D&D Recap #2: Big Trouble In Little Marshgate

As we entered our third week of playing D&D, the newer players were starting to really get a feel for the game, and the more experienced players were starting to get a feel for how I DMed my games. Which made things work a bit differently.

At the end of the second session, the party split up. Halo and Hera headed into town to keep tabs on the Mayor’s Mansion, in case Baron Merchfort did anything weird. The rest stayed outside of town with their new Goblin friend, Pizo.

The group outside town had an interesting encounter, as four people in dark clothing suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Despite Serada’s attempts to talk these people into not fighting, a battle ensued, during which Pizo proved to be the MVP of the group, and sparked discussions concerning whether or not the party could keep him around.

Which made me scramble to figure out how a civilized Goblin Ranger would work.

Just add sarcasm. Lots of sarcasm.

Fun. Such fun.

Once the battle really started, Dia and Genesis did well, taking down a couple of the enemy, while Pizo flanked and took shots with his bow. Serada tried to reason with them, but it ended up proving futile, as an attacker got a lucky hit on Dia and left her unconscious. Healed by Serada, Dia tried to finish things off, but ended up knocked out again, while Pizo and Genesis finished up the other two.

This lead the party to discover that one of their attackers was carrying a burlap bag, with an unconscious child inside, and put in the party’s hands some interesting items taken from their enemy. Each wore two rings, simple silver bands in the style of a signet ring. Each was set with an emblem, made of semi-precious stones, in the shape of a hand. Most of it was in black stones, onyx, while the pinky was done with garnets.

Serada recalled reading about this, and Genesis had heard of it before as well. The symbol belonged to an organization known as the Fifth Finger, part of a larger criminal group called The Red Hand. What part they played in all this, however, was something they couldn’t figure out. Nor where they able to wake the sleeping child the men had with them.

Back in town, while trying to get some sleep, Halo was visited in a dream state by a strange, cloaked figure, who simply relayed a message that his organization was aware of halo, found his works to their liking, and was interested to see if he would become the kind of person they were looking to recruit.

Me? Nah!

Upon joining back up in the morning, Halo was able to discern that the rings had previously been enchanted, though the magic was fading and almost gone. One could invoke a sleep state, probably what was keeping the child from waking, while the other was a very limited teleportation spell.

This solved one mystery they had been puzzling over for a while, specifically, how the children from both Marshgate, and the Goblin city of Una, had been vanishing without a trace. It also backed up Garo’s story that the kidnappings in Una had been carried out by humans, or humanoid beings, that had simply disappeared.

Halo and Hera headed back into town to confirm that a Marshgate child had been taken, and learned the Anders son was missing, as well as that the townsfolk were preparing to search the Everrun forest for some sign of the child, prompting the party to retreat as deep as they could into the forest.

The plan was basically to go meet up with Garo before he reached the clearing they had fought in before, and tell him what they had learned. During the forming of this plan, the party learned from Pizo that the roads in the Everrun were not of Goblin making, but had always been there. The road west out of the clearing lead to nearby Una, but not to the city itself, instead heading up into the mountains, the domain of several Orc tribes that routinely assailed Una in an attempt to breach the walls and enslave the Goblins living there.

Faced with more questions than they could answer, the party decided to shelve the debate, and head to meet up with Garo. After passing through the clearing, they saw a road heading off to the north, and decided to investigate it, despite Pizo’s warning that it was dangerous. Anyone who had gone to check that out hadn’t returned.

Not that it was foreboding or anything.

After a few hours, they ran into a single human solider, which Serada distracted, while Dia killed. Finding this even more odd, they pressed on, and soon discovered a mining encampment, bring gold out of the mountainside. The workers, they noted, were children. A mix of human, elf, dwarf, halfling and goblin children.

Faced with the discovery of the fate of the kidnapped children, they watched as a young goblin girl tried to push a cart of ore, failed, and was whipped by a guard, until a human child intervened and helped her move the cart towards what appeared to be a smelting building. They also spotted a rather intimidating man patrolling the area, who seemed to be in charge.

Counting ten guards, at least, the group decided not to engage yet, but to go ahead and meet up with Garo and hope he could rally some forces to help them save the kids. Halo and Genesis decided to stay back and watch the camp to see what they could learn, while the rest took the Anders’ son and headed back out.

During their surveillance, Halo and Genesis noticed a guard heading for the road, and figured him to be the relief for the one they’d killed earlier. Trying to stealth up on him, they did poorly, and alerted him to their presence, but still managed to capture him before he could escape back to camp and raise the alarm.

A brief interrogation told them that the guards were Merchfort’s men, but the man in charge was someone who was just plain terrifying, enough so the guard wouldn’t give them much more info. Deciding to finish him off, they headed out to rejoin the others, who had just met up with Garo, and told him what they had found. Angered, Garo let them know the Council of Elders had refused his plea for forces to join up with the party, leaving him only four archers loyal to him that he could bring to the fight.

Which is where we ended that session.

Nobody felt like this. Totally. Nobody.

At this point, the players had already made up their minds that they were going to free the children. Just how, though, they weren’t sure.

So, as we sat down to our fourth session, that took up the first hour of our evening, with the players making their plans for assaulting the camp.

One thing of interest did occur before that, however. Genesis and Halo had noted six buildings in the camp. Three smelters, two small buildings, and one large one, as well as some kind of a depression to the far side they couldn’t see well enough to make out detail on. It was the smelters that raised their curiosity, though, and both players asked how the gold was leaving those buildings, and which ones it was taken to.

