The Architects of Betrayal (TAB) 24: A Brief History Of Scouting
Updated: Jul 20
Cultists killed, spies vanquished or rehabilitated, it was time for the group to get on with their assigned sweep of some 1200 square miles of mountain. To assist, I gave them this sheet of info. With it they were able to determine that they need only scout half a mile in from the road to find any likely camps. The problem being that they didn't have enough people to cover that area. Nor did they have enough time to go back and forth. So they settled for spreading out to cover most of the area and assuming that the posts would be spread out enough to indicate a nearby camp.
In the interest of simplicity (and perhaps laziness) I designed a rogue, druid, gunslinger, and ranger and randomly assigned the four types to each six man camp. Note: The druid companion was an advanced badger which I called a honey badger. I only placed one druid in each camp.
What follows is a synopsis of the interesting events at various camps up to this point. Note: This is my best recollection of several months of gaming interspersed with time off as one player or other became unavailable. The events described may not have happened in this order, and I'm certain I've forgotten some. Camp 1 - The group's first encounter with druids did much to scar them against badgers for life. They tried to ambush the druid and its companion as they were out a-hunting. The hunters fled, but could not outpace half of the group. Realizing they couldn't escape, they turned to fight. The druid did little, but the badger nearly killed Tanic twice, and one shot Bob using the massive damage rule. Needless to say, they were extra careful of them from then on.
Zubat also found himself dealing with a face full of flying rogue as a lookout he'd missed tried to jump him. From a tree. Clearly the leap before you look type, that one.
Camp 2 - Being close to nightfall by the time the group reached this camp, they decided to ambush all six lookouts at once. As they sat around their fire Quagrim instigated by using summon eidolon to place Bob directly in the middle of the fire (don't worry he has immunity). At which point the massive bunny activated his ring of retribution. Thus came the suprise round.
In the surprise round Quagrim then cast wall of fire, sadistically ensuring that it circled through as many of the poor campers as possible. Despite these two setbacks the group retaliated strongly. The two gunslingers nearly killed Zubat. Meanwhile Calith (now short of Velic's influence) had reverted to her earlier ways and begun firing arrows into the fray. Zubat was forced to hide behind the camp's cabin for survival. Ironically, as the badger charged to finish him off it was Calith that performed a max damage crit with her mace that just happened to have the added effect of stunning the creature. The crit cards giveth . . . Aftwards there was much bickering to be had. Camp 3 - After killing the camp guard, Tanic decided it would be funny to pretend to be one. This ruse worked until they'd come within ten feet, at which point one exclaimed "Hey your not Jim!" and they attacked. Fortunately the rogue had backup. Meanwhile the previous guardians of the camp had been stacked in the cabin with Bob, who was amusing himself by playing with them like dolls.
Camp 4 - Tanic tried a modified version of his approach in Camp 3 whereby he borrowed Quagrim's hat of disguise. This time it worked. They sat down, even asked him about his day, before he slid his rapier between their ribs. Note to self: don't ask about Tanic's day. Or offer advice. Or . . . you know what; its probably just better to run the other way when you see him.
Camp 5 - The group again decided to ambush four of the six returning scouts. At some point the druid realized they were doomed and made a break for it. Tanic pursued. As he hit the druid it stopped and summoned a T-Rex. A T-Rex that promptly tried to eat the rogue. And it would have succeeded if Quagrim hadn't shouted "Use your cape." And poof, the dino's stomach was suddenly much emptier.
As the group was bivouacked in their latest triumph a well meaning man in his early twenties walked up and introduced himself in a thick southern accent that seemed to shift between Texan and Louisianan. He offered them some of the brace of rabbit he carried with him. Both Quagrim and Bob refused, eyeing him with disdain. As they talked he managed to get them to tell him all about their mission, both current and overall. After this revelation he said "It seems you would be wise to not meddle in things that were not your concern. Finish this little task and go home." As he did so his voice deepened and his skin turned black as he shifted back to his natural demonic form. Message delivered, he flew away. Quagrim recognized him as a Specix Obstikai. A demon of my own making. Heh heh heh . . .
Tanic then sent his Harpers back to warn the Dwarf of their minor little slip.
