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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

    Join Date
    Feb 2015

    Default Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    I'm currently running a Red Hand of Doom game set in the world of Greyhawk using Pathfinder rules. More details of my conversion can be found in the main Red Hand of Doom handbook thread here.

    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...ers!-WIP-PEACH!

    I started at first level and turned it into a bit of an adventure path. The characters are about to start the first encounters of the actual Red Hand of Doom campaign next week, but they've had quite a few adventures on their way there. This is how I started the game:

    The setting:
    The world of Greyhawk, common year 594. The first day of spring.

    The land of war-torn earldom of Sterich is starting to recover.
    Ten years ago, the largely independent duchy was overwhelmed by a massive invasion of monstrous non-humans--giants, orcs, ogres, hobgoblins, and gnolls that swarmed out of the mountains. The king of Keoland refused to send any troops to assist the earldom of Sterich and within months, the capital fell, and the towns and cities were burned and looted and those inhabitants too slow or stubborn to flee were massacred or enslaved. A year later, the king decided to finally send help--and promised land and wealth for each freed barony. The exiled earl of Sterich re-entered his province with an army and, after three years of tough fighting, liberated the country. Many people entered Sterich and rebuilt much that had been destroyed. Some of them were refugees returning to their homes, rebuilding with the sweat of their brows what they had won back with blood and steel. Others were refugees from nearby lands such as the nearby Duchy of Geoff which is still occupied by the armies of the giants. Others were poor but enterprising people from the surrounding cities like Dyvers, who saw an opportunity to build better lives than they could have in their homelands. There are still conflicts--raids, banditry, and struggles between nobles (or those claiming to be nobles since many of the records were lost during the war) but farms are still being built, roads repairs, crops planted and harvested.

    The story:
    The story begins in the town of Drellin's Ferry, at the edge of civilized Sterich in the shadow of the Crystalmist mountains near the Elsir river. Six years of rebuilding punctuated by occasional raids from the mountain tribes, has produced a strong and tough frontier town. A generation that is just young enough to remember the desperate flight from King Galmoor's invading hordes is now entering adulthood. The grain is nearly ready for harvest, the cattle are growing fat on the summer grass, and new trouble has come to the earldom. Large numbers of hippogriffs--voracious flying beasts with the wings and head of an eagle and the body of a horse have flown down out of the mountains and are killing cattle and even the odd farmer. Count Jarmaath Bova and his captain Lars Ulverth rode out to hunt them, but there are too many for the nobles alone to make a dent in their numbers, so he has also proclaimed a bounty of 30 golden lions per hippogriff head--until the hippogriffs are gone or his agents run out of money.

    Who are you?
    You are a group who has gathered to take Count Bova up on his offer. Only a fool or a great hero would go hunting hippogriffs on his own. Many of you are in that younger generation who returned to Sterich with your parents--too young to fight for the liberation of your lands nine years ago, you have grown up and are ready to make a life for yourselves. Perhaps you learned to fight in the militia. Sertieren the Wise--an aged halfling wizard of some repute settled in Drellin’s Ferry with his clan after the war ended and his first few students will have just finished their apprenticeship. Brother Derny, priest of Pelor, has taken in and trained several youths who lost their parents in the war, teaching them the ways of his god. Some disciples of Heironeous, the knight of the gods, have also finished their training at their monastery in Bova and have been sent out into the world to do good and right wrongs. Some of you may be wanderers, come to Sterich looking for a land that has opportunities for anyone strong enough to hold a spear and defend the land that he farms. Maybe you were looking to escape an unjust accusation. Dwarves from the mountain clans periodically pass through Drellin's Ferry trading their metalwork for grain and ale. Perhaps that is you and you couldn't pass up the opportunity for some coin. Occasional elves pass through as well--some are exiled from their tribes, others see traveling the world as a right of passage and some few were growing up in Sterich when it fell ten years ago. Whoever you are, you want to set out on a dangerous expedition to help your community and earn some money at the same time.


    The characters:
    So given that, what did the players create?

    Marquess Tessmon. Human fighter.
    Marquess’s was raised in Keoland, but his brothers joined the Army of Liberation when King Skotti finally decided to throw his support behind Marquis Querchard and help him take back Sterich from the armies of the giant king Galmoor. Marquess came to Sterich and joined Count Bova’s army as soon as he was old enough but by then the war was practically over. He spend the next years marching from place to place as a member of the Lion Guard but the closest he came to combat was drunken brawls in the barracks.

    His oldest brother, Jonas on the other hand, has always been in the thick of the fighting and is now one of the Lions of Bova. Another brother Neron, served under Baron Ecgtheow of Strake Terrace and perished from an infected wound after recapturing the city.

    Shortly before beginning the Red Hand of Doom proper, Marquess was initiated into the Lions of Bova, the elite fighting force and representatives of the Count Bova.

    Gladium. Half-orc barbarian. Currently missing, presumed dead.
    Gladium was raised in an orc tribe but was cast out due to his human blood. (One can weave many tales from this—perhaps the most likely is that his father took a human slave as a concubine during the short-lived invasion of Sterich but when his father died, the tribe was no longer willing to tolerate a half-breed in their midst. Eventually, he found a place in the Lion guard at Bova as a scout and leatherworker.

    Hellek. Human rogue.
    Hellek served with honor in the Lion guard scouts but he was always better at stealth than their wilderness skills and spent a short time in Marquess’ glaive unit before mustering out to seek his fortune in the hippogriff hunt.


    Penelope “Penn”
    . Halfling Hunter
    Penelope’s father was a successful and unscrupulous merchant who bought his way into the nobility of pre-war Sterich. He fostered his daughter briefly in the late baron Wiston’s family—so she grew up with the current baron Norro Wiston. However when King Galmoor’s armies invaded, her father betrayed the baron, Sterich, and Penelope. She was captured and enslaved by goblins before she escaped into the wild with a wolf she befriended and returned to the outskirts of a civilization she distrusts due to her father’s betrayal. (The current) Baron Wiston is assisting her in the management of her manor and attempting to guide her back to human and halfling society.

    Penn started play as a druid/ranger and eventually converted to a Hunter. It took the player a while to get the hang of the mechanics and to learn some useful things to do with the classes that he picked for the character.

    Grimmath Coalhewer. Dwarf Wizard
    Grimmath is gruff and arrogant for a dwarf and being trapped in an underground clanhold with only fungus beer and the same books and people for over a decade did little to improve his temper. When human adventurers came to his Clanhold with word of the human reconquest of Sterich, he eagerly joined them.

    Grimmath began play as a PC. His player left the party unexpectedly so he was converted to a cohort for a while, then left the party to make room for the cohort that the player really wanted and to assist the Count in delaying the Red Hand for long enough for the PCs to accomplish their goals.


    “Nameless”/Khan
    . Human barbarian/oracle
    The nameless human was enslaved by goblins for most of his young life and survived the fighting pits by being the angriest and meanest boy there. Eventually he was purchased by a goblin smith and his times in the pits became less and less frequent as he proved to be a helpful slave in the forge. However, several months ago, he had a vision of a man who shone like the Sun—thereafter he could barely see thirty feet but found that he had powers of healing. They served him well when hobgoblins attacked the goblin encampment where he was a prisoner. He slew a hobgoblin and took his equipment in the confusion and used the power of the Shining One to heal his injuries. After two weeks of wandering, a Coalhewer scout found him and brought him back to the Clanhold. When Marquess and his group came to the clanhold, he saw a chance to rejoin human society and joined them.

    When he joined the party, he had no name that he remembered. Eventually, Grimmath came up with the name "Deathblinder" for him. In dwarven, that begins with Khan. Khan met his end when he baited Old, Pete, the fiendish crocodile of the Blackfens.

    Jozan. Human Inquisitor of Heironeous
    Jozan was too young to fight in the war of Liberation but when Kalibac was liberated he joined his family there. He looked up to the brave knights of Count Osric in their shining armor and when Count Osric and Count Bova together established Hillwatch Keep for Master Caedmon’s Knights of the Vale to guard against the undead of the Haunted Valley, he left everything behind and traveled there to join them. Master Caedmon trained him well and he learned to speak the celestial language Master Caedmon spoke when in his battle-trance, how to follow tracks, and pray for Heironeous’ favor. He eagerly learned the precepts of Azmarender. With his training complete, he was sent into the world to do good and return to the keep in a year bringing the tale of his deeds that he might prove himself worthy to advance in the knighthood.

    Jozan is an NPC who was initially created as a temporary stopgap since the party was only two members with no spellcasters in the first session. The players liked him and with the addition of Khal and Hellek, he's morphing into the party's archer. Marquess intends to take Leadership and eventually wants to establish a keep so I had initially thought that Jozan might end up as Marquess' cohort. Instead, another player joined the party and took over Jozan as a PC. Since beginning, Jozan has proceeded through several titles--initially simply Vigil, then Stalwart Vigil, and most recently Implacable Rampant Basilisk of the Hillwatch Knights.


    Pyrr, High Arcanist of the Tiri Kitor. Elf (Tiri Kitor) Arcanist 6 (currently)
    Pyrr was a good friend of Lanikar Nightshadow and the high arcanist of the Tiri Kitor since his mentor’s demise some time ago. He joined the party for vengeance against the harrowblades who killed his friend and those who brought them to the swamp but came to see the necessity of joining forces against the Red Hand and joined the group of heroes trying to stop them.

    Pyrr joined the party after the death of one of the characters left an opening and the player wanted to bring an elf Arcanist and had selected my background trait that made him a member of the Tiri Kitor. Since the characters were meeting the Tiri Kitor the session that his new character needed to arrive, that worked out perfectly.

    The Glorious Engelhart ap Eddard, Knight Courageous of the Valorous Host, Warden of the North Gate. Cleric 5 (Heironeous)
    Engelhart had just completed his novitiate at the Chapel of the Chalice in Istivin before the giant invasion ten years ago. He retreated with the rest of Sterich but returned and fought in several battles in the war of liberation. In the eight years since then, he has been questing or traveling constantly, once going as far as Niole Dra on a pilgrimage. His 6 month stay in Bova as Warden of the North Gate is the longest he had stayed in one place since his novitiate. He almost welcomed the hobgoblin invasion as an opportunity to find adventure and win renoun.

    After Grimmath's departure from the party, Marquess was looking for a new cohort and Engelhart is the one who showed up.
    Last edited by Elder_Basilisk; 2017-06-17 at 12:56 AM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

    Join Date
    Feb 2015

    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    I changed styles a few times as I wrote the session writeups and inspired by one of my players who wrote up his first session in the style of Grimmath's journal, I eventually settled on using Jozan's journal as a narrative device.

    The Hippogriff hunt was announced with much fanfare and seeing the opportunity to actually challenge his skills, make a name for himself, and serve the people of Sterich, Marquess and his companion--a half-orc barbarian named Gladium made their way to the Lars Ulverth's office and were officially mustered out of the Lion Guard to pursue their fortunes. Stopping briefly at the Heironean chapterhouse, they said their prayers to the Invincible and Valorous Knight and set off on the journey to Drellin's Ferry, where the hippogriff herds were hitting hardest. They encountered a few bandits harassing some travelers just before Terrelton and Marquess took a minor wound in the shoulder when he and his companion followed the precepts of their faith and came to the aid of the defenseless. The minor wound was healed by the time they made it to Drellin's Ferry, but Marquess kept the wound bandaged and poulticed to be sure no infection set in.

    It was mid afternoon when they saw the square of Drellin's Ferry and took in the bustling square. Hay bales made a makeshift stage in the center of the square and a few rough-cut boards had been laid across more hay bales to form a table. Heraldry on horses and pages announced the identities of the knights and nobles who had come to participate in the hunt and the well-trained men at arms bustling around the square made the local baron's colors apparent. For those who could read the heraldry, the sigils of House Trask announced the presence of Baron Trask of Elsircross’s unsavory sons.

    No sooner had Marquess and his companion taken this all in, than they heard the pounding of hooves approaching from behind them on the road--the sound of heavy warhorses at a gallop. As they turned to look--and led Marquess' light horse out of the way, they saw two men in fluted plate armor, wearing the surcoats of the Lions of Bova. One was carrying a limp man in a bloodsoaked tunic. "Fetch a priest!" shouted one. "Reeve Amanthar is badly wounded!"

    From amid the crowd, a man in scale armor rushed forward. "I can offer Heironeous' blessings," he offered and with a prayer, he restored the reeve's wounds. By this time, a group of the local baron's men at arms arrived, led by a massive blonde man in a breastplate who proclaimed himself to be Soren Amroth, the captain of Baron Wiston's guard. Suddenly everyone was talking at once. Soren took charge of the Reeve and the chests of gold the Lions had escorted to fund the hunters' payment, while the Lions—Gareth and Percival—asked him for a tracker to track down the bandits who had ambushed them and bring them the justice offered by cold steel. “Percy Yorke is the best tracker this side of the river, but he’s away in Abbotsford; the next…” began Soren, but just then, a man sailed through a tavern window behind them, and a man at arms ran up to report that the Trasks were causing trouble.

    Jozan, the Heironean who had healed the Reeve, said that he had been trained in tracking at Hillwatch Keep and Gareth recognized Marquess and Gladium as reliable men from the Lion Guard. Three men would have to do since the bandits were probably getting further away by the minute. Thus Marquess, Gladium, and Jozan set off to track down the bandits who had attacked the lions.

    It was late afternoon when they found the ambush site. Only spent crossbow bolts and the body of a bandit that Percival had run down in there escape were left. Gladium recognized the studded leather armor as new work and after some searching, Marquess found a campfire. From the ashes, it seemed the bandits had only been there a short while before the ambush. Marquess and Jozan tracked the bandits to the Elsir river and they could see a boat on the other side but no way for them to cross. Percival thought the bandits might have been making for Ethelred's ruined keep on the north side of the river and the group made their way east, hoping to find a fisherman who could take them across the river.

    They found a fisherman's hut, but the fisherman and his wife were dead in the entry to their sod hut. A rickety raft was left on this shore and investigating the inside of the hut, Marquess saw that a new grain ark and new cooking utensils in a hut that otherwise spoke of poverty. Leaving their horses, the group made their way across the river and picked up the trail again. The trail indeed led to Ethelred's ruined keep and after Gladium scouted and saw a breach in the rear wall, Gareth sent Jozan, Marquess, and the half-orc to watch the rear while he and Percival assaulted the gate. “The rats will come running out the back as soon as we attack—you just need to keep them from getting away.”

    True to the Lion's prediction, the bandits fled out the breach as the two plate-armored behemoths forced the front gate. Marquess, Jozan, and the half-orc were hard pressed to stop the bandits from fleeing--especially as the bandit leader demonstrated extraordinary skill at arms, fighting Marquess and the Gladium at once, dropping the half-orc and grievously wounding Marquess before being laid low.

    Jozan was able to stabilize both the bandit leader and his half-orc companion and Marquess recognized a tattoo on the bandit leader's shoulder which marked him as a sergeant--current or former—of the Ebon Hawks, a mercenary group operating from Strake Terrace under the command of Ryce Fitzbova. Searching the ruin, they also found letters with the schedule of money shipments to fund the hippogriff hunt. Several of the dead bandits had criminal brands used by the lord of Strake Terrace. The next morning, the group made their way across the river and parted ways after the Lions paid Jozan, Marquess, and the half-orc for their assistance and provided some extra money to pay to heal their injuries. The Lions took the bandit leader to Bova for questioning and to look for the apparent spy in the Count's court. Jozan, Marquess, and Gladium made their way back to Drellin's Ferry to enlist in the hunt.
    Last edited by Elder_Basilisk; 2016-07-11 at 01:13 PM.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

    Join Date
    Feb 2015

    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    DM notes on the first session: The interlude with two Lions and the bandits is meant to establish the intrigue between the various counts in Sterich so that it is clear that Bova (the Sterich replacement for Brindol) should not necessarily expect help from their neighbors and to plant seeds for future pre-RHOD proper adventures. Likewise, the presence of the Trasks is there not just to cut the dialogue short but also to establish the character of the Trasks who will play background roles in the campaign as it goes on and may end up being a side-quest prior to the siege of Bova. My players didn't end up following up on those adventure hooks yet, but having them there gave them some agency and having other NPCs follow up on them later, demonstrates that the world doesn't sit around waiting for the PCs which is important in the rest of the game.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Feb 2015

    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    As Gladium, Marquess, and Jozan were leaving the temple of Pelor, they met a halfling riding a wolf and trailed by a dog and a horse. She could see from their accouterment that they were hunters and asked to join them on the hippogriff hunt. She must have had some skills to offer because they accepted this proposal without too much thought. Or maybe she was a PC and that's what adventuring parties do. She did seem to know the area though and told Gladium and the others about a rocky pool at the base of a waterfall a day and a half or so south where she had heard one of her tenants saw a whole herd of hippogriffs. So, the group set out that way.

    Along the way, the group met a farmer coming up from Clearbrook to the south in a donkey cart with a cage full of chickens in the back and a loaded crossbow in hand. He hailed them and they discussed the hippogriff problem which seemed to be hitting Clearbrook very hard. Farmer Gillis had lost at least a half-dozen head of cattle and the farmer had personally lost a prize pig. After exchanging pleasantries, they parted ways.

    A few hours later, they came across a group of bedraggled hunters. One limped along with the aid of a staff and most of the others were heavily bandaged. They exchanged stories and were just hearing about how the attempt to lure hippogriffs with a young goat backfired and drew two hippogriffs which was one more than they could handle when Gladium and Marquess recognized Hellek, one of their old comrades from the Lion Guard. He had come through the ordeal uninjured and was less eager to give up than his companions and it didn't take much to convince Gladium, Marquess, and the others to let him join.

    Hellek led the party to the sight of the failed ambush—near an old, burned out and tumbledown one room farmhouse. After some discussion, the halfling reluctantly agreed to leave her horse out as bait while the others concealed themselves in the bushes while Marquess and Jozan concealed themselves in the remains of the house. They waited two hours and no hippogriffs arrived, but a group of villagers with dogs, longspears and crossbows did come up the road. Spotting Marquess and Jozan, they asked them if they'd seen a young couple heading up the road.

    It turned out the men were from Clearbrook and they were seeking farmer Gillis' granddaughter, Min and the miller's son, Mutch. The two had been seen last night near the hanging tree but had not been seen since. They might have run away together since Farmer Gillis did not approve of the match, but it was possible the hippogriffs got them too. Ethelred and the others hoped that they'd run off and that they could find them alive.

    The group thought about it a bit and giving up on their ambush decided to go on to the hanging tree and see if they could find anything. It was on the way to the waterfall after all. Under the grim oak, they turned up a little bit of blood, "that doesn't prove anything; there's a couple ways that could have got here" and a large pawprint. "Definitely a monster" said Penn.

    Gladium found an 12 inch long spine buried in the ground near the roots of the tree. After talking it over, they thought it must be a manticore spine. Penn had heard of manticores. They are cruel and cunning creatures with the body of a lion, the wings of a bat, and the head of a man and a tail of sharp spikes which they can hurl with the force of a crossbow. They like to take their pray alive and toy with with them. This one seemed to be stopping to walk every few hundred yards so they were able to follow its trail into the hills. By dusk, they found a cave that looked to be its lair.

    Cautiously they ventured towards it and found it unoccupied save for a horrific stench, a pair of maggot ridden hippogriff heads, a pile of bones including a half-eaten young man, an unconscious and badly mauled girl. On a rock shelf, hanging like a trophy, they saw a suit of gold-chased chain mail and an unsheathed longsword. Jozan called on Heironeous to heal the girl and just then, someone spotted the manticore on the horizon.

    Flight never crossed their minds. They hid in the cave and unleashed their bows and crossbows. Gladium prepared to charge when the creature landed, but instead it circled in the air and flicked its tail spikes at them. Eventually, one of Penn's summoned stirges clipped its wing and forced it to the ground where Gladium dealt it a mighty blow and slew it just before passing out himself from blood loss.

    The group rested for the night and Gladium tried on the chain mail which magically sized to fit him but his wounds were red and infected. They proceeded back to Clearbrook hoping to find a healer to treat Gladium's wounds. On the way, they were ambushed by a group of hobgoblins who fired bows at them from above a steep slope strewn with boulders. After a bloody fight which saw both Gladium and the scout nearly die and everyone severely injured, the remaining three hobgoblins fled. Penn recognized them as belonging to the Black Knife tribe and tried to pursue with great ferocity but was gave up when their leader called on Maglubiyet and channeled necrotic energy that nearly killed her.

    As they rested and tended their wounds, they looked over the hobgoblins. Their boots and clothes were worn and tattered and they had no supplies which is not at all typical for hobgoblin raiding parties. For that matter, it is unusual to see hobgoblins south of the Elsir and west of the tributary. They rarely venture to the eastern edge of the witchwood anymore, much less across the river. Penn thought that she should check her lands which were less than two days' journey to see if her cotters had had any trouble from the hobgoblins, but the next morning, the worsening wounds of the rest of the party convinced them to seek aid in Clearbrook. Gladium's wounds were inflamed and he had broken out in boils and a red rash that left him enervated and barely able to manage the weight of his new armor. Jozan and Hellek weren't doing much better. Slowly, they made their way to Clearbrook and spent a while there recovering. Rumor had it that the bounty fund was running low in Drellin's Ferry and the hunt will soon be over.

