Subtitle: Maybe Now My Players Will Stop Whining For An Update. Also, Hippogriffs.
Yeah, I’ve been kind of letting the update slide, mainly because I was at GenCon this past week. Now, I’m home and I’m getting caught up on stuff, including prepping for a Post Tenebras Lux game tonight and putting up this post.
The Storm Point game was the Sunday before GenCon, and we had a full house for it, which is always fun. Of course, it generated a lot of cross-talk and diversions, but it was still fun.
In the previous session, the characters had uncovered a planned attack on Storm Point by an army of mixed humanoids, headed by a cabal of shadar-kai. Out of game, I gave the players the option of defending Storm Point; exploring nearby ruins for treas… I mean, items to aid the defense of the town; or leaving the defense to the town officials and going on with another adventure, letting the attack happen in the background. They chose almost unanimously to defend the town.
So, I divided the attack into four phases:
- Scouting the advancing army and trying to delay it.
- Defending a dwarven mine that’s about a half-day out of Storm Point.
- Defending Storm Point during the siege.
- Breaking the siege.
I intended to have each phase take one session, running it in very episodic fashion, with a little narrative to fill in the gaps. I built what I thought would be a suitable number of events for the first phase to fill a session, and set up a quick outline of what sorts of effects success and failure in each event would have.
And, of course, my players managed to break my planning in two.
First off, they didn’t get through more than about two of the events that I had set up – simple skill challenges to track the army and scout its composition. They managed to walk right into an ambush by a sentry party*, which was a pretty good fight, and by then it was getting to be close to the end of the evening.
While I was trying to decide whether to run another session on this phase or jump ahead to the next phase, I described the camp of the enemy army to them. Trying to give them an impression of how the disparate humanoid groups fit together, I told them the goblin area was a maze of tiny tents and small campfires, while the orc section had larger hide tents in numerous small groupings, and the gnoll area was hard to spot because most of the shelters were camouflaged. The centre of the camp had a permanent shadow over it, where the shadar-kai were.
Then I described the hobgoblin area. I told them about the orderly rows of tents, the cookfires set up near long mess tables, the array of banners. And, because the next phase has a wave of hobgoblins mounted on hippogriffs, I described the corral of hippogriffs*.
You see it, don’t you? I knew it was going to happen as soon as I mentioned the hippogriffs, but by then it was too late.
Nothing would do for my players but that they get the hippogriffs for themselves.
My first instinct was to say, “Nope. Way too many hobgoblins and such for you to get there.” But then I thought about it. Why not let the players have some hippogriffs? It’s a good thing, in my opinion, both to try and say yes to players and to let them have some of the cool that all too often seems to be the province of NPCs or enemies. I was going to have a wave of hobgoblin cavalry mounted on hippogriffs assault the defensive wall of the dwarven mine. Why not let the players nip that in the bud and claim the hippogriffs for themselves?
So, I made them work for it. It was too late in the evening to start another fight, especially one as big as this was going to be, so I let them do it as a skill challenge. They worked up a convoluted plan involving distracting some sentries, creating a diversion elsewhere, and using Thrun as a bowling ball. With some very good rolls, they managed to not only snag one hippogriff for each of the characters, but also to chase off the remaining ones.
In the end, I like the way it worked out.
So, now I’m looking at what they accomplished. They didn’t get to do a lot of delaying of the army, but they did steal a valuable resource and show the enemy that they are vulnerable. I figure that will give them a bit of a delay, but not all that much. The big bonus is that now the party has hippogriffs and the enemy doesn’t. Together, this means not much time to prepare the defenses of the mine or Storm Point, but the fight has a reduced threat without the air cavalry.
All in all, a win, I think.
* 3 goblin sharpshooters, 2 gnoll marauders, 2 hyenas, and a dark creeper. 1,325 xp, a level 6 encounter for 6 characters. Back
* Because if I hadn’t, next phase everyone would have wanted to know where the hell the hobgoblins had got their hippogriffs and why hadn’t they seen any at the camp. Back