Last Session Recap: The party left The Rare Well Tavern expecting to meet Fredrik outside so they could follow him back to his home to gather information and to rest. Unfortunately, Fredrik was nowhere to be found – he had seemingly vanished without a trace. Without any indication of where he could have gone, the party went back into the tavern to find out if anyone knew where Fredrik lived so they could try to meet him there. After engaging Rytha and the other two tavern patrons in conversation, it was learned that none of them knew exactly where Fredrik lived, him being a very private person, but he was often seen in an area of town northeast of the tavern near the lake. Elyon made arrangements with one of the patrons, Marianna, to lead the party to this area the following morning. Marianna also seemed to imply that despite the party’s best efforts they have already become entangled in whatever trouble is going on in the hamlet of Beethorp.
Idwar, 12th of Zopha 1343 – Night, continued.
Mission: Follow the main road north to The Last Hand Inn to spend the night before meeting Marianna in the morning.
Is there a scene modification? 1d6=1, 2d4=1,2. No.
So the party sets off as planned heading north up the main road. I am not going to do any mapping of the town at this point since it is night time and I don’t think any of the characters would be taking any active effort to really Does anything happen on the way. 1d100=76 (Somewhat Likely); 1d20+1d4=19 (3,6). Yes.
What happens? Dangerous Encounter (1,2,3); Interesting Discovery (4,5,6); Regular Random Event (7,8). 1d8=3.
I am going to treat the dangerous encounter as an enemy ambush largely because I am probably overdue for a combat encounter after a long stretch of role playing and NPC interactions. Since it is already the end of the day, I will say the encounter will either be hard (1,2,3) or deadly (4,5,6). 1d6=5.
Combat Game Notes Click Arrow to Expand
Format: For this post, I chose to add narrative text (in boldface type) for each turn of combat after the mechanical stuff (in italics). In hindsight, this was probably too much. I mean how many ways can you narrate an attack and a hit/miss or describe what a particular spell does. In the future, I will likely only add a narrative summary for each round all together or even just a narrative summary of the whole battle.
Initiative Order: For determining initiative, I am using a tweak of the Dynamic Initiative system I found on one of the D&D community boards which is itself a homebrew tweak of Mike Mearls’ Unearthed Arcana: Greyhawk Initiative. The big differences with these systems are that initiative is rolled anew each round and initiative is based on the actions being taken being or planned rather than on a standard d20+DEX. The tweaks I made relate mostly to what dice are used for a given action, but I also added a much more involved mechanic for what happens when an action needs to change (i.e. if the monster I planned on attacking is killed before my turn in the initiative count comes around). I am not sure if I will ever write up my initiative system since it is not really a solo-RPG thing, just a general hack of 5e.
Enemy HP: Lately I have been tinkering with ways to keep enemy HP “secret” for as long as possible in an attempt to add tension or otherwise put myself in the same position as a regular player would be. A player in a typical group game should know how much damage they have dealt so far, but wouldn’t know how much the enemy has left since they wouldn’t know how many HP the enemy had to start with. This is a potential spoiler area in a solo game where the solo player, as GM, would need to know the enemy’s HP to run the combat encounter.
The ideas I was coming up with to handle this situation were actually quite complicated involving converting the cumulative amount of damage dealt so far into a probability based on the enemies hit dice or, even worse, converting the damage into a statistical z-score and then a probability. But I ultimately realized I could accomplish the same goals I was shooting for by just rolling the enemies hit dice each time they take damage. If the result of this Hit Point Check, as I call it, is lower than the total amount of damage the enemy has taken, then the enemy dies; if it is higher, the enemy is still alive. Now the actual value of the Hit Point Check has no meaning, it is just a Pass/Fail kind of test.
