Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sailing, Sailing!

In my next D&D Next playtest session, there is a good chance that the PCs will be on a sea voyage, so I need to iron out some simple oversea travel rules.  My first stop here was the Isle of Dread adventure that comes with the latest D&D Next playtest packet.  This adventure contains some elegant and simple rules for overland and waterborne travel. 

In the adventure, we see that a small sailboat can carry 10 characters, up to 1,000 pounds of cargo, and has 100 hit points.  It can cross one (6-mile) hex in 30 minutes.  Assuming there are enough characters to pilot the sailboat in shifts, it could travel 48 hexes, or 288 miles, per day.

Fine Tuning Travel Speed

I decided to see how this corresponded to historical data, and found a web site that details Speed of Sail of Ancient Ships.  Based on my research here, I reduced the speed of the small sailboat to 1 hex per hour of travel, for up to 24 hexes (or 144 miles) of movement possible per day.

Wind and Weather

A sailboat can't sail without wind, and the Isle of Dread mentions that the speed is based on favorable wind conditions, and also gives some rules for rowing speed at a tactical level.  At the start of each day of waterborne travel, I'll roll 1d6 to determine wind, and 1d6 to determine general weather conditions, using the tables below.

Wind Table (1d6, roll each day of waterborne travel)

1. No wind, must row this day (see below).
2. Poor winds, movement reduces by 2d6 hexes that day.
3-4. Favorable winds.
5. Exceptionally favorable winds, movement increases by 2d6 hexes that day.
6. Heavy winds, crew must make a DC13 DEX group saving throw or the sailboat suffers 1d10 damage.  They must next decide if they want to chance sailing that day, or simply batten down the hatches.  If they do not sail, the sailboat drifts 1d10 hexes in a random direction.  If they do sail, the sailboat travels 2d20 hexes, but they must roll a group DC16 INT check.  On a failure, the sailboat goes off course (see below).

Weather Table (1d6, roll each day of waterborne travel)

1. Dense fog, DC 15 INT check or go off course.
2. Rain, DC 13 INT check or go off course.
3. Currents, DC 10 INT check or go off course.
4-6. No adverse conditions.

Rowing

If the PCs must row, each character on board rolls a DC 10 CON check.  The movement rate that day, in hexes, is equal to the number of characters that succeeded in this check.

Off Course

The sailboat might go off course as a result of Heavy Winds, and/or unfavorable weather conditions.  If this occurs, the DM should determine a random point along that day's course.  At this point, the sailboat veers either one hexside to the right or the left, determine randomly.  The DM should not inform the players that they are off course.  The players will only know when they encounter unexpected landfall.

Each day that the sailboat if off course, and the skies are not foggy or overcast, I'll allow a group INT check to determine if the PCs figure this out.  The DC will be set to 16, minus three for each hexside the boat is off course.  Success indicates that the PCs have used the sun/stars to determine their true course, and can make whatever adjustments they see fit at this point.  The fact that the won't know exactly when they had lost course should provoke some anxiety.

Group Checks

For the various INT and DEX checks described here, I will use the D&D Next "Help" rule.  The character with the highest Ability (+Skill) will make the actual roll, and if there are any other characters there with an Ability score of 10 or greater, they can help, causing the roll to be made at advantage.

The Captain

I rolled up a random NPC to serve as the captain for the voyage, one Noel Ford.  He has a rude personality, and a secret agenda to locate a long lost fey realm that he had been transported to as a boy.  With an INT of only 6, his piloting skills are quite meager, but his +3 Sailing Skill will help somewhat in that regard.

Ready to Sail!

With these simple embellishments of the fine waterborne travel rules in the Isle of Dread, I'm ready to run a sea voyage in the next session, if it comes to that.

Monday, November 19, 2012

D&D Next - Shopping

Session 6 continued from here

Cast

Aha - high elf sorcerer
Charlie - human cleric of Zagyg
Erevan - high elf rogue
Rajabu - dwarf fighter

The heroes rode back to Anvilar in the coach that Lady Alba had commissioned to get them to her manor house.  As they approached the city walls, they noticed crowds gathered at the gate.  A crowd at the left of the gate was gathered around an execution site.  Two souls had been hanged off the edge of the wall.

