Monday, January 12, 2015

DM's Play Report from Blackstone I: Assault on Tolmar

  The War against the Redcaps Continues!

The Campaign
  almost 7 years old. AD&D 2e Skills and Powers.

The Players and Characters
  Je.: Stardust, 13th level Thief. Armed with a pair of +3 Daggers of Returning and a sneaky disposition. Party scout.
    - Deacon Samarr,  6th level cleric henchman. Rescued from a Hill Giant slave pit, he is loyal to Stardust and her friends. Focused on healing and abjurations.
    - Sir Raleigh the True, 4th level fighter henchman. Gained from a Deck of Many Things, he is perfectly loyal. A halberd specialist and armed with a +7 halberd!

Ja.: Mournglow, 11th level mage. A true generalist and the party's planner. The list of NPCs who owe him favors needs to be printed in 8 point font. Double-sided.
    - Whitestar, his Arcane Servant familiar.

A.: Doomsman the Destroyer, 12th level Fighter. A barbarian and grandmaster with the two-hander who is skilled in a number of melee combat styles. One of the deadliest men on the planet. His magical scabbard carries both Gatekeeper, the sword of that seals the planes, and Magekiller, which is just what it says on the tin. Lord of the North, Guardian of the Pass, and party leader. He thirsts for combat.

S.: Ember, 11th level Fire Elementalist mage. Wields a flaming silver short sword of shapechanger slaying. A true master of fire magic he is the hot-head of the group.
    -Flint, his Fire Spirit familiar.
    -Redfire, 5th level Fire Elementalist henchman. He has died three times, each from a giant's boulder.

N.: Darkwalk, 8th/9th Cleric/Magic-user. Also a skilled fighter, he is the voice of caution. He carries an Talisman of Ultimate Good that keeps reappearing in his backpack each time he tries to give it to the Pope.
    -Suregaze, his Elven Dragonling familiar.
    -Starwing, a 3rd/3rd/3rd fighter/cleric/magic-user henchman. Leader of the henchman, she has a calm demeanor and a knack for leadership.

The Background
  The party has been fighting the same humanoid force for over a decade of game time. This group, called the Redcaps*, consists of various allied goblins, orcs, and giants and have a number of human allies, notably the Cult of the Slaughterer (evil war priests), the Cult of the Rot Lord (plague priests), and the Cult of the Ghoul God (priests of the undead).  The Redcaps had been allied with the Hill Giant chieftain, the Frost Giant Jarl, the Fire Giant King, and the Grand Duke of the Western Cloud Giants. In addition to their various armies the Redcaps had two special groups of warriors that dealt with 'special problems', the Pack and the Band (sometimes called the Small Pack). The leader of the Redcaps, called the Horned One**, had ruled the group with an iron fist for a century.
  Many years ago when 2nd-3rd level the party wiped out a small Redcap outpost on the Black Ridge near Black Pass. The party went on the fight a number of Redcap forces over the years until they destroyed the Band and learned of the alliance with the Giant Kings. The party then spent over a year systematically raiding and destroying the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, the Glacial Rift, and the Hall [that's how I inserted the Giants into my campaign]. They went on to face the Pack and the Grand Duke of the Western Cloud Giants destroying them all in an epic battle atop a thunderhead.
  The party used the proceeds of their adventures and favors owed them by others to build a sprawling fortress complex on - the Black Ridge near the Black Pass, commanding the only pass connecting the Dells (a collection of small baronies) with the Lands of the Shadow, a monster-haunted region skirting the evil emanating from the doomed capitol of the fallen Emerald Empire; a region ruled by the Redcaps. Skullfang Castle ( an inside joke) is Doomsman's fortress and contains Darkwalk's cathedral as well as the towers of Mournglow  and Ember. Stardust has a very well hidden underground base for her followers nearby.

  A recent raid on the Redcaps is detailed in this post.

  Doomsman is determined that the threat of the Redcaps be eliminated so he can focus on building up his new realm. The party spent a great deal of time (both real and in-game) scouting and researching the Redcaps.
 The Redcaps had always had a presence int he ruins of the Emerald Empire port city named Tolmar, a 150 miles or so west of Black Pass. The party knew that the leaders of the Cults had temples there, that a cabal of Necromancers had a tower there, and they learned that the Horned One was moving there, too. Careful scouting revealed that the various evil temples and the tower of dark magic were all on an old city square, that the Horned One was residing on a fortified island on a river that passed through the city, and that a force of hobgoblins and salves were repairing the walls. The northern part of the city was on a higher elevation and a large tower there held some strange flying beasts that flew riders over the city on patrol during the day. The lower, southern half of the city was patrolled by undead at night. While the humanoid troops in the city were elite they were relatively few in number leaving most of the city empty.

