Last Friday night was the latest session of the Post Tenebras Lux campaign*.Â Only four of the six players were able to show, so I decided not to advance the plot too much, and to keep things centred around Brindol. At the same time, I didn’t want to spend the whole session shopping, with the players looking through books and counting out their pennies to see what magic items they could afford and chatting amiably to random insignificant NPCs.
As a solution, I told the players that they could do their shopping via e-mail after this session, and that I would make sure they had all the information they needed to do so*.Â I also encouraged them to do some research to see what they could find out about the Ghostlord and the Thornwaste, which is their next objective in the game. And, of course, I had a few encounters on hand to spice things up.
So, the party spent a little while scouting out the market fair, buying some ale and tankards, sending letters home, and doing some research. On the research side of things, I had about a page and a half of information about the Ghostlord, with DCs on getting it going up to the mid-twenties. They managed to get it all in the minimum number of rolls that it could have taken, because they were rolling hot.
They took a little time to talk and think about the information, and then they started looking a little antsy, like they wanted to hit the road. I didn’t want them running offÂ from Brindol on the mission just yet, so I pulled a bandit encounter out of my notes, and an encounter with a group of priests of Ioun coming to view the ruins of the recentlyÂ cleared Rivenroar Castle, and decided that the priests were ambushed by the bandits on the road. One guard escaped and carried word toÂ Brindol, and the temple of Ioun asked theÂ party to help*.Â
Now, when I run something off the cuff like this, I tend to like to be pretty vague about the setup, and let the players show me what they want through the choices they make. So, when they asked where this had happened, I told them it was a couple of hours outside of town. When they asked if they could borrow horses from the temple, I said sure. Then, when they asked how they could sneak up on the site and scope it out, I said, “Skill challenge.”
I set the DC of the skill checks at 12, and didn’t limit their skill choices in any way. I told them to tell me what they were doing with each turn, and then, if I liked the idea, I dropped the DC by 2. If the idea was boring or a repeat, I boosted the DC by 2*.Â Based on what they did, I decided that they found the site, found evidence of elven archers, a shallow grave holding most of the guards,Â and a trail leading to an abandoned farmhouse in the wooded hills near the road.
They continued on with the skill challenge, using it to get the drop on the bandit hideout. That meant that I mapped out the area on the battlemap, and told them to place themselves wherever they wanted, as long as they weren’t in line of sight of one of the enemies* they could see.
It was kind of late when we got to the combat, and it ran kind of long, but it was a fun fight. The party almost had everything their own way, but they got a couple of surprises, as well, from the hidden bandits. Everyone got to do something interesting, and the fight ranged over most of the map – even off it, in two situations.
So, we wrapped up after that, but I’m pretty sure a good time was had by all.
*For those who are wondering what’s up with the lack of Storm Point updates, well, there hasn’t been a game in some time, thanks to busy summer schedules of the players. We’re hoping for this Sunday. Back
*Because of the way I hang on to the character sheets between sessions so that I have them on hand if a player can’t show, sometimes the players aren’t sure how much coin they’ve got. This is aggravated by the fact that I use Campaign Coins for the money; strangely enough, I’ve found that, if they have the actual physical coins, the players don’t seem to count them very often. But everyone likes jingling them. Back
*After all, they’d been the ones who had cleared Rivenroar Castle in the first place, back when this was still on the Scales of War adventure path. Back
*They could see two sentries on the hills around the house, and an archer up in the loft of a barn that was nearing collapse. In total, there were three human bandits, three elf archers, a dwarf hammerer, and a half-elf bandit captain, for a total of 1,200 xp; a level 5 encounter for 6 characters. Back