Rajabu's player wanted to stop the coach to question the onlookers, but Erevan's player reminded him of the coach driver.  Simply asking the driver informed the players that these were spies from the city of Antochslow who had been convicted of stealing state secrets and executed.  Aha's character was from Antochslow, and she actually had a covert purpose for being in Anvilar.  This was just my way of turning the screws on her slightly.

Secondly, the adventurers noticed a large camp set up at the other end of the gate.  Numerous warrior types in armor milled around between tents and campfires.  This was the mercenary force that Eled, ruler of Anvilar, was building up.

My way of communicating more of the state of affairs in the game world in a natural way to the players.

Having passed through the gates of Anvilar, the group split up to spend some of their hard-earned bounty.

Having developed the city of Anvilar using broad strokes, I didn't have any details of shops and such written down anywhere, so this would all have to generated on the fly.  I rely on inspiration from the dmmuse.com Tavern and Inn Generator for much of this.  It spits out lists of random, mundane NPCs with personality and physical traits, and is just enough for me to riff off of.  I generated a couple of armory shops using this method, and each resulted in a nice bit of short role playing.

In the first armory, Erevan inquired about a Displacer Beast Hide armor, but the merchant laughed and said they had only seen only a few examples of this in his entire career.  He did, however, offer up the information about where the group might find Displacer Beasts.  He informed the heroes that these beasts were relatively common on the neighboring Marver's Isle.  Bring him the skins and he could have the armor fashioned.

A new fact about the campaign world, and a possible adventure hook, was thus established.

In the second armory, the merchant allowed Aha to examine a rare suit of blue dragon scale armor.  She drooled over the gleaming blue scales, made from the same dragon type that fueled her sorcerous powers.  The price tag was prohibitive for the party's current wealth level.

But I'm sure Aha's player will pay this merchant a visit when she has the 4,000 silver required for this suit.  Yes, 4,000 silver.  I use the silver standard in the campaign, so all gold values in the book are reduced down to silver.  And, I rolled for the "honesty" level of this merchant on 2d6 and secretly scored a 12.  The PCs had stumbled upon one of the most honest merchants in Anvilar!  I had already deemed that this militant city would have a 10% discount on arms and armor, but this shop's discount was a full 20%.

To wrap up, I've learned how to streamline the shopping experience between adventures.  I use random generators to help come up with details on the fly, and note the details down as they come into play.  I try to keep the role-playing short and sweet, and use it as an opportunity to develop new facts about the game world and introduce a few minor potential plot hooks as well.

Session 6 to be continued

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

D&D Next - Gearing up for an Urban-based Session

Continued from Session 5 here

Cast

Aha - high elf sorcerer
Charlie - human cleric of Zagyg
Erevan - high elf rogue
Rajabu - dwarf fighter

Session 6 of our D&D Next playtest was my favorite one so far, and it was 100% role-playing.  Not a single attack roll was made, although there were a few spells cast in non-combat contexts.  The most-rolled Ability was Charisma, by far.  In this campaign at least, Charisma is definitely not a dump stat!

The end of the last session found the PCs back in the town of Anvilar, which I had sketched out only in the broadest of strokes so far.  My strategy with this campaign is to develop a collaborative sandbox environment with the players, fleshing out areas between sessions as they move around the world.  So far, activity had been concentrated in a dungeon, but now the tone would shift to an urban adventure.  I took the two weeks between sessions to map out possible scenes and briefly flesh out the factions, NPCs, and locations in Anvilar that might come into play.  The combination of these loosely sketched out notes, results from random online generators, and pointed questions to the players during the game, would cause the city of Anvilar to come to life for us as we played out the session.

Lady Alba bid the heroes good night, instructing then to see themselves out of the manor when they were finished dividing the gold.  The task complete, the four adventurers left the sitting room and entered the lobby of the house.  They heard some muffled conversation coming from the doorway at the other end of the hall.  Erevan decided to creep up to the door to try and overhear, but was so single minded in concentrating on his footwork that he neglected to notice an expensive vase.  Knocking it over with his outstretched arm, it crashed to the floor and shattered.