Nothing was leaving the smelter buildings, in fact, leading them to think there may be tunnels under the camp. The truth was a bit different, but they learned that soon enough.

Deciding on a pre-dawn attack, the party returned to the camp, with their new Goblin allies in tow. Genesis and Pizo scouted the rest of the camp, discovering some kind of alarm device which Genesis managed to disable, as well as the purpose of the depression on the far side.

A mass grave for children.

Rejoining the rest, they finished making their plans, and arranged themselves outside the camp for their attack, while only three guards were on patrol. Their plan to take them out, and assault the camp by stealth almost worked, too, when the first of the three was taken out quickly and quietly.

Mine Battle 1
This is what DMing on a budget looks like, by the way.

In the above image, you can see the guards as the yellow pawns, the Goblin archers as the green ones, Garo & Pizo as the black ones, and the PC’s as the uniquely shaped ones. The purple and green ones to the bottom are Halo and Hera, while the yellow one is Serada. Dia is the red one, and Genesis is the pink.

Also, you can see some of my dice, a bit of Pizo’s character sheet, and the case for my tablet, which has a nifty initiative tracker app on it I used for this fight. There’s was lots of people involved, and it made it a snap. The app is called Complete Reference For 5E, and while you can get the base version for free, there is about a $5.00 charge for the better features, such as the initiative tracker.

Worth it, if you ask me.

Oh, and the map is dry erase, available on Amazon. Comes in real handy when ya gotta throw a fight together on the fly. The game pieces are also available on Amazon, for pretty cheap, and come in sets of several.

I’d love to use actual minis, but I’m broke, so this is what we do.

Back to the battle…

The other two didn’t go down so easily, and one managed to raise the alarm, bringing the rest of the guards, and the boss, Adrian Swift, into play. This is where the fight got very interesting, and took a few unexpected turns.

Starting with me rolling for shit.

As the party and their Goblin allies moved into the camp, several Goblin archers and Genesis gained the roof of the smaller buildings, while Dia and Hera stormed the camp, Serada and Garo moved as a team, Pizo flanked, and Halo used his spellcasting from a distance.

Mine Battle 2
The complete annihilation begins

I really did roll for shit, and what was intended as a tense battle went entirely the party’s way, guards getting offed left and right, while doing very little damage in return. Most of all was Swift, who could move very quickly, attack three times in a turn, and apparently teleport about, got shanked in the back by Genesis, on a critical hit, that cost him more than half his hit points. Followed by him failing to hit on two of his three attacks against Dia. This prompted Swift to retreat back from the battle until his next turn, by which all but one of the guards was dead, so he just bailed.

Basically, I had anticipated that Swift’s abilities would make the fight a lot more difficult, but he never really came into play. Bad rolls from me, and good rolls from the party, made it a very lopsided battle, that ended with the guards very dead, Swift escaping, and only two of the party even somewhat injured.

While I’m a bit disappointed the battle wasn’t more tense, I’m pretty proud of the players for coming up with and executing a plan that swung things in their favor the way it did. They are all getting the teamwork aspect down.

Mine Battle 3
No one would ever forget the pawn massacre that took place that day.

Inspecting the area after the battle lead them to finding a device that would dispel the sleep effect on the Anders child. Halo, somehow, managed to become the kids safety net. Yes, the Gnome wizard with pans to become a powerful necromancer had a child think him a hero, while the lawful good cleric scared him to death.. It was weird.

Granted, Serada was covered in blood, but still. Weird.

Halo also tried to read Stevie’s spellbook, which he took back in the first session, and discovered it was trapped. Not only can he not read it, a failed save left him with Stevie able to see and hear whatever he does, as well as constantly having to fight for control over his own body with the other wizard.

Upon freeing the children, the party also learned that one of the Goblin children, the girl they saw whipped the day before, was Garo’s daughter, Lily. The boy who had helped her was Harris, the son of the woman Genesis had almost talked into setting fire to the forest back in the first session.

Serada’s player needed a moment as Garo and Lily were reunited, and everyone else seemed to suddenly feel the weight of what was happening.

Last, the inspection of the smelters lead them to discover that the buildings were empty, save for a fire pit. Halo did an Arcana check, and figured out the firepit activated the magic sigil painted on the back wall, opening a portal. Where ever the gold ore was going, it’s possible it wasn’t even on the same plane of existence as they are on.

Probably Wall Street.

Deciding to leave that alone for now, the party gathered the children, took what they could use from the camp, and decided it was time to go visit the city of Una to regroup. Taking the Marshgate children back could prove dangerous, given how involved in all of this the Baron is, and at this point, Una seemed the safest place to put them while they figure out their next move.

After the session, the players took a moment to try and sort through the various mysteries that had been presented to them. Roads that no one seems to have made, but are clearly well maintained. What the Baron is actually up to, and why. How the Fifth Finger, and the Red Hand are involved. Where the gold was going. Who Stevie works for. Who visited Halo in his dream. Who Swift works for.

They didn’t make any progress in sorting it all out, but they are certainly invested in the story at this point, which is what plot hooks are for. All of it plays a larger role in what’s happening, and what they have unwittingly stepped into.

Halo already plans to meet with any mages in Una and see if they can figure out where those portals go, which will answer one question, but raise an even bigger one.

For now, the party is headed to the city of Una, home of civilized Goblins, and the surviving children of both it and Marshgate are safe. A win no matter how you look at it.

So far.

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