Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Kids Broke 3e - Part I

N., age 10, came to me, excited, and explained how he broke 3e this time.
N.: "It is simple, really. Use the metamagic feat Explosion on the Telekinesis spell and cast it on a bucket. Explosion moves objects inside an area of effect spell to the edge of the area of effect. Telekinesis affects an object, has a radius of 10', and travels with the object it is cast upon. So now that bucket is travelling at infinite speed and if it hits something, does infinite damage!"

Magic Item of the Week: Light Grenade Arrows

 Yeah, another rather mundane item using Continual Light.
  On a normal arrow or bolt inset a small piece of quartz with Continual Light cast on it near the fletching; then place a loose metal ring that fits well around the shaft of the missile over the quartz to block the light.
  When needed, fire the arrow. The fletching keeps the metal ring from slipping back when fired. On impact the metal ring slips forward, exposing the quartz and suddenly flooding the target area with light. In addition to providing illumination to distant areas light arrows can startle enemies, perhaps causing them to flee, or mark a target so that they are easier to follow, such as a wild animal.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

When is Treasure not Treasure? NPCs as Campaign Rewards

  For the last two game years the main party of my campaign has been building a joint stronghold - the soon-to-be-12th level Fighter is creating a large concentric castle which will contain a cathedral for the 9th level Cleric and two towers for the magic-users. The Thief will have a hidden fastness across the river, overlooking access to the castle. As usual I am using this as an excuse to vacuum wealth out of the characters' pouches, but it is also a huge use of treasure that isn't treasure.
  That's right; the characters are calling in favors, goodwill, and connections.
  The Dwarven architects and master masons? Working at 1/2 normal fee because the party did their king a favor game years ago. The troops protecting the place? Barbarians saved from a curse when the party was 4th level. The ship bringing in exotic materials? Doing it as a favor since the captain paid for the ship with treasures given by the characters. There are more examples, but you get the idea.
  But this only works if the DM is creating opportunities for players to build relationships between characters and NPCs. I started the (new, young) players out gently with a friendly publican named Boz. Garrulous and connected, Boz introduced the characters to their first 3 adventures - but he also introduced them to NPCs that didn't need rescuing or mercenaries, just people who lived in the city and frequented the same pub. Once they realized interacting with Boz was valuable in and of itself, they started doing the same with other NPCs.
  Soon they were friends with the officers of the merchant ship they had hired to carry them to a distant city. After fighting pirates together on a different trip (and having the 2nd officer save the life of a character) the crew of the Black Parrot became a fun part of the game with characters corresponding with the NPCs about matters like in-game family and trade. A mission to retrieve a rare component for a reclusive Diviner and her warrior husband led to the wizards of the party passing on information and even minor magics to her and, in return, receiving the occasional prescient letter from her. When she and her husband died it was much more than a plot point!
  When the party realized that they faced a foe too powerful for themselves they quickly sent dispatches to bishops and war chiefs, barbarian kings and crime lords, soon forging an impromptu alliance to save the world - all by utilizing their connections.
  So - how does a DM do this? Here are a few tips;
  1) Think about NPCs and flesh them out. I know, I know, this is about the most common advice to DMs ever. But it is repeated often for a reason. If the party is chartering a ship, name all of the officers and senior enlisted. Allow the party to interact with them. Same with Inns. And with caravans. Etc.
  2) Keep notes. I have 'the NPC box': a small filing box full of 3 x 5 cards arranged with alphabetical dividers. If the players have anything approaching meaningful interaction with an NPC I jot notes own during play. After the game that NPC gets a card in the NPC box that looks a bit like this;

  NPC Name            NPC Location
  NPC Stats, H.P. A.C.
  Gear, Magic items, etc.
  Characters Known
  When met, how met, where met
  important information the NPC knows (if any)
  Notes (may continue on back)

