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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Princes of the Apocalypse - Iceshield Orcs

I've mentioned a few times that I have had a hard time reading this adventure. I finally finished my review of Princes of the Apocalypse, and started a guide to it. That means that I learned a lot over the past few weeks.

One thing I saw was that I didn't handle the whole delegation thing well. The entire initial hook to this adventure is that there is a missing delegation and the factions want to find out what happened to certain people or items. This investigation can lead the heroes to Beliard or Summit Hall, all sorts of places.

It was quite an ordeal poring over the book and finding out where the delegation ended up. One thing I could never find was this dead body that was meant to be brought to Summit Hall, home of the Knights of Samular. I scoured the book, I even asked people on twitter... as far as I can tell, the book gives the hook for the dead knight but never actually resolves it.

So I decided to take it into my own hands. I thought it would be cool if, when the delegation was attacked, that the knight rose up as undead and fought them. The skeletal knight now wanders the land, drawn to Summit Hall but only vaguely sure of how to get there.

Symbol of Tyr
The Knights worship Tyr, so I read up on Tyr as well as the Knights of Samular.

My goal for tonight was to have the heroes befriend the knight, go to Dellmon ranch and do that whole Iceshield Orcs side scenario in chapter 6. Then, time permitting, they can take the knight to Summit Hall to his final resting place. It is there that they can also learn about the location of the earth cult.

The Party     
  • Elf Rogue: Played by a 4th grader, her character's name is Lucky and she has a black cat named "Bad Luck". 
  • Dwarf Cleric: In real life, played by Lucky's dad. He has a scottish accent and worships Ilmater.
  • Tiefling Sorcerer: Middle Schooler. His character is apparently a jester. He uses wild magic and his skin is blue.
  • Drow Rogue: Middle Schooler. Wants to be evil, but Adventurer's League rules restrict this. Has a dog.
  • Goliath Barbarian: Middle Schooler. Really nice guy.
  • Human Bard: The player is about 25 years old, knows the rules pretty well. 
  • Human Paladin: Worships Helm. Played by the bard's dad, who played old D&D and is new to 5e.
  • Human Rogue: A new player. Taking to the game very well.
The Knight of Samular

The adventurers had just taken down the water cult at Rivergard Keep. They rescued a druid named Okobo, an NPC from the Neverwinter MMO. She claimed that the wind talked to her, and that she believed it was actually Chan talking to her. Chan is the archomental of good air, the eternal foe of Yan C Bin, the evil air archomental.

Before Okobo was captured, she had been looking for help. Iceshield orcs were rampaging to the north, burning and looting farmsteads. The heroes agreed to go there and help Okobo try to take down the orcs.

They traveled northeast. After a day or so, Okobo sensed danger on the wind. A cardinal landed on the dwarf's shoulder (I like to have an animal interact with the PCs just prior to an encounter with a cult, to sort of show that nature is on the side of the heroes in their battle against elemental evil).

They spotted a skeletal knight in a field. In the sky was a feathergale knight riding a giant vulture, and three hurricanes gliding on their wingwear. They were clearly about to attack the knight.

The air cultists were trying to recover the knight for Aerisi Kalenoth, who was none too happy about the destruction of Feathergale Spire. The knight was the only part of the delegation that had slipped through the cult's grasp.

Crazy Okobo told the heroes to help the knight, and they did. The heroes are now 5th level, so they kicked some butt here (I leveled them a bit too fast, but now they are going to be level 5 for quite a while). The sorcerer caused a wild surge that hit the bad guys with lightning that did 4d10 damage, which shortened the combat considerably.

The we played Dungeons & Friends. The heroes tried to make friends with the skeleton. The knight is based on the skeleton from the D&D cartoon.

The Knight
I decided that he was missing his right hand, just like his god Tyr. I did this just to see what the PCs thought of this. Once they realized the knight was a follower of Tyr, they theorized that knights were required to cut off their own hand to prove their devotion to their god.

