The first session has come and gone so lets recap to date. Also lets open a thread and give Dave a chance to update us on the aftermath of the battle and some of the things that people were still trying to do as we were breaking up. We'll need a seperate thread to schedule our next session.
The outset of the campaign saw our intrepid adventurers taking employment with a so-called archeological expedition planning to travel deep into the south continent in search of a site of curiousity previously discovered by one of our expedition's leaders. All of us joined the expedition for various reasons of our own, and then came together somewhat over the next six weeks of overland travel with a 4-wagon train. The trip was largely uneventful, aside from a single midnight episode with some ravening wolves, and eventually we made it to the site we had been aiming at for weeks.
We arrived, finally, at some ancient stone town-on-a-hill in the middle of nowhere consisting of stoneworks all allegedly 1000 years old but all of it looking none the worse for wear and sporting metal fixtures equally untarnished by the passage of time. Observation of the site from a distance revealed some sort of midnight bonfire or fireworks in town, so we approached carefully and discovered no evidence of inhabitants. After careful approach and examination, we made our entrance and established a camp within the walls (and inside the wide open gate that nobody thought about trying to barricade). Hmm, hindsight.
We discovered a stone building with some potential items of archeological or historical significance (ie, "loot") that we set aside for later inventory. We discovered a building presumed to be a temple, and set it aside for later study. We discovered a large round building dominated by a magical fountain of some curious workmanship. Not at all a bad start to an expedition to excavate and retrieve "cool stuff".
Our peaceful repose that night was rudely interrupted by panic and screaming originating from our posted guards. They had apparantly fallen asleep and awaken to discover humanoids stealthing into town from the direction of the main gate and intent apparantly on no good. Diplomacy was immediately abandoned for missile and melee weapons and the guards started screaming bloody murder to wake the dead. Thats when life got a little interesting. Now, if my count was right there were about 20 of us total in the expedition at the time: the 9 of us last-minute hires, and another about 11 core members of the expedition. That second portion consisted of 4 scholarly academic types that largely kept to themselves, a rangerly scout who knew the way to find this place, a religious leader, an elf, and another 4 teamsters/guards (one for each wagon). By the time the fighting was over, the dust had settled, and the smoke had cleared (literally), all of them are either dead or incapacitated. Mostly dead. Some just completely unaccounted for, MIA-style.
Plus, one of the wagons and a good chunk of the expedition equipment has gone up in flames. The only saving part about this is that it wasn't the wagon that the PC gear was stowed in. How so? That was the wagon that was only half-full at the start of the trip and in which we put the Dwarf's "little" portable anvil and smithy stuff. How portable is an anvil? Not very. The wagon that went up had apparantly been loaded with barrels of lamp oil or some other similarly flammable and combustable substance (kegs of brandy? gunpowder? oil-soaked rags? dryer lint?). How this wagon wasn't appropriately labelled on the outside will surely be a question for the DOT accident investigation team when they show up, but they won't be able to interview that wagon's drover as he is dead. Perished. Expired. "Your blow pierced your opponent's eye. Death is instantaneous. -30HP".
At one point Steve was counting coup and claiming 5 kills as an ace, but as I was watching I think Forest was giving him a hard run for his money with his sling-powered grenade launcher, and Gerry with his "you redefine crush" critical hits wasn't far behind in 3rd place. Although some of the greatest cries were when I managed to pop off a Fire Bolt that I'd been saving up like last year's Easter candy and crammed it into somebody for a 25hp E-level critical for the single highest damage roll of the night, not including bonus damage from the critical (heck, include the bonus damage from the critical and I still think that was the single highest damage attack of the night). I saw a lot of net 30pt hits, but few net 34pt hits.
All is well that ends well? Perhaps. But now we find ourselves 6 weeks deep into hostile wilderness and having just slaughtered 20 or 30 or so Orcs, half the expedition is dead or incapacitated, the expedition's best healing spelluser is in a coma, and if I know Dave all our food just burned up in that wagon. We have 9 hale individuals and one warm body, another dead body Gene is keeping alive via magic for some arcane purpose (God of the Harvest? God of the ORGAN Harvest maybe!), 8 oxen, 3 wagons, and my best guess is approximately 1 week of dried rations and that only if everyone remembered to actually buy some of their own during character development. We might get a week of meat out of each oxen if we ration it and can build a big enough smoker to preserve all of the meat we can butcher, and we have at least 3 weeks of woods and another week of plains to cross to get to the nearest civilization.
The guy who led us here? The guy who was the only one to know how to find this place? Did we ever stop to wonder how it was so miraculous that he was the only one who knew the route? It was because everyone else he travelled with had died. I don't think they died peacefully of natural circumstances after a long and healthy life. I think they died screaming with an axe or a sword or an arrow through their eye sockets. He outran the cripples and left them to die. Now he's dead.