  Then I keep track of all future interactions on the card. Once every 2-3 months I go through the box and determine if any NPCs contact the characters. I also keep track of relationships between NPCs this way, especially if the NPCs were introduced by the characters!
  I keep a box for each of my campaigns.
  3) Have some NPC interactions pay off immediately. Did the party just rescue an Elven warrior from becoming the main course at a Hobgoblin convention? He might offer service to his rescuer (instant henchman) and, if that is refused, he might still stick around to help for an adventure or three. If sent off he might just send a bit of coin, or a weapon, or something to the party once he gets home. 
  4) Have some NPC interactions pay off much later. The 4th level party just saved King Snurri's lands from a horde of Goblin wolfriders? King Snurri pays them the agreed upon fee and rides off to rebuild the border forts and the characters sail back home, over the sea. That's it, right?
  Maybe. Or, maybe, King Snurri sends the now 9th level party an envoy to give them a book he found on a dead necromancer, a book with a few rare spells in it. he was too busy at the time to feast with them but he never forgot the party. Do this once or twice and at least some players won't forget NPCs, either, maybe sending off letters or gifts to NPCs to build that relationship.
  5) Don't be Galactica. What I mean by this is, while it can be fun and shocking to have a seemingly-innocuous or friendly NPC turn out to secretly be a bad guy, don't overdo it. Have I ever had a damsel in distress turn out to be a Shapechanged Greenhag? Yes. ONCE. Was the friendly linkboy in town secretly a wererat? Yes. ONCE. Keep the shocking twists to a minimum or the players will never trust any NPC.
  6) Don't count on it working out for the NPCs you think it will. I spent weeks lovingly crafting a Mage's Academy in the home city of the campaign. Fully developed members; names and stats for 12 servants; maps; unique magic items; rare spells; you name it. I had a score of plot hooks lined up and ready, even potential romances if the players wanted to go that route. I slowly introduced the NPCs and made their potential benefits obvious and...
  Zip. The players yawned rather collectively. The characters never met all the wizards let alone the multiple maids, butlers, and hostlers I had written up. Remember how I mentioned Boz the innkeep above? Yeah; he is a key NPC because I had to have someone give hooks to the players after they completely blew off all my hard work. I hadn't even named 'the guy who owns the Inn near the mage Academy' when the party decided that is where they were going to congregate.
  With a little hard work and some luck pretty soon your players will be part of a gaming world that includes a lot of 0-level NPCs that they really care about.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Magic Item of the Week: Necklace of Warning

  These pieces of magical jewelry can come in almost any design - braided cord with amber; silver links with topaz; whatever. But they always take the form of a necklace with a single valuable stone about the size of a thumbnail. When worn the Necklace of Warning gives its wearer a split second flash of warning about danger thus preventing the wearer from being Surprised, in or out of combat.
  Being magical, the necklace does have limitations. It cannot warn its wearer of attacks from a person under the effects of a Mind Bar or someone wearing an Amulet of Undetection. Likewise, a person within an Anti-Magic Shell or under a Scroll of Protection from Magic would not activate the necklace.
  If you feel this effect is too powerful, reduce the Necklace to simply reducing Surprise by 1 or 2 rounds.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Looks Like it is Time to Act

