Vastlands ep.8 – Nag-Wood Passage

After last session and the zombie horde, the players were being cautious. There was a discussion during the week about what they should do – Stay in town, try for a safer route, or just try to rush through the last expanse of forest before Drigbolton. I pointed them towards the Wilderness travel rules, and how terrain, armour, and equipment can slow them down.

Dark Forest by Sergio-c

In Game (session 8)

PCs present: Alette (Hunter), Estmund (Dolmenwood Knight), Prudence (Magic-User), Solvang (Magic-User).
NPCs: Fluff-Tail (Grimalkin), Fleet-hoof(Goat-kin)

The party decided to press on to Drigbolton. On the rough map they had, the distance to Drigbolton seemed achievable, but everyone wanted to ensure they made good time, and so all their armour and equipment was packed onto Ryyni and Milo (the horse and mule) and they left at the crack of dawn.

Before the sun was even above the trees, the party came across a trio of bramblings devouring the remains of a deer. Everyone watched with gruesome shock as the thorny plant-things stripped the animal of flesh and then moved back to almost disappear into the brush on the side of the path. Fleet-Hoof and Alette were able to point our the creatures to the others, almost invisible against the thorny greenery. Fleet-Hoof was all for turning around and heading back to Brandonford to spend some of the coin they had collected, so much so that he refused to try creeping past the bramblings. The party had a hushed discussion, and said farewell to Fleet-Hoof and wished him all the best in the future. As thanks, he warned them about the darkness in the Nag-Wood – the corrupting influence of the Nag-Lord – and to run away from any Crookhorns they encountered. “They are rotten in mind and body”.

Alette feels sure that the Bramblings would be satisfied by their kill, she carefully walks down the path, careful to appear as non threatening as possible. One of the brambling turns it’s glowing green eyes and watches Alette pass. She waves to the others to come across. Estmund leads Ryyni down the path and Solvang scuttles along behind them. Something about Solvang set of one of the bramblings – it leapt from the underbrush! Estmund jumped to defend his companion, and tackled the thorny mass before it could strike. The pair wrestled on the ground, blood spraying across the path. Solvang was preparing to blast out with his magics when Prue came forward, wreathed in terrifying magics – she commanded the Bramblings to leave her companions and return to the forest. All three of the thorn-creatures turned and fled in terror. She knelt beside Estmund and let the magic flow across him – easing his pain.

After that encounter, everyone walked armed. Prue and Solvang shared their feelings – both felt their magic harder. Even in Brandonford there had been a strange feeling. Something was pushing against them. With second sight they could see something ahead, a wall of shifting power which arced overhead. They didn’t feel the need to share the news.

Shortly after lunch the party heard rough singing – Solvang understood the words (sung in Gaffe) and felt terrified at the references to bloody violence of various sorts. Remembering Fleet-Hoof’s words everyone scattered off the path. Estmund and Solvang led Ryyni into a fern filled depression and eased the horse down to lie hidden. Prue and Alette had more trouble with Milo, the mule complaining about the rough handling. The boys watched in horror as the twelve Crookhorn goat-kin came down the path – Milo being held quiet by the two girls trying to hide behind tree trunks. Luckily they were so engrossed in their singing and roughhousing that they failed look carefully into the shadows beneath the trees.

Once the smell and noise had receded they came back onto the path. Everyone was shocked at the appearance of the Crookhorn – patchy fur, scars, twisted horns and mis-matched armor. Alette though some of the leather looked human. Everyone turned north and tried to move a little faster.

As the sun got closer to the horizon, Prue and Solvang felt a sudden flush of heat as they crossed a ley line. The opressive feeling left them. Solvang found a lonely dead tree to mark with his sigil – he wanted to return and investigate this phenomena.

The sun started to dip beneath the trees. Everyone was feeling the beginnings of a panic as the forest seemed never ending. Above the sounds of trees and bird call Alette heard a more ominous sound – the screeching of Harpies. Once more everyone dived for cover. Somewhere nearby an animal tried to run, and the Harpies gave chase. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

The village of Drigbolton was only a scattering of shadowy cottages at twilight. On an overlooking hill squatted a stone manor house. Estmund took time to put on his armor and look suitably “knightly” before leading his tired companions to meet the Laird of Drigbolton. A spotty teenager with aspirations of being a butler showed them into the sitting room and rushed off to deal with their horses. Solvang was especially impressed by the shelves of books, while Estmund preferred the fine whisky. Laird Alhoyle Spinnewith IV was a shock after their travels in Dolmenwood. A “gentleman of leisure” who dressed like an imagined southern noble and seemed very unfamiliar with social niceties. He was quite pleased at the honour of a visit from House Harrowmoor, and showed them around his house and his collections (a strange assortment of tall tales, nonsense, and dangerous occult knowledge that he seemed oblivious to). Prue and Solvang both saw opportunity in this Laird (in both the library, and the haphazard alchemical laboratory) , and shamelessly inflated his ego with flattery for what they considered his nonsense ideas.

Alette spent some time wandering around the library, and found a secret door revealing a ladder to a cellar-study. The books and papers in here were covered in strange symbols that reminded her of Solvang’s ritual book. She tried to remember a few of the names before departing, careful that nothing was out of place.

With some persuasion, Laird Spinnewith agreed to put up the party in his guestrooms in return for some assistance from a “fellow physiker” in preparing his papers for publication.

At the Table

Now this was fun!

I had taken a few hints from the various discord servers I am on, and decided to hand some more of the “mechanics” to the players. They became more familiar with the Wilderness travel rules – direction, speed, encounters – and told them the odds and let them roll the dice 🙂 The Nag-wood is slow travelling and full of dangerous encounters!

Fleet-Hoof had already had some bad morale rolls, and this time Solvang’s player rolled abysmally. The rp around this event was somewhat sad, as we had some fun memories. But all agreed that Fleet-Hoof had done his job in helping rescue Violet well, and they parted on good terms – and a warning that was somewhat prophetic.

The players were both unlucky and lucky… They ran afoul of rather dangerous creatures on every encounter roll, but they managed to catch them by surprised every time. I run surprise as “the surprised side is unaware of the other” so the players had the opportunity to try to avoid encounters. The Bramblings had a decent reaction roll so were able to be carefully walked past (cha test to appear unthreatening). The Crookhorn were an overwhelming force, but the party tried to hide (wis check – some failed – then an incredible reaction roll… ) The Harpies were similar. But every time I could hear the players tension at the outcome of the rolls, and their cheering when they managed to avoid their potential fate.

The encounter with Spinnewith was fun. I was modelling him after “Christopher Drawlight” – pompous, loves flattery and being the most important person in the room, and not actually very smart. The players seemed to have fun pretending interest and politeness, and plotting to con him later (or some other fate).

Next – into the tower of the Undying Tyrant!

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