Monday 31 December 2012

Junior Grognard's Christmas Dungeon

You might not be aware of this, but it is a tradition in the Grognard house that Junior Grognard runs a one-off session of his own on Boxing Day or as close as possible thereto. So it was this year; he had been working away on it for several days and was soon installed behind the DM’s screen with books, paperwork and dice – just like a real DM.

We (Mummy Grognard and I) rolled up two characters apiece – I got a cleric and a pretty good set of rolls for my second character (13/14/11/13/12/15) and decided this was a perfect F/Mu/Th, therefore half-elven and I plumped for a female character, partly because I’d played so few in years gone by and partly because JG had acquired a set of pre-painted WotC minis for Christmas and one of these was a cool sword-wielding female elf.  MG found herself with a M/U and a thief; we set the levels at 2nd, diced up spells and hit points and got going.

Our party entered the tavern and were enjoying our drinks when we were told by a man who had come rushing in that it was blowing a blizzard outside; it had just started after we came in. The barman (unjustly putting two and two together to make five, perhaps) told us that finding the reason for this was down to us. So, we finished our pints and set off to find out what was going on.  

We marched through the woods until we saw ahead a mound, the only thing around not covered by snow. I misheard JG and thought he said ‘man’ (possibly Dognard whining and howling in the living room might have made the word difficult to hear) and approached it; unfortunately, it started to spit bolts of fire at my half-elf and she was pretty soon down to minus hit points.

The rest of the party dragged her to safety, healed her and rather sensibly decided to avoid the mound if all it was going to do was attack us. A little while later, we came to a frozen lake. Suspecting that the ice was less than supportive, I declared that we would go around it, only to be told it was so big that we couldn’t do that. It turned out to be a frozen fjord rather than a lake, so we decided to try our luck on the ice. Luckily, we made some good rolls (the d20 of doom was on our side this time) and we managed to get across with no unpleasant consequences.

On the far side, a snowman stood, with a flask of warmth as a gift for us. This had six doses and each dose would enable the drinker to endure the wintry conditions for two hours. Each member of the party took a mouthful and we saved the remainder for later.

The blizzard showed no signs of stopping and we decided to camp in the woods. It was getting late but that was no deterrent for the gang of orcs that decided to pay us a visit. To make matters worse, when I asked which was the leader, so our M/U could cast Friends and try to influence him, it was revealed that the orcs were being led by an owlbear. Aieee!

My half-elf cast Spider Climb and shimmied up the nearest tree, unpacking an oil bomb and launching it at the owlbear. I thought an attack on the leader might deter the rest of the band from pressing home their assault. I hurled it, with a 19 and then chose the d30 to roll for damage. An 11 was not as good as I’d hoped for but better than might have been the case if I’d gone for standard damage.

Down on the ground, things were not going the party’s way; the cleric and the M/U were brought down and we were not making much of a dent on the opposition. Finally, after a dagger and bow attack from on high, the orcs withdrew, along with their owlbear leader and we licked our wounds, regained our strength and waited for morning (and Cure Lights).

Sunrise revealed the source of the blizzard – a huge mountain towards which we made our way. We had to cross plains of ice that had once been pastureland but any cattle that might have used them were probably now frozen beef.  Far off, we spotted a large figure by a spire of rock and set off to find out if he was friend or foe. It turned out to be the former – a frost giant with his feet stuck in ice. We used our weapons and torches to free him and in return he told us that we needed to find Father Christmas who would give us something to help us get up the mountain, which, apparently, could not be climbed by conventional methods.

Find him we did, camped nearby with his reindeer. He had a golden crossbow with a silver bolt loaded in it, which we were advised to fire at the top of the mountain.

Before this, we had another obstacle to get around; a gang of monsters with white spiky fingers and noses. They were ice orcs and it was their job to stop us getting up the mountain. They were led by a larger creature who announced that he was Jack Frost. This cut little ice with us (hehe) and we piled into combat, shattering two of the ice orcs and discomfiting the others sufficiently that they retreated, uttering the standard threats of unspecified revenge.

We were now clear to fire the golden crossbow at the mountain. When we did this, the rope attached formed a cable up which we all climbed (having to make a STR roll to avoid losing our grip and falling – although the damage was minimal as my half-elf found out – a bit of a damage magnet, this one).

