and his retainers, as well as the party, act as outriders and scouts for the main body of the army as it marches south. While performing this duty, the party is ambushed by kobolds, who retreat to a ruined watchtower on a nearby hill. Much of the party rides in hot persuit up the trail, while Argh circles one way and Gar and Seth circle the other. While Seth and Gar are fighting kobolds in the courtyard of the tower, Baraoyn charges through the gate on his boar and begins laying about him while hard-pressed by dozens of kobolds. Much of the party, meanwhile, is ambushed by further kobolds up the trail and hit hard by fireballs from a kobold sorcerer in the tower. As Sir Ambrose and the rest of his men begin to arrive, the situation appears grim. Many of Ambrose’s men are decimated by a fireball, and most of the party is surrounded by kobolds, including an enlarged Argh, who is demolishing kobolds by the score with fist and spell. The climax of the battle comes when Oscar uses the Hand of Talos (his gauntlet) to call forth a mighty blast of lightning which obliterates the tower, kobolds and all. All remaining kobolds are summarily dispatched, and the party rests for a time while exploring their surroundings.

In the exploration, several enterances to an underground cavern network are discovered, and the party descends, accompanied by Sir Ambrose and his remaining men. Davoren falls into a pit and slides partway down a chute before being rescued. The party finds itself on a ramp at the top of a hundreds of feet tall cavern, with a pool of water at the bottom[7]. Descending the ramp, the party is ambushed by a darktentacles (think Fellowship of the Ring here), which grabs several people, and is on the verge of slaying them before it is overcome, which leaves several people in danger of drowning while unconcious. They are saved, and underwater exploration reveals the lair of the darktentacles, from which loot is recovered.

Passing a blood-stained altar[8], the party enters a long, straight, obviously worked stone corridor. Several minutes of marching later, they abrubtly trigger a magic alarm, and come under fire from a ballista firing bundles of alchemist’s fire. The party charges, and realizes there are actually two ballista bunkers at the intersection of three passageways. Seth charges on his dog, skewering one goblin defender with his lance, but slamming himself and the dog full force into the bunker, knocking them both out. While Davoren drags Seth back for healing, Oscar and Baraoyn blow up both bunkers with casks of ale (which Baraoyn carried everywhere) and lightning from the Hand of Talos.

Low on spells and healing, the party retreats back down the passage they came through and returns to the army[9]. They are just in time for the bulk of the battle, which is titanic. Clerics and wizards on both sides cause massive explosions and death, giants and ogres lay waste to humans, and various humans, hobgoblins, goblins, and kobolds do their best to simply survive. At the very climax of the battle, Oscar’s mind is overcome by the Hand of Talos, and he goes insane and attempts to destroy everyone in range with the power of the Hand. He is narrowly overpowered and stopped by the party, and the Hand of Talos is taken from him and put in the keeping of priests of Helm[10].

Kythorn 3, 1371 DR (June):

Sir Ambrose summons the party to talk to Lord Pehllus Tanislove, who wants them to look for his kidnapped sister Gilda in the humanoid-occupied city of Trademeet. The party is joined by

Orog, Human Fighter/Swashbuckler (Brian): A man who has four arms;

and

Kyle, Human Paladin of Helm (Kyle): A useful vehicle for Kyle getting to play with us while on leave from Iraq.

The party travels south, encountering little opposition save for a disorganized goblin band. They find a ruined farm near the city and wait. Orog enters Trademeet and is hired by an orc chieftain after nearly besting him in a duel. That night, Orog bribes a guard to leave the city, and reports on probable locations of Gilda Tanislove – under the Kapparthall (citadel) or in the former Temple of Helm, now redidicated to the orcish god Gruumsh and a slaver lair[11]. Re-entering the city, he begins starting fires while the rest of the party enters the city. Various half-baked plans are launched by the party[12], which result in Orog charging the temple courtyard and dispatching the slavers therein. Taking their flamethrower cart, he sets off down the main corridor, unfortunately triggering a glyph of warding, which explodes the entire hallway and leaves Orog near to death. Meanwhile, Oscar and Seriere arrive, and enter battle with the slavers, fighting their way into the main chamber and dispatching all their opponents, including several leaders. Shortly thereafter, Kyle arrives, providing healing, and the party frees and arms several slaves before descending into tunnels beneath the temple. Here they find a number of ant creatures, who prove hostile and are killed. They explore a short distance before deciding to return to the temple.

