That'll do it. The Heroes of Haranshire have successfully recruited their first non-humanoid allies - a bunch of birds, but they are very friendly and always down for a quick chat. Do Argus & Co. have any more questions? The crows are really bright and if they see something, I'm not going to roll or anything to decide if they remember it when it comes up in conversation later. But aside from that they aren't able to really do very much for you.
I should also point out that crows don't know what humans don't know, and they always defer to explaining things in simplistic terms. So it may be that this bird has a deeper, nuanced perspective on what exactly might have happened at Broken Spire Keep or what kind of hazards you might encounter there - but it also knows you aren't a bird, and maybe humans have a totally different range of senses and life experiences. So it just says "it's dangerous, there aren't any plants growing nearby" and lets you draw your own conclusions.
Basically, you hit a home run with your first casting of speak with animals but I wouldn't count on it always being a font of lore and tips. Crows are super intelligent and actually pro-human, if treated with a modicum of respect. Other animals may be more adversarial or just not observant enough to provide additional information.
"Men are the only animals that devote themselves, day in and day out, to making one another unhappy. It is an art like any other. Its virtuosi are called altruists." - H.L. Mencken
Eyes in the sky sound like exactly the ally we need.
All right, gang. It sounds like we're about done here; Argus & Co.'s new feathered friend flutters off to tell the rest of its family what's going on, and since it's about time for them to get started doing whatever it is crows do all day, they take to the air at once, leaving the party in the Glade of the Reflecting Pool.
After everyone prepares spells and wraps up the rest of their morning routines, it's time to get started. Your best lead so far is to head south from this position; Feruq failed to identify any landmarks or visible portion of the fortress itself to aid in navigation, but that doesn't really matter because to be able to reorient yourselves while hiking someone would have to scamper up another tree; after what happened to Feruq, maybe nobody is too keen on doing that. But your mileage may vary.
What you do know, however, is that the terrain starts to decline from this point moving forward as you venture south. Not precipitously; you aren't needing to make checks or anything to avoid sliding down a hill. But over the course of hours or days, your relative elevation will change quite a bit.
I will remind you at this point that although unlikely, it is possible to get lost while traveling in conditions of poor visibility (like fog, heavy rain or other precipitation, or while traveling at night) or in any area of difficult terrain. The Thornwood certainly qualifies. EVery hour, whoever is leading the expedition will make a Survival check. I won't tell anybody what to do but Argus gets +13 to Survival checks in forest settings thanks to his favored terrain class feature. It's also possible for one person to make a check to aid another each round while navigating; Feruq's modifier is high enough that he automatically succeeds on the roll to give Argus an additional +2. This makes the ranger's minimum roll a 16, so even on a natural 1, you actually can't get lost. Again, you guys can do whatever you want, but this combination of characters taking the lead effectively mitigates any chance of wandering around until a ghostly grizzly bear or some other horrific shit happens to you. In a different campaign I ran a few years back, thanks to a few cataclysmically bad rolls the party ended up stuck in a forest until winter fell and moving overland became prohibitively dangerous, leading to months of downtime. Very different circumstances, but it's definitely not something you want to have happen to you.
Of course, if circumstances change and you start seeing additional penalties to the rolls, or if one or both characters takes Wisdom damage at some point sufficient to lower their modifiers to the skill check every hour, that's a different story. But for now, Argus + Feruq = you will eventually arrive at your destination without any further delays.
Speaking of delays, the hocus pocus getting down here yesterday to chart a new path through the brush isn't going to cut it anymore. The forest here is dense, gnarled and unforgiving. Everyone will be moving at 1/2 speed, and since Jugg is riding one of the mules, that means the slowest speed to account for are regular humans. Your speed drops from 30'/round to 15', which translates into 1.5mph for overland travel. You can make about 12 miles per eight hours of travel at that speed without needing to roll additional Constitution checks for a forced march. Please remember also that unlike you guys, who are only rolling to resist taking nonlethal damage, any creatures bearing a rider (like the one Jugg is using) automatically fail the Constitution check to resist and their damage is lethal, not nonlethal. Anyone who fails a check during a forced march is also fatigued. So it really is better to avoid doing that if you can help it.
