Session 3: The Undead Army
In Session 1, the PCs encountered an assassine in the town of OKARE. The heroes agreed with SATHARIM that the cave of zombies needs to be destroyed in order to decrease the undead army’s strength. So HECTOR and LAFAYETTE left OKARE to pick up some dynamites from an abandoned nearby mine and head for the zombie cave.
Aided by the NPC companion NARGUT, who joined the heroes in general SATHARIM’s order, they managed to pick up some dynamite, encountered the remaining WOLF PLUNDERERs, a group of former bandits who seem to pursue different goals now. During that course, they saved NARGUT’s life a couple of times. The heroes got attacked by scouts of a skeleton army and escaped into the zombie cave (which they were going for anyway). Inside the cave, they realized that they didn’t manage to collapse the entrance yet, struggled against more undead, which finally led to the death of the NPC companion NARGUT. Finally the heroes found a group of starved peasants. Just as one of them rises from the dead with an appetite for blood, the session ended.
Planning terrain properties: Abandoned Mine
In the last recap, I set me the goal to provide scene properties for each scene to help my players’ creativity and decisiveness.
The scene at the ABANDONED MINE was planned as a dilemma with an implicit timer: They heroes want to pick up dynamite from inside the mine, which appears to be a dead-end, because further tunnels are barred. The narrow entrance to the mine is a trap: wolves attack from the woods and keep pressure on the heroes to do both: hurry in picking up dynamite and repelling the wolves to stay able to leave the mine. The heroes solved that by entering together to make grabbing dynamite a bit faster and using their NPC companion NARGUT as a guard outside. They figured out that NARGUT will not survive long enough, so they left the mine after they found a small portion of the dynamite.
Damn, we have to get out of here before more wolves appear.
The next scene was planned (and initially) played as a social encounter: After getting away from the mine, the heroes took some rest in the forest and talked with NARGUT about his and their plans - since NARGUT wasn’t really briefed by SATHARIM about the mission details.
They fireplace attracted the former bandits led by RATUNIS, who revealed himself to the heroes, told them to extinguish the fire to avoid “attracting them”. Both players know RATUNIS from a previous campaign, but the heroes don’t. My players did great in avoiding meta stuff and mistrusted RATUNIS while the players knew that he could trust him. I didn’t expect that, so they ended up not joining him and were faced with the scouts of the undead army. After a while fighting them, they realized that the odds are against them and escaped.
Haste, fear, more dilemma:
The undead army forced the heroes into a ravine, which leads to a side-entrance to the zombie cave, which the heroes wanted to find anyway. The cave entrance was guarded by two skeletons, so the heroes decided not to rush it directly.
Unfortunately the undead army was on their heels. The army’s timer clicked down and down, first scouts entered the ravine. HECTOR’s magical shield spell was bashed and destroyed a couple of times, LAFAYETTE used his storm wind spell to repell and/or destroy some of the skeletons… but the army came closer and closer. Meanwhile NARGUT, their NPC companion, was close unto death and saved a couple of times by the heroes. Also LAFAYETTE went down a couple of times too, so everybody at the table (including myself) was literally on the edge of his seat. Finally they made it into the cavern, not knowning for sure that this is the right cave.
Maybe that’s just a small cave and we run into a dead-end and die.
But if we stay here, we’ll die for sure
The dilemma trap has sprung, everybody was all-in.
Players don’t think vertically:
As the heroes finally decided to enter the cave, they reached a narrow ravine in the cave. The heroes were not able to see the ceiling but a small light at the top. Hordes of zombies ahead, an army of skeletons at their back. “What do you do?”
The idea was to let the light above to draw the heroes’ attention. They struggled a while in fighting themselves through the undead horse, decided to use their dynamite here to collapse the entrance (which let the army in). Unfortunately HECTOR decided to pick up the stick of dynamite with his burning
(!) glove, didn’t made his DEX roll for being careful and… screwed up, took massive explosion damage but didn’t drop. Meanwhile LAFAYETTE transformed himself into a swan (after screwing it up with a nat1, giving him a bird jaw and feathers permanently (at least it seems to be like that, know know’s what the future may bring)… a swan, yes.
They had no idea where to go, so NARGUT yelled “Climp up to the light, I’ll distract them”. LAFAYETTE flew up, secured the rope and asked for NARGUT to start climbing, because HECTOR may be able to repel the undead with his magical shield. NARGUT climbs up and HECTOR casts his shield: nat1. His shield gets way too large and manifests in a solid glass sphere around him, hindering NARGUT to climb up further. HECTOR wasn’t able to climb up the rope too, because NARGUT was still there, so NARGUT offered to hold himself on the rock face while HECTOR climbs up but left his last(!) torch down there to have both of his hands free. In nearly pure darkness HECTOR climbed up, NARGUT tried to grab the rope for a couple of times and fell down into the undead horde.
After realizing NARGUT’s dead, the heroes - meanwhile at the ravine’s top - decided to follow the weak light, leading them to a torch in another mine. They realized that this is in fact the cave/mine from Session 1. They navigated through the mine tunnels into a large room with dead peasants, calling the session’s end.
The session was designed to be dangerous, hasteful and deadly, because they encountered a skeleton army while fulfilling their mission. My players agreed in their feedback: they hated and loved the tension all at the same time.
My goal for the next session is to go a bit easier on them without rendering the undead army harmless. My players have already discussed their next steps and sub-goals to give me an outline for next session.
So my goals for prepping and running my next session are:
- Give them huge agency to finished their lets-blow-up-the-cave-mission.
- Confront them with a couple of non-combat (or at least non-lethal or not-so-lethal) obstacles to create some rhythm and variation.
- Keep focus on the terrain properties approach enrich the overall experience.
Hope you enjoyed reading. Until next time