Rogues in D&D Next can now apply their Expertise Dice to any Ability Check for which one of their trained Skills applies.  This is called the "Skill Mastery" Maneuver.  The fact that the rogue can use only the highest number rolled on their Expertise Dice is a nice way to avoid this Maneuver from becoming overpowered.  In application here, Erevan rolled a Dexterity Check, applied his Stealth Skill (+4), and rolled a 6 on his Expertise Dice.  However, he rolled a 1 on the d20.  Although the total of the roll was thus a 1+4+6 = 11, a 1 is a 1 is a 1, and a 1 is always a failure, and a "Hazard" at that.

The door at the end of the hallway popped open, and three figures curiously stared out into the hall.  There was an older, very well dressed woman, and two dwarfs, one of them completely hairless.  Hearing the crash, Lady Alba descended the stairs to investigate.  The noblewoman was understandably irritated, and told the heroes that they would have to pay the 100 silver to replace that collectible vase.  With a stroke of quick thinking, Charlie cast a minor illusion onto one of the broken shards, making it appear to be an obviously poor quality fake.

He rolled a successful Charisma Contest (bolstered by his Bluff Skill) against Lady Alba's Wisdom.

Lady Alba did a double take, and her face then reddened.  She cursed the merchant who had sold her the bogus collectible.  Rajabu, the thug, graciously offered to pay this merchant a visit on the Lady's behalf.

I had Lady Alba explain that this merchant is from Salshanisar, the home city of Erevan.  At the beginning of the campaign I had asked each player to describe where their character came from, and Erevan's player had described a majority high elf city, Salshanisar, on the southern coast.  It was a city of high intrigue, with many rival factions, and he, with his "Arcane Magic" Speciality, was a drop out from a mages' guild there.

Lady Alba smiled at Rajabu and told him that there'd be a sizable reward for him if he broke the legs of that cheating merchant.

So, the PC's have a weak hook to take them to Salshanisar.  Rajabu himself would probably be bad enough to follow through on an attack on an innocent merchant, for payment, but I don't think the other players will :)

Session 6 continued here

Saturday, November 10, 2012

D&D Next - A Spontaneous Patron

Session 5 continued from here

Cast

Aha - high elf sorcerer
Charlie - human cleric of Zagyg
Erevan - high elf rogue
Rajabu - dwarf fighter

With the ghouls and thouls all destroyed below them, the heroes and their mysterious new companion argued with the imperious Lady Alba about the next course of action.  Alba haughtily demanded that the heroes escort her out of the dungeon, and the party tried to convince her to accompany them until they complete their mission of gathering up the remains of the townsfolk that the orcs had brought here.  In the end, Aha laid out a firm but respectful case to the noble woman, and Lady Alba acquiesced with a sigh.

Aha had succeeded in her Charisma contest, against Lady Alba's Wisdom.  The Charisma roll was boosted with her Persuade skill.

But this NPC that I had spontaneously created last session, and fleshed out during the prior two weeks, had some more tricks up her black leather sleeves.  Statted as a 5th level sorcerer, Lady Alba proceeded to charm Rajabu the dwarf.  I took his player off to the side the explain the situation.  I whispered to him that he was now charmed, and that if he role-played it well, would earn an XP bonus for the effort.  From that moment forward, the previously stubborn dwarf suddenly became a veritable "yes man" to the noble woman's demands and wishes.

With a new puppet in this group of adventurers, Lady Alba began to probe them for a way to gain leverage.  When she asked them how much the Anvilar militia was paying them for this foray, she knew she'd hit on the right lever.  Alba offered to double the maximum expected reward the heroes could hope to achieve by completing their mission, if they would escort her out of the dungeon and back to her chateau near Anvilar immediately.  The potential for a 1,600 silver piece payoff was enough to sway even the heroes who had not been bewitched.

Thus the heroes ascended a stone staircase in the ghoul pit chamber, and overcame a magically sealed door with their Staff of Knocking.

I gave the PCs the Staff at the beginning of the adventure, and told them it had a limited number of charges, but no one knew exactly how many.  Each time they use it, they have to mark a tick mark on its item card.  Before using it, they have to roll a number of d6's equal to the tick marks.  If any of the dice come up a 1, the Staff is exhausted and fails to perform from that point forward.