    After recovering from the red ache in Clearbrook and showing off Hellek's disease-ridden, rotting manticore head trophy, the group headed to Penn's estate to track down the hippogriffs that had been harassing her tenants' herds. Learning from her tenants that a stretch of field next to what passed for a road was the place the hippogriffs had taken their pigs, the group decided to patrol until they found some hippogriffs. Hellek took point with the rest of the group moving cautiously behind him. Carefully sneaking around a thicket, Hellek came face to face with a pair of ill-tempered hippogriffs feasting on a buck. The nearest hippogriff took a bite out of him and Helleck retreated to the group with the hippogriffs in hot pursuit. It took quite a bit of Hellek's blood, but the Marquess and Gladium handily slew the hippogriffs.
    Thereafter, they made their way to Drellin's Ferry to claim the reward. Upon arriving, they found the town square surrounded by hippogriff heads on stakes--all branded so that it was clear that they had been paid. The reeve counted out the last 200 gold pieces in the bounty chest and the hunt was over.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

    Join Date
    Feb 2015

    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    DM notes: The hobgoblins were a random encounter but I added the details to imply that they had been driven from their home territory by something and were not simply raiders who planned to loot, pillage, and return home.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Feb 2015

    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    Now it was time to decide what to do. Marquess and Gladium hit upon an expedition to find what had become of the three dwarven clanholds that had been in the Crystalmists before the war. Planning turned into a flurry of activity.

    Consulting with Morlin Coalhewer, the town's dwarven blacksmith, and a member of the one clan that had so far sent emissaries from up the dwarf road, they determined the distance: 60-100 miles by road or track and planned for a two week expedition. Everyone who didn't have one bought horses and one pack mule each along with two weeks' rations and two weeks' fodder, tents, ropes, twine, a 5 gallon keg of ale, a masterwork battle axe for Jozan (financed by Hellek and Marquess since Morlin did not have a masterwork glaive-guisarme or a masterwork rapier at hand).

    They spoke with Captain Soren Amroth about local woodsmen and trackers and were told of Percy Yorke and Old Jorr. Old Jorr lived deep in the Witchwood and sounded somewhat unbalanced, so the group decided to speak with Percy. Percy, it turned out had already been contacted by Iormel to be caravan master for a shipment of timber and other goods going to Bova (and then beyond) and characterized the party's plan as, "lots of danger, no clear plan for profit," but was never-the-less intrigued by the adventure. What seemed to tip his decision towards Iormel's venture was when he spoke with Gladium and Marquess about their exploits with the Lions. He seemed to think that the prisoner from the Ebon Hawks might lead Count Bova or Lars Ulverth to send some spies up to Strake Terrace--that would satisfy his need for adventure as well as giving him a good payday. Marquess asked Percy to deliver a message to his brother in Bova and Percy happily took the letter from him. Marquess and Jozans' wilderness skills would have to be enough.

    So, without much further ado, the party set out. They took the ferry over the wide river and ventured into the twisted and sometimes swampy forest. Gnarled oak trees lifted their mossy branches over them—or in some cases, their webbed branches. A strange man with the head of a spider--Marquess recognized it as an ettercap—attacked them with a group of spiders. The pack animals panicked in the fight but Penn was able to round them up without any more than a moment of worry. The spiders' poison was worrisome, but Marquess and Hellek recovered quickly. The spiders did not and the ettercap fled into the trees when his pet spiders fell. That evening, they set a clever watch schedule and past the night unmolested.

    The second day of travel, they came across a recently used campfire surrounded by the tracks of a number of goblins. Jozan easily found the trail and they sent Hellek forward to scout the goblins' trail. They caught up to the goblins more quickly than they realized and a hail of arrows from the trees above and a small circle of decaying megaliths greeted Marquess and Jozan—Hellek remained untouched and perhaps unobserved fifty feet ahead as the formerly unseen goblins unleashed their volley. A flash of purplish light around the arrow that struck Marquess' horse seemed to suck the life out of it and it collapsed to the ground bleeding out.

    Hellek took careful aim at the goblin who had fired the magical arrow. He was close enough for pinpoint targeting and did not appear to have seen Hellek. He drew back and aimed an arrow at the goblin's eye. At the last moment the goblin ducked to one side and Hellek's arrow merely grazed his cheek drawing a narrow line of blood. The goblin looked Hellek's way, smiled evilly, and unleashed a rapid volley of arrows that left Hellek bleeding on the ground. Jozan rode forward and jumped off his horse next to Hellek's body and Gladium and Marquess ran forward as well, Marquess unloaded his crossbow in the general direction of the goblins as he ran. Jozan healed Hellek, watched him fall again to the goblin with the composite bow and then dragged his body behind a rock and stabilized him.

    As Marquess and Gladium lumbered forward, the goblins fled. For a few seconds, Penn rode after them screaming like a madwoman. Her wolf nipped at the goblins' heels but couldn't quite manage to bite them before they slipped ahead again. Gladium called after her, warning her not to let her lust for vengeance lead her into a trap and Jozan picked off the last goblin to turn tail with his longbow. Realizing that they could not magically heal both Hellek and the horse and that, while they could carry Hellek, they could not carry the unconscious horse, the group elected to spend their last curative magic on the horse and retreated to hole up and hide as best they could with five horses and five donkeys. Jozan did his best to obscure their trail. 12 hours' journey--and probably 36 miles along the old dwarf road through the Witchwood, they set watch and rested till the next morning.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Feb 2015

    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    DM notes:
    1. The party tried to drag another NPC along with them. I hammered the Strake Terrace plot hook pretty hard with Percy, but they wanted to find the dwarves. I think they were also curious what was driving the hippogriffs southeast from the mountains too. Succesful foreshadowing. Huge train of NPCs narrowly averted.

    2. If you are going to bring a train of pack animals, it's a good idea to have someone who can keep them in line.

    3. If you are going to send the rogue ahead to scout while hidden, it's really a good idea to be at least ten feet per point of difference in your stealth modifiers behind. The rogue didn't see the goblins. The goblins didn't see the rogue. But the goblins did see the five guys on horseback lumbering along behind them.

    3.5 Tactical note. When the party is getting their tails handed to them and needs to retreat and regroup, it's not a good idea for the low level rogue to reveal his hiding spot ahead of the rest of the party in order to get a 1d6 shortbow+1d6 sneak attack on a goblin ranger who fired three arrows in the previous turn and won't go down even if you score a critical. Bad plan. The nat 20 on the attack roll probably wouldn't have bailed the plan out even if it had confirmed, but it didn't so it didn't matter.

    4. Healing the horse rather than the PC. I haven't had that happen before but it did make sense.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Jozan's Journal

    21st. Still more forest. We decided to split up to try to throw the goblins off our trail. Marquess and I led the group along some hard ground while Gladium tried to make it look like we had all gone a different route. Heironeous grant that he evades any pursuit. If successful, we plan to meet up at the northern edge of the Witchwood.

    We did not see any signs of pursuit all day, but did come across an owlbear. Penn says that they are very territorial, especially in spring which is their mating season. The owlbear we encountered will not be doing any mating—its aggression turned out to be its downfall.

    22nd. Lots of woods, lots of marsh. We are going very slowly, trying to keep out of sight. Though the terrain here is different from the thorn-covered hills that choke the cursed vale, my training with the Knights has stood me in good stead. I think we made six miles today. If Heironeous grants us fortune and we find the dwarves alive, we will need to restock our provisions in order to make the journey home.

    23rd. Crossing small rise, we caught sight of Gladium today and he was able to rejoin our party. It seems he was able to shake our pursuers. Heironeous be praised! It was certainly fortunate that he was able rejoin our party, for we encountered some strange, carniverous vines that animated the plants around us and tried to strangle us. They nearly succeeded in killing Gladium and Marquess. Unfortunately, it is too early in the year for them to bear fruit, so even the consolation of their berries was denied us. The Witchwood is well named--a miserable swamp and I shall be glad to be out of it.

    24th. Still making slow progress. We saw a few ruined chimneys, broken walls, and other signs that this part of the Witchwood was once inhabited by men, but I believe civilization had abandoned this area even before King Galmoor's armies overran the land. There were some strange totems in places—perhaps it is inhabited by some strange tribe, but unless my estimate is wrong, they were not goblin work.

    25th. We finally made it out of the Witchwood and from its eaves, we spied the skull gorge bridge. It is made of stout stone and, though weathered, has held up well. We cautiously approached its forbidding towers but found them entirely deserted. Inscriptions in the cornerstones indicate that several dwarf clans worked together in order to erect this bridge.

    Bootprints near the bridge indicate that humanoids have patrolled here since the last rain. Based on their size and gait, they were not dwarves, and men have not lived here for many years, so hobgoblin patrols would make sense.

    26th-27th. The mountain trail is slow and treacherous and we came to a hill that seemed to have been the sight of a recent battle. Bones picked clean by vultures, a few scattered arrow-points and broken weapons and a goblin who, based on his tattoos and markings was high in the black knife clan nailed to a tree. Based on the decay, he had been dead for some time. It looked like a large force, pursued a group of goblins and hobgoblins and killed most of them here though some escaped. Based on what we saw, it looks like the Black Knives were utterly defeated.

    A short while later, we reached a fork in the road where one path goes further into the mountains and the other paths lead in the direction of the dwarf holds. The mountain path appears to have been traveled by many many creatures recently—perhaps the Black Knives and their pursuers.

    28th and 1st, We were challenged by a dwarven scout—Gavin Coalhewer. We explained our quest and he led us to their clanhold where we spent the night with them. We reprovisioned though I doubt the dwarven mushroom rations and dried whatever it is they herd underground will be too appetizing for non-dwarves. Judging by the eagerness with which they bartered for Gladium's keg of ale, it may not be too appetizing for dwarves either.

    They were encouraged by the news that their scouts and explorers survived the trek and reached human lands, though Broden Coalhewer, their chief priest and one of the elders of the clan (not their thane--we did not meet the thane), said that they were concerned at the strife among the goblinoids further into the mountains. Some new tribe has defeated the Black Knives who were formerly the most powerful goblin clan. They are making preparations to close their clanhold again by collapsing the entrance if it becomes necessary. Several dwarves asked me to carry letters to members of the expedition they had recently sent out to human lands. We also discussed whether they might be willing to cooperate with the Count's forces if war should come between the new goblin tribes and Sterich. They will most likely have collapsed the entrance to their hold, but were open to cooperating if contacted by magic. Broden affirmed that he is high enough in the Soulforger's favor to be able to use sending magic. I do not know if the Valorous Knight has granted those mysteries to Master Caedmon yet, but I believe that the priestess of Pelor in Bova may have that ability and the count could certainly obtain scrolls from Istivin if she cannot.

    These frontier dwarves seem to hold their allegiance to the nation of Sterich lightly--almost as though they thought themselves independent clans rather than vassals of the Count. (Though I suppose none of them have reaffirmed their oaths to Bova since the war, they still hold their lands as fief and ought to take that loyalty more seriously). A dwarf wizard named Grimmath and a human who survived slavery to the Black Knives but was never given a proper name have asked to accompany us. I sensed no Evil or Chaos in their souls though they are hardly powerful enough to radiate it without some connection to the divine. It seemed good to Marquess, Gladium, Penn and Hellek, so they will join us.

    2nd. On the morning of the 2nd, we set out with our new companions. The Coalhewer clan hid in time and weathered the storm of King Galmoor's armies. I pray that our quest finds similar good news of the missing clans: the Redsteel and Silverdelve dwarves.
    Last edited by Elder_Basilisk; 2016-07-13 at 04:30 PM.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Grimmath’s Journal

    Hey, Journal. This is Grimmath. Again. Shut up. Look, hey, it's been a long time since I wrote in this, but things happened for the first time in decades, so, you know, Brightmantle's beard but that's something. Unfortunately that does mean wandering around with a bunch of tall folk, but I've recently discovered that outside is dangerous and one of the many advantages that comes naturally with being a dwarf is attracting less attention. Didn't help the dog any, but it was all yipping and rushing around and getting looked at, so had it coming. Looks like all the cousins and colleagues in the next mountain over are all dead. Yeah. Unlikely anyone lived. Their front door is owned by goblins, and I can't imagine anything getting that far being stopped later. Fortunately the goblins were mostly harmless. Tried to make a trap, but typical goblin ingenuity meant it was a trap that hardly worked and was easy to walk out of. The only danger was our own ambition to break their lines, but we decided it weren't worth the trouble. I'm getting this all out of order though. Let's see.

    So, I heard about our doors opening up to admit some travelers, and found out that the human lands nearby were open again. Since that means I can get out of this stodgy old place without being immediately eaten by goblins, I decided to leave. On account of being the third-greatest dwarf wizard to have ever been born, the travelers naturally sought to ally with me in their travels and attain my magical assistance. That talent will surely flourish now that it is no longer restrained by the short-sightedness of my kin and our lack of books on the subject. The travellers had been scouting out the dwarf clanholds, and we made our way to the 'Steels. On our way there, a young dragon* was woken by the band, but seemed satisfied with making off with one of the traveler's pet hounds. She was terribly broken up about it** for some reason, must have been a long time companion or some such. The travelers aren't much good at handling unusual wildlife like that, though, I had to chase it off with my magic since they had no way to harass it or bring it down themselves. Never even scratched the scales.

    What next. Oh, right, the 'Steels. Yeah, they were all dead. Probably all dead. Some hellhounds bit into the travelers, and some goblins shot at them, but I did a number with my drubbin' stick and my magic - again. They seem a mite better at handling direct opposition like the hounds, at least, and were even a bit crafty with the goblins before they decided it wasn't worth the trouble of cracking that nut.***

    Then we wandered off towards the 'Silvers. Saw a hobbo gobbo fort. Stayed away, as that'd have killed us all. 'Silvers are doing fine, turns out. Talked a bit about going back to break the 'Steel's hold and clean it out, but gobbos would just move back in anyways, and folk around here aren't much for risking their necks to lay bones to rest I suppose. Well, the travelers decided to head back to the lowlands, which suits me fine. Looking forward to perusing bookstores in town.

    ---------------DM Notes------------------
    This is journal was actually written by a player and does a fine job of capturing his dwarf's personality. Unfortunately it was the only recap he wrote, so you'll have to settle for my writing for the rest.

    *Actually, it was a wyvern, not a dragon. All the players knew this but Grimmath flubbed his knowledge: arcana check and so did Jozan, so they decided a flying reptile is a dragon.

    **Penn still nurses a grudge against that wyvern three months later for eating her dog and getting away.

    ***The gate to the Redsteel clanhold had some arrow slits and a portcullis blocking the entrance. There were further defenses beyond them but the party never reached them. The party was getting murdered by basic Bestiary goblin archers behind those arrow slits and decided that discretion was the better part of valor. They didn't want to try sneaking in down the chimney either. So, that preparation gets saved for later/another campaign.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Jozan's Journal
    19th. I thank the gods we were not attacked in the night as we retreated from the Redsteel clanhold. Our company had agreed that forcing our way into the ruined clanhold seemed likely to be beyond our abilities and that goblins holding the entrance told us what we need to know: the dwarves of the Redsteel clanhold appear to have been wiped out. Heironeous send that some managed to escape or hide in the mines and that the others met their end with honor, and took many goblins with them in their defeat. Were I a full knight, I wonder how this would comport with my oaths and the Precepts. We of the Dispatch recognize that retreat is sometimes required but it still burns my soul to leave evil unvanquished.*

    *Perhaps if I were a proper PC, I would have stuck up for my convictions and argued to press or resume the attack.

    We began to make our way south across the plain, taking care to avoid exposing ourselves to any hobgoblins that might be patrolling from their fortified encampment. By mid day, we found ourselves on the west side of a steep hill, following a goat path. We eschewed the easy path along the ridge so as not to be silhouetted against the sky and below us, the slope was too steep for our horses. Ahead of us, we found a place without vegetation, where loose rocks and mud made footing treacherous. Penn stole up to the ridge to scout the other side and saw a group of humanoids approaching the hill from the plain. Rather than attempt to hide, Grimmath, came up with a complicated plan to trap the mountainside. Fortunately, it must have been nearly ready to slide or it would never have worked in the time we had. But we underminded some bushes that he judged were holding key rocks in place and gave the ropes to our nameless Pelorite, Gladium, and Hellek who concealed themselves with the horses and the baggage train behind the slope. Marquess, Penn, Grimmath and I concealed ourselves behind boulders and trees near the ridge and waited for the hobgoblin patrol--for that is indeed what it was.

    They must have heard our spadework because they came up the hill away from us and approached us along the flattened ridgetop. There were eleven of them: four had armed themselves with longspears and bucklers, four had longbows in hand, one had a shortbow, one a glaive, and one wielded a staff. All wore red tabards and with the exception of the one carrying the staff, were more heavily armored than the black knife hobgoblins we had previously encountered. When they came into range, Penn, Marquess, and I unleashed a volley, dropping one of them. Grimmath and the staff-bearer traded magic missiles. The bow-armed ones returned fire while the others moved forward into our trap. The one with the shortbow hurled a dagger at us which burst into flame and returned to his hand. Fortunately for us, his magical weapon did not make up for poor aim. When their fire became more effective Penn hid us in an obscuring mist.

    That seemed to help until a line of scorching fire I can only assume came from the staff bearer caught all of us. Grimmath called for the others to spring the trap and most of the hobgoblins tumbled down the hillside (at least one survived somehow for I heard him winding his horn from the bottom of the slope but he was out of the fight). Unfortunately, the line of fire, and the sound of the avalanche we triggered triggered another avalanche, cutting us off from Gladium, Hellek, the horses, and the pack train. The staff-bearer fell down on the gentle side of the slope (the one the hobgoblins had climbed) and Marquess leaped down the slope to smite him, only to have the lightly armored shortbow wielder stab him in the back with the magic dagger. Things got very dicey then and Penn, Grimmath, and I were all ready to fall when we finally took the last two hobgoblins down.

    Penn's magic restored Marquess to consciousness and we set about evaluating our position. Cut off from our companions by the landslides, we urged them to forge ahead and hope to meet up in the Witchwood if we could manage it or at Drellin's Ferry if not. We then evaluated our situation. Most of the rations were on the pack animals, but the five hobgoblins whose bodies had not tumbled down the cliffs had 2 days' rations each. I was nervous about what kind of meat they might eat but I prayed for Heireneous to purify it and it tasted like some kind of beef. Fortunately for my nervous conscience, most of their rations were hard tack anyway. They also had some interesting items. I took a well made composite shortbow with a heavy pull and a chain shirt. Marquess took the magic knife--named Meteor in goblin runes on the blade and a healing potion. Penn took a cloak with a collar of small dragonscales--1 for every color of chromatic dragon. Grimmath took a potion of healing, an arcane scroll, a book written in draconic that seemed to have some kind of unusual spell recorded amidst other writings, and the hobgoblin's staff which seems to be some kind of incomplete or broken tool for empowering fire spells. Grimmath said it would probably break for good if used again, but someone who knew what they were doing got a hold of it, they might be able to use it to make it fully functional.

    We washed our wounds with water that my god provided in response to my prayers, bound them as best we could and continued on, keeping to low ground and hiding. Fortunately we didn't encounter anything that night though the next day we saw another dragon like the one that carried off Penn's dog and nearly killed me in the distance. We were under the cover of trees and it gave no sign of seeing us. The next day, we heard some hobgoblin horns in the distance and saw a group of giants of some kind walking up a hill in the distance. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

    That night, I slept in the captured hobgoblin chain shirt and was glad I did. Penn was on watch when she spotted a giant--whether one of the ones we saw in the day or another we did not know creeping up on our camp. She called upon nature to throw up a mist which served most of us well. Marquess threw the goblin dagger at it, missing and Penn and I engaged it. It nearly crushed Marquess's ribcage with its club and I got a lucky strike in, splitting its skull open. Once again, we bound our wounds and crept on in the morning. We saw a patrol of goblins on wolves riding along the trail and hoped they did not catch the rest of our company. By the time we camped again, Skull Gorge Bridge was in sight.

    In morning, Penn prepared spells to hide our trail going across the bridge. In the distance, we saw a pack of hell-hounds running across the hills on some infernal errand. Fortunately, we were well hidden. As we approached the bridge, we saw buzzards circling in the air and were worried. As we approached the bridge, we saw two torn and mutilated hobgoblin bodies splattered over the stones—and a manticore (healthy this time by all appearances) attempting to hide atop the southeast tower. Having no better plan, we shot at it and discovered that the tailspikes of a healthy manticore are deadlier than our archery skills. One volley dropped Penn in her saddle and grievously injured me. I shot again and retreated around the back of the tower as Grimmath shot magic missiles and attempted to convince the wolf to bring Penn to cover. The wolf just snarled at him.**

    Another volley reduced the wolf and Grimmath to death's door and the creature, now bleeding from many arrow wounds flew down, and offered to let us leave in peace if it kept its "morsels." Marquess and I would not dishonor our god that way and charged out to meet it. It's paws nearly broke my arm***, but between Marquess and myself and Grimmath's magic missile spell, we were able to finish it before it finished us. Once again, we bandaged our wounds and limped to the relative safety of the Witchwood's assassin vines, Black Knife goblins and owlbears.

