- Akmenos - Teifling priest of Asmodeus, currently in possession of the Book of Vile Darkness.
- Brand - Half elf bard and priest of Asmodeus, coming to terms with the planning style of the rest of the group.
- Geln Stone Stair Cutter - Dwarven barbarian, skeptical of all of this religious mumbo jumbo.
- Oryn - Elven wizard, looking forward to raining fiery death upon his foes.
- Tai Lung - Elven monk, going a bit crazy with his mechanical man and poison lab.
Here They Come
Two hundred soldiers lead by two paladins were on their way to the Horn. Anaxibia's letter by raven arrived just a few hours before the army would be knocking on the door. The Ninth Knot (our "heroes") scrambled to come up with a plan that would help them hold out against the marching troops. They were feeling a bit winded after battling the slaad that manifested from the Book of Vile Darkness while they were discussing long term plans to improve the Horn. In order to buy some extra time the kuo-toa were dispatched to destroy the approach the paladins were taking, this would allow the elves to get rested before the fight.
The group send the kuo-toa out to slow down the advance of the army and argued that they'd be able to get at least four hours out of it. That sounded just fine, so the elves would be rested for the big fight.
While Oryn and Tai Lung were resting up, Brand and Geln took the orphans down to the open meadow in front of the Horn in order to dig out some pit traps. There wasn't much time, so they'd have to work quickly. Shortly after the first trap was started Brand was not pleased with the work and made an example of the orphan Lake to motivate the rest. That seemed to send the right message as the orphans put together a very deadly trap. Two more orphans were killed off in order to motivate the rest into building a second trap.
We're using a mechanic from Way of the Wicked in which you can sacrifice a minion to reroll an action they are performing. I allowed multiple rerolls here, unlike what Way of the Wicked suggests because it was fun to see Brand and Geln fight over how to use the orphans.
Akmenos spent the available time putting together an explosive sleeping potion with Mr. Bojangles (Tai Lung's automaton).
There's no crafting skill in 5th edition, so I just asked for a Medicine or Intelligence roll here. Mr. Bojangles provided advantage since he was assisting. However, I was watching for any ones to be rolled, which would result in Mr. Bojangles doing something very bad.
As the army grew closer, the Knot split up and took their positions. Geln, Tai Lung, and Mr. Bojangles hid out in the woods with the kuo-toa. Brand took a unit of kuo-toa deep into the caves beneath the Horn to wait in ambush. Akmenos positioned himself with the mercenaries up on the side of the Horn, waiting for the soldiers to get within range of the archers. Oryn stepped out on the balcony overlooking the field in front of the Horn and prepared to dump fiery doom upon the approaching paladins and their soldiers.
The Battle of the Horn
Lord Thomas Havelyn and his son, Richard Havelyn, broke from the cover of the forest surrounding the Horn. Their troops were strong and determined, the 40 knights and 160 soldiers were ready to destroy the evil that had infested the forests near Farholde. They marched with determination across the field, the paladins veering to the side of the Horn where they were told there was a path up and into the fortress. Their other contingent of troops made their way directly to the entrance of the cave beneath the Horn. Then the arrows and fireballs started falling from the skies.
Fireball in mass combat is really good.
Thomas' squad of knights was engulfed with flames. He stood strong against the onslaught, his fire resistance ring was coming in very handy. The information he'd received about the fire wielding wizard was accurate. The scorch marks in the church where he'd found the dead angel helped back up the information, so it had been easier to trust it. His knights didn't fare as well, but they were strong enough to withstand the blast. The arrows bounced harmlessly off their shields as they picked up the pace and charged toward the Horn.
Thomas and Richard were prepared for fire as Oryn has been pretty loose with his magic. The angel the group had killed was burned to a crisp. The cleric the group had captured also witnessed his spells in action. All of this added up to the reasonable conclusion that these paladins would have rings of fire resistance.
As they closed the distance kuo-toa broke from the tree line and smashed into their ranks. The fury of the kuo-toa seemed to be driven forward by a dwarf who was screaming at the creatures.
"Fight good!" The dwarf shouted, urging the kuo-toa to pin the knights down.
I cribbed the mass combat rules that Wizards put out a while back to help run this large combat. I don't really like the complexity that comes with adding in more systems, so I just used it as a guide. The PCs who were embedded with the kuo-toa units were commanders and could Incite and Prepare them. Most of the lead up was Geln and Mr. Bojangles ineffectively rallying their units.