They befriended him in a lackluster skill challenge - I'll need to revamp these considerably. The way I am doing it is not working to my liking.

The skeleton knight joined the party. They saw on his tabard a symbol: a crossed sword and torch (the symbol of the knights of samular) but they didn't know what it meant.

The Burning Farm

They continued on and came upon a burning farm. There was a woman in the barn calling for help. Lucky ran in to the barn. I added in a couple of "traps": A beam that falls from the ceiling and incapacitating smoke. Lucky navigated both traps and rescues the woman. The woman told the heroes that orcs had taken her husband and all their stuff.

The cleric healed the woman (named Maygan) and followed the tracks. After a half hour, the heroes found the orcs camped in what would turn out to be a fateful encounter.

Squirrel Man

The adventurers jumped the orcs. One of the rogues, played by the new player, climbed a tree and aimed his crossbow at an orc. I told him that a squirrel was in the tree, worried that the rogue was going to take it's acorns. The squirrel was frantically stuffing acorns into it's mouth.

I did not know until today that the reason that this new player wanted to play D&D was because he heard a story from our Tyranny of Dragons campaign. When the heroes in that game fought the green dragon Chuth, a rogue had impaled a squirrel on an arrow and shot it at the dragon (rolling a critical hit).

The new player lit up and excitedly snatched the squirrel. He wanted to shoot the squirrel at an orc's mouth, hoping that the orcs would suffocate or something. He rolled a natural 20.

He shot the squirrel and the bolt (The squirrel rode the bolt) into the orc's mouth. The damage was enough to kill the orc. The orc fell to the ground and the squirrel exploded out of the orc's skull, covered in blood and squeaking triumphantly.

I know this is fairly implausible, even for D&D, but everyone was laughing so much that I just went with it and figured I'd come up with an explanation later. At the moment we decided that the squirrel truly hated orcs and had waited a long time to take them on.

The adventurers finished off the orcs. Druid Okobo spoke with the squirrel and befriended it. The new guy asked the squirrel to join the party. He agreed to do so. The new player named the little fellow: Squirrel Man.

The heroes rescued the captured husband. In the adventure, it's the wife who gets captured and the man who is in the barn. I switched them, because orcs taking the woman and leaving the man sort of implies orc breeding, and I don't want to touch that with a ten foot pole in this group.

Dellmon Ranch

The adventurers continued on to a place where farmers had holed up: Dellmon Ranch. About 40 farmers were there in a little compound with a wall made up of logs tied together with twine. The emerald enclave had sent for help, but it had yet to arrive.

The farmers warned the heroes that a horde of orcs were near, and would likely attack soon. A couple PCs wanted to make friends with certain NPCs, and did so.

The adventurers set themselves up in the complex, and waited.

The Initial Surge

An hour or so passed, and then the orcs emerged from the forest. They gathered 100 feet from the northernmost building. Two heroes were on the roof of that building. To their horror, they watched as the orcs threw a total of 40 javelins (!!) at the compound. 10 of the javelins went at the two guys on the roof. Then, the orcs fled back into the forest as the PCs returned fire.

A javelin hit and killed one of Kerbin Dellmon's sons (A number of PCs and NPCs were out in the middle of the compound and were sitting ducks for javelins). The cleric had a spell that saved him. The Dellmons were most grateful.

There was more waiting. The heroes huddled with the NPCs and decided to stay inside the buildings, to protect themselves from the javelins.

The new player had druid Okobo to ask Squirrel Man to go on a recon mission. At this point, the party had been talking about Squirrel Man as if he was Rambo, complete with a red headband. Squirrel Man of course agreed, and set out alone.