Camp 6 - Again at night, the group is approached by the same figure that had approached them at the last camp, only limping. He asked for their help saying he'd been attacked, this time in a perfect Texan accent. Somehow the group kept from killing him outright. As they made that choice they heard a hiss from the trees. Looking up they saw the demon from the previous camp.
"Can't blame a guy for trying to have a little fun now can ya?" the demon asked, clearly disappointed that the group hadn't slaughtered the poor kid. He then informed them that he was under contract to check on the alertness of the various lookout posts and that it would take him ten more days before he had to return and report. He then left.
Camp 7 - Tanic's Harpers return +2. He should have told them to RSVP. The two extras were a Human Bloodrager named Minerva, and a Changeling Shaman named Halona. They explained that they were the only survivors of the original scouting group. All the other members had been killed the night before they were supposed to leave. They'd barely survived themselves. They also explained that they were there to keep the rest of the group out of further trouble. In other words they were chaperones. This simplified their issues as the shaman was able to cast commune with nature, and nature's paths. Dammit . . . Even when not playing a Gnome, Christian is annoying.
Clearing the lookout posts had become routine enough for the group, but they couldn't seem to settle on a plan for the camp itself. This time Tanic snuck into the camp cabin to murder the sleeping night watchman. Unfortunately this camp had their druid and badger standing the night watch. The badger with the scent ability. Unable to find a ruling that the badger would wake up when it failed the perception check I deemed that it would wake up as soon as anyone became adjacent. So Tanic used a five foot step and coup de graced the druid. He then used his cape of the mountebank to teleport behind the cabin.
Realizing its master was dead, the badger flew into a rage and charged out of the simple cabin. And the only person it saw was the rogue tending the fire . . .
I'm sure you can see where this is going. Well played, Tanic. Well played.
Camp 8 - Before reaching the camp the group stumbled on a scene of perfectly smooth pavement. Following it they came to a ridge surrounding a Fiendish Gallows Tree currently being looked over by a Hell Knight. The knight informed them (I patterned him off of R. Lee Ermey and used a soundboard to question and insult each of them in turn) that a particularly nasty demon he'd been fighting had disarmed him and tossed his weapon into the gallows tree. They also noticed that the marble was arched over the tree's roots as if to lock it in place. As they stood there deciding what to do the marble in front of them arranged itself to spell the words 'Help Me' along the ridge. That was followed by the word 'Shaitan'. When the group cast a fireball at the tree the words rearranged themselves to say 'OUCH!' The group conjectured (correctly as it turns out) that a Shaitan had somehow become trapped within the tree. They then used only electric attacks on the tree to kill it without hurting the genie within.
Once released, the genie sensed Calith's unease and offered to grant her the knowledge about her parents she seeks. It then cast wish and informed her that her parents had been betrayed and framed by demons. He told her that the evidence to prove what was going on was in a secret room in her home. She then informed the party that she had to go home. Intrigued, the hell knight offered to escort her back west.
This also allowed Zubat to take the Daivrat prestige class, as he did almost all of the damage required.
/*DM's Note: I'd come to realize that the situation with the unhealing healer had to be dealt with. It also occurred to me that it was at least partially my fault. When everyone was picking characters Beth had come to me stating that she'd like to try out a healer but didn't want to get locked into it forever. I naively assured her that that wouldn't be a problem. Surely this campaign will only last a few months. A year and a half later it was clear that she was not suited to healing, and it was causing issues with the group. So I suggested she build a bloodrager (giving her a few pointers) and set up to remove Calith from the campaign. Enter Minerva, the part demon part dragon Bloodrager/Dragon Disciple. While using the Gestalt system. What the hell was I thinking?*/
But before they could take a step the kobold insisted that he be given a chance to join the ranks of the hell knight. The knight was dubious at first, but eventually agreed. He took them to a cave and prepared the hour long ritual to summon a barbed devil for the paladin to fight.
At first it didn't appear that the kobold would survive. The Devil's opening move was to successfully grapple and impale the kobold on its spiked body. The rest of the group began wondering if they might be able to save their ally, but the hell knight had made it clear that he would kill the party if they intervened in the slightest way. Being that they were almost all chaotic it was quite possible he'd succeed too. So they had no choice but to watch as the kobold proceeded to crit the devil three times. One of them was a max damage crit. And this was after he'd cast smite evil. The group cheered. The hell knight was impressed. And I felt bad for the poor devil that had been gated in. Kind of like I'd kicked a puppy.