A few hours of exploration followed on the upper level of the ancient citadel, and the heroes defeated a colony of fire beetles, navigated a flooded chamber by using a Shocking Grasp spell in the water to fry the carnivorous tadpoles swimming within, and made it through a cavern teeming with black fungus that smelled like rotting ghast.  The fresh air of the wilderness greeted them as they stepped through the final door.  With it being the wee hours of the morning, and a light rain falling, the heroes decided to camp in the entrance room for the night and make the trek back to Anvilar the next day.

The sound of persistent rapping on the door startled Aha, who was taking the early morning watch.  A group a rangers, sworn to enforce the trespass laws of this area, demanded to know what the heroes were doing in this forbidden place.  Fortunately Erevan, rousing out of his elf trance, remembered the travel warrant that the party had been given.  Examining the warrant, the rangers relaxed, and inquired about the outcome of the mission.  Sighing, Erevan explained how many orcs had been slain, but that they had lost their dear temple priest Darrien to ghouls.

He left out the part about how the PCs had been working with ghouls for most of the adventure.

The journey to Anvilar was uneventful, and Lady Alba procured a coach which they rode west to the area where expensive manor houses peppered the verdant hills.  Escorting the heroes into a sitting room, she made good her promise.

The players had their first big payoff, 1,600 silver.  I use the silver standard in the campaign, so this equates to 1,600 gold in a normal D&D economy.  What's more, that had another would be patron, who was interested in acquiring more of their time and services.

Lady Alba explained how Dawnmist Isle, where Anvilar sits, used to the the capital of a ghoul kingdom back in the Dark Ages of the land.  She explained how her ancestor's noble house overthrew the ghouls, and instituted an age of light in the region, which saw a blossoming of art, culture, and prosperity.  She then explained how Urik the Barbarian and his hordes came and conquered Anvilar, the same Urik who is the ancestor of the current ruler, the fierce female warrior named Eled.  With Eled building up a large mercenary force, Lady Alba wanted to know the exact military plans for this force.  Maps, movements, anything they could get their hands on.  She promised the heroes more monetary gains, and a high position in her court should she succeed in conquering the city from Eled and restoring the rightful place of her house.

If the PCs take Lady Alba up on her offer remains to be seen next session.

To be continued in Session six

Thursday, November 8, 2012

D&D Next - Undead becomes Really Dead

Session five continued from here

Cast

Aha - high elf sorcerer
Charlie - human cleric of Zagyg
Erevan - high elf rogue
Rajabu - dwarf fighter

Adventuring is a lethal business, and the heroes were reminded of that when Darrien's cries of anguish were silenced and replaced with the snarling growls of feasting ghouls.  With their cleric dead and undead "allies" at their heels, the remaining three heroes managed to slay the orcs without further casualties.  Near the end of the battle, Lady Alba moved up from the shadows.  The noblewoman motioned at one of the thouls and recited an incantation.  Erevan, who had dropped out of the mage guild, was unable to determine its exact nature, although its effect was clear.  The target thoul's arms dropped to its sides, and it swayed unsteadily, a confused look on its face.  Before the battle ended, Lady Alba had bewitched the remaining two thouls.

I had statted Lady Alba out as a 5th level sorcerer, with a custom spell that allowed her to influence thouls.  Unbeknownst to the PCs, she is actually a "compound" creature herself; the product of a vile ritual that combined her human form with that of a high elf infant, and in the process granting her arcane powers, and extending her life span significantly.  This all plays into the Cult of the Second Dawn; a secret society that I'm developing for future sessions.

With the orcs defeated, the talented noblewoman demanded that the heroes escort her out of the dungeon.  Glustinok, their ghoul "ally" reminded the heroes of their promise to help him depose the Ghoul Lord below and take the throne himself.  When he sensed the heroes reconsidering this promise, he offered to give them half of the Ghoul Lord's amassed treasure in exchange for their help.

