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[Dungeons & Dragons 3.5] Helsmuth (AP)

Azeari

Retired User
[Dungeons & Dragons 3.5] Helsmuth (AP)

Session: #30
Date: May 30, 2009
Modules: Deception at Villa Zarios, Splintered Peace

A trail led from the cave towards the Villa Zarios, although there were no signs that it had been used recently. As Lady Redfern's vineyard came into view, three men in armor, patrolling with torches, could be seen near the manor house. It turned out to be Martok's brother, Addric, with two men that he had been training as guards. Addric admitted that "something fishy" was going on at the villa.

Turlough, the family's trusted adviser, had fallen ill and currently lay in a coma. Garyn examined him and concluded that the man had been poisoned. Since his "illness" had persisted for more than two months, it would appear that the poisoner was somebody at the villa. That narrowed it down to about fifty suspects. Martok stayed by the bedside of his childhood tutor, to make sure that nobody was able to come near him. Rohit spent the night on the roof of the manor house, ensuring that the guilty party didn't catch word of their arrival and make their escape.

In the morning, after eight hours of restful sleep, Garyn memorized his spells. Martok called together all of the inhabitants of the villa for a meeting. While Lukwind aided Martok's diplomacy with inspire competence, Elsa looked menacing and Garyn studied the faces of the crowd. Meanwhile, Gerald & Rohit snuck off to search the manor house for evidence.

When Martok mentioned that a wine barrel had been found in a cave in the hills, Antonio the majordomo visibly flinched. Four burly laborers standing alongside him looked very uncomfortable. Their expressions and body language had given them away, even before Rohit and Gerald returned with the poisons and map that they found in Antonio's room. It was now time for Lukwind and Elsa to play good cop / bad cop: it didn't take long for Antonio to admit that he served two masters. For the past five years, he had been accepting bribes to subtly undermine the vineyard's operations. The villainous patron of this skullduggery was none other than James Jonstone, Lord of Fernquay as well as owner of the adjacent vineyard. Antonio offered to testify against Lord Jonstone before the Imperial Inquisitors, as long as he himself escaped punishment.

Martok offered his apologies to the rest of the staff, who felt they had been unfairly blamed for the poor performance of the vineyard. He used the gold he had confiscated from Antonio's four associates to fund payment of a bonus to each worker. Over the next seven days, Garyn worked in the vineyard supervising the farmhands and showing them how to restore the grapevines after their extended neglect. In the evenings, he continued to study his spellbook.

In order to confirm Antonio's story, Lukwind disguised himself as the majordomo and went to pay James Jonstone a visit. Drinking elixirs of sneaking and hiding, Rohit and Garyn were his stealthy escort. Lukwind drank a potion of glibness, then knocked on the door of Lord Jonstone's country manor. When he met the nobleman, he attempted to fascinate him with his stunning oratory, but Lord Jonstone resisted. Garyn drew his bowstring taut, in case trouble should break out, but fortunately Lukwind was able to convince the aristocrat that he hadn't used any magic and that Lord Jonstone must have imagined it. When Lukwind mentioned that Martok had showed up at the Villa Zarios, James asked him to deliver a message: "if you convince Cecilia Redfern to sell her vineyard to me, then you can keep 5% of the price as a commission."

When they returned, Martok was extremely displeased that Lukwind had let slip such a valuable piece of information. Had he forgotten that his teammate was meant to be hiding from the Imperial Inquisition? Martok then had to explain his perilous situation to his mother and siblings. He maintained that he was justified in killing Osmundus Branwhait, given the indignities he had suffered at the lordling's hands in Helsmuth, not to mention the fact that he was hanging around Sweetmead like a vulture, with the intention of siezing Martok's family home. However, just because he was innocent of any crime, he didn't feel like subjecting himself to the Inquisitors' interrogation.

That night, Rohit returned to James Jonstone's manor to look for concrete evidence of the noble's involvement in sabotage. When he arrived, he saw a foreigner speaking with the lord. The man, dressed in mithral armor, asked James, "are you ready to go?" When they shook hands, the two of them disappeared. Thinking that Lord Jonstone might have teleported to Marchion to fetch the Inquisitors, Rohit hurried back to tell the others.

Something about that scene jogged Garyn's memory. He recalled that when the party had arrived in Silverthorne, a little over a month ago, they saw James and his wife Avri teleport into the city square accompanied by a Khemetian sorcerer by the name of Galon. Galon was a member of the Wayfarers' Society: an association of magic users who sold their teleportation services. Back then, Garyn had been on a mission to save the world. However, now things were different.

Just to be on the safe side, Martok spent the night in the Qullan lair. Garyn went with him, to keep a lookout for trouble. Meanwhile, Rohit snuck back to James Jonstone's manor to take advantage of the lord's absence. Unfortunately he didn't find any incriminating evidence, but he did manage to stuff his bag of holding with some lovely artwork.

The next day, Garyn, Gerald, Rohit & Lukwind returned to Marchion to tell Lady Cecilia Redfern everything that they had discovered. They showed her the barrel of wine and the map that led to the cave in the hills. She let them keep the wine, as a reward for excellent detective work. The Marchion Council of 12, of which Lady Redfern is a member, have chosen Richard Whitburn as the new mayor of the city, to replace the late Sir Dernavel Crakdfang. This means that the Merchants' Guild must now elect a new representative to a seat on the Council. Lord James Jonstone stood a very good chance of winning the election, since the money that he spends on lavish entertainment has made him many friends amongst the other merchants. However, if Antonio should testify before the Imperial Inquisition, the resulting scandal would no doubt ruin James' chances of a council seat. Therefore, she urged them to return to Villa Zarios and bring Antonio back to the city as soon as possible.

Lukwind and Garyn both had things that they wanted to do in the city, so it was up to Gerald and Rohit to fetch Antonio.
 