At the top of the mountain, we found Luck, the blizzard hound. The snow and icy wind was coming from his gaping jaws. He was howling because he had lost his coin in the ice maze. We calmed him and promised that we would find his coin.

We set off for the ice maze;  at its entrance, we found two large statues – they appeared to be frozen creatures who we promised to try and help if we could. Inside the maze, we came across the figures of long-dead adventurers sealed inside the icy walls; a chilling reminder of the danger that the maze presented. We were soon confronted by a choice of passages. I turned left, but found a dead end. Right took us to  a room where there was a magic sword hidden behind a stone wall. The central passage led to a t-junction – we took the right-hand passage first and found ourselves in a room where a set of stepping stones led across a pool of icy blue liquid to a pedestal. The thief managed to get across with some good DEX rolls and found that the pedestal contained a glowing coin. Yay, we thought – first time lucky.

Of course, it was nowhere near that simple – as the thief grasped the coin, it crumbled to dust in his hand. A decoy chamber to throw us off the scent. The thief retraced his steps to safety and we chose the left-hand passage which led us to another  chamber. This time, we were fairly confident that the coin was the real deal but the thief managed to trigger a trap that did not harm him but caused a number of spikes to come out of the walls where the rest of the party was standing. We dodged out of the way, which was not hard since they didn’t move at Raiders of the Lost Ark speed but the thief was now stuck inside the room.

Fortunately, it was not long till the spikes retracted and the thief was able to escape with the coin. We left the ice maze, finding that the frozen figures at the entrance were now freed from their icy confinement. We climbed back up to where Luck the Blizzard Dog was waiting. We handed over the coin and in gratitude, he teleported us back to the tavern where we had started the adventure. Waiting for us were individual presents that were in fact wishes which we could use for anything we wanted.

It's a welcome change to be on the other side of the DM's screen and reminds me that I haven't played in many a year. Hopefully, someday one or more of my players will get a game of their own going and I might be able to run characters again. Until then, it's Team Adventure 2013 coming soon. 

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Christmas Greetings to All

Hope you get many of these

not merely over Christmas but in the year to come. I'd like to thank everybody who follows this blog, everyone who drops in to look at the succubus picture (more popular than hot elf chicks or wild boars) and your nearest and dearest. I hope you've all been good this year because if you haven't....

Wednesday 19 December 2012

What my players get up to....

...when they're supposed to be concentrating on the game

although in this case, I didn't really mind that much  ;)

(art courtesy of Gullhar's player)

Sunday 16 December 2012

Team Adventure - Christmas Special 2012

Following their battle with the ettins, the party settled down for the night. They were tired and the fire was warm. The gentle breeze in the trees made an eerie, lulling sound that seemed to resemble a gentle, soporific lullaby. In fact, this was a bit too close to the truth, as the party fell asleep having left nobody on guard.

Some considerable time later, Alagon was woken by the insistent chirruping and shaking of Relic, and when the party roused itself they found that one of their members was missing. Whilst they had been sleeping, somebody – or something – had abducted Elysia.

Very soon, the entire party was readied for action. They sent Relic on ahead to try and find her but to no avail; she seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth!

However, Benbo quickly identified a trail that led away from the campsite further into the forest and the party followed it, soon noticing some interesting features about it – firstly that the prints were not human but hoofs and that secondly, the hoofs were smaller than horse-sized. Putting two and two together, both Benbo and Alurax concluded that the suspected abductors were likely to be fauns, otherwise known as satyrs.

The trail ended at a mysterious structure in the forest, made up of two upright staves and a crossbeam; it seemed to form a doorframe, although there was no door to go with it. Showing an eagerness to find out what had become of Elysia, Benbo stepped through it and promptly vanished from sight.  Alagon went through to find out what had become of the hobbit and he too vanished.

This caused consternation amongst the remainder of the party but they concluded that it was best to try and follow them in case they needed help; the memory of the tragic fate that had befallen Galadeus was clearly strong in their minds. Ferros was next through and that left Alurax and Gullhar. The elf had a rope tied round his waist and Alurax held its other end. Then Gullhar stepped through the gateway; to Alurax’s alarm, the rope went suddenly slack.