Does all of this sound ok to everyone? About once per hour, Argus will be making a Survival check to avoid becoming lost. Feruq gets to make one, too, to aid another; and together, they can't fail. In this case, the roll represents Argus periodically getting his bearings to ensure the party is still traveling south. If your destination is 12 or fewer miles away from your current position, you'll get there after 8 hours of travel. If you don't, you can try to press on, but since you don't really know how far you have to go, that is probably a really bad idea (the worst case scenario would be for one or more party members to have nonlethal damage and the fatigued condition, the mule to be near death, only to stumble upon your enemies in the dark).
It is also possible that maybe you aren't in a super big hurry to find the rest of the kidnappers/Bloodskull tribe, since you currently have two party members with ability score damage. If you're willing to move at half speed, this will allow you to roll Survival checks once per day to find food and water. Up to this point, that hasn't been a huge concern, since you have always been a hop, skip and a jump away from civilization where you usually get to eat for free and also have a chance to restock provisions. But you have reason to believe that may change once you enter the next phase of your investigation, and not dipping into your rations when you can help it is probably a wise decision.
I'm perfectly content moving at a speed that we think means the party is healed and ready before combat.
Let's face it - if Thunk doesn't get fed, we're in more danger from him than from a ghostly grizzly. I'm fine with making the Survival checks and having Feruq help me out. I think we have a LITTLE healing magic, so I'd be okay with pushing it and seeing if we all make the check (except the mule) - if you get healed you lose Fatigue, right?
Yes, if you take nonlethal damage from a forced march, the fatigued condition is removed when that amount of damage has been healed. It's up to the party how many resources they want to expend getting closer to the goal.
Does healing the damage also reset the clock on the forced march? I don't think that there's anything in the rules that explicitly says it doesn't, but then again I also am pretty sure there's nothing that explicitly says it does. Everything is phrased in terms that suggest that healing the nonlethal (or lethal) damage inflicted by a hustle or forced march removes the fatigued condition, without being definitive about whether you just end up getting fatigued again at the end of your next hour of extra overland travel. To some degree, we can get round this by taking a break for about an hour; at our current level of play, this gives us time for nonlethal damage to heal up.
But at least in 3.5e, mounts and other beasts of burden take lethal, not non-lethal damage from a hustle or forced march. If this is true in Pathfinder, then probably we should be careful about pushing onward. Leaving behind our supplies is not sounding like a great idea, if we're about to run into a blighted area where it may be difficult or impossible to forage for food.
Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold
I don't think there is anything in writing on that issue, so I will defer to what I think is probably the designers' intention that healing the damage doesn't reset the clock.
I would guess the mule carrying Jugg should take priority for healing magic if you are interested in pressing on after 8 hours; since it has fewer hit points than anyone in your party and will be taking actual, lethal damage.
I think Dalvar favors stopping to establish a proper campsite. It doesn't sound like there are good things waiting for us farther south, so really there's not much utility in making sure that we arrive there tired and low on curative magic.
It sucks being the new guy. We're dragging, baby.
Just so we're on the same page Aramil doesn't move 30, he moves 20 (being burned left him lame), and the party members would easily see him limping.
On the plus side Aramil is clearly an accomplished healer as his hands, albeit burned, have shown him to be. Probably isn't too much of a stretch to think he has curative magic, on some level, on tap as well.
Duly noted. There isn't much of a workaround for that unless you can persuade Dalvar to let you ride his mule, Bunny. This is probably a non-starter and would be even if it wasn't already hauling all the party's extra gear to make room on the party's general-use mule for Jugg and his stuff, which I think tips the scales at 300+lbs, all told.
If it is the case that the party is moving at 20' per round, they still would have made it to the Reflecting Pool in a day of overland travel without a forced march. But from this point forward, the 1/2 speed penalty for difficult terrain through the forest is going to put the party's progress at 8 miles per day. That's just the way the cookie crumbles, but on the bright side, you will almost certainly be finished restoring Feruq and Jugg to 100% health by the time you find Broken Spire Keep.
Next question: does the party want to be making Survival checks to live off the land so you don't deplete your rations? This will put the party at .5 miles per hour, which seems grueling, but I will remind you that you can technically get an extra hour's worth of travel each day by hustling for one of the 8 hours. This will give you 4.5 miles per day of travel and help to prevent wasting all your food before you get to the next leg of your investigation.
