Various factors combined to have us with fewer players this week than last week, which left my table of keen D&D players with only three players: Tim, playing a paladin, Tait and Harry, both of whom were playing rogues. As Tait and Tim were using characters they’ve played in previous Encounters seasons, that meant we had a 2nd level rogue, a 5th level rogue and a 4th level paladin at the table. It was a strange group of characters, and I threw some tough encounters at them during the session.
The game began where they ended the last session: looking at the river village of Julkoun and noticing that the guards on the walls were actually goblins! As the group began to absorb more of the details of the town, they realised that a squirrel was watching them. A squirrel, which had a leaf tied to its leg! Harry lured it down with some of his rations (as he was playing an elf, I assumed they were dried fruit per Dragons of Autumn Twilight), and recovered the leaf, on which was elven writing – a message from a dryad who had seen the goblin attack and wanted to aid the adventurers. The group visited the dryad, who told them of what happened to the town: how goblins and hobgoblins had overrun it, and many of the villagers taken northward. She offered her glade as a safe place to rest, which the three gladly accepted.
Based on her information, the group decided to take out an encampment of goblin wolf-riders to the north of the village. They discovered the camp in a meadow glade to the north of the woods, and the two rogues hid in the trees as the paladin stayed back. They saw the goblins were somewhat disturbed, as some of their colleagues had not returned from patrol (in fact, slain in the last session!) Feeling the time was right, they launched arrows at the group, killing one of the wolves before any of the goblins could react!
Working out exactly how many goblins and worgs would be in the battle was somewhat challenging – only three PCs, a moderate variance in levels, and the adventure doesn’t come with XP values for monsters. I turned to my slightly more complete playtest materials to estimate XP values (the monster stats are not quite the same as in the last bestiary), and decided upon five goblins and five worgs. The goblins took a couple of rounds to reach the party, which allowed them to inflict some significant damage, which was really important because three worgs against one paladin was not great for the paladin, although Tim was definitely holding his own. The rogues stayed in the cover of the trees, attacking and then fading into the cover so that the goblins were kept disorientated and mainly concentrating their attack on Tim. The worgs were eventually killed, and then the goblins likewise. Tim needed to use his Lay on Hands power to stay up, but it was a pretty successful (and intense) combat. Searching the goblin camp afterwards revealed nothing of particular interest, but at least they’d denied the goblins their scouting ability.
Not surprisingly, the group then rested for a night in the dryad’s grove to be fully healed!
The next day saw them entering the village. Their initial scouting attempts were too bold, and the goblin guards raised the alarm upon seeing Tait; the party retreated and stayed away for a few hours until the alert died down. Their second scouting attempt was more successful, with Harry finding a covered bridge that led into the hillside beneath the town.
Once they reached the “bridge”, they discovered that it was completely enclosed with no entrance from either side; it just went into the hill sides on either side of a chasm! However, it did have two windows, one of which was open, with a rope dangling from it… a human corpse at the other end. The group climbed down to the bridge and, with a little effort, entered through the open window (above the chasm… not too hard with a little muscle and some rope!) They found themselves in a corridor going north-south, with iron doors at each end. They pulled up the body and discovered it belonged to the village’s priest of Chauntea; obviously the goblins had hanged him.
Faced with a decision of where next to go, the group decided to go north, away from the village. Beyond the iron door was the village’s “bolt-hole”, one that unfortunately the villagers had not been able to use. Instead, the group found themselves in a fight against a dozen goblins who were now using it as sleeping quarters. Not all of the goblins were awake when the combat began, which made the adventurers’ job an easier one, but it was still a difficult combat. As I’m not using miniatures, I didn’t feel constrained by the “one goblin per 5 foot square” that has been the norm through 3rd and 4th edition, instead allowing four of the small goblins to fight abreast, which forced Tait and Tim to likewise fight abreast whilst Harry fired arrows at the goblins when they became visible in the melee.
The combat was going pretty well for the party when the goblin shaman arrived, accompanied by two large vipers. The shaman, with strong powers of elemental fire, created a flaming sphere which caused a lot of damage to Tait and Tim – unable to go back, and with the goblins in front of them, they needed to make a hole. This they did, and with a couple of goblins dead, they pushed through, leaving goblins behind them… but they were safe from the sphere! The shaman rolled it on towards Harry.
The vipers could have been quite dangerous, but Tim, realising that they needed to slay the shaman as quickly as possible, slew both in consecutive blows by using his Divine Smite power, which allowed Tait and Harry to finish off the shaman. She exploded in flames, burning Tim severely, as she died. The group realised they needed to rest, but first they needed to make sure that the place was defensible!
Their exploration of the bolthole revealed a storeroom, a number of bunks, and a shrine to Chauntea, now defiled. Harry was able to make sense of the writing, which seemed to have some relevance to the goblin attack, and he copied it down. The group then cleaned the shrine, and used they key they’d found on the shaman to lock the door to the bridge. As they got ready to sleep, a goblin knocked on the door, asking if the shaman wanted anything. Thinking quickly, Tim imitated a goblin in a rage and made the inquirer flee – they were then able to have a night’s rest, which they really needed at this point.
At this point, I ended the session; it felt about the right length, and it was a natural break point. Next week (with a couple more players, I hope!) the group will investigate the rest of the village, fighting the goblins and hobgoblins that remain. I’m very much enjoying how this adventure is starting; it feels like a properly heroic tale.