The final week of Chapter 1 found the PCs nearing their destination – the Ringing Mountains which they hoped would shelter them from the Obsidian Storm. The survivors of that fated caravan were also on the run from warbands of lizardmen. The party had been on the march for over 24 hours now, and a new day was dawning as they came to the broken foothills at the base of the mountains. It was a long slog up those treacherous lands at the base of the mountains, and only sheer endurance would see them to the end. Each character had to make an endurance check, with only Jarvix and Shikkir passing. The march through the broken lands was tough on all, and each PC lost a healing surge. Luckily, Jarvix was able to use his ritual to spread the surges around until everybody was at full hp and had at least one or two surges beyond that.
Finally the party made it to the edge of the mountains, only to find a sheer cliff hundreds of feet up. They began following the line of mountains searching for a pass when they came upon what looked like a cave entrance some distance up the cliff face. Just as they were pondering how to get to it, they were attacked by a warband of lizardmen jumping out from rocks.
Aside: Tonight was a record number of players, 9 to be exact. In order to account for the extreme number of players, I unfolded the map and used 1-4 and 1-5 encounter areas together, ruling the line of black squares that separated them as typical desert. In addition I bumped up the enemy by adding an extra shaman and 2 warriors. For the extra players I had the Free RPG day characters. Kindrock, PakCha, and Morg were used, Castri went unplayed (he was killed last week) and the Sorceresses Twin made a return. I have had the pleasure of introducing the game to many new people this season, thanks in large part to Dave who appears to have an unlimited supply of friends interested in trying it out. Thanks Dave! It has always been a great pleasure of mine to help teach new people how to play, and this is the perfect setting for that. Incidentally I found that the game never lost any of its edge or focus for being such a large group, and I think the interest level remained high throughout. The fact that the game offers a lot of opportunity for characters to act out of turn helps with this I think. Back to the game.
The Lizardmen had a large area to set up, and so they started about 5 or so squares from the party. The warriors went first, and all five of them launched their javelins, with limited success. Maybe 2 or 3 hit at most. Then it was the barbarians turn. He wasted no time but moved to the nearest warrior lizard and hit him with his daily rage. 38 hit points of damage later and only a small pile of remains remained. Then Shikkir moved forward to attack another warrior. The shamans unleashed their domination attacks and got both Shikkir and Morg, however Morg was able to shake it off. Shikkir on the other hand was sent back to attack the squishies in the back row, but he missed, and made his save to shake off the domination (what a great rule Dominated is…)
The fighter Yuka was back in full form and moved up to a warrior and grabbed him and tried to bash his skull against the rock wall. Jarvix cast a curse against the front line warriors, then the twins set the ground on fire in the middle of the battlefield, damaging a cluster of 2 warriors and a shaman, while the other sorceress, Midgit, lit up the warrior fighting Yuka.
PakCha the shaman granted a basic attack to the barbarian, the fighter Kindrock charged a warrior, and Phye strode forward to engage a shaman. The round ended and round two began with a large insectoid creature bursting out of the ground to fire its acid spray against both Yuka and the warrior he fought. They were both hit, but the warrior took the worst of it, and his skin peeled off and he was slain before he could act. PakCha was able to surmise that he could control the Ankheg, and he became an ankheg-whisperer, commanding it to burrow into the ground and attack the lizard men. It burrowed.
Another round of slaughter ensued as the barbarian clove his way across the battlefield, collecting lizard-skins along the way. Him, Kindrock, and Shikkir formed an unstoppable wall that stormed everything in their path. By the end of the round all the warriors but 1 were down, and one of the shaman was bloodied. The characters had moved so far across the battlefield that the sorceresses and Jarvix were alone in back and they had to move forward to keep their enemy in range. Suddenly right behind them the Ankheg burst from the ground and attacked the sorceress Midgit. It hit, damaging and grabbing her, then it used its gnaw and scuttle power to back itself into a corner surrounded on three sides whilst it feasted on the still squirming sorceress.
The shaman were killed. And for the remainder of the round, the characters charged the ankheg, attempting to rescue the sorceress. On her turn she used her second wind and managed to escape the monsters mandibles, falling prone.
The ankheg was surrounded, bloodied, and nearly dead, but it survived the onslaught. Only Phye was left to go, and there were no squares adjacent to the ankheg. However, Phye dropped her spear and pulled out her long spear, with a reach of 2. The ankheg let out a little sigh. With 18 hp left, it started to worry. All he wanted was another round, where he could spend his action point to do a close burst acid spray and them another mandible bite. Its jaws were clicking together in anticipation of this deadly combo. Phye, however, had something to say about that.
Phye struck and hit! 12 points damage, the ankheg survived the attack, all was not lost. It began filing its maw with the acid spittle to spew across the battlefield, and since everyone was clustered around it, the radius would hit them all. But no, Phye had an action point to spend. And hit, and did 10 points of damage. The ankheg was slain, thanks to Phyes last attack, and once again, the party was victorious against all odds.
Nobody dropped into the negatives this battle, but Morg came close, and was down to 1 hp, and the sorceress was down to 5 hp, which is extremely rare, as she makes a point of remaining safe from attacks. The group mowed through this encounter like a cavalry charge through peasants. It was great to see them working together with such well-oiled precision, and for the first time this season, I did not think the encounter was overly dangerous or deadly. It was good.
Even with 9 players, starting 10 minutes late, and having a good 10-15 minute introductory description for the new players and a re-cap for those who missed, we still managed to end before 8:30, which was surprising in a good way. The night was fast paced and great fun, and both new players said they would be back, which makes my cold dead heart glow a little bit to hear.