If the last session was a stinker, this one made up for it every direction possible. Everyone got to shine. Everyone got to see just how bad things could become in the Haranshire valley.
The game opened seconds after the last one ended, with the PCs arguing with the dwarven miner foreman (Grim) about exploring the mines (owned by Darius Carmen, who you may remember from Part 4). Using the Dogs in the Vineyard conflict resolution mechanic, it was clear that Grim wasn’t going to risk his job for these four guys and their two dogs, as I dropped a ton of dice on the table. Three people argued with Grim, but he wasn’t budging.
Then Crandel produced a bar of silver he’d been saving for a rainy day and Grim sent all the men on break and proceeded to inspect a tunnel beam.
The party proceeded with the dogs down the mine shaft (6% grade). The dogs retrieved Skye’s scent and led the party down a series of tunnels, eventually reaching a walled-off section of tunnel. They could feel a breeze coming up from the tunnel, so they knew something was down there, but they debated for a while about squeezing through the gaps in the planks.
Stauf was reticent, but decided against arguing the point with the other three. He would grow to resent this decision.
The dogs followed the scent into a section of the mine that was no longer in use and had been picked clean. It was clear this part of the mine was unsafe, but they continued on to a plank of wood that was being used to cover a collapsed section of earth. Below was darkness.
Bear in mind at this point, these characters are aged 14 to 20. They have no mining experience. No spelunking experience. No nothing, really.
They gathered up some lanterns and oil, climbed down into the whole, which lead to a N-S tunnel obviously cut by cruder tools. The dogs took them south and after a while lost the scent when they encountered a red tide odor that was extremely out of place. The party meandered in the tunnels for hours, trying to make sense of where they were. They only had a small pot of oil, so they had to be careful or they would lose all orientation.
They found a tunnel that lead to a cave that obviously led out, but not to where Skye was. So, they double-backed and found a section of tunnel where someone dug too close to the bedrock and water was seeping through the ceiling. Slowly.
Eventually the party found a set of stairs going back up. Crude, crude stairs just dug into the earth. The stairs led to a large chamber where three orcs were. The party had not been quiet and their lantern light was noticeable about 1/2 mile away in these tunnels.
A deadly fight ensued very quickly. Crandel was ambushed by some kind of magic that was choking the life from him, while the others looked on in horror. Noise echoed from the chamber and flaming arrows emerged striking the cavern walls. Verner and Stauf were nearly hit, but the fear of death took it out of them and they weren’t much good in the fight against two orcs and their witch.
Crandel continued to choke and sputter as the orcs started down the stairs. This is where the fight turned even uglier. The two orc fighters came at the party with rocks and shillelagh/war club thing, fighting in a very primative way. But the group was unprepared for a fight. Crandel passed out from whatever was choking him, Verner and Stauf struggled for a bit, but didn’t last and collapsed with the orcs. Finally Ian grabbed his staff and stood toe-to-toe with the last remaining orc witch. It came down to just a few die rolls as Ian knocked the witch back, grabbed his injured colleagues, and ran for it; back the way they came.
If you’ve not played Dogs, the fallout mechanic is inspired, and this is where everyone rolled to see just how injured they were. It turns out Ian was the worst of them and Crandel didn’t suffer any wounds at all. The party got about 15 minutes away when exhaustion caught up with them, however. Fearing they were being followed, Stauf and Crandel offered to stand and fight while Ian and Verner tended to their wounds (Ian had many contusions and Verner suffered a concussion).
After a while, Ian made a poultice (he’s an herbalist) for himself and fed some stimulants to Verner to stop him from sleeping. The tension was really high here because the party was separated now and no one knew if the orcs were launching an assault (none of the orcs died in the fight and the party knew this).
After a short wait, Crandel and Stauf returned to the stairs and peaked into the chamber to see that they were indeed getting ready for a fight. This was all the incentive they needed to run. They caught up with Ian and Verner, grabbed the dogs, and ran down the tunnel that lead to the cave that lead outside.
The group climbed up some rocks, found a place to rest, and contemplated just how much danger they were in. They had to hope beyond hope that the orcs didn’t track them down this tunnel and/or find the collapsed ceiling where they came through.
Exploring the cave, they found it lead out into the Great Rock Dale where they found the second of the two obelisks in Part 5. Knowing this one had positive energy, Ian placed his hand against the stone. His body tightened up, his eyes rolled back, and he had visions of a archetypal paladin fighting a horde of enemies to the last. Verner followed suit, but instead had a vision of a young couple having sex in the valley.
The party debated at this point returning to the village of Milbourne or warning the miners of the tunnel (and getting their horses). So they split the party and went in two directions.
Fast Forward to the Mine. Grim and his miner buddies are taking a smoke break, the horses are gone, and the miners are shocked to hear about the orcs. “Board up Tunnel A, boys.”
Fast Forward to the town of Milbourne. Crandel and Stauf steal the game session here, pretty much at the same time, Crandel goes to the pub and Stauf goes to see his friend Strom, who runs the kennel and loaned the dogs. Crandel has a conversation with Roth in the pub about everything they’ve seen, but his credibility is shot and none of his story makes any sense. Roth quickly tunes him out and leaves.
All the while, Stauf breaks down (remember he’s 14) and tells Strom about everything that happened. He speaks from a place of hopelessness about everything that has happened to them. About how every warning was there not to go underground. About how the others just continue to do everything they can to make things worse. He cried about never getting to go home. “I was supposed to be a farmer. I was supposed to settle down. I should have joined the gypsies.” Absolutely stole the evening. He went on for a good 5 to 10 minutes. And all Strom could say is, “We’ll get you out of this.” All the while, Stauf was saying, “I can’t go home. I’m going to die here.”
Cutting back to Crandel, he goes to see a priest named Oleg (not the local town priest) and confesses all his sins. Another moving scene, but just not even in league with Stauf’s.