Across the field, Thomas saw the rest of his soldiers engaged with more kuo-toa. Those, however, were led by a mechanical man who seemed to terrify the scaly bastards. More kuo-toa poured out of the cave beneath the tower, and fireballs blasted the soldiers as they made their way in to back up their companions.
Praying to Mitra, Richard sought assistance in the battle. He locked eyes with the dwarf woman leading the kuo-toa and he felt the holy power of his god shake her resolve. She turned and fled, leaving the kuo-toa to be dashed to pieces by Richard and his knights. The paladins marched toward the hidden stairs leading up the Horn.
As they ascended, close behind the dwarf ahead of them, a terrifying shriek silenced the clash of steel. Thomas glanced down at the field in front of the Horn only to see a massive Tyrannosaurus Rex charge into the knights still fighting. The knights that survived the dinosaur's attack scattered, fleeing from the field. There was nothing to be done but push forward. Thomas was here to destroy whatever was in the Horn and they were on their way up to do so.
The paladins were nearly caught up to the dwarf when she ducked into a crevasse in the mountain. Rumbling like thunder sounded from the path above as a massive rock slide swept down the path.
This was one of the immovable rod traps that the group had set up in the previous session. It sounded like a deadly trap, so I gave it 10d10 for damage with a DC 15 Dexterity save for half. Nobody made it.
Geln slipped out of the crevasse she had hidden away in and surveyed the carnage. At first, it looked like everything had gone their way. The paladins were no more, and their army was scattered. Just as the feeling of content after a job well done was setting in the rocks covering the path began to stir. Lord Thomas Havelyn cast off the rubble and stood with nary a dent on his gleaming armor.
Geln hefted her axe and dug her feet in, preparing to face off against the pair of paladins and the knights that were pulling themselves out of the rubble. After a bit of consideration, however, she opted to leap off the path and tumble gracefully off the mountain. Miraculously, she manage to get to the base of the Horn without dying.
Geln had run herself into a corner on this one. The door to the interior of the Horn was barred, so she was getting ready to take on two paladins and four knights on her own. I broke my DM character here and told her that this would probably go very badly for her if she stood her ground. Had she stood toe to toe with them she'd have been taken out pretty quickly, and she decided to slide down the side of the mountain and risk the 10d10 falling damage. I rolled really badly and she only took 23 damage here.
Into the Den of Evil
Thomas and Richard Havelyn put their shoulders into the solid door leading into the stronghold while another fireball rained down on them, burning two of their remaining knights to ash. The time it took the paladins to break down the door gave the villains enough time to regroup and prepare for their entry. Everyone except Geln, who was busy slowly running back up the Horn.
The door burst open, and the glyph of warding blasted acid on the intruders. Thomas and Richard were alone now, all of their knights had either fled or perished. This would not deter the paladins, Mitra was with them. They did not get far before Tai Lung charged down the hall and laid into Richard, a blur of fists. Most of the blows clanged off Richard's heavy plate armor, but at least one of the strikes was true. It was at this moment that Tai Lung really thought over his plan, but it was too late to change it. Richard and Thomas laid Tai Lung low with their radiant weapons and began a slow march down the hall.
Jim is still not sure why he had Tai Lung charge the paladins.
Magic missiles lit up the corridor, and a spectral guardian appeared in front of the paladins at Akmenos' command. As the paladins marched down the hall Geln joined the fray with a burst of speed from Brand as she charged in. The paladins and the barbarian went head to head, magic blasting the hall to ruin. Blows were traded and just as things looked at their bleakest for the paladins, a roar boomed through the hall as the brass dragon who had been spotted near Farholde ripped a hole in the side of the mountain, wedged itself into the hall, and shredded Geln nearly to pieces. Tai Lung was shocked awake at this turn of events and dropped a globe of darkness in front of the dragon, blinding it to the happenings in the hall. Thomas was hit by another blast of arcane energy and collapsed. Geln then unleashed a barrage of blows on Richard and cut him down.
Here's an example of something that would be a GM intrusion if I was running the game with the Cypher System. The dragon totally wouldn't have been able to make that attack, but it sure looked cool.
The two paladins lay bleeding on the floor of the hall. The heavy beat of wings and rush of air suggested the dragon had departed. Things were turning out pretty well for the villains.
Just as things were wrapping up an unexpected guest arrived. Cardinal Adrastus Thorn appeared in a puff of magic, scooped up Richard Havelyn and disappeared.
Now the villains are trying to figure out how to put the Horn back together, and who should get that sweet treasure.