This is a synopsis / battle report of a session within a DnD 5e campaign.
Click here for the previous entry.
With the hurt dragon creature disappearing behind the dunes in the east, leaving a strange trail of smoke behind, our heroes are uncertain how they should proceed. While they discuss this, Madred suddenly faints, the desert sun and battle apparently too much for her dwarven physique. They also spot Argil, heading east, and Kriv decides to pay her to drag Madred towards the oasis.
He and Gilda want to investigate where the dragon creature fell and what it is. Sorrow does not wish to leave her companion alone in the presence of the suspicious dwarf and elects to accompany Argil to the oasis.
Kriv & Gilda
After a few miles of march Gilda and Kriv split from the group, as the smoke trail leads them a bit further north than they suspect the oasis to be. They calculate that their water supplies will last for more than a day before they would have to abandon their quest and also make for the oasis.
On the morning of the next day, they notice that the trail has not disappeared from the sky yet. On the contrary, it has spread across the horizon like a dark veil. Unsure what to make of this, they steer clear of the darkness and some time later arrive at the place where the dragon came down.
Not only do they find the impact site, but also a large amount of tracks and imprints in the sand. They deduce that a caravan has stopped here for a while and that several people have walked to and fro between the camp and the crash site.
What they do not find, however, is any trace of the dragon creature itself, so they begin making their way towards the Camwata oasis, to reunite with their allies.
Meanwhile, Sorrow and Argil drag the unconscious Argil towards the oasis, making good progress, with the hawk providing orientation. Before they can reach the oasis they can see a column of smoke rising from behind the dunes. Carefully, they make their approach and as they peer over the final dune´s crest an unexpected sight welcomes them:
Of the six duneships originally with the caravan, only two remain, one of which is smashed and burnt heavily. Amidst the remnants of a battle a few stragglers are caring for the wounded and sifting through the wreckage.
The smoke of soot seems to originate from behind a large boulder next to the oasis´s lake.
Sorrow recognizes Urgond among the survivors, so Argil and her leave their cover and near the harrowed campsite. A mournful Urgond receives them and informs them of the previous day´s events.
Another caravan, Nasik´s tribe, had arrived at the oasis and were welcomed with open arms, only to begin attacking the caravan. Urgond´s clan tried to defend themselves, but are overwhelmed quickly when a figure which stayed in the background threw two fireballs into their ranks.
The skirmish is brief and the attackers take the undamaged wagons and abduct many of the non-warrior tribespeople. Only few of the defenders survive: Urgond herself, the warrior Amakelek, Seef the mage, Ariam the scout, Agorn the cleric and Yatiri, a dragonborn youth who is barely alive. There are also a few civilians who traveled with the tribe: Lemuel, Kallista and Camille.
Agorn, a half-orc who was caring for the wounded when Sorrow arrived joins the conversation and gives his accord of the events as well. He explains that the thick clouds of smoke are the remains of the dead, burnt on a pyre to prevent attracting the desert wildlife.
Urgond adds that the attack was unprovoked and highly unusual, as the nomad tribes usually celebrate meeting another at sites such as the oasis, instead of slaughtering and robbing each other.
They also report that they saw a large wound in the chest of the attacking sorcerer.
Come evening, Kriv and Gilda manage to find their way back to the oasis, with the aid of the smoke cloud and the tracks of Nasik´s caravan.
After the others bring them up to speed regarding the raid, they begin discussing their next actions.
It´s clear that they must somehow make it to Razal Kut somehow, seeing as it is the nearest city and their original destination. Urgond brings three options to the table:
The main trade route, which they would have taken if the attack had not occurred, going south first, past the mountain that eats men and then making a bend to the east, which would take nine days of travel.
The straight way to the east, passing the mountain´s northern flank and making directly to Razal Kut. The catch is that they would have to pass an old battlefield, which is said to be haunted.
The third option would be the safes route, also going south, but making a wide berth around the battlefield, which would take about two days more. This would take them to the edge of the great divide which separates the Cuzar desert from the low desert in the north.
After some deliberations, they elect to take the risk of crossing the battlefield, with Kriv, Agorn, Argil and Amakelek in favor, Sorrow and Gilda against. They appoint guard shifts for the night and rest.
Gilda, Urgond and Sorrow share the second night watch, and quietly converse around the low campfire. The two adventurers decide to tell Urgond of the events which transpired at the temple, the dragon creature and the Titan´s heart.
She can not tell them much about the dragon or the stone, but suggests to ask Seef – which she assures can be trusted – about the stone.
The night itself
Their conversation is cut short when Sorrow notices strange movements in the desert night. It seems as tough the night itself has come alive, shadows solidifying and encroaching upon the encampment.
Quickly, they grab their armaments and alarm the sleepers, right before the shadows are among them.
Most of the shadows quickly disperse back into nothingness as they meet the blades of the group, but Sorrow is wounded by the chilling touch of one the dark shapes.
After the last shade is dealt with, the travelers briefly consider changing their plans for the next day, but ultimately decide to go ahead with the original plan to cross the battlefield.
The next morning, the survivors pack the remains of the caravan´s supplies into the repaired dune barge and begin their journey to the east. By afternoon of the second day, they decide to make camp early, so that they would not have to travel across the battlefield by night.
In their shared night watch Gilda and Sorrow approach Seef and show her the titan´s heart, to see if she can tell them anything about it. Seef assures them that the object in itself is not magical in nature, but she discerns that it is a living thing, maybe even an actual titan´s heart.