    It is the night of the 23rd and I pray that we make it back to Drellin's Ferry.

    -------------------------------------------------------------
    DM Notes: I had a few sessions here where attendance got really spotty. The players' plan worked out nicely to remove the PCs whose players weren't there and who hadn't given me character sheets.

    **Failed handle animal check: Grimmath is not very good at charisma skills--heck, his own journal talks back to him.

    ***Everyone except Marquess was either bleeding or one hit from dying here. Things did not look good for the players. They didn't look very good for the manticore either which is why he made the offer.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Day 23 continued. We had slain the guardian and crossed skull gorge bridge but on the other side there was no sign of our companions. Grimmath supposed that they must have been slain by the hobgoblins, but Marquess thought they might have been delayed and we should wait for them. So we Grimmath, Marquess and I set about finding a campsite while Penn went out to gather food.

    We found a secluded vine-covered hollow. Something bothered me about the vines, but I paid it no mind. When we climbed into the hollow, it became apparent what was wrong: we had stumbled into another assassin vine. It wrapped around Grimmath, slammed him into a tree and squeezed him until he stopped moving then turned its attentions to me. Fortunately, Marquess was able to slay it before it squeezed the life out of me. I used the last of my magic to heal Grimmath and he drifted in and out of consciousness all night. We did find a mithral dagger bearing the sigil of some noble house or other and a few coins (7 gold and 24 silver) on a goblin body that was fertilizing the vine.

    The next day passed uneventfully. We saw nothing. Penn and her wolf could not even find game. We decided not to wait any longer but to head back to the ferry. Marquess carved some blazes in a tree to let our companions know that we had left for civilization--some kind of lion guard code. Hellek and Gladium should be able to understand it. I pray that we see them again.

    We passed three days of cautious travel before we came across a disturbing sight: a circle of rune-carved stones flecked with veins of a deep red crystal surrounding a paved area and an altar. From a distance, it looked to have been cleared of overgrowth and Grimmath sneaked forward for a closer look. Upon close inspection, the paving stones were skulls and he recognized the runes of Maglubiyet, god of goblins on the stones. I concentrated and felt the evil of the place. Heironeous must have brought us there that we might cleanse it.

    Grimmath gave me a light hammer and Marquess took his mace in hand as we moved forward cautiously, alert lest goblins lurk nearby or the spirit of the shrine attack us. As we stepped onto the skulls, I felt the oppressive aura of the place. Marquess struck a mighty blow against the altar and it seemed to split open to emit a foul smoke that coalesced into a giant disembodied ball of a head with a mouth full of sharp teeth. Red sparks lit the eyes of the skulls and bony claws burst from the ground as undead rose to defend their creators.

    I did not hesitated but moved forward drawing my axe and struck the creature such a blow that it split in half scattering gems from its gullet onto the cursed ground. Skeletons moved to surround Marquess and me including one in a shining breastplate undimmed by age and weather. Marquess and I fought them bravely scattering their bones as they struggled to rise from the ground and Grimmath invoked a line of fire across three skeletons, burning them to ash. It looks like he learned something from the book we took off the hobgoblins. (I spoke with him later and learned that he had figured out the language and that it seemed not to be a spellbook but rather a draconic copy of a book called "notes on the Pyronomicon" though it did include the one spell. So far, Grimmath has only translated the title and the spell).

    When we had toppled and blessed the altar, Grimmath eagerly looked upon the gems and recognized them as soul gems, holding the trapped souls of sacrifices. Though he said it pained him, he suggested we destroy them. We also figured that the breastplate was magic and Marquess suggested I take it.
    Three days later, we spotted a pack of black knife goblin wolfriders. Penn wanted to attack them, but Marquess and I restrained her—the valorous knight is not keen on suicide and there was no need for us, outnumbered as we were, to attack if we were not spotted. I don't think she tried too hard at hunting that night—we had to make do with dry rations.

    The next day we saw a half dozen figures that looked like seven foot tall, white-furred goblins bearing greataxes moving along the road. Grimmath said they were from a tribe of bugbears called the blood ghosts and that they dye their fur white when they go out to war. We hid behind a ridge and a thick patch of cattails and let them go by.

    At the end of the 28th day of our expedition (the 16th of the month), we found an ancient oak tree in a peaceful meadow. Penn thought it might be a dryad tree and Grimmath and Marquess bowed politely though Grimmath muttered about unicorn magic as he did so. A woman clad in a shift of green leaves stepped out of the tree and spoke with us. She told us of a spot we could pass a nearby stream and of several goblin bands that she had seen in the woods around us. They have cleared the shrines they set up to celebrate the invasion and begun sacrificing again.

    Four days, and several avoided stirge nests (Grimmath mumbled something about killing them all with fire magic when he mastered the spells) later, we crossed the ferry and stumbled into town. We went straight to the smithy to sell some of our arms and armor and Grimmath recognized the smith, Morlin Coalhewer as a distant cousin. As we were doing business, letting Morlin know who had survived, and discussing why he did not make outdated armors like splint*, one of Baron Wiston's men at arms arrived to invite us to meet the baron.

    We briefly stopped by the outfitters' shop and purchased new clothes before heading to the baron's. Baron Wiston greeted us in fashionable clothing with a sword at his side. We showed him the maps we had made and discussed the goblins. Grimmath supposed that the black knives had been driven from their lands by a stronger hobgoblin tribe that was probably uniting the goblins of the mountains and that the blood ghosts were probably allied with that hobgoblin tribe. He was a little perturbed at the news of the dryad too. He sees the Witchwood timber as a source of prosperity for his people and hopes that it does not lead to conflict with any dryads though the one we encountered is still far from his operations.

    In gratitude for our service and for the maps and intelligence, he offered us the pick of his stables even including his own steed or armor. Grimmath and I selected fine heavy warhorses, and Marquess took him up on the offer and selected the baron's half-plate as his reward. (The baron thought his gold better spent on outfitting his men than on buying himself fullplate). Thereafter, his servants drew baths for us and we dined with him.

    Penn stayed on with the baron to discuss some aspect of her estate—I guess she is a baronet or something though I would not have guessed it, but Marquess wanted to travel to Bova and speak with his brother so Grimmath and I accompanied him in the morning after he bought a horse from Delros Zann at the livery stable. Hopefully, Penn will catch up to us on the way.

    The afternoon of the next day—the 22nd—we found ourselves waiting for a herd of cattle to cross a bridge over one of the Elsir's tributary streams while talking with the head herdsman. It seems that the Count has supported some priestess to open a temple in the town and somehow or other that led to cleaning up some of the town's corruption. The herdsman wasn't terribly clear on how that worked, but apparently some member of the regency council or other has been found to be working with the bandits that plague this area and is being sent to Bova for trial. I must admit I was somewhat distracted by a speck that appeared over a large hill and rapidly descended until its full 20 foot wingspan was evident. A three-headed monstrousity (Grimmath called it a Chimera; I must study some of these things with him soon) landed on a cow at the bridge's apex, crushing its spine and then ripping it in half between the lion and the dragon heads. I let my arrow fall back in my quiver and tried to jump my horse over a dry-stone wall to escape the cattle which had begun stampeding towards us. Grimmath attempted to jump the wall away but his horses shied away and he lost his seat. Marquess valiantly maneuvered his horse between where Grimmath fell and the oncoming herd, but as the stampeding cattle buffeted his horse, he was thrown as well. The cattle trampled us, even battering me upon my horse and I pulled Grimmath up from under their hooves. He started to cast a spell at the beast, then thought better of it and we followed the cattle to a safe distance away.

    It was dusk by the time the beast left and we were able to make it to Terrelton.

    ------------------------DM Notes---------------------------
    *Pathfinder (and D&D) have a lot of inefficient armor types that don't have any obvious niche. Chain shirts are the best core light armor, breastplates are the best medium armor, and fullplate is the best heavy armor. (Special materials change this a little but you're still looking at mithral chain shirts, mithral breastplates, and mithral or adamantine fullplate). Scale armor is cheap which gives it a good niche for outfitting men at arms and low level characters. Chain mail is only marginally worse than a breastplate (armor check penalty and max dex) so there are a lot of times that the cost advantage might make it a decent choice. Banded mail has a good niche as the best armor short of fullplate for anyone with a +1 or better dex bonus and since it's 1250 gp cheaper than fullplate, that's a pretty good niche. Halfplate is really only worthwhile if you have heavy armor proficiency, no dex bonus (or are a fighter 3+ with a low dex bonus), and don't want to spend the extra 700gp. I rationalize the existence of armors like splint, non-agile breastplates, etc by saying that they are outdated armors--they still exist and may be sold or passed down from one person to another but if you go to Morlin Coalhewers shop and ask if he has a suit of splint armor, he'll say, "No. Why on earth would you want an outdated design like that. Why don't we fit you for some banded armor instead. It's better in every way." Ask him for a breastplate and he'll show you an agile breastplate and say, "you see these joints here? I've managed to improve the traditional design to make it easier to move in. Nobody who's tried these modern breastplates wants to go back to the old designs."

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Meanwhile, back in Drellin's Ferry

    **The Baron**
    Baron Norro Wiston was thinking. That morning, he had dispatched Soren with six of his men at arms and ten militia to patrol the witchwood to a day's march from the lumber camp. His manservant cleared his plate as his halfling vassal, Penelope listened. "Like I told your friends, I shall immediately refresh the assize of arms. Everyone able to bear arms must be ready to serve.
    "I think I shall double the drill obligation as well. Everyone able to bear arms must join the drill in the town square twice per month now as well as drilling under the tutelage of their lords. We must be ready to meet these goblins when the time comes."

    Penelope put down her buttered roll. "What about the damage the foul beasts do to the woodland while we train? Should we not venture out and exterminate them?"

    The baron looked thoughtful for a moment. "I think not. If we're lucky, these new hobgoblins you speak of may do that for us. But if not, I can hardly take the whole muster into the witchwood and hope to find many of the scattered bands of goblins your dryad spoke of. We'd lose men and horses to assassin vines and bogs and wouldn't find anything or would wander into an ambush. No, I swore an oath to protect my people and my land--I cannot squander their lives to chase goblins through the forest. But if the goblins mass, we will know about it and we will be ready to meet them."

    "Do you want me to stay and help with patrols my liege? Or should I continue on with my companions" the halfling asked eagerly.

    "I ask only that you ensure your tenants are ready to meet their obligations and that you join the battle, should I muster the warhost. Otherwise, you may do as you wish--but traveling with Marquess and Jozan seems to be doing you good."
    At that moment, the sensechal entered the chamber again. "My lord, master Coalhewer is here to speak with you about your new armor," he said with a bow.

    "Excellent. If you will excuse me, Penelope."

    **The veteran**
    Olaf One-Eye was nervous. First the hippogriffs, now this. Three nights and three sheep were gone. The dogs that were supposed to guard the sheepfold were whimpering in their kennels--on the opposite side of the sheepfold from where the wall had been breached. The pawprints where the creature had leaped the drystone wall were baked into the ground, the scorched grass untouched by the morning's dew.

    "I'm telling you Olga, this is no normal beast. If the lady isn't back soon, we'll have to look to our own protection. Lay in wait for it--or maybe even hire someone to track it for our dogs cannot abide its scent--Percy if he's back in town or Jorr Natharson if he's not."

    "And what would we pay him with?" the withered crone responded. "The lady left no gold for this and you pay your rent in produce. If Percy wanted sheep, he wouldn't have sold his flock."

    "Whatever we do, we need to do something," said Harold. A thin bead of mead glistened at the end of his moustache. "We'll have neither wool nor mutton for market if this keeps up."

    Just then, a well dressed halfling on a lean grey wolf rode between the the hedges bordering the patch of grass that passed for a square.

    "Lady Penelope!" exclaimed Olga. Quickly, her tenants laid their problem before her.

    "A hellhound!" said Penelope confidently as she saw the scorched grass and baked clay soil where the creature had leapt the sheepfold wall. "Gather your fellows and arm yourselves; I will track it and then we shall hunt." Her wolf sprang into a run and they quickly vanished from sight.

    Olaf returned to his house, called his son from his field and buckled on his armor. It was tighter around the waist than it had been when he marched with the army of liberation from Keoland and there were tarnished spots between the scales, but it would still protect him. His son Edward carried two long spears, large round wooden shields with faded paint, and their axes into the main hall. "Today we hunt dangerous game Edward. Though you see the demons of hell, stand your ground and stab them with your spear--or your axe if they get within reach. Aye. If you stand your ground, you may die or be injured. But if you flee, the demons will hunt us all down. And even if you escape death, you will forever be a coward."

    Olaf examined the buckles on his son's brass studded sheepskin gambeson. "That'll do, boy." He smiled. "You'll be ready for some new armor soon. Next time we drill, you take mine to help get used to the weight."

    It wasn't long before they all stood before the sheepfold. Olaf one-eye and Edward. Theodric of Abbotsford and his son Hrolf--they at least had kept their kit in good condition. The same could not be said for Harold. His armor was stained with beer and he had no spear--just an old wood-axe with a splintering handle. Olaf suspected the sack at his belt held simple rocks rather than lead bullets for his sling. There was good reason the assize required proper bullets. But the lady or the baron would have to deal with him. For now, he was there and Olaf hoped it would be enough.

    Soon, the lady returned. She had found the beast's lair a short mile away in a small stand of trees near the foothills. She bade the men arraign themselves with crossbows and slings while she lured the creature out of its den. Olaf loaded his crossbow and squinted through his one eye. A blinding burst of flame enveloped Lady penelope and a huge, ruddy hound with flames for eyes and trailing smoke from its mouth leaped out of its den and bit at her. She retreated towards the militia, leaving a trail of crimson--and a snarling hellhound in her wake.

    Slings snapped and crossbow bolts whizzed toward the beast. Someone--maybe Hrolf, lined its scalp with a bolt that drew blood. Olaf grasped for his spear, but the beast was upon him before he could lift it, so he drew an axe from his belt instead. "Invincible Knight, guide my arm!" he cried. The beast snapped at him, but its teeth skittered off the scales of his armor. Edward--good boy!--circled around behind the creature and jammed his spear into its haunches, followed quickly by Theodric and Hrolf who were just a bit slower. Even Harold stepped forward and swung his axe.

    A note of desperation crept into the creature's howl. It sprung at Harold, tearing at his neck and the flames of the creature's breath seared his face in a stench of burning beard. Olaf struck again and the lady grazed it with her lance. Olaf saw his Theodric and Hrolf go white but Edward grimly thrust his spear at the creature, creating an opening for his neighbors.
    Bleeding from many wounds and its tail dragging on the ground, the foul creature fled. "I'll try to help Harold--kill it!" he called and dropped to his knees, desperately trying to stop the bleeding. A few seconds later, the fleeing creature fell under Penelope's lance and the lady used her magic to close Harold's wounds and enable him to stand groggily on his feet. "My boys and I will help with your fields until you're better" Olaf promised. He hated the thought of helping the lazy wretch but it was the right thing to do.

    **The craftsman**
    The next day, a somewhat bedraggled lady Penelope walked into his workshop in Terrelton. Master Pierre--sometime of Rel Mord--looked up from the saddle he was tooling with an intricate pattern of knots.

    "Barding for a dog? It's been a while since I did any of that, but I made some for the Count's dogs in Bova."

    "Wolf," the halfling corrected him.

    "A well trained one then. I'll have to take his measurements. You said you want this made suitable for enchantment and that you will provide the hide?"

    "Yes," she said. "The hide of a hellhound. I will have it sent to you; have you worked with such materials before?"

    "I have not, but I did some work in hippogriff hide last month. Once they're dead, and the tanned, the hide of one beast is much like another except for its thickness. Do you have anyone in mind to work the enchantments?" Pierre pulled out his ledger and started a new entry.

    "No; is there someone you would recommend? That's Penelope with an "e." Baronet in the service of Baron Wiston of Drellin's Ferry."

    "Ahh. Well, Canoness Leille has the power but I've not heard of her taking on such projects. There's Sertieren the wise in Drellin's Ferry who does enchantments and such. Or you might look up Immerstal the Red in Bova, but it might have to be a bigger job to attract his attention." He completed the entry: 40 weight of gold now with another 110 Keoish lions due upon delivery, and graciously assisted Penelope as she climbed the bench to reach the table and pressed her signet ring onto the page. "Thank you and I'll look forward to your project. My apprentice will take your do---your wolf's measurements."

    -------------------------------------DM Notes------------------------------
    *The last of the spotty attendance sessions. This time, Penn's player was the only one to show up. She had been separated from the rest of the group in the last session (because her player missed the session), so it gave us an opportunity to let her catch up. Since Jozan was not present, I couldn't write the session down as Jozan's journal so I adopted a different narrative style for this installment. If Jozan acquires a player in the next month (there's a new player joining the game and I offered him the option to create his own character or take over Jozan), I may have to adopt this style more often.

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

    Join Date
    Feb 2015

    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    Jozan's Journal.

    Flocktime 23rd. Penn arrived late last night and had business with the leatherworker's guild in the morning. Grimmath said he had a splitting headache. This morning was the feast of Stern Alia, so Marquess and I went to the local shrine to pay our respects. Most of our faith's shrines are small, but Terrelton's is sadly neglected. it is a simple altar at the end of the town square before an open air icon of the Invincible and Valorous Knight, covered in faded paint. We prayed and practiced our forms.

    When we returned to the inn, we found that the sightless oracle of the sun and Hellek had made to Terrelton. Their escape made a harrowing tale; they seemed to have lost all the spare animals but the ones they rode in on, and had last seen Gladium surrounded by wolfriders and frothing in rage. It seems unlikely that he survived, but if he died, it seems he died well. May the Invincible and Valorous Knight send his angels to carry our erstwhile companion to his reward.

    While we reminisced, a boy in a dirty robe came to our table and asked us to attend the canoness. Marquess and I conferred briefly. Canoness is a Cutherbertine title, and I reassured Marquess that Saint Cuthbert is an ally of Heironeous—though his teachings are for commoners rather than rulers and soldiers. So we agreed to meet here and walked across the square to a tavern next to the baron’s hall.

    The Canoness is a slight woman. She wore a simple robe and a ring with the Count’s seal and tied her greying hair back with a leather strap. Her proposals were twofold: Sir Reginald Gelb, the treacherous member of the regency council who was just captured has a house in town but she ran into several traps in her search—if we had anyone skilled in disarming such things, she wished to employ us for that. Also, she had seen a vision indicating foulness arising under Valandil’s Mill—a ruined town to the north of the river—and wanted us to check it out if we were willing. After some discussion, we agreed to both tasks. It is fortunate that Hellek survived our escape from the hobgoblins, otherwise we might not have had anyone able to assist her in the first task.

    The townhouse was littered with deadly traps and Hellek set the first one off and was severely injured several times before he finally managed to disable it. It seemed everything in the townhouse was trapped, fortunately, Hellek knocked the rust off his skills as the afternoon progressed and when we reached the traitor knight’s study, he disabled several traps on the desk and, after Canoness Leille temporarily dispelled a powerful magical ward on a painting, he was able to disable it. The painting—a scene of primitive bandits overwhelming a group of knights was disturbing, but the what happened as Hellek disabled it was more disturbing. The frame began to bleed as he disabled its warding runes and when he was finally able to pull it from the wall, we could see the bones of a child and his mother—no doubt slain in some vile ritual to power the magic—had been worked into the frame. The canoness will bury them and I pray that their spirits will now be able to find peace.

    With the painting disabled, we were able to pass through a door into a lightless secret room. It contained an altar to the Many (Erythnul, Lord of slaughter) and the accouterments of his foul worship. Leille consecrated the area and Marquess and I destroyed the physical altar. Searching around we found records and letters going back decades—more than enough to justify Sir Reginald’s execution, even if he had not been betraying his oaths and working with bandits. (Though I now wonder if the Crimson Tigers are just brigands or if they are something more). Two things stood out to us as we glanced over them. One was a reference from two years before the war—Sir Reginald’s father had sent two victims to Valandil’s Mill “for the cauldron of souls.” I had not heard of such a thing—perhaps an item or perhaps some kind of ritual—but finding a reference to Valandil’s Mill the day after St Cuthbert sent a vision to his priestess warning of that place cannot be a coincidence.

    The second was a recent exchange with another cult member—this one in Drellin’s Ferry. The exchange gave no clue as to his identity save that he had disguised his kills as goblin work—the goblins kill enough that it’s easy to add a few more and let them take the blame.

    After that, it was back in the saddle. We ferried the horses across the river one at a time—once we had to wait as a large raft of Witchwood timber floated down the river and set out through the ruins and wilderness to find Valandil’s Mill.

