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    Canonfire :: View topic - The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth: Lanthorn-style
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    GreySage

    Joined: Sep 09, 2009
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    Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:08 pm  
    The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth: Lanthorn-style

    I have long considered this module to be one of my favorites even though it is a dungeon crawl in the extreme (I typically don't prefer them). When I finally decided to DM it (second time only) for my current player, I refamiliarized myself with the setting, encounters, lay-out, and premise. I had to tweak a few things to make it work for my campaign as any one of us would do. Foremost among those was the 'adventure hook' to involve the PCs and NPCs.

    My player has a Heironean paladin (Justarius) and battlemage (Doran) hailing from Veluna. Both are active in the military for the defense of Veluna in spite of the current peace (this takes place just prior to the Greyhawk Wars) and are relatively experienced (6th, 7th lvls respectively) who have seen A LOT in their adventures (including doing battle many times over with the Slave Lords). Justarius’ family has a long tradition steeped in the faith of Heironeous with ties to both Veluna City’s Church of the Archpaladin, the military, and count many armorers in its family ranks (including Justarius himself!). Doran was trained as an invoker (specialist), is a childhood friend of Justarius, and the two have a near unshakable friendship in spite of their differing opinions about religion (Doran is not pious and takes a pragmatic view to the Powers) and a good many other ideologies. Nevertheless, they have battled side by side on numerous campaigns against the forces of Evil.

    Unbeknownst to him, Justarius is being considered for potential candidacy into the Knights of Veluna. However, even though he is battle-tested with an impressive record against a wide array of enemies, Justarius’ direct service to his home nation remains rather scant. The same held true with Doran in spite of the fact that he was trained in the Battlemage Corps of Veluna City. To 'prove' his 'worth' into the esteemed ranks of the Knights, Justarius had to be 'tested.' Enter the plot and adventure hook:

    A Velunese patrol along the northern border near the southern Yatils encountered a small group of individuals who did their best to avoid questioning as to their purpose. Magic was used against the patrol to bend their interests, but the enchantment thwarted by a cleric serving in the group. At this point, the group viciously attacked the patrol, unleashing terrible magical power, both clerical and wizardly in nature, as well as might of arms. The patrol was almost utterly annihilated had it not been for their training and some use of counter-magic; they fell back, scoring no decisive casualties to their enemy, but forced the interlopers deeper into the wilderness. However, in so doing, the group accidentally dropped a pack containing vital information about their hidden and dark plans.

    Upon examination, a crude map of the Yatils with winding mountain passes was found, none of them terminating to any specific location. More disturbing, however, was the discovery of the skull-like holy symbol of Iuz the Old within the pack, thus revealing the true nature of this expeditionary force on Velunese soil. Powerful divination magic (both arcane and divine) was used by officials and agents in the Archclericy, and they all concluded the same: agents of the Old One were seeking some ancient site of power hidden deep in the mountains to the north.

    To the goodly Velunese, this was unacceptable, and they mustered a rival faction to counter the Iuzian threat. Justarius and Doran were charged with joining this expeditionary force, along with several others (clerics of Heironean and St Cuthbertine faith, and a Diviner wizard, too).

    Their first stop was in the Highvale, where they would receive additional aid, not only in supplies and mountain ponies, but also in more men (a mountain man ranger, dwarven fighter/scout, gnomish priest of Ulaa, and half-elven wizard/scout…this fellow later turned out to be an undercover Spellfilcher agent of the elves!). They met up with the Lord Mayor of Highfolk, as well as the rest of their retinue, including a priest of Rao (and a number of soldiers) who acted as ambassador/envoy from Veluna to 'seal' the pact between the Highfolk and the Archclericy on this delicate, and secretive, mission.

    All counted, they numbered a considerable force of a dozen or more individuals, all well-trained (the lowest level was 3th) and ready to stymie their enemy’s progress. Their mission was twofold, really: one, to slay and/or capture the enemy, and two, to locate the hidden site, if possible…


    Last edited by Lanthorn on Thu Dec 27, 2012 10:53 am; edited 2 times in total
    GreySage

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    Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:12 pm  

    That's quite a group your player is going to be responsible for playing. Shocked Certainly a realistic force for a nation to send on such an expedition, but it may be a bit unwieldy for gaming, even if you, as the DM, play half the NPCs.

    Oh, well. That's just my initial thought. I'm greatly looking forward to hearing about how it went/is going. My own campaign is on hold through the holidays. I do love the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and am keen to hear how your PCs' foray into the Yatils fairs. Smile

    SirXaris
    GreySage

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    Sat Dec 22, 2012 8:07 am  

    My player only PCs Justarius and Doran. The rest are mine to control. Shocked Yes, that is quite a hefty number...that said, when it comes to combat situations, I often allow my player to run a few of the 'lesser' NPCs to ease my burden, like the minor clerics and soldiers. After combat is done, I resume control of them. It tends to work out well that way.

    Just to give you a spoiler, this campaign soon became epic (it rivaled my Slave Lords saga), and perhaps the bloodiest on record that I've ever run! Evil Grin

    -Lanthorn
    GreySage

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    Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:50 am  

    Lanthorn wrote:
    Just to give you a spoiler, this campaign soon became epic (it rivaled my Slave Lords saga), and perhaps the bloodiest on record that I've ever run! Evil Grin


    Nice! Cool

    SirXaris
    GreySage

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    Sun Dec 23, 2012 9:39 pm  

    As a DM, I didn't want to downplay the wilderness aspect of this campaign. Partly, this was a selfish decision b/c I do very much enjoy outdoor adventures (in fact, more so than most dungeon crawls) and consider myself more adept at running them. Furthermore, I saw the overland journey as integral to the overall sense of adventure for this module and didn't want to gloss it over. Thusly, I planned out a long and rigorous wilderness portion.

    As a result, I prerolled weeks of weather and random encounters for the Highvale and Yatil Mtns regions. This work all paid off since I didn't need to take valuable game time to do it. This also gave me the chance to 'flesh out' any interesting encounters well in advance (it happened...stay tuned in future posts for this answer!). I didn't want the party merely to walk right up to the LOST Caverns, but rather actually work at finding the lead trails (as found on the map) first and foremost. Once the main trails were discovered, they would have to meander through the mountains, following the map, in order to discover the caverns.

    I had already rolled up the Iuzian faction in advance and did not want to downplay their lethality as passed on by the few survivors of the unfortunate Velunese patrol. At the same time, I wanted a certain element of chance in my game and didn't want to predetermine in advance when and where the "Iuzians" (as I have come to call them) would stumble upon the 'good guys.' Hence, I decided that if I randomly rolled up a "human" result on my encounter table, then that would be the enemy faction likewise seeking the hidden cavern system...

    more to come,

    -Lanthorn
    GreySage

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    Mon Dec 24, 2012 1:12 pm  

    I'm going to have to give more thought to the weather in my campaign. I think it will add quite a bit of fun to any encounters. I just haven't focused on that aspect yet and would like to see what we've been missing.

    SirXaris
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    Mon Dec 24, 2012 1:26 pm  

    The (NPC) priest of Rao (Marius Velestes) was the Church (and Archclericy) representative of the group, and though technically its 'leader' he deferred to the military authority of a high-ranking militant priest of St. Cuthbert (Captain Desmond Fallroyce). Marius was also a scholar in the ways of magic and thus had a skillset appropriate to the task at hand.

    Beneath the Captain came at least two other members of the Order of St Cuthbert. Second to Fallroyce was a noble priest of the Cudgel, Sir Orsen, quite the opposite of what you'd expect from this Faith. He saw an order to the ranking and station of people in society and saw it as his duty and responsibility to carry out the task set before him. A junior member of the faith also went forth to bolster the ranks of St Cuthbert's representation on this expedition.

    Among those Heironeans was Sir Justarius (PC paladin), a driven and fiesty (NPC) priest named Luther (an inquisitor of sorts against those who dabble in the Dark Arts), and towering Sir Marcel, a cleric-cavalier and a man of great bearing and strength.

    Among sorcerors, there were but two from Veluna. Doran, (PC) battlemage, and the snobbish, amoral, yet unquestionably adept and knowledgeable, Kelmar the Diviner. I had originally thought to make Kelmar a double agent (and secretly a minor cleric too) of Vecna, but later decided against this. It seemed too predictable (to have a traitor in the midst), so I nuked the idea and kept Kelmar 'loyal' to the mission and its party affiliates.

    Rounding the Velunese contingent came several warriors, soldiers of some skill from the military. Foremost among them, and chief guardian for Priest Marius (whose fighting skills were poor as you'd expect from a Raoan), was Lt. Gabriel Thatcher. His primary edict, handed to him by the Church of Rao itself, was to protect Marius above all others. Many other soldiers (about half a dozen!) bolstered the fighting ranks.

    Hailing from their neighbor and ally, the Highfolk, came a ragtag collection of personalities. To assist in surviving the wilds of the Yatils came a gruff mountain man ranger and his associate, a dwarven scout (wayfinder kit). They were in no way obligated to actually delve into the Caverns, but rather get the party to their desired location (or at the very least, on the trails noted on the map).

    Next was the gnomish priest, Ervil Gadderby of Ulaa, and a half-elven scout with some magical skill named Loren Draethyl. Unbeknownst to EVERYONE (including the Highfolk contingent), Loren was no half-elf at all, much less a mage-scout. He was, in fact, an undercover agent of the elves of Flameflower, a Spellfilcher! His mission was to assist in the locating and recovery of anything magical, but if something of true and great importance (or Evil) was discovered, he was to appropriate the item and Teleport immediately (by scroll) to Flameflower. Barring that, his allegiance to the party was true and fast.

    After the party get acquainted, they soon mounted their ponies and began the long, arduous trek north along the river running parallel to the Yatils. They would ferry across the great river once they were halfway up the Highvale...

    -Lanthorn, Storyteller


    Last edited by Lanthorn on Mon Dec 24, 2012 2:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
    GreySage

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    Mon Dec 24, 2012 2:25 pm  

    SirXaris wrote:
    I'm going to have to give more thought to the weather in my campaign. I think it will add quite a bit of fun to any encounters. I just haven't focused on that aspect yet and would like to see what we've been missing.

    SirXaris


    Ever since I started running wilderness adventures, I have made ample use of perhaps my favorite accessory book, Wilderness Survival Guide. Weather adds a totally new, and to me, crucial (and realistic!) element to the game. Without it, running outdoor adventures is like food without spices: bland and tasteless. For some character classes, wilderness is where it's at: druids, rangers, scouts, barbarians, etc. Some spells completely capitalize on the power of the elements. I suggest DMs do the same. Cool

    -Lanthorn
    GreySage

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    Thu Dec 27, 2012 10:52 am  

    I will try to recall the gist of what happened from here on, as this (mis?) adventure started MANY months ago. I will have to go over my notes, random encounters, etc, to reconstruct events as they occurred. If there are any inconsistencies, bear with me. I apologize in advance.

    Cast of Characters
    Marius Velestes: 7th lvl Scholar Priest of Rao
    Captain Desmond Fallroyce: 9th lvl (soldier) Billet of St Cuthbert
    Sir Orsen Dalby: 7th lvl (noble) Billet of St Cuthbert
    Theodore O'Rourke: 6th lvl Billet of St Cuthbert
    Luther Elhardt: 8th lvl (inquisitor) Cleric of Heironeous
    Sir Marcel Lamoreaux: 5th/7th Cleric-Fighter (Cavalier) of Heironeous
    Lt Gabriel Thatcher: 6th lvl Myrmidon fighter
    Kelmar: 10th lvl Diviner (Academician kit)
    Avery: 5th lvl fighter (soldier)
    Leonard: 3rd lvl fighter (soldier)
    Dalton: 4th lvl fighter (soldier)
    Howard: 3rd lvl fighter (soldier)
    Bryce: 3rd lvl fighter (soldier)
    Loren Draethyl: 5th/5th lvl Mage-Thief (elven Spellfilcher) posing as half-elven scout with minor magical skills
    Ervil Gadderby: 7th lvl gnomish Priest of Ulaa
    Thaddeus: 7th lvl Mountain Man ranger
    Bolain Gladdik: 5th/6th lvl Fighter-Thief (Dwarven Wayfinder kit)
    Justarius Irn Thusus: 6th lvl Noble Warrior Paladin of Heironeous (PC)
    Doran Lenox: 7th lvl battlemage (PC)

    YES, that is a very long list of characters, far greater in number and total levels than the module expects. However, I had a method to my seeming madness. Evil Grin

    Firstly, I wanted a 'realistic' expedition force given the situation, rather than some petty rabble. I wanted the Archclericy to take this matter seriously and mount a skilled counter against the Old One's faction.

    Secondly, I fully intended to make the party take the 'long way' to get to the Caverns via a rigorous wilderness trek overland. That alone would be an adventure, filled with elemental hazards, random encounters, and potentially, the Iuzians themselves. I expected casualties along the way. No pulling punches on this one.

    Thirdly, I wasn't that worried about the 'overwhelming' strength of the party should they actually reach the Caverns more or less intact. A DM can always strengthen encounters. Besides, I planned that the 'good guys' would eventually run afoul the Iuzian faction, and THAT would almost surely whittle their numbers down a bit!!!

    -Lanthorn
    GreySage

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    Thu Dec 27, 2012 12:16 pm  

    As Machiavellian as always. Evil Grin
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    GreySage

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    Fri Dec 28, 2012 10:40 am  

    Mystic-Scholar wrote:
    As Machiavellian as always. Evil Grin


    Thanks for the words of praise, Mystic. Happy Almost all of my plots have some layering to them. I seldom have a direct, 'what you see is what you get' plot. Usually there's at least one twist to every campaign. Keeps my player on his mental toes that way...

    -Lanthorn
    GreySage

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    Fri Dec 28, 2012 11:21 am  

    Our journey begins with the group departing from the City of Highfolk, riding their sturdy mountain ponies (horses) north along the Velverdyva River. It is summertime in 582, and quite pleasant throughout the Highvale. The party, co-led by priests Marius (Rao) and Captain Fallroyce (St Cuthbert), make good time for a few days before ferrying across the great river halfway up the valley. Here they reach the foothills of the Yatils on the western side of the Velverydyva River and pick their way steadily north until a suitable break in the mountain chain can be seen by their two trackers and wilderness experts, Thaddeus (mtn man ranger) and Bolain (dwarven wayfinder).

    All is well, the party feeling relatively safe within the domain of the lush and well-defended Highvale. Nevertheless, evening shifts are assigned, several people per post. Unecessary risks are not to be taken. Clerical spells of guardianship, Blessed Watchfulness, enhance the sensory acuity and vigilance of the sentries. Such a precaution was wise when the security of their campsite was interrupted one evening (rather early in their northern trek, in fact). The nighttime peace is shattered when cries of alarm, confusion and agony fill the air, mixing with thunderous roars. Dark projectiles tapering to deadly points whistle as they cut through the air, several striking their marks, a few thudding harmlessly into the lightly wooded cover surrounding the group. One sentry, Theodore (St Cuthbertine), stands on rocking heels, his torso studded by several, one of them embedded deeply in his chest. He falls to the earth, blood pouring out to stain the earth.

