A TANGLED WEB
The once-a-month group met last Saturday for part three of their Nightwatch adventure. Play testing some simple RPG rules, I incorporated a little ‘theater of the mind’ narrative scenario in the first half of the session before the inevitable combat.
Previously, on “The Steelheart Saga“
Having scoured the wilderness for clues to the location of the tomb of the Dwarf King, Alrik Steelheart, our heroes found it infested with the minions of a Necromancer named Sotet Kez.
Clearing the dungeon one dank and dark corridor at a time, the party finally confronted the vile mage and defeated him and his apprentice in pitched battle. After soothing their troubled minds and bandaging their wounds, they hastily gathered the crypt’s treasure and artifacts, retrieved the body of their faithful war hound Fluffy, and headed back down the mountain.
Their plan was to rest in the small town of Greeft, take stock of the loot, and decide where to go next. At the Mill Crossroad however, Jeff the Cleric opted to leave the group and head to a nearby Temple with the body of Fluffy. (He heard there was a monthly special with a resurrection and grooming combo package) Serendipity being what it is, the party met two new companions on the road and the five of them headed into town together.
It was late in the afternoon when they arrived. The sun was starting to dip behind the mountain peaks in the west. The town square was filled with the usual chatter of workers, families, children, the smell of evening meals being cooked… The party noticed a bit more activity than usual for a tiny provincial hamlet nestled in the foothills, but the bustle and noise might be due to a local festival or holy day, so it didn’t trigger any suspicion. Weary, but relieved at the promise of ale and a decent meal, they headed to the local tavern, the Three-Legged Hound.
Our current party of heroes. Left to Right: Chris the Barbarian Blade, Occasional Tom the Intermittent Tracker, Seamus the Roguish Blade, Scowl the Owl Companion, Jasmine the Tracker, and Matt the Fetz-Mancer.
Entering the Tavern, the party sensed tension in the air and immediately discerned why; a group of surly Dwarves on one side of the room was rapidly getting drunk while staring daggers at a trio of wine-sipping Elves at the other end. In the middle stood a nervous barkeep, two bar maids, the local shire reeve flanked by a pair of burly deputies, and a traveling bard, warbling and strumming away, trying to defuse the hostility.
The short version is the Dwarves were in the area looking for the tomb of a revered ancestor, wanting to secure it lest any non-dwarf hands plunder its riches and defile the hallowed resting place. (yep, that very same tomb)
The Elves happened to be searching for the nephew of an Elf prince who had run off and was going through his rebellious phase. (just a century, two at most) Rumor had it he’d apprenticed himself to a necromancer in this region.
And the traveling bard was actually a spy for the human king’s chamberlain.
To make things more interesting, I handed out slips of paper at random to each of the players, on which were snippets of information, obligations, and history with the various groups in the room. (One player was in debt to a dwarf moneylender, another was rescued by Elves as a child, still another had family falsely accused and exiled by the chamberlain.)
I, at least, had fun watching the group waltz their way through that field of cow-patties. Then just as a very nasty bar brawl was about to break out, someone screamed in the town square. Time to fight.
Relieved, our heroes rushed outside to find Greeft suddenly and mysteriously overrun by spiders. Large spiders. Lots of them.
Most of the first two waves were easily dispatched. Although one particularly nimble arachnid evaded the Barbarian’s ax long enough to take a chunk out of his thigh. Still, even Scowl the Owl got spider guts on his talons.
Even Larger Spiders
Things took a turn for the serious when the next couple waves scuttled into town. Add unlucky spawn location rolls with some near-misses and tenacious spider carapace, there’s no more easy squishing and stomping. “eeew, gross” turns into “getitoffme,getitoffme,getitoffme!” Healing potions are required.
Hideous and Inexplicable
Set aside the queasy image of dozens of large, hairy spiders swarming toward you, their fang-like chelicerae twitching and clicking; they were mysteriously attracted time and time again to Chris the Barbarian. (you think maybe it had something to do with the cursed, vampiric blade he looted from the necromancer? naaaah.)
The last of the mid-tier enemies were finally being dealt with when Daddy Long Legs himself showed up. With a speed and malice to make Shelob look lazy, the thing launched itself at Chris and what can only be described as a ‘vulgar brawl’ ensued.
Occasional Tom for the assist, the beast is mortally wounded at last. It flips on its back, chitters and convulses, venom and ichor spurting from its wounds.
The battle is over. Greeft is safe.
As fate would have it, the Dwarves and Elves vacated the area just prior to the battle, both groups heading up the mountain after false leads from the players. Meanwhile, a grateful town allows our heroes to rest.
But the party knows their deceptions won’t hold very long; they need to rejoin the Cleric and get to the nearest human city. Time to turn their loot into hard currency before the evidence links them to their felonious activity in Steelheart’s tomb – and earns them the ire of Stunties and Treehumpers.
By the way, has anyone seen that traveling bard?
TO BE CONTINUED…