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Welcome back to Friday Fight Night! We’ve had a couple of weeks off, but now it’s back to the action.
We left the party standing in the entrance to the abandoned mines they had just fought their way through, traversing traps, mashing kobolds into paste with a summoned earth elemental, and eventually slaying a young blue dragon that had taken the mines as its lair.
The first thing the party had to deal with was the dragon’s hoard sitting in the chamber where they killed the dragon. There was a fairly significant amount of loot here, but the group quickly realised that they weren’t going to be able to carry it all. There was quite a lot of discussion about how much money weighs in D&D, how much gold can be realistically carried, and that sort of thing. It took me far longer than it should have done to find the rules regarding the weight of coins, and that unfortunately slowed the session down a little right at the beginning. It didn’t go on for too long, though, and once we did find the correct ruling – fifty coins weighs one pound – the party set about trying to figure out how to carry everything.
The pouches on the sides of Thorak’s damaged handy haversack were filled up first, and then Wartsanall came up with a great solution. He pulled a patch from his robe of useful items, threw it to the ground, and then… suddenly, horse!
And yes, of course that’s what the party called their new steed. The group now have a horse called Suddenly Horse, and its packs are bursting with treasure. And in the tradition of our game, we found a suitably ridiculous mini to represent Suddenly.
This is a little awkward. I wanted to include a photo of Suddenly Horse here, like I did when the party found their dritfglobe and named it Orby. I know I’ve got a photo of him somewhere, but I can’t find it, and as I’m writing this I’m not able to take a new photo of him. So you’ll just have to imagine. Essentially, though, we used an old My Little Pony. It’s fabulous.
With Suddenly Horse loaded up with treasure, and having rested for the night, the party began heading away from the mines, trekking north through the mountains and doing their best to go down rather than up. Harmut left them, heading south towards The Rise, and they were left to their own devices. They travelled for the best part of the day, trying to find any kind of road and figuring out where they were going to go next.
As the sun dipped behind the peaks and the darkness and cold began to set in, a light snow began to fall. On the edge of hearing they could just pick out the howls of wolves in the far distance, the packs waking and beginning their nightly hunt. As the darkness closed around them they finally come to the road that Harmut had promised. They began to follow it – and it wasn’t long before they begin to hear pained moans and cries from up ahead.
Eventually their light illuminated a ruined caravan on the road – the wagons seemingly tossed into the trees, broken open on rocks, their goods spilled out onto the cold ground. Bodies lay across the road, scattered and broken and already beginning to freeze. A lone figure – a tall, dragonborn woman in heavy plate mail – tended to one of the bodies, but it didn’t look good.
The armoured dragonborn hadn’t noticed the party, and there was a brief discussion about what they should do. Ha’an’s immediate reaction was to sneak up and unleash his flame breath on her, but luckily the party advised against it.
Why luckily, you ask? Well, simply because we had a new player joining us for this game, and this was her character being introduced.
Sif is a paladin of the Phoenix. She and her party had been doing some business at the temple at The Rise, where they had heard rumours of an abandoned fortress nestled among the peaks that was said to hold forgotten treasures and powerful magic. Intending to explore it, they took a job guarding a merchant caravan who was travelling north out of the mountains, agreeing to guard until they reached the point where the party would have to part ways with the caravan. That was meant to happen at some point the next day, as the caravan continued north to the plains and the desert beyond them and Sif and company went off-road towards the fortress.
As night fell they had already set up camp beside the road, and as they began to relax and bed down for the night, an unnatural cold fell across the camp. It wasn’t long before strange, feral howling began to sound from the jagged peaks around them. As their horses began to panic, something huge, white, and angry descended on the camp.
Sif didn’t quite know what happened. In the dark and the chaos she lashed out at something she couldn’t quite see, and as her companions fell around her, she somehow kept her feet. But her companions were beyond help – even her divine healing abilities couldn’t restore the breath to their lungs – and now she stood alone in the cold of the night.
Alone until our party stumbled into things, obviously.
