Sunday, September 21, 2014

K37 - Stress testing Thordar the fearless fencing dwarf.

The 31st session of Reclaiming Khazad-dum took a turn for the interesting when it became a single combat pitching one dwarf PC against temporarily PC'd orcs. Thordar has an interesting concept, embodied by his daredevil advantage and a selection of cinematic combat technique, machismo, reverse grip antics and overconfidence. Thordar shredded through two large panthers using single strikes to the vitals in the past, greatly simplifying an otherwise difficult encounter.  I wanted to stress test the PC while he ended up isolated and hurt. NPC orcs were given to other players to ensure that the brittle orcs got their very best shot in this fight. 

The background

Thordar was a bit too enthusiastic as a rear guard on the day that the dwarves collapsed the two approaches used by the orcs to assault Erebor's positions. Consequently, he got cut off from the main body, alone in the dark. His only known option was to follow a breakneck footpath on the wall of the unending well up to a small footbridge across. Scouts reported it, but never investigated the location. 

The opening move

Thordar advanced in the dark until he could see and hear resting orcs. The sentry was in the absolute dark and couldn't be seen. As he crossed the beam, the sentry began to retch loudly. This drew the ire of the other idling orcs and offered a blanket of noise to the dwarf. 

The battle

Thordar made it from the shadows into the cave to strike at the nearest known Orc (Jason). The other orcs snapped from their mental stun at various times, giving a reprieve for the dwarf. A well place arrow in his torso set the tone for a difficult fight. The Orc leader wasn't very effective at leading according to orc doctrine, nor with the whip for that matter. The early success at dispatching orcs started to stall as Thordar dropped his smallsword while switching to a reverse grip, while being grappled for 2CP by a spoiler orcs (Arne). While grappled, Grokos managed a minor blow to the leg while the leader decided to run for the rear. The orc leader’s flight send many of the orcs into a rout as well, except for Grokos and the grappler (Jerkil) who got re-inspired by Grokos’ persistence. A harsh blow to the hand sent him reeling. Hope was fading with a single HP to his name. Thordar, now sporting his mystical Ithilnaur knife eventually skewered Jerkil and sent Grokos into a flight.

The last few moments when Thordar was down to 1 HP.

The aftermath

Thordar, bleeding all over the cave floor, picked up his smallsword and headed back across the chasm to find a quiet place to rest before he lost the little blood left in his veins. It is a gritty game: there is bleeding to contend with, and infections, and the fact that he is cut out of contact with the others... and maybe that more orcs are going to be showing up soon enough. Paul can take it. 

Concluding remarks 

The PC orcs were played with much enthusiasm even though they themselves were quite brittle. My intuition that 6 orcs against Thordar was an OK challenge was about right: had Alex not run to the rear, Thordar may have had a hard time not to lose the fight. However, the order to the orc leader were clear and spelled out in a Roll20 whisper as this orc became controlled by a player. Alex could have gambled a bit more and the outcome of the encounter would have been rather interesting. 

I personally like letting players play antagonist characters. I think that we had a pretty good time trying to kill one of our longstanding, nearly iconic campaign PC. 


  1. Oh, if that leader hadn't cut and run, Thordar would have gone down, no question. Once my virtual dice turned cold and the grapples started, I didn't expect to make it out alive. Apparently I still shouldn't. :c)

    1. Alex ordered the other orcs to keep on attacking. But hey, when the leader split and there is a bunch of colleagues dead on the ground, what's an orc with Will-8 to do. Had Alex realized how fragile their morale was, he probably would have stuck for a bit longer.

    2. I love scenes like this. It keeps the whole group involved while spotlighting one character.

    3. What I forgot to do in the spur of the moment is to let the players spend a few points on the orcs.