Alternately titled: ACKStually, I DON’T have a character rolled up.
…or, Why I’ll never stay up that late again…honest!
We kicked off a new open table campaign with three players coming out. After the first two had arrived, it became readily apparent that one of them hadn’t yet rolled up a character. In fact, as we got into the process of doing so, it became clear that he really hadn’t read much of anything I’d sent up to that point. The other player volunteered a form-fillable character sheet he’d spent a few days building in Numbers for the iPad, and it took some time to get the file moved over due to the limitations of the iPad. Once that was sorted, off we went into character creation. Analysis paralysis quickly set in as the first player grilled me on how I might hypothetically rule on various proficiencies…
Two hours later, just as we were wrapping up on Belgarath the Mage for the first player, a third player showed up (we had known he would be late due to prior commitments). He, too, arrived sans character, so we started the agonizing process all over again: transfer Numbers character sheet to iPad, buy and download Numbers app, roll 5 sets of attributes with online dice roller, decide on class… and here is where we hit another slight snag, as this player decided he wouldn’t play any of the basic classes I’d offered. Fortunately, after browsing the Player’s Companion, he quickly settled on an Elven Ranger, and was more than happy to use one of the templates provided for the class (Woodland Stalker). We were finally ready to go!
Of course, by this point, it was 11:30pm. Our original quit time was 11:45pm. For some unfathomable reason, I decided to start playing anyway, reasoning that I’d at least get their characters settled into home base…
4th of Yarthmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath (Mage), Kalasandr (Thief), and Kane (Elven Ranger)
Mortal Wounds: none
The trio arrived at Guido’s Fort mid-morning on a cool spring day. They quickly found their way to the Lion’s Den where, after ordering breakfast, they tried to get the lay-of-the-land from the Publican. They were told that Guido’s Fort was the main rest-stop on this part of the Duke’s Road, and that the bulk across the river was known simply as “The Hill”, and that it was topped by a ruined monastery. They also learned that a sizeable portion of the local garrison had left to deal with some kind of trouble north up the Duke’s Road. Kalasandr tried to get more information from the handful of patrons with little success. That is, until he bought an ale for an individual known simply as The Old Timer. This ancient drunk informed the party that an army of orcs was encamped upon the Hill, waiting to attack, likely at the direction of an evil witch purported to live there, too. For her part, it was said the witch captured the souls of the unwary, and tortured them in her mansion that appeared to be a hovel from the outside.
Deciding there was little more to be gained in the tavern, the party headed over to the manor house of the local lord, Guido, the Explorer. There they were met by the lord’s reeve, Ivana. The reeve informed them the there had been some trouble in the vicinity of the fort of late, and that a number of homesteads had lost livestock, presumably to bandits. The most troubling development was that the latest raid two days prior had resulted not just in lost livestock, but the disappearance of the entire family from the Dmitros homestead. Wild rumours had started circulating about ogre slavers, but the reeve put little stock in these. She happily provided the party with directions to the Dmitros homestead, and informed them that there would no doubt be a reward if they could discover what had happened.
Smelling coin, the party immediately made the hour-long walk to the now deserted homestead. Upon arrival, Kane discovered the tracks of as many as half-a-dozen booted feet, as well as the tracks of something much larger than a man. The others checked the one-room farmhouse, discovering that its door had been smashed from the frame, and the interior had been ransacked in some sort of struggle. Of the Dmitros family and their livestock there was no sign, but the booted tracks did appear to lead back in the direction of both the fort, and the river.
Electing to follow the tracks, they eventually reached the mighty Shutterga River, very near Guido’s Fort. The Hill loomed on the far side. Seeing the ramshackle collection of jetties and docks that served the tiny fishing community which had sprung up near the fort, the party decided to barter with the fishermen for passage across the water. After some negotiation by Belgarath the spendthrift Mage (and most of the party’s remaining gold), a trip over the river was secured. Their pilot, Boris, seemed to find the idea that he would ever collect the 15 gold for the return trip inexplicably funny.
The boat ride took most of an hour, and by halfway across it was apparent that there were two main clearings where they could land. The northernmost was smaller, and appeared to be behind a shallower, marshy stretch of shore. The southernmost was much larger, and had a large waterfall at its furthest extent, with the stream issuing from the falls dividing the clearing. The party elected to head for the northernmost clearing, and waded ashore through mucky shallows as Boris left.
The clearing appeared to have two clear paths leading from it, and it was decided that sticking to the paths was the better option, as the rest of the area was heavily forested, and covered with thick undergrowth. The northern path appeared to head north along the shore of the Shutterga River, while the other path headed south-west up the Hill itself.
Wanting to move to higher ground, the party headed for the second path, and after the better part of an hour they emerged, sweating, into another large clearing. With two more paths as options, the group pushed on through the clearing in the direction they had been headed. Within another half-an-hour, a branching path met theirs, heading off to the west. Ignoring this, they continued, but were presently interrupted by the sound of flapping. Half-a-dozen strange creatures, looking like a cross between a bat and a mosquito, flew up the path from the trail they had just passed. As soon as the creatures’ approach was noticed, Belgarath stepped clumsily into a bush, Kane vanished into the undergrowth, and Kalasandr dropped to the ground under his cloak. Belgarath’s faithful wardog, Argos, was left on the trail, panting and wondering why his master was standing in a bush.
With a flutter of leathery wings, the creatures swarmed the wardog, one of them latching on to its side and piercing the hound with its fleshy proboscis. The rest of the group took advantage of the distraction the dog provided, and leapt to the attack: Kane fumbled his net, before recovering and snaring four of the things from the air; Belgarath blasted apart the one latched to his wardog with a magic missile spell; and Kalasandr smashed and stabbed several more. Within a few moments, the fight was over, with the last couple creatures fluttering away in search of an easier meal. Better still, the only injuries seemed to be to faithful Argos. Belgarath, husband of animals, tended briefly to the hound before the group moved on.
After another hour or so, a new trail split off downhill to the south, and the party decided to head this way in hopes that it would lead them back to the clearing with a waterfall that they had seen from the river. Their guess proved correct, and they soon found themselves at the opening to another large clearing that fronted onto the river. This time, however, they were not alone, and a couple hundred yards away were several armed and armoured humanoids, peering across the river towards the fort and making markings on the ground at their feet. The party watched them, unnoticed, trying to figure out what to do. Belgarath snuck over to explore the waterfall for anything of interest. Kane and Kalasandr began preparing an ambush; sunset was not many hours away, and they had no desire to be stranded on The Hill overnight. After numerous plans were made and discarded, the humanoids eventually finished whatever they were doing and left, exiting the clearing without spotting the party. The players quickly sent Belgarath’s familiar off to deliver their message to their ferryman, Boris, and then anxiously awaited his arrival.
Just as the light started to fade, Boris rowed up to the shore. The party quickly embarked, thankful to be off The Hill before dark. They returned to Guido’s Fort without incident, and headed to the manor to inform the reeve that the fort was in imminent danger of attack! Unfortunately, their proof amounted to nothing more than unsubstantiated claims of seeing three unidentified humanoids scratching in the dirt; hardly the most threatening report the fort had ever received. Ivana agreed that more investigation might be prudent, and asked the group to return to her when they were ready.
…and so the session ended…at 3:30am! After hastily agreeing to never run such a late session again, the players were booted out for the night.