I wish I had taken a picture of the map I made for last week’s combat. The party had ended the previous session with a major fight looming, a fight which we spent most of last week playing out. The turns moved quickly and the fighting was brutal; the reason it took so long was the fact that it quickly descended into a glorious, bloody, confused mess, with separate groups of players and enemy combatants getting separated, fighting short and deadly battles and then splitting again when things were getting too hot. Four players came close to dying, with the paladin at one point being less than a round away from certain death. It was an absolute blast to run.
Cast of characters: Cleric/Barbarian Marcus Bighammer, cleric Sh’vass, druid Arianne, wizard Faust, ranger Strider, paladin Gibson, rouge Verrik, monk Atlas Brulio.
Back to the map. I didn’t think I could conjure up a large enough grid for the fight, so I just declared that one real-world inch equaled five in-game feet. Since the farmstead where the fight was taking place was on a hill, I put down some boxes and laid down a sheet on top of them. Some quick work with a pencil turned a piece of paper into the barn where Gibson and Verrik were facing down Sir Tibrius, my clipboard served as the house, several squares of cardboard served as overgrown fields, and a bunch of Nerd candy boxes made for a crumbling stone wall or two. It was brilliant. The fight took place everywhere, from the road a couple hundred feet away to the back side of the barn. The players approaching from the road quickly realized that they didn’t want to be charging a line of rebels armed with muskets and crossbows, and thus made straightaway for the cover of the fields, where they dived down beneath the weeds and cornstalks as a volley of musket fire tore through overhead. Meanwhile, in the barn, the wizard Faust (who had been hiding around the side) found a hole he could slip through so the rebels prowling around outside wouldn’t notice him, only to immediately leave again when he saw what was inside the building. He was followed closely by Verrik, who abandoned his stolen horse in his effort to get away from Sir Tibrius and his two henchmen, leaving Gibson and Gibson’s horse to fight off the knight. Gibson, thinking that getting rid of the two minion-types before concentrating on Tibrius would be a good idea, managed to cut the red-haired henchman pretty badly before being pulled off his horse by the knight. A couple rounds of combat later and it was clear to Gibson that he could not win this fight by himself; the only time Tibrius had been hit was when Gibson’s horse had rolled a natural 20, while Gibson had lost almost half of his remaining health to a single hit, and was bleeding heavily–very heavily, in fact. It seemed that Tibrius’ hammer had some sort of magical effect that caused increased blood loss. He dived back onto his horse–getting hit by Tibrius again in the process–and galloped out of the barn as fast as he could.
Meanwhile, outside, everything had turned into chaos. Faust, seeing the rebels lined up and firing volleys into the overgrown field where the majority of the party was taking cover, found himself in the perfect position to flank the firing line and let loose with a lightning bolt. None of the rebels outright died from the spell, but they were certainly staggered, near-death. It was at this point, however, that Faust realized that there was absolutely nothing between himself and a lot of armed and angry men. Marcus Bighammer summoned up some obscuring mist over the firing line, both to give Faust some cover and to let the guys pinned down in the field advance. That cloud of dense fog played a major role in the rest of the fight, disrupting the firing lines that the rebels had carefully set up, but also preventing the players from helping their comrades later on without exposing themselves to danger.
During the confused and bloody fight that followed, several things I noticed:
- Visibility seriously fucking matters. When the enemy can’t see you, they can’t shoot you; but you can’t shoot them, either. Or target spells, or see that your allies are involved in a fight they cannot win just around the corner.
- No one wants to go into the obscuring mist, even if they know that there’s no one else in there.
- Volley fire with muskets is seriously, seriously deadly.
- When the players split up, or are forced by circumstances to split up, or just don’t have a plan and charge around disorganized and desperate in an area filled with smoke and fog and cover and explosions, people die. To put it more succinctly, the party members need their fellows in order to be as deadly as they’re used to being. I’m pretty sure they could have taken Sir Tibrius out if the fight had been less chaotic and if Gibson had had support in the barn, or if Tibrius hadn’t had rebels backing him up when he eventually went toe-to-toe with Bighammer.
