There were ALOT of PC deaths this session so I'm going to list the PCs a bit different. With those who were starting/died up front. Then those who finished the session after.
Adamus (Lawful L1 Bard, Beguiler)RIP
Arya Sorrowsong (Lawful syke she was Chaotic L3 Bladedancer)RIP
Billy (Lawful L6 Explorer, Pathfinder)[E] SURVIVED!,
Bluetooth (Neutral L1 Barbarian, Sea Rover)RIP
Elfamis (Neutral L1 Elven Nightblade)[E] SURVIVED!
Hakon (Neutral L3 Shaman Runecaster)RIP
Harrigan (Lawful L1 Thief, Tomb Raider)RIP
John Cabot (Lawful L1 Explorer Mariner)RIP
Lockstep (Lawful L1 Fighter, Guardsman)RIP
Paul Blart (Lawful L1 Fighter, Guardsman)RIP
Renert le Renard (Neutral L1 Thief, Tomb Raider)RIP
Mid Session Replacement PCs
Benedict (Lawful L1 Cleric, Undead Slayer) RIP
George of the Jungle (L1 Beastmaster)[E] SURVIVED!
Itto (Lawful L1 Mystic, Warrior Monk)[S] SURVIVED!
Mansha (Lawful L1 Shaman, Snake Handler)[E] SURVIVED!
Kaladin (L1 Dwarven Spore Caster) RIP
Renart (L1 Thief, Tomb Raider)[E] SURVIVED!
The PCs began the session in Grand Mage JBP's Clockwork Tower in the hothouse jungle growing deep in a massive cavern inside the side of the Dark Wall cliffs. The only new PC to come on this session was Adamus the Bard who, having like 4 Wisdom, I decided was a bard who came along from Planes Unknown to entertain JBP but who the mage had become tired of hearing. So he said "take this bard". The party's goal tonight was to escape the jungle, the caverns, the cliffs, then the wilderness to get the Scales of Turas (secured last session) back to civilization to claim their reward and XP. Sounds easy enough.
They decided to go back the way they came rather than look for a new exit within the ancient city just beyond the jungle, which JBP told them about last session. That meant doubling back through the jungle. While trudging through the jungle for about 30 minutes Arya bumped into a weirding plant of orange and neon green appearance which spit a poison gas at her doing about 9 damage. Some 30 minutes or so later, while skirting the southern side of Shark Fin Mountain, the Explorers heard weird sounds in the mushroom bushes and decided to try and evade any possible combat. The party was actually completely surprised but ACKS Explorers have a very low chance to be able to ATTEMPT evasion even with a full party surprise. It's like 19 or better on a d20 I believe. Well the party rolled that and there was much cheering on the mic.
The cheering settled down when I then checked the rules for what d20 throw would need to be made to actually succeed at evasion. The party didn't even know what was chasing them they just rabbitted from the sounds in the bushes but it was a single creature that decided to pursue. With the large size of their part that made it more difficult to lose the pursuer and he did in fact catch up to him. Some 10 minutes later, despite successfully bolting into the jungle to evade, a hostile talking boa constrictor closed the distance with them and made some comment about new souls to eat and new men to raise as undead in his service. Weird.
Most of the party was surprised (again) but not the barbarians, explorers, and fighters with Guardsman template. So about half of the party acted on round 1 of combat. Billy I believe planted an arrow in the snake and the fighters and barbarians set long weapons for a charge. The snake necromancer didn't charge but instead made flashing eyes and summoned 2 wraiths of ancient zaharan noblemen to his service in round 1.
Round 2 is when the other shoe finally dropped on this party who had mostly been avoiding certain death for 2.1 sessions now. The snake necromancer dropped a lightning bolt in the left column of the party's marching order and killed everyone the bolt hit including: Arya, Hakon, Harrison, Adamus, and John Cabot. Ouch. The rest of the party fought hard and Paul Blart, Bluetooth, and Lockstep engaged with the snake necromancer, swinging to much effect. Blart got the killing blow on the boa constrictor lopping it's head off with his fancy halberd. Sadly on the exact same initiative one of the wraiths struck Blart and drained his life to the point of death.
