KOTS Part 2: The Ancient Burial Site.
The Hard Core Adventurers Level 1
The adventurers find the burial site with ease, and in good time- they don't think to mask their approach, which leaves them a little surprised when they encounter not Douvern Staul but a jolly gnome and a bunch of human workers; the group seem to be set on excavating the site.
“Where's...” Jimmy begins, which causes the gnome to look up, the four workers likewise cease their shovelling, and take the opportunity to lean on their spades and rest up a while.
“Agrid.” The gnome states, clearly referring to himself, he waves- “can I help you folk?” Agrid grins.
Hedda takes a moment; the area before them is quite clearly the excavation site the drunk spoke of. The minotaur priestess has never seen an excavation site in truth, but it’s exactly as she imagined. Steep banks lead ten to fifteen feet down in to a depression, in the centre of which is a low wooden-fenced area- clearly the area that is being excavated, and indeed investigated. Low level vegetation dots the hollow, and circles the sides of the decline- Hedda is fairly certain there's no-one else present, most odd- she thinks.
“Where's Douvern?” Sigur breaks the silence, less of a question, more of a demand to know.
“What's a Douvern?” Agrid the gnome asks, grins a little and squints into the low sun behind the adventurers.
“Our friend Douvern Staul was investigating this place- he went back to Winterhaven ten days past for more supplies, then returned here.” Hedda takes the reins.
“Are you sure?” Agrid asks by way of reply.
“Are we sure of what?” Hedda sighs, fearing the conversation is wilfully being steered off course.
“Are you sure this Douvern fellow came back here, or indeed was ever here- we've not seen him.” Agrid replies, the workers shake their heads echoing the gnome’s point, while continuing to lean on their spades.
“Where else could he have gone?” Sigur snarls.
“Where indeed?” Comes the gnome's reply, the small humanoid shrugs.
The silence stretches, a bird calls in the breeze and receives its reply. Hedda shivers, thinks for a moment, and then presses on.
“What're you looking for?” She asks.
The gnome squints again in the sun, cocks his head at a slight angle, “that's our business.” He states, before adding the epithet, “friend”, almost as an afterthought.
“We're coming down to take a look...”, and before Agrid can respond the five adventurers make the bottom of the slope in a rush, save for Sigur who ingloriously slides and stumbles down, much of the way on his backside.
“No closer now, this is private”, Agrid attempts to wave Hedda and the others back, although the minotaur priestess notes the gnome is doing little to close the distance, he's staying back. The workers on the other hand seem to be shifting their weight- taking up combat stances, albeit they're armed at present with shovels.
“What're the clubs for?” Jimmy asks, indicating the wooden cudgels hanging from the workers’ belts.
“Wild animals.” Agrid offers, realising that the game is almost played out.
Suddenly a burst of inky blackness soundlessly explodes in the centre of the fenced-off section. The black hissing mist is whipped away by the breeze, to reveal the shadowy outline of a wild-haired, robed figure; a human.
“Fools!” The shadowy apparition exclaims, and then turning to Agrid bellows in a rasping voice- “destroy them!”
“Yes, master.” Agrid mutters, and then screams, “Attack!”
Before any of the adventurers can act, a shadowy monstrous clawed-hand suddenly materialises before Gokan, lashes forward aiming to rip out the half-orc's throat- Gokan dodges back just in the nick of time, the shadowy appendage as suddenly fades away.
Only Jimmy has the reflexes to react, the halfling takes a step backwards and in the same motion spins out one of his many daggers- the short blade THUNKS in to the chest of the closest member of the human rabble; the man goes down clutching at the halfling's dagger buried in his heart.
Minion Level 2
“One.” Jimmy plainly states.
The odds are evened.
The adventurers leap in to action, Gokan moves quickly towards the spectral apparition; however the half-orc's path is expertly blocked. The fallen human worker stirs and rises, in the process the flesh around the wound inflicted by Jimmy's dagger visibly rots and falls away.
Gokan can see all the way through the hole in the worker's abdomen. Beyond, the apparition floats backwards a few steps, all the while gesturing and shaping with its spectral hands- the rotten zombie is under its control it seems. The shambling undead lashes out, but the half-orc is too quick for the creature's lumbering attack.
