An Unpleasant Discovery
Continued from Treborg in Mid-to-Late June
The DM: The morning of the 25th of June is a beautiful, clear, pleasant day, as nice as you might desire for this part of the world. The sun is shining, the ground is dry and the wind is a mere 2 knots out of the northwest. There are a few small puffy clouds, but no sign of rain at all. The air is clear and the various denizens along the cart path to the wilderness are beginning to recognize you, nodding as you pass. You climb up the familiar track off the road, the cart wheels banging over the rocks as you take the best route, with Treborg's bay falling out of sight.
Yet, as you reach a point about four miles from the village, you find the carcass of a cow laying slaughtered on an open rock. As Embla has skill as a butcher, you can see at once that it's a domestic cow, not wild. That while the principle meat has been cut out, by someone who doesn't know what they're doing, much of the meat has been left. Judging by the meat, this was done last afternoon or evening; and it looks as if someone cut away about a yard of the cow's hide, but left most of it behind.
Embla Strand Oh dear. We should get to the bottom of this - it's too close to home to ignore. Are there any tracks or traces left behind by whoever did this? Does the cow have a brand or something that would indicate an owner?
The DM: You see no brands, but the cow must come from near Treborg. There is no other settlement or group of farms in this part of Ryfolke. A look around will reveal that the skin or chunks of meat were apparently dragged over the ground away from the carcass. You can't track, obviously, but this trail is obvious; anyone can see it. It strikes you as odd that anyone would drag meat ... as though it were too big to carry properly.
Vafrandir: Embla, shall we two follow the trail?
Marcule:"I agree this is to close to home we had better investigate before something nasty appears at our door."
The DM: Action?
Marcule: In Marcule: I do my best to follow the trail and proceed forward
Vafrandir: We go with him. I know we can't speak for Pandred but can we assume she stays with the cart?
The DM: In general, presume that players who are not here to be following along, but having a pee or some other such thing when the fight occurs.
The DM: the trail continues on for about three quarters of a mile before the dragged parts have become dried by the landscape; you haven't the skill to follow the trail that would still be there, but now can't be seen. You guess there must be more than one, as occasionally there are as many as three blood trails. Moreover, they're not trying to hide their passage, either. They are making a straight line for a group of ledges straight ahead from where the trail stops, where the earth-and-rock plateau rises about 75 feet over a series of easily climbable steps. You couldn't take the cart there, however.
Vafrandir: I don't wish to miss the action but I'm also loathe to leave the cart. You three go on ahead, carefully. Whistle if there's trouble.
The DM: I'll have to wait for them to say they do.
Vafrandir: Of course!
Marcule: I encourage Vafrandir to keep his whistle close and make my way up the steps.
Embla Strand I follow, readying my whistle.
The DM: as you climb up into the ledges, you find that they're filled with small troughs and dips where water has gathered. It hasn't rained in a couple of days, so most of these are empty, and only a few inches deep. Yet you can also see that there's silt along the bottoms of these, where there are hoof prints. Then, Marcule stops in surprise, when he sees the plain outline of a foot, not wearing a shoe or boot. A foot about as large as Marcule's, and definitely not a gnome's foot.
The DM: Plainly I lost everyone. Please, if you're not going to check every 20 minutes, simply mark yourself "out." It's no big deal if you do, I won't judge. But I will know there's less reason for me to check every ten minutes.
Vafrandir: I'm waiting by the cart. Can I still see the rest of the party?
The DM: They would probably be clustered together, peering down at something between the rocks. It's 2 pm for me, so I'm Out. Better luck tomorrow.
Vafrandir: No problem. Just curious. Out.
Marcule: "this foot scares me" What do the strides look like?.
Embla Strand 14:04, 26 January 2021 (MST) My apologies. Out.
The DM: In.
The DM: Out.
The DM: In. Just you and me, Vafrandir.
Vafrandir: Hm, I've worked myself into a bind, haven't I.
Vafrandir: I've already committed to watching the cart, but I don't want to do nothing. Let me think.
The DM: While we're here, explain to me a few things; why do you feel you need the cart; why are you loathe to leave it; and why not bring Oddsdrakken along to watch it? Maybe we can work out a compromise.
Vafrandir: Odds is helping with the clearing of the land, if I recall correctly. I don't believe you would screw us by having something happen, but at the same time if someone is stealing food or hides (poorly), then it's possible this is either a trap or that there's others about from the same band who wouldn't say no to a free cart of food.