    Hastily, those sleeping (typically in back-up lighter armor for many) assemble their defenses against this unseen assault. The sentries race for cover, torches aloft to penetrate the darkness until a clerical Light is used to vanquish the gloom and reveal HUGE leonine shapes with great batlike wings surrounding the campsite. The monstrous creatures fling deadly spikes from their tails, peppering the group as they launch a counterattack with great skill and might of arms. Doran (PC battlemage) is eager to lead the attack, flinging Magic Missiles at the closest beast attacking him, its lethal spikes largely bouncing off his hastily erected Shield spell and clipping the trees behind which he has ducked.

    The manticores close for melee as the men begin to hew them with axes and swords. Divine spells of battle enhancement bolster their fighting skills while hindering the monsters. Arcane magic completes the salvo and the manticores are quickly slain, save one which snatches the lifeless body of Theodore in its jaws and leaps into the darkness with its prize.

    When all is done, at least three manticores lay dead before the group with only one casualty, Theodore, among their own number. Despite this 'victory,' there is a great sense of loss...only days out of Highfolk, and already a death in their party. There is outrage at the loss of Theodore's body and a stalwart group, led by the dwarven and mountain man trackers, goes out to reclaim the cleric and slay the wounded beast that almost surely will devour his remains.

    It is a precarious and slightly difficult task, but the blood trail is easy to find, for the injured monster is apparently too weak to take air with its prize. Shortly afterwards, they come upon the grisly remains of their comrade and not much left but gore, crushed bones, and shredded (and largely eaten!) mail armor. The manticore is nowhere to be seen, and it is concluded the beast must've heard and seen the group coming from afar and fled for its life. Although the group dearly wishes to track it down and put an end to its man-eating, they decide to collect what is left of their ally for a proper burial on the morrow...

    -See! As predicted, our first casualty. Evil Grin I rolled a critical strike on poor Theodore from the opening salvo of tail spikes. After consulting the Combat and Tactics book for effect, the doomed cleric was slain near-instantly from a debilitating chest shot (bleeding result). His Fate was sealed when nobody raced to his aid with major healing magic to stabilize his condition, and a hungry manticore snatched him instead.

    -Lanthorn
    GreySage

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    Fri Dec 28, 2012 1:58 pm  

    Nice start, Lanthorn. Pull no punches! A DM after my own heart. Seems the lure of the dark side is irresistable, hmm?

    SirXaris
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    Fri Dec 28, 2012 5:41 pm  

    The party buries what little remains of Theodore the following day and performs a joint religious ceremony over his remains (Rao, St Cuthbert, and Heironeous) before departing with a collective heavy heart (of course, a few members are not so moved, namely the callous Kelmar, crusty dwarf, and matter-of-fact, gruff ranger). Turning due west, they begin an arduous overland trek into the heart of the Yatils.

    [DM's note: I have always wondered what modern, Earthly comparison rivals the description of the ruggedness of the Yatil Mtns. To me, perhaps the Alps come to mind with their sheer cliffs and towering peaks. From a personal perspective, I have borne witness to the Rocky Mtns, having dwelled in Montana for a time, as well as visiting Glacier National Park. I used those experiences to draw parallels with the Yatils, whether they are accurate or not. Fortunately, my player has likewise ventured into those parts (with me, on a few adventures, in fact), so this was useful from a storytelling point of view.]

    The party made little good time as they meandered, almost aimlessly, through the mountains. They had no roads or paths to follow and relied heavily on the 'bush-whacking' skills of their wilderness experts to carve a navigable path through the rugged terrain. As it was the height of summer, in spite of the elevation, the temperatures soared to the upper 80s, with a blue sky and blazing sun overhead. Clerical use of protective Endure Heat was absolutely critical to avoid heat stroke or exhaustion. I made ample use of my Wilderness Survivial Guide to monitor the effects of heat had they not wisely used such spells to stave of the elements. Furthermore, food and water was carefully monitored, as well, for they had no magical means to produce such.

    The party was greeted by towering peaks, some of them still snow-capped and rising heavenward towards the clouds. Azure, clear skies were alive with soaring birds of all sorts (primarily raptors) as well a buzzing insects. Brilliant flowers danced in the mountain breeze as did a variety of grasses. Swaths of alpine conifers dotted the slopes, adding a dark green color to the scene. Occasional waterfalls cascaded down the mountains, and streams and small rivers carved through the low-lying valleys. Rodents of all sizes (including pikas, large marmots, and ground squirrels) chirped and barked from their rocky perches before dashing to safety. Some reptiles basked on the rocks. Among the larger game were distant, wary herds or flocks of sheep, goats, and deer. No large predators were seen, but the spoor and tracks of bear, wolf, and hunting cats were spied. Of course, far worse and more dangerous creatures lair within the mountain chain, and the party worried about crossing paths with such monsters.

    To the gnomish priest of Ulaa (Ervil), these sights, smells, and sounds were splendid gifts from his Goddess. To Marius (an eager, inquisitive mind) he especially explained at length the edicts and philosophies of Ulaa, drawing upon the sensory backdrop to accentuate his points. A few others listened attentively, including Justarius (PC paladin), while some (like Kelmar) droned it out as religious prattle. Most of the city-dwellers merely looked to the mountains as just another obstacle they needed to overcome and little else.

    Days passed with no appreciable encounters, although the party did encounter a rather large, threatening earthquake that threatened to swallow the group in a resulting rockslide. Fortunately, they were largely spared catastrophe, with only minor injuries and casualties (Kelmar's horse was buried and died, but the skilled mage used a Teleport to escape to safety from his rocky 'tomb').

    However, the relative peace of their rigorous expedition was to be tested soon enough...

    -Lanthorn
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    Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:38 pm  

    Ha! The avalanche random encounter. I remember that! When I ran it, my friend playing a magic-user refused to believe the warnings I gave that an avalanche was coming and insisted that his PC sit right where he was because it was all an illusion. Shocked Well, I hit him with it, but being a softy in my high school days, I left his PC alive with one hit point left. Razz

    SirXaris
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    Sat Dec 29, 2012 11:48 am  

    By now the various personalities of the party were developing:

    Captain Fallroyce was your typical no-nonsense St Cuthbertine priest who didn't brook argument very well. Although not the sharpest sword in the scabbard (far from it, actually), he was both strong of body and judgment, with a shrewd tactical mind. He took an instant dislike to Kelmar, given the mage's haughty bearing and irreverance towards religion, often referring to him as 'the man who thinks he knows everything.'

    Sir Orsen was the atypical cleric of St Cuthbert given his high social station. To him, everyone had a role to play in society, from peasant to nobleman, and it was his duty to serve his God and the Archclericy in the trappings of high rank. He, Sir Justarius, and Sir Marcel all had noble titles in common, and thusly, the three men had equal footing and an understanding of their obligations (though Marcel had a different philosophy as you will read later). Orsen was also a man of some artistic skill, it turned out, and was rather agreeable towards most of the others, though he, too, actively disliked Kelmar, and did not care for the more rugged members of their group.

    Marius was the 'glue' that held everyone in check, finding a diplomatic balance between all factions of the party, from the common soldier to the ranking men of minor nobility. He was more than willing to debate with Kelmar (whom he knew from a scholarly perspective and was the advocate for his membership) about religion and the roles of the Powers over mortals, and counter the snobbish man's arguments with his own. He alone seemed unaffected by Kelmar's haughty bearing and chided him for his lack of piety and humility. Marius took a liking towards most of the party, especially Sir Justarius (for his open mind and humble persona), Sir Marcel, and the gnome. He respected the dedication most of the others showed for this critical mission.

    Luther was a stocky, semi-diminutive ball of energy. He accepted the position to serve the Archclericy on this expedition with zeal, for he ardently believed had been charged by Heironeous to join the group. Luther had some skill in the ways of Divine magic, and chose a path to defeat the practitioners of Dark Magic (akin to the Inquisitor kit in the Complete Book of Paladins which I adapted for a priest). He eagerly followed Captain Fallroyce's lead and was easily that man's indespensible right hand.

    Sir Marcel, towering and powerful, was actually a bit of a gentle giant, more defender than active warrior. He spoke softly, with a calm demeanor, and, like Marius, was often a balancing force in the party. Marcel and Justarius quickly forged a mutual respect, and perhaps even friendship, in a rather short time, for the two men had similar personalities and philosophies. Although granted a title, Marcel did not see his station as a self-serving authority, but rather a way to serve the common person.

    Sir Justarius, holy warrior of Heironeous, followed the orders given to him and did not want to rock the boat. With capable leadership (Fallroyce, Marius, Luther), he did not see it necessary, and still a bit uncertain as to his role in this group, the young man filled whatever position needed to be done. Recent losses from previous campaigns still haunted the paladin, unbeknownst to everyone (except perhaps Luther and Marcel), and thus, undermined Justarius' belief in himself. His Faith would soon be tested, as well as his might of arms...

    Doran, aggressive and practical of mind, served as the chief magical artillery of the party. Whereas Kelmar undoubtedly was more skilled and powerful in the arcane, Doran's magical arsenal was far more offensive in nature. Always eager to launch into battle with devastating evocations, Doran intended to prove his worth, upstage the arrogant Kelmar, and 'get the job done.' Furthermore, Doran felt indebted, angrily so, for being 'forced' into this mission by the Velunese military, but he was at least satisfied to serve alongside his friend.

    Kelmar, middle-aged, skilled, and clearly amoral, was hired on for his extensive knowledge and repertoire at finding things, people, and magical items. Kelmar enjoyed flaunting his power (especially against Doran, whom he deemed a dangerous, undisciplined whelp) and debating with the priests about the self-serving nature of the Powers, turning their arguments against them. Thus, he swiftly alienated others from him, with perhaps the exception of Marius, but Kelmar did not care. His job was rather secure, given that he execute it with skill, which he DID intend to do. Loyal to the payment he would receive rather than the 'higher Good' that it would serve, Kelmar was interested in that, and that alone. He knew, as did his 'employers' (who screened him and knew of his True Neutral alignment) that he had taken an oath to the Archclericy, and to betray them would be tantamount to treachery, so Kelmar was not likely to do so...

    Ervil, gnomish priest of Ulaa, hailing from the Highvale, was a friendly, agreeable personality, always talking (especially when nervous). Easily one of the more gregarious of the group, Ervil proved to be a steadfast member of the party. He and Loren seemed particularly close as allies, but Ervil also enjoyed the company of the dwarf (who largely brushed him off), Marius, Marcel, Justarius, and even Doran at times (who speaks Gnomish).

    Loren, undercover Spellfillcher of Flameflower, used his guise as half-elven scout to conceal his true identity. He never intended to reveal his true motives or persona whatsoever, especially with the likes of Doran and Kelmar (whom he justifiably considered the biggest threat to uncovering his disguise) in the party. Loren was truly friendly and helpful, acting as scout, rear guard, using his magic when needed, but downplaying his arcane abilities, and never revealing his 'special' Spellfilching talents.

    Lt Gabriel was Marius' close companion, personal bodyguard, and protector. He took orders from Fallroyce so long as they did not counter his primary role. Gabriel was a good man, dutiful soldier to this country, and generally well-respected and liked among the party.

    The other soldiers (basic 'stock' NPCs whose personalities I did not really develop) served the bulk of the fighting force of the party.

    Bolain, the dwarven Wayfinder, and Thaddeus, the mountain man (ranger kit), were matter-of-fact pragmatists, gruff, direct, and not really interested in general chitchat with the soldiers. They neither made friends nor enemies in the party.

    -more adventures to come next...

    -Lanthorn
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    Sat Dec 29, 2012 2:54 pm  

    Roughly a week after the manticore attack, and delving through the rugged Yatil terrain, the expedition met its first potential hostile encounter. While trekking through the lower, wooded valleys that meandered amid the towering peaks, the party came upon definitive sign they were not alone in the wilderness. The trackers spied many fresh footprints in the ground, manlike in shape, but slightly different: booted humanoids.

    With heightened awareness, the expedition camped in a shallow cave than night, using fallen timbers as a wall, and trying their best to conceal the small fire they used for warmth, light, and to cook their food. Sentries were posted, divine blessings of guardianship enhancing their alertness. Their vigilance and precautions proved well-grounded, for they were attacked that very night by partly concealed, howling assailants, arrows shooting into their midst.

    The group quickly and adeptly counterattacked, using clerical Light once more to reveal their attackers from the surrounding trees. Several hobgoblin adversaries came into view, some rushing forward to melee the party while supporting coverfire led the way. A shaman used a combination of Darkness and Hold Person against the expedition, but it was only moderately effective against the skill and overwhelming magical power the Velunese/Highfolk alliance could muster.

    Doran's magical Fireball unleashed utter devastation among the ranks of the hobgoblin archers while the warlike clerics brought forth prayers of battle to their aid. The soldiers, St Cuthbertine and Hieronean clergy (paladin included), mountain man, dwarf, gnome, and "half-elf" clashed with the hobgoblin footmen and effectively thwarted the attack with relative ease. In the background, both Kelmar and Marius used their spells in whatever support capacity they sought fit.

    In short, the humanoids bit off far more than they could chew, were decimated, and repulsed with no casualties to the party. Those lucky enough to survive the doomed ambush fled into the darkness...

    -Lanthorn
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    Sun Dec 30, 2012 1:17 pm  

    The following day, after some recuperation, prayer, and magical studying, the party left their bivouac and continued their foray deeper into the western Yatils. After their hostile encounter with the hobgoblin war party the previous night, they were especially cautious, with spells of Blessed Watchfulness precast. The mages followed this with their Invisibility dweomers (especially Kelmar and Loren).

    The day was uneventful, much to the relief of some members of the party (especially Marius) although morale was high among the men. Thaddeus and Bolain led the expedition, picking the easiest paths through the rugged terrain, backtracking as needed. They continued their march through the low-lying valley, keeping close to the meandering streams to refresh their waterskins, and staving off the heat of the day with continued uses of Endure Heat. The group stopped only long enough to refresh themselves and their surviving mounts.

    As the sun began to lower along the western horizon, they had not traveled very far given the difficulties of the broken terrain and their relatively late start. However, they found a lightly wooded area affording decent cover and opted to set camp. With expert efficiency, the soldiers cleared the ground beneath the sparse canopy, collected wood for a small fire, set their bedrolls and tents, and started to prepare the evening meal of dried rations supplemented by whatever minor game had been collected.

    Off to the side, the prideful Kelmar brought forth a magical field of energy to stave off the elements and offer private sanctuary from all other eyes.

    As dusk approached, the sun lowering behind the distant screen of peaks and casting shadows long and far amid the trees, the vigilance of the group noted a cavern in a nearby slope...and the flickering of a fire with clearly visible figures moving about. Doran, Luther, and a handful of others prepared to set forth and explore what manner of creatures or beings laired so close to their own campsite...

