29 February 2016

Return to Hommlet: Session 2

Yes, It's been over a year-and-a-half since my last blog post. Let's just say that 2015 was a mother and leave it at that. Gaming itself has even suffered lately. The CLD group is nominally playing Star Wars: Edge of Empire, but lately we seem to be playing more board games than anything else. And that's a shame because, as much as I like playing Secret Hitler, I really want to get back to the Adventures of the Durasteel Cock! (Don't ask!)

Even the Guardians of the Polar Bear have been suffering. Until yesterday, the last game we played was 51 weeks ago. It was the start up of my sandbox Hommlet game, played with Fifth Edition rules. But that all changed yesterday and we're back up and running!

To briefly summarize Session One: I was using an adapted Wizard's Amulet from Frog God Games. The city of Reme was changed to Verbobonc in Greyhawk. The long journey to Fairhill became a trek to Hommlet through nasty, stormy weather (which made the 2 day trip stretch out to five!). My son Will is playing the Dragonborn wizard Zoel Arindas (who replaces Corian from the module); his background is that of a criminal enforcer, and we worked it out for backstory that his uncle is a major player in the Verbobonc Thieves Guild. Besides, wouldn't a Dragonborn wizard make for an intimidating enforcer and leg-breaker? :)

Events unfold pretty much as written; they survive the farm ambush but so does Vortigern and one of his henchmen. They party arrives in Hommlet on the evening of Richfest 3, the night before Midsummer's Eve. As they settle in at the Inn of the Welcome Wench, an orc raiding party attacks Hommlet and steals a druidic chalice from Jaroo! The chalice is necessary for the Richfest ceremony so the party takes up the quest to reclaim it!

And that's where we left off almost a year ago.

So, we're off again!

The Cast of Guardians of the Polar Bear

Feleicia Emmel: Lureena of Verbobonc, Oeridian Human Rogue 2 CG
Katherine Emmel: Keishara of Celene, Wood Elf Ranger 2 NG
Rene' Emmel: Gunkar, Minotaur Barbarian 2 NT
Will Emmel: Zoel Arindas, White Dragonborn Wizard (Necromancer) 2 NT
Joe Grant: Garlish,  Dwarf Cleric of Ulaa 2 LN

Keishara was rolling over 20 consistently with her tracking. Since the orcs were off at a run the (horseless) party had to follow suit. I was making them take CON saves every 30 minutes or so; if they failed 3 times, they would have be exhausted for the fight with the raiding party. Nobody did ; if they had, Jaroo sent them with 10 goodberries, which I would have ruled would end the exhaustion. Is this exactly how the rules work for long-distance running in 5e? Hell, I don't know; I'm a "rulings-not-rules" kind of guy. After 90 minutes of tracking, they caught up. The orcs were not unprepared as they expected pursuit. And here's where I made my first mistake.

Apparently orcs are a lot tougher in fifth than I'm used to. Now when I adapted the raiding party to 5e I used the standard orc soldiers from the MM. I made the leader a "subchief" and basically just used a warchief with half the hit dice. Let's just say that war cry is a really good power. The minotaur (with 32 hp) was dropped on the first round. And every one else was dropping in quick succession. Finally, all that was left was Will with his Dragonborn necromancer. He used up all his spells, broke his wand of magic missiles, and was down to his dagger with 2 unwounded orcs still up. And then, he finally remembered his breath weapon. Ice breath for the win!

In the interim, the dwarf was the first to fall when he rushed in to cast spare the dying on the Minotaur. The dwarf "bled out" on his 5th roll; everyone else made their stabilization rolls. So, don't let anybody tell you 5e is a cakewalk; I almost had a TPK on my hands. Well, the wizard was able to revive them with goodberries and they took the chalice and the body of their friend back to Hommlet. They were received in the midnight hour by Jaroo and ensconced in rooms at the Welcome Wench. Jaroo made arrangements to have the dwarf's body laid in state at the grove as well as arranging a cremation and ceremony for him on the day after Midsummer. While the minotaur was wise enough to grab the dwarf's pouch and backpack, his gauntlets of ogre power are still on the body. :)

They awoke late the next morning to an inn overcrowding with celebrating people: Midsummer Day was upon them! The people of the Old Faith were already making merry, while the followers of St. Cuthbert were up at religious services at the temple. The story of what the party had done was spreading and they found themselves lauded with praise and drinks. The minotaur (and the player, Rene') was eager to do something. The elf also wanted to participate in the elven ritual of Agelong. So, the minotaur started eavesdropping for rumours.