Arya had, by this point, already successfully turned undead on the other wraith. Bluetooth and Lockstep in the next round were swinging at the last wraith and realizing it could not be hit by normal weapons. Lockstep used an improvised weapon of his coinpurse full of silver coins somehow actually putting very minor 1 damage his on the wraith (modified in his favor by his fantastic strength and fighter damage bonus so still not bad). Billy, at this point, engaged in melee with the wraith realizing their best hope was for him to use his magic sword Dragonslayer Dundee to do full damage to the wraith. Adamus was being played by Macho Mandalf's player, making a first time session appearance in Dubzaron. This didn't stop me from requesting he voice the australian blade Dragonslayer Dundee with his own authentic accent because I'm an asshole.
Billy did finally down the wraith but not before it drained life and killed Lockstep and sucked one of Billy's levels away as well. Brutal and expensive combat. Some of the players who lost characters decided they'd call it a night and logged off. A few decided to roll back up PCs and wait until I said they could bring those PCs into play.
One new PC was George of the Jungle being played by Paul Blart's player (I'm seeing a theme to his character inspirations). He wanted to play a beastmaster which I normally wouldn't allow but hey I realized the party just escaped an ancient weirding jungle deep in a cavern and it's certainly possible a unique class essentially inspired by Tarzan could be found in such a jungle. My ruling on him joining the session is he'd have to escape the caverns with the remaining party, he couldn't be outside. So he ran up from behind them "hey wait for me!"
The party traveled through a tiny crack in the side of the jungle cavern wall. Then they climbed down wall from 150 feet from a balcony in a room with a massive statue of a 6 armed goddess thing. Bluetooth explored around the room a bit looking for a way to make the statue's arms move but to no avail. Such a thing could possibly help them avoid climbing in the future. Some bronze golems with the heads of birds peered at them from a high place in the statue room so they decided to move along instead. This took them through a natural cavern room of natural platforms which they had to spelunk through, hearing the hisses of "The Descent" monsters on the edge of their darkness who never attacked. They went through yet another tiny squeezed hallway which popped them out to the balcony about 400 feet in the air on the side of the Dark Wall cliffside. Thankfully this was indeed outside and they could see red misty clouds of the Curse of Lamalla climb over hilltops.
Benedict the cleric was a replacement character who was on the ground, apparently arriving with a few other replacement characters as they were ranging to this point or perhaps lost or something. It didn't matter too much.
The party asked about the body of Snorri from 2 sessions back who fell here but there was no sign of his body. Or their horses.
Without 500' of rope the party would need to climb down to the next lowest cave entrance, then down the next, then down to the ground. All the while I was making Reaction Checks for the half dozen or so wyverns which were nearby circling overhead. During the climb down, unfortunately, Bluetooth slipped off the rope. Then Renert slipped off the rope. Both splatted on the ground taking like 130 damage each. Benedict tried to triage them but realized they had no chance of being saved, bashing their head in as they bled out and then dragging their bodies some 100 yards away to attract the wyverns if they should go Hostile. They did and that saved the party one encounter with the wyverns, likely.
As Billy and George reached the ground they greeted their new best pals whom they had never met; Benedict and a Baja Blast dwarven sporecaster class which can be found in the new ACKS Book "By This Axe" available on drivethrurpg now for a low low price. Buy it today!
Among the new PCs was also a Shaman named Mansha, a Mystic named Itto, and a Thief named Renart (not to be confused with the nearly identical thief named Renert who just fell to his doom! I don't know that guy, pal!) The party tried to track their lost horses and realized they had been picked up off the ground likely by wyverns to be eaten at leisure somewhere high up in the cliffs. As the party discussed their options to get home the wyverns were presenting hostile and swooping lower so the party took off and Evaded into the wilderness.
The party camped some hours later and on the mics they began to discuss their strategy. Without horses they were in a really bad way to get home quickly. Some 18 or so miles on the other side of the Blood River was Kyle O'conner's Forward Operating Base Queen, which is a safe place to end a session and Billy had been there many times. But they were loathe to cross the river due to the Curse of Lamalla making water creatures hostile and immune to non-magic weapons.