The DM: bit of an overthink there; it looks more like a few somebody's grabbed a cow from civilized land, cut away all they thought they could carry (the dragging on the ground suggests they're overloaded) and are on their way with it. No attempt to hide their trail was made at all and it was as straight as an arrow. Doesn't look like a trap (and both assassins in the party would tell you so).
Vafrandir: Very good. In that case, I'll continue up towards the others, see the footprint, and observe that "It looks like a human or elf child's." We will proceed carefully up the steps.
The DM: You might think so at first glance, but then you'll notice that there are claws on the end of the toes and a point in the silt that might be a back claw. Ledges; these require some minor scrambling, but nothing requiring a sage ability.
Beyond the Footprint
Vafrandir: Interesting. That raises the stakes a bit. We'll continue up the ledges. Are there any caves in the rock that we can see from here?
The DM: Not immediately. But this is a place you haven't ventured into yet; towards a mountain you've seen from a distance, but which is now beginning to dominate the eastern horizon. Ahead is a low ridge, about half a mile from you, reached over a gentle slope of about one hundred feet up. It looks to be the nearer edge of a mountain caldera; in modern parlance, where a glacier has pushed up the ridge in the last ice age, only to vanish now. You're characters wouldn't understand that, but I need to describe this in a way that you can see. It's called a "cirque."
Vafrandir: Understood. Is the trail still obvious?
The DM: No. You're continuing in the approximate direction the trail was following.
Vafrandir: Very good. Continuing, at a careful or wary pace.
The DM: Climbing to the top of the lip, you have either Marcule or Embla move ahead to look over the lip and see what's in the cirque. The whole circle is a square mile in size, about 640 acres. There's a small lake, or tarn, about an acre in size, of clear water; this tarn is in the center of the caldera, about 700 yards away. A herd of small cows, no taller than Marcule, are scattered over the area to the right of the tarn. These are called rothe; they dwell both above and below ground. You can't see any camp, but there is a steady curl of smoke arising from beyond the rothe. Two thirds of the cirque are contained in the arms of the mountain, a modest peak about 3,500 ft. high. The other third makes the ridge you're presently crouched upon.
Vafrandir: What kind of ground cover is there?
The DM: Much like this.
Vafrandir: With little mountaineering ability among us, how does the descent into the caldera look? Could be tricky.
The DM: the image gives the appearance of the ground, not your relative position. The "caldera" is below you; you're on the forward lip, looking down into it. The 3rd image down on the cirque link shows the "formation of cirque" ... you're standing on the "zone of abrasion" looking down into the depression (not technically a "caldera," since there's no volcano, but I'm struggling for terms); the mountain is across the resulting hole, which is not completely filled by the tarn.
Vafrandir: Understood. I had in my mind that we were on the headwall. So it should be no problem to descend safely.
Vafrandir: May we stop here today? I don't want to get into something sticky without the rest of the party. Must be one of those weeks, I suppose.
The DM: Apparently. Have a look at the blog; I just posted something interesting. Out.
Vafrandir: It's always interesting. Out.
The DM: In.
Vafrandir: In. Hoping to wait a bit to get the others caught up.
Pandred: I'd like to pop out my pocket telescope and see what there is to see. What's up with the smoke?
The DM: Looking at it closely, it seems to be about the size of a campfire. It is blocked, however, by several lumpy boulders and striations between you and it, so that all you can see is the smoke.
Pandred: How close is the nearest boulder? Could we approach from a nearby slope for a slightly higher vantage, even one of the lower sides?
The DM: To some degree, you can. It would be an uncertain thing. You are familiar with the stealth rules?
Pandred: So it looks like if we stay 25 hexes or so away while sneaking we should be okay, assuming whatever we're trying to observe has no stealth ability on it's own. You described the tarn as about 700 yards off, so unless I'm wrong any attempt at being sneaky is pretty much golden assuming something isn't already quite close. Could we climb the opposite end from the rothe and the smoke? Is that slope too steep, or would the sight-line still be obstructed by anything if we wanted to get, say, a fifty to a hundred feet more vertical?
Vafrandir: I'm fine with sneaking closer.
Pandred Out. Sorry, should be back soonish. I leave things in your capable hands Vafrandir.