    -Lanthorn
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    Sun Dec 30, 2012 4:35 pm  

    I hope they haven't stumbled upon the Lost Caverns already. You promised an extensive wilderness campaign first! Sad

    I wondered if evocations, like fireballs, at night would attract more wandering monsters - like stone giants, maybe. Evil Grin

    SirXaris
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    Sun Dec 30, 2012 5:18 pm  

    SirXaris wrote:
    I hope they haven't stumbled upon the Lost Caverns already. You promised an extensive wilderness campaign first! Sad


    Oh, ye of little faith in the powers of the Lanthorn...I promised an extensive trek, and that is precisely what they endured. We are ONLY about 7-8 days into the wilderness journey...

    SirXaris wrote:
    I wondered if evocations, like fireballs, at night would attract more wandering monsters - like stone giants, maybe. Evil Grin
    SirXaris


    Evil Grin Perhaps. Evil Grin (actually, you make a good point)

    -Lanthorn
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    Sun Dec 30, 2012 5:53 pm  

    Doran cast a Fly spell, followed by a subsequent use of Invisibility as he prepared to scout out their 'neighbors.' Luther rallied others on the ground to follow his lead.

    [Note: These events, and many others I shall recount, are many, many months old, so I will do my best to give you the gist of what happened without sacrificing the integrity of the campaign plotline and story...]

    Before anyone could depart the campsite, there was a sudden eruption of thick, obscuring fog that blanketed the area, stealing sight, and instantly burning the eyes, nose, and mouth of those luckless to be caught in its path.

    Doran was the first to act, exploding upward out of the noxious, acrid fumes, coughing, gagging, eyes watering and mouth blistering. His body was burning from exposure to the foul vapors, but the battlemage's swift reaction spared him from the full brunt of the cloud. Aloft, he levitated, trying to discern the cause of the sudden attack. Below him the greenish-yellow, dangerous cloud seethed and boiled, slowly moving towards the group's campsite. From within the horrid vapors he heard the rasping cries of Luther calling out a warning to the others as the cleric of Heironeous fought of the effects of the killing gas.

    Movement within the trees had Doran pivoting in that direction. A grim-faced, bearded man clad in studded leather, broadsword, dagger, and numerous dangling pouches belted at his side, levitated among the concealing branches. He was intent on the flowing cloud and its handiwork and could not possibly notice the invisible battlemage as Doran repositioned himself in range to counterattack.

    Cries of alarm sounded in the campsite, men and demi-humans responding to a sudden flashing dollop of flame that streaked out in their direction, exploding with utter devastating effect. Flames leaped out, incinerating trees, bedrolls, and tents, people diving for whatever cover they could find. Screams of pain and terror filled the air, and the Velunese contingent struggled to maintain cohesion. Fallroyce ordered a defensible ring along the perimeter of the burning camp, and spells of protection and combat enhancement were enacted as hastily as possible before the next onslaught.

    It was already too late for poor Marius, however, the priest of Rao caught totally off-guard and standing nearest the point where the fiery blast exploded. Howling and screaming, thrashing around, he flipped and rolled about the ground while Gabriel, his protector, tried to pat out the flames and shrieked for magical aid.

    Before his foeman could react, Doran flew right up to the gloating man's flank and, gyrating and speaking quickly, unleashed a devastating concussive pulse of magical force that caused the very air to ripple out before the battlemage. The tree shuddered and almost splintered under the powerful magical assault as the blast of energy slammed into Doran's enemy with unerring accuracy, driving him up and back, nearly head over heels, as it punched his entire torso and abdomen, nearly cracking bone.

    Blood dripping from his mouth, gasping and howling in utter surprise by the deft, magical counter as Doran materialized into view, the man turned, using the momentum of the attack, and flew with all due speed into the darkness...

    -Lanthorn


    Last edited by Lanthorn on Sun Dec 30, 2012 7:59 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Sun Dec 30, 2012 7:21 pm  

    Luther staggered from the deadly fog, rasping and wheezing, lungs on fire, eyes and nostrils dripping and oozing. He steadied himself through the pain, hearing the distant screams of his allies as the thunderous Fireball set the trees ablaze and sending out a reddish-orange glow in the failing light of dusk. The stalwart cleric turned about to face the ghastly vapors as they floated away from him, and called upon the divine might of the Archpaladin...to annihilate the majority of the cloud with dispellation magic!

    All throughout the campsite there was mayhem, flames licking the trees and ground, choking and burning black smoke obscuring vision. Men screamed and called to each other, desperate to locate their hidden assailant. With Gabriel's assistance, Marius put out the fire on his body, but the priest of Rao was terribly burnt.

    A cry came out, and suddenly oozing, black shapes swarmed the campsite, flitting and darting through the smoke and flame. Several beset the critically injured priest of Rao and his defender, while others attacked the clerics of St Cuthbert. These inky black silhouettes, as dark as the deepest night, lashed out with chilling clawed hands, threatening to steal their victim's life force and strength. [If memory serves me, Marcel and Justarius went to Marius' and Gabriel's aid, but I don't honestly recall...]

    Through the flickering light shed by the fires streaked brilliant flashes of magical energy, unerringly striking the clerics of St Cuthbert. Almost completely concealed in the gloom was spied a shadowy figure, a comely elven sorceress, who watched as the wicked shadows were hacked into nothingness or sent shrieking into the darkness by the Holy power of faith. A Silencing dweomer and Holding spell were thrown her way, neither with any effect. They could hear her cackling at them! In fact, she seemed to scoff at their attempts, delighting in the misery, panic, and suffering unfolding before her. Any arrows fired her way failed to penetrate magical defenses or her well-chosen cover among the trees, yet the elven witch fled the scene all the same. She merged with the dimness falling upon the campsite and vanished from sight entirely.

    Doran arrived soon thereafter, Luther in tow. Most of the flames had died down, the smoke starting to clear, but chaos still gripped the party in what was total panic. Although nobody had perished, miraculously, Marius was badly wounded and only magical healing spared him the full brunt of his terrible injuries. Much gear had been lost, and many horses panicked, tearing free of their lashings, during the ambush.

    A hasty meeting was called to figure out what exactly had occurred, for the attack had happened so quickly. In the end, the expedition decided that the magical onslaught unleashed upon them could only be explained by one logical conclusion: they had found the Iuzians! Shocked

    Darkness was falling upon the panicked expedition, and though many wanted to pursue their enemies for vengeance (or justice), it was too risky given their wounded state and drained magical abilities. Any residual flames were hastily stamped out, destroyed gear tossed aside, and anything else salvaged. Vigilant sentries were posted around the ruined campsite, and nobody, not a soul, found much rest that long, eerie night...

    -Lanthorn
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    Mon Dec 31, 2012 11:59 am  

    The following morning found the beleaguered party weary and nervous, still anxiously expecting a follow-up assault from their dangerous adversaries. None came. Captain Fallroyce and Luther both agreed that an invisible, flying wizard scout was needed to determine the exact location and strength of their foes, starting with the cave they had spied the previous night. The rest of the group collected what gear remained and prepared to move camp. This one was already compromised.

    [Either Doran, Loren, and/or Kelmar were chosen to serve as their scout(s), but I don't recall who offhand] Meanwhile, their unseen, mobile sorceror(s) flew to the slope and discovered, rather surprisingly, that the cave was completely empty! There was an old, cooling firepit, embers covered by dirt, and clear signs of previous activity from a rather large number of inhabitants, as well as numerous horses (prints and dung). But the group had already departed, perhaps at dawn's first light.

    With this new intelligence, the leaders of the party (especially Fallroyce, Luther, and Lt Thatcher) agreed to occupy the more secure and defensible cavern position in spite of the fact the enemy (?) could return and attempt to reclaim it. It was a risk they were willing to take. Thusly, the expeditionary team relocated from their lightly wooded, low-lying site and trekked upslope to the large, shallow cave overlooking the valley.

    Furthermore, it was decided that they would spend the whole day recovering from their wounds and replenish their magical energies through study and prayer. However, the leadership in the team was reluctant to take any undue risks, and therefore a small scouting group was cobbled together to ascertain the number, direction, and, if possible, composition, of the withdrawing party by following their spoor. Among this team was chosen Thaddeus (none-too-happy with this decision), Bolain, and the soldiers. Loren, part scout and part minor wizard, would support them as well. However, the clerics, as well as both Doran and Kelmar, were too drained to provide much assistance, and thus, they would remain behind. The scouts were given clear orders not to engage the enemy, should they find them, and report back what they could find.

    And so, while the bulk of the Velunese-Highfolk contingent remained behind in the cave, the smaller team began to follow the tracks left before them...


    Last edited by Lanthorn on Mon Dec 31, 2012 2:52 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Mon Dec 31, 2012 1:14 pm  

    I see that your tactic of using smaller scouting groups for certain missions helps to relieve the pressure of playing so many NPCs at once. Nice job. Wink

    SirXaris
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    Mon Dec 31, 2012 1:23 pm  

    SirXaris wrote:
    I see that your tactic of using smaller scouting groups for certain missions helps to relieve the pressure of playing so many NPCs at once. Nice job. Wink

    SirXaris


    One of many DMing, Lanthorn-style, 'tricks' indeed. As DM, don't we all play a vast number of NPC roles as it is? It's just a bit trickier, more cumbersome when I have so many hats to don. I typically 'flesh out' the personalities of the main NPCs (like Orsen, Marcel, Marius, etc) but leave others as more stock types (the soldiers in this case, with perhaps the exception of Gabriel). Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, when it comes to combat sessions (as was just detailed previously), I normally hand over the lesser NPCs to my player and say, "Here, do your best!" so I am not overwhelmed with them. It also gives my player more involvement, rather than the 1 or 2 PCs he's got, waiting, twiddling his thumbs, whilst I make decisions for the rest of the party. It keeps the game running rather smoothly, with minimal lag time.

    -more to come, and welcoming comments to all you readers out there...

    -Lanthorn
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    Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:50 pm  

    The scouting group departed, following the tracks made by the dozen or so horses and their riders. The path descended from the higher slopes and down into the lower valley for a time before meandering up and down, back and forth. It was evident to the capable trackers (Thaddeus and Bolain both) that these riders were taking a similar course of action, 'bushwacking' their way through the rugged interior of the Yatils. They determined the group was just smaller in number than their own expeditionary force, and the depth of hoofprints offered clues they were not traveling lightly. Furthermore, this team was delving ever deeper into the mountains, heading in the same western direction they were previously traveling.

    The prints continued for some time, the trackers following them, but never catching sight of their quarry. Morning began to creep towards high noon when the scouting team was thinking to turn back. The tracks were getting harder to discern in the rocky terrain with only decent spoor to be found in the valley and through the lightly forested regions.

    Thaddeus in the lead, Bolain flanking him, the gruff, burly mountain man was picking a path through the alpine when he spied something large moving, to and fro it seemed, just ahead of them all. He called a halt to the rest of the men with his typical growling demeanor and scanned the treeline nervously. Bolain, too, froze in place and followed the stocky man's gaze to a truly massive thing partially concealed by the large conifer trees just ahead.

    Slowly, a monstrous and muscular man-like creature, clad in ragged animal furs and hides slung across its enormous frame, materialized. It was squatting, or sitting, among the towering trees, seemingly resting against one of the larger trunks. The giant was easily twice Thaddeus' height, perhaps a bit more, but what alarmed the keen-eyed ranger and his demi-human ally most of all was that it sported not one, but TWO, hideous heads! One of them was resting, eyes closed, pug nose wheezing, mouth snoring, while the other, completely different in facial features but no less ugly, scanned the treeline, grumbling to itself!

    The rest of the men ambled up, wondering what Thaddeus and Bolain had spied while cautious Loren had taken cover and hid, motionless.

    The subtle commotion did not go unnoticed by the enormous, two-headed giant, unfortunately. With a bellow, the first head roused the second, and its ponderous bulk shifted and began to rise, shuddering trees and bushes as it moved. A gnarled, gigantic club fashioned from an old pine aided the beast get to its feet, then, howling and roaring with deafening and terrifying power, the double-headed giant began to smash its way towards the group.

    "Run!" Thaddeus boomed, turning tail and fleeing with great speed through the trees.

    The men needed no encouragement, and neither did the fleet-footed half-elf who quickly enacted a spell of flight to zip up and out of the forest.

    Poor Bolain, though, was left, befuddled and awestruck, even as the ettin closed the distance with frightening, giant strides...

    Shocked

    -Lanthorn
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    Mon Dec 31, 2012 6:02 pm  

    Loren had no difficulty blasting out of the canopy, his Fly spell affording the half-elf both speed and maneuverability. The soldiers, however, cracked and crashed through the undergrowth, weaving and dodging between the pines and following Thaddeus' hasty retreat. Behind them came the bellowing two-headed giant, smashing mightily with its club and knocking aside smaller trunks. Between both groups stood a paralyzed dwarf, eyes wide, jaw agape.

    Luckily, before the ettin could reach Bolain, the wayfinder finally got his senses about him. Screaming in panic, he turned on his booted heels and darted after the humans as quickly as his short legs would allow. The two-headed monster pursued his diminutive prey, all but ignoring the faster humans and not even acknowledging the aerial half-elf soaring high overhead.

    Thaddeus and the soldier retinue exploded out of the thinning trees, racing upslope. In the distance they heard the dual bellowing from the two-headed giant intermingling with crashing and splintering sounds; none could hear the cries of terror issuing from poor Bolain's bearded mouth. They continued to ascend partly upslope, glancing back to make sure the ettin was not hot on their heels. It was some time before they even realized that the luckless dwarf was not with them.

    Loren, however, spied precisely the dire situation plaguing the dwarf. The demi-human ducked, weaved, dodged, and leaped over obstacles with great agility, but the ettin was closing fast upon him, for its brute strength and sheer mass proved a terrible combination against the trees.

    Streaking back to aid Bolain, Loren called out for him while also shrieking for Thaddeus and the soldiers to halt their flight and HELP him. He knew the giant was more than a match for the poor dwarf, and he doubted his own abilities to slay such a powerful monster, even with his moderate spell arsenal (how we wished he had Doran, or even Kelmar, with him at that moment, much less a cleric or two!).

    The ettin thumped and slashed out with its mighty, knobby club, clearing aside debris and turning small trees into splinters, desperate to squash the nimble dwarf. To Bolain's credit and his race's ability to dodge away from giantkin's clumsy attacks, the wayfinder somehow managed to avoid any of the beast's deadly blows. However, he was running out of cover...and time. Shocked

    Down streaked Loren as the ettin came into greater view as it cut a swath through the timber. Intoning arcane words of power while gesturing hastily, the half-elf called upon his most damaging evocation, a spell known to Doran, and directed the near-invisible pulse of concussive magical force at the towering behemoth.

    The air rippled as energy lashed downward against the ettin's upper body. WHAM! The ettin howled out, both in surprise and pain, stumbling back, almost falling down so great was the magical onslaught.

    "Run! Get away!" Loren ordered the dwarf even as he repositioned for another strike when the ettin began to regain its footing and turn its full angry attention at him. "Run to the others!" he cried, gesturing to the soldiers readying their missile weapons in the distance.

    Bolain need no encouragement. He bolted upslope, calling to the men to shoot the lumbering, howling monster.