I remembered to dangle a carrot in front of the PCs to tempt them to follow up on this option.  Lady Alba, on the other hand, was an arrogant noble who was not about to be led down deeper in the dungeon.  The fact that the PCs were even speaking with these undead had her incredulous.

Eventually Glustinok got tired of the talk and commanded his two remaining ghouls to follow him down into the pit, where be began trying to snap the five ravenous ghouls down there into control.

This was a Charisma contest opposed by the Wisdom of the ghouls.  Glustinok and his allies failed the first round of rolls, but would be able to try again if much time passed.  Glustinok was getting desperate and was trying to increase his leverage by getting these five ghouls behind him.

Witnessing Glustinok's attempt to rally the undead, Lady Alba waved her arm, and the three thouls descended into the pit, and began attacking Glustinok and the ghouls below.  She continued her conversation with the heroes as the undead monsters tore each other up below.  When the dust settled, one lone thoul stood "alive", looking up dumbly from the bottom of the pit.  Erevan put it out of its misery with an arrow to the skull.

Just then, another figure materialized nearby, out of thin air, a dark haired male with a mischievous glint in his eye.  Introducing himself as Charlie, he claimed he was in the dungeon to try and sell his wares to the orcs, when he decided to hide when the battle erupted.

D&D Next now has a selection of Deity Domains for the cleric to choose from.  These Domains allow a DM to represent whatever specific deities they want in their campaign, without hard-coding specific rules for each deity.  It's a rather flexible and elegant solution, and one of those Domains caught the attention of the player who had controlled the now deceased Darrien.  While all of the above was going on, he was rolling up a new character, a cleric of the Trickster god Zagyg.  And so Charlie was introduced to the game.  One of the Trickster cleric's abilities is to turn invisible for a turn, every ten minutes, so I thought it would be fun to leverage that as a way to introduce the new PC into the game.  As I would soon learn, Charlie would soon have his own chaotic agenda that would greatly impact the direction of the next session.

Session  five continued here

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

D&D Next - A Servant of the Light Ripped to Shreds

Continued from Session 4 here

Cast

Aha - high elf sorcerer
Darrien - human cleric of Pelor
Erevan - high elf rogue
Rajabu - dwarf fighter

The heroes and their ghoul/thoul allies entered a large chamber dominated by a slimy pit.  Orcs approached them from the ledge around the pit, and five ravenous ghouls snarled from the bottom.  The heroes sensed a subtle shift of mood from their undead companions.  Glustinok the ghast was reinforcing his influence over the thouls by continuing to speak to them in orcish, the only language that they apparently understood, and was becoming more distant from the heroes.

I told the players that the ghouls and thouls were no longer theirs to command, but were falling back into the DM's hands.  The "wargame" exercise was over.

At the same time, Darrien (the cleric of Pelor) was feeling an increased distance from his deity.  He surmised that the tacit cooperation with the undead was the cause of this gulf.

Indeed.  And, mechanically, I told Darrien's player that his spell rolls would suffer disadvantage during this session as a result of this.

And so it was that the group confronted six advancing orc warriors, three coming at them from either side of the pit below.  At this point, from the darkness at the other side of the chamber, they heard a confident woman's voice proclaim: "Warriors of Anvilar, I am here!  Get me out of this place!"

A very good Wisdom check last session and the PCs recognized this as Lady Alba, a noblewoman from Anvilar.  Rajabu told the party about this woman's suspected proclivity with carnal consortations with orcs, so here presence here was quite suspect.

Darrien bravely(?) stepped forward toward the mouth of the pit, extending his holy symbol which was radiating a holy glow, to illuminate more of the chamber.  From his other hand sprang a brilliant shaft of concentrated light, directed toward one of the approaching creatures.  He began to feel Pelor's absence more acutely as the beam strayed far off the mark, and glanced off a hideous bas relief of a demon face on the chamber's wall.

Disadvantage does suck!

The first unit of orc defenders closed on him quickly, and the one in the front rank grabbed Darrien by the shoulders and brutally shoved him toward the ledge of the ghoul pit.