  Initiative has been a topic on Google+  this week, so I am chiming in. First, let me just say - this is my way, not THE way.
  Rounds: I use classic AD&D rounds of 1 minute split into 10 segments of 6 seconds each.
  Movement: Creatures can move their full movement per round (so a thief with a move of 12" can move 120', or 12' per segment). You can move faster than that, up to 200%, but if you do so things change a little. If you are moving up to 150% of your base movement you are 'rushing' and get no dexterity bonuses to A.C. Faster than 150% and you are 'charging' and get no dex or shield bonuses. When rushing you can turn no more than 90 degrees from your initial facing during movement and charging is, essentially, in a straight line. If you rush or charge directly at a target that can fight and has an unused attack it gets to attack you when you close, longest weapon strikes first. A rushing or charging character also may attack when they close, although they aren't required to.
  Surprise: When an encounter occurs without warning every character rolls a d6 for surprise individually. The rolls is modified by dexterity, etc.Typically a character is surprised on a 1 or 2, although this can obviously vary. A surprised character gets no dex or shield bonuses to A.C. An unsurprised creature fighting a surprised creature can attack a surprised creature as if each segment of surprise were a full round, i.e., all of their normal melee or missile attacks. A segment or segments where all of one or both sides are surprised are resolved 'by themselves' and not as part of a larger round.
  Here's the deal, though - it is still just 1 or 2 segments, so movement is still as above and spell casting still takes the normal amount of time.
  Initiative: Each character rolls a d6 with modifiers for initiative. The resulting number is the first segment in which they can effectively attack/cast, so low 'wins'. A thief with a +2 reaction adjustment for a high dex would roll a d6-2 while a fighter with a -1 reaction adjustment for a low dex would roll a d6+1. For creatures that were surprised in a segment that is part of a round roll normally and then add the number of surprise segments they experienced. Maximum initiative is 10 and minimum initiative is 1.
  Multiple Attacks: If you get 2 attacks per round the second attack is possible 3 segments after the first. If you have 3 or more attacks per round the additional attacks are possible 2 segments after the previous.
  Example: a high level fighter with 2 attacks per round rolls a 3 initiative. On segment 3 he strikes a foe - his next attack will be possible on 6. If he had waited until segment 7 his next attack would have been possible in segment 10.
  Exception- Fighters vs. Vermin: If the character is a fighter class that gets multiple attacks versus low HD monsters I do it this way - if the fighter is 5th level or below he rolls a d6: on 1-4 his initiative is 1, on 5-6 it is 2 and he gets an attack every other segment. At 6th-10th level his initiative is just flat-out 1 and he gets an attack per segment. I will post my 'fighters vs. vermin' rules one of these days. And they are going into Far Realms, too.
  Spellcasting: The initiative rolls is the first segment in which you can start casting. If you are struck during casting one of two things happen: in my 1e campaign, the spell is disrupted. In my 2e campaign if you fail your Concentration roll your spell is disrupted. During the actual casting time the spellcaster does not get their dex bonus to A.C.!
  Spell Holding: Because it is possible for targets to move or die during casting a spell caster has the option of 'holding casting' of a spell they have already begun casting. Effectively they keep the incantation/preparation going, delaying the completion of casting. A caster doing this cannot move more than about 3' every other segment and can have their spell disrupted as normal. Holding a spell can't be done for more than 2-3 rounds.
  Dropping a Spell: At any time before completion a spellcaster can cease the spell. The spell is gone from their mind but not cast.
  Missile Weapons: Initiative is the first segment that missile can be fired effectively. If a character with a bow, throwing knife, whatever states they are holding for a target the following things happen: 1) they lose dex bonuses; 2) they can only move at 1/4th normal speed; 3) they can fire at a target when they wish for the rest of the round; 4) if they don't fire they get an automatic initiative of 1 for the next round. You can only effectively hold a missile attack this way for about 5 rounds at a time.
  General Combat Sequence Per Segment: 1) missile weapons are fired/hurled/held; 2) spell casting starts; 3) missile weapons hit; 4) movement; 5) melee; 6) spell casting ends. If an attacker with a held missile weapon fires 'out of sequence' the missile hits 2 steps later, i.e., if a shortbowman were holding a nocked arrow and saw a Hobgoblin shaman begin casting (step 2) they could fire in the next step (3, missile weapons hit) but the arrow wouldn't hit until 2 steps later (step 5, melee). Yes, a missile can be fired so that it strikes early in the next segment. Yes, if you time it badly you can have a target move out of the way during the movement portion of a segment.

