The player characters decided to spend the night in Bjergby and then ask the priests about using their library in the morning. They want to learn more about the history of Gurgu and confirm or reject some of the rumors they picked up in Mickleheim. Their sleep was interrupted by the innkeeper pounding on their door, however. Priests had run down from the temple to fetch the adventurers because they remembered Yllgrad the dwarf’s boasting about killing many foul beasts, and their temple was under attack.
Now, this set up *smacks* of being set up for the PCs benefits, right in the same vein as “then ninjas pop out!”, but here’s the God’s honest truth: okay, yes, having an attack from monsters from outside was thought up to make the location more of an “adventure”, and only came up because the players ended up visiting this place, so in that sense it’s “plotted”. But after deciding that bugbears from the deep would be an adventure element, their actions have been determined either independently or in reaction to the players. I randomly determined a number of days until the bugbears planned to attack, and then decided that they had a spy on the island, and if the players said or did certain things in front of the spy, they would push their timetable up. Turns out their scheduled attack was at 5:00 in the morning of this day.
Thanks Tony Diterlizzi
So, the players decided that if they help out the priests, maybe they’ll give them access to the temple in gratitude, and they occasionally have vague senses of doing the right thing. When they show up, they are lead to the bottom two floors of the temple, and they are attacked with crossbow bolts out of patches of unnatural darkness! Yllgrad’s faithful hireling Nyllan is struck and falls headlong into the lava, bringing with him most of Yllgrad’s adventuring gear besides his armor and weapon! The adventurers charge into the darkness and find themselves fighting blind against trollkin (a bugbear and his hobgoblin slaves).
They manage to dispatch the hobgoblins pretty quickly, with the help of Sir Braxton, Caleb’s dog, and a few lucky critical hits. The bugbear takes some serious damage and decides to flee. The party presses on to fight another similar group with similar results, except this bugbear throws sleep gas grenades before fleeing (thanks to a suggestion on Google+ for the idea for using noxious fumes, which lead to the sleep gas grenade idea). It puts Sir Braxton, a hireling, and Caleb to sleep, along with the lone surviving hobgoblin slave. The party ties him up for questioning before moving on to the large melee.
See, as all of this has been going on, the main force of Bugbears, Hobgoblins, Trolls, and lightning lizards have been facing off against the priests and their summoned elemental. Then they also summoned the avatar of Gurgu, and it pretty much went against the bugbears and their slaves after that. The players’ ranged characters and henchmen contributed by picking off some leadership and killing two of the lightning lizards. Being hard pressed, the bugbears retreated, leaving the enraged trolls and lightning lizards fighting. They threw sleep grenades, which promptly knocked out every single priest. Fortunately, the elemental did not go out of control and kept the trolls busy, but Gurgu just stood there without direction from the priests.
By the time the players got there, the trolls had fled in the face of so much non-regenerating damage, and they helped Bjergmund clear the whole complex, thereby getting something of a tour. During this clearing, they found a collapsed newly dug tunnel that was the apparent retreat point of the Bugbears and their forces. Bjergmund also answered some questions about the temple and Gurgu, confirming that the temple was built by a wizard before Gurgu was worshipped, and that he selected it so that his library of clay tablets would be in hot, dry air. For their help in defending the temple, the PCs were all offered free lifetime access to the baths, the chest containing the offerings of the faithful, and a chest with fancy vestements, which the party gratefully accepted. We had to end somewhat early due to a number of early appointments, and the party decided that next time they will seek out any alternative landing places on the island to confirm that the monsters really did come from deep under the earth and to go through the library to research Gurgu. If they complete that, they will return to Mickleheim to sell some loot and refit for future adventures.
Quick and Dirty Mass Combat Rules
Alternative 1 (slightly more concrete): Treat each side as a “character”. Assign AC, HD, HP and morale based on the overall characteristics of the side (something like 1 HP per 1 HD monster/character is probably reasonable). When players are not involved, each side fights as if a one on one fight. Determine initiative normally and go from there. If players get involved, have them make attacks on the side as if against a single character if they’re indiscriminate, or if they target someone in particular (like a leader) “zoom in” and alter the side’s “character” appropriately. For example, if they kill a 3HD leader guy, deduct 3 HP from the side as a whole, and maybe test morale. Without other special circumstances (leaders killed, horrifying magic, et cetera) start testing morale after ¼ or ½ HP damage are taken.
Alternative 2 (more abstract and potentially more swingy): Assign each side a base morale value and a morale bonus or penalty. Each combat round, roll a d20 for each side, and the higher roll wins that round. Deduct a point from the losing side’s morale bonus (or increase the penalty by 1). Test morale every round. When one side fails a morale check, it flees. Alter the morale modifiers appropriately for character actions (deduct points when they kill leaders or big monsters, add points when they rally the troops or lead a charge, whatever). This tends to assume fairly evenly matched forces, but if you want one side to have way better fighting ability, you can always modify the vs. d20 roll, or use Alternative 1 above.
Alternative 3 (most concrete): Roll up lots of creatures/characters. Roll initiative. Have a big ass fight with the normal rules. Take careful notes to avoid going insane. Budget a lot of time.
Morale Rolls: For these rules, a morale roll of 2d6 attempting to roll under modified morale score is assumed. Morale scores range from 2 (totally cowardly) to 12 (fanatically loyal). Basic humans/humanoids with a normal stake in a fight can be assumed to be morale 7. A natural 2 always passes, and a natural 12 always fails. Note that a modifier of +3 or greater will almost guarantee passing these rolls for Morale of 7 or greater. If you have a different preferred morale system, go with that, but a 2 or more dice roll is recommended, so that you will have a normal distribution with most results clustering around the average (7) +/- 1 or 2.