    Flocktime 24. Our experience navigating the wilds of the Witchwood and the Crystalmist foothills served us in good stead and we reached it around noon. Valandil’s Mill must have been the site of a desperate last stand in the war because we saw nothing but shattered and burned buildings. Looking around, we saw a new saddle lying near the ruined mill and a small dustcloud in the distance as though a group of riders from the northeast were heading towards it as well.

    Looking near the saddle, we saw the tracks of a horse and a large dog or wolf go to the edge of the mill. There the horse tracks vanished, replaced by a set of human tracks that led to a trapdoor in the floor. Penn sent Butterfly to keep an eye on the approaching riders and we climbed down the tunnel. Beneath the floor was a short passageway with chains hanging from the ceiling and impaled skulls dangling from the chains or fallen off and shattered on the floor below. As we walked forward, bone shards crunched under our feet. Hellek searched the stone door for traps and, satisfying himself that it was not trapped, opened it.

    Beyond, we saw a largish vaulted chamber with an altar to the many and a huge black cauldron filled with the ghosts of its victims, dancing light blue flames within its bowl. Beyond, there was another chamber. A thaumatergic pentacle with candles at each point surrounded a distinguished man with a ceremonial gorget hanging from his neck. He turned as we entered the chamber and said, “greetings” to us, and then, as though to another person we could not see, “it appears you have competitors—the price of my assistance has just gone up.” We started to move forward and suspecting any being bound in a magic circle of being more than he seems, I focused my will to detect evil. All hell broke loose.

    A woman appeared and shouted, “stay back, you fools, you’ll ruin everything!” as she cast a spell at Hellek who was in the lead. His face went white but he stood his ground. I staggered against the wall and dropped my bow as the evil auras of the cauldron and creature overwhelmed my mind. Never have I felt such a malevolent presence, though Master Caedmon had told me of such things. “Whatever you do, don’t touch the circle!” I cried out. A huge wolf with flaming eyes also appeared from nowhere and tore at Hellek’s calf, knocking him to the ground. The Sightless oracle dodged as he ran past it and Marquess followed his lead though the wolf’s jaws crumpled his armor and bruised him as he did so. Recovering, I maneuvered to engage the wolf and help Hellek.

    The woman conjured a cloud of glittering dust but Marquess and Sightless moved on anyway and Marquess knocked her to the ground. She conjured a cloud of noxious fog to no avail. Her magic warded her for a while but it was as though the gods protected us—nothing she tried to do to us worked. Finally, she fell beneath Sightless’s sword and Marquess’ glaive and did not rise, right as my axe finally split the skull of her familiar.

    The creature in the circle offered us whatever we wished if we would free it. Marquess countered by asking whom he served, and the creature claimed to serve Heironeous. He was a smooth liar and I would have believed him were he not an overwhelmingly evil presence trapped in a magic circle against chaos. Armed with this knowledge, we resisted his blandishments. When I was able to explain to my companions that his aura meant that he was either an evil high priest or a greater demon or devil—at least as powerful as what Master Caedmon called “Type three”, we quickly agreed that we could not deal with him. I knew that the magic circle might hold him for as much as a week—barely enough time to reach Bova and alert the Count and for Tredora Goldenbrow or Immerstal the Red to deal with it, if such were even within their power.

    We quickly searched the woman, finding a book of research notes that, when we later read it, identified her as Maeve, an apprentice of Argathos, Count Tondhere’s pet arcanist as well as two expended scrolls: one of a planar binding spell and another of dimensional anchor. Overturning the cauldron did nothing to free the spirits within—they simply continued to writhe in a ball, unable to pass more than an inch or so from the cauldron’s mouth. Not wishing to leave it there, we rigged ropes and dragged it up the ladder.

    Penn was rigging a cradle for the cauldron to hold it between two horses when Butterfly rushed back. The troop of men was nearly upon us and we could see the banner of the Ebon Hawks floating above them. They rode in with bows in hand (well, except for two who carried glaives) and one climbed a ruined building that overlooked the square and prepared his arrows. They demanded that we hand over the apprentice, the scrolls, and the cauldron she had stolen—though I think they added the last item because they saw us preparing to haul it away. Needless to say, they had no right even to travel the lands of Count Bova, runaway apprentice or stolen items or no, so we defied them to their face. The battle was short and violent. I called Heironeous’ blessings upon us and their standardbearer shouted his inpiration. The archer feathered Sightless and their second glaiveman struck him a mighty blow, tearing through his armor and dropping him bleeding to the ground. Marquess moved forward and struck a perfect blow below their glaiveman’s helmet but above his gorget and cut his head off with a single stroke. Still, we were hard pressed. The archer grievously wounded Marquess and their standardbearer conjured grease below Marquess’ horse causing it to slip and nearly trapping Marquess beneath its weight, then stuck Sightless to the earth with bag of rapidly hardening goo. The other men, drew their wave-bladed greatswords and fought bravely, but though it was a close run thing, we slew them to a man. The archer, seeing his comrades defeated, leapt from the building onto the back of his waiting horse and left us in a cloud of dust.

    After licking our wounds, we sent Penn to ride ahead as far and as fast as her wolf could take her and followed more slowly, carrying the cauldron with us.

    Flocktime 25. When we finally arrived in Terrelton we learned that Penn roused the Canoness near midnight and, with some difficulty—perhaps we should have sent someone who actually knows something about magic and planar beings—communicated the threat to Leille who immediately dispatched a rider to Bova. We arrived the next day. The cauldron is beyond Leille’s power, so we decided to keep it with us in Terrelton in the hope that Tredora Goldenbrow or Immerstal the Red will come in response to the Canoness' message and will be able to deal with it. (Though the Canoness worries that Immerstal might not be entirely trustworthy with such an artifact.)

    -----------------------DM Notes---------------------------
    The wizard was supposed to stay invisible and summon a few monsters before supporting them with spells. But it seemed like Hellek was heading for the summoning circle to do who knows what--possibly attack the demon inside it--which would have been disastrous. So, she panicked and hit him with a spell instead. Now, it might have still worked out for her, but the party consistently made their saves against her spells (except for the oracle who was blinded for a few rounds by her glitterdust). So, that fight was easier than I had planned.

    The second battle with the Ebon Hawks was a lot tougher. I don't think there's a way the PCs would have made it out without at least one fatality if Marquess hadn't dropped their toughest fighter with the lucky round 1 crit. It was still a pretty close battle and could have gone the other way if the Ebon Hawk archer had not had his dice turn cold on him.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    Flocktime 26 In the morning, Jonas Tressmon—Marquess’ older brother—and Percival arrived with two lances of the lion guard to escort Sir Reginald to Bova for his trial. I think the others took some time to transact some business—at least Penn went to the leatherworker’s district to deal with something about hellhound barding. But as soon as we could, we were off. One day’s hard ride took us to Nimon gap where we spent the night at the Cross-Eyed Wyvern because the walled inn is much closer to the road than the baron’s manor. The apple orchards and vineyards on the sunny slope of the hill leading down to the river were pretty and I enjoyed a horn of mead while watching the sun set over the Crystalmists. We kept a close watch on Sir Reginald in his wagon, standing ready to clout him should he wriggle free of his gag and attempt a spell.

    Flocktime 27. Having seen skull gorge bridge now, the bridge at Nimon Gap doesn’t seem nearly as impressive as it did the first time I saw it. Still we beheld a welcome sight at the other side of the bridge. The lady Tredora Goldenbrow, Immerstal the Red, Baron Trask of Elsircross, Gareth (the captain of the Lions), and at least a half-dozen of other the Lions all kitted out for battle greeted us but did not tarry long, save to speak with us about what we had seen beneath the ruin of Valandil’s Mill. Immerstal looked grim upon hearing our description and having learned what they could, they hastened on their way, seeking to confront the demon before he could break free of his imprisonment. In their train, I saw the seals of the temple archives--I pray whatever relics they have brought with them are enough to best the demon.

    Our way wound along beside the river for most of the day before we turned east to Talar where we spent the evening as guests of the lady Celeria Nestin. That night we feasted but I took care not to drink too much lest I be lax in my watch over our prisoner and I saw the Jonas and Percival do likewise.

    Flocktime 28 Bova is still an impressive sight. We arrived mid-afternoon and though I know that it is provincial compared to even Istivin, let alone the great cities of Keoland or Greyhawk etc, its thick, frowning walls are still as strong as anything I can imagine. It certainly dwarfs Kalibac where I grew up. Perhaps someday I shall see those other cities. The guard announced our arrival to the duke; Jonas told us that we would have an audience tomorrow. I went to the shrine of the Valorous Knight and made my devotions then bought a new tabard and hose for the occasion. I later heard that Marquess had spent his time trying to find a magician to enchant his glaive. As we knew, Immerstal was traveling, but he found another magician, Lars Kraki, a wiry northman who often does such work. (Marquess said he learned that, unless he wants to go back to Drellin’s ferry, Strake Terrac, Kalibac, or Istivin, Lars and Immerstal are the only men in town who do such work). However Lars did not seem so hard up for work that he was willing to start the process on the promise of payment with no security. Gold on the touchstone, he said and Marquess departed bitterly.

    Wealsun 1 Bova. Our audience with the Count Bova went well. We described our journey and what we had seen. The Count was impressed and worried about some aspects—particularly the incursion of the Ebon Hawks in Valandil’s Mill which he speculated might have been a deliberate provocation designed to provide an excuse for armed conflict between Count Tondhere and his realm. He offered us all positions as his clandestine agents or as Lions of Bova. I was honored by the offer but my previous commitment to Hillwatch Keep kept me from accepting. Marquess did accept and went drinking with his brother and the other lions there to celebrate until they couldn’t walk straight.

    Wealsun 2 Bova. The count asked Marquess to escort the young Baron Eldon Corromat of Witchcross back to his home. He had come to Bova to give his oath to the count for his father had died mysteriously earlier in the week. He was accompanied by only one retainer, a longbearded man named Darren who appeared to have been a tutor, advisor, or reeve. Marquess retained our services for the Count who had also given him another mission to investigate mysterious doings at Witchcross and the disappearance of Accalon, one of the Lions who had been sent to investigate last week.

    Wealsun 3 The next morning, we departed for Talar. The young Baron seemed like an agreeable if excitable and callow youth. He wanted to hear of all our adventures as we rode the Dawn way. At Talar, we again stayed with the lady Nestin. The young Corromat was clearly taken with her but I could tell that she had her sights set higher.

    Wealsun 4 Before midday, we left the Dawn Way and turned north towards Witchcross and Strake Terrace. The road was flatter and less hilly and the grass grew thick along the sides of the road, trailing off into marshes and bogs to the west. We got the story of how his father had awoke one morning unable to move and had passed away after laying insensible and paralyzed for several days, but at one point, he did mumble, “that woman” and had claw marks on his chest as though from a hand. Before that, he and his father and a couple of their men at arms had fought fiendish crocodile—one of “Old Pete’s” get, he said. Apparently Old Pete is some kind of giant fiendish crocodile who crawled out of hell in the wake of the archlich’s ascension or something. Supposedly he lives in the river and occasionally eats people who venture too near to his lair.

    That night, Corromat sent Darren to find the Circle of Eth and we looked through the hall but found nothing beyond what one might expect in the hall of a lesser baron. If there is subterfuge at work here, it does not seem to be in Baron Corromat's house.

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Feb 2015

    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    Wealsun 5 In the morning, most of us—Grimmath claimed to be nursing a hangover from last night’s mead and sat in the corner, drooling over Maeve’s spellbook—set out with the baron to see where he and his father had fought the crocodile. It looked about like you would expect. The ground was still torn from the horses hooves and the death throes of the crocodile but there were no lingering traces of evil or magic—indeed, I would have been most surprised had there been any traces left.

    We decided to investigate the town to see if we could find where Accalon had gone before his disappearance. Once there, we found a group of villagers berating an old potter, trying to find where her daughter—who they supposed to be a witch—was hiding. Upon our arrival, they departed, saying, “fine, we’ll start looking at the kiln then.” I followed for a moment and was able to convince them to leave it to us as we were agents of the Count sent to investigate these troubles—if the witch had overcome a Lion of Bova with all his skill and armor, how could they hope to overcome where the Lion had failed. And if the Lion had not failed, what did they think he would have left undone? With such words I made them realize the peril they might stumble into and they departed chastened, but not before they told me some of what made them suspect the girl.

    Meanwhile, Marquess and the group spoke with the woman. Her adopted daughter Autumn was the villagers’ target but the woman claimed not to know where she was. I doubted her word but didn’t want to threaten the woman quite yet. In the loft where Autumn slept, we found a small wicker doll, some cat fur, and a few charcoal drawings—one of a young man and the other looked like driftwood at first but we recognized it as the remains of a charred riverboat with the name, “Rann” scrawled in corner. (Ten years ago, Baron Trask and some of the Lions had burned a young woman suspected of being a witch alive in her riverboat—a grisly association). According to the potter, Autumn had been the daughter of thief who lived in the swamp. When he was finally caught and hanged, she took the girl in but did not know who her true mother was. Autumn had recently begun spouting nonsense words from time to time and light flared at her fingertips. So much sounds like a sorceress—or a witch—developing powers, but the boys’ tale was darker. Their leader had told how he awoke in the middle of the night and found her astride him but then she touched him with a clawed hand that drew blood and sapped his strength. When he screamed, she fled. Others told of dead livestock and seeing her with the blood of a slain lamb dripping from her lips.

    Not willing to draw any conclusions yet or try to intimidate the potter, we asked around and found that Accalon had set out into the swamp heading for the kiln. We followed.

    On our way, we passed the hanging tree where some children were playing some kind of tag, singing,

    O’er field and marsh, o’er hill and stream,
    See the old witch run, chasin’ after me.
    She’s the bride of the marsh by the gallows tree.
    Maid, pay me a lamb, and you won’t see me.
    She’s faster than the wind and quicker than death
    If she catches your scent, she’ll steal your breath
    You can’t outrun her or your end,
    All you can do is outrun your friend!

    We asked them about it and learned of an old witch named Lonni Longshanks who lives in the swamp south of Lake Rhest. Apparently, the local women offer her a lamb before their wedding or she takes them away and eats them. A horrific legend, but a worse moral—better to teach the precept of bravery than such cowardice. The brave man dies once but the coward dies a thousand deaths. Still I did not berate them. Perhaps I or another servant of the valorous knight shall return here someday and teach them a better way.

    When we reached the hillock where the kiln lies, we saw two giant, misshapen creatures wearing coats and caps stitched together from smaller folks leathers and carrying tree trunks for clubs. “What have we ‘ere then Muc?” said one.

    “I don’t know, brother” replied the other. “Maybe we tastes ‘em and finds out.”

    And with that, we came together in battle. One smote Penn and chased her around the battlefield screaming he would make jelly of her. The other struck and Marquess and our nameless oracle. I moved up and aided them with my axe and though Marquess, Penn, and the oracle were sorely wounded we prevailed and called upon the gods for our healing.

    The kiln was a small bricked tunnel leading to a large chamber under the hill where dozens of pots or tiles could be fired at once. It was cool and the soot seemed to have been swept out but we found a shawl and a few rough parchments with charcoal drawings—one showed a sympathetic looking old warty woman holding a pearl attached to a fine necklace and another showed a beautiful but sad looking girl holding a cat. Outside we found tracks. The ogres and a number of wolves had come here and then the wolves left with a light, booted figure we took to be the girl.

    The tracks were old, but we learned a lot on our journey to the dwarf holds and were able to follow them without problem, even when they entered the swamp and began to be criss-crossed with the tracks of other animals at an unnatural rate. Penn saw some sticks and stones arranged in the language of the druids, warning such people to stay away and not interfere by the rights of the old rituals. Shortly thereafter, we saw a large stone tower that seemed to be sinking into the swamp—perhaps it is a relic of ages past before this plain flooded. Penn found tracks of large booted feet coming in and out.

    We approached a makeshift wooden door bolted over the entrance from what looked to have once been a balcony. Taking positions, Marquess shoved the door open, revealing a pair of ogres sheltering behind piles of broken crates and barrels and holding javalins ready. We unleashed our wrath. I caught one in the eye with an arrow. Though it didn’t penetrate to the brain, it was a grievous wound. Grimmath unleashed his magic on the other and Hellek threw his dagger which exploded into flames as it struck the creature and burned him to a crisp. The oracle waded through the stench and traded blows with the wounded ogre but when Marquess strode forward to help him, he crashed through a weak point in the floor and landed with a splash below. A dozen skeletons—perhaps former denizens of the tower stirred to malicious unlife—surrounded and clawed at him. Grimmath moved forward and conjured a lash of fire that obliterated four of them as I struck the ogre down and Hellek lit a torch to illuminate Marquess’ struggle in the depths below and Penn summoned an elemental then leaped down to aid him. It was quickly over and we climbed to the next floor.

    As we rounded the wide staircase, we came face to face with a pair of snarling wolves. We moved forward to strike them down and a wolf the size of a horse came out and savaged the oracle while a warty, green-skinned woman in a dirty shift climbed around the wall like a spider and invoked a chill that left Marquess and my armor cold to the touch. I called on the last of my magics to heal the oracle and Marquess struck down the giant wolf as our skin began to stick to our armor. Penn and the hag traded sling bullet for firebolt and another figure came around the corner. Her frame and hands suggested a young woman but she wore a veil. When she pulled it back, her face looked like a waxen carving melted and left to run. I struggled to fight against the horror but Penn and her wolf turned green and began heaving their meagre lunch onto the floor. The vomit was soon joined by our blood By the twelve and the seven, I would not have imagined that a hag could have such strength. Her nails were like iron claws and she tore through Marquess’ armor plate like cloth. Her skin was tough as oak bark and many times my axe or the oracle’s sword were turned aside. We fought though Grimmath exhausted his spells and my flesh tore off as it froze to the inside of my breastplate. Finally, the oracle managed a telling blow before nearly collapsing in exhaustion as the rage left him and I took advantage of her injury to strike her down. The younger hag fought on but to no avail. She fell to the oracle’s sword.

    After we struck them down, I was able to dig a scroll out of my pack and restore Marquess to consciousness. We searched the area and examined a variety of flasks and potions and a magic necklace worn by the young woman. Most we identified but the flask and the pearl necklace were mysteries. I jokingly said, “I guess we won’t be able to figure this out unless we use more powerful magic or try it on.” Grimmath promptly put it on—his face turned a shade towards green and hairy warts sprouted from his nose immediately. I could tell from his face that he felt sick as well. He took it off but felt no better.

    Wealsun 6 In the morning we were all conscious again—even Penn’s wolf survived the horrific mauling he took at the hands of the hag and I called on Heironeous to restore some of Grimmath’s strength.

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    EvilClericGuy

    Join Date
    Aug 2010

    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    Let me note first that I love this campaign journal and I love Red Hand of Doom.

    Quote Originally Posted by Elder_Basilisk View Post
    ...The lady Tredora Goldenbrow, Immerstal the Red, Baron Trask of Elsircross, Gareth (the captain of the Lions), and at least a half-dozen of other the Lions all kitted out for battle greeted us but did not tarry long, save to speak with us about what we had seen beneath the ruin of Valandil’s Mill. Immerstal looked grim upon hearing our description and having learned what they could, they hastened on their way, seeking to confront the demon before he could break free of his imprisonment. In their train, I saw the seals of the temple archives--I pray whatever relics they have brought with them are enough to best the demon...
    But I wanted to comment on this specifically. *This* is how you use high-level NPCs. Too many people complain about high-level characters stealing the PCs spotlight. But characters are part living world, and sometimes they need to call in bigger guns. This is well done.

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

    Join Date
    Feb 2015

    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    Thank you for the kind words Thorr-Kann! It's nice to know people are reading and appreciating this log. I'm almost caught up to where we are in game (just had the first actual encounter of Red Hand of Doom) so updates will be a little less frequent once I get caught up. Also, Grimmath's player had to leave the game and we're having another player join who will probably assume Jozan's role. So, I may end up taking Grimmath's voice in the journals once that happens. (Since he was lower level and Marquess is planning to take leadership, he's going to stay on with the party as an NPC until he is formally adopted as Marquess' cohort). But, back to the story:

    ------------------------Jozan's journal-------------------------------

    Wealsun 6 continued. We divided the spoils among ourselves and returned to Witchcross. After some discussion, we decided to destroy the hag’s pearl but kept the gold chain since the evil had faded and it was well-made and beautiful. Grimmath rode as though in a daze and once fell out of his saddle and nearly drowned in the bog before he realized what was happening. When we reached Witchcross, it was late afternoon and patches of his beard were already turning the color of seaweed and falling out. Before we even reached the baron’s hall, he disappeared into a grog shop and I simply asked the bartender to keep an eye on him for me.

