Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Home Again, Home Again (10/25/2013)

The players had vanquished stone giant Barl Breakbones and had scattered the Kreeg ogre clan and their ogre captives across the wilderness of the Hook Mountains, but is a hero's work really ever done? Barl confessed he had been sent there by Mokmurian to collect an ogre army to help him on his assault on Varisia. The first part of the assault was to be on Sandpoint, the town that was the starting point for the party members. Mokmurian was looking for something hidden there, likely something related to the ancient Thassiloanian empire. There were scores of Thassilonian artifacts to be found up and down the coast - what was their real target? And ... a dragon was to accompany them?

Barl had stated the stone giant army was already on the move, but he couldn’t say for sure when they had left, or when they would arrive. In the party’s favor the stone giant army was moving cautiously, hoping to keep their movements a secret. Sandpoint was still some 200 miles away from Turtleback Ferry, and if the party took off on horseback today the soonest they could safely arrive would be in about ten days. But Reynard had a better idea – with nothing but a snap of the fingers he was able to Teleport the entire party back to Sandpoint in but a flash.

The town of Sandpoint was the same as the party left it just several weeks before. The hum of activity in the shops and businesses had gone on seemingly unaffected by the news of rest of the rest of the world. Father Zantus was still at the temple, dour Sheriff Hemlock was still training his new deputies, and Mayor Kendra Deverin, ever the politician, could be found either avoiding responsibility (if something went wrong) or taking credit (when something went right) for happening’s in her town. The only real difference was the reaction of the town to the sudden presence of the heroes. Not only had the party saved Sandpoint from the goblins, but the stories of their further adventures had trickled in to the eager ears of residents of Sandpoint.

The party explained the story of the pending stone giants attack to the town’s leaders and several of the nobles in attendance, including local noble Titus Scarnetti, but their initial response was something less than enthusiastic. After all, stone giants lived a long, long way away from Sandpoint, and besides, if anyone in the area had seen an army of stone giants striding across the land those stories would have certainly drifted back to the town by now. And they were coming for a Thassilonian relic, well, there was an ancient Thassilonian relic on the west side of town, the wreckage of an ancient light tower named the Hellstorm Flume, but there were several of these ancient light towers laying in ruins up and down the coast. What was special about this one? It had been investigated numerous times previously by scholars and wizards of all types, and if they hadn’t found anything, what could a stone giant hope to find?

Titus Scarnetti
Then the party mentioned the stone giants were bringing a dragon with them, and the tenor of the conversation changed quickly. No one could think of any one in town that had ever actually seen a dragon, Ameiko Kaijitsu maybe on one of her adventures, but there were certainly more than enough dragon stories in existence to put the town leaders into action. What kind of dragon, how and where would it attack, what kind of breath weapon did it have? The questions came fast and furious, but the party could only tell the town leaders what they knew. Reynard speculated that it was likely a Red Dragon – the giants lived in the mountains, so did Red Dragons, and if that was the case then fire breathing would be the primary weapon of mass destruction for the wyrm.

Sheriff Hemlock arrayed his guards in shifts at the main entrance points to the town, the gates to the north, the bridge into town from the east, and the bridge located on the south end of town. Father Zantus told the heroes that the town considered itself well protected from a goblin raid, but stone giants were another matter. There was much hustle and bustle as town prepared itself for the coming attack. Reynard was able to construct three ballistae over the next few days, using his magical abilities (a ballista was essentially a heavy duty crossbow that had to be mounted on a stand). Several work crews helped to install the three ballista’s at critical junctions in Sandpoint.

DM Note: We discussed this at length, and the decision was made that since the party would not be shooting the ballistae and the sheriff’s deputies wouldn’t be either, that a crew of “farm boys” would have to be recruited. It would take them two rounds to load the device, one round to adjust their aim side-to-side, and then another round to adjust their aim up-and-down, so they could get a shot off once every five rounds. The mounted device would also have a radius of 180 degrees. However, being trained was not the same thing as actually being proficient, so the “farm boys” would be shooting with a -2 penalty to their to-hit. On the other hand, I opted to not have them roll for damaging the ballista as part of their clumsiness in loading, aiming, or firing it. All players agreed that this seemed a fair way to play this out.

And then – the waiting started. By the end of the second day the only evidence that anything unusual might occur was that the extra guards were still posted at the entrances to the town. Life in Sandpoint had returned to its normal hum-drum existence. On the morning of the third day though a child excitedly told her parents she had seen the mountains moving. The two mountains located just outside of town would provide good hiding spots for any stone giants in the area, but after the initial ruckus the sleepy town returned to its quiet ways.