Dalvar is amenable to a slower pace that won't prematurely draw down our supplies, especially given that we have people who're struggling with ability damage anyway.
Feruq is alright if it takes us an extra day to get where we're going, but he doesn't want this to turn into a leisurely walking tour of a week. Living off the land as we move should be doable. In the future, we as a group might want to consider purchasing some kind of small extradimensional container and filling it with foodstuffs and generally useful things for the group (sunrods, healers kit, etc).
Dalvar has a handy haversack, and I think we looted a second one out of Parlfray Keep after Raphael died. And I am pretty sure we have supplies that we bought off of Rastifer the creepy blind shopkeeper and his equally creepy mute halfling gimp.
But Mike is kind of going out of his way to telegraph the idea that we may actually need those supplies to stay alive soon, rather than merely as a convenience that facilitates speedy travel.
Totally up to you guys. Divided among the party I think you're sitting on like 50+ days of rations, and Dalvar is wearing a ring of sustenance. I'm willing to rule that for right now, while you're in a forest like this, finding fresh water probably isn't a problem even if you're moving full speed.
So if you want to move 9 miles per day and just eat out of your provisions, that's fine. What's left over should tide everyone over for an extended period away from civilization until you can restock or find fresh food (unless we really go off the rails and something happens to the folks in the party making Survival checks).
If I'm doing the survival check, I don't have to also go as slow as our slowest party member, do I? Ie, we're not stuck going 5' because half of 20 is 10 and half of ten is 5?
I think the difference between your "half of half my speed" and Aramil's "half of half his speed" is negligible. Half of 30 is 15 and half of 15 is 7.5, which is so close to 5 I would just rule you're going that speed, yes. Thankfully, we aren't saddled with that choice yet, because you guys have something like seven or eight days of rations apiece if you distribute party resources evenly.
I would imagine that you probably do want to stay with the rest of the party while traveling, though, right? Does Argus want to be pulling really far ahead of the rest of the group, or was he thinking of just leaving the crippled guy behind?
I was thinking about ranging to and fro from the column. But not going so far away they'd lose the trail and get lost. But Dalvar has the brains in this outfit - I'm cool with doing what he says.
There isn't really a trail, so they're really relying on your orienteering skills in this scenario. Argus can definitely make use of his extra movement each mile to move a little further afield in any direction, and this will let you make passive Perception checks at a larger radius around the rest of the party. But yeah, you're going to want to stick pretty close by. The good news is if anything bad happens, it will probably happen to Argus first.
Well, if anything bad happens it SHOULD happen to Argus first. I think it's his turn. Just ask Jugg and Feruq.
But yeah, I guess time isn't REALLY of the essence. If people are okay with going slowly we'll go slowly.
Is there a Survival DC for hunting separate from that of foraging while on the move? It occurs to me that if there is, Argus could use his better speed to go get a brace of rabbits or bring down a deer and then catch up to the rest of the party, lead at "normal" speed by one of the other PCs who isn't slowing down to forage. The drawbacks, of course, would be a reduced Survival check because Argus isn't with us, plus Argus would be on his own out there.
Or... we move at normal speed and don't forage as we go. Then make camp and take our chances with an hour of hunting. We either end up successful or have to dig into our rations.
If that's a bit too much (I know D&D players tend to get very convoluted with the if/then statements), then Feruq isn't opposed to eating from our stores as we go. EDIT: The clarify his reasoning, Feruq's primary motivation is still Jelenneth's rescue. He recognizes she might be dead, have been turned into a fishman or might have had her soul sacrificed to devils by now. But if not, the quicker she's found, the better.
Argus can make a roll by himself, for sure, at the end of each day. It will be a much higher DC than the one that represents foraging during overland travel but he can at least attempt the check.
Here's the deal. Up to this point, the party has rarely spent more than a day or two away from a settlement, and when returning to civilization usually eat their fill for free and walk away with enough leftovers to tide them over for the rest of that day. Life is good when you're a local celebrity.
