After their day and night of rest (which saw no additional encounters) the party continued down the old road to the ruins of Thundertree. The next two days of travel went almost completely without incident – but the incident that did occur was troubling to the party…
On the last day of travel, Devin (of all people!) was able to catch a glimpse of some figures watching them from afar. As the party milled about trying to decide what to do, and then sending Clint (Fonkin’s “assistant”) to scout over in that direction, they were flanked and then ambush from both sides by a small group of six Khazan (Half-Goblin) Redcaps.
A bit of explanation (again – maybe I should just write Goblins up and link?). In my game world I generally have “just” Goblins when it comes to that type of humanoid race. That said, I have Goblin Boggarts (small, immature Goblins – based on Goblins), Hobgoblins (larger, more mature and experienced Goblins – based on Orcs), Black Goblins (very large, sterile mules used as shock troops – some of which survive long enough to be consider Hobgoblins as well – based on Bugbears), and then there are the Redcaps (based on roughly Hobgoblins) who are the elite hunters and warriors.
Yes, ok, there are a some other humanoid races as well – but not in the same way that the plethora of evil humanoids dominates the canon D&D landscape.
In any case, the initial ambush went very well for the Redcaps – they hit everyone with arrows, dropping the Gwyneth (with two arrows in her). Unfortunately for them the party rallied quite quickly – Fonkin Slept the entire group on one side, and Ilda used Shatter on the other, and they were quickly dealt with by Rhys charging in with throwing daggers and shortswords. The use of a Healing Word by Ilda on Gwyneth quickly revived her, and searching the bodies revealed a “bounty” for Gwyneth marked by the drawing of a black spider. They also discovered that Redcaps have a fair amount of money on them, and even some magic (for all the good that it did them) – a Ring of Mind Shielding, a Ring of Jumping, and a D’lanni Stone of Misty Step. But the presence of a group of Khazan Redcaps, plus the bounty for Gwyneth, left the group with a number of misgivings. After a short rest, discussion, and use of their Healing Kits, the party then continued on to Thundertree looking for the druid that was supposed to help them find either Cragmaw Castle, Wave Echo Cave, or both.
Finally arriving in Thundertree as the shadows grew long, the party was first put off a bit by the sign warning of “plant monsters AND zombies” but decided to hole up in the high ground with the ruined tower and attached cottage….
…but barely made it into town, before the complete silence and lack of animal sounds freaked them out so badly that they decided to camp outside of town instead. Retreating they set up camp, decided on watches, and settled in for the night.
Only to have, a couple of hours into the first watch, two zombies wander into the camp and attack Devin (who was on watch with Clint). While the party roused relatively quickly after Devin yelled for everyone that they were under attack by zombies, the zombies proved relatively hard to put down – requiring a critical hit in one case, and a blown save in the other.
I have to say that I was quite happy with the new “Undead Fortitude” feature, very cool flavor that captures zombies pretty well.
As the party huddled up afterwards, making sure everyone was ok, and taking care of the bit of healing that was needed again, they were interrupted by a deeply sibilant voice from the darkness inquiring as to their business in “my lands” (Devin thought, and then thought better of challenging that assertion), and if they were there to “pay tribute like the others” – quickly scanning the darkness reveals a large serpentine form, sixty or so feet from the camp.
Note: Forest Drakes in my game world can’t fly.
Ilda that Bard quickly engaged the creature in a dialogue (who was hoping to get the party to “deal with” the druid in some way, or at very least get close enough to use it’s breath weapon), looking for the opportunity to make a deal for their lives (and possibly the opportunity to return later for revenge) – all of which was cut short when Gwyneth unleashed the Fireball from her recently acquired D’Lanni Stone, having decided that she was wasn’t handing over all of her possessions to a Forest Drake, and the terms being discussed were untenable in any case and not likely to get better. Venomfang, the drake, failed it’s save and took the full brunt of an excellent damage roll – and then combat was engaged.
Evidently, the Fireball had shaken the drake badly. It rolled a horrible initiative (going last), and also missed Rhys who dived into the shadows and successfully stealthed into position for throwing daggers. Hitting with both (which also meant Backstab damage), the drake was stung badly, and while missed by the crossbow bolt from Devin, and unaffected by the Sleep spell from Fonkin, was further hurt by Scorching Bolts from Gwyneth, Clint shooting with his tiny longbow, and a Shatter spell from Ilda. It charged into the party, intending to make one pass as it ran away due to it’s wounds.
Unfortunately, it missed Devin, and while it hit Fonkin with a claw, it’s bite at Gwyneth was neatly turned aside by a Shield spell. The second round started with the party unloading on it again to the best of their abilities, striking true for the most part and bringing it nigh unto death, and with Ilda succeeding with a Dissonant Whispers that caused it to immediately flee in fear (which was lucky because it was certain to use it’s breath weapon on it’s next attack) – and then Gwyneth slew it with a barrage of pushed Magic Missiles.
There you go, toughest monster in the module, slain in two rounds (plus an initiating attack) by five third level adventurers who used nothing that wasn’t part of the module.
In any case, the druid they were looking for, Reidoth, showed up rather quickly – drawn by the sound and fury of the battle as Venomfang had been drawn by the noise of the battle with the zombies. Helping them that night, and then helping them recover the drake’s hoard – Reidoth agreed to both tell them how to find Cragmaw Castle as well as guide them to Wave Echo Cave when the time came.
And that is where we called it!
Some more observations:
- As with everything else, I am sure to tweak undead (especially the lesser undead) at least a little bit. But I really like the flavor that Undead Fortitude gives them. It’s a very pleasant “OMG it won’t go down!” flavor that had the players had.
- I suppose that it is not fair, but OMG – why, why, why are canon D&D dragons always so underpowered?
- Bards rock! I may think of my 1E bards fondly, but these bards kick some serious ass.
- What is going to happen when the party (especially Gwyneth the Sorceress) hit’s 5th level? Third level spells are pretty spectacular when it comes to damage production.
- Ho-hum, another underwhelming treasure hoard. BORING!
- While I’ve started tracking Renown, I’m not quite sure what to do about organizations. I’ll figure something out, but it is about time to start handing out those “entry level positions” – sounds like the political game starts early in 5E.
- Also giving Sanity and Honor a whirl – no use for Sanity yet, but the scores for Honor (equal to Charisma) we all agree are off. Have to figure something out.