So for example, let’s say the party is fighting a bugbear and has managed to damage it for 20 hit points so far. The Hit Point Check would involve rolling 5d8+5, the bugbear’s hit dice, and comparing the result to 20. If a 14 was rolled, that would mean the bugbear’s actual total HP was 20 or less so it is killed. If a 28 is rolled, it means the bugbear’s total HP is something greater than 20 so it lives to fight another round. This process is repeated each time the bugbear takes damage until the Hit Point Check result indicates the bugbear is dead. The advantage of this method is that if the enemy lives, I still won’t know exactly how much more damage I need to kill it – it could be 1 more point of damage or it could be another 20. It’s all in how the 5d8+5 roll comes out.
Enemy Actions: Unless the enemies actions are totally obvious, I will be using the Enemy AI tables from TSAT1 and TSAT2 to determine what actions the enemies will take. I will do a 50/50 roll using a 1d4 to decide between them. I will also be using the Menace Point mechanic from TSAT2, but with a limitation that each enemy or character can only have 2 menace points associated with it: 1 menace point for getting wounded and a second point for being killed/going down. I may adjust this slightly later so that a the “wound” menace point doesn’t happen until somebody is reduced to half hp, but I will see how it goes first. I just want to avoid having a whole bunch of menace points add up for doing just 1 or 2 points of damage.
Spell Verbal Components: For narrating the verbal components of spells, I am using the suggestions given in The Thieves Guild – Spell Cards.
Using the 5e Random Encounter Generator from donjon and editing out some options that didn’t quite make sense, I roll that the party will be ambushed by 3 Shadows. I like that result a lot – it’s night, it’s mostly cloudy, the lighting is dim – I can see how the environmental conditions would be right for this encounter. Now, whether or not the Shadow ambush is related to the bigger picture of what could be going on in the town, I don’t know; that will be revealed as the story progresses.
The Shadows will be attempting to be stealthy in order to surprise the characters as they pass by. Rolling a Stealth Check for all of them results in: 24, 14, 16. Comparing this to the character’s passive perceptions, with a -4 disadvantage modifier as required due to the dim lighting, it looks like Mushman is taken by surprise (PP w/ -4 for disadvantage = 6), Elyon is taken by surprise ( PP=10 within range of darkvision or 6 outside), and Quarthon notices two of them but not the third (PP=16 or 12).
I found a free village street battle map on angelamaps and set up the opening positions of the party and enemies. I think it makes the most sense for Shadow #3 to be the one that stays undetected as it is the farthest away and outside of Elyon and Quarthon’s darkvision range.
Initiative Count 1-1: Quarthon goes first since his DEX is higher than Shadow #3. Casting Shield of Faith on Elyon increases his AC to 17 and taking the dodge action increases Quarthon’s AC to 20 this round.
The party begins walking up the main road toward the northern edge of Beethorp with Mushman and Elyon leading the way. The overcast skies block the moon and there are few lights coming from the buildings and homes, making the night quite dark. As the party comes to a side road intersection, Quarthon notices some movement around some of the houses at the edge of the road and within range of his darkvision. Fearing something to be amiss he takes hold of his holy symbol and focuses on Elyon. Quarthon chants, “Protego di Fides,” as a shimmering field of light envelopes Elyon. Quarthon then readies himself for whatever is to come.
Initiative Count 1-2: Shadow #3 is not able to reach any of the characters to make an attack. So it will just position itself to be within striking distance trying to remain hidden. Its Stealth Check this time is 17 which is still enough to remain undetected even though it is moving within darkvision range.
Initiative Count 7-1: I am going to move the Shadows in the order they are numbered. Shadow #1 will advance and attack the closest character, Mushman. Since Mushman’s shield is still stowed away his AC at this point is 17. Attack roll 1d20+4=7. Miss.
Shadow #1 presses forward toward Mushman, its arms outstretched in an attempt to grab hold of him. Mushman, his eyes wide in surprise, is able to react quick enough, though, and slides out of the way.
Initiative Count 7-2: Shadow # 2 is also going to move forward and attack (1d4=2) Elyon. Attack Roll: 1d20+4=8. Miss.
Noticing the field of light surrounding him, Elyon spins to see what could be going on. As he does so, he sees Shadow #2 heading directly in his direction. With that few moments warning, he is able to dodge out of the way of the Shadow’s attack.