During the night George was on watch and got his by a ranged attack from a manticore hiding far off in the distance at the end of its range. He woke up the party and Billy used his special darkvision ability (which is tied to a curse from his having Restore Life and Limb cast on him some month or so back) and saw there were two of the creatures at about 180 yards just launching these spiney dagger things from their tails. The party said heck with this and wilderness evaded. Billy made the Call the party wasn't going to rest at all because the wilderness was getting too dangerous and they were losing PCs hand over fist. He decided there was nothing for it but to cross the Blood River on a raft force march without rest to Kyle's domain.
They got to the river's edge and chopped down some trees and built a makeshift raft. While the whole party was crossing on the raft at once a dozen angry cursed mermen popped out of the water ready to launch a bunch of spears at them. Someone on the mic said this would be a TPK since only Billy could hit the creatures, being the only one with a magic weapon. But instead the party decided to evade and we needed to break out the Wilderness Evasion rules while on water! The chance of the party evading the pretty fast swimming mermen on their barely mobile raft was very low indeed but Billy rolled the d20 roll with like a 17 or 18. I complained and hemmed and hawed about the logic of all this but the dice abide.
Seems the party hit a rapid going downriver about a quarter mile and the mermen got hemmed up trying to climb over the rocks in the shallow part of the rapids. The party then maneuvered the raft to the bank and left their raft behind at a run. We probably won't see another Curse of Lamalla buffed sea creature again in session play since the curse is about to expire unless some evil patrons or PCs earn a bad boy point soon (hint hint).
So backtracking this a bit, around the time the party got outside of the Dark Wall they were contacted by Patron Drakon via magical means. It seems he had the Deck of Trumps from "9 Princes in Amber" fame and he was able to communicate with this via something like a facetime video call. In this call he informed them that their quest giver for acquiring the Scales of Turas, Legate Gaius, was no longer a legate and no longer alive. Drakon, in this conversation, named Gaius a traitor and revealed news that the former Legate was apparently assassinated recently. Drakon stated he didnt' want the Scales to fall in the "wrong hands" so he offered the party 1,000 gp each and choice of a magic item from his armory if they bring the Scales to him. The party had asked if Drakon could extract them from the wilderness because they were all scared about crossing the Blood River and Sepia Hills but Drakon said he couldn't do so until 01/21/23. Still 2 days off. Billy as Caller was basically like "yeah no thanks... maybe... we'll think about it" before the party then went on to travel and cross the river and such. Drakon called them again 2 days later but we'll get to this at the end.
After crossing the Blood River the party had to cross about 18 miles of dangerous hills and multiple encounters hit during all this. The first was a lone Frost Giant who knew about Tuck's lies of being half-giant some time back. Words has gotten around among giant kind that Tuck won the Emerald Keep via nefarious means. This giant recognized Billy as one of Tuck's compatriots and came running at them. The party successfully wilderness evaded at the Giant hollered something about "we will find you!"
Some few hours later they came upon 4 stone giants who didn't know or care about Tuck but were worked up the party passed through their "sacred holler" and attacked.
The combat happened too close to allow a Wilderness Evasion without disengaging from combat so players rolled initaitives and most stated they were running away. Most of the party beat the initiative number of the stone giants so ran off into the wilderness with Billy with no problem. A few others rolled quite poorly so were threatened with attacked before they could slip away. Benedict went full hero mode and put himself between the giants and some other party members, hemming two of them up from attacking Mansha and Kaladin. Unfortunely for Kaladin Benedict was dispatched quickly by two of the giants and hte other two kept charging and crushed him as well. Mansha was somehow ignored due to the providence of mine using dice to randomize targets and was able to slip away into Billy's Wilderness Evasion check after the first round of combat. George for some reason, despite having a high initiative, decided to hide in the wilderness nearby the battle. He succeeded. For you OSR folks the Beastmaster's wilderness hide ability is similar to the BX Halfling's. The Giants took chase for Billy, running off into the wilderness leaving George behind to get the amethyst's from the Baja Blast dwarven vault out of Benedict's pockets. Being a near wilderness expert himself he was able to find Billy and the party some hour or so later. The party eventually made it safely to Kyle Oconner's Forward Operating Base: Queen, now safe and able to end the session here to cash out XP if they wish.