    The young baron was glad to hear that we had avenged his father upon the hags and gave us a ring of red gold set with a ruby and broke out a case of old Nimon Gap wine from before the war. It had aged to perfection. A caravan carrying timber from Geoff and other goods from the Sheldomar valley reached Witchcross from Strake Terrace. They were bound to Bova and I thought I saw a hawk tattooed on one of the guards, but Marquess wanted to reach Bova and return to Drellin’s Ferry as soon as possible.

    Wealsun 7. We set out early and reached Talar by late afternoon. The town was abuzz with rumors. In the morning, the baron had marched out of Bova to the west with most of the Lion Guard. We dined with the lady Celeria Nestin again and inquired. She had received a messenger from the Count commanding her to ensure that her armories were stocked and her vassals were ready to provide their shields as soon as they received the war arrow and to start harvesting and storing as many provisions as possible. However she could not provide news as to what prompted these orders or even if the Count had marched.

    Wealsun 8. It was late afternoon when we were greeted by a skeleton guard at the north gate of Bova. We heard many rumors: Goblins had attacked Drellin’s Ferry and burned it to the ground and the Count was setting defenses at Terrelton. Count Tondhere had secretly slipped an army across lake Rhestilar and over the river and besieged Nimon Gap. Count Bova was finally going to stamp out the bandits. When we reached the castle, we learned that the Count had left Sir Gareth to govern the city and reported to him. He of course had already heard that Accalon had perished at the hands of the ogres but was glad that we had avenged the Baron and slain the hags. Marquess was eager to follow the Count, but Gareth informed him there was no rush any longer. The Count had marched to assist Drellin’s Ferry upon receiving a pigeon from Baron Wiston that several hundred goblins had been seen in the Witchwood heading for the town, however, they had attacked nearly immediately and Baron Wiston had been forced to meet them with only his levies. For all that he was at outnumbered and barely mustered, however, the baron had won a great victory and had annihilated the goblins. News reached the Count in Terrelton and he and his army were returning to Bova.

    Wealsun 9-10. We took a few days to wait for the Count and conduct business. I sold the hobgoblin shortbow I had been using and bought a larger composite bow with a stronger pull. On the last day, I sold my battered buckler and bought a better made one emblazoned with the lighting of the Invincible and Valorous Knight. Penn picked up the barding she had commissioned in Terrelton. Meanwhile, Khan found some employment with an armorer and joined Bova’s guild of armorers and weaponsmiths as a journeyman.

    The Lady Tredora of Pelor, Immerstal the Red, Baron Trask, and the others had returned from dealing with the demon in Valandil’s Mill so we brought the flask we had been unable to identify to Immerstal and managed to secure an audience. He identified it as a flask of curses that would curse anyone nearby when it was opened. It might have some use, but we decided to sell it. Immerstal offered us a cloak of resistance for it and we traded eagerly.

    Wealsun 11. Marquess tired of waiting for the Count to arrive, so we set off. On the road to Talar, we met his brother with ten other Lions in the vanguard. They were disappointed to have ridden nearly a week for nothing. Marquess said he feared they would soon see more action than they would like if the Red Hand goblins we saw on the plateau were coming after having driven these goblins before them. Jonas simply laughed and said he hoped that the next batch had the courtesy to wait for him to show up before starting the fight. Shortly later, the main body of the lion guard marched by and Marquess buttonholed Commander Lars Ulverth who confirmed much of what we had already heard and told us that Baron Wiston had been injured by some kind of devil in the battle. Four lions and ten of the lion guard had continued on to Drellin’s Ferry to help chase down the surviving goblins. Scouts had claimed to see some ogres on the north side of the river so the Count himself, disappointed have ridden so far without action had taken two squads of glaives and two squads of archers to see if he could deal with them. We bade the captain safe journeys and spent another happy night at Talar.

    Wealsun 12. Concerned that the Count might encounter more than his small force could handle, Marquess insisted that we cross the Elsir in the morning and continue on the north side in the hope of finding the Count. If Count Tondhere knew he was there with such a small force, the assassins would be racing from Strake Terrace—and ogres are nothing to be trifled with. About halfway through the day, we came upon a patch of drying mud with large footprints baking into it in the sun. Penn and I saw two well-shod creatures far too large to be men—ogres or giants then—and about ten more sets of booted tracks. Too few to be the Count’s escort but perhaps there were men or hobgoblins with the ogres the scouts saw. We briefly debated following the tracks to the east (towards lake Rhestilar, the swamp and then to Witchcross), but the trail was cold so we continued west in search of the Count.

    Wealsun 13. Still no sign of the Count but we found a camp site with more ogre and humanoid footprints. There were some clawmarks there and scat from a reptile the size of a horse. Based on the claws, I would guess a dragon or a wyvern or something of that ilk. None of us had any desire to meet up with what made the claws.

    Wealsun 14. Late in the day, we encountered the Count and his escort riding south out of the Starkmound foothills. The head and feathers of a mountain griffon were carefully strapped to his packhorse. He had not looked to find friends this side of the river but gladly shared our camp.

    Wealsun 15. We made our way south to the river and camped opposite Terrelton as we reached it after dark and there were no bargemen to hail. The Count asked us about the Chimera we had seen, speculating that it was a noble’s duty to protect his subjects from such dangerous beasts. Besides, Leille had suggested that some of the bandits and cattle thieves were blaming their thefts on the Chimera so eliminating it would deprive them of the cover they might hide behind. Marquess offered our services to eliminate the beast but the Count did not seem eager to return to Bova. He did express admiration for Baron Wiston’s conduct of the battle and suggested that the baron might have turned into the best general of all his subjects.

    Wealsun 16. In the morning, we crossed the Elsir to Terrelton with the Count’s men. A courier stood waiting to greet the Count with a bulging satchel full of scrolls. Upon scanning the first scroll, the Count sighed. “It looks like Chimeras will have to wait. It looks like Gareth needs me in Bova to keep Baron Trask in line. Maybe I could just feed him to the Chimera and hope it dies of indigestion.” Briefly scanning the next missive, he remarked, “well, it looks like Reginald Gelb is demanding trial by combat. Guess who my champion will be. Either way, I win! Though Trask’s sons are just as bad, so I could just win a different headache….”

    After the Count and his soldiers marched east, eagerly scanning the hills for some sign of bandits who could provide a good fight and delay their arrival in the city, we hit the taverns looking for any information about the chimera. We had seen it on the bridge west of the city but it didn’t live there so we would need to search for its lair. Before the dwarf drank himself into a stupor (“here, let me buy you a drink, tell me what you know about the Chimera… fine, be that way. Well, I’d better not let this go to waste…”) we narrowed things down a bit. Most of the sightings and stolen cattle were from the west of the town. There were a few isolated tales from the east, but they did not sound as reliable and in one case, Heironeous' power confirmed that the herdsman lying—he probably sold the steer to bandits and then blamed its loss on the Chimera when the owner asked what happened.

    Wealsun 17. Searching for a flying predator who hunts over a large area is a challenge. Occasionally you will find tracks when it lands but you can’t follow the tracks back to its lair. Starting with my recollections about Chimeras from reading Frederick of the Pale’s Compleate Mounstrous Compendium—we surmised that it probably has its lair in the hills south and west of the town—the ones separating us from the haunted vale—so we searched the area for signs of the beast, hoping to eventually spot it and be able to engage it immediately or (preferably) follow it back to its lair.

    Grimmath did not accompany us. In the morning, we found him outside the tavern, unconscious in a pool of vomit. We did what we could to sober him up, but he seemed to have a relapse of the hags' curse and could barely take two steps without intense concentration.

    Wealsun 18. Fortune smiled upon us and in the afternoon, we spotted the creature gripping a young buck in its paws and flying to the south. We trailed it for a few minutes, but it was rapidly outdistancing us. Penn sped ahead on her wolf hoping to keep pace. A couple minutes later, we heard a roar and as we rode forward as quickly as we could manage through the tangled brush and occasional trees. Soon, we could see Penn riding her wolf as fast as she could towards us, bleeding from many bite and claw wounds. I drew back my bow, calling on the Invincible and Valorous Knight to let my weapons be the band of this magical beast and struck true.

    Penn eventually evaded its reach, only to be caught in the back by a blast of acid from its dragon head. Hellek rode forward eagerly, loosing wild shafts and the beast dove at him, snapping its jaws. I drew my axe and rode up. It turned and I was barely able to evade some of the hurricane of teeth and claws. Marquess struck a mighty blow with his dwarven glaive then I ended its life with one last swing of my axe. Praise the ever-victorious Knight!

    Wealsun 19. We returned to Terrelton in the morning and our pelorite paid a visit to Master Pierre to have the dragon head fashioned into armor for his horse. I took a necklace of claws to lay before the shrine of Heironeous in thanks for our victory and spend some time repairing it—for the shrine in Terrelton is sadly neglected of late. As we celebrated our victory to the cheers of herdsmen who now had one fewer menace to expect from the sky, we heard further rumors of the battle at Drellin’s Ferry. Baron Wiston had been attacked by some kind of demon (though from the description it sounded more like a bearded devil) that appeared magically in the back of his battle line. Though the baron and some of the townsmen were able to strike it down, his wounds were infected and he has not been seen outside since the battle. Some other herdsmen also talked about having seen a dragon in the twilight flying toward the east.

    Wealsun 20. In the morning we departed Terrelton and made our way towards Drellin’s Ferry. A few mile out, we came across a grisly sight. Circling buzzards warned us of carnage ahead and advancing cautiously for fear of an ambush, we found four bodies mutilated and left in the road—they looked to have been a family and the youngest boy was still too young to grow a beard. Though there were goblin arrows in the bodies and what looked like a broken horsechopper and goblin scimitar nearby, they did not match the wounds and neither Penn nor I could see any goblin tracks nearby. What we did find were the well-disguised tracks of a human-sized creature that had dragged and carried the bodies to the road from a thicket of thorn bushes to the south of the Dawn Way and several hundred yards distant.

    Exploring the thicket, we found a carefully hidden path that led to a crude, concealed altar of black stone with red veins running through it. The place reeked of evil and I called on Heironeous' power and smote the altar, driving it through the bushes till it landed with a crash outside the thicket. Searching, we found a chest buried in a shallow hole and inside, robes marked with the symbol of the Many, a ritual blade, and a bloody chalice crafted from a halfling’s skull. From the signs, it looked as though at least some of the family had been murdered here in the foul rites of that religion then dragged to the road so that it would seem as though they were killed by goblins who escaped the battle.

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
    Aug 2009

    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    Just to let you know, I'm really enjoying this. Please keep it up :-)

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

    Join Date
    Feb 2015

    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    Thanks for the encouragement Zombimode. With this post we're caught up. Next game is next Wednesday from now with the party (presumably) heading in the direction of Vraath Keep. The party had a rough time of it this session; we'll have to see how Vraath keep goes.

    ---------------------------------------Jozan's journal----------------------------

    Wealsun 20, continued. It was late in the evening when we arrived back in Drellin’s Ferry. A small, hastily built stockade to the right of the Dawn Way held a man at arms in the livery of Baron Wiston and the better part of a dozen militia men with their spears and crossbows. He challenged us as we approached but quickly recognized Marquess’ tabard. “Greetings, Sir Lion, he said.”

    We spoke briefly and heard much the same story about the recent battle. The goblins had been crushed at the cost of no more than two dozen casualties. The baron himself had been attacked by some kind of demon creature with a wicked hooked glaive who appeared behind the lines in a flash with a puff of brimstone and who swords and arrows could barely scratch. Since the battle, Captain Amroth, the militia, and the lions had been patrolling. A few days after the battle, Captain Amroth and his patrol caught a dozen goblins trying to cross the river to the south at Abbotsford. After returning to Drellin’s Ferry, he had taken Brother Corwin, a few men at arms, and a dozen militia to patrol the Witchwood. The Lions were patrolling the Elsir river to the North and East.

    We went to visit the Baron who was still recovering from his wounds at the temple of Pelor. He was asleep, but we got another firsthand description of the battle from Brother Derny—and a short discourse on the planes and fighting devils—who had finally managed to cure the devil chills that had infected the baron. Khan and Pen stayed at the temple while the rest of us took rooms at the Green Apple.

    Wealsun 21. The next day, we awoke early and visited Morlin Coalhewer to buy some alchemical silver weapons (since the baron had been attacked by a devil, we should be prepared to deal with such creatures), then visited the baron at the temple. Penn was terribly concerned for him and used her magic to restore the strength he had lost to the disease. He told us what had happened since the battle: he estimated that perhaps threescore goblins had escaped the battle and his patrols had slain two dozen so far but there were still scattered reports of goblins all over his barony.

    We told him of the dark alter we had found yesterday and our suspicions that cultists were using the goblin threat to disguise their foul murders. The baron furrowed his brow, clearly disturbed and grew more so, when I told him of the letters we had found the traitor Reginald Gelb’s townhouse. There were signs the wicked cult had been active in Drellin’s Ferry since the war of restoration. Still, Marquess was eager to deal with goblins and practically begged to go on a patrol. The baron thought that would be helpful (and would get Penn out of his hair) and detailed a route that would take us south and west to Abbotsford, then east, past Penn’s estate before returning to the Dawn Way and Drellin’s Ferry in perhaps two days. Marquess made a quick copy of the baron’s map to help guide us in our travel and though we considered waiting for Captain Amroth to return from his patrol of the Witchwood, we set out shortly after noon.

    As we rode the track to Clearbrook, we kept an eye out for tracks and, near a rocky whitewater cataract, where the river narrowed, I spotted bootprints in the mud. We stopped and examined them more closely and it looked like there were at least a dozen creatures—men perhaps or hobgoblins but too large to be goblins—and the tracks were no more than a day old. Penn shifted into a wolf to figure out what they were from scent—I had not realized she was a skin-changer—but said she only managed to get a nose full of scentbreaker for her trouble. Marquess speculated that perhaps someone had felled a tree or two to bridge the river here and then hid their passage by casting the log into the current to float downriver. We thought to cross the river to explore a bit on the other side and see if we could figure out more about the tracks. Penn shifted to human form, remounted her wolf and leaped across the river. Once across, she fastened a rope to pitons in the rocks by the river and followed the tracks a few hundred yards to the edge of the Witchwood.

    Now, this is where our investigation turned into a comedy of errors more suitable for fools on a Bova stage than champions of the Invincible and Valorous Knight and the Sun Father. Penn later told us she had found a buried latrine pit and a pair of firepits about 50 yards into the wood. [Scrawled in the margin: But the little twit forgot to tell us that she had found a pair of tree stumps, piles of stripped branches, and drag marks confirming Marquess’ theory of a temporary bridge. By the Valorous Knight, that scatterbrained peck is annoying sometimes. She didn’t think to mention that until she had wandered into the hogboblin’s ambush the next day.] Khan thought to cross the river by climbing Penn’s rope hand over hand, but lost his grip as soon as he swung out over the river and was dashed upon the rocks. He sputtered for air and was swept downstream, banging into rocks as he went. I tossed a rope to Hellek and ran downstream after him, calling upon Heironeous to grant me speed. I saw him smash into a large rock and go limp a few seconds later and I cast a healing spell and leaped into the water in an attempt to save him. I couldn’t get a grip, but at least I returned him to consciousness and with a heroic effort, he swam to the shore and grabbed onto the rocks for dear life. I coughed and was swept downstream myself until Hellek pulled me out on the rope.

    One would think that might have been the end of it, but when it came time to return, Penn untied the rope from her piton and attempted to leap back. The rocks on the other side must have been a little lower for she didn’t quite make it and nearly drowned herself before we could pull her out. At least she was clean for once.

    After that embarrassing incident, we made our way to Clearbrook and found headman Gillis eating with his second and third sons, their families and hired hands with spears and crossbows easily within reach. He was glad to see us again. He told us the same story about Captain Amroth and his patrol annihilating the goblins at Abbotsford. But he also said that his eldest son—Thomas—had seen lights in the Witchwood near the narrows when he returned from Drellin’s Ferry yesterday. Since that was where we had found the tracks, we resolved to speak with Thomas on the following morning.


    Wealsun 22. The following morning, we rode to visit Thomas Gillison and confirmed the story. He thought he might have seen Captain Amroth’s patrol camping in the Witchwood but that seemed unlikely. (It seemed most likely to me that he had seen the campfires of a sizeable hobgoblin force that had crossed over the river just today. But I said nothing* and none of my companions did either. If any of us suspected a force of spies or raiders, we said nothing). We thanked him for his time, checked to see how Minn was recovering from her run-in with the manticore two months ago, and rode through Abbotsford without incident then turned east.

    Around noon, about an hour before we expected to reach Penn’s manor, we met the hobgoblins in glorious battle. Penn rode ahead of us, as is her wont and had passed along the track past the fieldstones of a ruined farmhouse and several thickets of briars. As the rest of us approached the thickets, we saw glints of steel from among them and while Penn continued oblivious, we fought our way out of the ambush. I invoked the judgement of Heironeous and called upon him to make my bow the bane of these goblins and loosed arrows as they hurled javalins towards us. Khan screamed in rage and hurled himself and his horse at the hobgoblins in the thicket and Marquess spurred himself toward the goblins on the other side of the road. A pair of hell hounds charged at Penn, and left her bleeding and burned before she realized they were there.

    A great hobgoblin in banded mail, carrying two shortswords emerged from the thicket as Marquess finished a second goblin there. “You!” he said in common, clashing his swords together and pointing one at Marquess. “Let us see who is better!” He deftly dodged under Marquess’ glaive and stabbed him with a shortsword. Marquess stepped back but the hobgoblin stepped up immediately so Marquess chocked down his grip on his glaive to fight close in.

    Grimmath conjured a ball of flame which bounced along the ground, smoking the leaves of the thicket searing the hobogblins and I drew my axe and moved to intercept the them as they left the thicket to attack him. Penn retreated towards us. We were solidifying our position when disaster struck. Another hobgoblin moved around the end of the thicket, clutching a clawlike sigil in his hand. I was later told, he shouted, “Uth Larr, stop screwing around!” and cast a spell that paralyzed Marquess in his saddle. I dodged blows from the two longsword wielding hobgoblins I was engaging and ran to battle the large hobgoblin before he could slit Marquess’ throat. Grimmath and Khan finished one of them and Hellek emerged from hiding, killing one of the hell hounds and finishing another of the hobgoblins.

    Then the archers showed up. The evil priest cast a spell and vanished from our sight—I must learn the spell to see invisible foes—and six more hobgoblins, these wielding their bows came at a run from further down the trail where they must have been waiting to ambush travelers coming the other direction. They pelted us mercilessly with their arrows causing Hellek to fall back and panicking Penn who ran off down the trail and summoned some ineffectual monstrous centipedes "to cover our retreat." The bane enchantment faded from my axe and the unseen priest caused an earth elemental to rise from the ground beside Hellek and me. Things looked grim and looked grimmer when the unseen priest healed Uth Larr’s wounds and the archers pelted me with arrows, grazing my scalp and bruising my ribs from the impact on my enchanted breastplate.

    Fortunately, the spell of paralysis finally expired and Marquess began to move again, shouldering me aside. I called on Heironeous to heal my wounds** and cast a spell of protection on myself as Grimmath moved up and evoked a line of fire to singe all of the archers.

    Their return fire was deadly and Grimmath fell to the ground bleeding from many arrows. Uth Larr looked at me and said, “Looks like I won. Now to finish off this scrub!” and layed into Marquess with his swords. I ignored the foul creatures jibes, healed Grimmath and ran towards the archers with a shout of “Death or Glory!” Death looked more likely. Penn desperately traded blows with the surviving hellhound which pursued her and would not let her escape. Khan panted in exhaustion and called on the Shining One to heal his wounds while the two remaining ambushers pressed him. Marquess fell bleeding beneath Uth Larr’s blades.

    The hobgoblin turned mockingly to Hellek. “Let’s make this fair,” he said and dropped one shortsword to draw a dagger and match Hellek’s fighting style. And that idle boast proved to be his undoing. Grimmath clung grimly to his bloodsoaked saddlehorn and evoked a sheet of fire from his hands incinerating three of the hobgoblin archers who were surrounding me, then moved back, pelting Uth Larr with his last force bolts and distracting him with his staff. As Grimmath made the opening, Hellek plunged his dagger between the joints of Uth Larr’s armor and into his heart. I struck down another one of the archers and the last two turned to flee but did not make it far.

    For a second, there was silence and Hellek, Khan, Grimmath, Penn and I stood (if just barely) amid a sea of hobgoblin bodies. Then we moved. Khan and I restored Marquess to consciousness with our magic and after looting the bodies, we decided that the nearby villages must be warned. Marquess, Grimmath, and Penn rode directly to her estate to warn them. Hellek, Khan and I rode back to Abbotsford as quickly as our horses could make it, hoping to meet the others at Penn’s estate around dusk.


    *Because, at least for now, I’m an NPC, so I don’t get to put two and two together unless it’s REALLY necessary.
    **He switched his judgment to healing. In this campaign, Jozan has got a surprising amount of mileage out of the healing judgment.

