Dwarven Stronghold, Continued
Through the next door, a rumbling voice could be heard speaking Giant. Not good. While the Blades developed a plan for handling a giant, the door burst open. A huge ogre ran out of patience, eager to “smash Zhents”. Clearly confused about who his opponents were, he completely filled the hallway, and fought fiercely before being cut down. Behind him were several orcs, standing no chance once their champion was slain.
The orcs tried to surrender, claiming they worshiped Shar too, just like their Netherese attackers. Turns out they had a wealth of belief, and were open to Tempus or pretty much any god that would keep them alive. They gave up details on the layout of the fortress, location of the slaves, and number of dwarves. They also warned of dwarven undead that kept to a specific room and of summoned demons guarding the slave room, brought here and controlled by the duergar leader.
Going straight for the duergar leader, the exhausted Blades fought a lengthy battle against him and his elite guard. He was a vicious opponent, calling on Asmodeus for power. In the end, the Lord of the Ninth did not grant victory. His death led to the dismissal of his summoned demons, and the slaves were left guarded only by a handful of leaderless duergar who quickly surrendered.
The slaves were freed and told to remain in the stronghold with the prisoners. Dark smoke and fires rose from all around Llorkh, and the battle was ongoing. Perhaps the flawless plan wasn’t going so well.
Llorkh in flames
The injured and weary Blades moved down the road towards a town in flames. The walls were breached in various places, the hobgoblin camp was in flames and empty, many buildings around town were engulfed. Citizens ran this way and that, while groups of both traitor and resistance militia as well as hobgoblins battled and looted throughout the town. It was complete chaos.
Deciding to meet up with the resistance leader, the injured Blades avoided battle and entered through one of the breached walls. They found themselves in a burning neighborhood of houses, and screams could be heard from one building. Fibbit quickly dashed inside to rescue those trapped within, emerging at the second story window with the family trapped inside. Yarnon pointed out a storm drain running down the wall, and the children inside quickly scrambled down. Fibbit remained with an elderly woman who could not climb down. Smoke poured out the window while Griegor attempted to climb the wall, but fell. The situation worsened, and the woman finally jumped for the bushes, landing without injury. She was directed to the stronghold as a safe place in the chaos..
Moving on, the Blades used backstreets and alleys to avoid the roving gangs of hobgoblins. Turning one corner, they found a group of six resistance militia, surrounding a lone hobgoblin. The creature had a hostage, an elderly man with a blade to his throat. Rolan tried to convince the creature to give up, but when Kriv stepped forward and growled the creature turned and ran.
The militia mentioned that Nathan had fallen in battle, a few streets away. Leaderless, they had fled and didnt know where to go now. They decided to follow the Blades as they attempted to revive Nathan. Not quite dead, Nathan lay motionless in the dirt. Kriv was able to heal him with the power of Tempus, reviving the fallen leader. Nathan told them where the remaining militia were holed up, then weakly led them all to that location. Along the way they avoided a large group of enemies, using a magical distraction created by Operious to lure them away.
Reaching the merchant district of town, they met what was left of the militia. A ragged band of thirty or so armed townsfolk, they had barricaded the market square, overturning wagons to block the streets. Hobgoblins had not yet attacked in force but it was only a matter of time. The militia was injured, frightened and in shock, having been driven back from their attack on the hobgoblin camp, then watching helpless as their town burned and citizens were cut down or dragged away. Other militia were still fighting street-to-street, now just trying to protect home and family. Nathan had again fallen unconscious from his wounds, and the militia was leaderless.
It was now up to the Blades to take charge of the situation, rally the militia and lead them to victory. Or let Llorkh burn and die. Its fate is in their hands.
|Guard Post: 1075 (level 4 encounter)|
|Ogre Room: 950 (level 3 encounter)|
|Duergar Leader’s Chamber: 1300 (level 5 encounter)|
|Capture the Stronghold: 1050 (major quest)|
|Free the Slaves: 175 (minor quest)|
|Reach the militia remnant: 175 (simple skill challenge)|
|Rescue the trapped family: 175 (simple skill challenge)|
|Hobgoblin hostage: 175 (simple skill challenge)|
|5075xp total, 845xp per person|
|Grand Total XP per character: 4825 (5500 total needed for 5th level)|
DM’s Notes: At this point the players are almost out of healing surges. This limits what you can do in a single day, unless you switch to non-combat and skill challenges. This was also a big test of the skill challenge system for me, and it has been a pain to make work.
Some new houserules (in progress):
-Assisting another in a skill challenge will cause a -4 penalty instead of a +2 bonus if you fail.
-I may further reduce the use of Assist Other. I want all the players to ‘try’, even if their skill bonuses are low.
-I am testing different Difficulty Classes for the skill checks. The default ones in the errata’d DMG are way too low. Failure is almost mechanically impossible, players have a 5%-15% chance of failure on a typical roll.
-I’m concerned about experience awards for skill challenges. Even complexity 5 challenges award only the experience of a single fight for 5 players. I have six players, and dont always use high complexity challenges. I dont want an hour of roleplay to be completely overshadowed by the experience of a random encounter. I may award double experience for skill challenges instead.