    Several flashes of blue magical energy streaked out from Loren's outstretched hand, slamming with blunt force into the giant's hulking frame. What each individual magic bolt lacked in power they made up for collectively, and the two-headed behemoth felt the full sting from that salvo. Already its ribs were groaning from the half-elf's first assault, and this added punishment only heightened the giant's agony.

    By now the ettin, realizing that it could not hope to strike the flying, highly mobile half-elf, and seeing the men in the distance arming themselves with bows, decided that discretion was the better part of valor. Gravely wounded, it smashed its way back into the cover of the forest, leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

    The men, dwarf, and half-elf were more than willing to let the ettin go, not wishing to push their luck any further. Although Bolain soundly cursed the soldiers, as well as Thaddeus, he was relieved to be alive, and let the issue drop. He offered great thanks to the half-elf, however, and the chattering, nervous scout group backtracked with much haste to the others waiting in the cave...

    -Lanthorn


    Last edited by Lanthorn on Mon Dec 31, 2012 7:37 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Mon Dec 31, 2012 7:08 pm  

    Lanthorn wrote:
    I have always wondered what modern, Earthly comparison rivals the description of the ruggedness of the Yatil Mtns . . . I have borne witness to the Rocky Mtns, having dwelled in Montana for a time, as well as visiting Glacier National Park.


    Colorado, my friend. Colorado. Wink

    Colorado has over 1,000 mountains that top 10,000 feet in elevation. Also, in the north of the State there is an area known as "The Wilderness Area." Absolutely no motorized vehicles allowed. Not even firefighting equipment. Aircraft must maintain a certain altitude. Enter the area with a motorized vehicle (or generator) and go to jail, do not pass GO, do not collect $200. Shocked

    There is snow on the tops of the mountains all year 'round. I have pictures from when I was 17. Two friends and I climbed Mount Sopris in July, 1977. We're seen standing in snow. (If I ever get a scanner I'll put it on my computer and show it to you.) Wink

    And I've been meaning to ask: When did you go to work with Xaris at TPK Games? Evil Grin

    Enjoying the adventure thus far. Looking forward to reading more. Cool
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    Mon Dec 31, 2012 7:34 pm  

    Greetings, and thank you, Mystic. I appreciate the accolades. Smile

    If you get a chance to scan and place that picture on this thread for visual comparison, I would love to see it, and I think that other readers would, too. I've never been to the Colorado Rockies, but I will admit that the splendors of Glacier National Park fill me with awe and a sense of wonder, not to mention GREAT humility. Nothing makes a man feel more insignificant than when you stand before towering mountains climbing heavenward... And yes, to coin your familiar phrase, "But that's just me." Wink Sorry, couldn't help myself on that one...

    will continue more shortly,

    -Lanthorn, Bard in Training
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    Mon Dec 31, 2012 7:39 pm  

    Fun reading! However, I hope the next ettin (or giant) the party runs into is smart enough to pick up a few giant fist-sized rocks to hurl at any pesky flying spellcasters. Evil Grin

    Mystic - This counts as the essay portion of his application. We'll see how deadly his DMing skills truly are. That's quite a large party to TPK. Wink

    SirXaris
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    Mon Dec 31, 2012 7:48 pm  

    SirXaris wrote:
    Fun reading! However, I hope the next ettin (or giant) the party runs into is smart enough to pick up a few giant fist-sized rocks to hurl at any pesky flying spellcasters. Evil Grin


    Ettins don't toss rocks as accurately as giants do, BUT don't think this wouldn't stop me. Evil Grin For all I know, perhaps it did try to do so, but failed before Loren slapped it with a volley of Magic Missiles and sent it cringing back into the relative safety of the forest.

    SirXaris wrote:
    Mystic - This counts as the essay portion of his application. We'll see how deadly his DMing skills truly are. That's quite a large party to TPK. Wink
    SirXaris


    Great minds think alike. Happy Also, remember that this campaign lasted for MONTHS in 'real' time (playing about every week, or other week, for a few hrs each time), and nearly as long in 'game' time! Shocked I assure you all...it gets better...errr, worse...depending on your perspective. Razz

    By the way, both encounters were totally random...

    -Lanthorn
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    Mon Dec 31, 2012 9:16 pm  

    Upon arriving at base camp, the very fortunate scouting team recounted the tale of their terrifying encounter. The others were especially alarmed by the nature of such a powerful beast in the vicinity, but given the damage it suffered by Loren's spellcasting (Doran was impressed by this seemingly 'pansy' half-elf's magic, with Kelmar noting it for future reference given his inherent mistrust of others), their fears were greatly allayed.

    Thaddeus and Bolain explained what they discovered about the tracks and the information they gleaned from their withdrawing quarry. The leadership of the group, particularly the Captain, Luther, Orsen, and Marius (now largely healed), were increasingly worried about the reason for this group's presence so deep in the Yatils. Although they had no conclusive proof as to the true purpose or nature of this rival team, they decided to err on the side of caution and considered them to be the hated, Iuzian faction.

    The expedition stayed in the safety of their appropriated cave for the rest of the day and into the night. As with previous evenings a small, partly concealed fire was created, with Ervil's divine, Ulaa-inspired magic enchanting a single piece of wood to burn brightly, warmly, for many long hours without expending the fuel source (he had done this many times previously). Once more, several sentries were posted, many people at a time, and with rotating shifts, their senses enhanced by all the clerics. They surely could not afford another disastrous ambush.

    With Fate and good fortune on their side, no attack came that night, with only the eerie sounds of the mountain-spawned wilderness to disrupt their light rest. Dawn had them breaking their camp after morning prayers, last minute studying from spell scrolls or book (Kelmar only, it was presumed, for ever was he the most secretive of the group, even more so than the rather reserved Loren), and a quick meal. They gathered their remaining mounts (most had been reclaimed), packed up, and set off in the general direction of their rivals, BUT with a good bit of distance between them. Although others in the group relished the notion to 'settle the score,' Marius particularly had no desire to push their luck. He wanted to focus on reaching the Lost Caverns first with minimal needless risk to life and limb. For the time being, the Captain, Luther, and Orsen relented to Marius' measured caution.

    -Lanthorn
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    Mon Dec 31, 2012 9:20 pm  

    SirXaris wrote:
    That's quite a large party to TPK.


    Hmm. Now that I think on it, there are dragons living in the Yatils. Evil Grin

    Lanthorn, I'll see about using one of the office supply stores to get that picture scanned for you.

    Also, the mountains of Greyhawk are not as large as the Rockies, not if you go by the hexes.

    Denver sits on the eastern edge of the Rockies. From there, it's 285 miles to Grand Junction, which sits in a large valley. The mountains -- though known by another name -- continue all the way through Utah. In addition, it's 320 miles from Grand Junction to Salt Lake City, all of it through the mountains.

    And though the range is known by several different names -- Geologist differentiate the mountains by one means of another -- the mountains don't actually stop in that they run from deep inside Mexico all the way to Alaska.

    If the hexes on the Darlene map approximate 30 miles, then the Hellfurnaces, Crystalmist and Yatils are not as "long" nor as "wide" as the western mountains of the U.S.A. -- generically known as "The Rockies."

    F.Y.I. Wink
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    Mon Dec 31, 2012 11:52 pm  

    Mystic-Scholar wrote:

    Hmm. Now that I think on it, there are dragons living in the Yatils. Evil Grin


    YUP... Wink And other things, not to mention creatures you won't expect...ALL randomly encountered until we finally reach the main trails located on the map (which has pregenerated encounters at specified points).

    I think you are all in for quite an adventure in reading... Happy

    Oh, Mystic, you must be a scholar in geology and geography. Thanks for the reference material. I just wonder how tall the Yatils measure. Offhand, I don't remember any figures given.

    -Lanthorn
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    Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:03 am  

    As they meandered through the lower slopes and valleys of the Yatil Mountains, the expedition sent forth a small detachment to scout ahead for any potential enemies (primarily the other faction). Among them went Thaddeus, Bolain, and the soldiers (Avery, Bryce, Leonard, Howard, and Dalton). The others fell into line much further back, Captain Fallroyce and priest Luther in the front with (invisible?) Doran always nearby, ready to unleash magical hell upon the enemy. Sirs Orsen, Marcel and Justarius marched next, forming a protective shield before Marius, Lt. Thatcher always flanking the priest of Rao. Kelmar, Invisible as usual, followed next, occasionally debating his unpopular views. Ervil and Loren guarded the rear.

    It wasn't long into their trek before the trackers discovered that a set of roughly a dozen booted footprints, ostensibly humanoid in nature (hobgoblins?), intermingled with the hoofprints from the other group's mounts! Shocked This greatly concerned them all, and roused much suspicion as well. Were the hobgoblins working for the other team? Where were they during the previous night's attack? Whatever the case, it was clear to Thaddeus and Bolain that these humanoids were covering the rear of their rivals and forming a guard. With this added piece of information, they had to tread carefully without revealing themselves.

    Cautiously, they advanced, forming up ranks, the scouting group picking their way with heightened anxiety. The tracks came and went, the rugged terrain finally obliterating all trace of their presumptive foes. As the hours passed, some of the anxiety abated, but their caution did not. It turned out this was not unwarranted, for up ahead, several man-sized figures could be seen picking their way through the lightly forested, gently sloping mountain base.

    Thaddeus instantly called a halt and waved for the others to seek concealment behind the trees. He crouched, peering around a trunk to discern the nature and number of the beings crunching through the undergrowth. Many dark-skinned, husky and muscular, vaguely human-like creatures with lank, black hair (some even woven into braids), wearing bulky piecemeal armor, brandishing all manner of weapons, stalked ahead. Their ugly yellow-brown faces sported noticeable brow ridges over glaring eyes, blocky jaws with enlarged teeth (not monstrously so), and smashed noses.

    "Hobgoblins," growled Thaddeus to nearby Bolain, the dwarf likewise hissing his contempt. The mountain man began to count the enemy's number quickly, realizing it was nearly an even fight. But he knew that the other group could not be far away, perhaps just beyond visual range through the trees and undergrowth.

    The humanoids surveyed the forest to the sides, and even to their rear...

    ...and caught sight of the scouting party! With a howl of alarm, the perceptive sentries called attention to their fellows, raising their weapons and turning to face their shocked (and cursing) foes. As a well-trained force, the hobgoblins leaped into action, taking cover, readying weapons (including a few bows) while yelling and destoying any chance of an ambush.

    "RUN!" Thaddeus boomed, not liking the turn of events. This time, however, Bolain was not far behind the mountain man, even as the hobgoblins broke cover, shrieking war-cries, racing after them.

    Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the soldiers...

    -Lanthorn
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    Tue Jan 01, 2013 4:36 pm  

    The Velunese soldiers balked a bit too long, and as the men started to withdraw, the hobgoblins slammed into their ranks. With the mountain man and dwarf speeding away, the rest of the scouting team was outnumbered about two-to-one. Powerful, mighty Avery, a beast of a man with rippling shoulders and a broad chest, took command and called for a fighting withdrawal.

    The hobgoblins surrounded the men, double-teaming the soldiers if possible, hacking and slashing with axes and swords. To their credit, the men defended capably, their training and skills put to the test. Avery and Dalton were the most seasoned of the group, and thus, fared the best, giving their humanoid foes difficulty as they parried with sword and shield while offering offensive blows of their own.

    Spewing epithets, Avery hollered furiously for Thaddeus and Bolain to assist them as the soldiers fought a pitched battle for their very lives. Many hobgoblins were cut down or injured, falling back, but the soldiers were likewise wounded even if not slain or mortally injured.

    However, the scales began to tip out of the soldiers' favor once more as a few people came rushing to the aid of the hobgoblins. One, a tall Suel man clad in chain mail and shouldering a shield, toted a long bow, arrow already knocked for action. Flanking him was a woman in studded leather, blades strapped to her sides, a short bow in hand. A stocky and short bristle-faced, flat-nosed man in studded leather raced past her, likewise with a small bow.

    Seeing their newest adversaries approaching the fray, Avery commanded for the men to make a break for it and flee with all due speed back to the main host. Most of the humanoids had been slain or severely wounded, but a few remained to harry the warriors. Among the soldiers, Howard and Leonard were in bad shape, numerous slashes taking their toll.

    The men broke into a full-out run even as arrowfire whistled at their backs. A few clipped the undergrowth and trunks, but an equal number found their targets, piercing exposed mail-covered backs with horrible effect. Avery especially suffered a serious strike, the arrow almost penetrating to a vital area. He gasped, blood trickling from his mouth, staggering forth, but the tough man thundered onward.

    At this time, a returning counterfire of arrows sailed past the retreating, desperate men. Up ahead, amid the foliage, both Thaddeus and Bolain loosed their projectiles back at the archers and pursuing hobgoblins, forcing them back. This gave a gravely injured Avery the much-needed opportunity he required to make good his escape, and the big man half-ran, half-stumbled out of sight. Bryce and Dalton were already well ahead of him, running speedily back to the main group.

    Unfortunately for Thaddeus and Bolain, attention shifted to them. The three human adversaries returned fire, weaving their way out and around the ranger and his dwarven ally, attempting to envelope them in crossfire and cut off any escape. The mountain man saw what was happening, and cried for Bolain to run, the ranger heeding his own advice and plunging into the woods right after the other men (who were well out of sight by now).

    Not as fleet of foot as his larger human comrades, poor Bolain had to rely upon stealth as he ducked, weaved, and crouched amongst the light undergrowth. The Suel man continued to focus on the fleeing Thaddeus, at first firing a few arrows at the mountain man before giving chase with sword in hand. However, Bolain faced a grimmer prospect as the flat-faced man and woman ran after him, shouldering their bows and drawing forth blades.

    Bolain, however, should have considered himself very fortunate indeed. Even as he and Thaddeus attempted to evade capture, or death, poor Howard and Leonard, exhausted and near-death from so many wounds, were swiftly overpowered by the remaining hobgoblins...

    -Lanthorn
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    Tue Jan 01, 2013 6:52 pm  

    I'm still trying to figure out why this scouting group ran from an equal number of hobgoblins at the start of this encounter. Confused

    SirXaris
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    Tue Jan 01, 2013 7:31 pm  

    Good question. Because they knew the other faction likely was not far away (read previous passage), and they didn't want to run into those mages again without support! Furthermore, it was a scouting mission first and foremost, meant to locate the position of the enemy. That is why they froze in place when they stumbled upon the hobgoblin host; they had no intention of revealing their presence! I just reviewed some old notes, and I have the number of hobgoblins at 13.

    -Lanthorn
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    Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:16 pm  

    I understand the caution, but a group of about six 3rd - 7th level PCs (mostly fighter-types) could have taken out 13 hobgoblins with two volleys of missile weapons. I'm still surprised that they fled so readily.