The newest D&D Next playtest package contains rules for a few more specific combat related actions, like pushing an opponent, grabbing, and breaking free from a grab.  These are implemented as simple Ability Contests, which is what I had been doing all along anyway.  The push, for example, is a Strength Contest versus either Dexterity or Strength (defender chooses).  Darrien had a higher Dexterity than Strength, so he naturally chose this Ability to try and avoid the orc's shove, but the dice were not with him.

Darrien attempted to squirm out of the orc's grasp, but he instead felt the iron fingers of the creature mercilessly sink into the flesh of his arms, and felt himself propelled toward the gaping pit, powerless to stop it.  He slid down the slimy pit wall and fell on his face in the mud below, and the five hungry ghouls that had been kept there immediately pounced.  In a matter of seconds Darrien's cries ended, as the ravenous, unholy creatures tore through his armor and began ripping the cleric to shreds.

Since the last session, WotC has included ghoul stats in the D&D Next Bestiary.  The Next Ghouls have about double the hit points as what I had given them.  While I had the claw/claw/bite, and the effect of their paralysis very close, their attacks now did a bit more damage than I had statted previously.  With Darrien's figure slumped against the wall, it looked like four of the ghouls could get attacks in, at advantage since he was prone.  I started tracking his negative hit points on the battle map with tick marks, but after the fourth or fifth hit, it was academic.  The cleric was sailing into the next life.  I think that will make the players think twice next time before sauntering up to the edge of a pit.

It was time to hand Darrien's player the dice to start rolling up a new PC.  Actually, this worked out well overall.  Originally, Darrien's player had taken the character over from another player who had to leave the game after the first session, so he did not have a high level of investment in the cleric.  But, his new character would be a different story, and I would soon learn that his investment level in his new cleric of Zagyg would be quite high!

Session 5 continued here

Saturday, October 27, 2012

D&D Next - Battle Royale

Session 4 (Session 3 concluded here)

Cast

Darrien - human cleric of Pelor
Erevan - high elf rogue
Rajabu - dwarf fighter

With Aha the sorcerer's player unable to make this session, we started by figuring out what to do with Aha's character.  I floated the idea of each player taking Aha for an hour, but Erevan suggested we just let her character "wait for us" by the stairway down to level two, so that's what we decided.  I was all ready to go, having prepped the session by mapping out in detail the set piece battle that they were about to walk into on a sheet of 18"x24" sketch paper.  While the previous session, which had taken six blog posts to document (whew!) had featured a variety of role play, exploration, and some combat, this session would be purely combat.

The heroes, with their ghoul allies leading the charge, ran after the orcs who had turned and fled after their commander had been so quickly slain by the spells and arrows of the human invaders.  A chase began down the twisting corridors of the dungeon.

It's times like this that I am glad that I don't use a grid of any kind in my combats, but instead use a tape measure to judge movement distance.  I feel that this opens the combat up, and leads to a less board-gamey feel than counting squares while moving.  I often read about groups choosing to use either grid based combat, or go completely Theater of the Mind, but I rarely if ever hear abut anyone trying out the old tape measure method.

The orcs ran into a large chamber which contained a raised section that held a boiling cauldron and several goblinoids.  Next to the cauldron, an obvious spell casting orc of some kind (the Shaman Glaragula) stood reciting a vile incantation.  He was surrounded by four creatures that appeared somewhat like orcs, but a bit larger and more hulking, with flesh that bore a faded grayish pallor, and breath that exhaled from their fanged mouths with visible steam.

These were the thouls that Glaragula had already produced, and mechanics-wise they were beefed up orcs with two claw attacks and 1d6 per round regeneration.

On the ground level of the chamber were a couple of standard orc guards, and two goblins scuttling about next to a series of cupboards.

I had stocked these cupboards with all sorts of goodies, including sacks of ball bearings, alchemists' fire, acid, healing potions, and orc vitality drinks.

Before the first wave of ghouls was able to reach the doorway to the chamber, a goblin spilled a bag of ball bearings on the floor, then scuttled back to the cupboard.  The invaders would have to tread carefully or wind up flat on their backs.

The players thought for a moment, and considered just standing outside the door and peppering the enemies inside with spells and missile weapons.  This idea was nixed when the goblins started throwing alchemists' fire at them.

