Sundered Empires Session 4

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After healing and restocking, the players decided to return to the crypt and see what was behind the door to the dwarven tomb.  This session we played over skype, mostly because I thought it’d be a quick 30-90 minute little session.  That was way wrong!  It did mean that I was rolling all the dice since I couldn’t find a dice roller we could all use online (something like invisible castle being too slow, I needed a chat program we could use but couldn’t locate one pre-game).

The players appraised Kanen-Tal (whose player was present this time but missed the previous session) of what had happened and why they wanted to return.  Being Lawful, they had to tip toe around the fact that Alfric wanted to rob the tomb, and stressed the fact that they believed undead were there.

So the party journeyed again to the crypt.

The air here was more oppressive then last time.  The sunlight was less strong. Unknown to the party, the necromantic power inside the desecrated crypt drew a nest of hungry ghouls into its depths (that and all the corpses they left lying around).  The ghouls now served the master of the crypt.

They appreciate the food you left lying around last time you were here. And they sure do hope you want to stay for dinner…

The party saw that the bodies of the thieves had been dragged inside the tomb, and from where they stood, they could see bite marks on the bodies and huge chunks of flesh missing.  As the party entered the room, the bodies rose as zombies and lurched after them.  They put them down fairly quickly and then explored the northern tunnel.  Hiding behind the door were a trio of emaciated, pale skinned creatures with bald heads and distended mouths.  Their flesh was peeled back revealing a horrible mouth with receding gums and long fangs.  They lashed at the party with broken nails and attempted to grab them and bite them.  The group fought them off, relying on the heavy armor of Alfric and Kanen-Tal.  Long Tom managed to drive one of them away with his faith (the first time anyone had  a chance to turn undead).  After that, the fight ended quickly as they managed to destroy the active ghoul and butcher the helpless one.

The party is really relying on military strategy and tactics.  They move in tight formation, with spears behind the front rank allowing them to attack over the heads of the heavily armored characters.  It’s been very effective so far and I’m enjoying seeing the mechanics encourage a proper sort of combat formation.  It is also nice that the rules encourage the use of spears (though I think ACKS makes them too much of an uber weapon and I’ve toned them down so that a charging goblin can’t one-shot a 3rd level PC).

Unfortunately, their luck didn’t hold.  Outside the chamber that led to the northern tunnel and the sarcophagus, they encountered a mixed group of zombies and ghouls.  One ghoul fled up the northern tunnel towards the central tomb, while the others stayed to fight. The ghouls promptly paralyzed the front rank and moved onto the second.  This prompted a frenzied reaction on the players parts as they scrambled for their oil…only for me to point out that the only person who had oil written on his sheet was Alfric, the now paralyzed dwarf.  I think the players were too much in the habit of buying equipment as a group and then sort of forgetting to write it on their sheets (because encumbrance isn’t something we usually worry over).  But with no idea who had been figuring party finances last session and who may or may not have thought they had some, I went with a hard-line approach.

The retainers dove for Alfric’s bag and jerked out the oil and the holy water.  In a choice I was certain would spell the death of all of them, Thorsigar threw the holy water at the ghoul in the second rank rather than burn the ground in front of the party to block off the other undead.  His aim was true though and the ghoul melted screaming as the holy water burned off its unnatural essence.  Bruna, the healer threw the oil and her lantern and blocked off the zombies and the (now) three ghouls that were headed their way.  Behind the ghouls, a white skinned figure with straw-like hair and black eyes, watched their escape with pure malice.

As the only person rolling dice, those last few rounds of combat were extremely tense.  My hands were sweating.  It’s one thing to kill someone’s PC because they fail a save or take too much damage…it’s another thing entirely to kill them when you are the only one rolling the dice.  And I was very worried the ghouls might TPK them.

The party escaped outside and waited a tense hour or so for the other pcs to become unparalyzed.  With three more hours of sunlight, no holy water, and no oil, the party decided to flee back to the keep.

Next time, I imagine, they’ll be better prepared.  Alfric assures them that, ‘There’s gold in there, I can smell it!’  Will they return, or decide the Caves of Chaos are a bit safer?

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4 thoughts on “Sundered Empires Session 4

  1. D. says:

    Personally, I’d rethink the downgrading of spears – that’s one of the ways that you can keep the low level creatures a viable threat to high-level characters *and* force them to start using even *better* tactics!

    Yes, it sucks at the lower levels, but as you noted, it slices both ways…


    • Well, the only thing I’ve done is remove their ability to do double damage from a charge on the ground. Basically, it reached the point where no other weapon was even considered because there were no real downsides (except weight) to using a spear. So, even with that removal, they still allow second rank attacks, still allow double damage from horseback, and still allow setting for charge. They are still potent, especially when no other weapons have special abilities really.

      That’s really the thing that bugs me is that spears get all this love while simultaneously all other weapons are abstracted to the point of interchangeability. I wouldn’t mind it if /every weapon/ did double damage on a charge, or whatever (and a simulationist argument could be made that they should do as much as a spear after a charge…hell that’s how some two handed swords were used in the real world).

      I’m not too worried about keeping low-level creatures viably threatening. I think the math works in their favor (in that PC AC doesn’t get much better than it was when they started fighting them at 1st level). I also don’t mind liberally adding extra HD to humanoids thanks to my d20 days (though rank and file will stay the same). And intelligent humanoids will be using traps and ambushes and the occasional flask of oil, so that should allow them to remain a threat to the PCs through much of their career.

      I hope! I may revisit this is I find I’m wrong of course. 🙂

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