At this point I will do a Religion Check to determine what, if anything, the characters know about the Shadows attacking them. After reviewing the online commentary on doing these kinds of checks, I have devised a formula for determining the DC for various bits of information. In this case, a DC5 is the minimum needed to just know that the Shadows are a type of undead. Since the DC’s will be fixed by a formula and not something I am subjectively coming up with on the fly, I don’t feel a need to do the check as a reverse check using the Oracle.
Another quick note on skills checks. I am going to start adding disadvantage to rolls where the character is not proficient in the given skill. It is just another way to highlight the benefit of specific training over just having a natural affinity in the relevant ability.
Religion Checks: Mushman 1d20+2 (D)=5; Elyon 1d20+2 (D)=6; Quarthon 1d20+2=18
So all Mushman and Elyon know is that they are likely dealing with some sort of undead spirit, but no further details. Quarthon, probably based on his religious training, knows much more, but not everything. He knows that they will drain your strength if they are able to touch you, knows how much of a threat they should be, and he has some idea of their resistances – but not their vulnerabilities.
Initiative Count 1: Shadow #1 will make another attack on Mushman. Attack Roll: 1d20+4=22. Hit for 2d6+2=11 damage and 1d4=3 points of strength drain. Mushman’s Current HP=13 and strength reduced to 12 which is lower than the Strength requirement for wearing Chain Mail. Mushman’s movement speed is reduced to 20 ft due to the encumbrance.
Menace Points are at -13 (for wounding Mushman)
Shadow #1 reaches out for Mushman again, this time making contact with an exposed area of his neck. On top of the pain of the blow, Mushman can feel an energy being pulled out of his body up through the creature’s hand and arm. He suddenly feels weaker and the chain mail protecting his body begins weighing him down like an anchor.
Initiative Count 2: Mushman dons his shield and Action Surges. AC increased to 19.
Shaking off the effect of the attack, Mushman manages to gather up his shield and position it between himself and the attacking Shadow. Unsheathing his longsword, he screams with defiance which gives him the courage to push himself into preparing an attack himself.
Initiative Count 3-1: Quarthon will cast Guiding Bolt which may seem a bit “meta” given that Quarthon does not know of the Shadow’s vulnerability to radiant damage. However, I made it a point in character creation to select all possible radiant spells that were available to Quarthon based on his deity. I did something similar for Elyon. His draconic ancestry is a gold dragon which is a fire based dragon. Therefore, I force Elyon to have all possible fire damage spells before any others. Guiding Bolt also has the largest damage potential so it makes the most sense for Quarthon to cast this one irrespective of the vulnerability knowledge.
Spell Attack Roll: 1d20+6=16. Hit for 4d6x2=36 damage. Shadow #2 dies.
Does Quarthon recognize the Shadow’s vulnerability? I will make this a double skill check: first, Perception to notice and then second, straight Intelligence to deduce that the effect of the damage is magnified. Perception 1d20+6=16 (Likely); 1d20+2d4=19 (1,5). Success. Intelligence with disadvantage 1d20+0=7 (Somewhat Unlikely); 1d20-1d4=17 (1,6). Success with a random event.
The Random Event Focus is “Ambiguous Action” with a meaning of “Expose the War.” I think the noise of the fight is starting to wake some of the townsfolk in the surrounding homes.
Menace Points are at -13+13 (for wounding Shadow #2)+13 (for killing Shadow #2)=13
Quarthon holds out his holy symbol in the direction of the Shadow that had attacked Elyon. “Derigo Fulmen Telumi!” A bolt of light streams out of Quarthon’s holy symbol hitting the Shadow square in the torso. It recoils back as if in shock. With a tinge of residual light outlining its shape, the Shadow begins to dissipate until it finally disappears completely. Hearing Mushman’s yell and hoping to assist, Quarthon runs over to his left to get better angle for an attack on Shadow #1. While he does so, he shouts out to the others, “Light! They cannot withstand the light.”
Lights begin to flicker in one or two of the surrounding homes, their residents stirred by the commotion of the fight occurring in the street outside.
