Those are abysmal rolls, Ez. Using a little DM Fiat here to re-roll those...
CLW 1: 1d8 + 3 ⇒ (5) + 3 = 8
The elder Howell puts his crossbow away. "I'm fine, Jak... but you all have seen better days."
A's HPs: 11|35
Marcus breaks a wolf-rib with a loud crack but the beast is still up and ready for blood.
The elder Howell looks across the battlefield, wondering where his crossbow can best be put to use. Everyone is wounded - seriously wounded in the case of Aerik and Lyrica. But of all his townmen, only Marcus stands alone. He aims his crossbow carefully, prays to the gods of luck, and hopes he doesn't put a bolt through the lumberjack... He fires into the swirling melee of a man wrestling with something that was once a wolf.
Marcus faces off against the snarling wolf. In the heat of battle, he doesn't hear the crossbow twang. He only see the blur of the thick bolt blasting a hole through the wolf's skull and carrying away a haze of grey matter. The wolf staggers for two steps and hits the ground, already dead.
Mattin quickly grabs another bolt and begins reloading.
Mattin Crossbow (19/2x)
Next UP... Zeke
Mattin waves his crossbow around the battlefield, trying to figure out where to shoot. With Jak's warning, he doesn't waste a bolt on the hulking two-headed wolf. Lacking faith in his ability to fire accurately into the swirling melee of his comrades with most of the remaining animals, he has only one good choice. He sends his bolt streaking at the wolf stalking the Alchemist.
The old man is somewhat surprised when his bolt actually catches the beast in the shoulder, eliciting a growl. He quickly scrambles to reload.
HIT: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (14) + 4 = 18
Next Up... Marcus
Zeke scorches the wolves with another bomb, nearly dropping one of the beasts.
Wolf #4 - Reflex DC 15: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (15) + 4 = 19
Next Up... Round 6: The Wolfening!
Mattin's resolve stays firm. Alas, the wolf's proximity is too much for the donkeys.
On their turn, Mattin is going to be busy with some donkey problems.
Mattin Fort DC:13: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (12) + 1 = 13 Success
Sickened - Rnd 1 of 5
Mattin watches the wolves and nods, "I'll do what I can." He tightens his hold on the reins.
Jak or Dungeoneering DC:13:
Corrupted by the black mist, these are wolves no longer. They are aberrations... aka Weird Wolves.
Weird Wolf King
Lyrica prepares for battle as Jak quickly moves to the rear of the wagon and readies his whip.
Aerik is UP.
OK... moving on. You snooze, you lose.
Our heroes catch a drink in the local tavern while Mattin works his network of connections. After an hour or so, the older Howell strolls in, waves to a few acquaintances, joins the younger Drearians, and cuts to the chase. "It's going to take me several days to wrap things up here - but our prospects are good. I know you are anxious to get on the road, and I think you should do that. I can handle the wheeling and dealing here. So, be safe and hopefully I'll see you on the way home." He gives Jak a look that says be careful and then the older man is gone.
The Drearians, anxious to get to Albridge, head out - for the moment turning a blind eye to the strange tent town across the road.
Hand of Fate: 1d100 ⇒ 93
Danger Level: 1d5 ⇒ 4
Hand of Fate: 1d100 ⇒ 47
Hand of Fate: 1d100 ⇒ 73
Hand of Fate: 1d100 ⇒ 12
Hand of Fate: 1d100 ⇒ 65
Hand of Fate: 1d100 ⇒ 12
Night falls and our heroes set up camp, establish a watch, build a fire, and set their bedrolls in or beneath the cart... for the first of many times on the trip to Muuscarta. The next week passes slowly punctuated by the creaks of the cart wheels and the curses of the party as they lever the cart over and around obstacles, free it from mud, repair snapped struts, and keep the mules motivated and healthy.
The first few days are spent navigating the gorge/ravine/gully cut by the Wahika down the mountains. The weather turns abruptly summery. A string of warm days pass with temperatures in the 60's and 70's. It would be pleasant save for the muscle straining work.
Eventually the mountains give way to the low-lands where the Wahika spreads its fingers creating dozens of sluggish streams that feed a labyrinthine set of fens and swamps. The trees hang low and dense here. On sparse breezes, lichens waves fitfully from the gnarled branches and rake our heroes' heads with their clammy claws. It would be a daunting task to navigate it if it weren't for the Howells who know the route like the back of their hands from long practice. That isn't to say the trip is pleasant. The chaotic shiftings of the tributaries make the known path more of a guideline. Mud flats and washouts makes it a process of trial and error frustrated by the clouds of midges and gnats that are eager for a spring meal. A change to cooler weather makes the bugs lethargic after a day or so - giving the party a much needed break.
On the first night in the fens, sheltered by the night's persistent fog, wolves howl and test the steadiness of the mules and the strength of the party. They are quickly run off by the skills of the Druid and Ranger as well as the steely resolve of the rest of the team. Two nights later, they return again, stalking around the campsite in the darkness but again are driven off.
Through the six days of the trek so far, Mattin has been optimistic and unswervingly pleasant, spending his evenings telling tales of his travels, clients, and strange deals. Separating fact from fiction is no easy task with the jovial merchant.
After the second wolf skirmish, Mattin is practically whistling. "Unless I miss my guess, we're almost to the road. Things will get easier from here." The merchant is proved correct. By the middle of the next morning, the cart wrenches free from the soft earth and rolls onto the hard-packed surface of a slightly raised roadway. It seems that even the mules are a bit relieved. The party clambers into the cart and enjoys the clacking ride as the mules set a good pace on the road to Muuscarta.