Now, the D&D approach at this point would be to heal up, buff up, level, and track down the Orcs back to whatever encampment they respawned from and wipe them out. Then we'd proclaim ourselves the new Lords of Middle Earth and start recruiting settlers and farmers and merchants to live in our new town, which we would name in our honor. With a town, merchants, and a tax base of our own we'd start conquering the nearby territory hex-by-hex.
But this isn't D&D. The D&D approach is sure to get us all killed.
Here's what I see as the realistic choice:
1. Either we stay here to try to exploit or explore the town; or,
2. We pack up and run like heck back to town.
If we stay, tracking the Orcs back home might be provide useful intel. We could fortify the town gate, rebuild the battlements, and settle in for the long haul or we could fortify up one of the buildings until we can satisfy our curiousity in town. Then leave.
Or we skip it, pack what we can grab easily, and get the heck out of here as fast as possible. We could keep the oxen and wagons, or we could ditch them all to try to make better speed. Or we could keep them and hope we're not followed, then ditch them when the Orcs come back to chase us down.
I don't think that running is any safer than staying, and I'd certainly like to explore more while we're here. I think that we could easily fortify up one of the buildings, or perhaps a small cluster of buildings, and that they wouldn't have to be a deathtrap. The buildings would definately be easier to defend. The town gate could be fortified, at least enough to slow down any would-be attackers and give us a chance to rally some defense.
With a little preparation here we could make something of the place.
Yes, I think that our dead companions should be treated appropriately. We have some sort of recognised religious authority with us, so perhaps he could give us some advice on the God of the Harvest's preferred means of handling the bodies of harvested souls. I'm thinking bonfire. What is a harvest without a bonfire. Nevertheless, the four scholarly academic types that I never really had much interaction with or much chance for interaction ought to be given some appropriate last rites and I'll take responsibility for ensuring their bodies are cleaned, dressed, and prepared for the bonfire. Instead of just heaping them on like sacks of potatoes. Plus this will give me a chance to inventory their belongings, and as befits any survival scenario I can pick through their stuff to see if anything might be useful before just tossing it to be burned. Surely they had some notes or something.
Wait, we probably don't want to be lighting no big bonfire until we're ready to haul ass and get out of here in a hurry. How about we have the cleric do his preserve spell on them, stack them like cordwood in some of the houses, and leave them there until we're ready to leave. Then they can be roasted in a big bonfire that alerts all the Orcs for miles around.
Well, the deal for each of us was a percentage share of the value of the stuff brought back to civilization by the expedition. My job was to inventory everything so that nobody came back with something extra to sell on the side and that everything valuable or useful or interesting was properly cataloged and evaluated.
We didn't travel with a paywagon or a paymaster. Nobody on the expedition was giving us a shilling a week. How do we get paid? We don't get paid by staying. We get paid by returning to civilization.
Now, if we want to pursue the original contract we were hired for we'll need to excavate and haul back a bunch of stuff for which we'll each get a share. Assuming the contract is still valid. All of our employers, except two, are dead. The cleric, if he can be revived, was one of the partners in the expedition. The other surviving partner is the only one who stayed back, and he hired me himself. I represent his interests in this expedition.
We won't get paid until we get back to civilization with something worth being paid for. Half our number are now dead. We're left with a survival situation for us to make the most of.
So whats the big deal about the dead? Well, primarily the fact that they'll rot and stink and attract unwanted attention from insects and animals. The town is going to reek like a charnel house by high noon on the second day. The blood will unsettle the animals and attract predators. Mostly, the bodies will just stink. As a soldier, I'd expect you'd understand that camping out with a pile of dead bodies isn't that pleasant.
I think we need to plan to stay here at this site for at least a week before returning. We'll need time to get the healer back on his feet, if that is going to happen. We'll need time to perform any investigation of the buildings and the recoverable artifacts. We'll need food, water, shelter, and a perimeter we can defend. A stone building should be easier to defend than an open field. We don't have enough people to defend the whole town. I still say we should set up camp in the water building, and any who prefer to sleep outside are welcome to do so. I think any other sturdy windowless building with a single defendable entrance would be equally suitable.
It gets better and better. All of our official leader/boss types are dead. All of the partners of the expedition that were with us died. The Cleric lives, perhaps, and represents one absent partner. I represent another.