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Azeari

Retired User
Re: [Dungeons & Dragons 3.5] Helsmuth (AP)

This should probably have come first (I'm new to this whole Actual Play thing):

My game started as 3.0 and then converted to 3.5 after a couple of years. We only play once a month (or less), but we've been going since late 2005.

The original cast of characters were:
  • Lukwind, a Changeling Bard
  • Lord Martok Atronan, a Human Warlock
  • Lady Elsa Mielet, a Human Fighter
  • Methris Maeliir, a Human Druid
  • Garyn ap Careonnyn, a Half-Elf Ranger
  • Hui-Jin, a Human Monk

A couple of my players dropped out (although one of them came back for a second helping), so some of the original characters have become NPCs, while some new faces have joined the party.

Our first 6 sessions (July 2005 to August 2006) were my own material. Essentially, I was aiming for a fantasy sandbox in the frontier city of Helsmuth. However, I came to the realization that my players really wanted to be given a quest. Hence, I began to link together a series of published adventures:

In between, as the situation required, I used many of the encounters from the En Route series of books by Atlas Games / Penumbra.
 
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Azeari

Retired User
Re: [Dungeons & Dragons 3.5] Helsmuth (AP)

Martok, male Human Warlock 9
Elsa, female Human Fighter 4 / Ranger 1 / Avenging Executioner 4
Lukwind, Changeling Bard 9
Garyn, male Half-Elf Ranger 5 / Wizard 1 / Duskblade 1 / Unseen Seer 2
Rohit, male Vanara Rogue 3 / Ninja 1 / Scout 3 / Shadowdancer 2
Gerald, male Human Ranger 1 / Wilder 4 / Slayer 3

Session: #31
Date: June 27, 2009
Modules: Deception at Villa Zarios, Splintered Peace

Lukwind met Rohit & Gerald at the city gates, when they returned with Antonio the corrupt majordomo. They took him to the Imperial Inquisitors so that he could give evidence against his employer, James Jonstone, Lord of Fernquay. However, they were completely astonished when Antonio informed the Inquisitors of Martok's whereabouts, collecting the ransom money for providing such information.

As the Inquisitors summoned the Imperial Cavalry to arrest Martok, Rohit & Gerald raced back to Villa Zarios to warn him. Riding their horses to their utmost, they made it there in time to tell Martok that Antonio had triple-crossed them. Addric stepped forward, declaring that he and the men he had trained were ready to fight or to flee, whichever his brother decided. Martok didn't even know what the charges against him were, but there were enough shady deeds in his past that he would prefer not to face up to them. Elsa, likewise, decided to avoid the Inquisitors' questions by riding off into the hills.

Not long after they were gone, Rohit spotted a group of griffons in the distance. He and Gerald hid themselves, so that they could see what transpired. One of the Inquisitors was riding a griffon, accompanied by a unit of Dragonborn cavalrymen. When the griffons landed in the villa courtyard, Martok's mother went out to meet them. She loudly protested her son's innocence, refusing to answer any questions about his whereabouts. The dragonblood warriors searched the villa from top to bottom, but didn't turn up anything. In the end, they were forced to return to Marchion empty handed.

In the meantime, Lukwind rushed to the townhouse of Lady Cecelia Redfern, to give her the news. When she heard what had transpired, Cecelia uttered a most unladylike curse. "I was a fool not to have foreseen this outcome! Too blinded with hatred by Antonio's betrayal. Whatever damage I'd hoped to cause to James Jonstone's reputation, it has backfired on me a hundredfold."
After ranting for quite some time, Cecelia eventually calmed down. "When the Inquisitors return, we will need to be ready to plead on Martok's behalf. I hope I can rely on you to aid me in his defense. I should warn you, however, that the Inquisitors are not fond of the arcane arts, nor of those who employ them. If they catch you spellcasting in their presence, it will not help our cause."
Lukwind was forced to admit that he was a Changeling, a secret that he had only revealed to his closest friends. If the Inquisitors were to discover his deception, it could be prejudicial to Martok's case. This warranted a change in strategy. Cecelia would appear alone before the Inquisition, and also use her influence with the newly-elected mayor and amongst the city council to appeal for clemency.

Meanwhile, it would be Lukwind's task to enlist the support of the masses. If the tales of Martok's heroics at the Maze of Screaming Silence, as well as vanquishing the vampires, etc. were known to the general populace, the Inquisitors would need to proceed much more carefully. Marchion is a city that loves its heroes, and the Emperor and his Inquisitors are unpopular enough as it is.

In addition, Gerald, Rohit, Lukwind & Garyn took the opportunity to shop for magical items. At Marvo's Magical Miscellany, Lukwind was able to drive a hard bargain on the price of vests of resistance, a choker of eloquence, cloak of charisma and other wondrous items.

In the evenings, they hunted for the perpetrator of the docklands murders. As they crossed Market Bridge, they noted that scaffolding had been erected on the site of the warehouse fire. Lukwind cast message so that he could maintain communication with Garyn and Rohit, who scouted ahead. As was customary, the Vanara climbed up to the rooftops and leapt from building to building, while the Half-Elf skulked through the alleyways below. Gerald lit his torch and began sweeping the streets with detect evil.

A gang of half-orcs were occupying an intersection in the middle of the docklands. They stared menacingly at Gerald and Lukwind as they approached, but the bard was able to use his diplomatic skills (boosted by fascinate and suggestion) to defuse the situation. When he told the gang leader, Dench, what they were doing, he was actually impressed that anyone would bother. Murder in the docklands is a reasonably common occurrence, and the fate of Marchion's less wealthy citizens is rarely discussed in council chambers.

Dench didn't know anything about the grisly killings that Lukwind described, but he directed him to inquire at the Pickled Otyugh. Most of the key figures in Marchion's underworld could be found there. On the way to the warehouse on pier 28, Rohit lost track of the rest of the party. Garyn, too, was subjected to a strange magical effect, but he managed to resist it. He found Rohit and led the way, so that the Vanara didn't become completely lost.