    SirXaris
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    Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:06 pm  

    If the hobgoblins weren't fighters, themselves, of course (many were, in fact, if only 'low level')... Shocked I am not above such things, from time to time, especially with warlike humanoids (orcs and hobgoblins predominantly). Don't forget: I have access to The Complete Book of Humanoids. Evil Grin The soldiers did a decent job, culling about half of the hobgoblin ranks, so don't be too disgusted with them, SX. Cry

    -Lanthorn
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    Wed Jan 02, 2013 8:34 am  

    Using Heroforge, I redo all my Orcs, Hobgoblins and Bugbears as Fighters. It's an aspect of 3.5 that I greatly dislike. A 1st level Warrior is inherently inferior to a 1st level Fighter. I don't approve of the "weakening" of opponents that 3.5 did.

    As for our continued discussion of mountain comparisons; Today, in the 21st Century, with all the modern marvels we know as bulldozers, excavators and even blatant tunneling machinery, there are still only three ways across the Rockies in Colorado. Interstate Highway 70, U.S. Highway 50 and U.S. Highway 160. And what we call Interstate Highway 70 was only completed -- in Colorado -- in the late '70s. Shocked

    Unless you're tough enough to hike across, or perhaps use horses and mules . . . although you may lose the horses and mules somewhere along the way. Wink
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    Wed Jan 02, 2013 11:00 am  

    Mystic-Scholar wrote:

    As for our continued discussion of mountain comparisons; Today, in the 21st Century, with all the modern marvels we know as bulldozers, excavators and even blatant tunneling machinery, there are still only three ways across the Rockies in Colorado. Interstate Highway 70, U.S. Highway 50 and U.S. Highway 160. And what we call Interstate Highway 70 was only completed -- in Colorado -- in the late '70s. Shocked
    Unless you're tough enough to hike across, or perhaps use horses and mules . . . although you may lose the horses and mules somewhere along the way. Wink

    True that!...
    I have traveled all three and would add all three modes up Pikes Peak (Hike, Train & Drive) and even with all the tech today it is a demanding hike (for a non-mountaineer anyway) with modern equipment in a modernized world.
    Even in this modern world we live in, they in Colorado for example, still have the rock-slide and the avalanche to add to the obstacles as well.
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    Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:37 pm  

    Lanthorn wrote:
    If the hobgoblins weren't fighters, themselves, of course (many were, in fact, if only 'low level')... Shocked I am not above such things, from time to time, especially with warlike humanoids (orcs and hobgoblins predominantly). Don't forget: I have access to The Complete Book of Humanoids. Evil Grin The soldiers did a decent job, culling about half of the hobgoblin ranks, so don't be too disgusted with them, SX. Cry

    -Lanthorn


    That information makes me very happy, Lanthorn. I highly approve. Normally I only give humanoid leaders (and, sometimes, bodyguards) class levels, but if these hobgoblins were selected as members of this Iuzian party, they would realistically all be advanced individuals. Now, it all makes sense. Smile

    Mystic-Scholar wrote:
    Using Heroforge, I redo all my Orcs, Hobgoblins and Bugbears as Fighters. It's an aspect of 3.5 that I greatly dislike. A 1st level Warrior is inherently inferior to a 1st level Fighter. I don't approve of the "weakening" of opponents that 3.5 did.


    I disagree, Mystic. I like that the Warrior class is not quite as powerful as the Fighter class. And, the only difference are that the Warrior gets d8 HP (instead of d10) and no bonus feats. That makes lots of sense for an untrained and, usually, undisciplined humanoid. Adding even one or two levels of Warrior to a kobold, goblin, orc, hobgoblin, gnoll, or bugbear, greatly increases its power.

    Mostly, I like the idea that a highly trained, dedicated, and disciplined Fighter gets more benefits than a farmer experienced at fighting off marauding goblins harrassing his livestock or a chaotic goblin experienced at chasing farm families into their steading before stealing several head of cattle. Such experience just doesn't equate to that of the Fighter class.

    At the same time, a rare humanoid individual may have received such dedicated training from someone for some reason and actually have the background knowledge to advance in levels of true Fighter. However, that would not be the norm, in my campaign and would have quite the special backstory to explain why this particular bugbear, etc. was so skilled in the fighting craft.

    Oh, and I use Hero Lab to update all the NPCs/monsters in my old modules to the newer editions. It's a great product. Wink

    SirXaris


    Last edited by SirXaris on Wed Jan 02, 2013 4:46 pm; edited 1 time in total
    GreySage

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    Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:08 pm  

    SirXaris wrote:
    I disagree, Mystic. I like that the Warrior class is not quite as powerful as the Fighter class.


    I wasn't going to get into specifics, Xaris, but . . .

    Your 5'9", 185 lb. human fighter has a strength of 16, 17, or even 18, but a 7'2", 300 lb. bugbear with 21" biceps has a strength of 15? (3.5 Monster Manual page 29)

    You're kidding, right?

    To each his own, but you and I will disagree on that. I don't care that a PC is supposed to be "special." Such a difference is too great for me to swallow.

    Robert Howard had Conan outfight many humanoids that were blatantly stronger than he was. In 3.5 very few larger humanoids are naturally stronger than "your" human fighter can be.

    Again, to each his own, but I beef them all up. Wink

    (That's why 3.5 is not my preferred gaming system).
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    Wed Jan 02, 2013 3:39 pm  

    I see we've stirred up a pot on this side topic... Wink Perhaps there should be discussion on this issue with a new thread. Hmmmm.... I will save my comments about 'classing' humanoids for that proposed thread.

    Glad to restore your faith, SX. Happy

    The main reason why Thaddeus chose to run was the 'unknown' factor (including, or especially, if those deadly mages were nearby!), not wanting to push his luck too far, even given all the fighting skill of the group. After all, it's hard to discern if the hobgoblins approaching your way are 'typical' 1+1 HD OR highly trained and disciplined fighter types...

    Will continue the story 'shortly,' fellas...stay tuned for more!

    -Lanthorn
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    Wed Jan 02, 2013 5:02 pm  

    Sorry to sidetrack your thread, Lanthorn. Sad

    Mystic,

    I agree with you! Happy But, I'll point out that the average human has a Strength score of 10-11 (even in 3.5e). If you consider the Strength score listed for the monster as that of the average individual, you can easily give many of them greater Strength scores. Using this rationalization, the bugbear leaders should have Strengths about 4-5 points higher than the PC Fighters. Wink

    Lanthorn,

    Your campaign is great! I like all the wilderness encounters very much. I can't imagine playing all the Iuzian NPCs (assuming they are all encountered together) and half the Velunese NPCs at the same time, though. Did that prove difficult? Did it slow down the pace of the battles?

    SirXaris
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    Wed Jan 02, 2013 6:50 pm  

    Apologies all around, didn't mean to hijack the thread!

    I'm enjoying your wilderness campaign, Lanthorn. Keep it coming.

    I should probably post one of my campaigns here, but I'm just so busy writing other stuff.

    (F.Y.I. I am 52 today. My present? My connection to CF really sucks today!) rolleyes
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    Wed Jan 02, 2013 9:47 pm  

    SirXaris wrote:

    Oh, and I use Hero Lab to update all the NPCs/monsters in my old modules to the newer editions. It's a great product. Wink
    SirXaris


    I agree, have talked Sporadically w/ Anna on this a while back.. was not aware of anyone else using it.... In process of building all the 3.5 variants for monsters in the template.. but it is a bit arduous.
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    Wed Jan 02, 2013 10:22 pm  

    Dark_Lord_Galen wrote:
    . . . but it is a bit arduous.


    Naw! Razz

    Just time consuming! Laughing Laughing Laughing
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    Thu Jan 03, 2013 8:34 pm  

    Just a recap and launching point for the continuation:

    Lanthorn wrote:

    Not as fleet of foot as his larger human comrades, poor Bolain had to rely upon stealth as he ducked, weaved, and crouched amongst the light undergrowth. The Suel man continued to focus on the fleeing Thaddeus, at first firing a few arrows at the mountain man before giving chase with sword in hand. However, Bolain faced a grimmer prospect as the flat-faced man and woman ran after him, shouldering their bows and drawing forth blades.

    Bolain, however, should have considered himself very fortunate indeed. Even as he and Thaddeus attempted to evade capture, or death, poor Howard and Leonard, exhausted and near-death from so many wounds, were swiftly overpowered by the remaining hobgoblins...
    -Lanthorn


    Strong, fleet-footed Bolain ran as fast as his short legs could carry him, but his two agile foes were quicker, with longer strides. They closed the distance swiftly, the brutish, bristle-faced, squat man brandishing a shortsword in one hand, a dagger in the other. The woman wielded but a broadsword. Outnumbered, the dwarf placed his back to a tree, pivoting on his heels and bringing up his own shortsword and dagger.

    The leering man and smug woman tried to flank the dwarf and encircle him, darting in with jabs, slashes, and cuts. To his credit and fighting skill, the wayfinder parried off their attacks, or lessened the severity of their blows. Against any one of them, Bolain probably could have prevailed, especially the woman, for she was clearly less skilled than her ally, and only used but a single weapon instead of two.

    They taunted him as they tried to outflank Bolain, jumping in and back, darting side to side, cutting and jabbing, as the three of them played out their deadly dance around the trunk. Bolain got in a few decent strikes of his own, especially against the woman, and had her backing away with a bloodied abdomen. But against the stocky brute he was less effective.

    The dwarf knew that time was against him, that more enemies would arrive, and cut him down...or worse. Cold panic filled him, and he tried to dash off, but the glowering man pursued, the injured woman lagging behind, pain and anger flashing across her face.

    In the distance, the Suel man came racing back, bow on his back, sword in hand. Bolain thought his days numbered, his luck run out.

    "Moorsh! Kendra!" the chain mailed, pale-skinned, light-haired warrior called out, waving at them with his drawn blade. "Retreat! Fall back! They've got reinforcements!"

    Bolain could not believe his luck, and it nearly paralyzed him from shock, almost granting the grimy man a backstabbing shot at the dwarf. In the distance, he thought he could hear familiar voices.

    With a snarl and a glare of unmitigated hate, contempt, and evil, the flat-faced brute broke off combat and dashed off into the forest. The wounded woman was already in complete retreat, running after the Suel warrior.

    Bolain didn't waste any time. Rasping, bleeding from several deep cuts and gashes, he raced in the direction of the distant voices. What seemed like an Eternity passed, but soon he saw Thaddeus and several others starting to materialize from between the trees...

    -Lanthorn
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    Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:31 pm  

    A dwarf without an axe . . . or war hammer. And he was "saved by the bell!" Shocked

    Will wonders never cease? Evil Grin Laughing
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    Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:51 pm  

    I'm confused. I thought dwarves were born sprinters. Razz

    Sooner or later, those Iuzians are going to implement a full-scale ambush against the PCs' scouts. If they get the drop in the PCs before the PCs successfully turn the tables, they could be in for a short adventure, indeed. Shocked

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    Fri Jan 04, 2013 8:01 am  

    SirXaris wrote:
    Sooner or later, those Iuzians are going to implement a full-scale ambush against the PCs' scouts.


    Methinks, thou mayest be correct.

    "Scouting party" implies that they may do a little bit of fighting. If, however, their intention is merely to "spy out" the opposition, then they need to send a single, solitary . . . elf. Or, perhaps a halfling.

    That is to say, someone otherwise known as a "sneaky bastard." Wink

    I think the Iuzians might even have a unique form of torture in mind for the dwarf. Something involving a razor and . . . shaving cream! Evil Grin

    Mwahahahahahahahahahaha!
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    Fri Jan 04, 2013 7:43 pm  

    SirXaris wrote:
    Lanthorn,

    Your campaign is great! I like all the wilderness encounters very much. I can't imagine playing all the Iuzian NPCs (assuming they are all encountered together) and half the Velunese NPCs at the same time, though. Did that prove difficult? Did it slow down the pace of the battles?

    SirXaris


    My bad, SX, for not addressing this question and answering it fully. Before I continue, let me please faithfully answer you:

    NPCing the Iuzians and a host of 'good guys' does get cumbersome, but it's just part of DMing, in my opinion. As I mentioned earlier, I give the 'lesser' NPCs to my player during combat sessions to play. This greatly lessens the overall burden on me, but I still typically have well over a dozen characters to run at any given time, especially if everyone is "in play." I've done it for so long that it's almost second nature. With 'good guy" NPCs I try to have a certain accent, tone, pitch, or inflection to my voice when DMing with the hopes that my player can ascertain who I am currently role-playing. Sometimes what is said is as much a context clue as how it is said.

    Hope I answered your inquiry to your satisfaction.

    -Lanthorn
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    Fri Jan 04, 2013 8:32 pm  

    Bolain regrouped with the expedition to discover that Avery was severely injured; the arrow had imbedded deeply and required very dangerous, painful extraction, followed by intensive magical healing. Soldiers Bryce and Dalton were moderately wounded while Thaddeus had escaped with relatively minor injuries. Both Howard and Leonard, however, did not return to the main host, resulting in an immediate search for their bodies, at the very least.

    They returned to the scene of the battle to discover a veritable maze of tracks and spoor, including several dead bodies of the hobgoblin rear guard. However, there was no sign of either human warrior, with tracks and drag marks leading away. They were obviously taken alive, as prisoners. The dead humanoids were searched and stripped, but little of value was discovered. Shortly afterwards, the active search began to rescue their helpless, captured allies. In no way would they (especially the clerics of ALL the faiths) permit Howard and Leonard to fall victim to whatever hideous torture, and likely eventual execution, at the hands of their foul enemies.

    The trackers followed the scattered, haphazard spoor for as long as they could manage, but the failing light, exhaustion, and inhospitable, rocky terrain made it very difficult. By later that day, they lost them entirely, drawing great exasperation and frantic energy to the majority of the party. Gabriel was worried about his men, feeling responsible for them whereas for the clerics and Sir Justarius it was a matter of faith, humanity, and honor, depending on their religious ethos.

    Kelmar's 'great power' was pressed into service, "the man who thinks he knows everything" using one of his most powerful divination spells to help locate the missing soldiers and their vile captors. Before nightfall, the sorceror summoned forth a host of small, flying eyes to scout out the surrounding landscape and report what they discovered over the next several hours.

    That night amid the trees covering the low-lying ground, over a small, crackling fire, the men and demi-humans argued and debated as what to do next. Ultimately it was decided that the primary and most important task at hand was to locate and rescue the captives. Period. Magical and mundane means together would be used to fulfill this objective. Kelmar's magical, probing eyes had discovered nothing useful, unfortunately, but he was pressured to continue again on the following day. Once more, watches were set, protective spells cast, and rotating shifts delineated, with some spell-casters removed from duty (Kelmar included) in order to fully rest for the next day's grueling work.

    The following day, after suitable preparations were made and the camp broken down, the Velunese-Highfolk contingent continued their hopeful search for any potential tracks. Kelmar once more dispersed the numerous spying eyes throughout the surrounding valley.

    Long hours past, morning dragging to the afternoon, and little was found, and with it, hope began to slip from the hearts of the desperate, frantic group (at least, those who really cared...). The party made a temporary camp to collect their thoughts and rest. Tempers began to rise out of frustration and panic, with Marius acting to calm the discord. Kelmar's returning eyes had reported little of interest until, later that day one of the tiny magical orbs replayed images to the diviner of a group moving through the nearby forest in their direction...!

