Saturday, November 30, 2019

World of Prime: Campaign Journal #18

The Lake of Ill Repute: final chapter.

The party takes the bard's words seriously. Rather than plunge directly back into the dungeon, they decide to rest up and regain spells first. This proves to be a fateful decision.

In the morning their leisurely breakfast is interrupted by a scream. The barbarian heroically rushes out to the rescue. The druid takes a moment to finish off the barbarian's scrambled eggs while the rest of the party casually makes their way to the door.

A group of villagers are running up from the shore, pursued by a squad of heavily armored zombies. The ranger takes a firing position on the roof of the inn while the rest of the party fans out. Their plans for an easy battle are disrupted when the ranger calls out that there are two other squads of zombies up and down the beach. Despite this, the party seems quite unconcerned and most of them stand around waiting for the zombies to get closer.

The barbarian decides to intercept one squad all by himself. As he passes a house the occupants wave a cheery greeting. He tells them to shut and bar their door, for danger is afoot. However, he soon reverses course as the squad of zombies he was going to attack turns into three. More and more zombies are staggering out of the lake.

The ranger hits upon a clever plan: lure the zombies into the barn and then burn it down. Naturally the druid thinks this is brilliant, and he runs out banging pots and pans to capture the monster’s attention. Meanwhile the wizard and cleric start getting people out of their houses as zombies begin battering down the doors, attracted to the smell of live flesh. A good use of the Web spell traps a squad of zombies at the door to a hovel while the wizard sneaks the family out through the window. The cleric stands in the street and begins chanting, aiming to catch as many zombies as possible in his holy aura.

The barbarian realizes the plan is to set the barn on fire. He runs to save the animals, leaving the cleric and druid to play zombie-bait. Eventually they lure a dozen or so zombies in the barn, along with the cleric, barbarian, and ranger. The barbarian scuttles up to the hayloft, hauls the cleric up on a rope, and jumps out the window to the outside to close the barn doors. The cleric gingerly climbs down a rope to the outside while the ranger strikes a torch. Or rather, tries to. After three rounds of failure (apparently starting a fire with flint and steel while orc zombies mill claw at the wall trying to climb up and eat you is distracting), the ranger gives up and resorts to magic. A blast from one of Rialto’s rods sets the hay ablaze, and the ranger falls out of the window to the outside as gracefully as a sack of potatoes.

The town is now fully invested and the inn besieged. When zombies begin bashing at the inn door the party tries to come up with a plan. They hide the children in the cellar and the peasants on the second floor while watching the door slowly disintegrate under the continued assault. Finally the barbarian can’t stand it anymore; throwing the door open, he engages the zombies axe to axe.

The ranger is still on the roof and gives a good account of himself with his bow. This particular gang of zombies is defeated and the barbarian is pulled back inside while the others slam the door. Now it is a matter of stealth; the bard tells stories to keep the children quiet and calm while zombies wander around outside at random.

There are still villagers trapped in their houses, though. The party splits up and slips out to brave the streets, looking to lead villagers back to safety. The cleric discovers the power of Invisibility to Undead, while everyone else wishes they had invested more skill points in Move Silently. Every party member gets a chance to shine as they employ all the tricks up their sleeves to get the families safely back to the barn. One highlight among many: the wizard selflessly risks himself to cover a family’s retreat.

Once the villagers are all safely inside, the party tries to wait out the plague. Every hour or so zombies notice the inn and try to break in. At first the party uses magic like Ghost Sounds to lure the monsters away, but eventually they start worrying about running out of spells and switch to swords and arrows and clever tactics (at one point the wizard fights a zombie solo, relying on cantrips to destroy it). The ranger keeps sneaking out to recover arrows, only to stumble and attract more zombies.

At nightfall everything changes. The zombies begin systematically destroying buildings and it is clear they are under some kind of intelligent control. The party decides to sneak all the villages out to the cave above the lake. Once again ranger completely and utterly fails an easy Move Silently check.

The horde of zombies is now marching towards the party. After only a moment’s indecision the party stands its ground, covering the retreat of the villagers. The druid entangles about half of the monsters while the cleric and wizard go Invisible and try to seek out their leader in the darkness.

Meanwhile the true leader, the wight Xerxes, is seeking out the party who just the night before had destroyed the ordinary zombie he had left on a fake throne in the room above his real lair. His skeletal dire wolf flanks the party’s main battle line and drops the ranger in a single bite. The barbarian fights defensively, properly terrified of the creature’s incredibly brutal attacks. The bard heals the ranger, getting him back into action, but for once the mystical dagger of slaying does not appear to be enough. The druid and ranger burn through Rialto’s rods with abandon, fire off precious charges against the hulking undead wolf.

The cleric and wizard have indeed found the wight on his way to attack the party from the other side. Just like that scene in Game of Thrones (because obviously Aria had some kind of invisibility, right?), the undead stream around our two heroes without noticing them. They bravely back-stab the wight as he walks past… and miss.

Undeterred, they chase after him and try again. This time they inflict surprising damage between their Cure Light Wounds and Shocking Grasps. Finally the wight lands a good blow, dropping the wizard into negatives, and the cleric has to use his last spell to hide himself or face the wight and his zombie flunkies alone. Once invisible he uses a cantrip to stop the wizard from bleeding to death, but dares not do anything offensive lest it break the spell.

From across the field the druid turns his attention from the smoking pile of bones that was once the most fearsome monster the party had ever faced and uses the last charge of his rod to kill the wight. The foe is dead! And yet the party is still in dire straights. Squads of uncontrolled but still vicious zombies are staggering out of the Entangle spell, more are coming from the village, and the party is out of magic, items, and hit points.

They brace themselves for a final stand, knowing that some actual fatalities are almost certain given the depleted state of their hit points. A growing thunder emanates from the village; what new foe is this? Out of the village charges a troop of knights, led by the paladin Count Kird, Minster of War for the King of Edersarr. Magic and lances make short work of the remaining shambling monsters, and the Count rides up to greet the relieved party with unexpected words.

“You are… under arrest for treason!”

(GM Notes: the siege worked out wonderfully, with the roll for an encounter every hour building tension as they slowly ran out of resources. All of the players got to do something heroic at one point or another, whether it was rescuing villagers or battling monsters. And the final battle was properly terrifying; the wizard and cleric's sneak attack was both comical and effective. This was one of the most successful sessions we've had.)