Lukwind knocked at the warehouse door. A viewhole slid open, but he could only see darkness inside. Gerald scanned the building with detect evil, but found nothing. "Dench sent me," he told the doorman, and they were ushered inside. An ogre dressed in fine clothes greeted them and offered to take their cloaks. "Keep your weapons sheathed," he advised, "and mind your manners. Many of our patrons are easily offended."

With that, the ogre opened another door, to the inside of the tavern. Raucous sounds of music and laughter suddenly assaulted their ears, and Gerald's detect evil spell revealed many auras. After ordering drinks from one of the scantily clad serving girls, Lukwind announces that they're "here about the murders."

They are shown to a private booth, occupied by a group of halflings. Their leader introduces himself as Cadric Dewash. After Lukwind explains that it's the serial killings that he is concerned with, the halflings visibly relax. "Oh, that's nothing to do with me," Cadric says. "But if you're planning on spending any time in the docklands, you'd better introduce yourselves to the other members of our society: Captain Carver, and Axl."

It turns out that Axl's gang wasn't at the Pickled Otyugh that night, so Lukwind left a message for him. Next, they were escorted to another booth, this one guarded by a pair of minotaurs. From their sharkskin armor and serrated scimitars, Gerald identified them as the infamous pirates of Knossos. Lukwind easily bluffed his way past the goons. Inside the booth, there were two humans and four hobgoblins. The heroes were shocked to recognize Deborah, the rogue that they had defeated in Sweetmead. "What in blazes are you spongy turds doing here?" She shouts at them.

After a tense standoff, with blades drawn, Lukwind manages to calm the situation at least enough that they can leave the tavern without incident. The ogre chuckles as the four heroes hastily make their exit.

OOC: what? My players just walked away from a tavern brawl ... with pirates!!?!
 

Azeari

Retired User
Re: [Dungeons & Dragons 3.5] Helsmuth (AP)

Lukwind, Changeling Bard 9
Garyn, male Half-Elf Ranger 5 / Wizard 1 / Duskblade 1 / Unseen Seer 2
Rohit, male Vanara Rogue 3 / Ninja 1 / Scout 3 / Shadowdancer 2
Gerald, male Human Ranger 1 / Wilder 4 / Slayer 4

Session: #32
Date: July 25, 2009
Modules: Splintered Peace

For this update, it's over to my players:

Lukwind's diary, 19th of Maimakterion
After a couple of days we decided to meet the final group to get permission to walk around the docklands. As we were walking we found a dire rat following us. After a couple of rounds of us doing some useless stuff trying to kill the rat. Gerald decided to do an energy burst. However, there were a couple of problems, one he got dazed and second because the energy burst don't go around corners the only thing he did was damage several houses!
Finally, Garion injured one of the rats which we discovered was a were-rat. After one of them was injured the were-rats decided to run away back to their lair. We tracked them down to a dungeon. After Garion got injured from a trap, everyone got scared. Gerald was disgusted by this and called all of us chickens. But he finally agreed to leave, but just before we left, we found a secret door. We decided to open that door, and go down the passage way.
We found four coffins, we decided to amp Gerald up and send him to fight whoever was in them (since he was the only brave one amongst us). Gerald almost died several times during the fight, got himself dazed trying to do an energy burst, ran out of power points etc. But he basically single-handedly killed 4 large undead monsters (they each had well over a hundred hps). We ended the day with Gerald muttering the words chickens to the other members of the party.

Garyn's comments
Special mention needs to go to Rohit without whom we would have been in a lot more trouble than we ended up in, for carrying so many silver weapons and sharing them while tumbling throughout the battlefield and for forcefeeding Gerald healing potions leaving Gerald free to attack. Such dedication is hard to find in a sidekick. :)

Garyn would like it noted that:
a) the wererat was severely wounded which is why it ran off (after turning invisible, how rude!).
b) taking a hit from a major trap for the party just goes to show how much he values each of you and how good Neutralise Poison potions are. :)
c) he ain't no chicken and if Gerald is up for chasing rats down the corridors, Garyn will back him up all the way (just don't walk too fast, Garyn isn't as fit as he was).
d) he also believes that the altar is trapped so don't touch it as the entire room may collapse or explode
e) Gerald sure packs a punch when he is buffed up with all our spell improvements, though maybe enlarge wasn't Garyn's best idea. Gerald was chosen due to his energy burst (and bravery), with the plan that he could get into the room and move sideways, hit most or all of the undead and not funnel flames back up the stairs. If only the undead had the decency to have waited one more round before getting up and hogging all the floor space. :)
 

Azeari

Retired User
Re: [Dungeons & Dragons 3.5] Helsmuth (AP)

Lukwind, Changeling Bard 9
Garyn, male Half-Elf Ranger 5 / Wizard 1 / Duskblade 1 / Unseen Seer 2
Rohit, male Vanara Rogue 3 / Ninja 1 / Scout 3 / Shadowdancer 2
Gerald, male Human Ranger 1 / Wilder 4 / Slayer 4
Martok, male Human Warlock 9
Elsa, female Human Fighter 4 / Ranger 1 / Avenging Executioner 4
Addric, male Human Aristocrat 7 (Martok's cohort)

Session: #33
Date: August 22, 2009
Modules: Splintered Peace

Arriving at the temple of Athena in the middle of the night, Garyn & Lukwind knocked loudly until the initiate on duty opened the door. Once they explained what they'd found in the crypt beneath Mage Hill, he went and roused the high priest of Athena, Simon Phrantzes, from his bed. A force of clerics and paladins was quickly assembled, equipped with potions of reduce person in order to navigate the narrow tunnels. They examined the adventurers and determined that none of them bore the taint of evil, then thanked them profusely for bringing such an important discovery to their attention.

