Session 20: The Mad Man of the Woods

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(This session was run in February 2018.  In terms of campaign time, this adventure followed immediately after Session 18: The Tomb of Lord DeLacraneSession 19: Into the Chaos Void occurred in a pocket dimension without time passing on the material plane at all.  For a description of the campaign world and a list of player characters and non-player characters see The World Map.)

Despite the weird experience in the pocket dimension, Tanin, Velnius, Xrax and Belladore helped break down camp, telling Kulo and Pabelle of their experience.  Pabelle seemed incredulous.  There had been no discernible break in their tasks of the morning.  Tanin shrugged pointing to the cloak Velnius was giving to Belladore, “We got that off the desiccated husk of a wizard.”  Pabelle hadn’t noticed the cloak before and now did a double-take.  The party was left to their thoughts on the matter as they finished their morning chores to begin travel for the day.  By late afternoon they should make it to Edgewood.

The early morning passed languidly.  Nothing but birdsong greeted the caravan on the road.  But near mid-day, a contingent of Valeriun guards from the Edgewood garrison intercepted the caravan.  The guards warned the party that some type of monster had been ransacking independent homesteads along the Valeriun Road.  The guards mentioned that a homestead about a half-hour up the road had recently been plundered.  They did a cursory investigation to see if there were any survivors or injured–there weren’t any, but because of recent increases in orc activity in the area, their main duty was to secure the road and warn the populace.  The guards explained further that the captain at the fort in Edgewood has offered a reward to anyone bringing information or the head of this creature to the fort.

After the Valeriun guards departed down the road, the caravan continued on its way keeping a closer eye on the surrounding woods.  Shortly, they came upon the homestead just off the road mentioned by the guards.  The caravan stopped as the party investigated the place, finding the doors bashed down and evidence of a fight within.  Velnius noticed tracks leading away from the homestead back into the woods.  With this information, the caravan convened a discussion of what to do.  It was obvious that the caravan should continue onward to Edgewood since they were but a few hours from town, but Tanin believed that this threat should be investigated and this creature found if for nothing than to make traveling this stretch of road safer for their return trip.

All agreed to this plan.  Xrax, Belladore, and Okkar would continue with the caravan the last few hours to Edgewood to insure its safety, while Kulo, Pabelle, Tanin, and Velnius with Xerbo would investigate the tracks leading from the homestead.

After the caravan departed, the rest of the party did a more thorough investigation of the homestead.  Not finding anything of worth other than recognizing that the creatures– Velnius was certain the tracks were made by several monsters–appeared to be significantly larger than man.  Velnius guessed they were trolls.

The party followed the tracks cautiously through the woods, Velnius at the lead easily following the path made by the monsters.  The trolls had made no attempts at stealth.  Their heavy footprints in the soft ground were easy to discern along with broken brush marking their passage.  The smell of a campfire signaled to the party that someone was nearby.

The party eventually reached an opening in the woods.  At the far end of the opening sat a small hovel.  A cook-fire in front of the building warmed a pot hanging from branches lashed together into a tripod.  The party members spied no sign of life.  They moved closer to the hovel cautiously, weapons drawn and at the ready.  Velnius continued to follow the tracks which led directly to the door of the hovel and then around back and through the woods.  As he returned to the party to reveal what he observed, a disheveled, old man opened the door to the small cabin muttering to himself.  He was lost in thought and slow to recognize he had company.  He jumped, startled once he recognized a number of people standing near him and his cook-fire.  He wore simple clothes–a tattered tunic and equally worn and smudged breeches.  He was barefoot and his feet were filthy from the camp.

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He greeted his visitors, “Ahem.  Well, well.  Welcome my . . . friends?  I assume you’re not here to rob me and even if you were, I have little of worth, yes.” He smiled and cocked his head to the side.  “My name is Harold.  Greetings and welcome to my humble cabin.”

Tanin introduced the group and asked, “You live here?  We are on a hunt sanctioned by the captain of the guard in Valerius.  We seek the creatures that have been raiding and plundering homesteads along the Valeriun Road.  Trolls, we think.  Have you seen them?”

“Trolls, trolls,” Harold muttered looking at the ground.  Then he seemed to snap out of his reverie, “Trolls, you said?  Yes, I’ve seen one or two occasionally.  But not for some time.”

Velnius interjected, “Their tracks lead right up to your door and all around your cabin.”

Harold responded, “Well, yes, I have my ways of dealing with Trolls.  Not to worry.  I will help you, friends.”  And with that he quickly disappeared into his hovel.  The party of adventurers exchanged glances as they heard Harold clanking around his cabin.  Kulo whispered to the group, “I don’t trust him.  Why haven’t the trolls killed him and taken his stuff?”  The others nodded their heads thinking the same thing.

But after a short interlude, Harold reemerged from the doorway.  He held a pouch in his hand and offered it to the party.  “This.  This will protect you from the trolls.”

A wave of stench hit the party members like something rotten or dead.  They all recoiled at the smell, their faces showing disgust.  Harold chuckled, “Yes, yes.  Wait to you see how the trolls react! Heh, heh.”

Tanin asked, “So this is how you’ve protected yourself from the trolls?”

Harold nodded, “They hate the smell.  They leave me alone.”  Harold extended his arm, “Go on.  Take it.  My gift to you, my friends.”

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The party briefly argued over who, if any of them, would take the stinking bag.  But eventually Kulo volunteered to take it.  Harold said, “Wear it around your neck.  The smell will be most potent that way.”