    -Lanthorn
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    Fri Jan 04, 2013 9:33 pm  

    Woohoo! I see an ambush staged by the good guys coming. However, I wonder why the Iuzians would be travelling back their direction. No details were yet given regarding this group. Maybe it's a group of valley elves. Razz

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    Sat Jan 05, 2013 11:05 am  

    Lanthorn wrote:
    . . . with tracks and drag marks leading away. They were obviously taken alive, as prisoners . . .


    Seems unlikely that such signs would have disappeared altogether, unless they started carrying the prisoners. Confused

    Dragging branches over the ground actually leaves better tracks to follow than does one's feet! Shocked

    Curious happenings here. Wink
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    Sat Jan 05, 2013 3:43 pm  

    Mystic-Scholar wrote:

    Seems unlikely that such signs would have disappeared altogether, unless they started carrying the prisoners. Confused


    Just to clarify on this one...the tracks didn't suddenly disappear altogether (as you'd expect as per spell, like Pass w/out Trace), but rather got confounded, faded, etc. by the terrain, elements, what have you. Also, it's possible even for a ranger to fail a die roll tracking... Confused

    Mystic-Scholar wrote:

    Dragging branches over the ground actually leaves better tracks to follow than does one's feet! Shocked


    I'll admit that one is news to me. Didn't know that! Interesting...

    -Lanthorn, Life-long Learner
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    Sat Jan 05, 2013 4:24 pm  

    (Disclaimer: A lot of details are REALLY fuzzy in my mind, and even after collaborating with my player, we cannot fully reconstruct the complete detailed account of what is to occur next! Sorry. Confused I will have to speak in very generalized terms and focus on what we do collectively recall.)

    Kelmar grasped the magical orb in his hand, closed his eyes and focused
    on the images as they flashed through his mind. He saw images of both HOBGOBLINS and humans trekking through the forest. There were not that many of the humanoids in all (about half a dozen, approximately), but the diviner noted twice that number of humans in their midst. Most were men with a handful of women, but all were armed and armored. No horses were seen, and neither were the captives!

    Among them he could make out the following details:

    1) The Suel archer from the previous battle, clad in chain mail, holding a shield, long bow in hand, longsword and hand axe at his side.

    2) A broad-shouldered, large Baklunish man with a thick mustache and beard, wearing an open-faced helmet, clad in fine ring mail and holding a shield, with a crossbow, scimitar, and dagger.

    3) A well-built man wearing plate mail (!) with a massive, six-foot-sword stapped to his back. His face was obscured by an open-faced helmet. A dagger and footman's mace dangled along his belt, as well as several items.

    4) A hooded, cloaked figure, presumably an older man, thin and wiry in build, wearing scale armor. His features were partly hidden by the open-faced helm donning his head. He carried a quarterstaff in hand, mace and dagger at his side along, but the cloak made anything else virtually impossible to notice about him.

    5) Another man, this one in chain mail and holding a shield, his head coifed, and brandishing but a dagger and mace. Several pouches and items could be seen at his side, along with a pack.

    6) A thin, almost scrawny, man in studded leather, wielding a quarterstaff, with a dagger at his side. He, too, carried various 'acoutrements' as well as a small pack.

    7) Yet another man, but this was was heftier of build than the previous, wearing chain mail with a coif, toting a shield and hefting a mace, with a small blade at his side. He, too, also carried a variety of items and a small pack.

    8) The ELF witch! Her black tresses matched the ebony cloak enveloping her lithe body. It was virtually impossible to determine what she was carrying (but no weapons, it seemed), but beneath the inky black cloak, the diviner spied a lovely, woven silken robe...

    9) A human woman wearing studded leather, a short bow in hand, shortsword and dagger at her side. She had a small pack with her.

    10) A second woman, younger than the first, also in studded leather. She also held a short bow, but at her side was a broadsword and dagger.

    11) The stocky, brutish, bristle-faced man, wearing his studded leather, short bow in hand, dagger and shortsword belted at his side.

    Kelmar's eyes flashed open, heart thundering, and the small magical eye vanished into nothingness. Quickly, he relayed his findings as best he could (his memory is excellent, with a keen mind for subtle details) to the rest of the group.

    Fallroyce and Luther leaped at the opportunity for a counterattack against these most-hated opponents. Marius was most worried about the missing men, but such information could only be gleaned from a prisoner. Thusly, everyone agreed that there was really only one viable solution: BATTLE!

    -Lanthorn
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    Sat Jan 05, 2013 8:20 pm  

    Cry Havoc! And let slip the Dogs of War! Evil Grin
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    Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:27 am  

    It was later in the day, and in a few hours, dusk would settle upon the group, so they had to act quickly. The party scoured the surrounding terrain, seeking a defensible location against their enemy, both against foot soldiers and any flying mages. The light forest would provide some moderate cover against missile fire as well as some spells, but there was little else to be found. With time running out to set an ambush, the group prepared themselves, moving small obstacles (deadfall, rocks, etc) to form extra cover and barriers.

    (NOTE: If Luther had the proper component, he'd have called upon Heironeous to magically Fortify the designated area for extra defense, but, again, I don't recall... Confused )

    As tactics were hastily discussed, the idea was proposed to pick a small group to attack the flanks and/or rear of their enemy and leave the majority of the party behind as 'bait' to draw them in. Luther and Fallroyce especially liked this idea even though it was a risky maneuver. The hope was to strike at their enemy by surprise and catch them in a crossfire or break their ranks and morale.

    But who would go?

    Captain Fallroyce was dogmatic about leading the strike team. So, too, was Luther. Even though Sir Orsen spoke up to join them, he was designated as the main group's military leader (perhaps to the chagrin of the paladin, Sir Justarius, feeling overlooked). Sir Justarius was chosen to support Sir Orsen as his right-hand man, however. Mighty Sir Marcel was permitted to join the team, for he was both strong in skill with arms and had the divine blessings of Heironeous to call upon, as well. Even though Doran was a definite option, given his devastating magicks, surprisingly enough, Kelmar was chosen instead. Shocked In spite of the fact that the Diviner was not known for using combustive spells, he was the most adept spell-caster, with a vast array of magics at his disposal, including illusionary ones. Doran was not pleased with this choice (perhaps neither was Kelmar, for that matter!) and was left behind to bolster to fighting capability of the main group. Most likely they'd need his evocations more than the strike team. The lieutenant, Gabriel Thatcher, stayed behind with his remaining soldiers, wanting to unleash a hail of arrows at the enemy for capturing, and likely killing, his men. The lead soldier would agree to abandon his charge, priest Marius...this time (I forget the reason why, honestly). Perhaps quite surprisingly, Marius agreed to go with them, logically concluding that his spells of protection and defense, guardianship and charm, would be put to good use to assist his allies, thereby freeing Fallroyce, Luther, and Marcel to use their more militant spells. The time for peace and diplomacy had long ago past; this enemy was well beyond any accord!

    Remaining behind in the main, defensible arena was Sir Orsen, Sir Justarius, Doran, Ervil, Loren, Thaddeus, Bolain, and the three remaining soldiers (Avery, Bryce, Dalton), all of them eager to pay out the enemy for the previous encounter. Loren and Doran went Invisible while the small gnomish priest of Ulaa sought cover, as did the dwarven wayfinder and his larger human compatriot. The paladin, noble priest of St Cuthbert, and soldiers fanned out, lurking behind trees, various weapons at the ready (mainly crossbows and bows). What protective spells (mainly against fire) could be spared were cast throughout the group, though not everyone could be so warded. Confused

    The strike team followed suit, diligently and wisely casting a vast array of protections amongst themselves. Like his wizardly comrades in the main group, Kelmar cast Invisibility, and drawing upon the power of his most prized possession, an exceedingly powerful glass-like ring, the Diviner became aerial. He had protected himself with various spells, mainly an invisible shield of magical force, and was ready to unleash his magical arsenal against the deadly foes they would hopefully ambush. After their magical preparations were made, the strike team set off.

    And so, the stage for conflict was set...

    -Lanthorn


    Last edited by Lanthorn on Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:47 pm; edited 2 times in total
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    Sun Jan 06, 2013 3:32 pm  

    Lanthorn wrote:
    And so, the stage for . . .


    An ambush against the Strike Team was set! Evil Grin

    (Why do Paladin types always think that "bad guys" are stupid?) Confused


    Mwahahahahahahahahahaha!
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    Sun Jan 06, 2013 3:41 pm  

    The strike team stalked off through the timber, careful to move as silently as possible as they picked their way over needle-strewn ground. As it was later in the day, the sun was low over the horizon, shadows stretching out and casting a dimness through the light forest. Only the flying, truly invisible Kelmar was perfectly stealthy, weaving effortlessly in between the trunks. With the exception of Marius, who wore no protective armor whatsoever, the others were somewhat loud in their mail. So they moved with utmost caution, eyes scanning their surroundings, ears tuned to the sounds around them. Fortunately, spells enhancing their senses had been cast, and thus, they were supernaturally sharp.

    For many long minutes they picked their way forward, Kelmar navigating them to the best of his recollection through his spying, magical orbs (now long vanished). Finally, the group spied movement up ahead and heard the rustle of armor, the crunching of foliage, and low voices. Immediately they took cover, hiding behind trees or thickets and bushes, daring not to expose themselves.

    It was at this time that Marius called upon the powers of Rao, projecting his keen mind forward to capture the thoughts of the many people creeping in the approximate direction of their base camp. He did not penetrate deeply, merely probing the surface thoughts and ideas of his random targets. With an upraised hand, he signaled to the others to wait patiently, and they wisely complied (though not without irritation).

    (Honestly, I don't recall what Kelmar did, if anything...)

    What he discovered caused the priest's eyes to narrow, then widen in concern. The group was picking up speed, swiftly disappearing into the forest and out of both sight and hearing. Luther and Fallroyce were particularly aggravated by the opportunity slipping away, but Marius held them in check as he completed his scanning.

    When all was 'clear,' the priest dared to tell the others what he'd discovered by his magical probing. "It's them, alright! The enemy, and they do serve the Old One," he announced, drawing contemptuous looks from the others, and perhaps a curse or two.

    "Let's go after them!" Luther was quick to retort, bristling, but Marius cut him short.

    "No! There's more," he added. "They, too, have split into various groups," Marius warned. "This is but one, meant to draw attention from a second, much as we've done now." This had the others listening intently, and with some growing concern. "This host is but a decoy, with the remaining hobgoblins and soldiers forming its ranks, with some wizardly aid. The second group rushes forward to sweep around and attack from the rear and back once battle has begun. They know our general location and have tracked us," Marius explained.

    "And what of this other group?" Captain Fallroyce demanded.

    "Priests," Marius said flatly, grimly, drawing more disdainful responses from his allies. "All of them."

    "We must alert the rest!" Luther was quick to add, and Marcel eagerly agreed. He turned to Fallroyce. "Captain, we should withdraw immediately, with all due speed...they've not much time!"

    -Lanthorn


    Last edited by Lanthorn on Sun Jan 06, 2013 3:44 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Sun Jan 06, 2013 3:43 pm  

    Mystic-Scholar wrote:
    Lanthorn wrote:
    And so, the stage for . . .


    An ambush against the Strike Team was set! Evil Grin

    (Why do Paladin types always think that "bad guys" are stupid?) Confused


    Wink Maybe, Mystic, just maybe you are right... Shocked

    And yes, it seems that the general 'stereotype' of Lawful Good types is one of underestimating the enemy... My cleric-fighter of Trithereon has learned NOT to do so...

    -Lanthorn
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    Sun Jan 06, 2013 4:19 pm  

    Lanthorn wrote:
    And yes, it seems that the general 'stereotype' of Lawful Good types is one of underestimating the enemy... My cleric-fighter of Trithereon has learned NOT to do so...


    Since when are followers of Trithereon Lawful Good? Razz

    SirXaris
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    Sun Jan 06, 2013 4:59 pm  

    SirXaris wrote:
    Since when are followers of Trithereon Lawful Good? Razz
    SirXaris


    Oh, they're not, and that is the point, dear Heironean! Cool

    -Lanthorn, NG Follower of The Summoner (never claimed to be CG, much less a priest, now did I? I just play one!)
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    Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:52 pm  

    Lanthorn wrote:
    Maybe, Mystic, just maybe you are right...


    And why, pray tell, do you think I'm called Mystic Scholar? Confused Razz

    Lanthorn wrote:
    As it was later in the day, the sun was low over the horizon, shadows stretching out and casting a dimness through the light forest.


    Shadowcasters refer to these conditions as: "The Happy Hunting Grounds!" Evil Grin
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    Sun Jan 06, 2013 10:27 pm  

    Mystic-Scholar wrote:


    And why, pray tell, do you think I'm called Mystic Scholar? Confused Razz


    Maybe you are a Diviner, like Kelmar... Wink

    -more (mis?)adventures to come, soon!

    -Lanthorn
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    Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:45 pm  

    Meanwhile, back at 'base camp' the rest of the group waited with nervous (even fearful) anticipation, not quite knowing when or where the proverbial hammer would fall. They had fanned out, taking what cover could be found, facing outward into the forest, scanning and listening intently.

    Justarius, Orsen, and Doran had aggregated close to each other, the paladin cradling a crossbow with unease, his noble compatriot and aggressive battlemage friend ready to enact spells of combat. The invisible Loren lurked near Ervil for the two had begun to form a close friendship over the past few days. The gnome chattered constantly under his breath, occasionally to the unseen half-elf, thus demonstrating his anxiety. Meanwhile, not too far away, hunkering by a deadfall, both Thaddeus and Bolan clutched their bows. Finally, the soldiers, commanded by Lt. Thatcher, watched another direction, each of them readying a long bow or crossbow.

    Long, painful minutes dragged by, testing nerves and patience until, finally, the attack started as several hobgoblins materialized into view. They rushed forth, half-jogging as they weaved through the shadowy trees, weapons drawn, as they closed the gap between themselves and the trio standing watch.

    "Doran, over there! Now!" called Sir Orsen, and he brought up his amulet of St Cuthbert, enacting a spell to summon forth a blessing to aid in battle.

    On cue, the battlemage, always eager to unleash his magical skills, spread out his fingers, shredding wispy strands as he uttered the words of power. Flashing outward, a spray of greyish-white ropelike material shot forth, snaring the trees, up and down, side to side. Doran moved his hands back and forth, completely coating the trees in a great swath out before him...and the hobgoblins running towards him.

    At the first sign of conflict, Ervil called for many of Ulaa's blessings, enhancing his abilities for the battle to come. Loren remained poised, however, not wishing to expose himself quite yet with an attack. Instead, he moved his hands up and down, speaking arcane syllables, and there was a brief flash of oval blue that faded from view, forming an invisible shield of protective force.

    The soldiers and two trackers held their positions, looking in their respective directions, scanning for potential targets. Thaddeus and Bolain grumbled and groused under their respective breaths out of mounting anxiety whereas the professional soldiers kept silent, scanning and probing through the treeline.

    The humanoids had been effectively thwarted, caught helplessly in the giant webbing. Now visible, Doran enacted a shield of magical force, quickly followed by a spell of flight to provide maneuverability.

