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May. 1st, 2017 @ 12:41 pm Roleplaying session IIb

GM: ...and thank you for recapping last session.
GM: 1xp and 1gp to everyone for remembering (a) they were tracking the mutineers (b) to try to get the Plot Artifacts of Ancient and Mysterious Power before them.
GM: Not really.
GM: OK, are we all set? Have we all stocked up on quarterstaffs?
GM: And 10" poles? Or not, seriously, how does anyone carry those things??
GM: And forked sticks?
GM: This is a very useful forest.
GM: Anything else?
Princess: I still have the mysterious figurines I latched onto last session, right?
Princess: They're going to be important, right?
GM: I can neither confirm nor deny.
Kitty: We could talk to the toad-seals! Maybe they'd help.
Players: Can kitty talk to other animals?
GM: Duh. That's obviously much more interesting.
Players: But...
Players: In the last session, we trampled their eggs, roasted a bunch of them, and took their meat for provisions.
Animal-loving princess: Sorry!
Players: They may not want to talk to us.
GM: Yes, that.
GM: It's always worth asking. But also, they're in a different place where you're not.
Kitty: We could talk to the goats!
Players: But they're also not here.
Players: And also, see, killed, roasted, provisions.
Players: :(
GM: I'm sorry. Keep trying! You can absolutely talk to animals and it's absolutely relevant.
GM: It's just the first um all the things you tried happened not to work specifically. But it's still good!
GM: When I *planned* this island, I didn't expect the animals to be *able* to talk (I did plan for them to be dealt with by non combat if you approached it right).
GM: I'm working on it, ok?
Players: Anything else?
GM: Oh right yes, perception checks. Everyone add roll d20 and add your perception.
GM: Kitty, add, um, +5. Smell is good.
GM: Anyway, the general gist is that you remember to watch out for the menacing pair of eyes the foraging parties reported in the forest.
GM: It's tailing you, obviously.
Kitty: Is it a cat?
GM: I can neither confirm nor deny it being retconned into the obviously narratively appropriate species.
Party: We could... split up. To um, see if we can get close enough to it.
GM: Or you could not do that.
Party: Ok, *sigh*. If it's not attacking as a group, we'll just press on.
GM: Good call.


Party: OK, um, survival. Kitty gets lots cos smell.
Princess: Oh, Second Mate, your survival is good.
Mate: Yes.
Mate: But we agreed it would specifically apply to ships.
GM: I am very sorry that we agreed that when I knew this session would take place mostly on an island.
GM: Very sorry.
GM: But look, kitty can track!
GM: Anyway, between you, this is not too hard.
GM: Tracks, blah blah blah
GM: Signs of scuffle
GM: It looks like the mutineers spread out too much.
GM: And the mysterious predator of unspecified felinity had a go at separating one from the herd.
GM: But the same number of mutineers seem to have proceeded forward. And the predator sheered off. And there's no blood.
Players: Can we see the predator?
Players: We rolled low.
GM: Eyes.
Kitty: Can I smell it?
Kitty: I rolled a 22.
Kitty: Is it a cat.
GM: It smells a bit like a cat and a bit like a frog.
Kitty: Can you draw it.
GM: I would love to.
GM: But I really can't, sorry.
GM: I can describe it if someone else wants to try?
GM: Uh, oops.
GM: Everyone roll "the GM wants to give you a hint".
GM: I think it's called "insight".
Wizard: Well, I rolled, um, over 10.
Wizard: Which is more than you lot did.
Wizard: I don't want to get all up in your tracking business.
Wizard: But "a number of footprints arrived, a number of footprints left, none went anywhere else", have you thought to look IN THE TREES FOR AN AMBUSH.
Party: Oh, yeah, right.
Party: We look in the trees.
GM: There's nothing.
GM: That would have been a great idea if I thought of it in advance.
GM: But the mutineers didn't really have any motive to set an ambush rather than run for it.
GM: But now I Have Officially Told the Players to Look Up. And when they eventually forget, I don't have to feel guilty about it.
Party: What is up the tree?
GM: Uh... leaves.
GM: Birds nests?
Kitty: With eggs?
GM: I guess?
Party: With birds?
GM: Maybe?
Party: Are the presence or absence of birds consistent with us recently arriving, a predator arriving downwind slightly later, and nothing else large in the vicinity.
GM: I don't know, you're the one with the nature skill!
GM: Yes, I guess?
GM: Ok, this tracking session is officially not over too quickly.
GM: OK, so assuming you proceed following the tracks...?
GM: Hint, hint
Party: Oh right, yes.

