Thursday 11 January 2024

Trollopulous Adjusted Session 51 (Machodor #26); The Master of Winter, Attacks!

     





Timekeeping


This session took place on 21/12/2023, and the PCs adventured for 5 days. 

Player Characters Present


Giuseppe (Level 6 Paladin of Rome, Brovenloft, E)
Sever (Level 6 Pegasus Corps Ranger of Machodor, E)
Deltacron (Level Dwarf 1 Fighter/Thief, E ) 
Godleve (Level 5 Cleric of Machodor, E )
Sheamus(Level 6 Irish Fighter from Brovenloft, E ) 


Introduction 


This was a really incredible session. A huge number of background things all came together at the one time and the players had absolute autonomy to choose what to do about them. The time flew by and I would have loved to have another four hours for the players to capitalise on everything they learned while it was fresh in their minds. 

This was also a session where I very much felt a paradigm shift into DM as Referee. I could have nudged or even tried to steer this session in any number of directions where the players were "supposed" to do various things, but instead I relayed information based on their position in the mountains and adjudicated their actions from there. Did that result in more fun for the players I wonder, or just for me? 

Downtime


The Master of Winter, first encountered back in session #4, has been patiently building and preparing his forces for some time. Now, on the morning of the Winter Solstice, his army was in position to strike Gimmelwald in the south east part of the Bandit Mountains. Although he proved victorious, not everything went as planned, including being challenged to a duel by a fellow monk. It just so happened that the winter solstice was on a session day.

Two of the Dervish who joined the party and became Giuseppe's henchmen were taken to Minas Mandalf to be properly sworn in and equipped. Then the trio, along with Sever the ranger and his pegasus, travelled around the bandit mountains chasing various leads.

Session Report


With it being a few sessions since this particular group of characters had been together, and even longer since they were in Machodor proper, there were a number of loose threads and doings learned of in downtime. In fact there were hooks aplenty:

  • The Black Knight was roaming around challenging all comers, but was also maddeningly difficult to find. Similarly armoured figures were seen guarding the entrance to Castle Von Necro 
  • The fear gas in the Valley of Fear, below the Robopriest's fortress complex, had become inert following the PC's actions in Brovenloft. This allowed the Robopriest's men to find a route leading into the same lava tube the PCs had spent so much time exploring; was this a short cut to Lord Inferno's lair?
  • The Dragon Cultists; they certainly exist, but further evidence is hopelessly mixed with hearsay and the superstitions of the common folk 
  •  The Ice Pyramid, still sitting there unexplored by PCs since its discovery months ago 
  •  The Hawkmen of the crashed Sky City were still in need of help recovering power crystal gems. 


There was all this on offer and, as yet, they had no idea what was going on in Gimmelwald just that morning. However, by choosing to travel via Castle Irish to the the Valley of Fear, with a side trek into the area the Black Knight had been reported in, they were to going find out. 

It was a cold clear day and they made good time to Castle Irish without any encounters, and then continued on south west. On this route they eventually ran into the first of many refugees from Gimmelwald; led by Staadtman Krellard (who they had rescued from Castle Von Necro in session #2) a group of sixty or so riders were pushing hard in their direction. Recognising the flags and such these riders were carrying, the party hailed them and got a brief run down of the events of that morning: Gimmelwald had fallen. However, Krellard was more interested in debriefing behind the walls of Castle Irish, so the PCs returned with him.

Once in audience with the lord of the Castle, Sir Trolland the Paladin, Krellard detailed the morning's disaster.

The enemy's forces included: Scores of Ice Toads, two White Dragons, and dozens of Ice Trolls. These latter monsters were immune to non-magical weapons. There were also normal human troops numbering around two hundred. The enemy had simply rolled into the valley from the south east, destroyed the palisade and watch tower there, then moved in and enveloped the town. At this point the defenders were too busy to be concerned with the identity of their attackers; but, when the enemy had broken through the eastern gate and threatened to run amok, something incredible happened.  A monk, calling himself the Master of the East Wind, who had somehow being staying undetected in Gimmelwald, thwarted the breakthrough with the help of a Djinni; then bellowed a challenge to the Master of Winter. The Master of Winter, who up until then had stayed well out of the fray, accepted the challenge and flew into the town on his own White Dragon. While the enemy was distracted with this fight Krellard and a few supporters slipped out of the town and escaped.

