After a pleasant week spent in Foxhollow, the party decided that they should move on. Tim (cleric) was eager to make his mark on the world and prove himself to his new companions, especially the acerbic Henril. Packing up their horses and carts, they left town heading towards Milham to the west. The first day was peaceful and pleasant although they did meet an unusual number of travelers on the road heading west. Conversations with the travelers revealed that they were leaving Milham because they were afraid of the sickness that had been spreading around the town. Now the players knew of this sickness, it had been spreading since the first adventure and the times that the players had convalesced in the Milham Abbey in order to recover lost STR points they had seen the sick from outlying manses being tended to. Apparently things were getting worse. They camped that night beside a bridge along with a number of families what were fleeing Milham. Chatting with the people they heard various theories about the cause of the plague, that it was spread by the bandits, that it was punishment for prideful behavior, that it was linked to the old shrine deep in the swamp, or even it was caused by a group of adventurers who had recently come to Milham and stirred up evils from the dwarven ruins (who could that be?).
|Encounter with the sticky bears as depicted by Henril|
The following day they ran into a small gang of bandits who were enjoying the extra business opportunities along the road. They picked the wrong caravan to attack and this was made clear to them when Thedric charmed one and another was dispatched in a single blow. The rest of the bandits fled and the party curiously decided not to pursue them. Up tho this point I don't think I've seen them show any restraint on chasing down and killing foes on the run. I suppose they didn't see any percentage in a few bandits. Anyway they took the two heads in order to identify the fellows later on in Milham. A few hours later as they approached the further outskirts of Milham, they came across another clump of emigrants leaving town. As they exchanged greetings, a small dog came running up barking. The dog had purple goo on it's fur. As they investigated, they also heard some cries for help far off in the forest. So leaving Thedric with their carts, they raced off to investigate. What they found was a young man trying to rescue his wife from some purplish coloured bears. She seemed to be unable to move and so they rushed in to drag her out of harms way and to smite the creatures. They soon discovered that the purple goo was toxic and caused paralysis. What they didn't discover until much later was that it was also very flammable.
So a long running battle ensued where the party would bash the monsters and then someone would become paralyzed and the 'bear' would grab them and start walking into the forest. They were not smart foes, but they were tough and persistent. When they finally dispatched one of the beasts it came apart more like a plant than an animal, falling to the ground with a large cracking sound and throwing out roots. It would have been a tougher battle except I had forgot to roll d4 for the effects of the poison and gave the players a 'save' against the paralysis each turn. My gaff was balanced out as the party weren't using fire on the monsters. Even so, the party was badly wounded by the time they dispatched 6 of the creatures and they had traveled quite far into the forest towards the 'mother'. The mother was a huge smelly tree with long tentacles which would grab nearby animals and toss them into it's gaping maw. It also had a number of suspicious purple 'fruit' hanging from it's branches. One look at that and they finally ran back to the wagon to get some oil and torches. They quickly decided that they would send Ann (the halfling) in with the oil to throw at the tree and they would follow (at a safe distance) with torches to light it. With a few choice curses, she agreed and they carried out the plan. She snuck into the clearing and got as close as she dared and then threw the oil. The tree dropped some 'fruit' with a splat and out of the fruit came more of the 'gummy bears', these ones smaller than the previous. The rest of the party came up and threw torches at the tree and began fighting the little wortlings (for this is pretty much what they were - my take on an orcwort and wortlings). The tree burned and billows of acrid smoke flew into the air. They fought on the edge of the clearing trying to prevent the wortlings from dragging anyone into reach of those terrible tentacles. Colin KO'd himself rolling nice and high on the critical fumble table, something that remains a neverending source of enjoyment to everyone. Finally a flaming tentacle struck the last wortling and it burst into flame as the tree gave a mighty shudder and died.
That evening they finally arrived in Milham. Thedric seems to have become the party accountant and the next day he liquidated and divided out much of the remaining loot, including four of the horses and two of the carts. Luckily for them goods were scarce and prices were high in Milham due to the ongoing banditry and the 'plague', otherwise they might have thought to have someone with a higher charisma deal with the merchants. It also helped that he started a rumour that eating from silver utensils was a remedy for plague. Henril was eager to find out if he had any marriage prospects to review, and indeed upon meeting with the wine crier, he found he had three. Convincing Ann to be his 'agent' he arranged to visit all his prospects. The first was too hot (a bigoted shrew of a mother looking to cash in on her rather robust daughter and who took a shine to Father Tim), the second was too cold (a family of rail thin and nervous folk looking for a well to do business man for their bookish daughter), and the last seemed just right (a hard working bar maid looking for a decent man). He resolved to meet her at the Seven Stones tavern later on that evening.
And that's where we wrapped up for the night. I had hoped to get through more in this last session but in a sandbox you take what you can get and if the players are happy and laughing then it's all good. However, due to some scheduling issues, there will be one more play test session after all. This pleases me. The party was deciding if they should go south into the hills again or check out the shrine in the swamp. Possibly they will come up with an entirely different notion - but I'm sure that will be fun too.