Sunday, July 8, 2012

Through the Fens of the Fallen

This is the actual play report of the first session of "Against the Deep Elves" campaign. The current module names are:

ADE1 "Through the Fens of the Fallen" (described below)
ADE2 "Into Dolor's Gap" (will be played in the middle of August)

As for all beta playtest reports, I am going to split the AP into sections.

1. Prep

The preparation is outlined in the previous post. As Alexander Davis pointed out in the comments, the Peryton move "Deflect from a weapon" was a bit ill-conceived. I finished the peryton description while the players were socializing. I added it as a reminder that perytons cannot be harmed by ordinary weapons. Probably it should be a special quality instead.

2. Character Creation

I felt that character creation dragged a bit unnecessarily, because everyone was doing the playbook selection based on an elimination process. I think that it was partially done to avoid stepping on anyone's toes. So everyone kept stating what they didn't want to play, but nobody stated what she wanted to play. But in the end, it came down to this:
  • Elohiir, good elven fighter with a sharp sword
  • Silka, neutral human thief
  • Isolde, good human wizard
  • Ethanwé, neutral elven druid of the towering mountains

When creating characters the biggest hurdle always seems to be playbook selection. As soon as one player says what he really wants to play, everyone else suddenly decides too.

As final part of the character creation, I asked the players my prepared questions. Then they assigned bonds. After that we ended up with the following backstory.

The characters were in the service of Laird Emrys ap Glindwr. Elohiir because she suspected one of his captains to have murdered her cousin. Silka because she thinks the laird still has buns of steel. Isolde was his ward and therefore loyal to him. Ethanwé swore allegiance because he was forced to. Laird Emrys is an adherent of the old religion, but had a falling out with his son Morcant after he proposed to Isolde and was turned down by her (she actually spit in his face). Morcant allied with an enemy clan and wanted to take Morwenstone and oust his father as laird. The heroes were sent to battle Morcant. At Oakridge they lost. An unknown sickness of magical quality intensified gangrene and the surviving forces died of the infection. The sickness is spread by rats. Therefore Elohiir christened the sickness "rat rot". The heroes seem to be immune to the disease.


3. Actual Play

As the game started, the heroes had just finished burrying the last victims of the rat rot. They had to decide what to do. They weren't sure were the enemy army was and had to warn the laird. After a short discussion they decided to hike through the Fens of the Fallen to overtake the enemy army and warn Laird Emrys in time.

Silka took over duty as quartermaster, Ethanwé acted as trailblazer and Elohiir did the scouting. In the shape of an eagle, Ethanwé managed to find many shortcuts and shortening the journey to two days. Silka stretched the rations to last longer than usual (taking one less ration), and Elohiir was ever vigilante.

After the first day in the fens, the group was fast asleep while Elohiir kept watched. She heard oh so quiet steps in the dark, woke Ethanwé and went to look for the intruder. Ethanwé took the shape of a mountain lion and slinked off into the darkness. Elohiir found herself facing three deep elven swordmasters, while their leader, a priestess of the spider godess thought to trap the sleeping Isolde and Silka. A rather long and deadly battle followed. In the end, the priestess and one of the swordmasters was dead, and the other two had taken Elohiir captive and dragged her away. Meanwhile, Ethanwé had drawn his last breath for the first time. The small girl with red hair, a girl called "Death", had sent him back on the condition that he married Elohiir. Now, the druid was eager to pursue the deep elves that had dragged her away.

Note: The combat was really deadly due to a lot of missed rolls and minimal damage rolled by the players. The swordmaster with their +2 piercing swords (2d8*b+2) turned out to be extremly difficult opponents. They hardly had any hit points left, but they grieviously injured several members of the group. Ethanwé saw death three times during the extended battle, and Elohiir nearly died twice.

Ethanwé was leaping ahead in mountain lion shape, while Silka and Isolde were following carefully. They kept the torch low to the ground to avoid falling into any sinkholes (something that had already happened to Elohiir while she was on the look-out for the deep elves). Silka's torch set of a small explosion of swamp gas. Ethanwé used that "distraction" to attack the two deep elves. Isolde and Silka joined the battle. Eventually, the heroes were successful, but Isolde had fallen into a sinkhole. When Silka rescued her, she ended up in the sinkhole as well. It was Elohiir who came to rescue the thief.