So Drakon's player was playing Benedict in the session tonight and he asked the players if they wanted to wrap up their agreement (or non-agreement) with Drakon verbally in session before wrapping for the night. All agreed so the player took on the voice of Drakon and made his Deck of Trumps facetime call to the party on 01/21/23 after they had rested a day at FOB:Queen. Billy was the only one who really did any talking and the discussion was not the most pleasant. It seems Gaius promised Billy a Legature should he secure the Scales of Turas for him (Gaius). So Billy was not particularly pleased that Gaius had been named a traitor and was apparently dead. Drakon noted that Gaius would not have the ability to give a Legature because a Legate only controls one. What could this mean?
In any case Billy found it a low reward indeed to receive a measley 1,000 gp and a +1 weapon, specifically saying "I don't need a +1 item" to which, if I hadn't been so tired, Dragonslayer Dundee would have agreed heartily and used stereotypical aussie slang.
The rest of the party, being all level 1s at this point and honestly just happy to have survived and made it to safety, were perfectly happy with 1,000 gp and a +1 item from the Prefect. Drakon confirmed there were 3 open Legatures now that "The Traitor" had been deposed and the Sorceress Queen had assaulted and cleaned out Turos Erin and Turos Telle, killing the Legates of both by all accounts. So Drakon promised Billy could be "considered" during an "interview process" after the war with the Sorceress with completed. Billy's reaction was not ecstatic and I personally noted to mine self that this is not how things go down with Macho Mandalf!
At the end of the conversation, however, Billy had agreed to go along with the party's wishes and turn over the Scales of Turas. Drakon used the Deck of Trumps to open a big teleportation portal the party was able to walk through and join him at his massive army encampment about 12 miles south of the town of Siadanos. The Scales were turned over and Drakon's clerk gave each PC a writ of payment for 1,000 gp and similar writ for a claim of one magic item of +1 from his armory. We ended there and finally caught these PCs and this adventuring party back up with the real calendar (a few days in the future) with no need for further nu-skool style session pausing.
Class Grading Thoughts
Billy the Explorer was very on point with his Explorer wilderness calling and use of abilities this whole session. He did everything you'd expect a pathfinder sort of explorer/ranger type to do all session. So E. I'm a bit on the fence with Elfamis the Nightblade since it's like an assassin/mage hybrid class. He doesn't have any spells yet so there's no way he could be docked a grade for not using them. He didn't really try and assassinate or backstab anyone but there really weren't any opportunities for that. He was properly cowardly in a thief sort of way so that was good. So E. George of the Jungle the Beastmaster is a very odd class that is a hybrid explorer (ranger) and assassin (subclass of thief) so it will be difficult to get good grades with him. Because he didn't forget to use his Hide in Wilderness class skill, and because the name of the game this session was primarily get away from wilderness fights they couldn't win (where I can't dock him for being less than bold) he earned an E. Itto the Mystic is essentially a monk which I'm not sure how to classify for grading. Maybe a Fighter/Thief hybrid? Since Fighters must be bold and thieves must be cowardly for perfect grade, perfect grades are going to be hard to acquire. By Gygax design, imo, since what 1e would consider multi-class should probably level slower. Unlike George, Itto didn't use some unique class ability to distinguish himself (like George did) so mixed up mentality of bold/coward I'm deciding earned only an S. Mansha the Shaman played well and felt like a shaman. He has no healing spells yet where, if he failed to use them he'd be docked grading, but he has a Commune With Ancestors which he did remember to use before the end of the session. So E. Renart was a coward (good for a thief) so E.
DM Self Grade
I felt pretty good about this session overall since we knocked out a ton of travel, dungeoneering, and roleplay all in one session. I was happy with the way I handled Reaction checks and what the numbers meant to the personality of the monster/npcs the players came across. "Why does is this monster mad at them?" or "Why is this monster in a friendly mood?" are important questions and the DM needs to practice thinking on his feet to explain these things as they come up. The only serious mistake I made was that Lockstep's improvised weapon of silver coin pouch should have been doing half damage to the Wraith since wraiths only take half damage from silver. Having the Wraith live another round would have really changed the complexion of the session so missing that left us with a different story/session than we would have had if I ran it properly. Lastly I've since realized I made a mistake with the PC elves' surprise rules. I ruled it would not apply in the weirding jungle because they were not familiar with the terrain. Upon reading ACKS more closely I think they should have had the +1 in their favor. That could have really changed how things went down with the wizard boa constrictor fight. DM Self Grade: C