On the far side of the gate, the various party members had found themselves in a wintry landscape, wide acres of snow and before them, a strange object – a tall pole of iron with a lantern at its top. Dangling from the crossbar were several little bags that Benbo could not, unfortunately reach, but Alagon was able to pluck them down and found that they were full of oats and dried fruit. He stowed these about his person and they looked about to see what this new place was like.

Whilst they were exploring, the other members of the party arrived, one by one. Eventually even Alurax turned up, unwilling to remain on the other side of the gate alone. However, they found that the gate had disappeared when Alurax passed through; there seemed to be no way back.

Ahead, across the snow, the party could see three distant gates, similar to those that they had already passed through. They decided to explore each in turn. The left-hand gate led them into a realm of deep snow, where Benbo sank nearly out of sight. Alagon had to carry the hobbit until they reached another gate that took them out of the drifts and into easier going. In the distance, they could see a strange object, made of what looked like metal, but they decided to check out the other gate from the snowdrifts.

That led them into a more forested area where they soon heard the jingling of bells and the sound of hoofbeats. Expecting someone different, they were surprised when a mysterious, fur-clad woman in a sleigh pulled up. She got out a box and tried to tempt members of the party with something called Turkish Delight. Strangely enough, nobody in the party wanted to try this new-found substance and instead fired several arrows and crossbow bolts at her. Wounded and outraged, the woman beat a hasty retreat into the trees.

The party decided to return to investigate the mysterious object that they had already seen and found it to be some sort of machine, made of iron and brass. There was a little hatch in it and a pile of coal that sat by its side. Alurax decided to start piling the coal into the machine and get a fire going. Soon, the machine was starting to hum and judder and then, with a whoosh of steam, it produced a little jar of what appeared to be a dark red sweet confection. A couple of minutes later, another jar appeared, then another.

 (all illustrations by Junior Grognard)

The party stocked up on what was now revealed to be cranberry sauce. Not too far away from the sauce-making machine, they noticed a parcel in the snow which Alurax went over and examined. It was wrapped in colourful paper and ribbon. When he opened it, out fell a small figurine of a bear. He picked it up and noticed that it was growing warm; hastily putting it down, he stepped back and watched as it grew to the size of an adult polar bear, which bowed to the trident-wielder before following the party as they headed off towards one of the distant gateways.  The party named him Larsh.

Beyond that gate, the party noticed some figures approaching them through the snow; the figures were human-shaped but not human and they seemed oddly two-dimensional, or at the very least, rather thin. They were an orange-brown in colour and as they got closer, it could be seen that they were attempting to surround the party and herd them towards a nearby building whence came the strong smell of baking.

The menacing gingerbread men, for such they were, rubbed their ginger hands together and pressed closer to the party. Alurax concluded correctly that they were trying to turn the party into gingerbread men as well. At this point, Benbo snapped and started to attack their opponents, followed by Ferros, with Alurax and the polar bear weighing in. Ginger legs and ginger arms went flying in all directions and the gingerbread man that went up against the bear was reduced to crumbs in short order.

The party managed to break through the encircling foes and made a dash for safety. Ferros stumbled across another parcel and once they had put sufficient distance between themselves and the gingerbread men, who looked to be falling back on their lair, the cleric opened the parcel to find that it contained a tiny glass snow dome. Having never seen one of these before, he had a lot of fun shaking it vigorously and watching the resulting blizzard.

Passing through the nearest gate, the party found themselves on the shores of a frozen river. On the ice in the middle of the river, another parcel sat. Benbo was keen to get hold of it but correctly deduced that the ice was likely to crack if too much load was placed on it. He therefore stripped down to his underwear and crawled out onto the ice, reaching the parcel and pulling it slowly back to the shore.

Once the blue, shivering hobbit had been wrapped up and warmed again (albeit with the legacy of a stinking cold) he opened the parcel to see what was inside. A huge flurry of snow and ice sprang up, enveloping the party and when it subsided, they saw with a groan that they had arrived back at the lamp-post where they had started.

However, all was not lost as, coming towards them in the snow, was Elysia. She and Relic had a happy reunion and she told how she had been charmed and kidnapped by the satyrs who lurked in the woods where they had been camped. She thought that their leader might have fallen for her and wanted her to become a female satyr; however, she managed to escape during a snow storm and found her way back to the lamp-post where she had hoped the party would catch up to her.  So it had transpired.

