Saturday, December 21, 2013

K20 - The basement isn't clear

This long overdue session report covers two sessions and follow on the K19 - Under New Management

The tactical situation

The natural cave is oriented East-West. The dwarves are progressing from the East. They crossed a door some 300 yds earlier where the cave had been walled in. The ceiling of the cave drops to 3 ft in many places, making the progress difficult and forcing a crouching position (-2 attack). On the ground, there is a meandering frozen stream. The stream is covered in rubble and ice, making it rough footing (-2 attack, -1 defense). The echoes are severe, making Per checks -3. There is only a single torch lit, held by Goldo, the vision penalty is -1 per 2 hexes beyond a range of 3 from the torch. Finally, the air is thin and toxic, causing double FP damage.

A clash in the dark

When he heard them coming, Khazek ordered his rangers to fan out and put eyes forward. However, they extended their positions too far and deep under a segment of low ceiling (Tactics failed). As a result, the rangers were scattered and not very self supporting when the wave of ghouls struck. The left wing of the dwarven position was covered by Gror's axedwarves. Gror had trained them well (Tactics success), and they arrayed themselves at the most defensible position where the ceiling comes down over the brook, making any attacks at -4 while they stood up tall and suffered no penalties. 

Some 20 ghouls charged in a roar, most dwarves stood their ground despite the horrifying sight. The rangers shot their bows then began to regroup by stepping back. The ghouls went straight for the dwarves' faces as is was not armored. Without regards for their self-preservation, they attempted grapples to the face of their opponents using both claws and their bites. Gimvar got grappled while other ghouls fell. Khazek nearly amputated one and got drawn on the other side of the lines where he began attacking from the rear. 

The war-chant of dwarves was thundering into the cave. The axedwarves were pushing the ghouls back on the left while Gesdrek, Lathmelen the elf and one of the ranger held the right. The ghouls in better days were once these canine bipeds creature that Khazek had tracked in the hall previously. They were in bad shape: and obviously had died for a reason. It turned out that their over aggressiveness and poor condition made them not too difficult to neutralize if the dwarves could survive the determined claw/bite grapple to their faces.

By Thordar's beard

Thordar pulled is smallsword and dove into the fray ahead of the viceroy. He completely fooled a ghoul into thinking that he was to attack from the left with his fist while he was about to strike with his sword in reverse grip (Massive feint success). However, the fine points of fencing were lost on the ghoul that just went for his face. The ghoul ripped part of his cheek off and pulled the beard prosthetic askew from the dwarf. The flash of pain was such that Thordar passed out immediately, falling over the body of another ghoul that had been slain by an axdwarf a moment before [At this point, Paul jumped into Gror which had to be NPC'd that night]. Gror was just behind and saw the ghoul about to be feasting on Thordar's jolly cheeks. He let out a rally cry to cue his axdwarves [Took on a voluntary penalty of -2 to transfer to a leadership free action], and failed to hit the ghoul. Instead, Nain's axe lodged itself deep into the Thordar's leg [There is something meta about almost killing your main character with a secondary character attempting a rescue...].      

Meanwhile, the axedwarves had mostly cleared the left wing and were starting to rally to take stock of the situation. On the right, Lathmelen [now Paul's character since Gordon was back and in control of Gror again.] was fighting off another one which was inching deeper towards Tov, the war-chanter On the centre, the rangers were embroiled into a confused melee with a number of ghouls. 

Abducting the little drummer boy

A sudden mood shift happened and the remaining ghouls dashed through the dwarves towards Tov (The freakish holy man playing the war drum). The ghoul that once was trying to go after the viceroy made a quick turn and grabbed the drummer from behind, thus ending the war chant. The silence emphasized the chaos of the raging battle. At least three ghouls rushed from the East, after sneaking through during the melee. Khazek could hear a number of grunts coming from the West as well.

Bain, Lathmelen, Goldo and Gesdrek killed the abductor and freed a bloodied Tov from its grasp.  This was just on time to weather the incoming wave of ghouls from the East. Gesdrek got grappled at the face while Lathmelen carefully setup a strike on another. Gror's axedwarves formed a supporting line while their commander had drifted out of sight to the West. Soon, the last of the ghoul had fallen.

One of the ranger, named Dwalir, lit a torch and moved to cover better the position of the rangers and Gror. There was a number of ghouls recoiling slowly to the West. Two of them, missing legs from past engagements, were finished on the spot as they couldn't retreat fast enough. Gror roused the rangers while Khazek had them to comb the cave forward. It looked like there was a lot more ghouls ahead, but their stomach for a fight had waned with the advent on a second light source. As Gror and Khazek were about to order a charge ahead, the cry of the viceory come from the rear: "Retreaaaaat"!

The blighted corpses of the Witch-King of Angmar

Gesdrek was sitting on the ground, holding his torn face. Bain reached out to him. Gesdrek told the viceroy that these creatures were blighted corpses. That their bite bore a curse and untold pestilence. Gesdrek looked at the blood in his hand, and declared that this wasn't looking good. He advised Bain to rally all wounded dwarves and make sure that none of them died without anyone noticing.

Player's view of the scene when the viceroy called a retreat. Hatched area
have low ceiling and are forcing a crouch.

Lathmelen was already on Thordar and performing elven magic on the spymaster. She managed to stop the bleeding on his leg while one of the axedwarf bandaged his face. Thordar work up to the sight of the elf speaking gently to him. She helped him to his feet as the dwarves began to reverse-march back to the wall. Gesdrek looked a Thordar's face, and lowered his eyes.

They shut the door and took stock: Gimvar was profusely bleeding from his face, Gesdrek had been hurt as well and so was Thordar. Two axedwarves, Dueran and Grart, and a ranger, Niaan, also had been wounded.

"The basement isn't clear", proclaimed solemnly the viceroy over the roar of the waterfall rolling into the chasm.  

Death of a dwarf

Thordar managed to make it past the infection after two days of shivering and vomiting, and so were most of the wounded dwarves that went down except Niaan. Niaan's life was slowly and painfully snuffed on the third day. At his death bed were a number of who's-who that normally wouldn't have waited for the last gasp of a grunt. Niaan was now grey, feeble. When he expired, he was immediately quartered and each part of his body thrown into a hot fire of embers. Gesdrek had already explained that there was nothing to do for Niaan but to destroy his body completely before he himself became a blighted corpse. The rangers built a monument with river stones near the bridge at Browek. 

Gesdrek explained to the others that the rhythm that could be felt in the underdeep was a beacon that was created by the Balrog a long time ago. This beacon was drawing all sorts of underdeep dwellers to Khazad-dum where he enslaved them into his command. Gesdrek expressed the regret that the beacon was still in effect. He further explained that few could resist the beacon if they were to approach Khazad-dum from the underdeep. 

Bain ordered the Elk-Herd from the Silver-Attack to garrison Sarn Goriwig. The herd's order was to ensure that the gates to the underdeep were not to be opened, nor that anything may enter the known world from this location. 

Entering Kahzad-dum through a backdoor proved to be problematic. To keep good time and catch up with Battlegroup-West, the viceroy ordered to resume the march through Mirkwood.

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