The Thaw: Episode 3

I made the mistake of finishing last session mid-action (with the group going out to deal with some Halfling claim jumpers) which is a problem when the cast of player’s changes. Mostly it was resolvable with a little bit of a retcon (some folks had to escort the wounded group back to town, and Kit had been in the area investigating the claim jumping claims) but I am going to need to do a sidebar with Naoto, who implicitly was doing something related to her sister offscreen. I used a light hand, so there’s a lot of flexibility, but it’s the largest disconnect.

So, as we left the group, they were en route to drive out some claim jumpers who had set up camp on the Marjan embassy’s claim. They had encountered the previous group that had tried to do so, badly injured, and were warned of undead and ambush, so they were ready when the halflings and undead started firing from the trees, especially since Kit warned them by sniping one before they could close.

The fight wrapped up reasonably tidily, but with a few complications. Sul ran after one of the fleeing halflings, and Kit followed. Sul was paralyzed by someone else (figure in black who looks like it was probably Naoto’s sister), and when the figure was about to attack Kit, lightning struck and no one was quite clear what was up with that.

Meanwhile, the dice took an unpleasant turn on the battlefield. Hazla, the fighter, had managed to piss off most of the skeletons, and the dogpiled him. The very last one got a crit on Hazla, which dropped him. It was sufficiently dramatic that, in feng shui terms, that skeleton just got a name. It ran off and it is absolutely going to come back someday.

The party regrouped and scouted ahead. The remaining halflings were at a drained beaver pond, with two lookouts, and one down in the pond, overseeing an excavation by an undead work crew. The pond itself was overgrown with unnatural grass. They managed to surprise the sentries, then snipe and charge into the bowl. The enemy leader took some early hits, got behind cover, and threw up a Sanctuary while he healed, and it bought him some time, but in the end, he got ripped up before he could do much.

With the Cleric’s death, the working undead stopped (separate from the fighting ones). The party recovered a talisman to control them from the cleric’s body, but they opted to destroy them rather than put them to use. Which was possibly a shame when they reviewed the notes in the halflingss camp and discovered (on a high elf journal with wood elf writing) that the halflings had been trying to excavate an ancient research facility where "Sample #7 (robust, but unstable) was being stored).

The party studied the excavation for a time, until a telepathic voice contacted Israfil, addressing him as “Warden”. The voice identified itself as “unit 15A17” and it was apparently responsible for maintaining the facility. Beyond that, however, it was not terribly helpful, in a “unless you have a warrant, you’re getting nothing”. sort of way. Eventually, the party opted to camp for the night (away from the unnatural growth) but when they woke, the entire bowl of the pond was full of the unnatural grass.

At this point, Unit 15A17 reached out again regarding a “small containment breach” and he was ultimately willing to bend his rules to see this matter resolved. He opened the door, the players started to clear it, and that’s when he pond full of overgrowth wove itself into a dragon, and violence ensued.

The fight was somewhat lopsided. The dice really resulted in huge damage output, and the critter never stood a chance (it did not help that it’s legendary action – regrowth – rolled terribly for its healing). Once that was resolved, the overgrowth all rotted. The rot lead back into the otherwise empty facility, where the Spectator allowed them to confirm destruction, then politely asked them to leave (especially their “pets”, the humans).

That pretty much wrapped things up.

Mechanically, it was interesting to tune down to the fights to the smaller number of players. By chance, we had no clerics, so there was very little healing available, but it turned out that the damage output was more than enough to compensate for that. Party is level 3, and so I went for more CR 1/2 creatures, supplemented by CR 2s and 3s for named opposition. The cadence was interesting – I judge fights by how many swings they take, and that maps somewhat loosely to damage. On some level, I am never really very happy at opponents who consistently have 2 or 3 hit points left when they get hit. Feels weird. But it’s part of the price of the damage system I suppose.

We did get to see something I’d been really curious about, as our Battle Master fighter (Kit, the archer) had hit level 3, so we actually got to see the Maneuver dice in action, and holy crap, it pretty much illustrated that Archers are as awesome as they seemed. Specifically, pairing the Sharpshooter feat (take –5 to hit to do +10 damage) with Precision Attack (roll a d8 after your attack roll and add it to the attack) was brutal. If the sharpshooter attack went off, then great, but if it didn’t, the extra d8 had a pretty good chance of offsetting a near thing. Just one trick among many, but it really underscores how much I am loving 5e fighters.

Anyway, fun session. I’m still loving 5e. I need to sharpen things a bit – pacing could have been better – but it’s great to be playing.

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