  Example: The intrepid adventurers have crept into a dungeon on the edge of civilization. After a few minor incidents with giant spiders and pit traps they have come to a door. Sessy the Thief carefully examines the portal but finds no traps and hears no odd noises beyond. She also determines the door is just swelled shut, not locked. The burly fighter, Eirik, draws back then smashes the door open. In the next room, however, are 4 Orcs silently reading books of poetry! The Orcs are just 10' away from the door, too.
  Since neither group expected the other, everyone rolls surprise. Since I am a lazy jerk I roll once for the Orcs. Eirik rolls a 4, Sessy rolls a 2, modified to a 1 for her dex. Brother Reynaud rolls a 3 and Maury the Magnificent rolls a 2. The Orcs roll a 1. So the Orcs are surprised for 1 segment, Sessy is surprised for one segment, and Maury is surprised for 2 segments. Since one side is surprised and the other side has some unsurprised people the 'surprise segment' is resolved first and separately.
  Surprise Segment: (the Orcs, Sessy and Maury are Surprised): Eirik has a movement rate of 6" due to his heavy armor so typically only moves 6' per segment. He decides to charge the surprised Orcs, picking the one to the right so he can keep his shield ready versus the rest. He strikes the Orc with his broadsword and does enough damage to drop him! At the same time Brother Reynaud walks forward to hold the doorway and protect his surprised friends.
  Full Round #1, Segment 1 (Maury is Surprised): Everyone but Maury rolls initiative normally. Eirik rolls a 3, Sessy rolls a 1 (after modifiers), Brother Reynaud rolls a 6, and the Orcs roll a joint 4. Sessy holds a dart, waiting for a clear target (Brother Reynaud is in her way and she is squishy). One of the Orcs starts to close with Brother Reynaud and the other 2 do close with Eirik.
  Segment 2: Maury rolls initiative getting a 5 (he rolled a 4 and adds one since he spent the first segment of the full round Surprised). The Orc closes with Brother Reynaud. The two Orcs on Eirik are jockeying for position, as is Eirik.
  Segment 3: Now that the Orc is engaged with Brother Reynaud Sessy slips into the room past her friend - because of her movement exceeding 1/4th normal she is no longer holding her attack, but still has an attack action. Maury moves up into the doorway so he can see more clearly. Eirik strikes at the Orc to his right, wounding him.
  Segment 4: Sessy throws a dart at the back of the Orc to Eirik's right, striking - and killing! - him. She draws another and looks for her next target. The orc attacking Eirik misses and the Orc attacking Brother Reynaud hits, doing 2 points of damage.
  Segment 5: Maury starts casting Daunting Dart which has a casting time of 2. Sessy slips further into the room. Eirik and the other Orc are still engaged. Brother Reynaud strikes at the other Orc, but misses with his mace.
  Segment 6: Sessy throws a dart at the Orc fighting Brother Reynaud, hitting him for 1 point. Maury's spell finishes and the Daunting Dart slays the orc fighting Eirik.
  Segment 7: Realizing that he is now alone and surrounded the last Orc starts to edge to his left, trying to get his back into the corner. Brother Reynaud, however, shifts with him as Eirik closes. Sessy moves closer tot he middle of the room. Maury enters the room, finally.
  Segment 8: Seeing the situation well in hand, Sessy covers the far door with a dart in case more Orcs come in (she has a missile attack left with her darts).
  Segment 9: The increasingly desperate Orc is able to use a table to block Brother Reynaud just enough so that the Orc's back is to a wall as Eirik closes with him.
  Segment 10: Snarling in defiance, the wounded Orc's situation is grim as the round ends.
  Full Round #2 - Initiative: Eirik rolls a 3, Reynaud a 4,Maury a 1, and Sessy a modified 2. The Orc rolls a 2.
  Segment 1: Sessy reaches the far door and begins checking it. Maury prepares spell components for a Magic Missile but does not start casting.
  Segment 2: Sessy determines the far door is not locked. She bars it shut to prevent any more surprises. The Orc strikes at Brother Reynaud, but misses.
  Segment 3: Eirik strikes the Orc for 6 points, killing it.
  Combat ends after 14 segments.

Monday, July 1, 2013

DM's Log: Blackstone Campaign, Group 1 - BONUS: Why your players should use Chant