Vafrandir: Very well. We will approach stealthily as we are able.
The DM: That would be my assessment as well, Pandred ... so long as nothing amid the rocks surprises you, and reveals your position. I'm afraid I'm going to have to bail myself. Something has come up and it's going to take up my time for the afternoon. My apologies. Out.
Vafrandir: No worries. Out.
The DM: In. Vafrandir, you feel fairly exposed out here on the rocky tundra. The terrain, as pictured, was once a glacier, so there are stones and boulders everywhere; these give some shelter, but you cannot help noticing that as you move forward, the rothe are becoming more agitated ...
Marcule: In Marcule: Am i with them?
The DM: Yes, if you wish.
Marcule: Last thing i want to do is unsettle a bunch of cattle. How am i doing for sneaking amongst the rocks given my size?
Marcule:Out; back in 20 min (10:49)
The DM: Have a look at the stealth chart I linked. It is full daylight, so you will be noticed at 3d6 hexes (5 ft. per hex), with no adjustments, not for level, equipment or appearance. However, you're already lacking armour; if you get rid of your pack, and anything you're carrying except for a dagger, you can improve that by -1 hex. Essentially, let's say I roll a 10 on 3d6, and you improve that by -1. This means that you'll be seen at 9 hexes from an observer you're trying to approach. Incidentally, I notice you haven't actually rolled your sage abilities. Need help with that? Steal the tables from Embla's page.
Marcule: I will work on my sage abilities; Ok, i drop my pack and would like to keep my blow dart. how far are we currently for the smoke approximately?
The DM: As close to the smoke as you say, since you're moving up. You're about 15 hexes from the nearest rothe.
Vafrandir: Perhaps we should simply wait for a bit to let the rothe become more adjusted to us.
The DM: Judging by that and the questions asked, I've presumed you're holding your ground just now. The rothe will after a few minutes go back to eating the thin grass between the rocks.
− Marcule: "Vaf how close do you think we should get to this thing?"
Vafrandir: "We don't know what "it" is, or really even if it's dangerous. Without knowing more it's impossible to say. So let's know more." After the rothe settle, we'll begin moving forward again as we're able.
The DM: After this, you find you're able to move very closely around the edge of the flock, coming as close as 30 ft. from the nearest animals without them being especially disturbed. You see they have horns with wicked points, but they seem not aggressive at all. Steadily, you move towards what appears to be a shallow gulley that the glacier long ago gouged out of the solid rock of the depression, about 20 yards beyond. The smoke is curling out of the bottom of it, still denying you the knowledge of who's there. Vafrandir, because you haven't dropped your pack, it is slightly safer for Marcule to go ahead than for you to do so.
− Marcule: I will move forward trying not to leave Vafrandir to far behind. can i close to 60ft ish....?
The DM: 20 yards, 60 feet, gets you right to the edge. You're small, you look over the side and into the gulley. It is a low, flat gulley about 8 combat hexes wide. There you see a small encampment, six tents, some brush that's been gathered around the edges as a defense, with stakes hammered into crevices between the rocks to support meat that's hanging there. Even though there are dozens of rothe, these are plainly cowmeat. There's a fire, and stools around it, and six visible goblins sitting on the stools talking to each other.
Marcule:I would like to meet back with Vafrandir and explain what i have seen "six goblins might be to much for us"
The DM: We'll assume Vafrandir and Marcule withdraw to a safe distance to talk about what's been seen.
Vafrandir: [OOC, too much for the 2 of us, perhaps not for all 4] "They're clearly rustling Treborg's cattle. We could either try and handle them ourselves [with a full party], negotiate with them - why do they need cattle if they have the rothe - or return with help from Treborg."
Marcule: I think we can take them as a full party. "If we go back to Treborg it will be to much trouble to find them again. i doubt it would be an option to negotiate."
Vafrandir: I agree. Hopefully we will be at full strength soon. Out
The DM: Me too, then. Hope the others read this and get together. Out.
The DM: In. Just on the phone with the govt.
Pandred: In. Waiting on at least one other.
Vafrandir: In. Pandred, what do you make of the situation?
Pandred: Are we going to parley? If not I can take six unleveled goblins, assuming that's what we have here. One more would guarantee the win, but even with two it's doable.