Camp 9 - By this point the group had established pretty solid SOPs for dealing with camps. If it was a lookout in a tree Tanic would cast fly from a magic item or get it cast on himself, and sneak up behind said lookout. Then would commence the stabbing. And the stabbing. And, if necessary more stabbing. If he managed to attack from stealth I'd make the scout roll a DC 20 reflex to avoid falling from the tree. If the poor fool made the save Tanic would usually kill him before he could do anything. Then said fool would fall out of the tree. It happened so often Quagrim began weather forecasting a chance of raining Zhents. In this case when the victim in question fell, his pants leg caught on a branch, suspending him from the tree. Watching him hang there Zubat had a flash of memory from a previous life. In it he saw himself trying to leap from one branch to another for some unexplained reason. The cuff of his pants caught on a branch and he swung around, impacting the tree. Barely conscious he could do little more than flail in the air as the pants ripped and sent him plummeting, head first, to his death.
All of this was conveyed to the party as he yelled "I knew it!" over and over.
Camp 10 - The group decided to negotiate a river by flying over it. Zubat decided to have Red Velvet (The Eidolon Formerly Known As Scrambles) carry him. As he was passing over the rushing waters he had another vision of being trapped by an underwater rockslide that covered his belt and pinned his pants. At which point he rather predictably drowned.
Again he had one of his fits as he yelled how much he 'knew it'. While flying over water. Being held by a snake. Yes the snake made his strength check to hold onto the schizoid summoner.
Camps 11 - As Halona cast commune with nature she noted a group of minotaurs just past the next camp. Tanic decided to play silly buggers by circling the camp and attempting to draw the cultists into it. He started by sneaking up on them and yelling 'Surprise cow meat!' before stabbing one of them. He then attempted to lead them to the south.
This plan was complicated by the fact that the minotaurs did not have the benefit of nature's paths, meaning they had an adjusted movement speed of 10 feet a round. It was further complicated when the alchemist fired an explosive missile that nearly one shot the snarky rogue. He then decided to channel Speedy Gonzales and hot footed it back to camp.
They cleared it and waited for the inevitable attack of the cultists. But the attack never came. It never even started breathing hard. Eventually they followed Tanic to where he'd encountered them. There they found tracks leading to the road. Apparently the cultists had decided to reserve their efforts for better climes.
Camps 12 - Tanic removed the lookouts without difficulty before convincing Quagrim to cast Greater Invisibility on him. He then snuck into the cabin to coup de grace the sleeping night watchman. Of course, the camp guard noted the door opening, but just assumed it hadn't been latched. Bitching about lazy rogues (the guy trying to sleep, not Tanic; he was born in a barn) he got up and reclosed the door, ensuring it was latched.
After the stabbity stab stab, Tanic then opened the door again. This drew the now confused watch's attention. He was certain he'd latched that door after all. But before he could investigate Quagrim shot him. Cursing loudly at the destruction of his master plan Tanic jumped out of the cabin and attacked as well. The guard did not last long.
Afterwards Tanic continued bitching out Quagrim for 'stealing his kill'. Eventually he wound down and started stomping off. Still quite invisible. "You forgot to loot!" Quagrim pointed out unrepentantly as the angry crunching receded. At which point the stomping sounds stopped, and after a moment the grumbling sound resumed, this time getting closer. They then saw the guard's items disappearing off the corpse as Tanic's Yosemite Sam routine continued unabated. Meanwhile I awarded Quagrim a charisma point.
After the camp the group were set upon by a Coloxus demon. Zornesk made short work of it dealing almost a 100 damage with his first hit. He really doesn't like demons . . .
Camp 13 - Much the same plan as the last camp, but it remained to be seen if Quagrim would ruin it again. Amazingly the poor unsuspecting guard made it all the way to the cabin. And he was even uninterrupted as he opened the door to a surprise stabbing. You could almost hear Tanic's psychotic grin. Apparently the gnome had chosen life. Or at the very least he didn't want to be bitched at till his ears bled . . .
This time there were two Coloxus Demons awaiting them past the camp. They managed to sneak up on the rogue, who was in his usual place out in front. Unfortunately they were unable to sneak attack him meaning he was in good shape when the group arrived. Anyone else would have been dead, dead, dead, and lost their stuff too. The fight was short after that.