The combat

GM: You begin to reach the edge of the forest with a cliff--
Party: OK, on the edge of the cliff, we--
GM: Hold up, you're going to be really grateful I told you about the bowmen and shouted warning several hundred yards ago.
GM: Uh, *badly describes landscape*
GM: But anyway, a few of the mutineers are holed up on a high bit of headland, mostly throwing themselves down behind bits of rocky outcropping.
GM: Remember, "hidden behind rocks"
GM: And "at about longbow shot away".
GM: Those matter.
GM: One shouts "we don't want to fight, but we won't let you drag us back to be hanged either".
GM: You distantly hear hurried arguing. The gist is something like, we don't want to fight, if you call on us to surrender, we might.
Party: We also have a hurried conversation about our diverging diplomatic approaches.
Wizard: Except me. I shout something fantasy-racist. Or maybe just gratuitously threatening.
Princess: I have diplomacy, but more experience at court than talking down filthy mutineers.
Mate: I know most of them personally.
Dwarf Cleric: I have a giant axe. That counts for intimidate, right?
GM: Yes, definitely.
GM: Don't forget your other axes as well.
GM: Really, any of you could try to get them to surrender.
Party: But... wizard.
GM: If you're trying to make a deal, shouting insults about how you're going to sunder their gizzards is not helpful. But if you're trying to intimidate them (mechanically or otherwise) into surrendering, it's not a bad thing. Maybe even a good thing, depending.
GM: I mean, effective.
Wizard: I hope we get in range soon. I have two more first level spells just burning a hole in my pocket.
Wizard: Burning.
Wizard: Did you know magic missile auto-hits?
Wizard: I often forget I need to roll an attack roll, I use magic missile so much.
Wizard: I have a quota of charred corpses and I have two left for today.
Wizard: What were we talking about?
Kitty: Can I try intimidate?
Kitty: Claw claw hiss hiss hiss!
GM: Yes, and I hope you roll high because I want the scene of them all breaking and running from the ship's cat.
Kitty: I roll low.
GM: I'm sorry, I really really want you to talk someone into something soon!
GM: OK, any other negotiating? Including, but not limited, to asking them to surrender.
Party: Not really.
GM: Or you could think of a different way of approaching? I didn't plan anything but it's not implausible there might be some way.
Party: Meh.
GM: Or one or two of you could try to sneak closer round the side. There is still *some* tree cover.
Party: I doubt it.
GM: That would be fairly plausible.
GM: Or. Or, you could charge frontally for ten straight rounds into the teeth of an unknown 2+ number of longbows[1].
Party: Oh yeah, that one. We do that.
GM: Are you sure? Anything else you want to do first?
Party: Oh yeah, we'll spread out sideways so we come at them from different angles.
GM: FWIW, that makes sense conceptually, but you don't really get a mechanical advantage for it in 5e.
Party: That's ok. We do that.
GM: OK, roll initiative.
GM: At the bottom of the initiative order (because they won't act until you move forward anyway), add some archers. And, as will eventually become relevant, some other mutineers who don't have bows.
GM: And *here*, add an unspecified entry into the initiative order.
Party: OK, we charge forward.
GM: OK, whoever's in front, ok you, is struck by two longbow arrows for, um, lots of damage.
GM: And, as you separate, a hungry predator rushes from the trees to tackle...
GM: Who hasn't been down near zero hitpoints recently?
GM: You.
GM: Hold on a sec while I google some stats for this creature.
GM: I honestly didn't expect to need them.
GM: I did mention not splitting up, several times.
GM: Ok, pounce, roll to hit, now fail a strength check, prone, bite roll to hit. OK, what hp are you on?
Kitty: I ask it to back off! We don't want to hurt it.
GM: OK, roll diplomacy. (*scribble scribble cat ability scores*)
GM: OK, that's quite a good roll.
GM: I'm really, really sorry.
GM: Talking really does work!
GM: But have you ever tried to talk a cat out of playing with a wiggly thing?
GM: Or tried to talk a cat out of eating food which it's been waiting for?
GM: Like, this is not one of those occasions.
GM: "Not hurting people who don't hurt it" isn't an option for a predator.
GM: Although it might have gone better for it if it had. Speaking of which...
Wizard: I magic missile the big cat.
Wizard: OK, d6 and another d6, and another d6...
