Friday, November 7, 2014

The Third Party: Session 7 (GMs notes)

With night fast approaching, Mel, Elaira, Councilman Urslingen, and his son began organizing the citizens of Kryptgarten. Lord Urslingen shoved spears, crossbows, and slings into the hands of those not previously trained and showed them the basics of which end to point at the enemy. Elaira pulled one of the pantheists aside and shoved the Staff of Kitsyrral, Necromancer’s Spine, and Amulet of Sokol into his hands, promoting him to “Field Cleric”.

Barricades were quickly erected in front of the secret entrance below, tar and oil-soaked straw were spread in the passageway, and Tamn and his two friends (sans many of the magic items) were posted in the crypt. The two main staircases up to the battlements were bricked off, replaced by four temporary wooden staircases which could be easily detached. Petroleum tar and oil-soaked straw were also spread over the courtyard, ready to be lit in case the keep was breached. The priests stood ready over the gatehouse with cauldrons of boiling honey.

Hearing the sound of creaking wheels and marching feet from outside, Mel ordered everyone up onto the walls. Looking out they saw a small army, of some three-hundred hobgoblins and kobolds, accompanied by a handful of orcs, lizardmen, and even a few humans. The kobolds and hobgoblins marched in well organized ranks, four lines with tower-shield bearing hobgoblins forming the outer rows. Behind them came four large wagons, two loaded with sufficient tents and provisions for a protracted siege, one piled high with bundled ammunition, and the last loaded with ladders, planks, tools, and other equipment for building siege engines, each pulled by a pair of giant boars. Flanking the wagons were twenty hobgoblin priestesses, each carrying the traditional paired hand-axes of her station. In the rear came a powerful-looking half-orc, dressed all in gray, riding a fulled armored warhorse, surrounded by a motley and disorganized band of other armed hominids.

The wagons stopped just out of bow range, while a contingent of hobgoblins and kobolds marched up to within spitting distance of the wall, forming up in ranks under the cover of a turtle-shell of tower shields and shouting their defiance.

Mel ordered the drawbridge lowered, hoping to lure the bulk of the enemy force into the courtyard to be burned alive. Then she, Elaira, and Ash left Urslingen and his son in charge of the walls and ran down to ‘intercept’ any enemies coming in the back door. They found all quiet below, but heard a sudden clap of thunder from above, followed by another and the sound of crumbling stone.

They rushed back topside just as another clap of thunder and flash of light announced a lightning bolt being fired at the battlements. They dodged crumbling stonework and made their way up to the top of the wall. From their, they saw that individual kobolds were poking their heads out of the hobgoblin shield wall just long enough to fire bolts of lightning from their hands at the keep’s defenders, then melting back behind the defensive formation. The kobolds and hobgoblins were well organized, keeping tight ranks, and showed no interest in taking the bait with the open gates.

The defenders on the wall took occasional potshots at the enemy, but Urslingen, realizing the uselessness of slings against the metal hobgoblin shields, kept most of them in check, ordering them to keep their heads down and not give the enemy casters a clear target. Mel and Elaira stuck up their heads, only to narrowly avoid taking a lightning bolt to the face, earning some scorch marks for themselves and three dead settlers.

Determined to break up the formation, Ash cast a sleep spell at the front of the hobgoblin lines, dropping a pair of shield-bearers, as well as a half-dozen of the kobolds lined up to be next to fire. Elaira threw a grease spell into the middle of the formation, sending three shield bearers toppling onto their asses. Then followed up with a witch bolt, electrocuting a few of the hobgoblins through their heavy metal shields. Mel shouted the command to fire, and everyone on the walls pelted the suddenly exposed kobolds, forcing the formation to break and withdraw.

Ash stepped out in front of the gates, presenting an easy ground-level target to the attacking force. At this enticement, the angered kobolds did launch a ground assault, untethering the giant boars from the wagons and driving the creatures charging towards the draw-bridge. Ash unleashed a lightning bolt of his own using a wand, severely injuring the ten huge beasts, then dove out of the way, scrambling up the steps to the wall as fast as he could. As the boars poured through the gates, the acolytes on the walls sent a rain of boiling honey down onto them, cooking them alive—yielding some five tons of honey-glazed, roast pork…

As the watchers on the walls drooled over the smell of honey-baked ham, the hobgoblins and kobolds reformed their ranks and formations and began advancing towards the still-open gates.