Near the lamp-post, another parcel was spotted. Gullhar took it upon himself to open it and inside, found a long string of brightly glowing lights, whose illumination had no obvious source; clearly they had to be magic and they were secreted in the party’s belongings – Elysia had visions of using them to decorate the Moat House.

There was one other gate that they had not explored so far and as they passed through it, they found themselves in a confusing mass of tangled holly bushes. At once, they began to search for a path and eventually managed to find one. At the centre of the holly thicket, Alagon found another parcel and, on opening it, discovered that he had acquired another set of the mystical glowing lights. It would certainly be bright at the Moat House this coming winter.

Through the next gate, the party found that the terrain had become more open and that, a fair distance off, stood a large beast with proud antlers, a harness, bells and reins. The party approached it cautiously and then remembered the small bags of oats and fruit that they had found on the lamp-post. Using one of these, they tempted the reindeer. Ferros used his Speak with Animals ability but the strange influence of the wintry world in which they found themselves meant that his voice became deep and booming and his speech was frequently punctuated by outbursts of “Ho ho ho”. Nevertheless, the party managed to win its confidence and it told them that its name was Prancer and his home lay north of where they now stood. After opening the parcel that was to be found in this area and finding that within was a third set of the magical lights, they set off again.

Having passed into the next area, they were met by the sound of strange singing and the sight of a line of figures dancing a very odd dance. As they got closer, they saw to their amazement that they had come across a party of very drunk goblins dancing the conga. The party was invited to join in and Ferros, Benbo, Alurax and Alagon did so. Unfortunately, only Ferros and Benbo were left standing by the time the goblins got bored and wandered off, but not before having rewarded the duo with a flagon of goblin beer and a goblin goody-bag each.  The goblins left behind a parcel which, when opened, revealed a second polar bear figure. The party clearly had little to fear with their impressive and furry escort whom they named Micha.

The next gateway led them to another reindeer by the name of Dancer, which they swiftly befriended with another bag of food.

Alurax elected to open the accompanying parcel and found to his horror that he was trapped inside a cage of icicles. He could not smash his way out in case they came crashing down on his head. Elysia had the bright idea of casting Affect Normal Fires on his torch, causing it to blaze up and he used it as a blowtorch to cut through the ice before it finally sputtered out and failed. Alurax clambered through the hole that he had cut but unfortunately, he caught his foot on the icicles as he made his way out and brought the cage down on him, one of the barbs of ice slashing his leg as he rolled clear.

The party pressed on north, or so they hoped. An interesting development occurred when Elysia cast a Fly spell to reach the parcel in the next region, only to find that she turned into a Christmas Fairy, complete with wings, sequinned dress and tiara for the duration of the spell. The reindeer that they found here - Vixen - looked on with some curiosity as the box was opened to reveal a selection of crackers. Only Alurax and Gullhar saw fit to pull one between them; inside was a small metal object which, when pressed, shone a small beam of light. Gullhar, who had won the cracker pulling, seemed delighted with his new-found toy and secreted it about his person.

The next area the party entered was dominated by a large sculpture made of ice. As Alurax approached it to investigate, it started to bubble and gurgle, and from the top of it came a river of warm, liquid chocolate. The party was delighted and Alurax stuck his head under the fountain to drink it. As he did so, the wound on his leg healed up magically. Gullhar borrowed two empty potion bottles from Ferros to fill with the mystical brown elixir. Benbo tried to drink as well but as he was not injured, the draught had no effect.

Feeling greedy, Alurax drank again and unfortunately he and all his possessions turned to chocolate. He was still mobile and sentient however.  Behind the fountain, they found another parcel and sure enough inside was another polar bear figurine. They now had three of the great white creatures – Larsh, Micha and Greta. 

As they passed through the gateway into the next area, they found that one of the portals they could see was guarded by a large, tree-like figure, crowned with holly. This guardian required that they sang a Christmas song in order to try and persuade it to let them pass. The first attempt did not move the holly guardian but the second was done with enough aplomb that it moved aside and allowed them entry.