The following day, Rohit & Lukwind were out shopping when they noticed that a large crowd was forming in the streets. The city was abuzz with the news that Lord Martok was returning, and all the citizens had come out to see him.

Soon enough, Martok, Elsa & Addric passed through the gates, accompanied by their followers as well as some soldiers of the March. They were led on a triumphal procession through the city, to Temple Plaza where a temporary stage had been erected. Martok was relieved that there wasn't a gallows or guillotine waiting for him, since all of this fanfare was completely unexpected.

Standing amongst the crowd, Gerald observed that people were standing almost exclusively in groups of their own race: there were patches of elves, of dwarves, human refugees and Dench's gang of half-orcs. However, there were very few groups where members of several races were standing together. He considered this most unusual, for such a multicultural society.

Richard Whitburn, the newly-elected mayor of Marchion, beckoned Lord Martok and his companions up onto the stage. He praised their accomplishments in the Entwood and the Peloponnesian Alps, finding the blessed ring of the Goddess Whose Name Is Life and rescuing the world from certain doom. It was clear that he had been hastily briefed on who they were, by someone with a penchant for embellishment. At the end of his speech, the mayor expressed the hope that the heroes would be able to deal with the orcs who threaten the city's livelihood.

At hearing that comment, Dench's gang became agitated. They began heckling, grumbling that profiteering merchants like Richard Whitburn were the real problem with this city. The human refugees were outraged by such talk. One, in particular, accused the half-orcs of being in league with the barbarian hordes.

Lukwind took the stage, gaining the attention of everyone in the plaza. He urged them to listen to what Lord Martok had to say. All eyes turned expectantly in the direction of the young noble.

Clearing his throat, Martok said that he had seen first hand what the orcs were doing: burning villages to the ground, leaving corpses to rot in the sun, stealing livestock & grain that had been stored for the coming winter, even capturing peasants as slaves. Clearly, there was a serious external threat that demanded everyone to unite, not to bicker amongst themselves. Having been admonished thusly, the crowd began to disperse.

The mayor invited Martok to an emergency meeting of the city council, but the nobleman demurred, saying that he had pressing business to attend to. However, the mayor was not one to be put off so lightly. He insisted that Martok, Elsa, Addric & Lukwind should come before the council immediately and present what intelligence they had gleaned in their travels. With some subtle prompting by Rohit, Martok chose to comply.

Seated around a large table in the council chamber were a few personalities that the adventurers recognized, as well as many whom they didn't. Among the familiar faces were Lady Cecilia Redfern (Martok's aunt), Simon Phrantzes (priest of Athena), Thurstan Brightstone (priest of Hermes) & Glanhild Morefar (priestess of Hephaestus). In all, there were 3 dwarves, 3 elves, 3 humans, a gnome and a half-elf. One seat remained empty, reserved for whoever would be elected to the council by the Merchant's Guild. Standing in the corner were a trio of ominous figures wearing masks: one robed in red and two robed in black. Using his ability to hide in plain sight, Rohit accompanied his companions into the room.

Martok repeated what he had told the crowd outside, but added that there was a black dragon living in the orc camp. The councillors were dismayed to hear this: they might have sent the March to deal with a few hundred orcs, but there was no way they would sacrifice Marchion's sons by sending them to slay a dragon. Several times, Martok attempted to turn the council's attention towards the charges laid against him by the Imperial Inquisition, but none of the politicians were interested in discussing that. After Martok had told them all he knew, they sent him away. However, Rohit remained hidden to hear the remainder of their discussion.

The three robed figures, whom Rohit recognized as Inquisitors, petitioned the council to hand Martok over to them. They intended to extradite him to Therapne, the Imperial capital. The councillors assured them that their request would be considered, but in turn they asked the Inquisitors to contact the Emperor to ask for aid in dealing with the orcish menace. After that, they too were escorted from the room.

Over several hours, the councillors argued about the best course of action. Eirik Stonehammer, a dwarven merchant, was in favour of sending the March to attack the orcs, dragon or no dragon. However, Sephrandis Lellbereth, an elven wizard, doubted that the orcs posed any real threat. Neither faction was prepared to hand Martok over: the merchants saw him as an asset in the coming war, while the spellcasters saw him as one of their own. The mages of Marchion despised the Inquisition for its persecution of arcanists, and were happy to see it thwarted.

Elizabeth Dawngold, a half-elven bard, expressed faith that the Imperial legions would deal with the problem. Lady Cecelia Redfern proposed an alternative: why not send Martok to slay the dragon? It might prove to be a suicide mission, but at least then they would know that the threat was real. Alternatively, if Martok succeeded, then the March could be sent to deal with the orcs.

While they waited for Rohit to return, Gerald & Lukwind informed the others of everything they knew about black dragons. Gerald also identified the markings on the armor that Martok & Elsa had looted from the orcs they had fought. There were two different tribes: the orc scorchers and the skull chewers. It was unusual for tribes to collaborate like that, and highly suspicious that they should be found so many miles from the Goblin Wastes.

Martok wasn't too impressed when he learned that his aunt had volunteered him for a suicide mission, but Elsa was eager to kill the dragon whatever the reward. Gerald stated that he was a monster hunter, therefore this was what he did best. Rohit was mainly concerned for the victims of the orcish raids, particularly those whom they had enslaved.

That evening, Martok, Elsa, Addric & Gerald went to dine at Cecelia's townhouse. As expected, she informed her nephew that the council had entrusted him with the mission of slaying the dragon. In return, the mayor might grant Martok a pardon. This wouldn't protect him outside the city walls, if for example he were to return to his family estate. However, relations between Marchion and Therapne were already strained. She tried to make Martok appreciate the stance that the council were taking.