The party didn’t know all of this yet, obviously. They were still talking Ha’an down from cooking this new arrival. As they were doing this, Pstan stepped forward and announced himself to the surprised paladin.
“Are all these bodies yours?” he asked.
Sif’s player hasn’t played D&D – or any other tabletop RPG – before (and I’ll be writing about ways to make starting at higher levels easier for new players in the future) and I wasn’t sure how she was going to react to being put on the spot immediately. Being asked questions in character can be tough for new players, but she embraced it pretty quickly, telling the party that she had been guarding a caravan and they had been attacked.
Manbearpig’s response to hearing that she was a guard was to inform Sif that “you’re not very good at your job”. That one got a laugh at the table.
As they talked and Sif told her story, more howls began to rise up out of the darkness. Manbearpig knew that these weren’t wolves, and Sif confirmed – again – that whatever had attacked them had been unlike any wolf she had ever seen.
Feeling that they were probably going to be attacked, the party – with Sif in tow – began walking again, looking for somewhere to set up camp that wasn’t now covered in dead bodies. This meant leaving Sif’s companions behind, unceremoniously dead in the dirt. Given how new Sif is to the game – and given how long it had been since we played, and that the group were keen to get to some plot and some party, I didn’t give Sif any hassle about leaving her dead friends behind. This will possibly be the only session she plays with us – she enjoyed it, but is usually too busy to play – so it wasn’t particularly important. If she does end up being a regular fixture of the game, this is a decision we’ll be able to return to in future.
Having heard about the ancient fortress Sif’s group had been searching for, the party decided they wanted a piece of that action. So the group set off into the snowy night, heading off road towards where Sif said the fortress could be found, and it didn’t take long to realise that they were being pursued. The howls continued to track them, and they soon began to see large white shapes streaking through the trees a few hundred yards to either side.
As they ran, the party quickly discussed what they should do. The trees were close together, and in the darkness a fight here could prove particularly difficult. Sif told them that she knew of a small village not far from here, and they began to head that way.
As they sprinted through the trees, the forms tracking them kept pace. More howls rose up around them, and this time Manbearpig knew that there were wolves involved, too.
Soon the trees began to open up and the party looked down on a dark village nestled in a clearing in the forest. No lights burned in any of the windows, and as the party approached Nanook began to growl. They set Orby ahead as shapes began to emerge out of the trees behind them, and with the added light they looked on a village that had been devasted.
A tavern stood nearby, its door broken open, and mutilated bodies littered the ground outside. Everywhere they looked, doors had been smashed in, windows shattered, and the residents of the village had been torn limb from limb.
They didn’t have much time to sight-see, though, because the things that had pursued them through the forest were showing no sign of slowing down.
Large, white wolves came streaking out of the trees, and behind them were a pair of even bigger wolves, with piercing blue eyes and slightly blue-tinged fur. Initiative was rolled, and battle commenced.
In the first round the group learned quickly that the big blue wolves were trouble, as the pair of them flanked the party and unleashed freezing breath weapons that enveloped the group in cones of bone-searing cold. The rest of the wolves harried the group, flanking and using their pack tactics to keep control of the battlefield and keep the group away from the winter wolves that led them.
This was a really fun encounter to run and to build. With this many characters I was had a larger XP budget to work with, and that meant an opportunity to play with more combatants. I split the wolves into teams that worked together, while the winter wolves circled the battlefield and got off breath weapons whenever they recharged, and the party had a tough time of it. Eventually, though, the wolves fell, and the party retreated into the tavern to hole up for the night and recover.
While they rested – with Thorak wading through a sea of mutilated villagers to get to the bar and pull off a few pints – the group discussed what had happened in this village. Manbearpig was sure that the howls they had heard couldn’t have come from just wolves, and was sure that something else was responsible for the damage in the village – something else that was possibly still hunting them.