 I have mentioned the background on the Blackstone Campaign a few places but this is my first post-adventure update.
 Which needs more background.
  This group, which we call Blackstone 1, has been playing for about 4 years, or about 120 individual sessions. The group is relatively high level for a number of meta-reasons. It consists of:
  Doomsman, a 10th level Fighter. A fairly realistic take on the barbarian, he is less like a raving berzerker and much more like an actual barbarian. Using the advanced weapon mastery and style mastery skills of Player's Option: Combat and Tactics he is a Master of the two-handed sword with 2 combat styles from the campaign - combined with a girdle of giant strength, a good armor class, and a magic two-hander he is a fierce hand-to-hand foe.
  Darkwalk, an 8th/8th Cleric/Magic-user. Since I use spell points (from PO: Spells and Magic) he casts about 100 spells a day. OK, that is an exaggeration, but Darkwalk is fine example of a cleric/magic-user and their flexibility.
  Stardust,  a 13th level Thief. Stardust is the character of the oldest and most experienced player in the group and is very good at the role of scout. She has worked to maximize her skills and items but is, frankly, about to the upper limit of what a thief can do (more about what I think is 'high level' in another post)
  Mournglow, a 10th level Magic-user. The player has focused Mournglow on the 'generalist with a lot of academic skills' mold and it is working. Very fond of using Polymorph Other to change foes into innocuous creatures, especially beavers and cows.
  Ember, a 10th level Fire Elementalist. Used the Skills and Powers rules so that he can fight with a short sword. The only spell the character likes more than Fireball is another Fireball. Ended the adventure Steading of the Hill Giant Chief about 8 rounds into the game when he caught the log fortress on fire with his 3rd or 4th Fireball.
  The party is very familiar with each other and is, frankly, fun to DM for.
  The Setup: About a game year ago the Grey Elven Kingdom to the East collapsed under the weight of a certain revelation and a Drow attack, greatly weakening the Eastern Elven Alliance. About 4 game months ago the party rescued a High Elven princess from the (rather modified) Hall of the Fire Giant King and sent her to her home with an escort of NPCs. About 2 game weeks ago the party received an urgent letter from the Princess informing them that 1) Her father and brothers were either missing or dead, leaving her in charge, 2) the Evil Eye Orcs were marching on her eastern border and 3) the remaining forces of the EEA had no hope of stopping the Orcs.
  The Previous Session: The party raced East on their hippogriffs and barely arrived in time. The session was a struggle to revent the Orcs from crossing the river border of the Elflands and, essentially, only delaying it. They were successful in wiping out a lot of the (leveled) leadership of the Orcs including the head Orc scout (a leveled thief), the Orc's chief Shaman (with levels in Cleric) and a number of other orcs.
  There was also a setup where Doomsman faced the champion of the Orcs, a half-orc with fighter levels, weapon mastery, and a sword of Human slaying. Although the toughest fight of his career, Doomsman prevailed and, as per the rules of the duel, the Ogre and Orog allies of the Orcs departed and the actual battle was set up for the next morning near the river banks.
  This Session: In between sessions the players had been a bit nervous because the Elves were outnumbered by 50% and the Orcs had used the time of the duel to set themselves up on a hill with the river at the back and left flank and a wood on their right while the elves would be forced to advance over an open field. During session setup Stardust discovered that the Orcs had also secretly hidden reserves in that same wood - the Elves were actually outnumbered over 2:1! Ember and Doomsman got the Elves into formation and began their advance while Stardust and Mournglow approached the enemy while invisible and flying. The general idea was that Stardust and Mournglow would target enemy spell casters and leaders while Ember provided battlefield spells, Darkwalk supported the troops and Doomsman fought in the front line.
  With his divinations Mournglow quickly realized the main Orcish leaders were within a Globe of Invulnerability and that the missing Elven king and prince were shacked to the Orcish banner right next to them, so he shifted his focus to the reserves. His engagement with the reserves resulted in his own Minor Globe being dispelled (!) but he was able to summon 3 Brown Puddings to engage the reserve forces and then fly away. Stardust left to see what she could do against the leaders and Mournglow looked for more targets.
  Ember began sending Fireballs against Orcish heavy crossbowmen while Darkwalk cast Bless, Prayer, Recitation, etc. over the Elven troops. Even with their help the Elven front line of swordsmen quickly went down as they hit the Orcish pikes. As the second line Elven Heavy Spearmen engaged the Pikes the Light Spearmen on the flanks prepared to be encircled by Orcish Spearmen. It was looking pretty grim when Doomsman, Darkwalk, and Ember all decided to do what they do best.
  Doomsman simply hacked his way through the Orcish Pikes to their rear as Ember put up a Wall of Fire on the Elven right flank and Darkwalk called down a Flame Strike on the Orcs menacing the left flank.
  About this time the invisible silent Stardust landed behind the Orc leaders and began to surreptitiously free the Elven prisoners while the Orcs were busy watching and directing the battle. During this process she realized that the Orcish banner seemed to incorporate some sort of holy relic.
  Ember slpped another Wall of Fire on the other Elven flank as Darkwalk kept using spells to assist the Elves. About this time Mournglow decide to Polymorph the Orc who had dispelled his Minor Globe into a - Ki-rin.