Monk fight

not of lot of people know this

Later a younger member of Krellard's entourage, who had managed to witness the entire fight and still escape, gave a blow by blow account of the duel. 

"Hear tale of the battle like no other I witnessed,"


In summary:

  • The two masters exchanged opening blows without either one gaining an advantage. 
  • Then, on round 3 they tied initiative. They both had 3 attacks that round, evaluated simultaneously; the first missed, then the Master of Winter rolled 20, more than 5 better than his target to hit; meaning that the other monk was stunned for 1d6 rounds. The d6 came up with 5. Then the Master of the East Wind also rolled 20, also stunning his opponent; for SIX rounds! 
  • So they were both punch drunk for five rounds, then the MoEW had a full round with a bonus of +4 to his attack, meaning not only a better chance of hitting but a better chance of stunning (and perhaps killing). He did hit one time out of three for significant damage, but the MoW was still standing and had time to recover his senses. 
  • Next round the MoW won initiative, stunned the MoEW again, but this time rolled a 01 on the d100...

"Battered, lungs heaving for air, the Master of Winter thrusts himself up from the blood spattered snow.  Again the two masters leap across the town square and exchange a flurry of blows, but this time experience overcomes raw speed.  With the scream that echoes with the sound of a hurricane wind, the man in white lands a stunning palm to his challenger's sternum that leaves the younger man frozen in shocked silence.

A moment passes.  Confusion flickers across the visage of the Master of Winter, replaced instantly by one of concern.  Again, he rushes to the Master of East Wind's side, this time to catch him as he falls to the paving stones.  Words escape his lips, just a soft whisper at the light slips from his fallen foe's eyes.

The Master of Winter gently closes the dead man's eyes, rises, and bows deeply to a foe worthy of his skill.  He walks back past his general, "Did I not tell you the day of the solstice belongs to the Master of Winter?" He mounts his great white wyrm and departs through the clouds to the west."

Now, relating all this might be a big chunk of the session report, but it did not take up much time in session. If this other monk didn't happen to be at Gimmelwald, then probably no one would have known who was behind the attack. The party were soon set to scheming.

Having no love for the Master of Winter at the best of times, they set about their preparations to respond to his shameless attack on a peaceful town. Shaemus appealed to the leader of the Irish, Connor MacGregor (Patron Irish Fighter level 7) who was able to immediately call a hundred men to arms; a mixture of light cavalry and longbowmen. I started drawing up my squares for a mass battle, which was beginning to look like a possibility. With these troops and twenty riders from Gimmelwald, the party set out from the castle once again; first to help look for the expected evacuee column, and then more if they could. 

Sever mounted up and flew over to investigate Gimmelwald, and found it looted and abandoned. It was easy to see that the bulk of the population had been rounded up and marched out of the valley to the south east. He followed and caught up with them; managing to approach the white dragon and its rider, who was directing the movement of the throng from the air, without being noticed, resulting in 3 segments of surprise. The encounter distance was 150 yards, and the ranger had come in well above the dragon in altitude. After some calculations I determined that, if his pegasus dived, the pair could cover that distance in two segments and still attack, with one further segment afterwards. 

I was only egging him on a little (alright a lot), a bold strike certainly could have resulted in a significant loss for the enemy, but in the end Sever chose discretion and prioritised getting the information back to the rest of the party. By the time he returned they had intercepted the refugees and chosen to push on towards Castle Irish as evening fell.

With the information Sever brought with him, the party had plenty of options open to them. But they were also suspicious there might be dragon cultists within the group of refugees. This was great, since I had established already that this was the case and could simply adjudicate their efforts to find them.

As they trudged on towards the Castle, the party offered first aid to the evacuees and lined them up to receive it. Off to the side they had Giuseppe subtly employ his paladin detect evil ability. The idea was that eventually everyone would have been checked, but, just as the Paladin thought he was on to something, a wild scream of terror came from down the line; a group of Wights emerging from the darkness had decided to pick off some humans for their evening meal. 

The players weren't about to stand by and let that happened, they moved to intercept the monsters. We had to ToTM the relative positions of the party with Giuseppe, then it was on. The PCs won initiative, which was crucial, and they got between the monsters and the humans. Godleve then successfully turned 4 out of 7 of the Wights, which the undead never recovered from (even though the remainder lasted a few more rounds and had a some level draining chances).

