Yeah, it’s taken me a week or so to get my head around the last session. Everyone showed up except for TW, who couldn’t make it much to his disappointment, and it didn’t go at all the way that they were expecting.
We started with Ketzl and Greyleaf, because KB hadn’t made it last week, and we picked up with those two characters coming up to the Caves of Chaos, finding much to their surprise a whole bunch of bandits and goblins essentially milling about in the valley, obviously focused on one of the cave mouths.
When I say “a whole bunch” I mean in the neighborhood of about 60 or so bandits and close to a hundred assorted goblins (from 1-1HD types all the way up to 3+1 HD Black Goblins and 2+2HD Ash Goblins and a bunch of shaman) Plus the bandits have some guy in plate & chain directing them around and a guy in robes following him around.
Numbers-wise, this isn’t anything that the module wouldn’t have thrown at the party – just not all in one fell swoop. Plus, for those of you who have the module, you should be well-aware that there are some things in the module that simply make no sense given what else is in the module – they simply shouldn’t exist give the levels of the bad guys.
So, this is what happens when the good guys wipe out everything that the bad guys throw at them. The bad guys don’t fool around any more – they set out a sacrificial goat (aka a tortured traitor on a stick…) and see if anyone bites.
So all the while that the party was in killing more bandits inside one of the caves (who were pretty much expecting them but simply outclassed in that ratio) they were all pouring out of the rest of the caves or riding in quickly from nearby. The party just didn’t pick the cave the bandits had expected them to, not that it mattered that much I suppose.
Now, while the Ketzl and Greyleaf all-but-crap-their-pants and quickly decide to start sneaking around the ridge to do something (KB actually had an excellent use of his Phantasmal Force picked out that I never would have thought of) Jezabel’s pet hawks and Vesna’s raven familiar were sitting outside the cave mouth keeping watch. There were a couple of more character just inside the cave mouth, but far enough back that they wouldn’t hear anything (though I did have them roll).
The goblin sharpshooters sneak up and… Roll like crap.
One of the hawks gets winged a bit but they both fly off. The raven actually gets hit and rolls crap damage too. Too injured to fly, but alive, the raven is now scrambling into the cave where it is immediately out of sight.
…And the party is warned.
Outside the bandits and goblins kick it into high gear, they are all getting into positions, and Ketzl and Greyleaf try their best to pick things as far as moving goes up but not get caught. Inside, the party immediately takes up defensive positions at the natural (and quite effective) chokepoints just inside the and waits for the inevitable onslaught.
After after 30-45 minutes the party realizes that they aren’t getting charged. Now this has them worried, it certainly as Ketzl worried because these bandits are way, way too cool and they are taking their own sweet time.
Vesna decides to go peer outside (Gregor the new Paladin following behind because he’s supposed to protect her) and see if she can see anything to nuke with the Wand of Frost. She belly crawls up to the cave entrance and… the goblins patiently waiting for someone to show themselves catch sight of her and one even manages to nail her with an arrow. Crummy damage, and she makes her save vs. poison so she’s fine.
Just crawling her behind back away from the edge as fast as she can – with Frater Nikolai frowning at Gregor because this didn’t exactly meet his definition of “taking care of”. There is a quick debate about what the hell to do, because the party certainly isn’t thrilled with the information that Vesna was able to glean from her quick glance.
Astrin reveals that she can get out of the cave safely and probably in and amongst them (using a Wraithform spell), while Gryphon has an idea…
So, here is where game narrative and game mechanics meet. Gryphon the dwarf had just recently picked up the psionic Teleport science, but I for the life could figure out how he would have figured this out. But the pressure of almost certain death seems like a decent motivator to try something new..?
“So, there’s a chance I might be able to do something. I think I can take one or two people with me and it will either work, or… just imagine a warm summer mist of gore… Like every little piece of you exploding or something. It shouldn’t hurt. Anyone want to try it with me? If it works, I don’t know how many times I’ll be able to do it.”
That was a bit of a debate, and eventually both Mika (the other sneaky type) and Vesna (the mage with the Wand of Frost) – coincidently both played by the same player, KT – decide to go with Gryphon because that leaves a good combat reserve inside and sneaky types outside plus the “artillery support” out where it could see what to do.
And it worked.
Better than they would have expected. And after getting their bearings, they see the bandits and the goblins in the rear-areas are not exactly “primed” – and doing the T-Port was way, way easier (e.g. cheaper in psionic strength) than he expected. He makes an immediate change in the game plan in Chaotic Neutral fashion- and grabs Mika with a quick explanation and the two T-Port down right behind the mage and backstab him.
And immediately T-port away again with his body.
Repeat ASAP on the bandit leader in chain and plate – the dual backstab attack doesn’t immediately take him out but they beat him on initiative and drop him in what is essentially moments.
Rinse and repeat.
The bandits are thrown into utter disarray – they aren’t exactly sure what happened but both of their leaders are gone and the was screaming and blood on the ground. And some people saw enough to know things are bad – the bandits are blowing their morale check even as we speak. Plus, Astrin starts working her mojo and summons up some of her “ghostly elvish warriors” and starts reaping her way through the goblins archers hiding in the trees.
Gryphon has enough for one more round trip, so they do the same with the big ash goblin shaman who seems to be directing things over on that side. This isn’t nearly as seamless as the first two, but sure enough, they manage to drop him as well and get away with the body…
The goblins are holding morale, but things are starting to fray badly when it comes to leadership. The ash goblins ruin into the trees to take care of the “demon elves” in there while the majority of the other goblins are running out. They start to retreat and head back to the caves while the bandits are riding off into the mountains. But at this point Kezl has seen what is going on and had started a simple but incredibly effective little illusion over at one of the other cave mouths of two paladins of the society of light in full plate armour jeering and cat-calling at the goblins – and that sends the black goblins off to champing at the bit to attack – but also has the goblins (and the few bandits who see the illusion) freaking out.
And then Vesna starts dropping a Ice Storms on the goblins.
If that wasn’t enough – the party has heard the commotion outside (this has only been about 4-5 rounds or so) and decide to take advantage of the chaos. The rangers stay with the high ground and start sniping the shaman or anything else that looks like it is rallying goblins – while Smjor and Illya charge down the hill to engage in melee…
The goblins rout, they run in circles while getting Ice Stormed, and the archers pretty much drop anything that moves and looks interesting, and Smjor goes toe-to-toe with an ogre and survives (barely) while Illya does his regular dance of tying up targets better than he does actually doing damage. They get wiped out pretty much to the man, while the bandits all manage to flee successfully (with the party’s horses and extra equipment as they find out later) – save for the two big leader types.
Now, while I could say that it was all Gryphon and Mika, with the extra help with Vesna, I have to say that the thing that most pushed things over the edge and disrupted the bad guys the most it would be Ketzl and his two first level spells (Phantasmal Force and Audible Glammer). Things went from confusing and obviously bad to “OMGWTFBBQ! There’s an Society of Light warband here along with Rangers of the Old Faith! Cheese it! It’s the cops! We have been discovered! Run away!”
Would it have worked without so much already existing disruption? Probably not. But he was aiming for a distraction in the hopes of drawing some goblins away from the main party and instead ended up crushing the morale of pretty much all the bad guys. And that keep things confused enough on the ground that the goblins were pinned in the low ground that ended up being a killing zone…
And here I thought that I was going to get to talk the party into surrendering and then have them sold into slavery from which they would have to escape.