Lurker Level 4
Gokan dodges right, trying still to find a route through to the spectral figure; at the same moment bursting from a stand of bushes close by comes a strutting lizard, a guardian drake- as tall as Jimmy. The scaly beast rushes forward, hurls itself the last few feet- straight at Gokan. It snaps its jaws shut around the half-orc's right forearm, and tugs. Gokan instinctively pulls back and rips his now lacerated arm free from the beast's bite- he feels faint, he's already lost a lot of blood and the battle has barely begun.
Brute Level 2
His instincts take over, a moment later Gokan is whirling in to action, his twin blades describe a furious arc as his battleaxe smashes in to the side of the drake's reptilian skull, sending it momentarily spinning, while his hand axe crunches in to the rotten zombie's face. He levers his off-hand blade free as the undead creature folds and falls- Gokan howls, head back, he screams and then launches himself forward intent on repeating the trick.
Both blades come again, both connect with the drake this time- the battleaxe crushing the creature's short forelimbs, the hand axe rips through the beast's scaly side plunging in to its internal organs. The drake staggers makes pathetic yawping sounds and dances like a tottering drunk in a forlorn effort to stay on its feet.Gokan’s attack- Whirling Rend (Crit for 15 damage) with added Furious Assault, followed by an Action Point and a Howling Strike manages to reduce the Guard Drake from 48 hit points to one- not bad for first level.
Jimmy sidles closer, finishes the beast with an expertly thrown dagger, “That's two to me!” The halfling grins at the dumbstruck Gokan.
One of the human rabble breaks ranks- rushes full speed screaming at Sigur and brings its club down hard on the dwarven invoker's shoulder. Sigur barely flinches, the dwarf's armour however instantly flares with a metallic bluish light which coalesces to a point, and then bursts and engulfs the club-wielding human. The man staggers backwards, his limbs seemingly not his to control, the human falls- twitches a while, and then lies still.
“Next.” Sigur declares, and invokes- a trio of ghostly glowing hands shimmer in to life and race forward to their targets, they twist and turn through the melee. One of the club-wielding workers is momentarily gripped by one of the ghostly appendages, another ducks at the last moment and scurries clear. The human gripped, falls lifeless to the dirty ground. The third ghostly appendage attempts to repeat the feat on the spectral human commander- the effect is disappointing; the shimmering apparition seems not to suffer any hurt.
Sigur spits and curses, invokes again- raging as he waves his fist and rod implement at the darkening clouds above- soon after come the thunderclaps- a pair of powerful bursts, but once more the effect is disappointing. Agrid and the apparition survive the blast with seemingly not a single hair out of place.
Gnome Skulk- Agrid
Lurker Level 2
From cover a second guardian drake emerges, stalks forward like some strutting peacock, and then launches itself at the dagger wielding Jimmy, the halfling staggers as the beast's teeth rake his shoulder but luckily fail to find purchase. Seconds later the halfling has to crouch and jump as Agrid's crossbow sings- the bolt THUCKS into the ground in exactly the spot he was standing a second ago. Jimmy lands expertly, and the drake comes again, it snaps and bites at him- the halfling gives ground.
The last of the human workers still standing sees his opportunity, shuffles closer and clubs Jimmy in the back- the halfling swears and curses for a second, then manoeuvres desperately in an attempt to keep both enemies at bay.
“A little help here- if you could!” Jimmy screams over the sounds of battle.
Hedda gestures and chants in Gokan's direction, “Bahamut preserve!” And in an instant almost all of the half-orc's wounds close over- Gokan grins his thanks.
Seconds later Jimmy is relieved when the uninjured guardian drake he is facing suddenly takes to cowering, attempting somehow to hide its eyes from... Jimmy glances over his shoulder- Hedda has her eyes locked on the beast, her holy symbol before her, muttering some unheard prayer. The drake looks confused, somehow hurt by the strange display, the halfling grins- help it seems has arrived.
A moment later Hedda dashes past Jimmy, quickly at full speed, head down she makes a raucous lowing sound as she thumps head-first, or rather horns-first, in to the remaining guardian drake. The beast is gored, it twists and turns as Hedda shakes it, and herself, free.
“Now that's what I call a Bull Rush!” Jimmy quips.
Hedda lows again, louder still, the halfling decides to save the witty banter for after the fight.