But when the party confronts the Bloodskull Chieftain and The Man With One Eye, the next most plausible step will be pursuing their lead into the Night Below. Everything changes at that point.
Maybe they will have time to stop and strategize then and maybe not. So this conversation is as much about reminding people about resource management as it is just highlighting that the campaign will probably change in a significant way when the Heroes accomplish one of their major objectives, and that moment is likely fast approaching.
Are there any downsides to eating the hearts of our enemies?
I mean, once they're dead of course. I'm not a monster.
I would imagine a person's heart is very iron-rich no matter what species they are, so no, it's probably not a super good idea to make a habit of consuming your enemies' organs. But I'm not your daddy and can't tell you what to do.
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”
Coachella brings out the worst in all of us.
Coachella brings out the worst in all of us.
OK, let's get moving!
It is now the 4th day of Qaden (Fivemonth), 26 days since Jelenneth's abduction and 28 days since the campaign began.
It's close to five or six hours after noon now and the party isn't quite out of gas, but it's up to you if you're interested in assaulting the keep in your present condition or if you want to wait until morning (or at least nightfall, or maybe the following night).
Aramil - 100%
Argus - 100%
Dalvar - 100%
Feruq - 1 Constitution damage.
Jugg - 1 Strength damage.
Leon - 100%
Thunk - 100%
One more night of rest and Feruq and Jugg will be back up to 100%, and at this point Aramil doesn't need to worry about tending to his patients if he has something else better to do. They'll get well on their own at this rate. There was a potential encounter I rolled for the party that would have happened around 3pm, but the forest is so dense neither the PCs nor their potential adversaries detected each other. And because it also turned out that your paths were parallel with each other and traveling in opposite directions, there really was only the one round to give everybody a chance to actively roll Perception.
At this point I will take questions, skill checks or actions from anyone interested in investigating or doing something now that you know you've found what you're looking for. You don't know if the people you're hunting are inside, but it's the most obvious place to check.
Just to have a clear picture, the keep has a roughly 100 yard clearing all the way around with only scattered cover here and there, correct? Roughly how large is the keep's footprint? And roughly how tall does the tower look compared to the curtain wall? Which direction are we from it currently? What is the capital of Nicaragua?
The scale and dimensions of the keep itself are kind of hard to wrap your head around for the same reason it's so easy to see it: there's nothing nearby to give Feruq a good frame of reference. But the walls are easily twice his height, at least, and the tower is significantly higher than that (even in its ruined state).
But yes, the radius of the clearing measured from the walls to the trees is about a football field's length. Cover to mask your approach is sparse, but maybe approaching from another angle would offer more options; circling the clearing would be a good idea anyway while you case the joint.
You've approached from pretty close to straight north of this place, and the entrance is oriented to face your current position.
We're a good ways off from the nearest habitation (other than this castle, anyway), right? Do we smell or see any smoke that might be indicative that someone has a fire going? Any sign that there are sentries posted on the walls?
Any signs of inhabitants, basically?
And I guess that if Argus and/or Feruq is going to circle this clearing, we would want to know whether they see any signs that anyone has been traveling through the forest toward this keep. If there's regular traffic in and out, it seems to me that there'd be a trail starting to wear into the ground along the most common route(s). I'm kind of thinking that there could be, given that there was a missed encounter moving parallel to our line of travel, but in a northerly direction. That sounds like someone/something was headed away from this keep.
Do we need to be rolling Perception and/or Survival checks, basically?
What's the moon supposed to be like tonight?
Barring the casing of the place turning up an obviously better avenue of approach, it might be best to approach in darkness. There are cons to this, of course. The humans among us would be crippled by the lack of light once actually inside the keep. It could be beneficial for us to try and catch some zees in the cover of the forest and then approach at twilight, when there's (theoretically) enough light for us to not trip over our own feet, but a bit more concealment than approaching during the light of day. Plus, hanging out until darkness might give us an indication of inhabitants, if they're the type of creatures that might make use of a fire to keep warm or cook their dinner.
If the orcs are still holding this place, then hitting them in daylight gives us an advantage because orcs are light-sensitive. Sunlight dazzles them, and they have darkvision. So I'm not wild about trying to do this at night (and neither is Dalvar). There's at least a decent chance that someone or something other than orcs may have taken up residence here, but all of the candidates that seem most likely also have darkvision.