Camp 14 - On their way to this camp the group decided they'd had enough of lookout hunting and decided they needed a break. And what break could be better than spelunking in a nearby cave? Aside from the broken bones incurred from falls I mean. I always love those.
All but Zornesk who waited at the entrance. No matter how much I kept telling them they found nothing, they just kept going deeper. Accepting defeat, I had them find a group of three Cave Giants. Quagrim started off by casting wall of flame, which effectively separated the two groups. There was much death glares cast about by the rogue.
By the time the gnome realized he could dismiss the wall at will the giants were long gone. But Tanic wasn't giving up that easily. So they found themselves following the tracks as they twisted and turned deep into the cave system. Unfortunately the gnome was ahead of me and started marking walls as they passed. Damned skinny hobbit.
Eventually they entered a large dome shaped room where the giants were in wait. It did not serve them. However, the battle did take long enough for their patron to show up. In this case an Adult Green Dragon. The dragon almost killed Tanic twice, before being slain by Quagrim. A slight not well taken by the rogue. Not about how he should have died several times. (Have I mentioned, my dice hate me?) Nope, he was pissed he didn't get the final kill.
There's something wrong with that one.
Meanwhile the Kobold was being set upon by a couple of Cave Lions out for a quick bite. But this tasty bit of scales turned out to be a pricklier can to open than they'd expected. I lost count of how many crits he rolled. If he hadn't have always used those dice I would have been suspicious. Apparently, the group needed to let him fight alone more often.
Afterwards the kobold decided to try and figure out what was keeping his wayward companions. Unfortunately, he was neither skilled at perception nor survival. In other words, he got lost. He ended up running into a demon lion (actually a re-purposed Xenarth). It did not go any better for it. Have I mentioned he doesn't like demons?
The group then rounded up their wayward Kobold and went looking for Dragon's Treasure. Tanic noted and disabled the wall trap, and was killed (using two hero points to not die) by the symbol. He completely ignored the acid pit with flight, scooped all the treasure into his bag and used his cape to escape.
That night they decided to camp in the cave. At one point Tanic woke to take a piss. While doing his business Quagrim came up behind him.
"You too?" the gnome asked, approaching an adjoining wall.
"Yeah," he said before hearing the sound of leather being stretched. When he turned around an Advanced Faceless Demon was standing there. It grabbed him and absconded to the abyss. The others heard the noise but arrived too late to do anything but detect the closed gate that was used.
Once in the abyss Tanic was Tortured for weeks before escaping. He ended up with the implanted command and a phobia AND ALL OF THE BONUSES! All of them. The bastard actually only failed a single save. He had to roll 16+ to do that. You know that feeling when your player is apologizing for how utterly their rolls are destroying your story? I do now.
Admittedly I used that guilt to get him to take on the phobia as well. Gotta roll with the punches right?
Camp 14 went quickly. Tanic had much aggression to work out. And he was almost killed whilst invisible by some incredibly lucky blind shots from the gunslinger. Afterwards they encountered a Nalfeshnee that uttered the code word. Tanic spent the fight attacking Bob, who was a mite confused. Meanwhile the Kobold had himself a ball.
Camp 15 - Quagrim decided he'd like to start things off with this camp, so he cast greater invisibility on himself and moved into the camp. There he tried to Baleful Polymorph the camp guard, and failed. Realizing something was up, the guard drew his pistols and looked around. Quagrim cast Baleful Polymorph again. With the same result.
The gunslinger then shot at where he heard the sound from and hit the gnome. This was enough to convince the too clever little bastard to switch tactics. The gunfire also woke the sleeping druid who opened the door for his badger. It was immediately attacked by Tanic. The druid then cast Baleful Polymorph on Tanic (two can play that game right?) and succeeded.
Rule number one: Don't give the DM ideas.
So now Tanic was a tiny rabbit, but he made the second save so he still remembered who he was. And he proceeded to sneak attack the badger repeatedly. It was disgusting. BECAUSE NOW HE HAD AN EVEN HIGHER DEX! What did I do? Afterwards members of the party took turns petting the cute little bunny rabbit before dispelling the polymorph. Tanic was not amused. And I gave Dave the Munchkin card detailed at the top of this post.
Next time, I turn him into a slug!