GM: OK, smell of crispy burnt flesh
GM: It assumes an appearance consistent with having about 2hp left.
GM: And turns to flee.
Cleric: OK, I run sideways to heal princess.
Cleric: How far is that?
GM: Uh, ok, points on a circle 600 ft across. Lets say, just in magic missile range between each other.
GM: It could have been worse.
GM: You cut sideways across the circle, chord, length...
GM: I have no idea, it's certainly not an integer.
GM: It has tans in.
GM: Lets say, about 120".
Cleric: Did I mention I have short legs?
GM: OK, so, um, a couple of rounds later, you heal princess up from dying.
GM: Who's still closest to the archers?
GM: Take another, um, rest of your hitpoints.
Cleric: Wait, were you remembering to make all these rolls at disadvantage?
GM: Doh! Good point. OK, I roll a bunch more d20s, for these two arrows, and the previous two.
GM: Wow, that's a lot of twenties. Glad we got them out of the way now.
GM: And don't have to retcon several rounds of combat.
GM: Now might be a good time to recap the rules on dying.
GM: And how you're dying.
GM: If you're dead, that's bad.
Cleric: But the short answer is, magical healing within three rounds is a good idea?
Cleric: And I spent the last two rounds running in a straight line directly away from them?
Cleric: Did I mention I have short legs?
GM: Do you have any ranged healing?
Cleric: Does "range: touch" mean what I think?
GM: Yes.
Cleric: Then no.
Kitty: I'm still on their shoulder! I lick nuzzle their cheek and lick their wound.
GM: OK, make a medicine check.
GM: OK, they're stabalised.
GM: Magical healing would be appreciated with lessened urgency.
GM: What's everyone else doing?
Wizard: Still moving steadily toward the archers.
GM: Would you like to try to dash from tree to tree?
Wizard: Yeah, that sounds like a *great* idea.
GM: OK, um, many rounds elapse where basically everyone rolls low.
GM: I did mention the archers were popping up and down behind a rock, right?
GM: It's hard to shoot someone through a rock.
Wizard: *Now* am I in range?
GM: Yes, yes, you are.
Wizard: Magic missile. Bambambam. All on the first archer.
GM: Did I say first archer? I meant, "morale sucking smouldering corpse".
Wizard: That was my last first level spell?
GM: Yes.
Wizard: And I'm going to run out of trees soon?
Wizard: And remaining archer sees me as a threat, right?
Wizard: And I'm closest?
GM. Yes. Yes, you are.
Wizard: OK, I'm off to work. Have a good rest of the session.
GM: Twang twang twang twang.
GM: Everyone remembers the 0hp vs dying vs dead thing?
Wizard: Damnit.
GM: Did I mention rolling a 1 counts as a double failure vis a vis dying?
Wizard: Damnit.
Kitty: I run to him!
Cleric: Ditto.
GM: OK, ok, everyone is almost in melee range and close to each other. The kitty-medicine cleric-healing duo revive the wizard with almost no trig required.
GM: OK, now we're entering melee.
GM: And this combat has been quite drawn out.
GM: Hurried conversation from behind the rocks
GM: *rolls*
GM: Two break and run. Two charge the nearest alive character.
GM: Hopefully this will all go quickly.
Mate: Crack! Crack! Crack! Quarterstaff to the forehead.
Mate: Remind me the rules about critical hits.
GM: The salient feature being, not relevant in this situation.
GM: Dead mutineer.
Cleric: Can I throw my hand-axe?
GM: Yes, yes you can.
Cleric: Is that also a critical?
Cleric: But can we skip over a bunch of combat and just assume they're injured, captured, but not dying.
GM: Yes.
GM: OK, the mutineer fills you all in on the backstory.
GM: One if fleeing the other way along the coastline
GM: On the food-poor predator-rich surprisingly-trapped island.
GM: The other jumped the cliff and seems to be levitating over the waves, flailing with a pole as an especially hopeless paddle to make progress.
Party: Like they're a spellcaster?
GM: Like they have an artifact which does a cut-down version of the levitate spell.
Party: Like a *plot* artifact?
GM: No, like a normal artifact.
Party: Like one that might let a group of mutineers cross a stream one at a time with no footprints and no being-eaten-by-carnivorous-vines?
GM: Yes, exactly.
GM: Oh right, did I mention the cave?
Party: No.
GM: And did I mention non of the mutineers were the antagonist first mate?
Party: No.
GM: Well, there is and they weren't.
Party: We should go in the cave.
Party: But first maybe have a short rest.
Party: And you know, out-of-character, have a short rest.

