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Kingmaker: Stolen Land, Session 6

November 21, 2013

445944-tick_graphic

Watch out for the giant tick! No, wait, not that Tick…

So, the party had gained enough XP to level up after last session. In the interests of them not getting slaughtered, I let them do so, adding any new HP to their current totals. Spellcasters still had to rest to gain new spells, though. As it turns out, the extra level wasn’t quite enough. Salar the halfling ranger had also re-built his character in-between sessions to be a sword-and-board type, instead of an archer. That didn’t turn out too well, either.

The group was in the mite’s torture room with a lot of dead mites, three dead kobolds tied to the wall, and the lone kobold survivor, Mikmek. After some healing, they pressed onwards, leaving the room through a tunnel on the far side. The tunnel sloped downwards and was then bisected by a 20’ deep chasm that was about 15’ across. Many, many loops of rope had been tied to the roots that ran through the earthen ceiling; it seemed the mites used them to swing across the gap.

Satampra the rogue volunteered to swing across first. However, when he tried to do so, the ropes snapped! Unbeknownst to the players, the mites had rigged several loops to break if they were used, and Satampra had grabbed a trapped one. He made an Acrobatics check to lessen his falling damage, but still hit the ground hard. The party started to discuss how to rescue him and get across the chasm themselves when they heard the scuttling of many legs from the north end of the cleft. Satampra picked up his bullseye lantern and shone it towards the source of the noise, revealing a freaking humongous centipede!

Here’s where the game started to break down a bit. As per the 6-player conversion for the adventure, the whiptail centipede had the Advanced template. But I discovered that perhaps my party of 6 is about as effective as a party of 4. The centipede took out Satampra with one bite, and also nearly killed Salar, Halas the inquisitor, and Mikmek (granted, the kobold only had 1 HP at that time). Salar failed all of his Fortitude saves vs. the poison, and was left with a Dexterity of 4. They did kill the bug, but the situation grim for several rounds, and I started ignoring rules in order to avoid a TPK. The centipede attempted no AoOs, and I ignored the -4 penalty for shooting into combat. Although given the size of the centipede, perhaps it shouldn’t have applied anyway.

Once the beast fell, Mestinous the not-so-acrobatic wizard attempted to perform a cinematic tumble down into the ravine so that he could deliver the coup de grace. But he once again fumbled his check, and fell on his ass down in the mud. Party: “Are you sure you want to try that?” Mestinous’ player: “I have a +8 bonus! I can’t fail!” Iofur’s player: “That’s what you say every time!”

Stolen Land 6aAt that point, the party was lollygagging a bit, so I had some mites show up at the opposite end of the tunnel. In no shape for another fight, the group fled back to the surface, dogged by mites who brandished their knives and grinned evilly at the edges of the torch light (the mites had no interest in engaging the slayers of their prize centipede).

The group spent two days in the hills near the mite’s warren, mapping out the hex while they healed. I rolled to see how many mites returned to their lair during that time to replenish their numbers, but in the end it didn’t matter. You can only kill so many of the buggers before it gets tedious, and their DR made killing them an already tedious process. On the morning of the second day, the explorers headed back to the old sycamore tree, with Satampra still feeling woozy from the poison (Dexterity 6, down from 15).

Salar was the first to go in, dropping down between two mite guards. The rest of the group quickly followed, avoiding the pileups that had plagued them during their first incursion. One mite was felled, and the other ran off towards the hatchery with 1 HP remaining. The party gave chase.

In the hatchery, they ran afoul of the two remaining giant centipedes and a gaggle of mites. A sleep spell knocked out most of the mites, and the rest were (for once) quickly dispatched. Satampra smashed the centipede eggs, while Salar sawed off the head of a dead mite and threw it down the hole. The mites in the next room responded with outraged shouts and threats.

Stolen Land 6bDown into the next room they went! The common area was guarded by six regular mites and two elite guards – they had the Advanced template, as per the 6-player conversion. I had also equipped them with decent weapons – spears and light crossbows, instead of the daggers and darts carried by normal mites. Iofur the druid was one of the first into the room, and went before the mites, so he filled the chamber with an entangle spell. Unfortunately, he had placed it so as to make it impossible for the whole party to enter the room without someone moving into the spell’s AoE. Much dice rolling followed as the mites struggled to do anything and the PCs struggled to kill them. This was a truly miserable experience that just dragged on and on and on until the party convinced Iofur to dismiss the spell.

At that point, there was only one elite guard remaining, and he ran off towards the king’s room. The invaders gave chase, and killed the mite with an arrow in the back, just as it had rounded a corner. As the mite collapsed and the group came around the bend, their torch light revealed an enormous freaking tick! As bad as that was, the giant tick was being ridden by the mite king himself, Grabbles! Grabbles held his trident high and called for war against the invaders!