"Will you stand alone before the fury of his armies?" Cecelia asked.
"...Yes."

Meanwhile, Lukwind & Rohit returned to the Docklands, to speak with their allies in the underworld. Dench expressed anger that his people were being blamed for all of Marchion's woes. He knew who the orc scorchers and the skull chewers were, but he had never had any contact with them. He had no idea why they would risk attacking a village that was so close to a major city.

Before entering the Pickled Otyugh, Lukwind & Rohit disguised themselves as "Hobwind & Rohob," two hobgoblin pirates whom Deborah had recently hired. They presented themselves to the minotaur guards and reported for duty. They were relieved to see that Deborah wasn't in the booth, only a human whose teeth were filed sharp and who wore an eyepatch, and a hobgoblin who wore glass lenses over his eyes. The human asked what information they had gathered. Hobwind reported that Martok was back in town, and that orcs had blockaded the river Brallen to the east. Clearly, neither of these things were news to these two. The human ordered Hobwind & Rohob to find out where Martok was staying, then come straight back to tell him. If he wasn't in the Pickled Otyugh, then he would be aboard ship. Before they left, Rohob sneakily placed a marked coin inside the pirate's pocket.

Hobwind & Rohob exited the tavern, performed a discreet change, then reentered in their usual guises. Next they met with the halfling gang. Cadric Dewash seemed very happy about the orcish raids, but neither Lukwind nor Rohit were able to determine why. The hobbit invited them to a Noumenia party that would be held in 10 days' time. It was hosted by Elizabeth Dawngold, one of the councillors, and many prominent citizens would be there. He exhorted them to bring their friend Martok along to meet everybody.

Finally, they asked whether Axl's gang was at the tavern this evening. As it turned out, they were. The scruffy assortment of five humans appeared to recognize Lukwind & Rohit. Furthermore, one of them had bandages across his chest. They deduced that these must be the wererats they had fought the previous night. Lukwind was very diplomatic, but the damage was done. Half of Marchion's criminals were now their sworn enemies.

Once the adventurers met back at the Golden Axe, they began a heated discussion over what would be the best strategy for handling the dragon and the orcs. Eventually, it was decided that Garyn & Rohit should be sent ahead to try and find more information, while the rest stayed behind in Marchion to gather resources. Then, after giving the scouts a couple of days' head start, they would follow.

In the morning, Rohit returned to Marvo's Magical Miscellany to buy a pearl of speech, so that he would be able to speak orcish. Garyn purchased a scroll of sending, so that they could inform the rest of the party what they discovered. Thus equipped, they set out for the barbarian encampment. They covered 50 miles on the first day, until Garyn spotted a copse of trees where his horse could be hobbled. They camped there for the night.

Meanwhile, Martok went to speak with Eirik Stonehammer, the councillor who was in favour of attacking the orcs. Eirik was a wealthy merchant, and more than willing to fund any expedition which might restore the flow of trade. They discussed recruiting an army of mercenaries, as well as equipping the heroes with magic items that might counteract the dragon's abilities.

Over the next two days, Martok & Addric convinced about a hundred human archers to join the fight against the orcs. Lukwind recruited around 150 dwarven light infantry as well. Their force would be outnumbered, but hopefully the abilities of the heroes could more than compensate. Gerald & Elsa researched which scrolls and potions would be most useful in the battle against the dragon.

On the morning of the second day, Lukwind received a sending from Garyn: "2500 Orcs 200 Ogres 60 Spellcasters 500 slaves 1 Orc Dragonrider. Nightly raids 20 mile radius. Dragonrider recruiting third clan Heart Splitters, we attempting delay."

Needing to respond immediately, without conferring with the other adventurers, Lukwind stammered, "Ummm...hang on, I'm trying to think of a response... We are also creating an army. Meet us back in Marchion, after your delaying attempt."
 
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Azeari

Retired User
Re: [Dungeons & Dragons 3.5] Helsmuth (AP)

Lukwind, Changeling Bard 9
Garyn, male Half-Elf Ranger 5 / Wizard 1 / Duskblade 1 / Unseen Seer 2
Rohit, male Vanara Rogue 3 / Ninja 1 / Scout 3 / Shadowdancer 2

Session: #33.5
Date: September 17, 2009
Modules: Splintered Peace

Well, this is something that I've just had to try to deal with as a DM with these players: splitting the party, then playing by email in the hope of getting everybody back together again in time for the next session. This time, I scheduled an in-between session especially for the two scouts, Garyn & Rohit, since they decided it was time to kill them some orc.

If you've read Splintered Peace by David Chart, the module that I'm nominally running, you'd know that hiring an army of mercenaries and fighting the orcs head-on really isn't the way that the adventure is supposed to play out. I'm winging it pretty heavily here, embellishing the story with a lot of elements that aren't present in the original source material. However, I'm happy to do that - after all, why play Pen & Paper at all unless you allow the players to carve their own path?

One of the major changes that I've made is that the orc army is a lot less sympathetic. They aren't the Na'vi, they are predominately a Chaotic Evil horde of savage invaders. When they attack a village, they take all of the grain and livestock that has been stockpiled for the winter and kill anyone who resists. They keep the fit males as slaves, while they let the elderly, invalids, women and children go free. After that, they burn everything to the ground. Now the orc chieftain has set his sights on the small city of Marchion. Unless he is stopped, he intends to lay siege to it.

Anyway, so Lukwind had the option of accompanying Gerald & Rohit on their scouting mission, but he declined because it seemed too dangerous. However, once he had helped to recruit a force of 250 mercenaries, he decided to disguise himself as an orc and infiltrate their main base himself. One bard, against an army. What could possibly go wrong?