A day later, the cart rounds a bend and pulls in sight of the town of Muuscarta - a sprawling web of one and two story buildings surrounding a central square. The noise and bustle is impressive to anyone who hasn't seen it before. Adding to the hub-bub is a patchwork city of makeshift tents across the road from the town proper. Mattin pulls the mules to a halt. "I've never seen those tents before. He looks over the people moving amid the tents. They don't look like gypsies... more like refugees. Hmmm. Well, business first." He clucks to the mules to set them going again. The cart trundles towards the town.
Welcome to Muuscarta. Mattin's path will take him into the town's center (a left turn off the main roadway). You are free to accompany him or go where you wish. On the right side of the road is the tent camp.
Like Marcus, the elder merchant largely ignores the sniping between the youths leaving his only comment a brief, cool, glare at both of them.
Marcus Braun wrote:
Ahem, right! So, um, Mattin--what's the plan, then, in Muuscarta? Anyway I could help you with your business, just let me know.
"Trading in Muuscarta shouldn't be a problem... unless these strange happenings have caused a lot more problems than we know. No, I'm afraid the problem will be getting to Muuscarta. We've lost our strongest mules to the mist. We're going to have to step in and help out the little ones we have left. We're going to be pushing and pulling that cart a long way."
Lyrica Strom wrote:
When Lyrica hears Marcus offer assistance, she too expresses her willingness to be of service. "Mister Howell, please let me know as well if I can do anything to help. I am more than willing to run errands or load or unload the cart. I'm not afraid of any hard work."
Seeing it best to separate these two, Mattin seizes on the opportunity. "If you would, Lyrica, please fetch our four largest mules."
Jak Howell wrote:
Jak shrugs, "I'm not. Aerik agreed to hold onto what we took while some of us are in town, and that thing makes me uncomfortable. I don't like him being alone with that thing, and I'd rather it be away from town and taken care of as soon as possible. I just wanted to be able to check in with everyone while we headed that way… makes me antsy not knowing what's going on here with everything that's happened."
The older man nods, "Do what you feel is best, Jak. Just remember, when you get worn down, you get sloppy. And when you get sloppy, bad things happen."
Jak's family wishes him well and sets him on his way.
Jak is greeted with food and uniform warmth by his family. The Howell girls even make a point of stuffing Ritti with food. It seems the losses to the town have made everyone a bit more forgiving - even of scalawags.
The evening hours wear on as Jak weaves his slightly abridged tale to the goggled eyes of his sisters. Even Ritti sits slack-jawed, a buttered roll forgotten in her hand. She seems more than a little impressed.
Mattin Howell wears a poker face, mulling the information. Later that evening - when he hears the unabridged version - his face shows more concern.
"I wish I could offer you some advice more helpful than 'be careful' - but I can't think of any, Jak." He sighs, "You look worn. I understand you've got business at the Teeth but you look like you could use a rest. How long you staying?"
Jak, do you have anything in particular you want to discuss or does fast-forwarding work for you?
1d20 ⇒ 13
Lyrica Strom wrote:
"Master Guthwite, you know that I will do everything that I can, and with the Everlight willing, we will put an end to the evil that threatens our village!"
A strange look crosses the old man's face. His glance strays to the village councillors that could be pulled from their grief to attend - Eluon Balatin, Mattin Howell, Orl Odenbrand, and Beatte Ruske. Unspoken messages pass subtly between them in a series of looks and getures. In the end, with a wave from Merl, Jak's father speaks.
"Would that the situation were that simple.... We may lose the village regardless. We are in a precarious spot here, far more than you know. Drear's prosperity and survival are intertwined in the lives of every person." He looks to Marcus and Eluon. "Our lumber-men and mist-foragers provide the first crops we can sell in the Spring. The money earned immediately goes to buying seedlings and necessities - like tools, salt, et cetera." His eyes find Lyrica, "Then our farmers take those seedlings and do their work. We hope for good weather and wait on the harvest. From the harvest, we feed ourselves as best we can but we also sell crops too... to repay our lumber-men, re-equip them, and gather the supplemental foodstuffs that will see us all through the Winter."
"We've lost half our people already. More will probably leave when Spring comes in full. Their grief will compel them to go. Who wants to walk these streets, now half as full as they once were, remembering the dead at every turn? So, how many mouths do we need to feed now? And how many hands do we have left to lumber, or plant, or harvest, or dry meat, or do all the little things we need done to keep our town alive? We've lost all of our chickens, many of our goats, most of our mules, and all of our dogs. That means no eggs, little cheese, little milk, smaller loads of goods we can move down and up the mountain, and fewer defenders to protect what little we have. We can only thank the Gods that this didn't happen at Midwinter or we'd be finished."
"I, we all hope you find and destroy whatever evil brought this upon us and return our missing family... but if you want to ensure the future of our home, we'll need you from time to time to put down your weapons and pick up common tools... to set about the dirty and mundane tasks that keep this town alive."
So, kids, this is the game in a nutshell... a RPG mixed with a healthy dose of Civilization for the town-building/survival aspects. :)
I will warn you that I'm going to be playing both angles. If you focus 100% on adventuring and ignore the things happening in town, you could defeat a great evil but at the sacrifice of Dies Drear in the process.
Given this game is a RPG - that will be the primary focus - so don't feel like you've got to be lurking in town all the time or obsessing that I'm going to ghost the town without giving you warning. You will get escalating hints when things could go wrong. It will be up to you to act on or ignore those hints. So when I offer you inglorious options like "Escort Mattin as he takes a load of lumber to Muuscarta to trade for seedlings", weigh the consequences of your choices and the fragile eco-system of Dies Drear.
I've already proved I'll kill half a town, don't think for a minute that I won't butcher the remaining NPCs if given a good reason. >:) Now you know why my IRL players call me (with great affection) a Rat Bastard.