Kulo reluctantly complied.

The party thanked Harold, although most with misgivings about his true nature and suspecting he knew something about the trolls he wasn’t revealing.  The adventurers followed the tracks, continuing deeper into the woods.  After a couple of hours, they heard loud talking ahead of them.  After a brief debate in whispers about what to do, Tanin cast invisibility on himself and Velnius.  Pabelle changed into the form of a dire wolf and hid behind a tree.  Kulo quickly donned pieces from his disguise kit, making himself a rough approximation of Harold.

The party heard a series of deep inhalations coming from the woods ahead.

“What’s that smell,” asked one of the guttural voices.

“Smells like dinner,” said another.

Three trolls crashed through the brush right in front of Kulo disguised as Harold.

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Kulo as Harold attempted to placate the trolls waving his hand in a welcoming gesture and attempting an approximation of Harold’s speech, “Greetings, my friends.  I’m just out for a stroll in the woods.”

The trolls paused momentarily in confusion exchanging dumbfounded looks, but the one in back said to the others, “Look he’s wearing the sack,” and the trolls attacked.

Tanin and Velnius quickly returned to their corporeal forms, attacking the trolls at the first opportunity.

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The fight turned into a long slog.  Exchanging blow after blow, the fight grew intense as the trolls inflicted serious injury upon Tanin and Kulo, their eyes glowing with malevolence as their crude weapons or claws rent flesh.  The adventurers watched as the injuries they inflicted upon the trolls healed somewhat on their own, lacerations from their edged weapons closing shut, stopping the bleeding.

“Fire,” Tanin yelled in the thick of the fray.  “Hit them with fire!” he said retrieving a bit of lore virtually all bards in this part of the world would know amidst the death match.  The troll with the skull hammer was the first to fall, but he regained his feet mere seconds later as no party member could injure him with fire.  His return to life was short-lived, however.  As he fell the second time he yelled out, “Mom!”

With one troll dead and the others wounded, the tide of the battle had turned.  The one armed with the stone hammer fell next, the party making sure to hit him with an attack that used fire before he fell.  He also cried out, “Mom!” as he died.

Seeing his brothers fall, the last troll who fought with his deadly claws lashed out in frenzied attacks.  But his wounds grew round by round, and the party systematically burned him with fire attacks until his life’s blood ran out.  His dying words echoed his brothers, “Mom!”

In the heat of the battle, Kulo forgot he still wore the stinking pouch around his neck.  He grabbed it now, yanking it from his neck, and throwing it as far as he could into the woods.

Tanin cut off the head of one of the trolls to bring as proof to the garrison in Edgewood that they had killed the monsters menacing the homesteads along the road.

Velnius addressed the party members, “It’s time we give that bastard, Harold, a visit!”

The party marched with determination back to Harold’s shack in the woods.  Despite removing the pouch from his neck, Kulo still reeked.

When the party entered the opening, they saw Harold at his cook-fire stirring a black kettle.  He quickly stopped what he was doing and headed for his cabin door.  He gave a sharp whistle as members of the party tried to intercept him.

The party members exchanged brief questioning looks, but the answer came in a blur from the trees.  Six panthers attacked, surrounding Velnius and Xerbo on one side and Tanin and Kulo on the other.

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Kulo and Tanin slayed the panthers closet to them.  Harold, seeing he was in trouble, summoned bears to help protect him.

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The help the bears provided was short-lived.  Tanin delivered a deep gash to Harold’s arm with his scimitar, causing Harold to lose his concentration and his hold on the bears, which disappeared.  Meanwhile, Velnius and Xerbo killed the last of Harold’s pet panthers.

Seeing his life in serious danger, Harold fled into the cabin.  Tanin followed him in and saw him cast a spell, melding with the stone floor.  The party members searched his cabin, finding simple furnishings.  A pallet and hay-filled sheet served as Harold’s bed.  A simple unadorned chair and table sat near one of the windows.  Resting on the table was a bowl and spoon.  A waterskin hung from a nail in the wall.

The party members simply waited Harold out.  After eight hours had passed, Harold emerged from the stone floor.  A dour look filled his face as he looked around his cramped cabin at four weapons brandished in his face.  With little choice, he surrendered peacefully.

Velnius bound Harold’s hands tightly behind his back.  “I hope this doesn’t hurt . . . too much.”  Since night had fallen, the party made camp at Harold’s cabin.  Around the campfire, they talked at length about the pleasure they would have turning Harold over to the captain of the guard in Edgewood.  Kulo swore he heard Harold laughing but when he looked over at the old man, he was merely coughing into his shoulder.

Velnius advanced to 6th-level.


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Forest Battle Mat: Paizo’s Pathfinder Basic Terrain Multi-Pack Flip-Mat

Large Tree and Bushes: Woodland Adventures by Fat Dragon Games

Campfire and Logs: E-Z TERRAIN: Overland Adventures by Fat Dragon Games

Small Deciduous Trees: From Beasts & Barbarians Set Two: Nandals and Cultists by Okumarts Games

Small Cabin: Hovel Paper Model by Dave Graffam Models

Harold Paper Miniature: Adventurers: Wanderers by Reivaj Minis

Original Art of The Mad Man of the Woods: Jody Monochrome

Invisible Player Character Miniatures: Invisible Character Marker Set by Litko

Trolls Paper Miniatures: Roads of Apocalypse (3rd ed.) – Legendary set 2: Trolls family modkit by Distrigillator

Panthers and Bears Paper Miniatures: Paper Forge

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