My Campaign Learning Experience. or: What is a new DM to do? Part 2
This thread is a continuation of » MCLEoWIaNDMtD?
Players of my campaign, please do not read...yes, I mean you!
Well, the party, having bought equipment and secured the services of 15 mercenaries (of House Deneith, bearers of the mark of Sentinel, Defenders Guild), needed some way to get back to the Isle of Fire. I planned the earl will give them enough money to charter a ship for 5 days (2 days' journey each way and 1 days' stay). But since they wanted so many mercenaries, they stretched their money by finding two ships to take a 1 day detour from their normal route: one to land them on the island, and another, a week later, to pick them up.
Now, as some of you know (and thanks for your help), I had to design a cannibal village and a Dolgrim enclave so that, on the one hand, they would be believable, and on the other hand, won't be impossibly difficult for the party to overcome.
Now, This group of 19 had to survive the alien (to them) jungle environment, destroy the cannibals' temple as the promised to the old Earl (where the PCs were nearly sacrificed last time around), recover the Sarlonan Puzzle Orb (what which does I still need to decide) and maybe get some of that pirate's treasure.
While the two groups on the island (dolgrims and cannibals) were at each other's throats, the players couldn't work out a credible way to utilize this (neither could I, for that matter), so they decided to go for the temple-wrecking first. The two spirits inhabiting the temple, revered by the cannibals as gods of blood and fire, did not make much impression over the PCs, and Elanna (1st lvl cleric of the Silver Flame) tried to convince them she should be their new high priest, promised increased sacrifices and tried to get them to hurt their "pathetic previous believers". (I docked the player some XP as the proud priestess suddenly prostrated herself, even as a ruse, in front of the spirits, claiming to worship them). She then spent a turn attempt to exorcise the spirits (as Exorcism is one of her domains), which worked (though temporarily).
The party then went on to start bashing and dismantling the two-faced statue that housed the spirits. The noise that made attracted some unwanted cannibal attention, and the fight that ensued caused me to reevaluate the difficulties of having a 19 (now 18) strong party.
The group, having bested the canniblas, withdrew from the temple and made a proper camp.
As night fell, the PCs, advised by the head mercenary (D'vaz, Hobgoblin Warrior 2) send two scouts to get intel on the cannibal village. In the middle of the night, one scout returned, bearing details of the cannibal village and also of the capture of the other scout.
The next day (tangent: it is difficult to keep the suspense up when the party can always withdraw to recuperate, more on this on another day), a group went to the temple pre-dawn in order to destroy the statue (before the 24-hour exorcism abated), and were found there by a group of Cannibals, led by their now notorious shaman-turned-croc, bearing a basket of internal human organs for sacrifice (assumed too be the missing scout's). A fight (pretty large: 9 vs. 6) ensued around and on top the temple, where most cannibals (not including the shaman) were vanquished. The party, seriously wounded and having lost another merc, retreated to their camp. On the way there, they felt eyes on them, and glimpsed shpes among the trees, so they decided to move their camp after nightfall.
The next day, while foraging, the fighter (Ricard) spoted a fight between a cannibal hunting party and a group of dolgrims on a pond shore(I wanted to show how the cannibals dealt with the damage-reduction-possessing abberations. I've decided that the poisoned blowgun darts of the savages would work on the dolgrims) as the fight moved away into the jungle, Ricard went to examine the bodies left begind. He found two dead cannibals and a prone, lying, shking, on the ground (the poison reduced his dex to 0). Without hesitation, the (psychopathic) Ricard coup-de-grace-d the dolgrim with a spear point through the neck.
Later, elanna decided to go and check why the dolgrims were at the pond (as they looked as if searching for something) and took Ricard with her. There, she spotted dozens of savages heading in the general direction of their encampment. The two quickly withdrew, and mobilized their group to move to another area. While trying to avoid this threat, they noticed thick smoke coming from the direction of the cannibal village. On the way there, they left some of their mercs in a good ambush point, to cover their back.
On the way to the village they encountered a cannibal warrior with some women and children which were running away from it. The tension was high until the party lowered their weapons and let them vanish into the jungle.
They found the village half in flames, with a major battle going on between a dolgrim attack force and the cannibals. As they spread to search for the orb (and fight some d's and c's), I decided to keep the focus on the PCs and let the remaining mercs "fade into the background" (made handling combat much easier), except for D'vaz. Combat ensued, with one of the PCs (who's player was absent from the session) searching huts for the orb, and the others defending him. While they did not find the orb, they did recover a rusty Byeshk (special ore) dagger that can bypass the d's DR and killed a few enemies. They took their wounded and ran, when the Cannibals' expeditionary force returned to defend its village.
In the massive fight, most of the mercs were lost, and the PCs retreated with some of their colleagues unconscious. When they passed through the ambush point, they found bodies littered around of some c's as well as 3 of the 6 mercs they left there, including their favorite ones.
Wounded, weakened, and some demoralized, they went to find a place to revive.