Hal finally lumbers forward, the warforged's greatsword dances in his hands, the metal man breaks in to a short trot, swings hard, and slices clean through the last of the human workers. Hal's momentum carries him forward, his greatsword finally coming to rest in the flank of the guardian drake. Hal swings again, the beast suffers only a glancing blow this time, but it’s almost enough. The guardian drake, like its partner, makes yawping sounds like some terrified beast, clearly not long for this world.
Agrid meantime dashes behind the low wooden fence surrounding the dig-site, doubles back on himself, and hides.
Suddenly Hal is gripped, a shadowy clawed hand appears from nowhere and begins to throttle the metal man. Hal is often described by the folk of Fallcrest as a 'big unit', and yet the warforged is lifted a good six inches into the air. He fights to free himself from the monstrous shadowy appendage's grab...Hal is Bloodied, and Grabbed, by the Spectral Apparition’s Shadow Claws attack, which hits for 16 Necrotic damage.
Gokan looks at Jimmy, nods towards the last mewling guardian drake, and then charges screaming at the spectral figure, which seems to fade out of existence at just the moment his twin blades are set to connect with it- the half-orc stumbles, staggers on, trips and almost falls.
The apparition appears again.
“Foolish creature- do you not know who I am?” It intones and hisses at the flailing half-orc.
Jimmy meantime sees to his part of the bargain, the guardian drake seeing only the halfling before it, suddenly gets its courage back, and limping slightly stalks forward- its over-confidence proves to be fatal. A pair of daggers spin out and thump in to the small drake's scaly breast, it scrabbles for a second when the first hits- the second is enough however to end the beast.
“Three!” Jimmy shouts to anyone that will listen, grins a while and then has a thought- “get that bastard gnome!” He cries, as an afterthought.
Hedda locks her gaze on the apparition, which instinctively turns to stare back at the priestess of Bahamut- the moment stretches as the minotaur priestess uses a mix of her faith and will in an attempt to overpower the spectral figure... the strain is terrible. The minotaur offers fresh prayers and devotions to the platinum dragon in order to boost her power.
“Ha!” The apparition triumphs, Hedda is forced to break its gaze, she staggers a little unsure of her step. Then suddenly throws her arms up and out, stumbles forwards bellowing, almost falling to the earth, then rights herself- spins round, all the while attempting to claw free the crossbow bolt sunk deep in to her back.Hedda is Bloodied by Agrid’s sneaky Hand Crossbow attack (with Combat Advantage), which hits for 19 points of damage.
Agrid however is nowhere to be seen.
“Kill that damn gnome! Now!” The priestess of Bahamut screams.
Sigur stays back, spies the battlefield- things are much clearer now, although the only enemy in sight is of course the horrid spectral figure- the dwarf invokes yet another of his spectral hands, alas the result is all too familiar.
Sigur shouts at the smiling apparition- “Don't make me come over there!”
Hal meantime levers his metal fingers inside the shadowy clawed hand's tightening grip, applies all his strength, and bursts free- his fall to earth turns in to a charge, he hurtles at the spectral figure- which once more fades to nothing at the just the right moment. Hal is sent sprawling in the dirt.
“You fools! You puny fools; scrabbling in the dirt- I shall destroy you!” The spectral figure seems to be enjoying itself.
Agrid scurries on all fours around the low wooden fence, still hidden from sight; the gnome chuckles a little, and makes sure his crossbow is cocked and loaded- ready to fire.
The spectral figure turns back to Gokan, gestures once, and the monstrous clawed hand that recently gripped Hal, reappears- this time with its great digits wrapped tightly around the throat of the half-orc. Gokan is wrenched in to the air- throttled, shaken like a doll, his eyes roll over to show white...
“You insolent dogs, now you will feel my pow...”
But the moment is enough, Gokan may not be as strong as Hal, but the half-orc is agile- he somehow manages to wriggle and slip his way free of the choking shadow hand, which fades to nothing on his escape.
Gokan is a blur, as are his blades- his battleaxe lashes out and connects with the spectral figure, his hand axe smashes down in to the apparition's left leg, shattering bone. The figure collapses, bleeding furiously from its wounds.
A dagger thuds in to the hard-packed earth by the ghostly human's side, Jimmy curses.
“Bahamut preserve me!” Hedda intones, as her wounds heal over, the minotaur priestess looks over to see better progress being made with the spectral figure. “Now for that damn gnome”, she mutters, and mace swinging before her, stomps around the outside of the low wooden fence.