Vafrandir: Marcule is not a fan of parley. But I would vote for it, I think. If they will make restitution for the cow and live in peace here, then very good. And if it comes to blows, then so it does.
Pandred: Then I'm on board. How wide is the gully? Could we block either end meaningfully, are there any natural choke points, etc? If it comes to blows, I don't want to get surrounded too quickly.
Vafrandir: Not to mention, there could be more than 6. Six is simply all we see.
The DM: The bottom of the gulley is 8 hexes wide; from rim to rim, about 20 hexes. So, 12 hexes to the bottom, which cannot be quickly run down because it is broken, rocky ground. Movement normal for those 12 hexes.
Embla Strand In. I think we can do this, even if there are a few more.
The DM: How do you wish to approach this?
Pandred: Vafrandir, you take the lead. Em and I flanking. I can't think of a good reason to get any closer than 20 hexes, as it doesn't seem like they have bows. So we stay on the edge of the gully. Vafrandir takes point maybe five more hexes in so we look very slightly less murderous, and we see what pans out. Good with everyone?
Parley with Goblins
Vafrandir: Very good. I will approach the edge of the gully, and when I am in eyesight I will put my hands up and call out. "Hello there! We come to talk!"
- Embla Strand I agree. I sneak to the flank, getting no closer than 20 hexes.
- Pandred Same. Although I won't bother sneaking. Let the Gobs know he's not alone.
The DM: I've made a map, added three tents, I'll post it in a few minutes. The goblins react with great surprise, having no idea that you're here. They didn't answer.
Vafrandir: I'll move one hex closer and repeat my question. "You've taken something from the settlement nearby. We're here to discuss it peaceably."
The DM: That'll make them all drag out their weapons.
Pandred: Which are? I'll run as quickly down the slope as the scree will allow the second two of them move toward Vafrandir. I'll stay put if it's just one.
The DM: hold a moment; no one has moved; they look ready to defend themselves, not attack. See map; Vafrandir is at the top edge of the gulley, as depicted.
The DM: Tuesday. In.
Vafrandir: In. What weapons do they have?
The DM: Apparently, spears.
Vafrandir: I'll slowly draw my sword and place it on the ground.
The DM: They hold their spears but appear to relax a little. One will call out, "Go away, elf!"
Vafrandir: "We need to talk about the cow you took! You can talk with us peaceably or you can hope to deal with a much less understanding posse later."
Goblin: Let them come! They'll learn it's not so easy on the mountain!"
Vafrandir: I gesture around. "And what of the rothe? Do you not have enough for yourself here? Why only take a small part of a good animal?"
White-haired goblin: THAT'S not our food!"
First goblin: What do you know about it, demi-human?"
Vafrandir: "I know you've taken something that doesn't belong to you, and that your actions threaten not only our survival but yours."
Marcule: I would like to hang back and cast Phantasmal Figure out of sight.
The DM: Marcule, consider it cast and done.
The DM: Vafrandir and Pandred, you see three more goblins emerge from the tent on the far right; one of these three is dressed differently, in a red leather smock and a headdress made of leather pieces and enmeshed antlers. This goblin, alone, will begin to climb the slope towards you.
Vafrandir: I will wait until the goblin (leader/priest/chief) reaches me.
The DM: He stops half way up the slope, three hexes away, about 15 feet below, you; he has no weapons and is obviously vulnerable. His robes have been stained with images and splashes of colour. All signs point to his being a shaman of some kind.
Shaman: "Begone. It is not safe for you here."
Vafrandir: "All places are not safe. Make restitution for the animal and we will be on our way. We have no particular quarrel with you but you invite trouble on yourself by interfering with Treborg's livestock."
The DM: You'll notice that on the end of the goblin shaman's staff is a large greenish-yellow gem, about the size of a walnut.
Shaman: "We are the children of Grond. Go, or we will feed you to him."
Vafrandir: "Who is Grond, that we should fear him?"
The DM: The shaman turns his back to you, and begins to hop nimbly down the slope.
Vafrandir: I turn to Pandred, "What now? Quickly, I fear this may come to blows after all."
Marcule: out 30ish min back noonish
Pandred: Nine to three with goblins is okay odds to me, but you've got to take out the shaman. Otherwise they aren't budging, so either we go back to town, tell 'em about the rustlers and whip up the posse ourselves, or we take it on the chin and leave.