They spent a tense night in the not-quite-secure tavern, and in the morning they set off again. The snow had gotten heavier overnight, blanketing the forest and village in a foot or two of thick white, and the temperature had dropped considerably. Thorak immediately skinned one of the winter wolves, fashioning a crude fur cloak out of it, and Manbearpig did the same (even though he was already wearing the thick cloak of his titular manbearpig – or the manitboar, as Barnum Rekel had referred to it once upon a time). The rest of the group didn’t bother to do anything. I genuinely think Pstan’s player had forgotten that the dwarf wears nothing but a pink dress.
As they pressed on towards the fortress they had been promised, with Manbearpig using the heat from his sunblade to melt a path through the snow, cold began to set in. I had everybody who hadn’t wrapped up warm roll Constitution saves which Pstan failed, taking cold damage and suffering a level of exhaustion. And as the dwarf shivered, they realised that they were once again being tracked.
They pressed on, huddled against the cold, and after another hour or so it was once again time for Constitution saves for the party members who still hadn’t taken steps against the freeze. Ha’an failed this one – and so did Pstan, who went to a second level of exhaustion. I made it clear at this point that if he continued, he was in very real danger of freezing to death.
This caused something of an argument among the party. Thorak insisted that Manbearpig should hand over his new wolfskin cloak to Pstan, given that he already had a warm coat of his own. Manbearpig refused. It wasn’t his fault that the dwarf was too stupid to put clothes on, he argued.
It very nearly came to blows between the two of them, and I was interested to see it happen. There’s a friendly rivalry between the players, and Manbearpig often acts like he’s the biggest, strongest person around (despite Thorak and Ha’an both being bigger than him, and Thorak and Pstan both being damage sponges), and we’ve all voiced curiosity about who would win between the fighter and the barbarian. In the end, though, it didn’t come to it, and Manbearpig reluctantly handed the fur to Pstan.
Which was about the time that the yetis that had been tracking the party attacked.
Unfortunately, I seem to have stopped taking notes at this point, and I honestly can’t remember how this fight went. This game took place in the second week of January this year, and though I’m usually pretty good at remembering the details of our game, my mind has gone blank on this one. I can only assume that means that this was a fairly straightforward combat, though I have a suspicion that Pstan may have been reduced to 0hp at one point. With two levels of exhaustion he can’t have been the most effective combatant – but I don’t have any notes to go on, and I can’t remember. (I also have a suspicion that this was actually a really, really fun fight – because I didn’t stop to take any notes. We may never know.)
With the yetis dead, the party spent some time healing and headed off again. Night was already beginning to fall, and they were soon looking for somewhere to sleep. Now, you’re probably thinking “wait, haven’t they just had a long rest? Haven’t they only had one fight today?” And you’re right. Both of those things are true. I’m happy to let the party rest when they need to, though (unless they’re in a situation where that shouldn’t be feasible – being actively hunted through hostile terrain, for example). If players die, I want it to feel fair (for the most part) – and dying because your DM absolutely refuses to let you rest when you know you need to doesn’t feel fair. Some times it’s called for, but this didn’t like feel one of those times.
Plus, I knew what was coming next.
While they were looking for a campsite – something that was hard to find in the dense forest – a new sound reached their ears. A furious, violent roar shattered the quiet evening, and far off to the south the party watched an avalanche break loose from one of the peaks and crash down onto the trees below.
Frustrated at finding nowhere defensible to camp, Thorak suddenly remembered the instant fortress he had been carrying since the underdark, and decided that now was the time to put it to use.
He made the party stand back, placed the cube on the ground, spoke the command word – and broke into a massive, shit-eating grin, as a 30′ tall tower appeared with a thunderous crack, flattening the trees that had been so casually minding their own business only minutes before.
The party piled in to the empty fortress, Thorak sealed the door behind them, and they settled down for the night. It wasn’t a quiet night, though; roars and howls filled the forest, and as the night was at its blackest an enormous white shape approached the tower. It was well over fifteen feet tall, and as the party struggled to look at it through the narrow arrow slits in the walls of the fortress, it began to hammer against the walls. No damage seemed to be done, though, and deciding that the creature outside didn’t pose an immediate threat, the party attempted to sleep.
