After several hours of rest, Breagan, Gath, and Khai were once more rounded up by Sergeant Dural. The morning had come, and Captain Lanyard was gathering the Gilded Lions together in the Iron Citadel’s courtyard to discuss their next move. The Captain explained that the Lions would be making a break for Ulmar Canyon to the south, with several knights holding off the enemy while the main body escaped across a bridge to the Road of Steel Flowers. The party was joined by a dwarven war cleric named Ovan, and they were assigned the task of setting up demolitions on the bridge to cut off enemy pursuit once the retreat was achieved. Breagan was given four blastglobes and told the structure points he should place them at to make sure the bridge collapsed.
Lanyard drew his flaming longsword, Redtooth, and led the knights in a charge out of a hole blown in the citadel wall. Sergeant Dural led the infantry forces out after the knights, taking them in a long line across the bridge. The heroes positioned themselves on the bridge after this crossing was complete, then began trying to set the blastglobes up quickly. As they tried to accomplish this, several Crimson soldiers broke through the knights’ defenses and charged at the party. Distracted by the attacks, the heroes found it difficult to get the demolitions in place, and many knights under Captain Lanyard fell fighting a delaying action. As the surviving knights rode across the bridge, the Crimson forces began to turn to pursue them. Captain Lanyard was struck down by two crossbow bolts, but Gath recovered his body before the heroes themselves retreated and then set off the blastglobes, destroying the bridge. As they reached a blasted forest south of the city, they realized that Lanyard had died, despite Ovan’s attentions, having been struck by an enemy arrow while Gath carried him.
Entering Ulmar Canyon, the heroes found it to be a fatiguing, hot, and circuitous journey. They found a cave and made a cairn to lay Captain Lanyard’s remains in, with Gath claiming Redtooth as a replacement for weapons lost in the earlier battle. As they explored the canyon in search of the way to the Carrion Stairs, they saw that the Crimson was now hunting the place for any remnant of Aurum’s forces. While they evaded some of these patrols, one band of hobgoblins found and attacked them. After defeating these troops, they continued their search for a way out of the ravines. Along the way, they found and healed an injured horse amidst the wreck of a wagon and three Aurum soldiers’ dead bodies. They took the horse with them, though they did not give him a name. Eventually they came to a river and encountered a harmless kobold fishing on the bank. He gave them some information on the current situation and where the Carrion Stairs were located. Continuing on, they found the stairwell and ascended it to the Glimmering Forest, beneath the shadow of the Shimmering Heights.
They soon found the cathedral ruins which had been the pre-arranged meeting place for the Gilded Lions. As they approached the once proud edifice, they saw a green flash of light within the ruins and several refugees fleeing from it in terror. Quickly advancing on the ruin, they found themselves face-to-face with three Evistro demons. Sergeant Dural was inside, fighting one demon, and they also saw that the dragonborn soldier Karsh was lying unconscious nearby. As they engaged the demons, Dural was flung against a pillar and was himself knocked unconscious. The carnage demons tore into Gath, Ovan, and Breagan, taking numerous wounds before they succumbed. Ovan was nearly killed, but was saved in the nick of time by a potion of healing. Dural managed to hold off one demon after he regained consciousness, only to be incapacitated yet again. After a long and difficult battle, the heroes were able to slay the last of the raging monsters and tend to the fallen.
Once Dural and several other soldiers were revived, the heroes learned that the refugees had come from the ruin that had once been the port city of Kenting. They had come briefly under the protection of the hundred or so Gilded Lions who had come to the rendezvous point when the demons suddenly appeared in their midst in a flash of emerald light. The heroes were introduced to Henneth, the elven mayor of Kenting, who was now leader of the hundred refugees who had escaped the city’s destruction. She gifted Breagan with a battleaxe that had belong to one of her now deceased bodyguards, a weapon called the Wrath of Bahamut. Discussing their next move with Sergeant Dural, who they also informed of Captain Lanyard’s death, they learned that Dural still planned to make for the ancient stronghold known as the Stalwart Hall. While it had been abandoned 150 years ago, the Stalwart had never been found by Aurum’s enemies, and Dural believed it would provide shelter from the Crimson forces in the region and the demons which had invaded the world. Dural said that the Lions would go to the Stalwart and plan their next move from there. The party then met Old Thorn, a tracker who was with the refugees, and who reluctantly agreed to let Khai assist him in leading the refugees and surviving Lions toward the Shimmering Heights…
The party earned 512 XP each (I’ve decided to award you for completing the canyon Skill Challenge since it was kind of screwy rules-wise). Gath got a flaming longsword +1 (Redtooth, which cut the claw from the white dragon Verax) and Breagon got a terror battleaxe +1 (The Wrath of Bahamut, once an Aurum weapon before that country fell out of favor with Bahamut centuries ago). The party also got 300 gold pieces as their share of the Gilded Lion’s remaining coffers.
Another fun session, though it took longer than I had anticipated to finish the adventure. It was only 3 encounters (the bridge, the canyon, and the ruins) and it took us around 4 hours. I had hoped to get you to 2nd Level and then do the first encounter or two of the second adventure, but there simply wasn’t time for it.
The dice seemed to be against you in both Skill Challenges, and as I’ve noted the canyon-based one was pretty unbalanced. Technically, you should have had to retry the challenge in order to get out of the canyon, with each failure resulting in a “wandering monster” encounter, but I sort of forgot it accidentally on purpose. That combined Endurance challenge was just too steep. With the bridge challenge, you probably should have just given the explosives to one character (Khai, probably) and let them focus on doing it while the rest of you held off the minions. Still, neither failure was a game breaker, and I don’t mind seeing the heroes struggle, personally. Its all the more heroic when they finally overcome adversity, I think.
The battle with the demons went more or less like I expected, to be honest; three at one time would have been too many, but two at once was okay. Again, people had bad luck with Daily Powers, but those didn’t prove all that critical in the final equation. Having two Leaders helped a great deal, as Gath would have fallen like Ovan at least once without healing. It occurs to me that we’ve had a lot of fights with close-combat opponents, but few with enemies who use ranged attacks. I’ll probably remedy this in the next adventure.
One thing I think we should guard against is getting so immersed in the tactical, wargamey aspects of the system that we let the story and character bits fall by the wayside. I don’t think that really happened in the second session, but I think its a real danger. I think the combat is so involved and entertaining that it could end overshadowing the things I prefer to focus on. Most of the responsibility for this lies with me, but you should also be careful about worrying so much about damage-per-round or hit ratios that you forget who your character is as a person, what motivates them, and what’s happening in the story.