Sunday, May 28, 2017

Post-Session Report: Mapping the Briars

Play today was about 7 hours. The team had already placed their team in Skull Mountain and they headed to the High Briars on the first of Plantings ((mid-April). 8 o'clock, day one - giant spiders. A dozen of them. The party dealt with them then burst into laughter - if there had been surprise the party might have died as they left the road!
The party began their methodical mapping doing 'super-hexes' as possible, as I mentioned in the pre-game post. Pretty soon they settled into a routine and the map started coming together. The 'minor highlights' were:
-Skull Mountain reported a lone kobold, ragged and scrawny, tried to enter. They killed it and hid the body.
-The party spotted hippogriffs from the mountains more than once.
-The  famous ravens of the Briars seemed to be curious about humans so deep in the wilderness.
-Lots of encounters with things like brush wolves, briar cats, wild cows, feral goats, etc.
-Patches of large spiders here and there meant they had to stay sharp.
The more major encounters were:
-A troll - the party got 2 counts of surprise at 30 yards. The scouts and the fighters put it down while it was surprised and then Bridget put it down for good with Mor Altach
-A quickwood hurt the party, but was slain.
-A hangman tree was so tough they got away from it, marked the location, and went around.
-A warband of 20 kobolds ambushed them spreading injuries around, but Bridget got into melee and killed them a a prodigious rate. Seeker was able to Hold three of them (the only survivors). Details below.
-A beautiful human girl who said her name is Vasilissa of about 14 with blonde hair in a braid and a peasant's dress. She was looking for someone to help her with two bags. One was full of dirt and poppy seeds, the other full of good wheat and rotten wheat. Someone she would only call 'Grandmother' had given her a limited amount of time to separate the poppy seeds and the good grains, respectively. Seeker used his Gather cantrips to do the tasks for her. In gratitude she told the party,
"If you meet grandmother, always be polite and don't be snoopy about her affairs and she won't eat you. Probably."
Then she hurried off.
-They met a 10' tall raven that called itself the Raven King. It told them of the 'shiny cave' where they could get many shinies. Days later the Raven King started warning them to go to the cave for the shinies or they'd be sorry.
-A clearing deep in the briars. At the center? A shrine to St. Christopher and a sacred pool that seemed to hold back the thorn bushes 1/2 mile in all directions.
-Ol' One Fang (details below).

The kobolds: one of the prisoners was a boastful 'thug' (sergeant) who told them the folktales of his clan, the Ice Dagger Tribe. The prisoners were ferried to Skull Mountain by broom, causing a pursuit by a griffon that tried to pluck off the kobolds as they hung beneath the broom like Christmas stockings. They also said that they were following an 'exile' from the kobolds who has stolen a key. After dropping off the kobolds Seeker searched the body of the one killed by the hirelings at skull mountain. He found a silver key etched 'g6' that was of the same design as the key to the Apartment in Skull Mountain.

Ol' One Fang: The party were fairly certain they that Ol' One Fang's lair was near the source of the Rill (the river in the Briars) in the mountains overlooking the Briars. The Raven King seemed to confirm this. As they got close they noted that the brambles were often trodden down, the barbarian spotted massive bootprints, etc.
As they came into a ravine near the slope up into the mountains O' One Fang (OOF from now one) rose up and began hurling boulders from a position atop a hill with no briars.
The party immediately ran back the way they came at a dead sprint. Being the Thief Crew they assumed they were in a heavily-trapped killzone and retraced their route at maximum possible speed. Seeker got hit with a boulder before they could get around the shoulder of a hill.
About 20 yards further down Godfrey (the scout) and Nigel (Godfrey's scout henchman) turned Invisible (the other magic the party negotiated for) and set an Ambush using the scout rules as the rest of the party kept running.
The rest of the party then got hit by the Raven King and about 12 huge ravens. Raven King was screaming how OOF rewarded him with shinies for luring humans into the traps and he would eat their corpses after OOF crushed them. OOF was running behind, obviously coordinating with the ravens.
Then OOF ran into the ambush zone and rolled 2 segments of surprise just as Bridget engaged Raven King. While Raven King's beak and claws hurt Bridget badly, it wasn't enough. Bridget, Thorin (the fighter/thief) and Seeker put Raven King down.
In the ambush Godfrey and Nigel hit with 6 out of 8 arrows and did an incredible 34 points of damage (and using up all but one of their magical arrows) before they ran away. Nigel got hit with a boulder, but kept going. OOF actually turned back!
The party checked out Raven King and found a ring on its leg - this was eventually revealed to be a Ring of Raven Command.

The party began tracking OOF and were able to use his movements to avoid the various traps leading to the 'stairs' (a rocky slope) leading up to his cave. Seeker went Invisible and used the broom to scout - he found a path for non-giants, disabled the trap on it he found, then flew to the cavern. There he observed OOF healing himself with shamanic spells and ordering a bedraggled female elf in chains to heal him more. As she protested she could not, Seeker flew off to brief everyone else.

End of the session.

Overall Feedback from the Players:
-Because of the 3 times a day check in with the cartographers on Skull Mountain with the magical oculars, if the party gets lost they can correct course within a few hours. In the confusing maze of the Briars they get lost about 1 in 3 days. They very quickly realized that with their check ins within a week they would be lost and without magical provisions might very well starve to death before they could find their bearings again, another reason the Briars are so dangerous.
-They realized the large spiders and briar asps (a cobra-like snake) are the routine threats to normal groups and are quickly coming to hate the vile vermin.
-Sam recognized the tasks of Vasilissa, but can't remember what fairy tale they come from....
-Realizing that Raven King was OOF's spymaster and that the ravens of the Briars were reporting their movements to OOF, they realize that OOF has been the effective ruler of the western Briars for 2-3 human generations.
_The weather slowed them down to about 2/3rd - 3/4th of their hoped-for speed, but they are making progress, But after 52 games days they have barely dented the vastness of the Briars.
-After thinking about the holy pool and the shrine they had the cleric try Turning Undead on the briars - the closest briar bush burst into bloom with briar roses. They are puzzled by this....

My Comments:
-They reacted to Vasilissa in a very proper manner, if you know your fairy tales.
-This was 2 firsts for an initial OOF encounter - they ran immediately (almost every other party has charged right into the avalanche)  and no PC died in the first encounter. In every other encounter OOF killed at least 1 PC on first contact.
-Watching them realize how very little they know about the Briars after travelling the Old Road back and forth for 4 real-life years is a lot of fun.

Next Time: They are going to go after OOF in his lair!!