I had the new player roll for Squirrel Man's stealth checks and etc., and his dice were on fire. Squirrel Man found the orcs in the woods. They were carving up sticks to make more javelins. The squirrel saw the leader - an orog. He also spotted a shaman/priestess (I had half of the orcs be female - blue-skinned with long black hair in a topknot). The shaman was tending to some of the orcs' wounds.
Squirrel Man found one orc away from the others, sharpening a javelin. Squirrel Man decided to try to trip the man in such a way that he might fall on his own javelin. More dice were rolled. Another natural 20! The orc tripped and was impaled on his own javelin! He died. The players at the table could not get enough of this.

Squirrel Man returned and told Druid Okobo the news.

The Orcs Return

20 minutes later, the orcs emerged from the forest and heaved 40 more javelins. But this time, everyone was safe inside the buildings. Twenty of the orcs drew melee weapons, roared and charged. Once they got within 40 feet of Dellmon Ranch, the heroes took action. The bard cast a shatter spell that exploded in their midst, sending orcs flying in all directions. Ranged attacks were fired out of windows.

The new guy, Lucky and the barbarian hopped out of the ranch and faced off against about 18 orcs! Other players tried to talk them out of it, but they didn't listen. I knew this was big trouble for the party. Four orcs rushed the new guy, who fired a crossbow bolt at an orc. Squirrel Man rode the bolt onto the orc. The orcs closed in on the rogue and cut him down almost instantly (they do 9 points of damage each).

Four more orcs charged Lucky. Lucky's real life dad cast a sanctuary spell on her, which saved her from them (the spell prevented most of them from attacking her).

The barbarian stood in front of the Dellmon Ranch entrance. He rightly assumed that the orcs were going to try to bash in or damage the front gate. The sorcerer cast a cloud of daggers spell in front of the gate, which was very smart. This triggered a wild surge, which turned him into a potted plant for a round. Because he has blue skin, I decided that the plant was blue.

The barbarian is tough and he fended off the orcs, with aid from the bard who hit them with another shatter spell.

A couple of orcs broke through a window in the northern building and attacked the heroes and NPCs in there. A rogue grabbed the potted plant/sorcerer and chucked it at an orc. He rolled (what else?) a natural 20! He caved in the orc's skull and killed it.

A few orcs were slain. The others grabbed the dying rogue as a hostage as they fled back into the woods.

We had to stop there as we ran out of time. I generally hate taking a PC hostage. I had to make a snap decision, and to me it felt like the orcs would do that. I also wanted to have consequences for the fact that a few PCs actually decided to try to fight 17 orcs in melee combat.

Plans For Next Week

Now I have a week to sort of mull over the situation. Squirrel Man is stowed away on an orc and might be able to save the rogue. The rogue had failed his first death save. There's a lot of ways to go - The rogue could get tied up and try to escape with the aid of his squirrel. The heroes could go out there, create a diversion, and save him. Or maybe a hostage exchange of some kind can take place.

I will need to be careful not to let things drag.

I should also note that Lucky was quick to ask the people of Dellmon Ranch why the orcs were attacking. The orcs were sort of displaced by the cult activity and have decided to take the farms, live in them until they are trashed, and then move on. She is a good player like that. She always asks the right questions.

I'm going to have to cook up more realistic rules for the squirrel. I want to keep him fun, but not let it get too cartoonish.

I knew this mini-adventure would be fun. I think the players have really enjoyed it so far.


Unknown said...

Well done. Note that if you do play again, the body of the note is found in the lower level of the Sacred Stone Monastary. His body is in the Possession of the Lich Renwick who wishes to exchage it for the body of his brother Samular

Anonymous said...

You could always make the squirrel some kind of powerful benevolent shape-shifter, perhaps even an aspect of a nature god who took over the squirrel's body, since the High Forest is nearby. He showed up to assist the party and just rolled with their arrow-riding shenanigans. Perhaps the god then leaves, but the squirrel remains "touched" by divinity and becomes self-aware, but loses the cartoonish ability to ride a an arrow (until a religion check rolls a natural 20 and calls the god back for a quick ride, lol). said...

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