 The party decided that they would use hippogriffs to fly near, then slip into the city and cause havoc with hit and run raids hiding in the ruins if possible in between attacks.

The Adventure
  The party was successful in sneaking into the city, largely due to the elven cloaks and boots they received as rewards from the battle they had won for the elves. The entered close to what they call the Tower of the Flying Beasts at the very northern tip of the city. The 12 story tower had been turned into a pen for 6 huge flying reptiles none of the party. The interior base of the tower was surrounded by a small hobgoblin war camp, complete with spiked ditch, rampart, wooden palisade, and secure gate. Although small, this camp held many elite hobgoblins in a small area.
  Theri leader was a human in plate armor and the dark purple robes of a Death Cultist carrying a black staff with a cobra head. Helmetless, he wore a silver circlet which Mournglow recognized as a device that allows it s wearer to control undead at range. The cultist went into the tower and soon after Whitestar reported that an invisible imp was perched atop the tower. The party hashed out a quick plan and struck.
  Stardust invisibly scaled the tower using her Bracelet of Escalade as Ember dropped a Wall of Fire the length of the camp, trapping and quickly killing all but a scant handful of the hobgoblins. Stardust slaughtered the imp virtually instantly, crippling the cultist, who joined the imp in death a round later. Stardust rejoined the party in moments and they scarpered for cover. They soon saw another of the lizards on patrol, this time with Creepyhead on it! The party was able to elude pursuit and find a secure hiding place, however. The night was filled with patrols and close calls, but they made it through, mainly because (as they alter learned) the defenders assumed they had fled outside the city.
  The party examined a book that the cultist had been reading and found that a fair amount of it was in a code The rest showed a sewer network under the northern half of the city. That night they also saw a ghost ship sail into the harbor!
  The next day the party set out early to scout more of the city. They very soon found a pack of ghouls slumbering in a basement with another death cultist sleeping in the middle of the pack! Darkwalk used the power of God to destroy the ghouls and Doomsman slew the cultist before he fully awoke. The party circled back toward the Tower of Flying Beasts to attack it again. Close to the tower the party was ambushed with Stardust narrowly being assassinated by a poisoned crossbow bolt! A quick skirmish dealt with the ambushers, who turned out to be wererat thieves using the sewers to move around the northern part of the city.
  Back at the Tower they observed Creepyhead land his flying mount and enter the tower. Hobgoblins were supervising human and goblin slaves burying the dead and repairing the burned camp. A human in ornate plate armor and wearing the symbol of either the Head of the Slaughter Cult or Champion of the Slaughter God was chatting with the human death cultist leading the repairs. After a moment the slaughter cultist flew away(!) and the death cultist went back to leading the repairs.
  Ember dumped a boosted Torrential Fireball on the caged flying reptiles, killing them as well as their handlers. Doomsman and friends charged the cultist and hobgoblins. Doomsman was his usual lethal self when - a ghostly black hand appeared and touched him causing him great pain. Creepyhead was up to his old tricks! Ember dumped a Fireball into the tower and Mournglow used a Lightning Bolt on the tower, as well, while Darkwalk dispelled the hand. The party fled but soon encountered - the last flying reptile and its rider! A volley of spells went off and that beast also died, as did its rider.
  The party fled and took shelter and we broke for the night.

Notes and Impressions
  Creepyhead is still a lot of fun to use on the party.
  The party is properly worried about the Champion/Head of the Slaughter Cult.
  Their guerrilla tactics have served them well so far.
  I am sure that the play reports from the players will emphasize different details.


* I got the name from the old tales from Scotland of particularly evil goblins; I originally added the Redcaps (goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears in a a 'super tribe'), the Pack, and the Band to my 1e campaign in 1988.
**I just liked the name and got the idea from a sculpture of Lucifer. I added the Horned One to my 1e campaign in 1989.
  Imagine my shock when a friend gave me a Castles and Crusades module that had Redcaps led by the Horned one!