More information might change my/Dalvar's mind about all this.
That's true. But even if it's orcs, their darkvision is capped at 60ft, which gives a party trying to cross a field of 100 yards without getting pincushioned by arrows a chance at remaining hidden for 80% of the advance.
I'd like Perception checks from everyone, please.
To find out how much moonlight you can expect tonight, I think I will ask for Knowledge (arcana) and/or (nature) checks.
Well, if someone asks Leon what he thinks, he knows the party can expect almost no moonlight tonight. You're looking at a new moon by the end of the week.
Other than that, Leon is too far away from the keep to notice any signs of movement around the perimeter or activity within the keep.
Perception, Arcana, Nature
Perception, Knowledge (arcane), Knowledge (nature)
Great. Feruq can also confirm that the moon is waning and fast approaching a new moon. Light after sunset will be negligible tonight.
He also sees plenty of evidence of activity here on the ground near where the party has come out of the forest. This is probably the primary path the keep's recent occupants choose when venturing into the Thornwood. You're only about 15 miles from the Reflecting Pool here, and if the kidnappers/orcs know about the same wildlife trail along the edge of the Hog Brook that Argus used to bring everyone to the Pool at top speed a few days ago, the only reason your enemies wouldn't use the same path is that it dumps them out onto the Churnett River directly across from Kuiper's homestead.
If your latest intelligence is correct and you have the bad guys on the ropes, that probably means they're either taking a different route in recent days or not leaving the forest at all. But if they can replenish their numbers (particularly the Bloodskull orcs), it places Kuiper's burgeoning settlement of laborers and warriors in great peril.
The party does know for a fact, however, that their enemies used that same path at least once before: the night of Jelenneth's disappearance. The young werebear Kurt witnessed them escorting their prisoner along the Hog Brook south, deeper into the forest, but lost track of them before they would have reached the Pool.
Re: activity in the keep, 300' is REALLY far in Pathfinder when you're trying to make Perception checks. I will say that as evening approaches, however, the shadows cast along the walls will give you a +2 bonus, bringing Feruq's roll up to 30. He detects movement up on the battlements, but nothing specific (he can't actually make out details or get a head count, but something is moving around up there).
Huh. Well, I was suffering from a weird bug, but it seems to have resolved now.
Mike is totally right that 300 feet is a long distance for a Perception check, but it's really not far in terms of how long you need to cover that ground on foot. A human can do it in about a minute without even hurrying; if we run, we can do it in two or three rounds. Obviously, Jugg'r isn't quite that fast, and Aramil may not even be able to run because of his leg. But we can get round that by putting them on mules.
I think that if we were to make an approach from the east, at dawn, we could use the rising sun to help make it harder to spot us; it's not exactly easy to see when you're having to squint into a sunrise or sunset, and that's before you start bringing in questions about whether the observer has a racial difficulty with bright lights.
If we want to refine this scenario a little bit, we could even set a fire or something in the woods to the west of this place, and hope that most of the defenders will be gawking in that direction while we come in from the east. If we're super lucky, they might even send a patrol to see what's going on, and whittle down the numbers we'll need to face.
Feruq would be okay with a plan involving running up at dawn. To my mind, there's a larger chance of that turning into combat immediately, but that might be best. So long as we aren't getting peppered with arrows the whole way, we're probably good.
Argus suggests that Feruq and Argus make circuits in opposite directions and meet up on the far side of the keep. There may be alternate entrances and/or interesting things. If we stay in the woods, the bonus from cover and distance should ensure we don't get spotted.
Yes, the idea that someone could see you lurking about just outside the clearing is not very realistic. Insofar as they are able to keep an effective watch from the walls or tower, that's probably limited to advance warning when they see someone they don't recognize approaching, not necessarily scanning the horizon for trouble.
I would like Perception and Survival checks from Argus and Feruq, assuming Feruq consents to help reconnoiter the place.
Feruq thinks it's a good idea. He''' take 10 if possible. If it's not, I've included some rolls.
I don't see why taking 10 should be a problem. So 20 on both checks for Feruq.
Does Argus also want to take 10, or will he roll?