    ----------------------------------DM Notes----------------------------------------
    The party is a little low level to be starting the adventure. I tried to toss them an investigation into the cult of Erythnul, but they still didn't bite. Jozan reminded them about the letters they found in Reginald Gelb's townhouse. They didn't bite. I don't think they're ever going to do any investigation things unless one of the characters with the golden exclamation point over his head says, "please, go there and do stuff." That was why they went to Witchcross and even there, the investigation was half-hearted at best.

    I spot them a free day or two since the adventure is supposed to start with them getting into Drellin's Ferry at the end of Day 1 but the way they were on patrol, they won't get into Drellin's Ferry until at least halfway through Day 2. That's how I set up the adventure so I'll spot them the extra day and have Day 1 be Wealsun 23.
    Last edited by Elder_Basilisk; 2016-07-26 at 05:41 PM.

  20. - Top - End - #20
    Colossus in the Playground
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Finland
    Gender
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    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    I'll have to say, this is a rather enjoyable read thus far. Though I worry a bit about how they'll fare. The adventure is open after all, and much of the point is coming up with ideas in addition to the "easy" ones and figuring out how to best hinder the Horde. It doesn't sound like the players might even play that game. Add to that them being underleveled and things could go south real bad at the Skullgorge Bridge (or even Vraath Keep).

    Spoiler: Questions about the future; dunno if you want to keep this Spoiler-free but just in case
    Show
    Some things I was left thinking about:
    - It's Pathfinder. How much modification are you doing for the encounters? The handbook itself is rather brief about it - are you rewriting all the enemies with PF classes and feats and taking the Pathfinder counterparts for the monsters, or are you doing more in-depth changes?
    - Mayhap you throw them a bit of extra XP to catch up for one of these encounters? I doubt they'd notice they got more than they deserved for e.g. Marauder Attack. Also, you could have them encounter more (Hob)goblin patrols on their travels than usual in the book allowing them to pick up leftover XP all the while increasing the sense of dread and urgency as it feels like the outriders are literally everywhere.
    - The party is heavily martial. Two of the casters are multiclassed and the third seems to be mostly blowing things up and thus running out of spells fast (not to mention, leaving). Do they have the ranged prowess to fight a Dragon? More to the point, perhaps they could encounter some lesser flyers before the Dragons and see if they could at least get the appropriate equipment? The hand includes Chimeras and Manticores at least as airborne monsters with ranged attacks.
    Last edited by Eldariel; 2016-07-27 at 02:41 PM.

  21. - Top - End - #21
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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldariel View Post
    I'll have to say, this is a rather enjoyable read thus far. Though I worry a bit about how they'll fare. The adventure is open after all, and much of the point is coming up with ideas in addition to the "easy" ones and figuring out how to best hinder the Horde. It doesn't sound like the players might even play that game. Add to that them being underleveled and things could go south real bad at the Skullgorge Bridge (or even Vraath Keep).

    Spoiler: Questions about the future; dunno if you want to keep this Spoiler-free but just in case
    Show
    Some things I was left thinking about:
    - It's Pathfinder. How much modification are you doing for the encounters? The handbook itself is rather brief about it - are you rewriting all the enemies with PF classes and feats and taking the Pathfinder counterparts for the monsters, or are you doing more in-depth changes?
    - Mayhap you throw them a bit of extra XP to catch up for one of these encounters? I doubt they'd notice they got more than they deserved for e.g. Marauder Attack. Also, you could have them encounter more (Hob)goblin patrols on their travels than usual in the book allowing them to pick up leftover XP all the while increasing the sense of dread and urgency as it feels like the outriders are literally everywhere.
    - The party is heavily martial. Two of the casters are multiclassed and the third seems to be mostly blowing things up and thus running out of spells fast (not to mention, leaving). Do they have the ranged prowess to fight a Dragon? More to the point, perhaps they could encounter some lesser flyers before the Dragons and see if they could at least get the appropriate equipment? The hand includes Chimeras and Manticores at least as airborne monsters with ranged attacks.
    I don't mind too much about spoilers--I'm pretty sure my players aren't reading this thread.

    1. I'm rewriting enemies with PF classes and feats in keeping with the original encounter structures but it's a bit more involved than just "Fighter 4=PF Fighter 4 or Fighter 4=PF Fighter 5." (For one thing, a number of NPCs have prestige classes that don't exist in PF). My rewrite of the monster/NPCs is probably also increasing their overall effectiveness in most cases too. Kharn and the ghostlord are probably the most significant examples of this. As written, they're both pretty pathetic for their CR. My versions will earn their CR.

    2. I've been throwing in bonus "Role Playing" XP so far, so I'll probably keep doing it. Throwing in some bonus encounters to bring treasure and xp up to snuff is probably a good idea too.

    3. I'm not sure. They did pretty well against the Chimera a few sessions ago even though it was mostly using its claws. Between Grimmath and Jozan (assuming he uses bane weapon on his bow--and especially after he picks up Rapid Shot) and Penn (if she ever starts prepping a produce flame), they should have enough ranged firepower that just strafing the party with breath weapons will be a losing exchange for dragons that don't have fly-by attack and a safe space to start and end their turns. Regiatrix and Saarvith are the exception to that since if Reggie carries Saarvith, he should be a threat to outshoot the PCs. We'll see how it goes. As I told the players when I started the game, my philosophy on party balance is that it's their responsibility. They create their characters an find a way to make them work together. If that doesn't work, they'll die and they can create new characters.

    We should get a chance to see how they handle Vraath keep next week (though the manticore is not really a dragon test--they've handled manticores several times before).

  22. - Top - End - #22
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    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    Yeah, plus Manticores are limited to 24 daily spikes so they can't reasonably finish the party off from the air even though they can do significant damage. And they too have Clumsy maneuverability so their actual prowess for airbound combat is really limited (in spite of their Flyby Attack). Plus PF Manticores are actually a bit weaker than their 3.5 counterpart; limited to 4 vs. 6 spikes per volley. While their spikes have more bonus damage, base 1d6 means INA: Spikes only lands them at 1d8 instead of 2d6 (2d6+2 is average 9 while 1d8+5 is average 9.5 so the individual per shot damage is almost the same).
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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    And we're back. Jozan is now a PC with a real player starting this session and Grimmath is an NPC (soon to be Marquess's cohort) since his player left. So I get to try Grimmath's voice on for a bit.

    Penn's player didn't make it to the session, but she's flighty and all the encounters were somewhat random, so she just happened to be off doing her own thing when everything went down. Hellek's player made up for her absence by providing the comic relief though.

    Next session is in two weeks, so I need to decide whether Wyrmlord Koth is a Sorcerer 7, a Magus 7, or a Magus 6 (if I decide Magus is not a non-associated class for bugbears).

    -----------------------------------------
    Grimmath’s Journal.
    Wealsun 22. Hey Journal, it’s me again—well, who else would it be writing here. Shut up. It’s only been a month. Awful mouthy for a piece of paper ain’t ya. So, after we annihilated the hobgobbers, Penn, Marquess and I made it to Penn’s estate without getting killed and eaten by the hellhound that got away. And wonders never cease, Jozan, Khan, and Hellek made it to Abbotsford and back without getting killed either. I finally got that mage armor spell figured out and copied into my spellbook, and they had a keg of ale at Penn’s estate. Hah! The peck has an estate! Well, four small huts and a big hut with maybe four people who can grow a beard—being generous as to what counts as a beard, but they’re human so you have to be generous or wouldn’t none of ‘em count as adults—plus a few womenfolk and a bunch a little snotlings running around. Still, they have ale so I can’t complain. Penn was a bit weepy learning that one of her tenants died in the battle of the Witchwood—or so they’re calling it, but I think this day is shaping up great.

    Wealsun 23. No sign of those ruddy hobgobbo bastards today. Must be all running back to their filth-holes in the Crystalmists. We made it into town just after noon. Stopped for a bit and talked to the militia at the watchtower. I think they’re trying to make it a proper tower now. Heard the Lions patrolling up north got hit really hard and had to drag one of the Lions back to the temple on a litter. Three of their soldiers didn’t make it back at all. Captain Amroth still isn’t back. Or so they said. Jozan and Khan stopped by the temple and the rest of us went straight to the Baron’s manor. By the horses outside, Hellek said Captain Amroth must have made it back—I don’t know how he tells one of those infernal creatures from another. I have to ride one to keep up but that doesn't mean I like it, you know. Anyhow, we had to wait long enough for Jozan and Khan to get back before we got to go in and see the Baron. Baron Wiston and Soren, took our report—jumbled as it was. I swear, does anyone teach these people to count? Nine hobgoblins said Hellek! Nine! I plainly counted twelve suits of chainmail and one suit of banded mail from their corpses and we rode all the way from Penn’s estate with them banging off our saddlebags. With this quality information, it’s a wonder the baron can figure out which way is North!

    Anyway, we heard that the Lions got mauled by another ambush and Captain Amroth ran into Old Jorr in the Witchwood who said, “Wanna go kill some hobgoblins? There’s a bunch would be real easy to sneak up on but there’s two more than I can handle by myself.” So Captain Amroth and his militia bagged a dozen hobgoblins and a bugbear with barely a scratch while we get ambushed and beat to the nine hells. Must be nice to be the captain. Anyway, where was I. Oh yeah. So seeing all these hobgoblins, he decides to take an extra day and go talk to the dryad as if unicorn and tree lady will be any good when there are hobgoblins that need killing. She farts a rainbow and tells him that her woodland critters saw a whole bunch of hobgoblins—at least 100 (I guess squirrels count about as well as Marquess and Hellek, so there’s somewhere between 50 and 500) that came into the forest, drove the goblins out of Vraath Keep about a week before the big fight and now they’ve split up and gone out in big groups all over the place with a few staying at the ruined keep. So, the Baron figures there’s 100 to 200 of them—I guess he’s a little more confident in the squirrels’ count than I am and they’ve come into his land in small groups either as reconnaissance in force or as raiders and they’ve left their supply depot and maybe their commander exposed. So since we know the Witchwood, and didn’t get mauled like the other Lions, he asks us to go attack their command post and figure out if they’re just raiders or the vanguard of a larger force. Great! Just because we’ve had the misfortune to travel that misbegotten wood before, we get the chance to do it again. And we’re doing it on information Acorns and unicorns lady gathered from squirrels. If that doesn’t ensure success, nothing will.

    So, we spend an hour or so buying provisions and talking to my cousin Morlin—trading the armor and gold we found for a magic chain shirt, and a magic axe and he agrees to put a hook on the baatorian green steel glaive the Baron took off the dead devil that attacked him during the battle for Marquess. Glaive or Glaive-Guisarme—they all look the same to me but Marquess and Morlin insist it’s an important distinction. Whatever. I managed to swig a tankard of mead at the Green Apple before we set out and get a refill for the road. I may be going back to the forest on horseback again, but I’m damned if I’ll do so sober. I’m along for the ride but I hear something about finding Old Jorr to guide us to Vraath Keep. I guess this keep thingee was destroyed twelve years or so before the war. Actually I think I remember hearing about that back in the clanhold. Used to be we worked with young Avery Vraath’s men at arms to garrison Skull Gorge Bridge. Then one day the elders tell us, it’s all off, Avery Vraath went and got himself killed by forest giants. That’s why you build your forts underground where giants don’t fit like a sensible person. Anyhow, I guess this “old” Jorr used to live there before the war or something. I’m hearing all this and then there’s this horrible buzzing and wasps the size of horses attack us. I hate this wood/swamp/whatever it is! Mage armor came in handy though. We killed the wasps then Hellek squirted venom into his eye while trying to milk poison from the wasps and runs around shouting “It burns!” and “I can’t feel my face!” Hillarious.

    It was raining by the time we make it to old Jorr’s which made this miserable swamp even more miserable. Run down little shack with some nasty looking dogs hiding under the porch. I think their fleas could eat stirges for breakfast. But there was a goblin skin tanning on one of the tanning racks outside so I thought, maybe he’s allright for a human. Jozan yelled that we want to talk so this old, one-eyed guy with a respectable beard (for a human) opened a window, pointed a bow at us then when he decided we weren’t goblins, told us to come in. He even disabled the trap over the door for us. He offered to share his moonshine with us—I guess he was still celebrating thirteen dead goblins and a dead bugbear from the other day—so I got started on that while Marquess and Jozan dicker with him over how long it’ll take and whether or he’s being paid to “pull your sorry asses out of the fire if you stick your pecker stirge nest.” I didn’t hear the rest. Maybe it’s the booze but I think I like this guy.

    Next thing you know, we were on our way again. We made it to the blackwater causeway which is a fancy name for a bunch of rotting, slimy logs going over the river. Halfway across, Hellek spotted a snake lazing in the water next to a broken cart. Jorr yelled, “that’s not a snake!” as Hellek hopped into the bog to “cover us in case it attacks.” Sure enough, it’s wasn’t a snake. It was seven snakes or something attached to a slug body with legs. Ugly critters, hydras. So, Hellek gots bitten*, Khan started frothing at the mouth and got bitten a lot, Hellek ran away and Marquess gots bitten a lot, I smote it with my magic and Jozan finally came up and whacked it with his axe, then it stopped moving and fell into the water, then started moving again and swam away. We all ran across the causeway and then Jozan and Hellek went to check out the wagon. There were a couple dead hobgoblins there with magic armor and stuff and after thinking about how to get them out of their armor, Marquess just told ‘em to quit ******* around and bring the whole bodies before the hydra came back. We could sort the stuff out later. You tell ‘em Marquess. So there was magic armor, a magic cloak, and a magic belt there but of course no one else could tell what they were, not even Jozan with his god-magic stuff. I waved my fingers and told everyone what they are, all sage like.** You shoulda seen the respect on their faces. But of course you didn’t because you’re just a journal and don’t got no eyes. So, we hotfooted it away from the hydra and traveled until dark. Amazingly, nothing else tried to kill us. We set a complicated watch, and for once, nothing tried to kill us in our sleep. I’m not sure I believe it though. Maybe I’m just dreaming I woke up and nothing in this swamp had tried to kill me for half a day and a night.

    Wealsun 24. Jorr gives me a bit more “moonshine” from his bottle and we travel through even more trees, bogs, fetid pools, vines, trees, and even more mosquito infested pools of algae covered water. Still, nothing tried to kill us. The forest must be saving its strength for something really bad. And then Jorr up front said, “we’re there, so stop moving and shut your traps.” We could see some ruined walls in between the mossy trees, so we decided to send Hellek around the perimeter to see if he can see any hobgoblins and how many ways in there are and stuff. Marquess thinks that just because Hellek was a scout or something back in the Lion guard, he must be sneaky. So Hellek sets off and ten seconds later, he’s found the only ten dry twigs in the whole Witchwood and stepped on them all then stomped in a puddle for good measure.*** We see another stupid manticore poke its head over the ruined battlement and look right at Hellek. How many of those damn things are there?

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    *I forgot Hydras have pounce or this would have hurt a lot more. Probably wouldn't have changed anything since Hellek could have taken another 25 hp or so and he retreated for a few rounds before coming back to the fight anyway, but it would have hurt more. He did end up making a very important contribution by moving some of the horses out of the way so that Jozan could make it in to the fight.

    **+2 cloak of resistance, +1 banded mail, and belt of one mighty blow. (I'm using a bunch of 3.5 Magic Item Compendium items--I like it a lot better than the magic items in Pathfinder's Ultimate Equipment). The mithral breastplate would have been appreciated but Khan just paid Morlin to enchant his breastplate and Jozan already has a +1 breastplate. I wanted the treasure to be more useful.

    ***Hellek had some terrible luck with his stealth rolls.
    Last edited by Elder_Basilisk; 2016-08-04 at 01:00 AM.

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    Wealsun 24. Continued.

    The manticore took off from its perch above the ruined parapet and circled in front of Hellek, lazily flicking its tail and shooting its spines into the rogue. Hellek ran back towards us, leaping over a fallen log but absorbed another set of spines before he Jozan and Khan could reach him with their healing prayers. Meanwhile, the manticore flew over the ruined gatehouse and disappeared into the courtyard of the ruined keep.

    Khan and Hellek walked slowly towards the keep while Marquess retrieved his bow and walked forward, bow in one hand, glaive-guisarme in the other. I found a nice, thick tree to hide behind and prepared the arcane formula for a magic missile when the ugly beast showed its face again.

    Penn rode to the edge of the thicket on her wolf and shouted “goblins!” She always sees goblins, but this time she was right. I didn’t see them for another few seconds but soon, arrows started whizzing towards us from both sides of the gateway, and I saw their warty green faces. Khan picked his way over the shattered gates and other rubble and reached the inside of the gatehouse only to be greeted by snarling worgs and a squad of hobgoblins. I saw the manticore fly back to its perch on the parapet to the left of the gatehouse and peppered it with magic missiles. It shot tailspikes back at me but only succeeded in putting its spikes into the tree. Ha! I was winning!

    Things were working out pretty well for me. Not so much for Khan. Hellek must have gotten some fool idea about climbing the wall and trying to engage the manticore into his head because he found his way to the right of the gatehouse and started drinking potions. So Khan was all by himself in the gatehouse when the hobgoblins showed up and then a freaking minotaur walked into the courtyard, bounced Khan’s head off the wall with his hammer and Khan stopped moving.

    I’m not sure what came over me. I guess I figured the manticore had to be close to running out of spikes on its tail and I saw there were a bunch of hobgoblins lined up just begging for a scorcher if Marquess and Penn could get out of the way so I left cover and walked towards the gate. I promptly caught a manticore spine in the throat for my troubles. That’ll teach me to be heroic. If it hadn’t been for Jozan and his god, I would have choked in my own blood right there. It’s the kind of thing that makes a dwarf think. Anyhow, I wasn’t out long, so I saw Hellek go down trying to drag Khan’s body back to the group and then the damn manticore must have just fired his last spikes when he dropped me because he flew down and decided to try to bite me instead. That proved to be its undoing. Jozan, gestured and his axe flared with golden fire and he nearly cut the thing in half. It still managed to twitch enough to give Hellek* some nasty scars on his cheek as he tried to move behind it, but a second blow from Jozan’s axe splattered its skull and brains across the mossy stones of the keep.

    That still left the goblins, the wolves, the hobgoblins, and the minotaur, and they were kicking our ass. Even Marquess was having trouble getting through the hobgoblin shieldwall to hurt them and though the goblins stopped firing and one ran to the big building in the back, it didn’t help. A few arrows started coming from back among the trees. At first we worried, but they were falling among our foes so we figured Jorr must have decided he wouldn’t get paid if we all died. Man after me own heart. Not that they were doing a lot of good. Lots of “almost killed him but got caught in his shield or bounced of his helmet or ricocheted off the wall right next to him” and not a lot of “shot the damn goblin through the eye.”

    Now that Jozan and Marquess had closed with the hobgoblin shield wall, the goblins weren’t hitting anything anymore. They shot their quivers dry and ran to the stable to get more arrows. Then one of them took position behind one of the old boulders in the courtyard and started his futile firing again—which made him a mark for Jorr whose fire was not futile for once, while the other ran into the tower. Soon we saw why he had gone as a hobgoblin in formal robes carrying a morning star came out and fired magic missiles from a wand. Three of them—that’s a pretty good wand! Hellek fired an arrow at him and it just scored his robes revealing chain armor underneath while that damn minotaur pounded Jozan and Marquess and the surviving hobgoblins dropped their swords and tangled Marquess in a net.

    Right then, Marquess went all stiff for a second and shouted, “who is this?” Weird. I later found out that he got some kind a magical message—probably a sending spell—in dwarven. Said something about a thousand—or was it thousands, he couldn’t remember?—hobgoblins and giants and a dragon—or was it dragons?—mustering by Cinder Hill. He asked who could do that and I reminded him that he’d asked Broden Coalhewer to contact him magically if there was trouble with the hogboblins. He’d forgotten. Heh.**

    Anyway, back to the battle, it was a funny thing. The whole battle felt like we were just barely staving off total defeat until all, of a sudden, we won. Jorr finally felled the minotaur with an arrow to the eye and the bugbear mage or whatever he was only landed one of his scorching rays on Marquess. Then Penn conjured a pair of stirges and one of those nasty buggers attached its straw to the bugbear’s neck. Jozan and Marquess both came up to threaten him and though he splattered the stirge and cast a spell of invisibility before we could land more blows, Penn’s wolf sniffed out where he was standing and Marquess, Jozan, and Penn cut him into pieces before he could move, surrender, or even think. I evoked a fan of flames over the area he disappeared for good measure, but I suspect I only succeeded at charring his corpse.*** Just like that, the tide turned and we were victorious. I think one of the goblin archers got away with his worg but the rest lay dead beneath our feet.

    The courtyard was eerily silent in the aftermath of the battle, and our blood dripping into the dirt was the only sound. Penn, Jozan, Khan and I set about stripping the bodies and figuring out what their magical equipment was and Hellek and Marquess went to explore some of the rooms in the keep. Jorr cut the ear off the goblin he had killed, pierced it with his dagger and strung it onto a necklace. Like I said, he’s my kind of guy.

