The Adventurers’ Collective: a fledgling organization of heroes with a mandate to help reclaim border land for “King” Tynian, who has proclaimed himself the new King of Nerath. Few communities recognize Tynian’s authority, as his military sway ends less than a day’s ride from his own walls, but the Collective is generally well-received and supported.
The Collective has established a chapterhouse outside the small city of Fallcrest, and a small band of adventurers has been dispatched from Nerath to join the dwarves Douven and Durthin, who have spent the last two months outfitting the place. Douven is an experienced explorer who retired from his life of adventure to settle in Fallcrest with his wife and train a new generation of heroes. Durthin the Headstrong is his nephew. Several other prospective adventurers have already gathered at the chapterhouse to learn from Douven, but none are quite ready for the tasks the Collective needs to undertake.
Tweep McRoar, an eladrin warlord, led the contingent from Nerath through Fallcrest to the doors of the Collective’s new enclave, only to find the brand new building a smoldering ruin. Adran, a half-elf wizard, and Velarakis, a dragonborn ranger immediately set about searching the surrounding area while Tweep gathered the story of what had happened from Durthin.
The chapterhouse had just been attacked by an unusually aggressive band of kobolds. The kobolds had set traps around the area and on all the doors and windows of the building, then set it on fire. As adventurers fled the burning structure, the traps killed or wounded most of them, and the kobolds ambushed the rest. Only Durthin survived relatively unscathed and vowed to join the rest of the party in tracking down and exterminating the vermin who had wrought such destruction.
The group immediately elected to pursue the kobolds into the Cloak Wood, leading to the first skill challenge, which was interrupted after the first two successful tracking rolls by an ambush from the kobolds’ rear-guard. Since I had only four characters (including my NPC dwarf), I’d cut some monsters out of the Kobold Hall encounters. I relocated some of them here.
As the group approached a small gully through which the trail ran, Tweep spotted a flicker of movement behind a tree upslope. She decided to investigate and got the jump on a kobold who was watching the gully. The rest of the group piled on to that one poor kobold, side-stepping the trap placed on the trail. The kobold tried to run away, but a Ray of Frost slowed him down so that missile fire could finish him off right before the other kobold and a guard drake joined the fray from behind the group. The drake got a powerful hit in on Durthin but went down swiftly thanks to Velarakis’s warlord-powered sneak attack Jaws of the Wolf (1d6 from the short sword, +1d6 for Hunter’s Quarry, +2d6 for Sneak Attack, +3 STR, +3 from Tweep’s Furious Smash, +1d8 from the longsword, +3 STR). Even her mediocre damage roll took half the drake’s hit points with that single attack. After that, it was simple mop-up duty to finish off both drake and kobold. They never discovered the trap.
After recovering from the battle, the ranger resumed tracking the rest of the kobolds but lost the trail. We spent two days roaming around the forest in vain before heading back to Fallcrest to gather information. The players wisely decided to split up and happened to pick all three of the plot hook sites to investigate. So now they know they can get gold from the Lord Warden for bringing back proof that they’ve killed the kobolds’ leader, gold from the local dwarven smith, Teldorthan, for returning his stolen dragon hide, and use of a teleportation circle for bringing information to the local wizard, Nimozaran. Both the Lord Warden and the wizard also knew where Kobold Hall is. They also made contact with a tiefling noble who wants to find a place to build his new manor. In exchange for doing a few odd jobs for him from time to time, he’ll give them free lodging.
Armed with their new knowledge, the party headed back out into the woods to locate and invade Kobold Hall. They descended into the warrens beneath the ruins and immediately spotted a kobold. Tweep foolishly rushed in first, drawing fire from two sling-wielding kobolds and attention from a spear-wielder. Durthin and Velarakis swiftly intervened, however, pinning the melee kobold between them and making short work of it. In the meantime, Adran traded missile fire with one of the slingers. The other spear-wielder caught Velarakis in the back just once before she killed the first kobold she’d engaged, and she turned and did for the second with only two blows. Tweep teleported behind the other slinger, forcing it into the open where Durthin was able to reduce it to so much paste.
Only two kobolds waited in the next room, confidently hiding behind a pair of hidden traps. Unfortunately for the kobolds, Adran’s sharp eyes spotted two of the trigger stones immediately, allowing the group to move up one side of the room and clear it out quite efficiently. They then spent a bit of time smashing up the dart traps and extracting the darts before setting up camp for an extended rest.
Unwise to try to rest in the dungeon, but smart to try to prevent the kobolds from setting any more traps. We broke for the night at that point.
I ran this session using MapTool on my wife’s (Tweep) laptop, which was connected via HDMI to our high-def TV. I displayed a second instance of MapTool on the television while keeping the GM’s view on the laptop screen. The players liked the nice visuals, and I liked being able to keep track of the combat so efficiently. It saves time, space, and expense, since I don’t have to concern myself with printing costs, buying tiles, drawing maps on the fly, or minis.
For combat stats tracking, I’m remaining low-tech. Each combatant gets an index card with a stat block written on one side, and its gear and xp value on the other. I write the initiative rolls in the corner, put them in order, and then just go through the stack each round. It takes a bit more prep time, but it saves so much work at the table that I find it more than makes up for it.
We played for about three and a half hours, and we got through three combat encounters, a skill challenge, five short social encounters, and the time wandering around in the forest. We were slowed somewhat by having to look up rules now and again, and by fleshing out some combat stats on the fly. That’s about on par with the Star Wars game I used to run, so I’m guessing that 4th edition will run quite quickly by the time we get the wrinkles smoothed out. And it’s lightning-quick compared to Rolemaster.