After the second part of the battle, the group was in a sorry state. Elohiir and Ethanwé had been grieviously injured. Also, Ethanwé had been cursed by the dying deep elven priestess. She told him that she would be reborn through him. And the little girl called Death wanted to him to have children with Elohiir. They settled down for the rest of the night. Elohiir told them that they had faced "drow" who were in no way elves!

In the morning, Isolde prepared her spells, and Ethanwé used the time to propose to Elohiir who was quite surprised by that and turned him down. He vowed to win her affection. Elhoiir didn't seem that impressed. Silka and Isolde insistend on continuing the journey. Ethanwé turned into an eagle to look for suitable trails again.

As they reached the northern edge of the fen and saw Morwenstone already looming in the distance, the heroes were attacked by perytons that saw the eagle-shaped Ethanwé as an intruder. Isolde and Elohiir were pivotal in defeating the perytons. Ethanwé searched for their nest, destroyed the egg he found and took a small ring with an emerald as loot. He was planning on using the ring for his second proposal to Elohiir.

When they reached the keep, Silka left the group to take care of some "busines", Ethanwé went to an herbalist to buy much-needed healing potions and poultices & herbs, and Isolde and Elohirr went straight to the great hall of Laird Emrys. There, they informed him about the defeat of his army and told him that Morcant was advancing on Morwenstone. Pryderi, the captain that might have killed Elohiir's cousing, suggested that the heroes had betrayed them to Morcant's forces. Elohirr immediately began to suspect Pryderi of treachery himself. As Ethanwé joined Isolde and Elohiir, the laird decided to send out Pryderi with a small force to stop the advance of Morcant's forces. Pryderi decided to take Elohiir and Ethanwé with him. He wanted to start marching in the evening, something that no one could disuade him off.

Isolde went to her room to reflect on her experiences and prepare her spells, before disguising herself as a common soldier to join Pryderi's troops.

Ethanwé sought an audience with the laird. He tried to counsel him on the treachery of Pryderi, but couldn't provide any hard evidence to support his claim. The laird told him to never speak again of this matter. Then he asked him to come back, when the battle was lost in order to save his adopted daughter Isolde from harm.

Elohiir went to the same herbalist that Ethanwé had visited and bought his remaining stock of healing potions. Afterwards she went to Pryderi. They got into an argument where Pryderi as much as admitted to having slain Elohiir's cousin. But he taunted her about the child she had had with her and the lost brother of Elohiir. Previously, Elohiir hadn't known about her niece, and coldly furious she decided to slay Pryderi in the field.

At sundown, Pryderi's troops began to march, while the captain rode a pony. Ethanwé quickly began to suspect that the whole marching, camping and taking turns at guard duty was designed to tire the troops before battle. Isolde used the camp to find a loyal man-at-arms (Ieuan: protector 1, men-at-Arms 1, loyalty 3).

On the second day of the march, it became clear that Pryderi was taking the troops to Dolor's Gap to meet the enemy. Elohiir marched faster to get to the head of the column and there was joined by a disguised Isolde. She told Elohiir who she was. The elven fighter stopped the patrol and told Pryderi about Isolde. He decided that Ethanwé should take her back to Morwenstone.

On her way back, Isolde suddenly decided to take a secret path to Dolor's Gap. Ethanwé wanted to stop her, but Ieuan stood by the side of Isolde. So the trio went to Dolor's Gap in hopes of spotting any ambush in time. At Dolor's Gap they discovered ancient ruins in a fissure at the eastern side of the gap. Isolde decided to climb down to investigate and Ethanwé followed her in the shape of a mountain lion. The wizardress turned herself invisible before climbing down. Ethanwé simply followed in animal shape. Everything went well, until Isolde broke through the roof of a large house and landed in the middle of four sleeping deep elves. She fled into the ruined courtyard, pondered if she should hide in the well, and then fled down into a corridor. At the end, she opened a door and still invisible came upon four deep elves playing cards around a table and a captive tied to the wall.

Here we decided to stop because everyone was getting tired. The captive was first described as an elven maid, but should another player join us that will be his character.

4. Feedback

This time around the feedback was very positive. Statistical distribution of rolls were a non-issue. The players liked the easy rules and even the player of Isolde who was initially sceptic about playing a traditional fantasy game said she liked it and would like to play again.

One comment from Elohiir's player about the character sheet again: Please make the box for current HP bigger!

Now I need to construct a front "Against the Deep Elves".

Coming soon at Beyond the Drowning Woods: the steading "Morwenstone" and a new campaign starter for next Saturday, when I'll have a completely different group of players over...

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