As an aside, let me add that converting everything would be a chore. And this is why I love the internet: somebody has usually done the hard work already! In this case, Brian C. Rideout has already done the hard-lifting with this wonderful file. And borrowing from his work, I used a scenario in which Black Jay has been shot by goblins in the night but found and saved by Calmert. This is what they overheard.

Meanwhile, Joe's new character, a (blue) Dragonborn cleric of Vathris* named Rhogar, is trudging into along the north road. He is puzzled and bemused because every person he meets salutes him as "one of those heroes what saved the chalice." He makes his way to the Welcome Wench and, when he enters, is spotted by Zoel who is quite happy to see a fellow Dragonborn. They chat it up in Draconic and Rhogar is pleased to find out why people are slapping him on the back and giving him drinks. And thus he's invited to tag along when they go and meet with Jay. ("You seem a trustworthy fellow; fall in line!")

When they trek up the hill, they notice that the services are letting out at the temple of St. Cuthbert, and the clerics are bidding farewell to the parishioners as they leave. Rhogar wanders over to talk to the priests while the rest of the party talk to the young boy who's watching Jay's sheep for him. He tells them that Jay is inside sleeping and asks them if they really killed orcs! That knock at the door, but apparently Jay is till resting from his near encounter with death.

Rhogar comes over with Calmert after conversing with him and Canon Terjon. Calmert shows them where he found Black Jay and the ranger quickly finds the ambush spot and determines that it was indeed goblins. Calmert returns to the Church to notify Terjon while the party begins to tracking a new raiding party.

They track the goblins for 3 or 4 miles and finally locate them in a copse of Deklo trees atop a small rise; the minotaur, even from 1000 feet away can smell roasting sheep. The ranger and rogue sneak to see what's up. They see the shapes of three goblins sleeping by the fire but they have also crept up on an almost dosing sentry who's facing their direction. Not believing that discretion is the better part of valour, the elf rises and throws a dagger right at the goblin sentry...and misses (by 1!). The dagger sinks to its hilt in the tree trunk the sentry was leaning against startling him awake! Screaming curses in goblin, he wakes the other three, and battle is joined prematurely!

The once-sleeping goblins are out of action the first round while getting their bearings. Everyone else is taking double moves to run up the hill while the rogue and elf gang up on the sentry dispatching him. In this fight, the odds were with the party even after an abysmal start. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess. 

They returned to Hommlet to let Jay know that they succeeded in ending the goblin menace (for now....) and tried to return the roasted sheep to him. With a hint of a smile, Jay tells them to keep it. He then  began to talk about how he's been so alone and bitter since his wife was killed in the Temple War by a goblin raiding party and how no one has done anything nice for him in years. With his eyes gleaming, he names the rogue (all the non-humans had decided they were too big to go in!) elf-friend and gives her his elvish cloak! A fitting legacy bestowed by a one-time ranger.

It is mid afternoon when they arrive back at the Welcome Wench, and a harried Ostler Gundigoot takes time away from the festivities to check on Jay with the party. He seems very concerned about the fact that there were goblins on the north end of town within the same day that orcs raided the grove on the south end. He reveals that he is a member of the village council and tomorrow, after the dwarf's funeral, the council will need to meet about this. And the party will need to attend.

And that's a wrap! We had a good time getting back into the saddle and we're planning Session 3 for this next Sunday. Yay!

Also, please note that I am also tracking the campaign at the Obsidian Portal.

*Yes, I know that Vathris is a hero-deity revered by Flan desert nomads, but my reading of Dragonborn from the Brimstone Angels series is that they don't really care for deities that much. So, I extrapolated in my Greyhawk that Vathris has a small cult in the Flanaess that speaks to warriors and other "Army of One" types. Besides, the player wanted a LN war deity.