The Five Crowns of Tiamat

Session Two - Vraath Keep

We got a lot done today. We zipped right through the first of five segments of the Red Hand of Doom adventure.

We resumed play after having slain a band of hobgoblins and dire wolves. Two hobgoblins (a warrior and a priest) survived the battle, and are now being interrogated. Rolan questions them carefully, and they learn that the enemies are servants of a band of hobgoblins (the size of the band is ambiguous) called the Red Hand. They are led by a certain “High Wyrmlord Azarr Kul,” and their particular band was sent by a lesser commander, “Wyrmlord Koth,” who has a base in the nearby Vraath Keep in the Witchwood forest. Koth also apparently has a lieutenant named “Karkilan,” a giant humanoid with the face of a bull, as described by the nervous soldier. The band is planning to destroy the “human river town” which is apparently a short ways down the road the party has been traveling on. The priest is vehemently opposed to divulging information, so when the warrior cracks under Rolan’s (or was it Finnix’s?) questioning, the Cleric loses control and lashes out, but is quickly brought down by the rest of the party. The group agrees to take the remaining hobgoblin prisoner and drop him off at the next town to be taken into custody.

Soon, the group comes to a town called Drellin’s Ferry, which is built on the far side of the Elsir River. The village controls the waters (and who crosses them) via a ferry that allows travelers to cross. After a brief examination (and some questions about Tuvatu’s leopard) the band is allowed to cross the river and enter. They buy a few rooms and some food and drink at a tavern called the Green Apple, and have started gambling with the locals when a tall, balding man and a capable-looking swordswoman enter the tavern and sit down. They are two of the town council members, Town Speaker Norro Wiston and Soranna, Captain of the Guard. They offer the PCs 500 gold each if they drive out the group of hobgoblin bandits that has been plaguing the town.

The adventurers head out to the Witchwood (getting directions from a woodsman named Jorr on the way), and, after a brief encounter with some trolls, arrive at Vraath Keep. Rolan recalls a bit of the Keep’s history (more information can be found in the very first post of the adventure log, below), and also remembers some rumors he’s heard that Amery Vraath still inhabits the Keep as a ghost, haunting the ruins with a vengeance. As the party comes closer to the structure, they see a glowing light in the Keep’s one remaining tower, and hear the sounds of an eerie howling.

After a brief scouting session by Rolan (including a scene where the Halfling narrowly avoids collapsing an abandoned shack near the Keep’s gatehouse – the Rogue noticed the structure’s instability at the last moment with a quick Mechanics check), the group decides that the best way to approach is to, instead of walking through the gatehouse door, enter via a collapsed section of one of the side walls. However, while attempting to sneak in, Finnix accidentially makes a loud noise by bumping his armor and shield together to cause a resounding clang. The sounds of guffaws and words uttered in the goblin tongue, coming from the nearest room, suddenly stop as a gruff, deep voice utters, “Stop! I heard something, be quiet. You, go check to see if someone’s there.” A tough-looking hobgoblin rounds the corner and walks straight into the adventuring party. Combat commences, and out of the room rush three more hobgoblins, followed by two humanoid bear-like creatures and a huge, burly minotaur toting an oversized greataxe. Soon, a couple goblins mounted on dire wolves join the fray, and then, out of the tower flies a goblinoid with draconic wings (looks like this). Wyrmlord Koth (for it is indeed Wyrmlord Koth who has just joined the battle) lets loose a streak of fire at Finnix and Rolan. Rolan narrowly dodges the blast, but Finnix is struck and is scorched and entangled by the burning goo, in addition to having a large portion of his Strength score drained away by the fatiguing effects of the substance.

The battle is going very poorly. Koth continually blasts the party with different breath weapons, while Rolan has been knocked prone by wolves and Finnix has been dropped into negative hit points by the furious assault of Karkilan the minotaur. Tuvatu’s leopard has been hacked to pieces, and is now very dead, and Tuvatu herself has been slowly blasting away at hobgoblins and bear-men with her Call Lightning spell while trying to evade Koth’s draconic breath, when, suddenly, Tenzin the Dragonborn Paladin (who had been separated from the party in order to complete some sort of magical ritual given to him by the Great King) – mounted on a flaming tiger swathed in smoke – leaps through the gate and charges, destroying a wolf with his glowing lance and causing the goblin mounted on it to flee in terror, while healing Finnix and bringing him back around to consciousness (although Finnix is in no position to get up yet, as one of the bear-humans is standing directly over him). This event proves to be the turning point. Tenzin and his tiger charge another dire wolf, dropping it in one hit and sending the last goblin scampering, while the other three mop up the remaining hobgoblins and bear-creatures, and Finnix and Rolan finally take down Karkilan (Finnix uses his Charging Minotaur maneuver to smash him into the wall, while Rolan finishes him with a critical hit from his kukri). Koth, seeing that his troops are dead, flees and holes up in the second floor of the Keep’s tower.

