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Kingmaker: Varnhold Vanishing, Session 5, Part 1

July 3, 2016

sinbad_giant_rocAfter dealing with the Pharast (March) kingdom turn, the players wanted to get back to exploring the Tors for the mysterious island that they thought was linked to the disappearance of Varnhold. The first area on their agenda was Talon Peak, a tall mountain that was topped by the ruins of an ancient watchtower. The silhouette of the tower rising from the mountain looked a bit like a talon, hence the name. But the peak was also the presumed home of an enormous black bird that hunted the area, which has long been a bane to farmers near the spire. The group figured this was probably the roc that they had spotted (and hid from) over the past few sessions.

The explorers braved the winter weather and managed to ascend as far as they could on foot – but to reach the ruins, they would have climb almost straight up. “Who put a tower up there?!?” they wondered – as did I actually. But maybe it was like the Eyrie in Game of Thrones – a fortification that can only be accessed by climbing or hauling. In any case, the crumbling tower was 250 above them, and one look at their Climb scores had most of the party worried for their safety. Satampra the swashbuckler, who was pretty good at climbing, wasn’t afraid to do it the hard way, but the others had easier methods in mind. Mestinous the elven wizard and Remesio the cleric cast fly spells (the cleric has the Travel domain). Iofur the druid wildshaped into a dire bat, and Orseen the warpriest clambered onto its back. The wizard offered to carry Satampra to the top, but he refused – he wanted that sense of accomplishment that can only come from conquering nature with just one’s body and one’s wits. And  maybe some climbing tools. As he started the arduous ascent, the others laughed. “We’ll be waiting for you at the top!” they called out as they flew off.

Now, the roc did live in the tower, and it also had a nest there that it was zealously protecting. The adventure gave a 40% chance for the roc to be home when the PCs come calling, and wouldn’t you know it… So while the bulk of the party flew towards the structure, laughing and making jokes at Satampra’s expense, the giant bird heard them, launched itself out of the tower, and came diving towards them. D’oh!

Terror at Talon Peak

varnhold vanishing session 5 map 1I rolled a 20 for the roc’s initiative, giving it the first action – a rare event, as Mestinous, Iofur, and Satampra all have very high bonuses and also tend to roll well. Then I randomly determined that it was going to snatch the warpriest off the dire bat with a flyby attack, and rolled a 19 – a threat! The crit was confirmed, and Orseen took 40 points of damage, and was snatched up and ripped away from the druid. The laughter died as the group helplessly looked at their spells. “Don’t look at me,” Satampra said dryly, “I’ll just be over here climbing.” It didn’t seem like they had any way of rescuing their companion, and Iofur suggested that they simply turn tail and run. But Mestinous encouraged them to fight on, probably more for the thrill of killing a humongous bird than rescuing the warpriest, truth be told.

The wizard did his best to keep his aerial distance while throwing fireballs at the roc’s head. The cleric flew up and grabbed Orseen’s boot, transmitting a much-needed prayer of cure. But then the raptor dropped the warpriest, to dash him out on the rocks below! The dire bat swooped down to catch him before he went splat, while the roc wheeled around to come charging at the fireball-flinging elf, who was hastily casting stoneskin.

Satampra climbed.

Orseen, always one with the big plans that are wholly unworkable in D&D, convinced the druid to get him above the beast’s back, whereupon he leaped off and drove his greatsword into its body. Then Remesio flew up and enlarged the holy warrior. That didn’t help him much though, as when the roc did a barrel roll he was just barely able to hold onto the hilt of his blade. The bird was chasing Mestinous through the sky – chomping the wizard didn’t work, thanks to the stoneskin, so it scooped the elf up in its claws instead. “Hah! I cast dimension door!” exclaimed the wizard. “It fizzles,” I replied. “That is, unless you can make a DC 41 Concentration check.” He could not. The wizard was well and truly screwed.

Satampra climbed.

The roc’s aerial maneuvers caused Orseen to lose his grasp, and he just barely saved himself by grabbing on to the beast’s tail feathers, where he clung for dear life. Technically, he should have been dead a few times by this point, but instead of killing him for trying out impractical yet entertaining tactics, I simply gave him complication after complication, a handy tool that I’ve picked up from more story-oriented RPGs. As a result, he was mostly removed from the battle without killing off the character – which is already Bill’s 4th for the campaign – or leaving the player idle. A good Climb check allowed the warpriest to drag himself back to his sword, and a Strength check succeeded in pulling the stuck sword free from the roc’s body. He quickly grabbed onto a handful of feathers after pulling the blade out, and then started to work his way down so that he could cut the wizard out of the creature’s talons.