Beyond the gate, they found that there was a chimney sticking out of the ground. On further investigation, they discovered a parcel sitting behind it and when it was opened, they found it contained a bag of rock salt  ideal for traversing stretches of ice and snow. Elysia, Benbo, Alagon, Ferros, Gullhar and finally Chocolate Alurax went down the chimney and found at the bottom a little workshop and an old man in a green robe, drinking a cup of hot chocolate.

The old man explained that he was a cleric of unimaginably high power who had found the world a crowded and threatening place and now sought some peace and quiet in which to meditate and contemplate the finer things in life. Notwithstanding this, he was grateful for the return of three of his reindeer.  He allowed the party to say goodbye to their polar bear friends before the bears returned to figurine status and then asked what the party members would like as their Christmas wishes, with the proviso that said wishes should be within his power to grant.

Alurax asked for a hawk as a familiar, Alagon a white wolf. Benbo wanted a phoenix and Ferros a pseudo-dragon like Relic. Gullhar, who had clearly been taken with Larsh, Micha and Greta asked for a polar bear familiar, whilst Elysia asked if it were possible to return Galadeus to life as she had kept his hand (the sole salvage from the shark attack) and hoped that the cleric would be powerful enough to resurrect the ranger. He gestured to a large wrapped parcel in the corner of his workshop which, when unwrapped, contained the body of their departed comrade. It had one wrist ending in a stump and when Elysia joined the hand to it, the two merged and a soft glow enveloped the whole body, which then started breathing.

As they all gathered round to welcome Galadeus back to the land of the living, Elysia slid the ring of Mammal Control back onto Galadeus' finger and whispered "This is yours, old friend." Nobody noticed that the workshop and the old man gradually faded away to be replaced by the woodland where they had been camping. Had it all been a dream?  Demonstrably not!

DG note – a light-hearted Christmas session on which to end the year. Regular readers will recall that last year, we had an ordinary session at the last meeting before Christmas and this time, I wanted something a little wacky, goofy, often laugh out loud, which I think we managed to achieve. Now I have to go away and think of how I can create familiars that satisfy the desires of the party without unbalancing the game entirely.

In the year since the last Christmas session, we’ve seen a lot going on. Every member of the party has worked well to make the campaign an enjoyable experience. Alagon’s player joined us for that session and he’s fitted in seamlessly with the party (decapitating an ogre a couple of weeks later), as has Benbo/Galadeus’ player, whose determination, eagerness and excitement about play is a credit to him and an example to we grognards of the way we were – and still should be.

Next year will see the party occupying that sweet spot between the lower and higher levels; strong enough to avoid a TPK every session but not so strong that they can waltz through dungeons with nary a fear in the world. I will be bringing in more pre-pubs as well so the type of encounters and adventures that they will be facing are going to change, as may the treasure they garner. Threats and dangers will become more serious but the rewards will be commensurately richer too.  Who knows?  We may find our gallant band bearding Lolth in her own den this time next year.

Monday 10 December 2012

An Adventure for Every Monster - Demon, Type I

Frequency    Common
No. appearing  1-3 or 1-6
Armour class 0
Move  12”/18”
Hit Dice 8
Percentage in lair 5%   
Treasure type B
No. of attacks 5
Damage per attack 1-4/1-4/1-8/1-8/1-6    
Special attack See below
Special defences  See below
Magic Resistance 50%
Intelligence  Low
Alignment Chaotic Evil
Size  L (8 ½ feet tall)
THAC0  12
XP value 1275 + 10/hp

They may be struck by normal missiles and weapons.

Detect invisible objects
Telekinese 2000gp weight
Gate in another Type I demon (10% chance of success)
Darkness 5’ radius

The party has been hired to hunt down and eliminate a band of brigands who have been causing trouble in a remote part of the realm. A good bounty is given for each brigand but a particularly large amount has been offered for the head of the leader.

At a certain point in the hunt, the party will encounter the brigands but there is a twist. The brigands are in no way interested in fighting the party and – provided there is a chance to communicate – they will explain why.