Some other things that happened:
- When Gibson charged out of the barn, trying to escape from Tibrius, he unfortunately came out right in front of a group of rebels with crossbows and muskets who were regrouping right there. They fired a volley at him–all the crossbows missed, but the muskets dropped him to -7hp. Fortunately for him, his mount is a spirit creature bound to him because of his paladin-ness, so I ruled that a successful ride check would let him still control the horse while being unconscious, seeing as he’s telepathically bonded to it and all. He succeeded, and the horse took him over to the healers. Bighammer’s healing spell healed one point, but failed to stop the magically-induced bleeding; if that wasn’t stopped, Gibson would take four damage on Tibrius’ turn, and die. Fortunately, Arianne’s cure light wounds stopped the bleeding and brought him back into positive hit points.
- When Gibson tried to use lay on hands on himself, he discovered that his god was pissed at him for using the priest as a human shield in the previous session; a paladin of the Jujhar does not hide from danger behind bystanders, whether they be innocent or guilty of heinous crimes (as the priest did turn out to be). Using an enemy actively trying to kill you as a shield is fine, and also awesome, but the priest was just standing there. Until he atones for what he has done, Gibson’s paladin abilities only work 50% of the time. He’s planning on speaking to the priests at the Cathedral D’Agmont in Tahmoor about that.
- The Verdan burners (type of grenade) that Atlas picked up in the Grey City are brutal.
- Faust was the one who finally killed the rebel leader, the guy everyone called “Trapper.” He had a spell called Spectral Hand that allowed him to make touch attacks from a distance, and he used it to transfer a shocking grasp to Trapper’s skull, killing him instantly. Unfortunately, because he was gesturing and shouting incantations, the surviving rebels figured out what had happened, and jumped him. Faust was taken down below 0hp, and fell off his horse. However, when cast Spectral Hand takes some of the life force of the user, which is returned when the spell ends. In this case, since Faust just fell unconscious, the spell ended, and the four hit points that he had put into the Hand returned to him, causing him to wake up just in time to hit the ground. Which still would have been a problem for him, if Atlas hadn’t killed the guy who’d stabbed the wizard off his horse.
- When Trapper died, Sir Tibrius and his companions stopped fighting and just walked away. They weren’t part of the revolution, they were just using this particular group of rebels to try and cause chaos around the Empire, in the name of the Kingdom of Merdallan. The surviving rebels saw this as betrayal of their cause, and tried to attack the knight, only to die at the hands of his companions.
When they searched the battlefield, the barn and the farmhouse, they found the following things:
- Two carts of weapons–muskets, swords, spears, pistols, crossbows, halberds, etc
- A couple horses
- A masterwork painting of a woman, in a gold-and-opal frame
- A cloak sewn with old cloves of garlic (they left that one where it was)
- A gold chain necklace.
- A pair of nice-looking goggles
- A silver amulet of some kind, engraved with a cornucopia horn filled with fire
- Trapper’s clockwork pistol
- A key to a room in the farmstead house
- 2332 gold; 332 on the rebels’ bodies, 2000 in a set of chests inside the locked room in the farmstead.
- A gold crown, with small gold figures around its rim arrayed in speechgiving poses, that whispered to Strider when he picked it up. Thanks to a failed will save, Strider now has fervent anti-Empire beliefs.
- A bunch of maps and a letter, which Verrik read out loud. At the end of the letter was a set of words that, when read, set off an explosive trap that almost killed Verrik and destroyed the maps and other papers in the room.
- A meal, already cooked in the kitchen. The rebels had been settling down to eat dinner when the players had arrived.
At the end of the session they saw the lights and heard the shouts of an angry mob coming up the road from the village. The players decided that the mob was probably looking for them, seeing as Sh’vass had shot the village priest in the head for being the only person within range who had anything to do with his kidnapping. They quickly loaded their loot onto the carts, hitched up a couple of horses and fled. The bridge had been blown up and by the tracks Sir Tibrius was headed for the ferry, so the players decided to avoid both of those means of crossing the river and ride around Lake Jujhar instead.
And that’s where the session ended. We’ll pick up the story again when we start playing this evening.