    After a half hour or so, we’d figured out that the bugbear had been wearing a headband of intellect and that we’d killed him before he could drink his potion of cure serious wounds. Heh. These guys carry a lot of potions but they never seem to live long enough to drink ‘em. I was about ready to look around and see if these hobgoblins had a stash of grog somewhere when Penn said “it’s been a while since we’ve seen Marquess and Hellek, maybe we should go see if they’ve gotten in trouble.” OK, fine. We eventually found them. It turned out they’d found some kind of secret passage to a hidden vault beneath the tower and there were three locked alcoves there. Hellek was performing at his expected level, so he was about halfway through the second lock. He said the rust makes it harder after all these years. Sure, that’s it.

    Anyway, there was quite a haul. Apparently the last Vraath lord died down here and brought his fancy magic greatsword and magic gauntlets with him. And all of his clan's fancy loot was down here too. Enough gold to make a dwarf smile and even a dragon skull. Heck, there was enough to spread it out and sleep on it like a dragon if we wanted to.

    Upstairs, we found a map showing some kind of invasion plan aimed at all of Bova county and stacks and stacks of supplies. There was a portable forge—not up to Coalhewer standards of course, but serviceable—a half-repaired wagon, a couple wagon wheels, several dozen bales of hay stacked one on top of another, dozens of smoked hams or bacons or something--what kind of animals do hobgoblins raise anyway?--hanging from rafters, hundreds of bags of meal, barrels and barrels full of arrows and javalins, a small barrel of beer that Jorr said oughta be poured back into the horse it came out of (I ain’t complainin, mind you; Jorr and I drank the last of his moonshine this mornin and dwarves ain't meant to drink water), and a couple small kegs of ale that were still fermentin in the back of the barracks. Marquess said it must be a forward supply base or somethin. Then he and Penn fell to discussin if he could use his ring to alert the Count and if she should cast an animal messenger spell tomorrow to send word to the Baron or turn into a hawk right now and fly to Skull gorge bridge to scout and how long it would take Khan to fit the old Baron Vraath’s armor to Marquess. Me, I decided to investigate the bottom of the keg of hobgoblin ale.

    ------------------------------------------DM Notes-------------------------------
    *Jozan put bane on is axe and hit the manticore for nearly 30 points of damage, nearly dropping it. Hellek's luck continued. Rather than attacking with sword and dagger and finishing it, he decided to acrobatics his way into a flank. He promptly missed the acrobatics check, got clobbered by the manticore for most of his remaining hit points and missed the manticore. And to make matters worse, his new position prevented the manticore from withdrawing on its turn.

    **I'd prepared the sending because Marquess had asked the Coalhewers to keep an eye out for hobgoblin movement and they'd specifically discussed the sending spell. So I gave the message (Hobgoblins marching south. Thousands camping at Cinder Hill--our side of Skull Gorge--with giants and godsdamneddragon. Will block entrance if trouble. Regards to Morlin.) and told Marquess' player he could respond with 25 words or less. He looked confused for a moment, and then, "who is this?" Hilarious. And of course, despite my having said the message verbally in front of all the players, no one could remember exactly what I'd said. Some of them were convinced I'd said there were multiple dragons. And it was hundreds of hobgoblins or a thousand or thousands.

    During the council at Drellin's Ferry, I plan to have Baron Wiston say something like, "are you sure that's the number of hobgoblins? When you reported the ambush from your patrol, you reported six, eight, nine, and twelve hobgoblins at various points in the conversation, despite the fact that you brought back twelve suits of hobgoblin chainmail and one suit of hobgoblin banded mail and you all agreed that one got away. That made at least 14 hobgoblins in addition to however many hell-hounds there were. I checked with Morlin and that's what you traded him. So, since you're all completely useless when it comes to counting, do you have any other indications of how many there are?"

    ***It really did happen just like that. I'd gone with Magus 7 for Koth so I only had one lightning bolt and I didn't have a good angle on his third round in the fight so I used scorching ray on Marquess instead and scared the pants off the players when the one ray that hit scored 20 damage. He had about 60 hit points at that time. The next round, he had 1 hp and a stirge attached to him. I tried spell combat, to kill the stirge, back away and cast invisibility. No dice. Every single attack hit while he was invisible--what 50% miss chance?--and he took another 60 or so damage. The only consolation was that the round before, they had been trying to take Koth alive. Marquess had yelled, "take him alive" and they'd smacked him for 15 non-lethal or so. When he went invisible, everyone forgot about doing non-lethal and he took two attacks and a burning hands after the first hit dropped him unconscious. When it was done, they didn't even have an intact corpse, let alone a prisoner.
    Last edited by Elder_Basilisk; 2016-08-25 at 11:05 PM.

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    Grimmath's Journal
    Wealsun 24, continued.
    So, I found a beautiful headband of intellect with a single blue dragonscale set in the center. The obvious thing to do is put it on. The second obvious thing to do is search the bugbear’s body till I found his spellbook. And the third thing to do is to start copying spells from it.

    Hellek came up to me waving a huge stack of papers he found in the tower chamber. I glanced at them. “Written in infernal.” Hey, I can understand it—sort of. The letters are clear but the words are gibberish. Must be the new headband. Then Hellek says, maybe it’s some kind of code and can I help him decode it since he doesn’t read infernal. “Maybe later. Got a mug o’ hobgoblin ale and a spellbook to copy first.” He went off in a huff and stuffed the papers into his saddlebags. Some people just don’t have proper priorities.

    Marquess and Penn were busy discussing whether there might be other supply depots, whether this is really a forward supply depot or all the supplies we found were for the hobgoblins scout parties based here, and whether they should collapse skull gorge bridge. Then she turned into a bird and flew off to the north. Came back in about four hours—I was near the end of my first candle and just couldn’t make sense of the lightning bolt spell. (Good thing the bugbear didn’t use it on us—guess we were never lined up quite right or the shieldwall and minotaur were in the way). She says there’s a burned giant steading up a couple hours to the northwest and there’s a live giant there. Not sure what kind—whether it’s the nasty kind who’ll spit you on a pole and eat you, the nasty kind who’ll enslave you and burn you till you make their weapons, or the sort who’ll just throw rocks at you and tell you to go away. Jorr made a few choice comments about the murderous giants around these parts—I guess he or his parents or someone grew up in Vraath keep before the giants burned it and before the war.* But Khan was optimistic—maybe the giants could be recruited to help against the hobgoblins. Hah. I though we could try and then we’d just kill them when they say no which is just fine by me. But there was still that lightning bolt formula and I was on the verge of ruining a page in my spellbook so I kept my mouth shut. Marquess used his ring to summon some small pest or other and send it off with a message to Count Bova.**

    Wealsun 25. The next morning, we establishing that Jorr was not interested in trying to take a wagon full of captured supplies back over the blackwater causeway (and past the hydra) by himself while we went on. Oh yeah, Jorr. We gave him a 100gp bonus and one of the hobgoblins’ masterwork swords. He’s really helped us out. Then we set out. It looked like some of the bad patches in the old road had been recently patched up, but it wasn’t long before Penn’s wolf stepped in a stirge nest. The darn things swarmed out and I was tempted to just fire a burning hands spell over the halfling, wolf, and stirges and apologize later, but I magic missiled some of them instead. In retrospect, maybe I should have just burned them. Anyway, Jorr and Jozan shot several of them off her and Marquess slashed a couple more and my magic finished the last few.

    We found the side track just like Penn had seen in her aerial expedition and followed it to the burned steading—Avery Vraath’s work, I gather. Jorr, Penn, Hellek, and I moved into the woods and prepared ourselves for when things went bad. Amazingly, they didn’t go bad. The giant jumped up, grabbed a rock and started saying he wouldn’t go down without a fight, but Khan fished the massive ugly gauntlet we recovered from the keep out and gave it to him. Between him and Jozan, that calmed him right down. We shared his meal of smoked dire boar and discussed the area. He had no love for the goblins he still though lived in the hills to the north of the bridge nor for the brutish hill giants and ogres that share the mountain caves. Marquess spoke up—he must have been studying rhetoric recently because it was inspiring—and managed to convince the giant (Warkelgnaw was his name) to help us oppose the hobgoblins. He said he’d leave this evening and see if he could convince his grandsons to help him make things difficult for them. We parted friends—or at least allies for the moment. Allied with a giant. Who’d have guessed?

    Anyway, it was dusk when we made it to the bridge. Hellek and Penn moved up to the edge of the brush to watch and see if there was a garrison. Sure enough, there was. A hobgoblin atop each of the towers, several tents and a fire on the other side of the gorge, and a dragon the size of a horse sitting atop the tower. Needless to say, the news of the dragon hit us hard. Penn turned into a bird and flew around the bridge, never getting too close to the dragon or anything else, but she got a count. In addition to the ones atop the towers, another 6-10 hobgoblins in the tents and a few barded hell-hounds. And she got a decent look at the dragon. Without light she couldn’t tell me what color it was but based on her description, I could tell it must be a green dragon. As she was circling, she saw a goblin with a bandage on its shoulder mount a worg and ride north up the road.*** She followed for an hour or so but turned around just in time to get back to us before she returned to halfling form.

    So, we kept watch all night, thinking to maybe make an assault in the morning. We discussed it with Jorr and he seems to have acquired a sensible taste for gold because he offered to join us if we made him a full partner in the expedition with a full share of the treasure including what we found in Vraath keep. There were still a half dozen plans floating around (Marquess wondered how many fireballs it would take to kill a dragon that size, Penn was worried about the barded hellhounds and Khan was thinking of ways Penn could fly us all across the gorge in the bag of holding we picked up from the bugbear. We didn’t decide anything.

    Wealsun 26. Penn had been on watch duty for about an hour and had seen the morning guard change and the dragon fly down to the hobgoblin camp and apparently discuss some things there. Then the dragon circled once around the bridge, and flew off south over the road towards Vraath Keep. Marquess could barely contain his excitement upon hearing the news. Now is our chance! We’ll wait five minutes, spell up and kill the hobgoblins before the dragon gets back!

    “Not to get too excited,” said Jorr, “but did you want my help or not?” Penn was skeptical, but Hellek, Marquess and Khan were eager for his assistance. Shortly, they settled on giving him the magic chain shirt Hellek had bought in Drellin’s Ferry and an even share of the coin and he was with us. Now comes the hour of reckoning.

    -----------------------------------------------DM Notes---------------------------------------------------------
    *I narrowed the time frame between Avery Vraath's death and the present a bit, partially as a way to make sense of the suggestion that the PCs who had spent over a month traversing the Witchwood might want to seek out Jorr. In this setting, Vraath keep was destroyed some ten to twenty years before the war. That puts Jorr Natharson in his late 40's or early 50's--quite old for a pseudo medieval setting--if he's a survivor from the destruction of Vraath Keep.

    **Marquess’ message: Greetings Count Bova. We have found a lg squad of mix monsters scouting party at Vaarth keep. We have intell of a larger force at Cinder Hill. 1000 goblins estimation. First to hit Drelling’s ferry in 5 days and Bova in 35 days once on march. The forgemaster from Coalhewer clan informed us. Dragons and giants were mentioned. War may be on us again. Prepare! Checking on giant encampment in Witchwood.

    ***The goblin ranger who escaped the battle at Vraath Keep. I figured that the most logical thing for him to do was to go to Skull Gorge bridge and report the death of Koth and capture of the keep. Ozzy sent him on to the horde with the same message. Logically then, the one day delay for killing Koth will be caused by reworking the chain of command for the attack Koth was supposed to be in charge of and reshuffling the Red Hand order of battle. (And I guess it moves the delay up a bit which is fortunate for the PCs since they would otherwise probably see the Red Hand on the march towards the bridge rather than at Cinder Hill). Also, I figured that Ozzy might want to confirm the goblin's story and see if he could spot the human forces responsible for it. Unfortunately for him, Penn rolled a really high hide check, so he's likely to come back and find all of his soldiers dead. Planning for the future, assuming that the PCs succeed in killing the bridge guard, it will be interesting to see what happens next.

    They could destroy the bridge and head back to Drellin's Ferry immediately in which case they'll probably encounter Ozzy on the road, skirmish with him and drive him off.
    The more interesting and more likely scenario is that they then continue on to Cinder Hill to scout the horde. Now, Kharn upon hearing that Koth is dead and Vraath keep captured and Ozzy will be scouting to confirm that, Kharn will probably send at least a couple patrols to reinforce the bridge. Those patrols will probably arrive at the bridge around the time that the PCs arrive at Cinder Hill and will meet up with Ozzy there. At that point, Ozzy probably isn't leaving the bridge again and unless the PCs get into a fight with the patrols (entirely possible I suppose) and prevent them from reinforcing the bridge, it will probably be too tough for them to take on and they'll have to go the long way around. That will put them getting back to the road about the same time the horde crosses the bridge. If that happens, it'll be day 13 when they arrive in Drellin's Ferry--just two days ahead of the horde! If they can take the bridge back and destroy it on the other hand, they arrive on day 11 and are seven days ahead of the horde.

    Either way, that makes a bit more sense of the Goblin Raid encounter. It can be a surprise attack meant to seize the north bank and the ferry (assuming the ferry is docked on the south bank, I guess they'll need to land some forces there to capture it and send it back across the river) before the people of Drellin's Ferry can destroy it or send it floating downstream. That makes a lot more sense than simple marauders and scouts ranging a week ahead of the main body of the Red Hand army deciding to attack a town that far outnumbers them for the joy of slaughter.

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Colossus in the Playground
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    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    Hm, that Manticore engaging them right off the bat seems to have put quite the hurt on them. Though coming down to Bite alone was practically committing suicide: then again, it isn't too bright. Love the style, by the way. Grimmath makes for a great PoV character. Also glad to see that Sending hilarity isn't limited only to OotS

    Now it seems like Ozzy at least will likely turn into a recurring problem for them. This also postpones their "can we deal with fliers"-test yet another encounter. Without Ozzy, the bridge garrison is a walkover for them. What follows after is the interesting part...
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  27. - Top - End - #27
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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    Yeah, landing in order to box Grimmath in didn't really work out well for the manticore. But the PCs may be in for a harder fight than you think at the bridge. Between the luring cavalier sergeant giving 8 level 2 fighters volley fire then disrupting spellcasting with the benefit of far challenge and my addition of a bard hasting and inspiring the group, they should be able to dish out some serious damage even as essentially) a large group of mooks.

    The things I need to decide now are:
    A. Assuming that one of the lookouts blows a horn to give the alarm, will Ozzy hear it and if he does, will he come back? (probably two to three times as quickly as he left if he does come back so we'd be looking at 1 1/2 to 2 minutes if we assume Ozzy left at a normal pace but comes back at a run).
    A1. If Ozzy does come back, presumably he would chase them away from the bridge but I would guess he would not pursue since he doesn't want to leave the bridge exposed a second time.
    A2. If Ozzy doesn't hear or hears but doesn't come back, the have the chance to destroy the bridge but probably won't because they will plan to use it to cross back after scouting the horde. Thus we're on to item B being important again.

    B. What forces would Kharn send to reinforce the bridge upon receiving the goblin's message about Koth being dead and Vraath Keep captured. He has a few options:
    B1. Dramatic over-reaction. Send Abithriax, Skather, Ulwai, and Varanthian to hold the bridge along with all seven doom hand warpriests mounted on wyverns.
    B2. Send quick reaction forces. His fastest forces are Abithriax, the wyverns, the Hieracosphynxes, the manticores, and the Barghests and wolf riders. Since we're not going with a dramatic overreaction here, I'll assume that Abithriax is out since his absence at the assembly would be noted and might be seen as a bad omen or a sign that things are not going well. The manticores are better suited to holding a defensive position than the other flying troops, so they seem like the logical choice if he sends fliers. If he doesn't send fliers, a unit of goblin worgriders--maybe led by a greater barghest looks like the next best choice.
    B3. Send a heavy unit--blackspawn raiders, blood ghost beserkers, hill giants, or veterans and regulars etc possibly led by a war adept or one of the warpriests. Of these options, neither the blackspawn nor the blood ghosts are well suited to holding a defensive position, so a platoon of twelve to thirty regulars--mixed polearms and archers with a couple sergeants, a cleric, and a war adept--possibly with a bladebearer to lead them might be the best option.
    B4. Combine B2 and B3. B2 arrives 4-6 hours ahead of the heavy squad. When B3 arrives, if there is no trouble, that leaves Ozzy a full squad of wolf-riders to use as scouts and gives Ozzy a small scout force to track down the human warband that killed Koth.
    B5. As D but shoot for 150 troops or so in total. The report Kharn received would have been that a relatively small group of highly skilled humans took down Vraath Keep but they could easily have just been the elite/vanguard or a larger force. Kharn would know that Drellin's Ferry can muster about 150 soldiers if they call up a full muster and would also have known that Baron Wiston annihilated what was left of the Black Knife goblins a couple weeks ago even though they outnumbered him, so I think he would have to consider the possibility that Wiston defeated Koth's attempt at reconnaissance in force, learned the location of Koth's base and immediately mobilized his full force to go on the offense. They aren't a threat to the horde, of course, but they could put a serious wrench in his schedule by destroying the bridge which might end up stretching his supplies. So, in scenario E, he dispatches enough forces to hold the bridge against the worst case scenario. Say, a dozen manticores as the initial force (if we're going big, we might as well send flyers) and 100 regulars, 50 warriors, with a few clerics, a dozen ogres, a kulkor zhul war adept, and one of the Doom Hand warpriests to command.

    I think I'm leaning towards having Ozzy come back and then the response be B4. That gives the Red Hand good strategic flexibility but keeps all of Kharn's major players at Cinder Hill, ready to be displayed and to display their might for the campaign's kickoff. And it doesn't involve such a large or noticeable portion of his forces that the hobgoblins will start talking. Also, if the players see the heavy force on the road, that gives them a chance to hightail it back to the bridge, fight the quick reaction force (probably along with Ozzy), and wreck it before it becomes truly impregnable. But B5 is pretty good too.
    Last edited by Elder_Basilisk; 2016-09-02 at 06:04 PM.

  28. - Top - End - #28
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    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    I'd say you can make a game of it: roll Listen (or rather, Perception) for Ozzy from the distance he is at (depending on how long the PCs wait) and see if he can make out the Horn (a distinctive sound). The distance between the Keep and the Bridge is maybe like 20 miles so if they wait long enough, chances of him hearing anything are slim indeed; still, a horn carries far particularly in good weather (maybe ~5-6 miles in clear weather?) so if he hasn't been gone for more than 30 mins or something I'd say chances are good he will be returning. Fly 150' puts him at about 1 hour 20 mins to cover that distance at normal speed, or ~40 mins if hustling, 20 mins if running; though with his Con, running that kinds of amounts of time isn't happening - he can run 17 rounds and take 10 on 3 Con-checks to go for 22 rounds or 2 mins at a time; though 2 mins of running already allows him to cover some 13200 feet or 2½ miles (if he's been gone for 10 mins at normal speed, he could potentially run back in 2½ mins).

    As for Kharn's response, the initial assumption is that a dragon combined with a forward base and warg rider patrols would suffice. Said forward base falling would immediately inform him that:
    1) There is a powerful foe on the move.
    2) If the foe is intelligent, it will likely try to take the bridge very soon, either as a strategic chokepoint (if they intend to hold) or to destroy it, neither of which Kharn is willing to allow happen.

    As for the quick response force, I think Kharn would dispatch his strongest fast units short of Abithriax. I think there's a reason Abithriax is kept with the Horde at all times; the presence creature with Dragon's Spot/Listen, Blindsense and so on makes any kinds of infiltration or assassination attempts much more difficult. In addition to a huge morale booster, Abithriax serves as the ultimate sentry, plus a unit that can be deployed against any flying magi who would threaten to damage the army's morale with magical bombardment or such.

    Interestingly, PF alters the response dynamics somewhat: in 3.5, the fastest non-Dragon unit by far are the Hieracosphinxes at their 90' fly speed. In PF though, their speed is only 60', tied with Wyverns, and only 10' faster than Manticores. Whatever the unit though, I think the fast fliers and Warg Riders are the obvious fast response force. The expeditionary force needs a trustworthy commander; I'd say the most likely choice is a Warpriest (isn't Ulwai in Thornwastes?). The units need to be elites as there's a highly limited amount of carrying capacity available particularly if the beasts aren't trained as mounts (I think he'd improvise and have the Wyverns and Hieracosphinxes carry ground forces). I'd say at the same time, Kharn doesn't want to risk all his elite units before he knows what he's up against so a limited number of fliers (your point of the defensive benefits of Manticores is sound; I'd say he'd use Wyverns/Hieracosphinxes as carriers and a couple of Manticores as an actual reinforcing units) complete with one Warpriest, one or two War Adepts, one Doom Hand Cleric and the rest as Veterans alongside one Sergeant accompanied by a squad of Warg Riders. Sergeant as the commander of the Veterans and nominally the Doom Hand Cleric and Warg Riders (though they will probably mostly act on their own - this is why I prefer to write a commander type for the Riders as well), Warpriest as the overall commander with the two War Adepts forming an artillery unit. Then send a reinforcing hustling force of the 40' ground movers: a couple of Hill Giants, and a significant force of Blood Ghost Berserkers and Ogres. Finally, probably a significant number of Regulars, Warriors and so on commanded by another Warpriest, Skather or some other trusted high ranking Horde member currently stationed with the Horde proper. Then the Horde itself follows. The reinforcements should forced march if necessary, while the Horde maintains normal march schedule to ensure it can punch through any unforeseen force it might encounter. I don't think Kharn is the like to get complacent - he feels like the kind of commander who prefers to ensure he has overwhelming advantage in the final push.