Initiative Count 3-2: Shadow #3 rushes out of hiding to a position adjacent to Elyon (the only character within movement range) and attacks. Attack Roll: 1d20+4=11. Miss.
Just as the dark shape of Shadow #2 disappears in the night, a third Shadow rushes forward from the side street off to the right and swipes at Elyon. The bright light that killed Shadow #2 must have affected Shadow #3’s vision as it was moving forward ruining its aim and causing it to miss with its strike.
Initiative Count 4: With his extra attack, Mushman attacks Shadow #1 with his longsword. Attack Roll 1d20+4=16 vs AC12. Hit for 1d8+2=10/2 = 5 damage; no chance for it be killed.
Does Mushman notice the resistance? Perception with disadvantage 1d20+0=5 (Unlikely); 1d20-2d4=10 (1,4). Fail.
Menace Points=13+13 (for wounding Shadow #1)=26
Having given himself a surge of energy with his war cry, Mushman swings his longsword at the Shadow before him. It connects, but the blade passes through the Shadow’s body as if passing through water. The Shadow barely flinches.
Initiative Count 5: Elyon intended to cast Burning Hands in the direction of Shadow #2, but it is no longer there. Can Elyon quickly redirect at Shadow #3? I am going to say it is obvious to him that Quarthon’s spell killed Shadow #2 so it is only a matter of him being able to move quick enough. He has had 2 initiative counts to react so the DC will be 10-2=8. Dexterity Check with Disadvantage 1d20+2=9. Success.
Shadow #3’s DEX Save vs Spell Save DC14: 1d20+2=20. Success. Damage 3d6=14/2=7/2=3. No chance for Shadow to be killed.
Does Elyon notice the Shadow’s resistance to fire? Perception Check with disadvantage. 1d20+0=1 (Near Impossible); 1d20-4d4=1 (7,10). No.
Menace Points: 26+13 (for wounding Shadow #3)=39
Seeing Shadow #2 being killed in the blast of light and then nearly getting hit by Shadow #3, Elyon tries to quickly shift his aim in the direction of his new attacker. Outstretching his arms and fingers he bellows, “Manus di Ignis.” A sheet of fire appears at Elyon’s fingertips and it launches toward Shadow #3. Unfortunately, the Shadow is able to react avoiding the bulk of the flames.
Initiative Count 2: Elyon will cast Burning Hands at Shadow #3 again. Shadow #3’s DEX Save vs Spell Save DC14. 1d20+2=14. Success. Damage 3d6=15/2=7/2=3. The Shadow has taken 6 hp total damage. Hit Point Check: 3d8+3=23. It is still alive.
Does Elyon notice the Shadow’s resistance to fire? Perception Check with disadvantage. 1d20+0=2 (Near Impossible); 1d20-4d4=4 (5,9). No.
No change in Menace Points since Shadow #3 was already wounded.
Failing with his first attempt to completely hit the Shadow, Elyon resets his hands and tries again. “Manus di Ignis,” he chants even more forcefully. The sheet of flame erupts from his fingertips once more but again Shadow #3 side steps being caught only by the lesser damaging fringes of the flames which immediately extinguish on contact with the Shadow.
Initiative Count 4: Since protecting Elyon is of greatest concern to Quarthon, he doubles back moving back over to his right. He casts Guiding Bolt again. Spell Attack Roll 1d20+6=26. CRITICAL HIT for 8d6x2=48. The Shadow is absolutely obliterated, but Quarthon is now out of spell slots.
Menace Points=39+13 (for killing Shadow #3)=52
Hearing Elyon cast another spell, Quarthon looks over to see Shadow #3 pressing in on Elyon. He cuts back quickly, abandoning his plan to assist Mushman, to get a shot at Shadow #3. “Derigo Fulmen Telumi,” he chants, holy symbol in hand. As before, a bolt of light streams toward the Shadow striking it with a nearly blinding radiant explosion. When the flash clears, the Shadow is gone – erased from existence.