  This was interesting since the new Ki-rin 'lost his mind' and became a Ki-rin. I soon decided the Ki-rin would help, but not by crassly impaling orcs - the party watched as the Ki-rin flew up and away into the clouds.
  About this time Doomsman blew his Horn of Valhalla and 3 Einherjar joined him as he charged up the hill toward the Orc King.
  In the battle of armies the Elves superior skill and armor was beginning to tell and Darkwalk's spells were starting to really swing the fight, although the match was still against the Elves.
  The reserves soon finished off the puddings and started to form back up to join the fight, prompting Mournglow to head back towards them.
  Whew! We took a break at this point and gathered ourselves.
  Once back at it Doomsman and 2 of the Einherjar cut their way through the Orcish infantry behind the Pikes and continued up the hill. Ember started Fireballing Orcish shortbowmen, Mournglow began to start dropping spells into the reserves, and the Elves brought down the Pikes and resumed their advance, this time against the Orcish infantry.
  Meanwhile Stardust freed the Elven prince and began to free the Elven king.
  The Elves engaged the infantry but now had the reserves threatening their left flank. Mournglow was doing his best to slow the reserves but was struggling a bit. Doomsman was down to 1 Einherjar but was almost through the last troops before the Orc King's bodyguards. Stardust was rushing to free the Elf king before she was spotted by those same bodyguards. Ember was doing well but was actually running low on Fireballs, which is weird.
  About this time the party as a whole noticed that a storm was brewing very suddenly and Stardust realized the Orc king was occasionally casting spells, seemingly on his own troops!
  Mournglow attempted an attack on the leaders (he was still flying) and was hit twice by the Orc king's spear for his efforts. The Orc king's spear returned when thrown and Mournglow quickly learned it was a Wounding weapon, prompting him to return to slow the reserves.
  Doomsman and the last Einherjar engaged the main group of bodyguards in a fight that soon turned into a cuisinart. While he was taking damage a bit he was dropping a bodyguard per blow and was hitting 3 times a round! The Einherjar was keeping the bodyguards off his back but was fading fast.
  Ember shifted his focus to the reserves using the last of his Fireballs on them as Mournglow also returned to hitting them. The elves were starting to overwhelm the infantry but still had the reserves approaching their flank and had taken pretty severe losses.
  Doomsman finally cut his way through the first group of bodyguards, although he had taken two hits from the Orc king's spear of wounding (which had been thrown from the hilltop). The Einherjar finally went down as Doomsman charged the second group of boyguards around the King. The Ki-rin finally had enough clouds and did a Call Lightning on the reserves as Mournglow and Ember also continued hitting them. Stardust got the elf king free and began cutting down the Orc banner, hoping this would drop the Globe of Invulnerability and allow Mournglow to assault the leaders with magic.
  Although greatly slowed and weakened the Orcish reserves had still drawn to within moments of engaging the Elven flank and rear. Ember was almost out of spells and was contemplating drawing his own sword and joining the line. Darkwalk was out of attack spells and was tending the wounded and also preparing for the worst. Mournglow had a spell or two in reserve in case the Globe went down but was also largely out. Stardust was hopeful she could bring down the Globe but was very isolated.
  The Orc king shouted an order and his bodyguards allowed Doomsman direct access for the king and Doomsman to duel. Doomsman was not just hurt but the Wounding effect meant he was losing more h.p. each round while the Orc king was fresh and had Prayer, etc. active on himself.
  The duel was a lot of fun to DM simply because the party felt that the battle was riding on it. The previous day's duel had been the closest Doomsman had ever come to losing such a fight, and he had been fresh then. Being wounded and Wounded there was a bit more tension during combat!
  It was still over in just two rounds! Doomsman's player rolled well and hit hard and was able to parry each of the two blows that would have otherwise hit. As the Orc king died he uttered a curse on Doomsman.
  With the death of the Orc king his spells ended (he had the War sphere, granting him access to spells like Courage and Rally)  - this, combined with the shock of the last of their high leaders dying, broke the Orcish units that could see the duel which led to a cascade and, within 3 rounds, the Orcs were in a panicked retreat.
  Soon the Elves were gathered up and being cared for by their own healers and Darkwalk, their king and prince were returned, and the Ki-rin harried the retreating Orcs with his Call Lightning. Darkwalk had memorized Remove Curse for just such an emergency, so Doomsman received that before all his wounds were bound.
  Of the Elven force of almost 900 less than 430 survived the battle and many of the survivors were wounded. They lost no leaders and no spell casters.
  Of the Orcish force of about 2,100 less than 900 survived the battle and retreat. They lost all top leaders, most of their spell casters, the majority of their tough bodyguards, and even a large number of 'sergeants'.
  The party received the following treasure as a reward;
  -Each received a cloak pin that grants them a +2 on reaction rolls with Good elves from the continent and a +2 on saves vs. Cold.
  -2,000 g.p. in various gem stones.
 -Doomsman was granted the boon of being allowed to court the Elf king's daughter.