The doorway became a choke point, as orc guards defended against ghoul attackers.  The battle continued for quite some time at a stalemate.

It was then that my dice rolls, which had been very cold last session up till now, finally warmed up.

When the thouls joined the fray, however, the massive power of their rending claws tore through ghoul flesh, and one after another of the undead allies fell.  Glaragula was biding his time, hiding behind a marble pillar, and casting a defensive spell upon himself that caused his skin to harden like the hide of a lizard (and gain +4 AC).  Quickly the melee turned in favor of the goblinoids, and the heroes, with only two ghouls and their ghast ally Glustinok left alive, started to feel some desperation.

A big catalyst in that desperation was the fact that thouls can regenerate damage.  When they learned this, it made them rethink the whole attack rather quickly.

Holding aloft his holy symbol - Darrien called upon the power of Pelor in an attempt to repel the unholy thouls.

This left me in quandary.  Thouls were composed partly of ghouls, true, but they were not technically undead.  I made a quick ruling that the thouls would get their saving throw at advantage to represent this fact mechanically.  Darrien was lucky, as three of the four thouls were turned, along with their two remaining ghoul allies, who fled down the corridors into the darkness.  The thouls, covering their eyes and faces from the display of holy power, slowly retreated back into the ritual chamber.

The heroes at that point mounted a full scale retreat, but Glaragula descended the steps and rallied the ghouls to the corridor corner, just out of sight of the cleric, and as soon as Darrien let the holy symbol drop, they gave pursuit.  They caught up with Darrien in the hallway, and the cleric managed to slay one of the thouls when Glaragula himself engaged Darrien, and extended his clawed hand out to touch him.

The players were surprised to learn that Inflict Light Wounds did 3d8 damage.  I had Darrien roll how own damage, and described how his flesh painfully separated under the chainmail, and blood began pooling and dripping from the links.  He was reduced to just two hit points away from final death, and slumped to the ground unconscious.

In a dramatic gambit, Erevan poked out from behind a shadowy corner and targeted the Shaman with his longbow, and the deadly arrow hit the mark, and Glaragula the Shaman too crumpled to the ground, next to Darrien.

Erevan attempted to convince the thouls to surrender at that point, and I had him roll a Charisma contest against their Wisdom.  He rolled poorly, and lost the contest, but I decided that I would hold that losing roll and use it against him later.

The thouls stood motionless, looking around confused, their "creator" laying dead next to them.

The thouls could understand orchsih only, and although the PCs did not know orcish, a quick Intelligence check on Glustinok determined that he in fact did.  And so, they were able to command the thouls, and they continued their march through the dungeon.  But, along the way, Glustinok began talking to the thouls on his own, and the PCs had no way of knowing what he was telling them.  The group made their way into another chamber that contained a huge, yawning pit, with several ghouls inside it, and a group of orcs flanking the sides of the pit, marching toward them.

From the darkness beyond, outside of the range of their light source, the heroes heard a female voice call out,

"Heroes of Anvilar, I am here!"

They recognized the voice.  It was Lady Alba, a noble from Anvilar, their home base.

In my notes, I had written down that Lady Alba was simply a noble from Anvilar that had been captured by the orcs in the raid, and that they were about to feed her to the ghouls in the pit.  But, Erevan's player suddenly latched onto the question of: why was this woman here with the orcs?  Was she somehow involved in the whole plot?  And so, since this was a much more interesting idea, I decided on the spot that I would go with it.  Rajabu's player, the dwarf fighter with the "thug" background, jumped onto this idea too, and asked me if he could use his Streetwise skill to see if he knew anything about Lady Alba and her dealings in the underworld.  He succeeded in his Intelligence (+ skill) check, so I turned the question back to him, and asked him what Rajabu knew about this Lady Alba.  He thought a moment, and then said how it was rumored back in town that she likes to have sex with orcs.  Okay ... new, vile doorways suddenly opened up in the story in my head, and a half-orc warlord, and a plot of noble revenge started to form.  Lady Alba went from an inconsequential note, almost an afterthought, to the mother of Hagugh the Destroyer, who was rallying orc, barbarian, and dwarf forces as he built up an army bent on revenge and conquest.

continued in Session 5 here