    Likewise, Sir Orsen prepared one of his most powerful spells, further calling forth St Cuthbert's power to aid in combat as he read a proclamation of battle from a holy text. Quickly stashing it back in its protective scroll case, he reached for the white cloth dangling from his belt and followed with another spell of enhancement.

    Although the humanoids were fighting through the strands and effectively neutralized, the fight had just begun, for the hobgoblins were merely a distraction meant to focus attention forward... (this is just the appetizer!) Wink

    -Lanthorn


    Last edited by Lanthorn on Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:49 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Mon Jan 07, 2013 9:10 pm  

    If you ask nicely, I may tell you from whence I purchased my superb Crystal Ball. Wink
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    Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:03 pm  

    Before I launch into the "main course", forgive me for any lapses of detail regarding this conflict, as I am going completely off my memory about an event that occurred, literally, MONTHS ago in "real time:"

    The Main Course, Part 1 Evil Grin
    The battle didn't start with the flash of a searing blast of flame, crackling lightning bolt, or toxic cloud of poisonous gas. Nor did it start with the howling rush of foot soldiers charging the company. Instead, what would become a pitched, potentially lethal skirmish started with a very subtle, but no less devastating, tactical choice.

    Floating in the air, overlooking the campsite and watching the humanoids struggling in his ensnaring magical web, Doran peered around, knowing the battle could come from virtually any area. Suddenly, without any warning, the battlemage was falling, arms flailing wildly, a scream of surprise issuing forth. He could feel the magical energy of his invisible Shield vanish into nothingness as he dropped, half-colliding, half-rolling as he hit the earth.

    Orsen, too, called out a cry of alarm as he felt the divine blessings of St. Cuthbert disappear, the magical rush of power completely leaving his body. His protections and enhanced senses likewise evaporated, and the noble priest's heart raced wildly, for he knew he was in great danger for what was likely to come next.

    Justarius wheeled around, noting his allies' frantic reactions, and feeling the loss of any magical protections placed upon his person.

    "Spell-caster! Dispel!" Doran screamed in warning, leaping to his feet. "Get to cover!" The battlemage raced for a nearby tree, flattening his back against its trunk, and started to recast his protective Shield.

    It was at this time that a ball of fire streaked forth from Orsen's side (northern direction) of the camp from between several far-away trees. The priest had the presence of mind to leap for the nearest tree as the dollop of flame flared out into a roaring conflagration, virtually drowning out the screams of agony and terror as it exploded in their midst.

    Justarius deftly brought up his magically-reinforced medium shield, deflecting most of the Fireball while he hit the deck, ducking and leaping behind whatever cover he could find. His enchanted mail, as well as the subtle but no less powerful blessings of the Archpaladin, further bolstered the paladin's fortitude as he largely escaped the searing flames.

    That the tree men were not cooked on the spot was miraculous as the magical inferno consumed the surrounding foliage, igniting small undergrowth like kindling and causing most of the trunks to catch fire with dancing tendrils. Smoke billowed out in a hazy, smoldering and choking cloud, limiting vision.

    Both Loren and Ervil, the next closest members of the contingent, safely dashed to safety, but the black cloud of smoke obscured their vision.

    Further away, both Bolain and Thaddeus ducked low beneath their deadfall barrier, screaming oaths, while the soldiers, yet further afield, glanced in horror at the scene at their rear.

    The first blow had been delivered...and it would not be the last...

    Dinner is served. Humans are on the menu, lightly seared. Wink

    -Lanthorn


    Last edited by Lanthorn on Tue Jan 08, 2013 10:57 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Tue Jan 08, 2013 7:28 pm  

    Lanthorn wrote:
    Before I launch into the "main course", forgive me for any lapses of detail regarding this conflict, as I am going completely of my memory about an event that occurred, literally, MONTHS ago in "real time:"


    OMG! You don't keep notes? Shocked

    And so it is that the would be hunters actually turn out to be the hunted! Evil Grin

    What can I say? I'm just goooooooooooood! Wink
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    Wed Jan 09, 2013 9:43 am  

    I like that the NPCs use tactics equal to or better than those employed by the PCs. That makes any PC victory the sweeter and any loss tempered by the knowledge that the player(s) themselves have gained experience. Wink

    SirXaris
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    Wed Jan 09, 2013 3:43 pm  

    In speaking with my friend/player/fellow DM and recollecting what happened, some forgotten details emerged. Thusly, I need to make the following amendment that will become important later on:

    Gabriel did not go with Marius, et al, in the pre-emptive strike team. Instead, he stayed back with the rest of the group and took the leadership role of the soldiers. Everything else stays the same. I will go back and make these adjustments, then will continue the story...

    My notes consist of old, marked-up, partially erased sheets of paper, but not each and every conflict is kept. I recycle and reuse my paper if possible to cut down on waste and the number of sheets I have at any one time. Go green! Happy

    When I am done adjusting my previous storytelling, I will move on with the conflict. Thanks for reading.

    -Lanthorn
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    Wed Jan 09, 2013 7:51 pm  

    The Next Entree

    Crackling fires and billowing smoke erupted along the eastern side of the campsite, all but cutting off immediate aid and obscuring the battlefield. Doran, Justarius, and Orsen scrambled and scattered, each of them burned and in terrible pain, but suffering no debilitating or lethal injuries from the explosive blast.

    Doran successfully got off his second Shield spell while Orsen cast a protective spell. Justarius glanced around, gripping the crossbow and hollering for the others to prepare a counter-defense.

    "Look for the wizard!" Doran shouted back, recognizing the spell that had nearly fried them to cinders, but it was easier said than done given the smoke and dimness. "It came from your direction, Orsen!"

    Justarius glanced around, seeing little, coughing through the smoke, but noticing that some of the hobgoblins were starting to snap through the giant strands. He frowned sourly and started to turn his attentions to the few humanoids that were breaking free.

    Orsen continue to bring forth more spells of aid, chiefly among them another prayer of battle, all the while scanning the treeline while he sought cover behind a protective trunk.

    Suddenly, Doran spied a flying figure streak into the campsite and take cover high overhead amid the branches. "There!" he cried, pointing upward. "It's a...boy?" he stammered, eyes squinting curiously at a young adolescent, no more than a mid-teenager, levitating amongst the protective boughs.

    His wonder was short-lived, however, as the youth, garbed in peasant clothing, glanced menacingly at the trio and began to wave his hands in delicate gestures while his lips were moving.

    "CASTER!" Doran roared, and he was about to unleash a counterspell, bringing up his hands swiftly, focusing intently on the youngster.

    Kra-KOOM! There was a sizzling flash of brilliance that threatened to blind the three defenders, quickly followed by a near-deafening thunderclap as a huge forked bolt of lightning streaked out towards both Justarius and Doran from the tree canopy.

    A trained wizard, Doran felt the magical current even before it had fully manifested and flared to life. He dodged behind a tree, his Shield absorbing some of the dangerous electricity, but his body jerked painfully, limbs thrashing, the battlemage crying out both in pain and alarm.

    Justarius fared less well, for his metal armor did little to diminish the force of the bolt. Only the magical enchantments proved any help. He was hurled forward into the dirt, sputtering and twitching, struggling to get to his feet before another deadly magical strike was unleashed...

    -Lanthorn
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    Wed Jan 09, 2013 8:34 pm  

    An adolescent boy, huh. Of course, it could be anything from an illusion to a weird, unknown monster type in D&D, but trying to consider realistic possibilities, I come up with the following:
    An elf;
    A woman;
    A halfling;
    A half-demon (incubus, etc.).

    However, PCs having grown up in such a world would be much less likely to mistake the first three for a teenage boy, than I would, so my guesses are probably way off. Perhaps Doran just didn't get a very good look through the branches of the tree in the heat of battle. Neutral

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    Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:19 am  

    Just caught up with your thread Lanthorn, it's sounding epic and they haven't even reached the Caverns yet! Nice work! I'm impressed at the handling of all the NPCs. In some ways having only one player must be nice - less unruly players to keep in line!!
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    Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:08 am  

    OMG! Shocked

    Are our "friends" outclassed? Confused

    Over-matched? Embarassed

    About to die!? Evil Grin

    Stay tuned for next week's Episode!

    with special guest star, Adolescent Boy!

    Evil Grin
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    Thu Jan 10, 2013 5:02 pm  

    Wolfling wrote:
    Just caught up with your thread Lanthorn, it's sounding epic and they haven't even reached the Caverns yet! Nice work! I'm impressed at the handling of all the NPCs. In some ways having only one player must be nice - less unruly players to keep in line!!


    Thank you kindly, Wolfling. Yeah, my Lost Caverns campaign did became an epic saga, both in my eyes and those of my player. Running so many NPCs has just become...routine...for me now. And yes, there are clear benefits to a single player, but I wouldn't mind having a party of, say, 2-3 more players. To me, that is the optimal number, and I would allow each player to run two PCs if they so chose.

    This battle is not quite over, but did set the stage for future skirmishes, and established the Iuzians as Public Enemy #1 for sure. The random encounters that follow as the group meandered through the wilderness became a backstory.

    And, it gets "better" even when we DO get to the Caverns themselves (but that will take me a LONG time to reach at this pace). Suffice it to say, gentle readers, that there are MANY more strikes and counterstrikes between the "Good Guys" and the "Bad Guys." Cool

    I will never look at priests of Iuz in the same way... Evil Grin

    more to come,

    -Lanthorn
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    Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:15 pm  

    Same bat-time?

    Same bat-channel?

    Mwahahahahahahahahaha!
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    GreySage

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    Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:35 pm  

    Mystic!!! Shocked

    You are talking to a MARVEL fan, so NO references to bats....or green lanterns (or lanthorns, so don't go there!)...or wonder women...robins...etc, etc, etc... Evil Grin

    Same SPIDER time, SPIDER channel...

    -Lanthorn of 2e and Marvel
    GreySage

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    Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:57 pm  

    Shucks! A DC hater! Razz
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    GreySage

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    Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:50 pm  

    You comic book readers are such Geeks! Not as cool as us purist D&D Nerds, for sure. Razz

    SirXaris
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    Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:34 pm  

    Dude, I haven't read comic books in over 30 years! You're barely that old! Shocked Razz

    Laughing Laughing Laughing
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    GreySage

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    Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:00 pm  

    Loren and Ervil ducked for cover as the Fireball exploded nearby. Luckily for both the half-elf and gnome, they were too far away to be hurt by the incinerating blast. However, the choking smoke prevented either of them from seeing what was happening, and they had a difficult time understanding what was being yelled over the roaring flames.

    Ervil continued to call upon the protective blessings of Ulaa, and even placed a few on his invisible friend (with Loren's assistance, of course). Noting the extensive swath of flames, the unseen half-elf procured a slender wand from a sheath at his side and began looking around for the enemies that surely lay in wait. Suddenly, both Ervil and Loren heard cries from the soldiers to their far left.

    To the southern perimeter of the campsite, both Bolain and Thaddeus glanced around after the explosion, bows at the ready. They could not see much, either, and the chaotic yelling was also hard to understand. Even as they were glancing around on all sides, realizing many enemies may be lurking about (and unwilling to expose themselves, as they had the best cover by the downfall), Bolain and Thaddeus saw several shapes streaking their way through the forest with great speed. Growls and howls issued forth as the half dozen shaggy beasts quickly covered the distance.

    "Wolves! Shoot 'em, Bolain!" the mountain man shouted, drawing back his bowstring at the lead canine. He released the arrow, and it buried itself into the animal, causing it to yelp aloud and stagger even as more raced past it.

    Bolain followed suit, injuring another member of the pack with a well-placed arrow. Like his larger companion, the dwarf tossed the bow aside, realizing he'd not get off a second shot as the wolf pack closed the gap. The wayfinder plucked forth a shortsword and dagger.

    Snarling like the beasts that descended upon his position, the burly ranger pulled out his spear and hand axe. "C'mon, ya bastards! C'mon!" he roared, and Thaddeus stabbed and slashed out at the snapping canines as they leaped over the downfall and started to encircle the human and dwarf.

    Further away were the soldiers, their eyes and ears trained to the far western front. They saw and heard little of what had befallen Justarius, Doran, and Orsen, but only saw the terrible fiery sphere and its resulting effects. In spite of it all, Lt Thatcher commanded his men to keep their posts, fully expecting an attack along this flank.

    His caution was not misplaced when he and his men spied several figures creeping forward through the gloomy forest, many of them clad in dark attire. They stopped short, ducking behind cover even as the Velunese archers brought up their missile weapons.

    "The enemy tries to outflank us!" Thatcher called to his men. "Take aim and fire!" he cried, drawing back his bowstring.

    -Lanthorn
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    Sat Jan 12, 2013 7:55 am  

    Bolain and Thaddeus = Puppy Chow! Shocked Evil Grin

    Perish the thought but, are they considering . . . surrender? Shocked


    Never! Razz


    (How does that song go? Another one bites the dust. Hey, hey!) Evil Grin
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    GreySage

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    Sat Jan 12, 2013 8:13 am  

    They need a bard about now to sing a song made famous in Furyondy during the Greyhawk Wars:

    Heeeeeyyy Iuz!
    There ain't no easy way out.
    Hey, I will stand my ground,
    And I won't back down.
    No, I won't back down.


    Cool

    SirXaris
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    Sat Jan 12, 2013 8:46 am  

    It's true! Surprised

    A Bard is most definitely needed right about now. Wink
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    GreySage

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    Sat Jan 12, 2013 11:20 am  

    Mystic-Scholar wrote:
    It's true! Surprised

    A Bard is most definitely needed right about now. Wink


    To sing a dirge, perhaps? Shocked
    GreySage

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    Sat Jan 12, 2013 11:50 am  

    The soldiers responded swiftly with a volley of arrows and bolts that had the Iuzian ranks taking cover behind the trees. A few struck home, but none fatally, except for...

    ...Gabriel Thatcher was an expert marksman. He drew back the bowstring, squinting an eye and focusing on a target. Thatcher pinpointed the chain mailed man's face, one of the few exposed places on his body, and tracked his quarry's movements precisely. Just as the man shifted into view, he released the arrow.

    It streaked out and unerringly found its mark, imbedding itself into the unsuspecting man's left eye, rocking his head backward. He didn't even cry out as the arrowhead penetrated through the orbit of his skull, driving into his brain, dropping the man in his tracks where he stood.

    "Great shot, Lieutenant!" one of the men proclaimed, seeing the superb shot, and it seemed, for now, they could repel the attack.

    "Another volley!" Gabriel ordered, spinning behind his tree, a grim smile on his face. "Pin the down! Don't let up!" He reached back to his quiver and drew out another arrow.

    But the clerics would not be thwarted so easily. They responded with a magical assault of their own. The plate mailed cleric held up a long scroll with foul proclamations inscribed in dried blood and called forth to the Old One for his unholy might to aid them in battle. Meanwhile, another cleric, lesser in power, grasped the leering skull amulet at his throat and enacted a battle prayer to further bolster their power in conflict. Together, these two mighty enchantments augmented the fighting prowess of the Iuzian force; luckily for the Velunese contingent, they were too far away to be hindered by the magic that was so called to bear against them.