His first problem was that Changelings don't have Darkvision, so he ran straight into an orc patrol without seeing them coming. He successfully bluffed them that he was a shaman from the Halfling Shredders tribe, then used diplomacy to make them friendly. However, at the same time the orcs used intimidation to make sure that he would do what they want. The orcs forced him to accompany them on their scouting mission, then took him home to their camp. When he woke up in the morning, he found that the orcs had stolen all of his equipment while he slept.

He crept outside for a look around, and found that the pirates of Knossos had come to pay the orcs a visit. Realizing that he really couldn't achieve anything, he used locate object to find all of his equipment, then "borrowed" a horse and rode back to meet up with the other players.

In the meantime, Rohit had discovered that the orcs intended to send a large tribute to a tribe called the Heart Splitters, to try to forge an alliance. They were having enough trouble dealing with two tribes, the Orc Scorchers and the Skull Chewers, without adding a third. When the diplomatic convoy left, Rohit & Garyn decided to follow it.

At dusk, the orc chieftain flew down on his black dragon and conferred with the leader of the convoy. He flew away again, but returned at dawn. Garyn & Rohit waited until the chieftain left and all the orcs were asleep, then Rohit crept inside their camp (hiding in plain sight) and began quietly coup de grace, one after another. Once most of the orcs were dead, he started on the ogres which accompanied them. However, the third ogre survived the coup de grace attempt and woke up all of the other occupants of the camp with his screams.

Garyn killed the shaman with a snowball storm while Rohit dealt with the ogres by tumbling from tent to tent and using his skirmish and sneak attack. Garyn killed the leader with a few arrows, then the remaining orc scorchers fled on their lizard mounts.

Garyn & Rohit released the slaves and kept the rest of the tribute for themselves. They used the draft animals as mounts for the slaves. Several tense hours followed, as they rode back towards Marchion, looking for somewhere to hide from the chieftain and his black dragon, who were sure to return at dusk.

They managed to meet back up with Martok, Elsa, Addric, Gerald & the mercenaries, who had been marching out to fight the orcs. Lukwind arrived at about the same time, conveniently bringing everybody back together for our next session :)
 

Azeari

Retired User
Re: [Dungeons & Dragons 3.5] Helsmuth (AP)

Lukwind, Changeling Bard 9
Garyn, male Half-Elf Ranger 5 / Wizard 1 / Duskblade 1 / Unseen Seer 2
Rohit, male Vanara Rogue 3 / Ninja 1 / Scout 3 / Shadowdancer 2
Gerald, male Human Ranger 1 / Wilder 4 / Slayer 4
Martok, male Human Warlock 9
Elsa, female Human Fighter 4 / Ranger 1 / Avenging Executioner 4
Addric, male Human Aristocrat 7 (Martok's cohort)

Session: #34
Date: September 26, 2009
Modules: Splintered Peace

When they returned to their army, they found that 100 cavalry had joined them. Liv Greataxe was at pains to point out the semantic distinction: the March weren't authorized to attack the orcs, they were just "patrolling" and happened to be heading in the same direction as Martok's army. However, if the orcs should happen to attack, then of course they would be forced to defend themselves vigorously.

Shortly after dusk, the lookouts spotted the black dragon heading in their direction. The archers opened fire, but were unable to damage the dragon or its rider. That is, except for Garyn. With his magical longbow, his arrows struck true and inflicted grievous wounds on the rider. It wasn't long before the dragon turned and flew away again.

Buoyed by their success against the diplomatic convoy, Garyn & Rohit were keen to try the same tactic on a grander scale. Therefore, the six adventurers left Addric in charge of the army and rode out towards the village of Auldhame. Arriving just before dawn, Rohit & Gerald snuck over the wall and crept towards the center of the village. When they got to the village square, they were surprised to find it empty: the three tents that had been occupied by the orc commanders were gone. In the meantime, Lukwind disguised Elsa & Martok as orcs and bluffed their way in via the front gate.

Garyn & Rohit spent an hour inflicting coups de gras on the sleeping orc warriors and using saps to knock the women and children unconscious. Elsa and Lukwind found some orcs who were awake, whom they interrogated to discover that the main army, numbering 1000 orcs, had been ferried across the river the previous night. Their aim was to outmaneuver the Marchion army by passing them on the opposite riverbank, then crossing back over to cut off their retreat. This was a cunning plan, except for one major flaw: it had left the village virtually defenseless. This was a flaw that Elsa was eager to exploit.

She explained to those who didn't already know the story of how she became the sole surviving member of House Mielet: last summer, when she returned home from the Bond College, she found that a band of orcs had laid siege to her family estate. She arrived just in time to see the last of the house guards fall in battle, and her mother and father slaughtered before her eyes. Elsa couldn't bring herself to mention the fate that befell her younger sisters. She herself was taken captive, but managed to kill one of the orcs and escape. She watched from hiding while her family possessions were loaded onto the back of a wagon, then the orcs set fire to the manor house. Thus, her dynasty was reduced to ashes.

Finally, this was her chance for revenge ...
 
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Azeari

Retired User
Re: [Dungeons & Dragons 3.5] Helsmuth (AP)

Rohit, male Vanara Rogue 3 / Ninja 1 / Scout 4 / Shadowdancer 2
Garyn, male Half-Elf Ranger 5 / Wizard 1 / Duskblade 1 / Unseen Seer 3
Lukwind, Changeling Bard 9
Gerald, male Human Ranger 1 / Wilder 4 / Slayer 4
Martok, male Human Warlock 9
Elsa, female Human Fighter 4 / Ranger 1 / Avenging Executioner 4

Session: #35
Date: October 17, 2009
Modules: Splintered Peace

This game saw the debut of the Open Mass Combat System (from Mongoose's Quintessential Fighter) but also opened a philosophical rift in the party that almost tore it apart.