With that, the group rests for the night (keeping watch to make sure Koth doesn’t leave the tower). Tuvatu heals the party and restore’s Finnix’s Strength, and by morning the adventurers are ready to push onwards. They burst open the door to Koth’s quarters and take out his crew of bear-men and hobgoblin archers, only to watch the Wyrmlord himself fly out the window and off into the distance. The party searches the room (finding a map marked up by Koth, with several towns in Elsir Vale shown as “marked for burning,” “not worth pillaging,” or “heavy resistance possible,” and other assorted notes – I will tell you more about the map next session) and interrogates the remaining hobgoblin archer, finding out that the entire “Ghost of Amery Vraath” thing is a hoax concocted to keep locals away from the castle. The party finds an enchanted bastard sword in another room in the tower (possibly belonging to Amery Vraath himself!).

The party leaves the castle, only to run into a hungry-looking forest giant, muttering to himself about his tribe being “all gone.” Finnix argues that the group should kill it, but the final decision is to attempt to sneak past it. That doesn’t go so well – the giant immediately notices, and calls out, “Come here, small folk, Warklegnaw is hungry!” Rolan thinks quickly and says he killed the people who killed Warklegnaw’s tribe. Warklegnaw is skeptical at first, but eventually is convinced. “Warklegnaw owe you favor now,” he says.

The party continues through the woods, but only manages to dive off the path at the last minute before a band of about twenty hobgoblins comes into sight, marching along and mumbling something about meeting with the Red Hand horde at Skull Gorge Bridge. The party stealthily follows, swinging back to ask Warklegnaw to help them if combat should become necessary. When the woods come to an end, the party sees Skull Gorge Bridge (a huge stone structure spanning a chasm hundreds of feet deep) – along with a horde of TENS of THOUSANDS of hobgoblins, giants, dragons, ogres, and other assorted creatures gathering on the other side. While the horde’s largest encampment is about a mile away, there is a cluster of about half a dozen tents right next to the bridge, and the bridge’s watchtowers are manned by hobgoblin sentries. A sleek, menacing green dragon is perched atop one of the watchtowers, coolly and grimly surveying the scene, eyes fixed on the bridge. Since the PCs (and their newly acquired giant friend) are still at the edge of the forest and approximately 60 feet away from the bridge, none of the enemies have noticed them yet.

Notes and Ideas:

You leveled up! You are now all 6th level.

Finnix – Since you’re 6th level now, you gain 7 extra hit points, a +1 bonus on all attack rolls, an additional attack at a -5 penalty when you make a full attack, a +1 bonus to all your saves, and the improved uncanny dodge ability (you cannot be flanked unless one of the flankers is a Rogue four levels higher than you have Warblade levels). Additionally, you may choose one maneuver and switch it out for a different maneuver that you qualify for.

Rolan – I have your character sheet right now. May I just go ahead and give him a level in Invisible Blade? It’s a great prestige class, I think you should definitely go ahead with it.

Tuvatu – Since you hadn’t replied to my message in time, I made a guess and decided you picked a leopard companion. That doesn’t really matter much now, because it’s dead. It seems like it’s kind of a hard thing to strike a balance between a full-on second PC and a flimsy, non-permanent class feature that you continually have to replace. I’m not sure what to do about it, really. I would be willing to give you the fleshraker back (toned down with the changes we agreed upon, of course), but I think it would be slightly better to flavor it as something other than a dinosaur. I did come across an interesting option for a Druid that would exchange your animal companion for some other abilities: the Storm Druid.

You lose your animal companion, can’t make wild empathy checks, can’t spontaneously cast summon nature’s ally, don’t gain the trackless step or woodland stride class features, and theoretically lose wild shape/shapeshift (although I might allow you to keep it, because I think the Storm Druid makes you give up too much as is), but you gain immunity to frightful and magical deafness, animals are shaken if you attack them, you gain a +1 insight bonus to Reflex saves, you gain the ability to resist 5 points of electricity damage per attack, you can make an attack that deals 1d6 extra points of electricity damage and deafens the target twice a day, and you can spontaneously cast obscuring mist, gust of wind, or call lightning. I think this alternate class feature is a little weak as is, so I’ll also give you the ability to spontaneously cast cure spells and the ability to deal 3d6 points of electricity damage, no save, to an opponent who hits you in melee, a number of times per day equal to half your Druid level.

All – I bumped up the challenge level a bit. I might have gone overboard, but in general, I want this adventure to be really dangerous. Did you feel overwhelmed, or do you think that combat went well overall? I personally thought it was dramatic, suspenseful, and overall had a more cinematic feel, but maybe you guys didn’t like it as much. What do you think?

Oh, right – at this point, I feel I should also clarify what action points really do. You have a certain amount of action points that you can use per level. You can augment any die roll you make by 1d6 per action point spent to enhance that die roll. Additionally, you can spend one action point to gain an additional swift or immediate action, two action points to gain an additional move action, three action points to gain an additional standard action, or four action points to gain an additional full-round action. You recharge your action points per level (and maybe even gain a new one) when you level up.

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