Initiative Count 5: Mushman makes an attack at Shadow #1 with his longsword. Attack roll 1d20+4=16 vs AC12. Hit for 1d8+2=7/2=3 dmg. Shadow #1 has taken 8 points of total damage. Hit Point Check: 3d8+3=23; it is still alive.
Does Mushman notice the resistance? Perception with disadvantage 1d20+0=3 (Very Unlikely); 1d20-3d4=-3 (1,1). Fail, but…he notices something else. I think the Shadow Mushman is currently engaged with senses the massive radiant energy that Quarthon has put out and is distracted by it. Is Mushman able to deduce anything about this and Quarthon’s earlier call about the creatures being hurt by light? Straight Intelligence Check with Disadvantage 1d20+2=18 (Very Likely); 1d20+3d4=22 (4,7). Yes – so Mushman makes the connection and is aware of the Shadows’ vulnerability now.
No change to Menace Points since Shadow #1 was already wounded.
The explosion of Quarthon’s spell momentarily grabs the attention of Shadow #1 giving Mushman an opening to swing his longsword. Before the Shadow can react, the sword connects but it passes right through the ephemeral form leaving the Shadow mostly unphased. In his head, Mushman can hear Quarthon’s call that the creatures were weak to light, but all he has is his sword and a hand axe.
Initiative Count 6: Even though Shadow #3 is dead, just to quickly explain its planned action, the TSAT1 Monster Action roll allowed for the possibility of the Shadow attacking with advantage if the previous attack on the creature missed and if it made a successful Wisdom Check. In this case, the previous attack from Eylon hit, so this would not have been in play.
Initiative Count 8: Given the circumstances of the battle, I think the planned action of Shadow #1 still makes some sense. This action from TSAT1 gives a 10% chance of reinforcements arriving 2 rounds later. I am going to randomize this and say there is a 1d100=83% chance of reinforcements arriving in 1 or 2 rounds (50/50). I am also going to make this a bonus action giving the Shadow a chance to continue his attack on Mushman. Attack Roll 1d20+4=20. Hit for 2d6+2=10 damage and 1d4=4 points of strength drain. Mushman is down to 3 hp and his strength has been reduced to 8.
No change in Menace Points since Mushman was already wounded.
Mushman’s successful strike refocuses the Shadow’s attention and it dives in for another attack. Once more it is able to find a gap in Mushman’s defenses and again an energy begins to flow out of Mushman’s body. His armor grows much heavier and it feels as if it is nearly impossible to move. As the Shadow extracts Mushman’s strength, strange whispers begin circulating in the night air.
A couple of questions before this round starts:
Does the chance for reinforcements occur in this round (50/50)? 1d100=43. No, it will occur in the next round.
Do any of the townsfolk come outside to see what could be going on? 1d100=01 (Impossible); 1d20-5d4=-4 (1,6). No.
Do any of the townsfolk at least look out their windows? 1d100=81 (Somewhat Likely); 1d20+1d4=5 (1,3). No. So some of the townsfolk were disturbed enough to light some candles in their homes, but all of them mind their business.
Initiative Count 2: The initiative order did not go Mushman’s way and he could be in danger of going down unless Quarthon can take out Shadow #1. Quarthon moves over to his left to support Mushman casting Sacred Flame at Shadow #1. This involves the Shadow making a DEX save vs Quarthon’s Spell Save DC of 14. 1d20+2=13. Fail, taking 1d8=5×2=10 radiant damage. Shadow #1 has taken 18 points of total damage so far. Hit Point Check: 3d8+3=15. This attack kills Shadow #1.
With Elyon seemingly safe for the moment, Quarthon darts back over to his left to assist Mushman who appears to be sluggishly tired from his fight with the Shadow. Quathon calls out, “Ignis Sanctus!” and presents his holy symbol high above his head. The sky above the Shadow begins to light up as radiant flames start to form and coalesce. The Shadow, almost sensing the incoming attack, tries to move out of the way quickly but is unsuccessful. The sacred flames of Quarthon’s spell attack descend directly onto the Shadow’s head, destroying it in the same manner that the other Shadows had been destroyed.