Garyn & Rohit's players admitted that their coup de grace tactics were a moral gray area: the orcs were undoubtedly evil, and outnumbered them by a significant margin. Not a justification that would convince any paladins, but probably within the bounds of the Chaotic Good alignment at least. However, Elsa & Gerald grew impatient with this approach, and decided to take it to the next level: they went from house to house, slaughtering every occupant, whether defenseless noncombatant or otherwise. Garyn refused to have any part of this, and decided to ride back to the army to warn them that they were being outflanked. Lukwind accompanied him.

It wasn't long before the orcs woke up and raised the alarm. However, even as they tumbled out of bed and grabbed their greataxes, the efficient threshing machine of Gerald and Elsa were cutting them down. Elsa used her bloody blade ability to intimidate dozens of orcs at a time, while Gerald used his energy burst psionic power to kill them by the score. Martok took to the air and fired his eldritch chain, but he could barely keep up. Rohit caused his own mayhem elsewhere in the village.

By the time all of the orc warriors were dead and the village was conquered, the surviving orcs had rounded up their women and children and fled. Gerald had only enough power points remaining for a single energy burst. Still disguised as orcs, Rohit and Martok rode after the refugees and convinced them that the danger had passed and they should return to the village. As evidence, they presented Gerald, whom they said they had captured. The orcs surrounded him, ready to tear him to shreds ... wrong move. The last energy burst tore through their ranks, leaving few alive for Martok, Rohit and Elsa to mop up.
 
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Azeari

Retired User
Re: [Dungeons & Dragons 3.5] Helsmuth (AP)

Rohit, male Vanara Rogue 3 / Ninja 1 / Scout 4 / Shadowdancer 2
Garyn, male Half-Elf Ranger 5 / Wizard 1 / Duskblade 1 / Unseen Seer 3
Lukwind, Changeling Bard 9
Gerald, male Human Ranger 1 / Wilder 4 / Slayer 4
Martok, male Human Warlock 9
Elsa, female Human Fighter 4 / Ranger 1 / Avenging Executioner 4
Addric, male Human Aristocrat 7 (Martok's cohort)

Session: #36
Date: November 14, 2009
Modules: Splintered Peace

The sun was high in the sky by the time that Lukwind & Garyn had ridden back to meet with Liv Greataxe of The March, as well as the leaders of their mercenary force: Addric Atronan, Eirik Stonehammer and Sir Kenelm Digby. There was also a new addition to their army: Helena d'Mezzo, a priestess of Hermes.

The leaders were quickly briefed on the intelligence that had been gathered: a force of 1000 orcs had crossed the river Brallen in a flanking maneuver, while approximately 100 lizard riders circled around to the north. They knew that the black dragon would likely return after dusk to check on their position, but in the meantime there was a golden opportunity to steal a march on the orcs and turn the tables. They suggested a bold plan: that the Marchion cavalry should dismount and allow the dwarves to ride on horseback, so that the overall speed of the army would increase. However, that would still not be fast enough to reach Auldhame by nightfall. Gnod Yriah the warlord would almost certainly learn of the slaughtered orcs in the village by then. Therefore, Addric and the Atronan house guards rode hastily to the village to inform the rest of the party of the plan.

In the meantime, all of the peasants who had been enslaved by the orcs were set free and put to work cleaning up the aftermath of the battle. When Addric arrived, they quickly scavenged armor and weapons from the dead orcs and loaded them into wagons to supply the dwarven mercenaries. As soon as this was done, the village was abandoned and they traveled to meet up with the mercenaries.

After a full day's march, the mercenaries had set up camp 9 miles upriver from Auldhame (about 60 miles from Marchion). The peasants and adventurers arrived at the campsite shortly after dusk, just as Rohit and Garyn spotted the silhouette of a dragon in the distance. 95% of the peasants and mercenaries scattered in panic when the dragon showed up. The horses were all spooked as well, galloping off into the undergrowth.

Garyn cast true strike and then fired the arrow of dragon slaying. It struck true, but the dragon resisted its effects. While Lukwind began to inspire the party, Martok flew into the air and activated his entropic shield. Elsa and Rohit opened fire while Garyn worked his way through the other magic items that they had bought in Marchion: scrolls of assay spell resistance; earth bind and suppress breath weapon. However, these also failed to work. Martok aimed at the dragon rider, Yriah, with his eldritch spear.

After using all of his psionic power to massacre the orcs, Gerald was exhausted and had gone to sleep in the back of a wagon. He woke up just in time to witness the black dragon vomit a stream of acid all over Martok, then execute a wingover and begin flying away. While the others quickly drank their potions of acid resistance, Lukwind began heckling and insulting the dragon and its rider, "You're as soft as those orc women that we slaughtered in Auldhame!"

When the dragon turned around and began flying back, Garyn called out, "I've got one fly spell. The first one who gets over here can have it." Elsa and Gerald both rushed over, but Gerald was the one who received the spell and launched himself into the air. Lukwind cast dispel magic on Yriah, cancelling his protection from arrows, enabling Rohit and Elsa to inflict enough damage to kill the orc general.

Gerald flew onto the dragon's back, unstrapping Yriah's body from the saddle and mounting the dragon himself, while Martok, Garyn, Elsa & Rohit continued to fire. Flying out of range, the dragon executed wild flying maneuvers and slapped at Gerald with its wings. Gripping the dragon with his thighs, Gerald drew his sword and plunged it into the back of the dragon's head, piercing its brain and killing it instantly. He had a brief moment to celebrate his victory before plunging to the ground and landing in a cloud of dust.
 
