Monday, 23 June 2014

Actual Play in the Grim North: A Dark Road

The characters were all part of the same caravan that stopped at a coaching inn on their way to Nox Aeterna to find their fortunes. Whilst carousing in the taproom they were approached by a finely attired, if somewhat worn looking, fellow named Tarhan. He presented the win-win opportunity of looking for a missing tax collector he had been drinking with not a few days ago citing the inside info that he had directed him on an alternate route to the next coaching inn to avoid the local overly aggressive bandits. The PCs, Geoff the Cleric and Eloise (The Shadow) the Assassin, were accompanied by PeterRabbit the posh Mage and the barbarian warrior Blithref (Blithref punch things and take their silver"), and guided by Erdik the peasant, as they set off for the caves where Tarhan believed the tax collector had probably gone missing. They figured either he needed rescuing and there would be a reward or he was dead and the taxes he had collected were going begging.

Erdik guided them up into the woods where they randomly encountered a group of goblins. These goblins were almost totally enveloped in their fur cloaks and armed with short swords fashioned from shards of ice. A favourable reaction roll meant the goblins negotiated with the PCs who refused to give the goblins Anything but settled for giving them Absolutely Nothing, which the lead goblin accepted with glee and refused to share with his fellows.

Once they found the caves they wasted no time in posting the peasant guide as a guard at the entrance and entering with Blithref in the lead ("Blithref not scared of cave. Blithref punch cave in face and take its silver") and PeterRabbit the posh Mage holding the lantern. They found an old battered helmet in one cavern and faced with multiple options chose to always turn right where possible. They met and defeated three Darklings, five feet tall, black skinned humanoids with no neck and a mane of black hair all the way down their backs. They attacked twice with their d3 claws but Blithreth skewered two with his spear and Geoff, who's consistently good rolls for surprise and initiative kept the PCs in the game, took out the third with his flail.

Finding a three way fork in the tunnel, they took the right hand path and Blithreth blundered into a big web. He was bitten by the giant spider that inevitably lived in it and succumbed to its poison, dying almost instantly. Geoff bashed it with his flail and "Eloise" (a pseudonym, she hasn't decided what her real name is yet but also has "The Shadow" as a second pseudonym) finished it off with her sword. They found a desiccated body in the web that appeared to be a cleric. He was carrying two potions and a scroll that was a deed for a house in a place called Grimmsgate...

Further exploration revealed a cavern containing partially eaten bodies and the noise involved in all the fighting drew Erdik the peasant into the cave as he was scared outside on his own. They then tangled with three more Darklings, despite Geoff's best efforts he went down. I allow PCs a saving throw if they reach 0 hit points to avoid death but alas Geoff was a goner, off to join his deity who we didn't really get around to naming, "Something or Other, the Smiter." PeterRabbit used his posh magic to put the Darklings to sleep but not before "Eloise" took a beating.

Eloise walked into a Malayan tiger gate and was so injured she dared to try a potion, which fortunately for her restored her to full hit points. They then crossed a rope bridge through a cave full of bats and found some sleeping Darklings, which they tip toed around. In the next cavern, some sort of Darkling larder, they found an uneaten bloke chained to the wall amongst his less fortunate companions. Freeing him was noisy but he turned out to be a ranger who had set off in search of the same missing tax collector some days earlier. Suspicions were aroused. As were the two sleeping Darklings from the other cavern. They slew Erdik the peasant after his protestations of "knowing nothing about no double cross" and the ranger Gunthorr, now played by Geoff's player  ("what, like Gunther from Friends? No Gun as in gun and Thor as in Thor, you know Thorrrr...") destroyed them as he and Eloise rolled natural twenties to save the day. Eloise was battered though and retired to the middle of the battle order with her crossbow loaded.

Gunthorr (apparently pronounced like Mordor in the first Lord of the Rings film) valiantly led from the front with his 16 hit points but was struck a glancing blow by a deadfall trap and rolled a good save to avoid falling into a pit of spikes.

They circled around, Eloise cut the throats of the magically slumbering Darklings from earlier and they found three more Darklings worshipping at the shore of an underground lake, with some sort of bizarre edifice barely visible on an island at its centre. Terrible rolls saw a spear vanish into the water and Eloise snap the string on her crossbow. The Darklings attacked and mauled the PCs with Eloise going down and PeterRabbit getting his staff stuck in the lakeshore mud (natural 1 is a bitch.) Fortunately Gunthorr's vast reserve of hit points meant he could absorb crits from the Darklings and still slay them all despite PeterRabbit also going down to a well placed claw. Eloise failed her save against death but Gunthorr poured the last healing potion down her throat to avert it and PeterRabbit made his save. Turns out his posh tobacco tin stopped the claws penetrating all the way to his heart.

Watching the PCs scared to do anything on the islands where a statue of the Darklings eyeless god was situated, despite the pile of hack silver right in front of it, was one of the joys of games mastering (knowing there was absolutely no danger at all.) As was their relief when they rowed away from the island with the silver and without the statue animating to attack them.

High tailing it out of there with the loot they put some distance between themselves and the caves before camping out for the night. Gunthorr read their tracks back to the road as they were now sans guide. They glimpsed a horned centaur at the forest's edge but hurried away from it, battered and bruised as they were. A debate ensued about whether to return the coaching inn and confront Tarhan or to press on towards Nox Aeterna and forget the whole thing. Gunthorr being lawful was concerned that other innocents might be sent to their deaths by Tarhan, he had seen his friends get eaten after all, but Eloise was more concerned about getting away with the silver and finding a way to bank it.

Faced with the possibility of a night out in the open if they pressed on, they returned to the coaching inn and fronted out Tarhan in a fairly friendly manner. He tried to talk his way out of it but as it wasn't working ran for the door. Failed rugby tackles left Eloise stunned and Gunthorr lagging behind. Too posh to rugby tackle anyone, PeterRabbit also gave chase. Eventually, once out of plain sight he was prepared to use his, by his own admission, "awesome" powers to sleep Tarhan and the horse he was about to ride away on.

Tarhan was duly tied up and water boarded by Eloise in the horses drinking trough until he admitted setting the PCs up to be eaten by the Darklings in return for silver, having fallen in with some dark characters following his failed merchant ventures. In a display of Lawful Ignorance Gunthorr returned to the taproom with PeterRabbit to finish their mutton and ale while Eloise surreptitiously cut Tarhan's throat, tied him to his horse and set it on its way with a hearty slap, telling everyone that he "got away..."

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