A few weeks ago, their leader, who is both a tough fighter and a fair to middling magic user found a battered codex in a raid on archives of an ancient monastery. As he and his band had killed all the monks and taken their stuff, there was nobody around to interpret it for him but he persevered and managed to decipher it. The codex gave him the ability to summon demonic forces and, using a couple of the less successful brigands as sacrifices, called up two Type I demons. The demons were tempted by the prospect of gold and flesh and proved very effective at raiding, looting and slaughtering. Many of the crimes for which the brigands are being hunted were actually carried out by the demons, under the control of their new master. The brigands eventually left their former leader in high dudgeon, having been effectively made redundant as the leader outsourced their duties.

The brigands have a proposition for the party; kill the demons and their master and the remaining gang members will relocate to pastures new. The brigands will also guide the party to their hideout although they cannot guarantee that their leader has not made some improvements to security over the intervening weeks.

There are several options for the true situation in this adventure

1. All is as represented. The brigands are genuine in their desire to see the demons and their former leader killed, although they will want a share of the loot which they regard as theirs. There is a possibility that the brigand gang has been infiltrated by members of the military or the local law enforcement and if this is the case, the arrival of soldiers at an inopportune moment is likely.

2. The brigands are lying through their teeth; they are working in cahoots with their leader and have been sent out to find new human sacrifices for the demons to consume. The party will do nicely.

3. The brigands are telling the truth as far as they know it but whilst they have been absent from the lair, the demons have grown bored of working for their master and he has now become their latest meal. The demons are now a more chaotic opposition but have not grown sufficiently tired of raiding and pillaging. They have tried several times to bring more of their kind to the lair but so far with no success. The DM should attempt a summoning roll once per day until the party reaches the lair; this may well increase the number of demons present.

4. The leader is fully aware of the activities of the brigands and is growing tired of the threat that they pose to his operations. He has improved security no end and made several alterations that will turn what the brigands thought were safe areas into death traps. Hiding behind this security, he will send the demons to kill the brigands first, then have them hunt down the party. Without brigand aid, the party may well become lost in the network of caves and tunnels that make up the lair.

The treasure garnered by the brigands in their raids and pillaging is as follows

CP 1738
SP 864
EP 721
GP 464
PP 697

As well as the coinage, there is a sizeable hoard of gems and jewellery but this will be securely hidden and trapped.

Star ruby, worth 1000gp
Eye Agate, worth 10gp
Chalcedony, worth 50gp
Amber, worth 100gp
Topaz, worth 500gp
Ruby, worth 1000gp
Onyx, worth 50gp
Garnet, worth 500gp
Jade, worth 500gp
Chrysoprase, worth 50gp
Tiger Eye, worth 10gp
Zircon, worth 50gp
Oriental Amethyst, worth 1000gp

900gp clasp
5000gp medal
500gp pin
1200gp statuette
1000gp sceptre
800gp armband
400gp buckle
6000gp chain
Magic 1 item – Boots of Levitation

Sunday 2 December 2012

Team Adventure - A Spiky Encounter

When the party woke the day after the night’s events, there was still a faint smoky haze on the air. The evidence of their blisteringly successful attack on the ogres lay all around them and they lost no time in breaking camp and setting off again. They were now entering a stretch of sylvan woodland and the raw power of nature unrestrained was evident to all. That afternoon, they had the sound of howling wolves from the woods around them but the creatures seemed reluctant to approach during daylight. That night, as the party was trying to select a good spot to camp, the sound of rustling in the undergrowth and growling met their ears. Elysia sent Relic out into the darkness to find out what it was; the pseudo-dragon came back to report that five brown bears were out prowling for food. Wisely, the party decided to relocate and tramped through the woods until the noise of the bears was far distant.

The next day, they were riding on when Alurax and Alagon, glancing into the sky for distraction from the endless procession of trees and undergrowth, spotted three creatures flying towards them. Curious as to what they were, they used the keen sight of Gullhar to get more details about them. He reported that they had the bodies of lions, the wings of bats and the heads of men. They also had long tails tipped with something that looked like the heads of teasels.