The two remaining elite guards were also in the room, along with all of the remaining mites. That would have been around a dozen, and there was no way the party could have handled all of that. So I had the mites off to the side, alternatively cowering and cheering as their king did battle with the PCs.

The king turned out to be a problem, much like the whiptail centipede. He’s an Advanced mite, and the 6-player conversion adds two fighter levels to him. I took that and switched his feats around to focus on mounted combat – he could negate hits on his mount with a Ride check once per round, move after a mounted charge, and do double damage on a charge. I was worried that it would be too much for my players, but as it happened, I never got to use the charge abilities at all. I also ditched the negating-hits thing after he blocked two of the group’s hits on the tick – their only hits at that point. I had equipped him with some armor and a shield (that the halfling could steal afterwards), which boosted his AC to 20. Not an insurmountable AC, I thought, but the party couldn’t hit the king to save their lives. Literally!

Anyway, Mestinous opened up the fight by using his bonded sword to recall a sleep spell, and cast that on the elite guards. Both failed their save and went off to snooze-land. Then, before I could unleash a charge from Grabbles, Travaris the cleric (uncharacteristically) ran right up to him. Grabbles and the tick went next. The tick bit Travaris, instantly knocking him into the negatives, and the king threw a javelin at Mikmek, taking out the kobold. Suddenly the adventuring party was down two bodies, one of them their primary healer. The first round wasn’t even over yet!

The PCs tried to hit the king. No dice; they couldn’t touch his AC. They tried to hit the tick. Success! No, wait, the king negated each hit with a Ride check. Meanwhile, the tick had torn into Salar and was draining the halfling’s blood. Once again, it seemed like a TPK was in the works and I started “forgetting” rules or having the NPCs behave foolishly. I don’t like doing that. It really makes me feel like I’m failing as a DM. But I wasn’t sure what else to do at that point.

Part of the problem is that the group doesn’t mesh very well. When we started, there were four ranged characters (wizard, druid, xbow inquisitor, archer ranger), one switch-hitter who prefers ranged combat (rogue), and one rather useless combatant (the cleric, who prior to the tick incident stayed as far away from the fray as possible). None of the ranged characters have the Precise Shot feat, so they’re almost always -4 to hit for firing into melee. They also are not very strategically minded, and they will often try to fire through others, which is effectively another -4 to hit for cover (or -2 for partial cover). And all of the PCs, aside from the halfling ranger, have a -2 to hit on top of all of that because of the cramped quarters in the mite tunnels.

Altogether it’s a combination for extreme frustration. Hitting the AC 15 tick was difficult, but I started letting them do so because otherwise it was going to kill all of them. Hitting the AC 20 king was basically impossible for them. They did take down the tick after hitting it with a tanglefoot bag (which lowered its AC), and then after several rounds of combat with Grabbles we had to call it a night. I’m hoping that in the time between sessions, and I will prod them if needed, they will come up with a plan to work together to win. Or to at least flee. Because I don’t want another session where I have to bend the rules to keep them all from dying.

Heading into the future, I’m not sure what I will do. Perhaps I should stick with the original adventure stats, but give them XP as if they were beating the 6-player challenges so that they don’t fall behind. On the brighter side, Salar is now a melee ranger (if a rather ineffective one), and Halas is being replaced by a melee fighter (Halas’ player had to unexpectedly move out of the area, and we happened to have a player waiting in the wings). So maybe it will work itself out as the campaign proceeds.

I had written out some dialogue for Grabbles to say each round. I suck at doing that sort of thing on the fly – my off-the-cuff villain dialogue tends to come out as variations on “I will kill you all!” But I wanted to drop some hints of the overarching storyline here, and figured Grabbles was a good place to get the ball rolling. “Mistress of Whispers” is one of the nicknames that I came up with for the BBEG of the AP.

Grabbles dialogue – 1 per round; don’t forget the lisp!

  1. “Humans? Working with the kobolds?! Inconceivable!”
  2. “Every time humans have come to these lands, they have been driven out! Take the hint and flee now!”
  3.  “What are you doing here, humans? This land belong to our kind! You are not fey! You do not belong!”
  4.  “The Mistress of Whispers has claimed these lands for us! Spare yourselves her wrath and leave while you can!”
  5. “The First World is coming! But you will not live to see it, interlopers!”

Next: the kobolds get their statue back.

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3 Comments
  1. Nice session! I’m also DMing KingMaker and gettings tons of hints and inspiration from here! But, about Grabbles and the dialogue, what kind of contact do you assumed the Mite King and the Mistress of Whispers had? The AP is absent!

    • I doubt that Grabbles has any contact with a being as great as You-Know-Who. In my game, the faeries of the Stolen Lands know that She has claimed the area. But they mostly don’t know what that really means and interpret it differently. To evil fey, it means the land belongs to them in a sense, and that any human presence will be pushed out as it has been in the past.

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  1. Kingmaker: Stolen Land, Session 5, Part 2 | Daddy DM

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