Entry from Reuben:
I want to thank the mage for coming to my rescue. I do not have my brother Ruepert's incredible intestinal fortitude or skill, so when I was relieved when you and the dwarf and Miss Elise showed up. After charging in behind the Sergeant to stand surrounded by monsters attempting to hold them off and managing to disarm one only one of them, I was sure that my time was spent. That in itself does not bother me as my life is insignificant and could rightfully be thrown away by any of my noble companions, such as the Elves or the Sergeant (noble in stature and bravery if not by right of birth) on my own master Cleric Saraldawen. It is for his life that I am most thankful. Your swift dispensation of the orcs at the gate allowed me to get back just in the knick of time to prevent the final demise of both my master and the Master ranger. The mage and Miss Elise and the Dwarf (refusing to abandon his comrades even as he literally bleed to death) gave me the time to save my master's life and perhaps keep the ranger from becoming altogether unredeemable.
To that end I think it is a bit early to make plans for what to do if they all die. I intend to revive master Saraldawen and it may yet be possible to resurrect, from what seems sure death, the ranger and possibly some of the scholars and guards. In any case we were given the mission of categorizing and bringing back artifacts from this city. Even though we may yet loose untold wisdom and skill if the scholars die, we do still have the means to complete our mission ... and get paid. We have some historical lore available to us and scribing ability. We have an obligation to complete our task if we can.
First we need someone to get the least damaged of the bodies of the scholars and the guards and bring them to me and Master Saraldawen. If we can revive some of them then we should move them to the fountain building. I defer to the Sergeant's opinion that it is a trap and of little military value, but it would make a good hospital providing there is no chance of surprise from somewhere in the interior.
Again you have my utmost graditude,
Rueben Smith, Cleric of the Harvester
Brother Reuben, you're a stalwart companion and I would be sorely distressed to lose your company. There is much, I believe, we can stand to learn from you. If your Master Saraldawen does indeed have power over life and death and holds keys to the Abyss for returning the souls of the departed back to their mortal remains then that is most impressive. That level of power and mastery far exceeds my own expectations. I had anticipated that a soul, once harvested, would remain so but it piques my interest to know that the chosen servants of the God of the Harvest can appeal for mercy and have this sentence reversed, if even temporarily. Perhaps some of the recently dead are merely slightly dead, or not quite dead, or not dead enough to count, or still close enough to life that they can be revived. That would be impressive. I'd like to see that.
In the meantime, lets figure out a couple of fine points of interest even if only of interest to me. I have, and I'm almost ashamed to admit as it sounds close to bragging, some respectable and academically recognised puissant skill at the scribing, interpretation, and usage of a wide variety of written, scribed, cut, hewn, marked, and engraved forms of communication, both magical and non-magical, including symbols, circles, glyphs, wards, spells, spell runes, runes of power, and the written forms of communication of the Old Empire. Am I alone in this knowledge, one of many, or merely the most skilled amongst a small group of other skilled individuals?
I think it is imporant to establish who are experts are in a variety of fields. We know who our expert swordsman is, and who else has puissant skill at arms and is useful in a melee. We know who are marksmen are and who can be trusted to fell an orc or a wild beast at range with a missile. We know who can call upon magical aid for healing, and a couple other individuals who have some limited capacity at first aid and the application of herbs. We even have, if I'm not mistaken, at least two herbalists or apothecaries in the group - myself included. Of magical aid for offensive purposes, we have some but I've seen no evidence of directed elemental magic other than my own. And then there is knowledge, lore, and academia - all useless in a melee, but essential for the completion of the core mission of this expedition.
So, assuming that Master Saraldawen is unable or unwilling to call upon sufficient boon from the God of the Harvest to breathe life back into the fallen scholars, who aside from myself is steeped enough in academia to be considered an expert on the interpretation of ancient symbols and mystic lore?
Entry from Reuben:
I have no doubt that your skills at rune reading and other lore exceeds even your lofty self-vision, However the bard in our company who, by the way, with her companion the Elvish looking ranger, also charged into the fray spell in hand but was limited by the necessity of concentrating on her spell, also hs the capablity of rune reading and symbol lore. It was she and I together, guarded by the stalwart ranger, that deciphered the symbols above the door on the temple enough to identify the building positively as a temple. I myself have dedicated my life to the study of history and am somewhat an expert, though surely only to the level where I may make myself of adequate assistance to your apparant augustness. I have also noticed that Miss Elise seems to be something of a cartographer and perhaps has other scribal skills that could be of use.
As to the matter of the dead. The soul does not depart the body immediately. It has after all spent a great amount of time attached to it and all attachments are hard to break. But once freed of its earthly chains it does not take long. We have about five minutes to get Master Saraldawen up and operating to have a chance to redeem any of the bodies. I can extend this by up to two minutes at a time but, unlike what I am sure you will testify about yourself, my power is limted and soon I will be unable to do anything but stand by and watch and praise the Harvester in the infinite wisdom of His design of life. From Life, Though Life, To Life ...