    It's also worth noting; the book notes that there's a 50% daily chance that scout groups are returning to Vraath Keep. I'd say after they find the Keep abandoned, they would immediately head towards the Bridge, suddenly alone in the middle of nowhere with no idea of what's going on. Thus I'd also add a 50% chance of some Warg Riders or potentially Regulars reinforcing the Bridge.
    Last edited by Eldariel; 2016-09-02 at 07:24 PM.
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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    Grimmath's Journal: Wealsun 26, Continued.

    We were all in a rush to get the assault started. I was going to haste the group and cast fireball on the tents and Penn was going to magic fang her wolf and cast barkskin on the wolf and Marquess and then we were going to attack. Or something. Somehow, even though we took time to plan, we overlooked a few key details. We worked out the order of our spells, then attempted to quietly ride our horses up to the treeline to begin prepping.

    It didn’t work of course. Someone—Jozan, Marquess, Penn’s wolf, some of the horses, or maybe all of them, why did we think it would be a good idea to ride our horses right up to the treeline anyway?—got spotted and the hobgoblins on the near parapets blew horns. That’s when it all went into the Otyugh's gullet. We heard the hobgoblin lieutenant trying to inspire his men and his sergeant calling out for volley fire. Arrows bounced around us like pebbles in a cave-in and found their mark as often as not. I think I was only conscious for about half the battle but it went something like this: after I cast my haste spell, the gobbos started firing arrows at me and even all the way across the canyon, several found my mark. Someone cast a haste spell on the other side of the canyon and I dropped a fireball into the haste cluster, sending several burning hobgoblins staggering off toward the hills. Another couple arrows put me face down in the dirt until Jozan brought me back to consciousness.

    Marquess and Penn charged up, followed by Jozan and Khan while Jorr traded arrows with the hobgoblin forces nearly putting down a hellhound and dropping a few hobgoblins on the towers. Hellek spent most of the battle either pouring potions down my throat, pouring them into my belly through an arrow hole in my throat, or bleeding on the ground waiting for Jorr to pour a potion down his throat. Marquess made it to the far side of the bridge, got hit by a flurry of tanglefoot bags, then the hobgoblin sergeant called him out and dropped him unconscious with a half-dozen arrows while he fought the second hellhound, Penn healed him with the gloves, and the sergeant dropped him again. He spent the rest of the battle bleeding while stuck to the back of his horse. Penn healed Marquess then decided that there were too many archers up front so she told her wolf to guard Jozan, turned into a bird, cast a spell to let her throw fire bolts and was promptly targeted by the hobgoblin archers in the towers fell forty feet, and exploded like a blood sausage when she landed on the edge of the bridge. That reminds me, I’ll have to ask Morlin if the humans make any decent blood sausages when I get back to Drellin’s Ferry.

    Jozan made it to the edge of the bridge, killed one of the hobgoblin archers who stayed below, then moved to engage the hobgoblin officers, stopping for a moment to heal Khan who had followed, slain a couple hobgoblins, and then collapsed to the ground, bleeding from half a dozen arrow wounds*. I didn’t see much of the fight but I did see a fiendish crocodile appear. Jozan’s spell of protection from evil thwarted it, but I’m told it nearly killed Khan and savaged Penn’s wolf. For his part, Jozan traded blows with the two officers and emerged victorious, though in the end, he could barely stand for loss of blood. I was there for that—Jorr and I had finally finished off the hobgoblins in the towers with his arrows and the bugbear’s wand while taking cover behind someone’s horse, then Jorr mounted up and rode ahead to strike the final blows against the hobgoblin lieutenant right as Jozan finished off the sergeant with a mighty blow of his goblin bane axe.

    At first we thought Khan was as dead as Penn but then someone noticed he was breathing, if only barely,** and Jozan recalled him to consciousness with Heironeous’ power.

    I guess we all felt obligated to the halfling because even though she drives us all nuts, so Khan dug out the scroll of Raise Dead that we found in the Vraath vault and read it over Penn, restoring her to life. Well, actually he read it, it didn’t do anything, then he read it again, louder and more slowly and it worked. I think he’d skipped a line the first time and was lucky the thing didn’t call down fire from heaven or turn him to stone. And imagining the kind of stick in the mud holy type that Marquess might have recruited to fill Penn’s place***, it’s probably for the best that it worked. Never think things can’t get worse.

    We scoured the slain hobgoblins and their encampment for any healing magics and turned up a partially charged wand on the lieutenant which we used till it crumbled to dust and a bunch of potions which Marquess chugged like a man seeing beer for the first time after a long journey. Then, as the blood dried on out clothes, we fell to arguing over what to do about the bridge: Cross over, then destroy it, cross over and hope to destroy it on the way back (or more likely find it garrisoned by the dragon and hundreds of hobgoblins), or just destroy it and head for Drellin’s Ferry. Eventually, Penn had enough of the discussion and just cast a spell at the earth supporting the bridge’s foundations which caused a small landslide and the bridge visibly cracked. We decided to scout to Cinder Hill to see exactly how many hobgoblins are marching on us so that we can let the count know if we are screwed, totally screwed, or screwed beyond all hope of saving.

    So, we rode up the road toward Cinder Hill to discover how much worse the news could get. The first bit of bad news came when Jozan spotted dark shapes in the sky above. We barely found cover in a copse of scraggly trees by the slope before they passed by us. Hellek stayed under the shadow of a rock and watched as they passed by: two dozen (so he says, but remember, my companions aren’t really known to be that good at counting) manticores with humanoid riders and one of them carrying a black banner with a severed wyvern’s head and some hobgoblin numbers on it. First a dragon, then more manticores. You would think that things couldn’t get worse, but you’d be wrong. Things can always get worse.

    A couple hours later, we see a cloud of dust approaching us on the road and make sure to get out of sight over a nearby ridge. Again, Hellek crawled up to the ridgeline to watch. And the news got worse. A company of hobgoblins with some kind of leader riding a gigantic dire wolf of some sort marching under two banners: a red hand on a yellow field and, beneath it, a severed wyvern’s head on a black field. Bad news indeed. But things could always get worse. And they did.

    An hour later, Jorr said we’d be coming up on Cinder Hill, so we dismounted and crawled up to the ridgeline. And there was the bad news. Three giant stockades full of tents and milling and drilling hobgoblins; a group of several hundred wolfriders performing maneuvers on the plains before the hill, several opulent pavilions atop the hill with a stand of some kind where the leaders viewed the manuevers and drums and flags to signal and, worst of all, another dragon—this one the crimson of flame and even at this distance, bigger than the green at the bridge. Beyond the hill was a less orderly encampment of giant figures—perhaps ogres or giants though it was hard to tell at our distance, and on the slope, another group of winged figures of a green-brown color. Marquess estimated the number at 3500 based on the number of tents and their layout, etc. Which, I think translates to screwed beyond all hope of saving, but I’m an optimist. It can always get worse.

    ------------------------------DM Notes------------------------
    My pathfinderization seriously upped the difficulty on this encounter. I had 12 Fighter 2 archers, a luring cavalier 4 for a sergeant, and a bard 5 for a lieutenant. They came within a couple die rolls of a TPK. Partly, this was due to poor tactical choices on the players' part (including using the last fireball on the tower with two hobgoblins on it rather than the one with three), in a couple situations due to bad rolls (Grimmath's fireballs both came out at 17 damage exactly--enough to stagger the hobgoblins, but not enough to kill them which meant they pulled their potions of cure light wounds and were back in the fight two rounds later), partly it was due to forgetting abilities (it wouldn't have been quite as close had Jozan remembered that he had the bane ability some time in the first seven rounds and he would have finished with more cushion than 3hp if he'd remembered his persistence inquisition gives him a souped up lay on hands 1/day, Khan would have finished off the summoned crocodile rather than been finished by it if he'd thought to use his belt of one mighty blow, etc), but a lot of it was just due to well-buffed low-level hobgoblin archers being nasty nasty customers.

    * My hobgoblin sergeant, a luring cavalier 4 with the volley fire feat, turned out to be a seriously nasty customer. After the bard hasted and inspired him, he was running at +10 to +14 (depending upon the volley fire bonus) for three attacks at 1d8+11 (+3 str, +1 enhancement, +2 competence from the bard, +4 from challenge, +1 point blank shot) within 30 feet against his challenged target. Once he got stuck in melee with Jozan, he still hit like a truck (1d8+9 (+3 str, +2 competence from the bard, +4 challenge) with his longsword).

    **Khan bled out while Jozan and Penn's wolf were fighting the sergeant, lieutenant, and summoned crocodile, but got retconned to life due to an easily remedied bookkeeping error. Jozan's player had forgotten that his cure moderate wounds is 2d8+6 rather than 2d8+3. Just before Khan bled out, he's rolled a 19 on his con check when he was at -10. Close but no cigar! Except he should have had 3 more hit points, so he should have been alive and stable at -7 rather than bled out at -Con.

    ***With no one able to read the raise dead, Penn's player was discussing his replacement character--despite the party's urgent need for some full casters, he was initially going for a fighter and had been talked into a paladin when we discovered the error and Khan turned out to be alive. Grimmath would have loved that. He's thinking about reworking his character into a hunter at this point since the class more closely models what he has in mind for his character though I'm not sure he'll really see an uptick in effectiveness from it unless he is very careful about how he builds it.
    Last edited by Elder_Basilisk; 2016-09-08 at 07:05 PM.

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Pathfinder Red Hand of Doom in Greyhawk (Sterich)

    Grimmath’s Journal. Wealsun 27

    Hey Journal! Today was a special day. Yesterday, we rode hard and made it back to the Witchwood. The ford had manticore tracks and looks to be quite passable. So the Hobgoblins know where it is and will probably be able to get their army across. Marquess spent a little time trying to see if there was anything we could do to make the crossing more difficult but we didn’t want to spend days driving sharpened stakes into the riverbed and even if we did, it probably wouldn’t slow them down too much. Taking out the bridge probably bought Baron Wiston an extra two days. Not much but better than burning off your beard.

    We pushed our horses to the brink of exhaustion and rode a couple hours past Vraath keep, but not without stopping to take a look. Penn crept up and saw that the gate had been barricaded and a dragon roosting on the roof. She came back to us with a haunted look on her face and since we weren’t snatched into the air and acid didn’t melt our flesh from our bones, she must have managed it without being seen. I guess she was useful for once.

    But that bad news was from yesterday. Today was a good day. See, we were riding quickly through the Witchwood and Marquess’ glaive clipped a stirge nest that had escaped his notice. Before anyone could do anything, the counfounded creatures swarmed and started sucking the life out of Marquess, Jozan, Jorr, and Khan. So I roasted the lot of them with a fireball. Marquess even thanked me for my quick thinking! See what I mean about a good day. I got nearly twenty creatures in a fireball and the survivors thanked me for it. You don’t get to do that just any day!

    Before sleeping, I finally cracked the code on all those papers we salvaged from Vraath keep too. It looks like these Red Hand hobgoblins are fanatical followers of Tiamat. Khan and Jozan say she’s the queen or goddess of evil dragons. Whatever. One evil god is much like the next if you ask me. They’ve got some commanders—High Wyrmlord Kharn—some hobgoblin priest or something is the leader of the horde. Azarr Kuul, the “azure prince” is the high priest and ultimate leader but he’s doing something at the “fane of Tiamat” in the mountains. And then there are a couple other dragons—Ozzyrandion had command of the forces at Skull gorge bridge so he must have been the green dragon we saw at the bridge and now at Vraath keep. There are several other Wyrmlords too: the hobgoblin we killed—Koth according to the correspondence was one but he must have been from the shallow, furry end of their gene pool. He was going to lead the assault on Drellin’s Ferry but that’s off the table now unless they decide to animate his corpse. The letters mentioned two others: Saarvith, some kind of goblin archer and Ulwai Stormcaller, a hobgoblin princess but were less forthcoming about what they were up to.

    Grimmath’s Journal. Wealsun 28
    A good day yesterday, a bad day today and tomorrow we’ll probably all be killed and eaten by hobgoblins. I always said this wood is trying to kill us and while we camped the night—with a little thing that barely qualifies as a fire dug into a small hill of what passes for dry grounds in this miserable excuse for a woodland—two bunches of rotting leaves and vines decided to try to kill us and our horses. They stretched out four horses on the ground before any of us even knew they were there and then proceeded to try to pull Marquess apart. They didn’t even burn properly when I fireballed them. I mean I knew they were fire resistant—I’ve read Hobnock’s Magical Herbs and Fantastikal Plants—but I still expected more than I got out of a third circle spell. Anyway, we cut them apart and then spent all of our remaining magic restoring us and our horses to consciousness and putting Marquess arms back in their sockets.

    And of course, since we’re in a hurry, we couldn’t avoid that damned Blackwater Causeway, and of course the Hydra was still there. Penn was her usual self. She cleverly lured the hydra away from the causeway with summoned creatures but stopped before it was quite far enough so when Hellek tried to cross, the hydra swam upstream faster than she could blink and left only shattered bones behind where there was once a horse before anyone could react. Jorr fired a few arrows and Hellek retreated, then Penn decided to try jumping the stream. I can only think she forgot about the slow, stagnant portions of the stream when she was calculating if she could make it. Her wolf made an impressive jump and promptly landed in the mire. The hydra did not leave her long to bemoan her misfortune and, with Hellek out of its reach, swam back and tore chunks out of Penn and Butterfly. Penn desperately swam for shore and Butterfly sank into the bog. Jorr and Jozan peppered it with arrows and I contributed my magic. This time, we finished the creature for good. At least politeness requires me to consider finishing it before it could rid us of the peck “good.” See, journal. I’m learning how to be diplomatic.

    So, we pushed our remaining horses hard made it to Drellin’s Ferry about an hour after dusk. Marquess was thinking of getting the baron another half-day of warning before the horde broke upon him and trying to convince Jorr to come to Bova and take the Count’s service. I was just thinking about the barrels of ale I remembered in the Green Apple’s taproom.

    The watchmen at the lumber camp challenged us and escorted us to the ferry when Marquess identified himself. It looks like they’ve widened the ditch around the lumber camp and added sharpened stakes to the berm since we left. Once they summoned the ferry to the west side of the river and we crossed, several of the baron’s men at arms escorted us to his manor where he greeted us and heard our report.

    We pulled out the map and papers and discussed our situation. Well, the baron and the others did. The baron had a keg of Keoish stout in the hall where we met to discuss what we had seen and I was halfway through my third stein by the time we got past the preliminaries, so the details are a little hazy. The baron was puzzled by the hobgoblins plan on the map since it went as far as Bova and then stopped with nothing to account for the Marquessas’ forces or those that might be marshaled by the other counts. Bova will be hard pressed to hold off the Red Hand’s assault but the full muster of Sterich should crush them handily—even if Count Tondhere does hold his forces back until they have defeated Bova. Perhaps those lizardmen the map says are near Lake Rhest or this mysterious "ghostlord" that the map places in the haunted vale (well, something has to be making those undead, why not a ghostlord?) are a part of that plan. There was also something about “what is Tyrgarun” and how will it hold off the Marquessa’s forces too but I think that’s where I blacked out.

    Day 6

    Grimmath’s Journal. Richfest
    It was far too early--perhaps 10 bells--when I woke up in the Old Bridge Inn and my companions told me that we all had to go to the baron’s council at noon. And since we were all nursing hangovers (except somehow Jozan), of course the first place they wanted to go was cousin Morlin’s forge. Of course. I swear that blackbearded scoundrel kept hammering on his anvil while we talked just to spite me. By the time we’d picked up Khan’s breastplate and Marquess’ glaive guisarme, and left the fullplate from Vraath keep to be enchanted, bought a new horse to replace the hydra snack, and another quart of ale (I’m only counting mine—Marquess and the others can keep track of their own intoxication).

    Then we met with the Baron’s council and I soon wished for the hammering rather than all the incessant yammering of voices. The little halfling weasel wondered if the Red Hand could perhaps be bought off. The old ferret thought they might hold them at the river, but eventually all came to the conclusion that they must evacuate. One day to send notice to all the baron’s vassals. A second day to prepare and gather in the harvest and they would meet in the square. All of the timber at the camp as well as the ferry were to float downstream with as much of the harvest as they could fit. We would pick them up again at Nimon Gap before the falls and rapids.

    That was when the horns sounded. As if the day weren’t loud enough already. We ran outside and saw wolfriders attacking the town from all sides, fighting at the watchposts with more streaming through to reach the ferry building and a troop assaulting the palisade of the lumber camp. Marquess said they must mean to seize the ferry and west side of the river to facilitate the crossing of their army. I drained my tankard and climbed onto my horse. At least it was quieter outside and there was a good chance I would be able to burn something or blast it apart. We rode straight for the ferry while the baron’s men fought at the guardposts and the baron himself snatched an armored jacket and ran for the stables.

    It was fortunate that we were already equipped for battle. When we reached the square, wolfriders and a hellhound were already racing towards the ferry building. Spotting us, they peppered Marquess with arrows. I cast a spell to speed us up and Jozan, hearing spellcasting to our left but seeing nothing cast a spell to let him see invisible foes. And we joined the battle. Jozan saw a priest of Tiamat hidden by his spell of invisibility and calling upon Heironeous to make his axe the bane of goblins, slew him in two blows. Marquess took down the hellhound with little effort but fell wounded by dozens of goblin arrows as the wolfriders dodged around, doing their best to avoid him, Khan, and Hellek. Just as Khan finally cornered one of the wolfriders, we caught a glimpse of a crude boat packed with hobgoblins moving between patches of fog on the river. A goblin ducked behind his wolf to avoid Khan’s swing and six hobgoblins wielding polehammers and one scarred robe-wearing hobgoblin leaped out. I caught several of them in a fireball, but none of them fell and then one of the goblins slipped around the back of the ferry building and pinned me between his slavering wolf and the Old Bridge inn. I tried to put the wolf and scimitar out of my mind and drop a second fireball on the group but there were too many distractions and I felt the arcane formula slip through my grasp.

    The robed hobgoblin gestured and a lightning bolt blasted Marquess from his feet again and scorched Khan and two of our horses. I ran away, dodging the worg’s teeth and peppered the goblin with force missiles to little effect. Jozan stepped around the ferry building and was promptly surrounded by hobgoblin polehammers while Hellek desperately dueled another one of the new hobgoblins. The hobgoblin sorcerer reached for his components and conjured an angry stormcloud that rained lightning on my head. One of the wolfriders began prodding the oxen to wheel the ferry to the other side. We were all going to die.

    Then, right as the hobgoblin sorcerer was about to cast another spell, the tip of an arrow emerged from his throat and another from his chest for good measure. Jorr stepped out from behind the old toll house, bow in hand, and looking for more targets. He soon found them. I conjured a scorcher that finished off three of the new polearm wielding hobgoblins and looked up to see one of the baron’s men at arms charge all the way across town and impale the last wolfrider on his lance. And then there was a moment of blessed silence.

    ---------------------------------------------DM Notes---------------------------------------
    The players seem to be grabbing onto the story well without any need for additional motivation. They've decided on their own with only the information that the adventure gave them at Cinder Hill and Vraath keep that they need to evacuate Drellin's Ferry (not that that's a hard call), and that they should find out what Saarvith is up to at Lake Rhest and find out what's going on with the Ghostlord. On the story level, I think this is working very well.

    On the other hand, the encounters are roughing them up pretty badly. This writeup has two sessions and it didn't help that Penn's player didn't make the second session (the goblin raid battle; fortunately her absence was readily explained by her going to visit her estate and secure a new animal companion), but I ended up pulling my punches and had Jorr and the baron's man at arms bail them out of what looked very likely to be a TPK, and I didn't even punch the difficulty up too much. My worgriders are a little tougher than the default book worgriders, I gave the hellhound leather barding, and added a hobgoblin inquisitor 4 to the first wave (he went down like a punk and accomplished nothing beyond separating Jozan from the party). The second wave I gave lucerne hammers to and added a 4th level hobgoblin fighter as a sergeant but my additions mostly just serve to even out the ELs which would otherwise be lower due to pathfinder dropping the CR of NPCs by one across the board. It should not have been that hard. At least Jorr and the men at arms were very organic additions--my players were already wondering, "where's everyone else?" by the time they showed up. Still, the Goblin Raid is supposed to be more of a warm-up encounter than a desperate, climactic fight. I'm starting to think that the Pathfinder increases in player power don't make up for pathfinderizing all the enemies and effectively letting me add another EL worth of them to every fight.

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