Chapter 2 begins not with a whimper but a bang. The bang of crocodile jaws clamping shut. On Halflings. Crocodiles, you may ask? Why yes, of course, they are my specialty. But let us begin at the beginning, where it will all become clear. The previous four weeks saw our band of doughty heroes arrive on the scene and begin doing what player characters do best: making corpses then looting them. One thing became pretty clear by the second or third encounter: the challenges were not up to the level of skill and determination of our adventurers. In other words, it was a cake walk. I cry no crocodile tears for the troubles I decided to impose on the adventurers, after all, we came here to kick butt and take names, not to beat stuffed animals with nerf bats. Prior to this weeks festival of bloodletting, I warned the players that we were taking it up a notch. The players heartily agreed, and so my diabolical plan was hatched.
And so we began at the scene of battle. A number of kobold corpses lay scattered about the ruined well house. One of the kobolds was still gasping for air, and makes the mistake of trying to mock the heroes for their fruitless search for Ronnick, the villain of the story. The kobold spits out a mouthful of blood and broken teeth before giggling maniacally and shouting “Ha, you took the bait! Now Ronnick can make it to his real hide out at Dragontooth Hill.” After a pause, the kobold realizes he gave away important information, but it is too late. He is tied up, interrogated, and finally, a magic missile by Faverel puts an end to his torment. As the kobold perishes with a smoking hole in his forehead, he shrugs and has one last gem of wisdom to offer. “Oh well, I had it coming.”
And so they made camp that night in the secluded well house, and after an uneventful night, they crossed over to the “other side” of the kings Wall and made their way into the Chaos Scar, heading northwest to where they new the hill called Dragontooth squatted dourly overlooking the countryside. They could soon see it rising above the undulating fields, a tall sheer-sided pillar of stone, with rubble and trees ringing the base. A stream flowed from a crack that clove the hill in two and they began following a path that meandered along the stream bank, until they reached the base of the hill. The stream poured forth from a large cave mouth about twenty feet up, cascading down to form the stream. The wall behind the waterfall was solid, but the cave mouth above was much larger than the stream, and the Halfling Merrick was quick to ascend the rock wall and peer into the cave.
He saw a chamber with a deep stream running through the center. It was oddly shaped, and many corners were obscured by shadow or bends in the natural walls. There were dimly glowing blue crystals, common in the natural caverns about these parts, that provided dim light to the chamber. There seemed to be nothing threatening so the party moved forward until they all stood in one small section of the chamber separated from the rest by the deep stream. Some one (or thing) had fastened a rope to hang from the ceiling over the center of the twenty foot wide stream, and with it, it would be possible to swing to one of the other three sections of chamber. In two of those sections, the keen eyed Halfling spotted shivering squelching globs of ooze that were shaking themselves to full wakefulness as the party entered.
The other hallfling rogue, who called himself Bud, was the first to react. Pushing others out of his way, he proudly proclaimed for the others to watch and “see how it was done.” He then gets the rope and with a heave, leaps off into space. Unfortunately (and due to very terrible die rolling, hello natural 1) his hands immediately begin slipping and as he is over the mid point of the stream, the end of the rope slips through his sweaty little palms, dropping him into the drink. He makles no splash.
He makes no splash because the water erupts as he is still dropping and the wide open toothy maw of a crocodile plucks the Halfling out of the air. A this point, one of the excellent mothers who plays Sola when not enough people shows up pipes in. She remembers that Halflings have a little thing called Halflings luck, which gives them a second chance. Glaring at the mother (but secretly impressed and happy that she remembered something about a character that wasn’t even her own) I describe how at the last moment the Halfling twists in an effort to escape the gaping jaws. He didn’t.
The other Halfling, not to be out-done, skipped the rope entirely and leapt straight onto the crocs back. A good athletics check gave him the opportunity to sneak attack, which he did to good escape. The thrashing vicejaw was unable to shake him, content to gnaw on his before dinner snack. The rest of the party proceeded to hurl their ranged weapons, or in the case of the dwarf, to make it to some shallow rocks on the other side and engage the squishy, squelching oozes. He sees a head pop up in the far corner of the chamber and can barely hear a hissing whisper. The nearest ooze reshapes his body into an ear-like shape, listening to the Kobold Ooze Whisperer before attacking the dwarf.
The croc had much of the party trapped in the initial section of the cavern. The halfing Bud was rescued from the crocs jaws and tried again to cross the chamber on the rope. He fell again into the crocs mouth. The croc had taken a beating by this time, and the other halfling continued to ride the croc while stabbing him. He gets a devastating blow in, and the croc expires, sinking and taking the halfing with him. The two Halflings were treading water when the kobold launches a globe of ooze their way, knocking both of them unconscious. Hagen is able to rescue the unlucky Bud with a healing surge, and the dripping halfling finally makes it to the far side of the stream, while poor Merrick floats unconscious in the water. It takes the fancy ropework of the wizard Berrian to rescue him. Berrian fashions a lasso and managed to get the halfling around the neck and haul him to shore.
It is at this point 7:55 pm arrives, and I warn the players that in 5 minutes all monsters will start dealing double damage. This is a house rule I use to make sure we end on time. It works amazingly, and I have only had to do double damage once or twice in 3 seasons of DMing Encounters due to this little warning. the The mother lets me know that she thinks I am evil. It is her son, after all, who is being chewed up, spit out, and finally lassoed around the neck. I grin and tell her I am indeed, that maybe if she was there to save him, it might be different! We are only teasing, as I knew (or hoped) that Hagen would use his last heal on poor Merrick, and luckily he does.
Just as the party is finishing off the last of the oozes and turning their sights on the Ooze Whisperer in the corner, he puts his hand up and surrenders. We will save the interrogation for next week, as well as whatever it is they see that is glinting in the water under the second waterfall in the back of the chamber that leads deeper into the cavern.