While all of that was going on, Iofur was hammering the beast with lightning bolts, courtesy of his Lightning Lord domain ability. And Satampra climbed. As the swashbuckler neared the peak, the roc landed on the lip of the tower’s wall and prepared to smash Mestinous into the stone parapet. Satampra reached the top just after the roc did, scrambled into the empty shell of a tower, and found the egg-filled nest that the monster was protecting. The bird saw him, and with a terrible shriek it dropped the wizard, hopped down to the nest to loom over the human, its wings spread as far as the walls would allow, it’s enormous beak ready to strike.

Satampra held his blade over an egg and considered his options. Could he get the big bird to back down? How smart was it? In the end, he decided that the best course of action was to go on the attack. He leaped over a giant egg to stab the roc with his sword. Mestinous followed that up with a blast from his uber-magic missile wand that shoots 5 darts, and the creature’s eyes went dim. It slumped to the side, slamming into the tower wall, before sliding down to collapse atop the nest. Satampra barely managed to clear the area before he was trapped.

Healing was doled out, the eggs were retrieved from underneath the roc, and discussions were had about how heavy the beast’s eggs, and head, might be. Orseen dreamed big dreams of mounting the head on the castle and raising the hatchlings to serve in an elite air force, but unbeknownst to him the eggs were not fertilized. Eventually the party worked out a plan to move the four eggs off the peak using fly and ant haul spells. They were entrusted to a Varn farmer in the foothills below, who was paid well to ensure that no harm would come to the deliciously rare orbs. Then the group resumed its mapping of the mountains.

I Don’t Know Why She Swallowed the Goat

varnhold vanishing session 5 map 2During their exploration, I rolled a random encounter with an adult silver dragon. I wasn’t really sure what to do with that, except of course that it probably wouldn’t be a combat encounter. Silver dragons can change shape into humanoids and animals, so I decided that the dragon would test the group, fairy tale style. If I had more time to think about it, I might have linked it to the dragon cave in the lower right of the map. Have any players actually discovered that cave? It’s so out of the way, I can’t imagine anyone exploring so far into that section of the mountains.

And so the party came upon a wounded mountain goat, which appeared to have fallen and injured itself quite badly. Their first instinct was to heal the animal (I admit, that surprised me), which the cleric quickly did. The grateful goat bleated at them as it stood, then coughed up a sapphire before running off. “A goat that spits out gemstones?!? Catch it!” was the group’s next instinct, which did not surprise me. But the goat had disappeared around a bend, and when they followed, they found that its tracks simply stopped. A further search of the area turned up no signs that the goat had ever fallen from a higher elevation. It seemed as if the creature had come into existence in the spot where they found it, and vanished as soon as it was out of sight. An examination of the sapphire revealed it to be both genuine and magical – as a one-use item, it could be thrown on the ground to produce either a wind wall or a fog cloud (two spells that I pulled from the dragon’s list). After some wondering about what it all meant, the party shrugged and moved on. I will probably have the dragon show up again, perhaps with a quest to find that cave, now that it has some insight into their character.

Next: the soul eater!

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9 Comments
  1. That was a nice reward for such a relatively minor action. 🙂

    • I thought so, too, but their response was, the druid can already cast those spells, we should just sell it.

      • Honestly, the gem itself felt like a very nice reward.
        And as for the spells, why would they ever want a back up option for casting those?

      • it… stripped out my sarcasm tags 😦

  2. Pinkius permalink

    In our campaign the dragon cave down south east was linked to a old protector of some local city, we went there and discovered the big old partially acid-melted corpse. We suspected a black dragon was responsible. Eventually we found a black dragon’s marsh in the west, where a nasty ancient black dragon resided, but he wasn’t home, so we ignored it. (probably was loot nearby but we were loaded anyway)
    So we found a black dragon later on, had a nice duel in the sky with it, promptly got our butts handed to us. Came back and killed it.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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