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Azeari

Retired User
Re: [Dungeons & Dragons 3.5] Helsmuth (AP)

Rohit, male Vanara Rogue 3 / Ninja 1 / Scout 4 / Shadowdancer 2
Garyn, male Half-Elf Ranger 5 / Wizard 1 / Duskblade 1 / Unseen Seer 3
Lukwind, Changeling Bard 10
Gerald, male Human Ranger 1 / Wilder 4 / Slayer 5
Martok, male Human Warlock 10
Elsa, female Human Fighter 4 / Ranger 1 / Avenging Executioner 5
Addric, male Human Aristocrat 7 (Martok's cohort)
Helena, female Half-Drow Bard 1 / Cleric 7 (Lukwind's cohort)

Session: #37
Date: December 19, 2009
Modules: Splintered Peace

When Gerald regained consciousness, he had a large dragon on top of him. However, Rohit and Garyn soon found him and gave him some healing potions. The March went looking for their horses, while Martok & Addric searched for their followers and Lukwind & Helena attempted to convince the mercenaries to return. The problem was that the sellswords hadn't been told that they might have to fight a black dragon - if they had, they would've asked for a LOT more money, if they were even willing to take that kind of risk.

They were left with the 100 March cavalry, Martok's 16 followers, 16 human archers and 20 dwarven spearmen, as well as the 6 player characters, 2 cohorts and 3 NPC commanders (Liv, Eirik & Sir Digby). The smart option would have been to retreat to the village and fortify their position, relying on reinforcements from Marchion to break the eventual siege. However, that would mean abandoning all of the peasants whom they had just rescued to the mercy of the 1000 orcs. To their credit, they took the noble option instead: fight the orcs head-on.

In the morning, Rohit scouted ahead and soon encountered the orcs' vanguard. Fetching the rest of the party from camp, they made short work of this smaller force. However, that was merely the appetizer. It wasn't long before they spotted a column of orcs snaking along the road. Elsa led the March cavalry in a charge, but the orcs scattered to the side, making way for their ogre shock troops.

Helena summoned a yeth hound, which howled eerily and caused many of the orcs and ogres to flee in panic. After the fiasco with dragon fear the previous night, it was satisfying to give the orcs a taste of their own medicine. However, the hound flew too low and one of the ogres dispatched it with his greatclub.

Gerald rushed in amongst the ogres and began to use his energy burst to maximum effect. They soon learned to give him a wide berth, attacking with their javelins while some of the orcs targeted him with shortbows. He lost consciousness as a gang of ogres trampled him into the ground on their way to attack the cavalry. Lukwind turned invisible and rushed to his aid, while Rohit somersaulted off the back of his horse and ducked and wove through the ogres to reach him.

Even though the ogres were in the firing line, the orc archers opened fire, doing as much damage to their own troops as to the March. The ogres began to retreat, but some of the March cavalry faltered as well. Addric chased after one of the cavalry units and managed to rally them, ordering them to return to the battle. Rohit pinpointed the commander who gave the order to fire and relayed his location to the rest of the party via Lukwind's message spell. Helena turned invisible and flew over to Elsa, then opened a dimension door in the air over the orcs' command group.

The orc chieftain and his eight lieutenants roared in rage when Elsa appeared right above their heads. "FOR VENGEANCE!!!" Elsa shouted as she fell amongst them. However, with a whir of their greataxes they chopped her to pieces. Helena watched, horrified, as her tactical gamble went horribly awry.

When Lukwind communicated the news to Garyn, he knew that something drastic had to be done, or else the battle was lost. Rohit located Gerald, who was still clinging to life, and began feeding him healing potions. He let off another energy burst as soon as he regained consciousness, but Rohit was expecting that and his ninja reflexes enabled him to avoid any damage. The ogres surrounding them were not so lucky.

Using the last charge remaining in the rod of transmogrification, Garyn polymorphed himself into a large, gold dragon. He landed alongside Gerald, who tied one end of a 50ft rope around his waist and passed the other end to Gadragyn, then vaulted onto the dragon's back. Whirling into the air, Garyn sailed past most of the orcs' arrows without taking much damage. As he flew low over the ranks of archers, Gerald leapt off his back and swung down on the rope, releasing an energy burst and then skidding along the ground amongst the corpses of dozens of chargrilled orcs.

All of the orcs who witnessed this carnage threw down their weapons and ran. None of them wanted to hang around and become the next targets of Gerald's awesome power. The surviving ogres, too, began to falter. The orc cheiftain and his lieutenants, seeing half of their army flee the battlefield, charged towards Gerald. He released another energy burst, but the barbarians kept coming regardless. Gadragyn landed alongside Gerald and they fought the orcs side by side. They were both grievously wounded, but they eventually prevailed.

With their chieftain dead, the remaining orcs turned and ran. After gulping several healing potions, Gadragyn and Gerald made after them, repeating the same spectacular maneuver that would go down in legend as Talaghaara Matum, "death from above." Although they were utterly routed, many orcs survived the battle and would undoubtedly continue to pester the surrounding countryside with petty banditry. Nevertheless, the threat against the city of Marchion had been dealt with, and the adventurers could return to be hailed as heroes.

Mongoose's OMCS was a big success in this battle, providing the players with the option of leading one of the units or going it alone. Of course, the latter option is highly perilous, as Gerald and Elsa discovered. This was the first time, in 37 gaming sessions, that I had killed one of the player characters. Fortunately for her, the XP earned from the battle was greater than the amount that she had lost through death and raise dead. The players took a huge gamble in fighting 1000 orcs head on, outnumbered 10 to 1 as they were.

This battle was also the debut of two electronic gaming aids: Google Wave & Campaign Cartographer 3. We only got through the first 7 rounds of the battle in our in-person gaming session; the other 14 were played online. I used a dice rolling robot to resolve combat and posted frequent battle maps as PNG files directly inside the Wave. A memorable moment was New Year's Eve, when all of my players were online to witness the death of Elsa. Not a fantastic way to start the new year perhaps, but we have done quite a lot of online RP since then, in between our monthly get-togethers. Personally, I have found it far superior to play by email.

As I've mentioned previously, my players have a propensity for splitting the party. I find it much easier to handle the multiple threads of such a fragmented story in-between sessions, using electronic communication.
 
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