The next day was still cold, but the snow had stopped falling. Large, heavy tracks – like those of the yetis, but much bigger – circled the tower and led off into the forest, and the party decided it would be better to go in the opposite direction. So Thorak collapsed the tower, and they set off.
They started to move down a narrow gully that met up with a mostly-frozen river at the bottom, not far from a vast waterfall. The forest ran right up to the edge of the sheer cliff. Over the top of that waterfall they could see enormous towers rising up above the trees – the fortress that they had been seeking, a fortress that was much, much bigger than anything they had expected to find.
As they reached the bottom of the gully they saw that there had been a rockfall that blocked the mouth of the canyon. They would have to climb over it – and that meant getting Suddenly over it, too.
As they worked out how this was going to work, Wartsanall clambered up to the top of the gully, where he found a giant stone cairn bearing a fluttering red flag. From here they could see more of the fortress, and with a successful History check Ha’an remember that this area had once been populated by ancient clans of giants – though he wasn’t sure which kind – and that these cairns marked the edges of their territory. The fortress, he assumed, had been built by them.
As the rest of the party tried to deal with the problem of Suddenly, another roar split the quiet morning. As birds eruped from the trees, the pary saw the treetops on the other side of the river waving wildly as something large pushed its way through. That wasn’t their immediate danger, though – the roar had loosened more snow, and now an avalanche was roiling down the gully and threatening to smash everybody still standing in it into the fallen rocks blocking its mouth.
A few tense decisions and saving throws later, and the party managed to scramble up to where Wartsnall and Ha’an were standing, even managing to hoist Suddenly Horse up in time to save him. They didn’t have time to catch their breath, though; as the snow settled, the abominable yeti pushed free of the forest on the far side of the river and launched an enormous rock towards the group. It fell short – the yeti was still hundreds of feet away – but at this point, there was no avoiding the fight.
This was an interesting fight. Initially there was a lot of frustration, as most of the party weren’t in range to do anything effective. The yeti could jump unusually large distances, leaping onto the frozen surface of the river and launching rocks at the group. They scrambled down to the ground below the cairn and began to circle around, trying to close the distance to the enormous thing, but unable to really do any damage.
Once they closed the distance – with Sif, Thorak, and Manbearpig leading the charge – they learned something new about this thing. That being that it, too, had a breath weapon, and that said breath weapon was devastating.
Sif went down almost immediately, and as the beating it had inflicted began to show on the party, the yeti seemed to be gearing up for another breath attack that would probably down Thorak, Manbearpig, and Pstan, and kill Sif off for good.
I honestly can’t remember who killed the abominable yeti, because once again my notes stop here. All I know is that none of the players died, and Manbearpig and Nanook now have matching abominable yeti cloaks.
With the yeti dead it was time to set off to the fortress, that was finally within reach. First, though, was the issue of the cliff. The party were fairly confident in their ability to get down it, but Nanook and Suddenly Horse proved to be a problem. Eventually, though, they made it down – though Wartsnall was forced to leave the bulk of his rope (summoned from the robe of useful items) tied off at the top of the cliff.
This was where we had to leave things for the night, so the party decided to erect Thorak’s fortress a little closer to their destination and to take the rest of the day off.
So that’s where we’ll pick up next time – battered and freezing, holed up in a tower in the forest, waiting to go and storm a giant’s castle that could have anything inside. Welcome to Season 2 of Friday Fight Night!
There is a map this week, but I’ve already posted it to this site in the past, so I’ll just link it here. Next week we’ll venture into the weirdness of the giant’s castle.
[Click to embiggen]
At the time that I write this, the party are still inside that castle. That’s partly because we haven’t had a chance to play as frequently as I’d like so far this year, and partly because they’ve been taken an absolute beating inside, and have been making good use of the option to retreat and recover. But we’ll get to that in future instalments.
Thanks for reading!