Monday, January 9, 2017

Monday Recap: No Breaks for Nightstone

Storm King's Sadness
This was our second session of Storm King's Thunder! After coming off playing higher-level characters, everyone felt pretty squishy this session. That's pretty normal for 1st and 2nd level characters in 5e, because the higher levels are beefier it's easy to go down when you've barely started rolling hit dice.

Of course, eventually the characters are supposed to go up against threats they can't beat head-on, so I think this section of the book is supposed to drill that concept home.

Storm King's Thunder: No Breaks for Nightstone

A magnet for destruction
Cast of Characters
Jon: Dungeon Master
Megan: Cecelia Sondheim, human bard, a Harper hoping for a bright future!
Cody: Rolen Dundragon, half-elf Warlock of the Archfey, a scoundrel with a heart of gold
Cait:Mialee Galanodel, elf ranger, from a distant land and doesn't have personal space boundaries

When we last left off, the heroes had just cleared the village of Nightstone of goblins, met a young bronze dragon named Felgolos, and were suspicious of a mysterious woman named Kella Darkhope. Also, everyone in the village had jumped ship, and the leader of the village was dead in the wake of a giant attack.

Cecelia was pretty worried she wouldn't be able to finish her first unsupervised Harper mission. Forging a diplomatic relationship between Nightstone and the elves of the Ardeep Forest would be difficult if there were no Nightstone residents left to claim the town.

The characters took a rest, with Mialee guarding (and flirting with) Kella during the night. Felgolos gathered a pile of rubble to sleep on, and Cecelia, Rolen, and the remaining guards took their own rooms.
Felgolos: The Flying Misfortune. No really, look it up.
In the morning, the characters were awakened by a voice in the courtyard in the center of town. Going to investigate, they saw seven figures on horseback, one of them calling out for Kella. Felgolos, already having suspicions about Kella, believed these were Zhentarim agents here to collect her.

Mialee and Cecelia hurried back to Kella's room, only to find her bed empty and the window opened. Meanwhile, Felgolos and Rolen went outside to talk with the seven visitors.

Rolen decided to adopt his false identity for the conversation: the well-known elven hero Arannis Nailo (yes, that's Cody's character from the Badgers of the Apocalypse campaign). After a brief discussion, a few things were clear. The seven riders weren't leaving without Kella, "Arannis" couldn't reasonably threaten or withhold her without tarnishing his reputation, Felgolos was positive that everyone was a Zhentarim, and this guy totally had a thing for Kella.

Cecelia and Mialee tracked Kella's path over the keep's wall and down into the moat. Fortunately, they were able to move undetected by the negotiating groups, and found Kella's footprints on the bank leading back up into the village. They climbed back into the viallge and saw their quarry dashing towards the riders.
The lead rider guy, Xolkin. Very trustworthy name.
Rolen was reaching a tense point in the negotiation. He had gained the promise of payment for Kella's return, but he wasn't able to get any of the riders to speak to him alone. Just then, Kella burst out from behind a building. Both Rolen and the Riders were shocked. She yelled at them to get out of here, since she knew the castle had a dragon in it.
Felgolos decided to shapeshift back to his true form at this time, threatening the riders with his breath and presence. He demanded they tell him why there was Zhent influence in this small town.

Kella and the riders, seeing they were clearly outmatched, gave in. They were trying to establish a base close to Waterdeep. They had been investigating increased giant activity, like what happened here at Nightstone. They said it was only so long before a major settlement was attacked, and they wanted to have a site nearby to help their agents in Waterdeep, Goldenfields, and Womford.

The leader of the riders tossed a bag of gemstones to the ground, as a token of peace, in faith that they could leave without invoking the dragon's wrath. Felgolos nodded, and they turned and galloped off.
Felgolos is a Zhentarim truther
Felgolos decided that he would make sure they really weren't coming back, and took his leave from the group. Cecelia and Mialee, both enamoured by his presence, wished him the best of luck on his travels. He said he'd be around, and that if they were ever in trouble with giants they could certainly count on dragons to take an interest in helping them. All they had to do was make sure they gave the dragons whatever they were interested in, whether it was land, tribute, gold, companionship, etc. With that, he took wing and sailed away.

The party regrouped at the castle to discuss what to do next with the remaining guards. They were fairly certain that the villagers had retreated to a nearby cave, where they were supposed to go in case the keep was taken, but the caves in this area were regularly inhabited by goblins and ogres. If the villagers hadn't returned yet, they might be trapped in the caves.

The heroes agreed to go to the caves and began to take their leave. However, before they could, they saw a band of about two dozen humanoids running towards the village. An orc war band was heading straight into town!

The characters hid in the guard tower near the keep to see what would happen. The orcs rushed in, closed the drawbridge behind them, and began setting about looting the various homes in Nightstone.
Kill anyone who isn't an orc! And some of them who are!
At first Mialee tried to draw the orcs within longbow range with a Dancing Lights spell. Unfortunately, the orcs were very suspicious of the spell and decided to start burning down houses until they found the person who had cast it.