A sudden loud crack then echoed through the town. The guards reported from the north wall that giants had thrown a huge boulder at the gate. The gate had taken some damage, but still held. The party quickly arrived to see three stone giants some 200 feet away from the gate, taunting the defenders in their broken common and throwing the occasional boulder. The heroes quickly responded and rushed to the gate, but at that range there was little they could do.

After a few more taunts and some long distance rock throws, a disturbance could be heard from in town in the area of Tanner’s Bridge. If the original attack was intended as a diversion it had worked. The party left the defenders at the north wall and rushed to the bridge that entered town from the east. There they found three dire bears and two stone giants. The dire bears were wreaking havoc among the townspeople and the stone giants came along behind as they looked for prisoners to stuff into large bags.

The heroes immediately stepped up to take on two of the dire bears and their stone giant handler, while the other dire bear and stone giant wandered off to wreak havoc in another part of town. The party eventually began to gain the upper hand on the three, but it took several turns as they turned out to be very tough to kill.

Then another cry rang out from the town. As the party looked about down from the sky came a young red dragon. It took a long slow turn and then dived and spewed fire at the Sandpoint Garrison. It then slowly turned away and began to rise back into the air as it looked for its next target. The citizens of Sandpoint either ran around in panic or began to help with bucket lines to help douse the fire – luckily the garrison was mostly made of stone so not much damage was done. However, if some of the wooden buildings in town were to catch fire then some real damage could be done.

Reynard then kicked off his Fly spell and began to follow after the dragon. As the rest of the party put the finishing touches on the two dire bears and the first stone giant Reynard began to pepper the fire breather with Ice Storms, hoping to take advantage of the beasts’ weakness. As the beast turned again and began to dive at the newly constructed cathedral for his next attack Reynard unleashed a mighty blast of ice (DM Note: along with a couple of missed saving throws by the DM) and the dragon crashed to the ground in the graveyard just beyond the cathedral, it’s hulking corpse a curious combination of singeing embers and frozen scales.

The party was suddenly attacked by the remaining dire bear and stone giant, and then three more stone giants ambled across the bridge. Two of these new stone giants were intent on clearing a path for the third, Teraktinus, as they lumbered through the streets toward the ancient lighthouse. "More prisoners!" they yelled as they make their way through the town. "Bring us your fat, greedy merchants, and we will spare your miserable lives! Ignore us and you'll burn in dragon fire!"

And then two more giants could be heard bellowing from the south end of town, obviously excited at having found the local brewery. The two giants shouted threats at Two Knight Brewery, their voices booming and insistent. "If you don't give us all the beer, we'll smash you flat!" shouted one of them. Another threw a stone at the building. "Beer or death! Your choice!"

With the town seemingly having been overrun with stone giants the party did their best to battle back against the tough opponents. Several more of the stone giants fell, but then another cry could be heard coming from the town as smoke could be seen rising from the manor houses located to the south of town.

And then, just as things looked their bleakest, Teraktinus reappeared from his visit to the ruined lighthouse and made a break for it in an attempt to leave town. His bodyguards stood fast at the bridge to keep the party from pursuing, although they ended up paying the ultimate price for their sacrifice. Reynard tried to follow in the air and spied Teraktinus and several other stone giants moving away from town.

The party moved to attack any remaining stone giants in town, but Teraktinus’s quick exit had spurred any remaining giants to do the same. The heroes had saved the town – killing the dragon had kept any fire damage minimized, and the stiff resistance by the party members had kept the damage and kidnappings from being worse as well.
Sacking the Brewery
As the party watched the stone giants making their way back to their mountain lair the discussion centered about what to do next. The party’s resources were pretty much spent and a night of rest would be beneficial before starting any more fights against large groups of stone giants, but as they weighed their options several townspeople approached the party and asked them to retrieve lost friends or relatives. Titus Scarnetti himself appeared and stated the giants had stolen a wagon full of valuables form his estate and kidnapped his granddaughter – a reward would be offered for their safe return. Even Father Zantus spoke up, imploring the party to pursue the kidnappers and retrieve the missing townspeople. Had Teraktinus found what he was looking for? And what exactly was he looking for? Several of the giants could be seen limping away - perhaps if one could be captured some additional information could be gained. And what do you do with a dragon corpse laying around the temple graveyard?

And we’ll pick it up there next time. For tonight’s efforts the party earned 35,000 XP, giving them (105,000 + 35,000) 140,000 XP earned so far, with 155,000 XP required to reach Level 11 (Level 12: 220,000 XP).

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