Previously, our heroes landed on the island Arrverden where the dragon Jotte dwells. They made short work of the Fandenwyrm, an abomination that threatened their camp, and got some loot in the process.
Read the first part of this campaign log here.
Our heroes return to camp after killing the Fandenwyrm. They enjoy a meal aboard the beached Wuraf’s Blessing while they identify the items they recovered from the Fandenwyrm’s nest. Wenning, leader of the expedition, takes responsibility for the distribution of any magic items. He wants a fair system in which people get items depending on their need for them. If multiple people want a single item, they must roll dice and see who wins it. Some items may be awarded directly to one of the dragon hunters if Wenning deems it necessary.
The first item is a silver circlet that grants +2 Intellect. Whan and Sykka are both interested, and Whan wins it. The next item is the Keen Rose, a powerful magical arrow with a Returning enchantment (see Core Rulebook, page 212) that deals 1d additional Body damage. Wenning awards this item to Halred, aware that Halred’s well-placed shots did most of the work against the Fandenwyrm. The final item is Ualla’s Skull, a skull made of obsidian that allows a spellcaster who uses it as a focus to store two additional spells. This item goes to Ena, the only one interested.
Some of these items grant nonstandard abilities (i.e. not listed in the Core Rulebook). I introduced them to experiment with magic items that are easier to use.
Afterward, the dragon hunters discuss their plans for the following day. Since they only have supplies for four more days, a few of them should go hunting and get fresh water from the nearby river. Meanwhile, Wisse and Lorin will use their Shift spells (see Core Rulebook, page 184-185) to teleport to the wooden watchtower in the forest (in hex 11; see this campaign log for a map). That should help them get a better view of the island.
Satisfied with their spoils and their plans for the coming day, the dragon hunters retire for the night.
During Wenning and Lorin’s guard, a massive host pours out of the mountain pass east of our heroes’ camp (in hex 12). The host is carrying torches and at its current speed will most likely arrive shortly after dawn. Wenning and Lorin wake the others, and those with sharp eyes can make out their enemies: thirty trow, two bugganes, two giant wolves, and a giant--quite an army. Our heroes discuss what to do next. Wenning considers taking Wuraf’s Blessing back out to sea to find another landing, but Aran the Coward is heavily opposed. If they can’t handle this, then how should they handle a dragon? Besides, there’s a palisade around the beached ship and there is still time to dig a ditch around it. That way, the enemy will have to scale the walls or breach it, giving the defenders a serious advantage. And if the palisade is breached, they can fall back to the ship, accessible only by gangplank--a great last-ditch bottleneck.
Aran the Coward manages to convince the others. In the end, the dragon hunters agree they shall stand their ground and give battle here. Aran sets to digging a ditch around the camp while the rest helps and prepares for combat. Halred and the other archers set up on the ship. Once the enemy host comes within range of their arrows, they begin firing.
This was an interesting battle. There were thirty trow warriors, each of which had 660 Character Points (160 fewer than the PCs) with no combat skill above level 1 except Agility. These guys were cannon fodder: relatively easy to take out but present in great number. The bugganes, of which there were two, had 860 Character Points each (40 more than the PCs) with Close Combat skill at level 3 and most other skills at level 2. However, bugganes regenerate 2 Stamina per round, have double Stamina, and a thick hide. The giant wolves had 1120 Character Points each, with Agility and Athletics skills at level 3, and most other combat skills at level 2. The giant, finally, had 1240 Character Points with no combat skills higher than level 2. This was a serious challenge, but the players had the tactical advantage of a fortified camp.
Halred and Whan began firing arrows 30 cubes out. They both had composite bows with a range of 10 cubes, the Far Shot power (see Core Rulebook, page 91) to double that range, and the high ground bonus (see Core Rulebook, page 31) due to standing on the deck of the ship to double the unmodified range again (for a total x3). I may in the future reconsider the high ground bonus; it is quite a hefty extension of a weapon’s range.
Halred’s first shot wounded the giant, causing him to stand back and order his minions to charge forward. With the trow covering three cubes every round, it would take them ten rounds to get to the camp. The wolves and bugganes covered six cubes per round and would be there much quicker. Sykka had warned the players that the wolves and bugganes would function as shock troops and would be sent forward to breach the palisade, so the archers concentrated their efforts on them. The wolves and bugganes had no ranged capabilities of their own (at least not at this distance) and were shot down in a matter of rounds. This broke the ranks of the trow--cowardly small creatures--and caused them to retreat. Halred then focused fire on the giant again and, with Lorin’s aid (who used the Shift spell to get closer so that he could assist), managed to kill it, causing the trow to lose all morale and scatter.
This battle was the first time that the players began to realize the potential of the option to assist others on skill checks. On the Stage, assisting another character on a skill check gives him a bonus die in his dice pool (see Core Rulebook, page 20). There are no limits as to how many characters may assist (although the GM may rule otherwise on a case-by-case basis) so the potential here is endless. Additionally, there are powers that allow characters to grant even greater bonuses when assisting. The only downside is that the assisting character spends as much time as the character he is assisting, so lending support eats away at a character’s potential actions.
This is a mechanic that I enjoy. It represents one of the core principles of the Stage: combined effort is greater than the sum of individual efforts. Lorin’s character had obtained the Crossfire power (see Core Rulebook, pages 84-85) prior to this session, which allowed him to grant others a +2d bonus to their Ranged Combat skill checks. He used this power to buff Halred, who also received a +1d bonus from Whan’s assistance. As a result, Halred became a veritable killing machine.
Despite the fun in this, I have a feeling that the assisting mechanic may be an instakill-engine. Consider this: if the 30 trow charging our heroes had all assisted one of their own number on a ranged attack, they would have had a dice pool of more than 30 dice. They could have targeted any of the players or NPCs opposing them and killed three of them per round without breaking a sweat. Perhaps this is realistic--a cloud of thirty arrows will kill a man--but I may need to consider codifying a few limitations on assisting. We will see how the use of this mechanic evolves in the mid- to late-game. Where necessary, I will impose limitations, most likely on a per-skill basis, perhaps including it in the skill description in Chapter 6. For the Ranged Combat skill this must at least be that assisting is only possible in the first range increment of one’s weapon. I could also consider imposing a maximum on the number of assisting characters, perhaps equal to the character’s relevant skill level.
Either way, the battle was won. I had expected that the players would win this, especially because the trow on most occasions dealt little more than 1 damage, which most characters can take on their armor’s resistance. The real threat here were the giant, the bugganes, and the wolves, neither of which had any ranged attacks over such a long range. But despite my expectations, I was still surprised to see how quickly the players and their NPC allies dispatched the attackers and achieved victory.
The dragon hunters manage to take out the enemies with bow and arrow before they come close, and they achieve a significant victory. They rejoice, congratulate each other, and most of them can now see how they might take down Jotte if they plan well and work together. They retrieve the giant’s head as a trophy and place it on a pike as a warning. However, Wenning expects that there may be retaliation. They need to remain highly alert...