After a short interlude

GM: Someone has double-proficiency with knowledge (stoneworking), right?
Cleric: Check.
GM: And someone has proficiency with locking via hairpins, right?
Princess: Check.
GM: And someone can tie rapelling rope so it doesn't come loose, right?
Mate: Check.
GM: And they can use your knowledge (arcana) check while you're out, right?
Wizard: Check.
Princess: And I can use the figurines, which I still have, in some clever way, right?
GM: Check.
GM: OK, blah blah blah blah traps blah blah blah success blah blah shaft to inner chamber.
GM: Narrow shaft.
GM: Only barely wider than a dwarf.
Party: Anyone have darkvision?
Princess: No.
Secret half-tiefling mate: Uh, no?
Cat: Meow.
Dwarf cleric: crap.
Party: How about darkvision AND the biggest shield?
Cleric: Double crap.
Party: And a sworn vow to protect at least one other member of the party?
Cleric: OK, ok, the dwarf will do your spelunking for you.
Cleric: *grumble tall folk*
Party: We do all the right things with rope.
GM: OK, lowered safely into lower chamber.
GM: Random bits of pirate cast-offs and loot are scattered about.
GM: Prominently, a giant alter-thing with a this-is-the-ancient-artifact-stuff glow about it, and a row of figurine-shaped slots.
Princess: Squee!
GM: You notice there IS the antagonist, and there is not (or no longer?) any more of the plot objects lying around unpilfered.
GM: The antagonist monologues at you.
GM: Do you fall for it?
Cleric: No.
GM: I have to ask.
Cleric: I charge her.
GM: Good call.
GM: Wait, this is going to be funnier than I'd realised a second ago.
GM: Dex check to let go of the rope promptly.
Princess: Uh...
Mate: Um...
GM: OK, dex check not to be yanked short by the tether and have your feet go flying comically out from under you.
Cleric: Does a critical fumble pass?
GM: OK, two more sentences of monologue.
Cleric: Handaxe. Face.
GM: She waves the plot object and it teleports her away instants...
GM: ... *rolls* ...
GM ...before the axe passes right through her fading visage. It shatters the rock behind her head.
GM: It was a really near thing. She genuinely could have failed that check.
GM: Wait, oops, she had a parrot who was sarcastic all the time.
GM: That was going to be really funny.
GM: But I completely forgot.
GM: Damnit.


GM: You get a bunch of misc treasure. We'll work out what later.
GM: And some xp. We'll work out what later.
GM: About 2/3 of the way to level 3.
GM: You get back to the ship safe.
GM: With the prisoner, with no more unfortunate encounters.
GM: And close off any other loose ends.
GM: The captain is grateful.
GM: And, I devoutly hope, don't get into any more combats until you rest tonight, because I don't want to start the next session trying to remember how many hit points you have now.


[1] This occasion that was actually ok, it was just a bit slow playing it out while we were still getting familiar with the movement rules. But I remember the last session I GM'd with other people, years ago, the party also nearly all died charging headlong into a defended barricade. Somehow I seem to have a pattern of setting those situations up at the wrong time.

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