Thinking that the newcomers were sphinxes, Elysia flew Ferros up into the air above the trees to speak to them. As the creatures approached, they began to circle. Ferros prepared to open hailing frequencies but a moment later was riddled with vicious iron spikes and was brought back down very quickly indeed. The manticores, for such were they, moved in to take on the rest of the party. One was brought down before it had a chance to land, and the other two moved in, one taking some heavy damage. Elysia put up her Shield and the party bunched behind her to make use of it. Benbo and Alurax faced forward with her, whilst Alagon, Gullhar and the very injured Ferros kept to the rear; wisely, as it turned out for the second manticore rose up again to fly over the Shield and attack from the rear. The paladin, the elf and the cleric concentrated their efforts on this one whilst Elysia, Benbo and Alurax kept the manticore on the other side of the Shield busy.
One of Alurax’s attacks went awry as he moved in with his trident; he mishandled the shaft of the weapon and ended up sinking its points into the ground. He was able to extract it but delayed his participation in the attack.
Despite some damage suffered by several of the party, they finally managed to kill the two remaining attackers and felt quite pleased about it. The manticores had not even used their claw and bite attacks, restricting themselves to the use of their tail spikes but nevertheless, had proved themselves fearsome opponents. Benbo and Alagon decided to cut open the stomachs of the manticores to see if there was any treasure inside but were unsuccessful and a bout of nausea and vomiting ensued as they saw the results of their gruesome task.

For much of the rest of the day, there was little to trouble the party, save the howling of wolves and the renewed presence of brown bears, although it was not clear whether it was the same group or another one. The lack of either ranger or druidic capability in the party was starting to tell although no hostile moves were made by the wildlife that day.

The next day, the party had not been on the march long before they spotted a rocky outcrop not too far away, topped with trees. By what looked like a cave entrance, there lounged a manticore and another launched itself periodically into the air.  This was clearly the lair of the trio that had attacked the previous day and the party decided to investigate, Benbo leading the way with his thiefly skills. Unfortunately, he was able to move neither quietly nor covertly and the airborne manticore was soon heading his way to attack. Alagon, Gullhar and Ferros moved in to support the doughty hobbit and using missile fire, managed to bring down the manticore before it could unleash its deadly weapon.

This time, Benbo’s attempts to sneak up on the cave bore more fruit and whilst he was leading the party forward, Elysia and Alurax flew to the top of the outcrop to try and take the manticore by surprise. The party’s combined efforts succeeded, with Alurax making the leap onto the manticore’s back to finish it off with a stab of his trident.

Within the cave, amidst the bones that had been gnawed as part of the manticores’ feasting, the party found some valuable treasure, including scrolls, a magical cross-bow and an enchanted war hammer. These went into the party’s communal weaponry, to be used by all members as need dictated.

The fourth day in the sylvan forests started with what appeared, at first sight to be a simple combat. Alurax, at the front of the party was nearly taken by surprise as a huge, two-headed giant appeared in front of him. The ettin engaged the trident-wielding fighter in combat and the rest of the party moved forward to engage, only for Ferros and Benbo to fall under attack from a second ettin that launched a flanking movement, followed up moments later by a third, attacking from the rear. The final zombie, who had been traipsing through the wilderness with the party was smashed by two huge club hits and disintegrated into a cloud of rotting flesh.

I don't know why it's purple either but it's a nice mini.
Alagon, Gullhar and Ferros used their missile weapons whilst Benbo leapt into action with sword and dagger. Alurax kept his ettin busy with the trident whilst Elysia used magic missiles to whittle down the third. Soon, one ettin was down and the party concentrated their efforts on the remainder, killing one quickly – Alagon scored a decapitating hit on one but the second head meant that this did not automatically kill it. The ettins were having a very bad time of it, missing several easy targets with their clubs and doing a fraction of the damage of which they were capable. The party finally overwhelmed the last ettin with weight of numbers and finished it off.

The party deduced from the direction of the attack that the ettins must have come from the south and Benbo started to hunt around to see if he could find any sign of the trail that they would have left. It was not long before he picked something up and led the party through the undergrowth, keeping the trail in his sights until it led to a rickety old lean-to, built against a thick oak. The smell from inside was appalling, with rotting flesh, gnawed bones and unwashed ettin high on the list of nauseating aromas. Nevertheless, a good rummage in the ettins’ den revealed more treasure; this was in the form of a smattering of copper, silver and electrum and a tourmaline but beneath a pile of rotting furs, the party found a sack that held nearly five thousand gold pieces, a potion and a scroll.

Their sojourn in the sylvan forest had netted them a large haul of treasure and experience but they were not out of the woods yet.