Hedda turns a corner and, PERCHANG! A crossbow bolt ricochets off her armour and away, she grins and smashes her mace down on the scuttling gnome, who at the last moment dives out of harm’s way. Hedda's attack smashes completely through a section of the wooden fence.
Sigur grumbles, mumbles and curses- and then Agrid pops in to view- the dwarf grins, almost claps his hands- again two ghostly hands are despatched, and again both fail to find their targets. Sigur makes a noise like a strangled cat.
“Stand BLOODY still!” The irate invoker roars.
Hal leaps back to his feet and stalks the scrabbling spectral figure, swings hard with his greatsword, but only just manages to produce the merest trace of red.
The spectral figure is quickly to its feet, although clearly shaken; the figure bows its head, looks beaten, but as Hal closes in darts one hand out to deliver the lightest of touches. The effect is instantaneous, the spot touched darkens, the darkness swiftly grows until it engulfs the upper half of the warforged warrior.
Hal stops moving, stops... everything, totters, and then collapses.Hal is reduced to -2 hit points, after the Spectral Apparition hits the metal man with its Shadow Touch attack for 15 Necrotic damage. The second time a PC has been reduced to negative hit points- both times it’s been Hal.
“That will befall you all!” The spirit figure shrieks and points at the unmoving automaton.
“Fear my next visit... I will be...” But that's as far as the spectral figure gets.
Gokan winks at Jimmy, Jimmy returns the compliment- the pair dash forward; Gokan to the fore, Jimmy to the rear. The half-orc's battleaxe thuds in to the ghostly figure’s all too solid body, his hand axe follows- at the same time Jimmy's dagger is plunged in to the creature's spine.
“... back?” Jimmy offers as the spectral figure gargles and slumps to the ground, a second or two later the body fades to nothing.
“Four!” The halfling adds, and grins at a bemused looking Gokan.
Agrid suddenly makes for the exit, breaks cover and heads for the nearest slope, Sigur- closest to the gnome, grumbles and begins his favourite invocation. A crossbow bolt suddenly THUDS in to the dwarf's side; he staggers, but continues his casting.
Yet another ghostly hand appears, dashes forward and unerringly punches Agrid square in his face, BLINK, and the gnome is gone- disappeared.
Hedda is quickly at Hal's side, she knows little of the warforged's physiognomy, but she recognises the necrotic power which has caused Hal to falter. She sets to her ministrations, and in moments the metal man is levering himself back on to his feet.
Gokan sniffs and tastes the air, listening intently, watching like a hawk... screaming the half-orc charges, swings both of his weapons and THUNK!
Sprawling in the dirt before him is Agrid the gnome, bruised and battered- jaw broken, front teeth missing, and now sporting a terrible rent in his right shoulder.Gokan picks the right spot, and even at -5 to hit, connects and delivers 18 points of damage with his Charge attack, Bloodying Agrid in an instant.
“Thurwender.” Agrid mumbles, and drops his crossbow and short sword.Encounter #2 Synopsis, PC XP & DM’s thoughts
Encounter #2 The Ancient Burial Site, starring-
Human Rabble (Minion Level 2) x4
Drake Guard (Brute Level 2) x2
Gnome Skulk- Agrid (Lurker Level 2) x1
Spectral Apparition (Lurker Level 4) x1
Total 674 XP for a Level 2 Encounter.
Unchanged from the original module- I just like this encounter as it does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s not supposed to be titanic, and it serves my purpose- see later. It also gets the players thinking- ‘what’s happening here?’
134 XP each for a total of 284 XP in total (PCs Level 1).
This is the gateway encounter, the guys have come to Winterhaven to rescue Douvern, which proves simple enough, but in rescuing their friend they uncover something else- something bigger. This is the hook- there’s something else going on here.
And again Hal suffers- the metal man always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, that’s defenders for you. All told the Spectral Apparition dished out 38 points of Necrotic damage to the metal man over the course of the encounter. The player- Lee, wonders aloud whether he has built Hal to last.
It was, of course, my intention to ensure that Agrid was captured alive, so he can tell his strange tale.
SPOILERS- the Spectral Apparition is of course a projection of the final enemy in this scenario, Kalarel; but you knew that. The players of course do not, except for two of them that have played KOTS all the way through before- but they have been sworn to silence.