As the stone has lost much of it´s inner light and it´s pulse has grown faint, they inquire if there might be a way to recharge it, but Seef is uncertain about this. Can a being´s heart be infused with life, separated from the body?
They also again notice that it has discharged at no one apart from Kriv, the kobolds, the sand yeti in the temple and the dragon. Everybody else is unperturbed and can even touch it without being harmed.
The night passes uneventfully, and the next day´s march takes them all the way accross the deserted killing fields. Here and there the remains of fallen soldiers and discarded, broken weaponry and armor can be seen, and Gilda even recognizes the heraldry on a shield as that of old enemies. Members of an army she fought against before she became an adventurer.
Agorn and Sorrow have long nights of discussion, regarding their history and beliefs. Agorn reveals himself as a cleric with a close connection to Gruumsh, the orc god of strength and conflict. Sorrow shares some tales from her youth, which she spent in a mountain -monastery devoted to the god Dunatis – learning to channel her wild magic.
Skirmish amidst the dunes
Three more days go by without any problems, and they are confident that they will reach Razal Kut soon. Shortly before they get there however, they notice that they are being followed. Two faster dune craft are nearing from behind, armed figures and mounted armaments visible on deck.
Aiming to flank the caravan´s lone remaining vessel, the assailants come from two sides, a smaller, nimble craft to the left, manned by two grim looking men, and the larger one to the right, with five people on it, a mix of humans and half-orcs.
Soon enough, they come into engagement range and begin firing their mounted crossbows at the caravan, no questions asked.
Gilda asks Seef to slow down and stop their own boat, and Amakelek jumps ship to engage the smaller of the attacking vessels. Gilda follows suit and plans to sprint over to the right one, with the plan to board as soon as it passes her cover, a large boulder.
A sleep spell from Sorrow lulls the two men on the smaller craft into a slumber and their craft swerves to the side, before gently setting down in the sands. Amakelek is on his way to cut their throats.
Gilda´s plan to board the other ship is not necessary anymore, as three of the attackers, two half-orc men and a menacing looking human woman disembark, coming towards her, demanding to be handed the stone.
The other two passengers were already dispatched by Kriv and Argil´s arrows as well as an array of magical attacks from Agorn and Sorrow.
Kriv also jumps off the caravan, coming to Gilda´s aid, while Agorn calls on the power of Gruumsh to paralyze the bandit leader.
This makes it an even two on two for a moment, with Kriv and Gilda having ranged support from Argil, Ariam, Agorn and Sorrow. The two half-orcs give a fierce battle, but Gilda is proving to be very hard to kill indeed and Kriv sprays them with his acidic breath.
This bitter fight is drawn out until all three remaining assailants go down, apparently unwilling to surrender at all.
While Agorn takes stock of the bandit´s belongings, Kriv engages in a more gruesome activity, severing the heads of those opponents that fought hardest and fashioning a morbid necklace from their skulls.
Having noticed that the thug´s skiffs were able to hover without the aid of a magician, Sorrow and Seef take a closer look at them, but are unable to figure out how it works. They do however decide to tow the smaller one with their own vessel, either to sell it or to find someone who can make it work.
While they travel the last few miles to Razal Kut, many things are discussed. What will happen to the caravan? Will they actually bring the stone to Drazan or keep it for themselves? Can Argil be trusted? What about Madred, can she be awoken from her sudden, but ongoing coma?
Agorn, the half-orc war cleric has joined the party.
While last session I attempted to invoke an atmosphere similar to the Indiana Jones movies, this time I went for a Mad Max vibe, specifically during the skiff combat encounter.
I think it went rather well, but it could have gone a little better. There was no incentive for the skiff to keep going forward, which I should have provided, as one of the players correctly pointed out afterwards.
The fact that I did not consider this annoys me a bit, since I actually should know it. Time pressure of some sort would have been sufficient.
The combat scene had a few too many actors in it, mainly the four combat-ready NPCs present in the caravan. This is mainly a problem due to the fact that there was noexcuse for three of them to refrain from joining the battle.
This made the skirmish a bit of a slog (I had compensated for the presence of the allied NPCs by adding a few more enemies).
The battle with the shadows could have been handled better as well, I read up on the rules for vision, surprise and hiding after the session and realised that I made some mistakes here, but nothing too egregious. DnD is still a new system to me, so these errors are bound to happen.
One of the combat encounters was skipped, which I decided more or less on the spot, as time was running low and we had a hard timelimit this time. On the other had, I think this session had a reasonable duration, unlike some of my earlier ones in the Nephilim campaign. Seven hour sessions no more.
I´m very happy with the amount of engagement with the material I get from the players, so that´s not a problem. It will probably be possible to make the story a bit more personal in the next two sessions, mostly due tot the fact that I have both:
- Hooks built into some of the player characters, which I can use to engage them into the main plot. I got these from plumbing them for information before each session.
- Things that came about during the session which provide me with material. I will just say: skull necklace!
In fact, during the session and especially near the end, I had to make so many notes about possible background things which might enhance the story that I´m unsure if i can remember and use all of it.
Another thing that produced a little hiccup when writing the session was the fact that one of the players, Madred, had to skip the session and we had a new player, Agorn, which I had to introduce into the setting organically. I think both went rather well, and I´m already looking forward to the next session with five player characters.