Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday Recap: On the Road Again
Goin' up to the Spirit in the Sky...
We finally got back to Storm King's Thunder this week, and unfortunately it was a bit of a lackluster session. Not on any part of the players, as you'll see. But I believe some adjustments to the game are in order. I'll get into the philosophy after a (sadly brief) recap.

This story is part 12 of a series. This campaign was discontinued.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 |

Storm King's Thunder: On the Road Again

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
Shannon: Kye Bosunen, human Purple Dragon Knight, carries a big sword and his honor

When we last left our heroes, they were traveling from Hundlestone to Luskan. They continued their journey, braving harsh winds and strange beasts on the trail.

As they made their way along the Northern Means, a trail cutting a path between the towering peaks of the Spine of the World and the rocky shores of the Sword Coast, Mialee noticed some dark shapes moving on the horizon - Giants! However, they were not the Frost Giants the group had been plagued with so far. Instead, it appeared to be a group of Hill Giants, lost far from their native grasslands.

Mialee was able to sneak up and get the drop on them, and the party decided to fight the trio of Giants. Kye and Mialee rushed forward, only to get nearly squashed by the rear end of the biggest Giant. The other two Giants hung back and threw rocks at Cecelia and Rolen.

After the biggest Giant (who was also the leader) fell to Mialee's blades, the group advanced on their remaining foes and dispatched them easily. Rolen blasted one Giant so badly that there was barely anything left but ash afterwards. He cackled as he did so, his laughter oddly ethereal. Hyrsam, his patron, was the Fey Lord of Fools, but when anger overtook him, he could also be the Fey Lord of Savagery.
I wanna rock! (Rock!)
The party looted the giant's bags, taking note of the strange items found within. One giant had a live pig in his bag, which the group decided to butcher and eat quickly, before someone claimed it as a pet. The giant also had a necklace of human bones, which Rolen took in hopes of making a new runic item.

The leader of the Giants had a much more interesting set of possessions. Mialee found a small, fully-poseable action figure of King Hekaton, the lord of the Storm Giants that she had met as a child. Rolen discovered a wooden goblet that turned any liquid within it a bright, neon pink. He gave it to Mialee immediately. Kye found a tree stump half-whittled into the shape of a cat, which he took with the intent of finishing the carving. The rest of the group was impressed by Kye's ability to carry large objects.

That night, the group was very nearly ambushed by an Orc patrol, but Mialee woke everyone up in time. Kye rushed in without his armor on and nearly went down to the flurry of greataxes. The group decided to give Kye a night on watch, so at least he could be ready for combat when it happened.

The next day passed uneventfully, except that they passed a herd of reindeer. Mialee tried to shoot one, but the majestic beast ran off before her arrows could fell it. Rolen promised that the next time they saw reindeer, he would use his Eldritch Blast to kill and cook the creature.

That night, the group was once again ambushed, this time by a Frost Giant and his pet Winter Wolf. Kye, who was on watch duty, didn't see the monsters until they were right on the group! The rest of the characters leapt into action.

Mialee took on the wolf while Kye stood his ground against the Giant. Even in his armor, Kye was taking a multitude of blows from the Giant's greataxe. Meanwhile, Rolen and Cecelia tried to use their Hex-Curse combo to lock down the Giant. The Giant was incredibly resilient, however, and held strong through the barrage of magical effects. Kye fell, but Rolen's familiar Morgana delivered a healing potion to get him back on his feet.
You're as cooooold as ice!
Just as Mialee and Rolen finished off the Wolf, Kye went down again. His wounds were bad, having taken several hits from the Giant's greataxe, and it seemed he was on death's door. Cecelia rushed to his side, using her healing magic and Healer's Kit to revive him. Unfortunately, as soon as Kye stood back up, the Giant's axe came down again.

Kye managed to hang on by a thread while Rolen and Mialee took on the Giant. Mialee pulled off a gravity-defying flip that sent her flying up the Giant and dealing critical damage to his head. The monster fell, and Cecelia used her magic to return Kye to health.

Searching the giant's bag yielded some gold, and a strange object: a small kobold with a book of lullabies and a device that amplified his voice. The creature was frozen in a ball of ice, but Rolen loved it. He swore to protect the creature until it dethawed, and held it lovingly.

This extremely odd treasure is from the Dragon Magazine list of the contents of a Giant's Bag. I think it's a reference to this submission for an adventure writing contest for Paizo... but hey, the players like it, so what am I going to do?

The group was thankfully able to finish out the rest of the night without incident. Luskan was only one day away, and they hoped the journey would become safer as they approached the outskirts of civilization.

You aint' seen nothin' yet...
We stopped there for the week. As I said, this session was kind of lackluster, since we did nothing but travel. Now, the travel was certainly interesting and dangerous, but it's taking quite a long time. I like the system but don't like the commitment.

Should I change the system? I don't think that's necessary quite yet. I've only really playtested this system one way. I can't say for sure if it's good or just needs tweaking. I'm thinking the latter.

As it stands, the players have a 17% chance each day of finding a "Discovery", something interesting and fun that they can explore. We haven't rolled a discovery in over a month. I think that these sort of things might be a little sparser than encounters, but I'd like to see them happen more often. The good news is that I don't think we need to change this part - if we move faster, there will be more discovery rolls.

However, the problem lies in the encounters - I've been playing this area as having a Danger Score of 2. At that level, the players have a 91% chance of having at least one encounter per day, and a 64% chance of having two or more encounters. That's a lot of fighting, especially in an area that should be a well-travelled road. I'd save that level of danger for forests and wilderness.

What would happen if we dropped the Danger score to 1? Now the players have a 67% chance of having a single encounter, and a 26% chance of having two or more encounters. That feels a lot better, especially when you consider that random encounter table for Storm King's Thunder isn't completely full of hostile encounters. For some reason my percentile dice like to give the players elks and reindeer.

So, I think I'm going to drop the Danger level to 1 for all roads leading to and from major settlements. That way, the players will feel less threatened when they leave the cities, and going into the forest/wilderness will be a decision with some weight to it. With fewer encounters, travel will move more quickly, and we'll get more discovery rolls.

Plus, there are a few plot things I want to include that will make travel easier. But the players aren't quite there yet.

I'm on my way... home sweet home
Thanks for reading!

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