After this skirmish, the PCs returned to their original plan, but this time tried a different tactic and had Giuseppe ride down the line of evacuees and stare menacingly at them. Finally, one man suddenly ran off away from the paladin. He was a huge farmer type, nearly seven feet tall. In the dark he only had to get out of sight and he would have a good chance to escape. Sever heard Giuseppe's yell and charged across on Convess to overbear the human. Even though it was a huge man, the Pegasus hit him hard enough to knock him unconscious. Finally, they had a prisoner! The man had apparently been heading towards a cave entrance in the nearby mountain side.

They re-joined the evacuees and the group made it back to Castle Irish around 10pm, exhausted. The party focussed on their new prisoner and began working on a plan to interrogate him the next day while Sever went out to get an update on the Master of Winter's troops. However, the next morning a massive blizzard blanketed the area and made it impossible for the Pegasus to get airborne.

Unable to get much else done, there was a lot of interesting in character role playing from Godleve and the others with the locals. Players actually remembered some of the NPCs in this location, can you imagine? The next day the blizzard had faded to heavy rain, visibility was poor; but, Convess could fly, and so he and Sever went off in the direction of the Master of Winter's valley. Once there they found no sign of movement outdoors, and circled around trying to get an idea of the defences. Unfortunately for him, the main fortification, atop a mesa in the middle of the valley, was completely enclosed and so it was not possible to estimate how many defenders might actually be inside; certainly it looked big enough to hold up to 500 men. The nearby cave city was populated by around 2000 souls, many of whom could be seen through the large, glass like outer walls that were a feature of the place.


The Master of Winter's base

Continuing south, Sever found that the prisoners from Gimmelwald and the army column were only a few hours south of their destination; somehow the blizzard of the day before had not slowed their progress and, in their confidence they no longer employed the dragon air support. Alas, any chance to bring a force to engage them outside of the valley was lost. Narrowly avoiding a random encounter with a Hieracosphinx, Sever returned to Castle Irish to report his findings; just as the interrogation was getting warmed up.

The prisoner was not answering any questions, but they had confirmed he possessed a tattoo under his right eyelid; of a red dragon. This was a sure sign they were not simply dealing with an evil villager, but a member of the dragon cult. Godleve, using detect magic, found that the tattoo was indeed magical. After this a Dispel Magic was cast in the hope of removing any charm and the like that might be preventing him cooperating. This did have the effect of removing the tattoo, but otherwise the huge farmer was uncooperative and gave them nothing. 

Finally they called up the castle's magic user; Sarumin the Beast Master. He was known for his ability to use charm magic, and he was only too happy to oblige the party. The farmer, Baronik, was soon spilling his guts about everything he knew.

Contents of guts:

  • he was recruiting into the ranks of the cult by a certain Talman, recently arrived from Grindlewald
  • he joined because of the power he hoped to obtain, "Even the great Macho Mandalf fears to challenge Lord Inferno" (yeah right)
  • he tried to escape because his handler told him too (a ruse to divert the PC's attention?)
  • within the cave he was making for is a long natural passage leading to a chamber where the cult conducts various rites; there is a statue of a dragon in there, that, if a certain gem is placed in its claws (a topaz), allows access to a shrine area. (When it was pointed out he had no such gem, Baronik realised he had been betrayed)
The party added this information to what they had learned already, and, with the winter weather again closing in, made plans to spend the Christmas period at Castle Irish.





Treasure and XP



Trollopulous Adjusted Session 51 (Machodor #26)


Monetary Treasure

0

Monsters

3 Wights 

Items

Monsters Total: 2000 XP


XP & GP Assignment N/A 

Giuseppe (Level 6, E )  400 XP
Sheamus(Level 6, E )  400 XP 
Sever (Level 6, E )  400 XP 
Godleve (Level 5, E ) 400  XP 
Deltacron (Level 1, E )  400 XP


Graveyard


Jacques Ocular (Level 1 Magic User), a fat green worm burrowed into his head and turned him into a Son Of Kyuss in Brovenloft in Session #43

Pino (Dwarf Footman level 0), Killed by a Frost Giant axe in the head in session #39

Paro (Dwarf Fighter/Thief level 2/2) , Killed by Winter Wolves and frozen in session #39

Zabib (1/2 Elf Fighter/Magic User level 1/1), Killed by Frost Giant rocks in downtime prior to session #39

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