Weak from the Shadow’s strength drain attack, Mushman collapses to the ground. “Arrgghh! What did those things do to me?” Elyon and Quarthon rush over to help him back up on his feet. “Those vile creatures thrive off the strength of their prey. You will be fine with some rest,” explains Quarthon. “You are lucky it did not hit you again – you could have easily been killed.”
Mushman looks at Quarthon with appreciation. “I suppose I owe you a debt of gratitude then. Without those priest powers of yours, this wouldn’t have been as easy of a fight.”
“Yes,” Quarthon responds. “I knew it was difficult to harm those undead by normal means, but it would seem they are no match for Kalathys’ holy light.”
“Where did they come from and why did they attack us,” chimes in Elyon.
“I wish I knew Elyon,” answers Quarthon.
Killing Shadow #1 doesn’t necessarily end the combat encounter because there is still an opportunity for the extra reinforcing Shadow to arrive in Round 5. Was the call for reinforcements successful? 1d100=14. Yes. Stealth Check for Shadow #4 is 1d20+4=17 beating everyone’s Passive Perceptions – so it is going to get a free round to charge in and attack. Which direction is it coming? 1d8 for a compass direction=1 for NE.
Who does it attack? Mushman (1,2); Elyon (3,4); Quarthon (5,6). 1d6=2. It attacks Mushman. I am going to say Mushman isn’t prepared with his shield giving him an AC17. Attack Roll 1d20+4=11. Miss.
As the party tends to Mushman and spends a few moments speaking, a 4th Shadow sweeps in without being noticed and lashes out at Mushman. Luckily for him, the Shadow is unable to penetrate his armor.
Initiative Count 2: Shadow #4 Attacks Mushman. Attack Roll 1d20+4=15. Miss.
Having missed with its first attack, the Shadow dives at Mushman a second time but missing again.
Initiative Count 4: Elyon casts Magic Missile. Damage each dart 1d4+1=5×3=15 total damage. Hit Point Check: 3d8+3=20. The Shadow lives on. Elyon is out of spell slots.
Seeing the Shadow swipe at Mushman twice, Elyon waves his hands chanting, “Expecto Medeis Ballistas.” Three glowing darts form in front of him and with a quick flicking motion Elyon launches them toward the Shadow striking it squarely.
Initiative Count 6: Mushman uses his action to disengage and runs the 20 feet of movement he has to get away from the Shadow. Once there, he uses Second Wind to recover 1d10+2=3 hp. Mushman’s hp are now at 6.
Fearing another hit could kill him and with the Shadow temporarily being taken aback by the force of Elyon’s missiles, Mushman focuses his efforts on defending himself while he disengages from melee with the Shadow. Weighed down by his armor, he runs back and to the left putting Quarthon between himself and the Shadow. Once in relative safety, Mushman takes a deep breathe and slightly recovering from some of the damage previously dealt by the first wave of Shadows.
Initiative Count 9: Quarthon casts Sacred Flame. Shadow DEX Save vs Spell Save DC14 1d20+2=8. Fail for 1d8=3×2=6 damage. The Shadow has taken 21 damage total. Hit Point Check: 3d8+3=17. The Shadow dies.
In frustration, Quarthon yells out,”By Kalathys, enough of this!! Ignis Sanctus!” As before, radiant flames begin to cluster above the Shadow. It tries to dodge out of the way, but once the flames reach critical mass they crash down upon the Shadow killing it.
The group stands in position at the ready for several minutes waiting for any further attacks. When nothing further occurs, they finally let down their guard.
“I think it’s over now,” says Elyon.
“I hope so. I can barely move in this armor,” says Mushman.
Quarthon listens intently at the air to see if he can detect anything amiss. “Yes. I think we are safe for now. Let’s just get to the inn as quickly as we can. But stay on guard – who knows if anything further is lying in wait for us.”
And that concludes this combat encounter. Each character receives 133 XP for defeating 4 Shadows.