Pandred: I say "you" have to take out the Shaman because he'll have some spells, but also an AC that is very hittable even by you low-levels. So if we're swinging you're going first and going hard.
Vafrandir: How far is the shaman to me?
The DM: six hexes, at the bottom of the slope; you gave him time by discussing your plan. You wouldn't be able to reach him directly without other goblins getting in your way.
Vafrandir: Then through them we shall go. I pick up my sword (1 AP). You said we can't run down the slope?
The DM: not without scrambling ability. This counts as a "steep" slope; and because it is uneven, with the surface consisting of random blocks and narrow crevices, it counts as "blocked." No dexterity check, but your movement downhill will be 2 AP per hex. The shaman gets away with it because this is home-ground for him. I need to update the source material, as it doesn't account for moving downhill.
Marcule: i would like to move over to Vafrandir and Pandred but not close distance with the goblins yet.
The DM: Let's sort out where we are. Vafrandir, pick a hex on the rim of the gulley, somewhere below the fire/benches. Pandred, you're on his left or right. Marcule, you're three hexes back from the ledge, directly behind Vafrandir. Your figure is on your left or your right. Then I'll update the map.
Marcule: To the right
Pandred: Left, wherever he picks.
Vafrandir: That'll eat up my remaining 2 AP so I'll move forward one hex from my initial spot.
Pandred: First you gotta pick your initial spot!
The DM: I've picked it for him. Working on map.
Vafrandir: Ha, thanks Pandred. No problem. It's a little hard to see the hex labels.
Starting the Fight
The DM: Sorry about the image. I suggest you click it, then click it TWICE after it occupies the page. This is the position prior to Vafrandir's first move. Vafrandir moves into 0922. Marcule will see Vafrandir do it, so both he and Pandred have time to make one move. Then I'll roll initiative.
Vafrandir: Looks good to me, labels are sharp, possibly was a problem on my end.
Marcule: I move to 0924 and cast Chromatic orb.
The DM: maximum distance that can be moved while casting a spell is 1 combat hex. Let's call it 0925. Pandred?
Marcule: 0925 sounds good.
The DM: Time's ticking along. Marcule, please roll a d6 for initiative.
The DM: The goblin's roll is 5. The players can move freely one round. Marcule's spell is cast. Note the range.
Vafrandir: I move to 0921.
Embla Strand In. I move to 1123 and hoist a javelin.
The DM: so noted. Going to call this in a few minutes until tomorrow.
The DM: Out.
Pandred: I'm gonna stride 3 into 0821, drawing my handaxe and holding. Unless by "Run", you meant "not more than Stride-1", in which case I'll move to 0822 with all 4 AP. Out.
The DM: In. Unlike other parts on this, I actually need everyone to weigh in on a combat like this. So I'll wait for Vafrandir and Marcule to respond. Like a chess-by-mail game, if we only get one round a day done, I'll be happy, though I hope to do better than that.
The DM: Pandred, as per the rules, strides-1 & 2 are a "walk"; 3-5 are a run. Thus, you can stride-2 (reducing it to 1 pt. cost per AP), so that you can move into 0821. Additionally, you may be unfamiliar with this rule, but you can draw a light weapon while moving at no extra AP cost.
Embla Strand In. I advance to 1123.
Pandred: In. The Authentic wiki has 2-3 as "Walking" and "Run" was 4-5. Is there a page elsewhere I should be using instead? I DO wish to continue the move into 0821.
The DM: Ah. Hoisted on my own petard. Okay, accepted. If your total AC is 4, at stride-3 you can move up to six hexes forward downhill and still draw your handaxe. So 0821 is fine.
Marcule: Out back in 20min noonish
The DM: In case of confusion; I'm waiting for movement from Vafrandir and Marcule.
Vafrandir: Ah, ok. Thought I'd already moved this round. I'll move to 0920; my 3 AP limits my movement.
The DM: Got it.
Pandred: I moved up at speed to try and draw AoOs, so since nobody threw a spear at me fingers crossed they have no range capability. Em and I have Balance so we should be fine to fight on the slopes, but you two be careful. Any throwables in the mix?
The DM: Apparently, if they throw their spears, they'll disarm themselves.
Vafrandir: I have Balance as well, fwiw
Marcule: I will move forward 1. 0924 holding my spell.
The DM: Done. Let's start a new post: Goblin Fight east of Treborg