The group decided to give away their position, just to get the orcs to not burn down the town. The chief came near them (but just out of attack range) and told them they could stay in the keep for all he cared, he was just trying to get a fortified position to fight some elves from the Ardeep forest who were pursuing him. Much mockery commenced.

After he left, the heroes snuck out of the castle and down the side of the hill, stealthily taking out a few of the orcs. They found a position on the other side of the walls where they could fire away at the orcs, taking advantage of the short range of the orc's javelins.

However, their position couldn't hold. Mialee was starting to run out of arrows, and they had all taken stray javelin hits. They pulled back and discussed what they could do next, since over half the orcs still remained in the town. Mialee spent some private time with one of the guards.

Cecelia was becoming very disheartened about her mission. Not only would the village be destroyed, but she wouldn't even be able to let the villagers gather their things or leave peacefully. The party decided it would be for the best to brave the darkness of Ardeep forest and try to get help from the elves these orcs were fleeing from.

The characters ventured into the dark forest. Cecelia knew this forest was once a long-lost elven kingdom, but the elves nowadays were very protective and dangerous. She also knew that the villagers in Nightstone were not on good terms with the elves, and that getting their help might be difficult.
Nightstone isn't even featured on this map, which is saying something
They had not ventured far into the forest before they heard the sound of hooves. A squad of 8 elves on horseback rode out onto the trail. Their leader front-flipped off his horse, kissed Cecelia's hand, dipped and kissed Mialee, and winked at Rolen before introducing himself as Rond Arrowhome, dashing elven warrior!

The party was very grateful to have such a daring elf at their disposal, but first Cecelia had to convince him to help. Rond seemed to dislike the Nightstone inhabitants and was pleased to hear the village had been deserted. He wasn't interested in helping, but Cecelia convinced him that the villagers would leave for good, if only they could get back to their things and not have to worry about the orcs.

Rond thought the idea of killing orcs was a grand one. He immediately pulled Cecelia up onto his horse and they took off for Nightstone! Mialee found an attractive elf man to ride with, while Rolen just did his best to not get too comfortable with the rider he was paired up with.

Outside the village drawbridge, Rond leapt from his horse and began to call out insults to the orc chief. The drawbridge began to lower, and everyone prepared arrows and spells.
Hahaha! Adventure!
As soon as the bridge was below bow height, Rond gave the word and the elves unleashed their volley. Several orcs fell, but a few still remained, including the chief. Rond dashed forward to engage the chief in a daring duel.

Rolen quickly cast a sleep spell, putting the weaker orcs out of the fight. Cecelia cast her bardic magic on the orc chief, hoping to weaken and distract him from killing Rond.

An orc shaman strode forward, targeting Mialee with a Command spell. Under his command, she turned to one of the elves and attacked him with her shortswords! The elf wasn't killed, and he seemed to understand she was just under a spell.

Rond was having a tough time against the orc chief. He took a brutal blow to the side and spit blood. Cecelia was very worried about him, and cast another spell on the chief, giving Rond an opening. The chief was almost down!

Meanwhile, the shaman commanded Mialee to jump into the moat under the drawbridge, so she did just that. Rolen and the elves picked off the sleeping orcs before turning their full power on the shaman. In just a single volley, he was taken out.

The orc chief was still standing, however. In a fit of rage, he cut down Rond and began to charge at Cecelia. Cecelia fired off a crossbow bolt, but it didn't seem to stop his charge. The chief raised his axe in a vicious swing towards Cecelia's head.
Not the brightest in the tribe
Fortunately, it was at just that point that the chief's brain decided to inform his body that in fact, he had died from the crossbow bolt some 30 feet back.The chief's eyes rolled up into his head and he collapsed.

Cecelia rushed to Rond's side, casting a Cure wounds spell on him. He was alive, but wounded. Still, he managed a grin and wink at his savior. Meanwhile, Rolen fished Mialee out of the moat.

The elves bid farewell, and left quickly. They didn't seem interested in sticking around to help rebuild Nightstone. With the day nearly half over, the characters decided to take the rest of the day to recover and move out towards the caves under the dark of night, not wanting to waste any time in case the villagers needed rescuing.

Not today. But someday!
We stopped there, with the heroes leveling up to level 3. They are finally getting less squishy! Megan decided that the heroic College of Valor was more appropriate for Cecelia. Cody was having a lot of trouble picking a Pact boon for Rolen, and wanted to take more time to read through each one. Cait decided Mialee was a hunter conclave ranger and immediately took the Giant Killer feature.

I think I set a good tone for the upcoming games. The characters definitely got a good idea of what some of the future combats will be like: a powerful force that can't just be rushed at, but instead must be strategized on a higher level. They used two really good tactics in this session: 1. Strength in Numbers and 2. Hit-and-Run ranged attacks.

Let's just hope that continues to work against bigger enemies in the future!

Thanks for Reading!

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