At which point…two more food-laden wagons with another motley group of ruffians rolled up behind Noriss the Gray’s army. Of course, when the barrage of spells and arrows from said ruffians struck the bandit army in the back, followed by the charge of some very angry oxen into the ranks, it became very clear that they were reinforcements of a different kind.

Noriss’s army was thrown into momentary chaos. Elaira ordered the troops on the walls to fire at will, as Mel, the newly promoted cleric, the Urslingen’s, and the twenty soldiers that Werner had been training charged out of the gates. Francis Urslingen cast strength of one on the group, sharing his father’s considerable strength with everyone.

The small force crashed into the hobgoblin lines. A handful of soldiers were lost in the first exchange. Mel and Lord Urslingen killed many by themselves. The cleric with them stabbed a dying hobgoblin with the necromancer’s spine causing the now deceased hobo to rise, quite terrifying its compatriots. Then the call went up from the back of the fray, Noriss the Gray had been dragged from his horse and killed.

In the rising chaos of this sudden vacuum of leadership, Squire Grimnir appeared above on the battlements, the full fury of hell shining in his eyes and echoing in his voice as he proclaimed that “Now was the time for the hobgoblins to rise” (or some other such bullshit). Sure enough, a second full contingent of fifty hobgoblins came out of the woods to reinforce the struggling army, led by Grishnak, their high-priestess. As if on queue, the hobgoblins rallied and turned, not on the Kryptgartians, but on the kobolds, slaughtering them utterly, before turning back to the keep.

Sometime, roughly, during this stage of the battle, Elaira organized some of the settlers to haul the ten honey-glazed and mostly-cooked giant boars up onto the battlements where the priests went to work spitting them and setting them over the fires which had been used to boil the honey. Because, you know, pork is delicious…no sense wasting it.

Mel called a general retreat of the small force which sallied forth, which turned into a route as the soldiers saw the reinforced and blood-crazed hobgoblins forming up behind them and giving chase. Less than half of the soldiers made it back inside the keep and took to the walls as quickly as possible. Grishnak laid a spell of mass energy protection over the hobgoblin force, changing it to protection against force at the last minute in response to a volley of magic missiles from Ash and Elaira.

The full might of the hobgoblin army, more than a hundred of the creatures, along with fifteen remaining priestesses charged into the open keep right on the heels of Mel’s squadron, only to have the stairs to the walls collapsed from above, the portcullis shut behind them, and a hundred lit torches and fire-pots thrown down into the tarred, strawed, and oil-soaked courtyard. The first huge flash1 as the coartyard went up was sufficient to kill or critically injure all of the hobgoblins save Grishnak herself.

The hobgoblin priestess began chanting another spell, despite the flames roaring around her…until, that is, Lord Urslingen grabbed a spear from a nearby peasant on the wall and hurled it down, impaling her through the gut. The fire did the rest. Off to one side Grinkle could be heard whispering “We respectfully dedicate this battle to…”

Once it was clear that the hobgoblins were no more. Mel ordered sand to be tossed onto the conflagration, and the portcullis raised. When the fires died, everyone was set to work looting the fallen, as Mel, Elaira, and Ash went out to inspect the battlefield.

Not a single humanoid was left standing.

Out of the woods, near the mausoleum, came the Eidolon, crawling along on its six legs and casually chewing on one of the carnivorous gorillas that the hobgoblins so often employed. It paused, looked at Melastasya, then froze. Its body solidified, turning into a statue of solid marble. Mel hang her head at the loss of the creature and went back to picking through the remnants left by Lord Noriss’s army. Some minutes later, the beast began to move again, somehow without losing the stony gray-white marble countenance. It grew as it moved, increasing in bulk. Its tail elongated and sprouted a wicked looking barbed stinger. It crawled to the center of the battlefield and began casually snacking on the remains of the kobolds.

They returned from the field and declared a total victory. Instruments were sent for. The acolytes set the bells tolling. Roast pork was served to all. It was delicious.

And there was much rejoicing.