General Notes from this Adventure: These are both my own insights and what the players shared after the two sessions.
  1) Unless prepared for it, even a high level party can really struggle against an army of more than small size. As Mournglow put it 'they can't really hurt us unless we are really foolish, but every encounter that slows us down means other units get through.' Even against really tightly-packed formations a Fireball can affect no more than about 60 targets. Since even the Pike walls weren't 40' deep Ember's Fireballs were affecting between 36 (pikes) and 12 (heavy crossbowmen) Orcs at a time.
  The orcish army was in three columns, each heading for a different river crossing. Even with hippogriffs it was difficult to even find the Orcs since they typically travelled at night and used trees for cover as much as they could during the day.
  2) Siege weapons are very vulnerable to PCs. A Flaming Sphere can wreck a catapult very fast. Fireballs tend to do it faster.
  3) Some combat spells work great on the battlefield; but most combat spells don't. Fireball and Wall of Fire had an impact on the battlefield as a whole. Almost no other combat spell (in this battle) had that level of impact.
  4) Clerics can be more important on the battlefield than mages. The War sphere spells of the Orc king had a huge effect, preventing three of his units from breaking and allowing another to fight more effectively. Without those spells the Elves might have suffered far fewer casualties and, perhaps, even won without the support of the PCs.
  On the other hand, Darkwalk's use of Bless, Prayer, Recitation and similar spells had a major impact on the battlefield, especially along the front line. Let me show you why with raw numbers;
    Orc = 1 HD and A.C. 6
    Elf - 1+1 HD and A.C. 5
  Right away we see that the average Elf will hit the average Orc 55% of the time and only be hit 45% of the time. Combined with an average of 6 h.p. vs. an average of 5 h.p. the Elves have a quality edge to begin with.
  Now, let's get the front line of Elves under a Bless spell;
    Orc = still has a 45% chance to hit
    Elf = now has a 60% chance to hit and makes Morale checks at +1
  Ok, that is a nice boost, especially since mass combat is a game of numbers. Now, let's look at the same situation if the Elves were under Prayer
    Orc = 40% chance to hit, -1 damage
    Elf = 60% chance to hit, +1 damage
  Even better, right? Now let's look at just Recitation;
    Orc = 35% chance to hit, -2 damage
    Elf = 65% chance to hit, +2 damage
  Wow, this is a major change! Here's the thing, though - these three spells stack their bonuses! The Elven front line were longswordsmen (who get a +1 to hit from being Elves) and were under all three spells at the same time, meaning that at the initial shock of impact the forces looked like this;
    Orc = 25% chance to hit, -3 damage
    Elf = 80% chance to hit, +3 damage
  The spells alone provide a 40% change in the battle odds! Add in the Elven long sword bonus and the damage shift and this is why a force of 100 Elven swordsmen were able to devastate 400 Orcish pikemen before they went down. Even with the fact the pikemen were making 3 attacks before the elves were able to respond with one the huge difference in ability to hit and the damage shifts made all the difference in the world. In the battle above if Darkwalk and not prepared the front line with the spells he did (which was a major impact on his spell ability) the Elven front line would almost certainly have simply been cut down in the initial shock while doing effectively no damage to the pikes. Instead while the swordsmen did fall to the pikes it took 3 times as long and they wiped out half of the pikes doing so.
  Imagine if the Orcs had simply put 3 low-level clerics along the back rank of the Pikes, all casting the spell Chant spell before and during the battle - AND Darkwalk wasn't there - this would have made the Orcs equal to the Elves!
  Suddenly the Chant spell makes a lot more sense, doesn't it? Low-level clerics man the walls of besieged castles chanting for hours at a time; the monks in the cathedral aren't just singing in the choir - it is a continuous Chant to help protect the sacred space; etc.
  Now the players are back to the West and where their Dwarven hirelings are still working on their combined stronghold!