    Meanwhile, other junior clerics enacted spells of necromantic protection to augment their life forces or used the powers of randomness to reduce their enemy's effectiveness with whirling lights of confusion surrounding them.

    One of them, 'favored' by Iuz (the other 'favored brother' had been slain by Thatcher's amazing shot), enacted a truly divine, special gift, conjuring a disembodied, ghostly, reddish hand at the flanks of the archers, then quickly bolstered it with devastating necromantic power. He had it latch itself onto Dalton's shoulder and drain the very life essence from the man, causing him to howl and shriek in utter agony. He nearly crumpled from the sheer agony as his skin contorted and writhed, muscles burning and twitching, but his resolve would not break as he readied his arrow.

    The soldiers let loose another volley of arrows and crossbows. Most had little effect against the enemy, given their unholy magicks, armor, and protective cover. However, the luckless junior cleric who had unleashed his foul ghostly, life-stealing hand against Dalton took a bolt to his body that had him staggering into the path of Thatcher's subsequent, deadly aim. The arrow slammed into his chest, dropping the evil man dead to the ground.

    "Again, again, again!" Thatcher howled, seeing his men starting to slowly wear down the enemy. Indeed, it seemed the solderis were successfully thinning the ranks of the Iuzians, if but slowly. The morale of the men grew in that moment.

    But how long would it last? Wink

    -Lanthorn


    Last edited by Lanthorn on Sun Jan 13, 2013 8:29 pm; edited 4 times in total
    GreySage

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    Sat Jan 12, 2013 3:41 pm  

    Thaddeus and Bolain stood side-by-side or back-to-back as the wolves descended upon them with snapping, snarling fangs. Hackles raised, tails held in high, threatening poses, the canines darted and dodged in and out at the the mountain man and dwarf. Thaddeus and Bolain stabbed out, slashing, cutting, and parrying with their weapons, trying desperately to fend off the savage animals.

    Both of them were shocked at the uncharacteristic aggression these wolves were exhibiting, for, unlike common mythology among 'city dwellers,' most wolves shied away from people. Only desperate, starving, or rabid wolves dared attack a well-armed man (livestock were another thing, of course)...or those magically compelled to do so!

    The skilled warriors kept most of the dangerous bites at bay, and those bites that did breach their defenses were minor ones at that. However, it was quickly becoming a frantic exchange, for Thaddeus and Bolain were outnumbered two or three wolves to one.

    Around them, they could hear the screaming and yelling of Justarius, Orsen, and Doran as the roaring flames erupted, soon followed by a near-deafening and blinding flash of lightning that had Bolain and Thaddeus almost leaping out of their boots. Even the wolves seemed a bit daunted by the incredible energy.

    "Help us, ya damned half-elf! Gnome, where are ya? Get yer f***in' arses over here!" the surly mountain man boomed after the sizzling flash subsided through the swirling haze of smoke.

    But no help came, and the wolves resumed their vicious attack, circling the ranger and wayfinder. Both Thaddeus and Bolain had to take more offensive measures, for it would only be a battle of attrition until the savage canids got a hold of them, pulled them down, and disemboweled them.

    Even as one wolf darted in to grab his leg, the mountain man hewed it with his hand axe and thrusted out with the spear, keeping the others at bay. The animal cried out, blood pouring out from the nasty gash, but Thaddeus, too, was wounded from the wolf bite, minor as it was.

    Bolain followed suit, using his shortsword to fend off the snapping teeth while stabbing out with his biting dagger at any wolves daring to close in. Other times, the agile, strong dwarf used the dagger to parry out, then stabbed forcefully into the shaggy coats of the animals.

    And so it went for many, many long, exhausting moments, the wolves darting in to bite savagely and shake the defenders who, in turn, returned with counterattacks of their own with one weapon while the other was used to keep the other packmates at bay...

    -Lanthorn


    Last edited by Lanthorn on Sat Jan 12, 2013 6:40 pm; edited 1 time in total
    GreySage

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    Sat Jan 12, 2013 5:01 pm  

    Ervil and Loren could barely see through the stinging haze created by the Fireball. When the Lightning Bolt hit, however, the duo ducked for cover, falling back in alarm, terrified of the tremendous power unleashed on their allies.

    Ervil was quick to call upon the blessings of Ulaa for protection against the magical onslaught. He did likewise for his invisible friend.

    "We must help them!" Ervil rasped to Loren. "They're getting killed!"

    "But we cannot see through the smoke," warned Loren, coughing and wiping his teary eyes. "There's TWO spell-casters out there. That lightning bolt was from a SEPARATE wizard, Ervil."

    "We just can't remain here," Ervil countered, tugging his warhammer free from his belt.

    More shouting through the smoke and burning trees panicked them even more, particularly the nerve-wracked gnomish priest. Loren, methodical, deliberate, and especially, cautious, was less inclined to rush forward into an ambush. For he, unbeknownst to his allies, was no half-elven scout with minor magical training. He was, in fact, a fairly skilled elven spellfilcher, trained equally in the arts of stealth, thievery, assassination, and also magic.

    Even when the howls of wolves, soon followed by the frantic calls for aid by Thaddeus, could be heard by Loren and Ervil, the spellfilcher ignored the pleas. His mission, his very reason for being here, was to wrest whatever magical artifacts could be located in the Lost Caverns, first and foremost. Second to that, he was to eliminate any competitors, especially rival mages!

    "No! They're on their own for now, Ervil," Loren told the gnome, who was looking in the direction of the shouting mountain man and the snarling wolves. "The wizards. We MUST kill the wizards!"

    With a grim nod, the priest hefted his warhammer, and his eyes were drawn to numerous blue flashes that zipped outward from the gloomy forest. Audible howls of agony from Orsen soon followed.

    "Follow the path of those magic missiles! You'll find one of them!" Loren instructed his friend. "I'll help with the other wizard. Now, go!"

    They quickly parted company, the anxious gnome hastening towards the direction of his quarry, heart pounding in fear and anger.

    Loren turned his attention to the side, peering through the smoke which had begun to thin a bit, and smelling the stinging scent of ozone wafting in the air. Carefully, nimbly, but swiftly, Loren ducked and weaved through the crackling, burning undergrowth. His keen eyes noted a human boy (!?) high overhead amid the high boughs, well over the fire-scorched earth and smoldering foliage. However, to his right, and also levitating amongst the branches, he caught sight of a man in studded leather.

    Which one? he thought to himself, drawing forth a slender, crystalline wand...

    -Lanthorn


    Last edited by Lanthorn on Sun Jan 13, 2013 8:30 pm; edited 3 times in total
    GreySage

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    Sat Jan 12, 2013 8:17 pm  

    Hmm. Confused

    Decisions, decisions. Who to toast?

    The boy! Toast the boy! Evil Grin

    Thaddeus and Bolain = Puppy Chow!


    Mwahahahahahahahahaha!
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    Sat Jan 12, 2013 10:35 pm  

    Doran watched in horror as the lightning blast flung his best friend earthward, causing his body to writhe in pain as he floundered like a fish out of water. The battlemage snapped his gaze upward to the figure that instantly flashed into view, his invisibility negated by the magical assault. Doran immediately recognized the other battlemage when he saw the studded leather, twin broadswords, and array of components belted to his body. With a hateful glare, Doran quickly prepared to unleash one of his most damaging spells and pulled out a foul, blacking paste from a pouch dangling at his side.

    Before the other sorceror could react, Doran channeled forth his own roaring dollop of flame and sent it outward at the man. The fireball rushed headling at the man, whose only reaction was to bring up his hands before his face as the fires consumed him completely!

    Doran's shout of victory, fist pumping in the air, was cut short abruptly and turned to a slack-jawed look of complete shock, and panic, when the fires encircled the man, never actually touching him (!), and seemed to wash off him like water from a duck's back! They incinerated the tree he was using as a blind, but the killing flames merely bent and twisted around him in the shape of some unseen sphere.

    There levitated the man, arms now lowered, a laugh booming back at Doran, completely unscathed!

    "Damn!" the invoker hissed, falling back into cover.

    "Fool! You are outmatched!" the gloating wizard called out, firing several magical bolts (five of them!) back at Doran in response. His expression turned to anger and frustration, though, when they were harmlessly absorbed by Doran's invisible Shield.

    Doran glanced to Justarius and was panicked to see his paladin friend just now staggering to his feet. "Get up, Justarius! Hurry, hurry!"

    A sudden, blood-chilling terror washed over Doran at that moment, causing his heart to thunder uncontrollably, sweat to erupt across his brow, face, and neck. He heard Justarius scream out in horror, and the battlemage looked over reflexively to see his friend's blanching face as he faltered back.

    But Doran's rage and hatred for this enemy intensified, his sheer stubbornness, clawed its way through the fear trying to overwhelm him at that moment. If he ran, he would die! Doran would NOT be so easily slain; he was a FIGHTER! Snarling against the panic, the invoker denied the compulsion to flee.

    "Nnnnooooo! Fight it, Justarius! Fight it!" he howled, forcing back the terror, and he turned to face both the powerful wizard in his protective, invisible ward and the young human boy who was intently glaring down at him far off to the side...

    -Lanthorn
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    Sun Jan 13, 2013 8:19 am  

    Orsen pressed up against the tree as he enacted a healing spell to mitigate the serious burns to his body. The welts, inflamed and dead skin returned to life, and though he was still injured, much of his body was restored. He was seriously drained of divine power, all of his previously erected protections stripped from him by the successful, well-placed Dispel. The slightly rotund noble priest was worried, greatly so. The power demonstrated by his adversary was anything but minor, and he was lucky to have survived the conflagration. All around him smoke billowed out, foliage crackling with flames, tall trunks licked in fire.

    The arrival of the lightning stroke did little to embolden the priest's resolve. Orsen did not see the caster who unleashed the electricity, and nor did he witness the youth hiding high amongst the branches who was, even now, casting a spell of terror upon Doran and Justarius.

    Instead, Orsen tried to locate the sorceror who was responsible for the Fireball. Without his heightened senses, he had difficulty seeing through the smoke and shadow. Unfortunately, though, the spell-caster surely found him, for a series of blue bolts shot out from the gloom, striking Orsen in the chest and abdomen. He bellowed out in pain, stumbling back as they struck him like so many powerful fists.

    However, Orsen saw the mage lurking in the distance, ducking behind a tree. It was the elf witch! She virtually blended with the deep shadows, her black cloak nearly rendering her invisible. With a growl of anger, Orsen ducked behind cover and called forth the power of St Cuthbert, pointing a finger at the shadowy figure. He enacted a ring of complete Silence upon her, realizing that a wizard who could not speak arcane words of power was a dead mage.

    Orsen then brought out a small iron rod from his belt pouch, warm to the touch from the previous fiery onslaught, but not so hot as to burn him. He brought up the rod and prepared his next spell when the elven witch countered with yet ANOTHER spell!

    Orsen could not believe his eyes when she brought forth a noxious cloud of swirling, foul vapors around him! Gagging, coughing, and nearly vomitting from the utter foulness which smelled like a mixture of rotten meat, bile, and sulphur, the priest staggered out of the cloud. Nose dripping, eyes tearing, throat burning, Orsen successfully located the cunning witch who had fled to a new location.

    Even as Orsen cast his spell of paralysis upon her, there came a series of small, popping and flashing explosions that had her yelling and dodging behind cover.

    From the corner of his eye, Orsen made out the small silhouette of a stocky figure with a trimmed beard and abnormally protuberant nose: Ervil! Not wasting time, and thanking his blessings for the help, Orsen released his spell, concentrating fully on paralyzing the elf!

    -Lanthorn
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    Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:37 am  

    Will Doran ever land a blow against his formidable opponent? Confused

    Will Justarius stand his ground, or run like a frightened girl? Surprised

    Will Oren really be bested by a woman? Shocked

    Or will Ervil save the day? Evil Grin

    Only the next episode will tell us the answers! Wink

    For the Gods' sakes! Don't touch that dial, change that channel, or exit this web page!

    Evil Grin
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    Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:45 am  

    The wolves were unrelenting with their savagery, but Thaddeus and Bolain held them off. Both warriors were bleeding profusely from the canid's deep, penetrating bites, and on more than one occasion, both man and dwarf were almost dragged to the ground by the sheer power of the animals' combined strength. Somehow, they managed to keep their footing, and thus, their lives.

    Already a few of the large dogs were slain, hewn and stabbed by sword, axe, spear, or dagger. Thaddeus was defending against the greater number, his larger size providing the wolves more opportunities to lunge in for a quick bite and shake. Bolain had managed to back up into a thicket, covering his back and flanks, and was now fending off but one of the vicious animals.

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

    A well-built man in plate mail hefted a great sword in both hands and howled a cry of war as he charged the archers. A whirling, confusing aura of flashing lights enveloped the man, making it difficult for the soldiers to pinpoint him clearly, but he was nonetheless an easier target than his allies who still hid among the trees and bushes of the forest.

    Even as the Velunese soldiers reloaded crossbows or drew back their bowstrings for another volley, a globe of darkness blinded many of them from their quarry. Off to the side, Gabriel Thatcher, undaunted and out of range by the disorienting spell, began to aim his deadly arrow upon the large target rushing forth...but his muscles suddenly tensed against his will! He tried to release the string, but his body betrayed him, a crushing, paralyzing weight upon his mind, locking his arms and legs into immobility! Thatcher screamed inside, silenty, NOOOOOO!!!! He knew he was now an easy kill.

    Other soldiers blundered helter-skelter within the magical blackness, desperate to free themselves. Avery, Bryce, and Dalton finally broke out, glancing around in a panic for whatever foul attack would surely come.

    A screaming howl to his side brought Avery face-to-face against the plate mailed man surrounded in his blinding, whirling aura of lights. He gripped a massive, two-handed sword in gauntleted hands and charged the huge soldier. Avery tossed aside his missile weapon and deftly brought down his protective shield from his back while unsheathing his sword in a fluid move.

    Bryce and Dalton had little time or opportunity to aid their massive friend, however, for the other Iuzian cleric unleashed a magical assault against the two soldiers...

    -Lanthorn (FYI: "minor" edit made further up with respect to the archers fighting the clerics...go up and read the adjustment!)
    GreySage

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    Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:18 am  

    This is proving to be an excellent battle! Still don't know who or how many of the party will bite the dust here, but it's looking like the good guys could lose quite a few of their number. And, I'm only able to assume the good guys win because I get the impression the adventure continues after this battle. Confused

    SirXaris
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    Sun Jan 13, 2013 2:54 pm  

    Thank you very much, SirXaris. We 'aim' to please! Happy
    Your instincts serve you well, Young Jedi (but they could be made to serve the Empire!)...stay tuned for more!

    -Lanthorn
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    Sun Jan 13, 2013 4:19 pm  

    SirXaris wrote:
    I'm only able to assume the good guys win because I get the impression the adventure continues after this battle.


    Clones, my friend, clones. A trick Lanthorn picked up from Tenser. Wink
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