Meanwhile, slaver reinforcements have arrived, killed all of the slaves, and trapped Orog, Oscar, Seriere, and Kyle belowground. While they fight their way free, Argh One-Ear, who was enslaved and imprisoned, escapes captivity, kills several slavers, then rescues Gar, who had just been captured by yet more slavers. The party then decides to retreat to rest and heal[13].

In the morning, search parties are sent from the city to search out the party, and these are very narrowly avoided. A bit of subterfuge allows the party to sneak back into the city, where they run back into the temple and go below ground. They find a number of giant ant tunnels, and the giant ants therein, resulting in a large and confusing battle with many, many ants, who are finally defeated. As we leave off, the party has just entered a very large cavern…

[1] – Technically, Stillgar managed to survive the fall with 1 hp and was killed by other then-unknown beasties at the bottom of the pit. Before and after this session, Stillgar was affectionately known as “the grassy gnoll” in a bad display of humor.

[2] – This was an epic fight, easily in the top 5 if not the top 2 or 3 I’ve ever been a part of. Gralok was clearly the baddest mofo in town, and he showed it, flying around, using his spells to great effect, and then taking on the entire party plus a fair-leveled NPC with his maul, and coming very very close to winning. He remains one of my favorite villains.

Also, the party being saved by Davoren was possibly the most dramatic moment in any game I’ve played. Davoren, being useless in a fight, was forced to run away from a 3 hp hobgoblin sergeant, lure him into the villagers, and then run back to heal the party, several of whom came within a round or two of dying. This very easily could have resulted in a TPK had things gone slightly different.

In addition, mass combats are notoriously hard to run, but for once in our lives we managed to pull it off pretty well, which was nice.

[3] – Argh will be one of a rather lengthy list of guest appearances from people other than the core group of players.

[4] – Read “I am a one-shot guest character. Bye!”

[5] – Your guess as to the exact cause of this is as good as mine. Suffice it to say this was not our best night.

[6] – It’s no secret that I thought a lot of things went right in this game, and Ithal’s Tor, as a dungeon, was one of them. I don’t really like the dungeon concept, but I think I pulled this one off well. The concept involved a Shoon-era village which had been mostly buried. Later, it was tunneled into by the ankhegs, who carved out the tunnel levels (which became infested with vermin) and gave access to the Temple of Talos (which had been haunted by various guardians and undead priests). Much much later, the hobgoblin raiders showed up and inhabited the aboveground ruins. It’s a lot of work to come up with a good dungeon ecology, but the end result is pretty cool.

[7] – Which is where Davoren would have ended up had he actually slid all the way down the chute, taking a lot of falling damage, and swimming in dark water directly near a very nasty monster.

[8] – Used by the inhabitants to perform human sacrifices to appease the darktentacles. The party found the skeleton of one such victim in the lair.

[9] – Neatly avoiding one of the largest dungeons I’ve ever created.

[10] – The Hand was an intelligent, enchanted gauntlet with the power to, among other things, inflict shocking grasp and call lightning spells. Oscar took pretty enthusiasticly to the thing, and even started worshipping Talos (he also picked up a magic, lightning-headed spear from the temple), with the results that we see here.

[11] – Recognizable as the temple from A1 – Slave Pits of the Undercity for those of you playing along at home. You may trace my love for this series of modules from hearing about it in Thomas Miller’s Adventurers series (16 through 37). I’ve spent about 10 years thinking A4 in particular was the coolest thing ever.

[12] – You really don’t want to know.

[13] – This sequence was several times more complicated than I’ve just described, and essentially involved every single party member performing their own plan without any consultation with anyone else. There was fighting on the city walls, Bumbling into slaver patrols, sneaking past city guards, and several other things. Seth, for example, came into the city over the walls three times. In his first foray, he attempted to pin Orog’s fires on the slavers before narrowly missing discovery. In his second, he came with Gar, then left Gar to, get this, haul his dog over the walls with a rope.

I cannot begin to express to you how frustrating this was to DM. What should have been a brief warm-up foray into the temple took all damn night, and we’re not done yet.


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