Gather round, friends! Let me tell you a tale. Twas a cold December evening that saw five companions in dice sit down at a table and welcome an old friend back into the fold. From the snows of Edmonton he hailed; the brother of Brelf's player, who had long ago been a noble paladin at our table. He had played 2nd and 3rd Edition many times, but only played 4th once since he had moved abroad. He was eager to join in some D&D with us once more, no matter what version we played.
So we introduced him to 5th.
It took some doing, creating his character. The problem was not the system. The problem was that my printer had died, and I hadn't bothered to print up any of the Background or Specialty sections. I also didn't have a sheet for him. So we scrawled one by hand, then set about picking options for his character. Some of my players also had to update their characters to the new playtest rules. We were also distracted; we had a gift exchange that happened at the beginning, so there was plenty of fight for the attention of my players.
Still, we got things rolling after an hour. Our friend had built a duelist fighter named Ral Meynolds (get it?), who had distinguished himself at the Battle of Serenity Castle. He was a soldier of the east, currently on leave to explore Fortune.
And of course, to tie him into the adventure, he had also been hired by Commander Fang to tackle the problem of Illantha Fane and her bandits.
The PCs were introduced to one another, and Brelf and Ral hit a rocky patch almost immediately (expected, since their players are brothers). The group began to trek out of town, with Brelf attempting to look for signs of bandit activity. Unfortunately, he failed his check pretty badly, which meant the bandits found them first.
A couple of good spot rolls on the part of the elves, Estel and Marielle meant that the bandits didn't have an actual surprise round
. No, they just had the advantage of good position. There were three of them; Illantha Fane herself, a beautiful bandit lady (actually a Green Hag), and two of her more capable bandits. They took aim and began to shoot, but the PCs had a good initiative. Estel went first and put one of the bandits to sleep. There was some fire exchanged between some of the bandits, then Mariele attempted to command Illantha to approach. Only creatures with more than 30 hit points can roll a save, so when she rolled one, the party realized she was more than an ordinary bandit. She shrugged off the compulsion and laughed. Ral managed to close with her, but he missed with his attack. She leered at him, then went invisible and ran away. The PCs made quick work of the other bandit, but they realized that they'd just met the leader.Under the hood: This wasn't meant to be a challenging encounter. One Green Hag and 2 Human Warriors should not challenge a party of five 3rd level PCs. And it didn't. Estel, had she rolled better on sleep, could have put down both warriors. And if Illantha had failed her save on command, she'd have been in much tougher straits. Still, the ability of hags to turn invisible at will saved her. It made it really easy for my villain to escape.
The characters took the fellow who'd fallen asleep captive, and when they woke him, they questioned him. He told them about the other bandits, and how Illantha was really magical (he hadn't a clue about her true identity- none of the bandits do). But he was happy to sketch the camp for them in exchange for his life. They realized they couldn't have him running back to the bandits to warn them, so they tied him up in a tree. Brelf was menacing him the whole time, so as they left him there, Estel conjured a silent image of Brelf glaring at him from the tree branch above, just to spook him. It worked.
The characters played the waiting game; they set up an ambush, and waited for the bandits to come looking for them. Sure enough, six capable bandits went out looking for them. By the time the surprise round was up, only two were left standing. And they'd lost the initiative. They were swiftly cut down.
With the numbers thinned, our heroes took stock of the bandit camp. I've attached a picture of the map here:
The slashed-out parts of the map are cliffs that overlook the camp. The green sections are bushes which provided half cover to anyone in them. The six stones towards the bottom of the camp were a ring of standing stones, which surrounded a stone hut; Illantha Fane's lodging. The big round circles are the trunks of the old oaks, in whose glen the bandits set their camp. You can see the big bonfire, and the pool they use for water. To the north and west are rows of tents, where they rest. When the PCs approached, most of the bandits were sitting around the bonfire, drinking and talking and laughing. Several were off in the tents, making merry in other ways, while there were a couple of notables. Sitting by the big tree just southwest of the bonfire was a mage. And sitting at the campfire was a big burly northman with a spiked chain. There were another four bandits of a capable nature, and then there were ten bandit rabble; farmers and farmgirls who'd been handed clubs and told to come along.
The Attack on the Camp
The PCs had formulated their plan. They positioned their archer, Vell (a replacement for Rosco Tealeaf) up on the cliff that overlooked the bonfire, where he had a commanding view of the battlefield. Estel, the wizard, went invisible and quietly approached from the southwest, through the narrow forest ravine and into the bushes just west of the standing stones. Her stealth roll wasn't so great, however, so unbeknownst to her, Illantha Fane heard her approach and went invisible herself to go investigate. In position, Estel knew the mage and one of the female bandit rabble were talking on the opposite side of the big tree from her. She could also hear the sounds of activity coming from the tent closest to her; one of the female rabble was enjoying some quality time with one of the male bandits.
Estel cast sleep.
Fengus had been watching Lucelle all evening. The girl was a looker; that golden hair of hers shone in the bonfire's light. And those breeches she wore? Temptation itself. He had brought her a drink. She had giggled, and they had drunk together. They had parted from the others, gone off to seek his tent. And there, they'd both felt no more need for clothing. They were in the throes of passion when suddenly... Lucelle fell asleep.
Estel rolled enough on her dice to put the two bandit rabble to sleep (the one in the tent and the one beside the bandit mage). Acting on the cue, Vell took his shot, and rolled enough damage to pin the wizard to the tree, dead. The others charged from behind the trees by the stream on the east, and closed with the bandits around the fire.
The fight was brutal and quick. The bandit barbarian didn't have a chance to act, and a ton of bandits at the fire were just cut down. The only complication to the plan was Illantha Fane; she appeared next to Estel and raked her with her claws, dealing a fair bit of damage to the wizard. But she made her save against the corrupting touch. Ral Meynolds moved to defend the wizard, running to attack Illantha but coming up short. Then she went invisible. The group polished off the bandits at the fire, and the stragglers who rushed in to join the fight, while Ral and Estel attempted to deal with the hag. She was clearly a hag now; the corrupting touch had been a revelation of her vile nature. And they pursued her into her hut, where she surprise-attacked Ral and sliced him badly (about 20 damage). But cornered, they managed to take down Illantha Fane.
Under the hood: The encounter was slated at 760 xp. Under the old rules, that would've been a tough encounter. But now, it amounted to somewhere between average and tough. Through clever play, the PCs shaved off 180 xp by picking off six bandits, which brought things down to a 480 xp encounter, which was a little below average difficulty. And through play, it proved to be exactly that. Still, it was tremendous fun. When the sleep spell went off, we were all laughing, and the challenge of pinning down Illantha Fane was exciting and dangerous. All in all, a fun encounter. With the new rules, though, I probably should have included more bandits.
I'm going to leave off there for now. Next time, I'll tell of their return to town, the arrival of Pohtep, and the journey to the Hall of Bells.