Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Battle for Morden's Vale

Campaign Update: 
The party finished clearing the Moat House and dispatched Lareth the Beautiful and his bloodthirsty chaos cult. Returning to the nearby town of Morden's Vale, they defended the town against an onslaught of barbarians from the wastelands to the north.

David A. Trampier

Moat House 

On their way out of the dungeon, almost as an afterthought,they tried to kill the giant crayfish in the basement pool. To their horror, it proved to be extraordinarily heavily-armored and strong. Foolishly, rather than fleeing, they stood their ground and tried to kill it even after the Rogue barely succeeded in escaping a death blow. Their hubris cost them dearly when the crayfish seized the Ranger and drug her into the depths of the pool: the first character death of the campaign.

Morden's Vale

The next session opened with the Ranger's funeral in the town of Morden's Vale, on the edge of the Grimwald forest.

Morden's Vale is a small, primitive village built under the canopy of an enormous black willow tree. The branches of the tree shelter the wigwams of the villagers and they in turn worship the tree and forbid all fire within the village.

The ceremony was interrupted by the arrival of a Barbarian, hotly pursued by a horde of chaos-enthralled reavers.

The party had just a few minutes to organize the townsfolk and prepare for an attack.

  • For the first time in this campaign, I broke out a battle mat. I set a timer and let the players position themselves and the villagers before the horde arrived.
The reavers rushed into the town, armed with Molotov's torches and axes. They began setting houses alight and slaughtering the villagers as they fled. 

The party was very effective in barricading the village entrances, and using area-of-effect spells to channel and dispatch the horde. 
  • The Druid's Moonbeam and Spike Growth spells proved particularly decisive. 
  • The wizard judiciously used Mage Hand to dump water on fires before they could spread too far.
  • 5e Barbarians can soak A LOT of damage and keep fighting.
The central tree also came to life and began smashing invaders with it's branches and entangling them in roots. 

Eventually, after inflicting heavy damage on the village (killing about a sixth of the inhabitants, razing many of the wigwams and burning a chunk of the tree) the reavers were driven off.

DM Debrief:

  • My players really liked the battle mat. This surprised me as, for the most part, they are not huge board-game fans, and aren't particularly tactical in their play. 
  • My props, including a large cardboard tree, were a big hit. 
  • I used a "character sheet" that I made for the tree, based on Steve Jackson's Ogre record sheets.
    • The branches corresponded to the weapons of an Ogre, and could be attacked and disabled separately.
    • The trunk corresponded to the Ogre's tracks and determined how many actions the tree took
  • The combat was much less dynamic than I hoped. The players were very effective in bottling the bad guys which made the battle much more of a quagmire and less of a running fight than I had envisioned. This, despite giving the bad guys lots of run+hit abilities. 
    • I was hoping that the bad guys would be able to run amok more in the town, forcing the players to choose between saving villagers, putting out fires etc. and fighting efficiently. 
  • 5e combat is too slow. Part of this is players who still have no idea what their abilities are, or how to use them, but part of it is the system just moves slowly. 

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