Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Play Report: The Death of Oloz and the Lone Wolf

In the latest session of the Hounds that was played piecemeal on Thursday and Friday of last week the inestimable half-orc turned satyr Oloz was slain. As this was his second death, there was no hope of revival. Akem had himself personally made a bargain with Aros to allow the half-orc slaver a chance to redeem himself in the Middle World. Oloz managed to do that and more, but he has met the final death for any spirit of the land: he has become one with the forest. The fragment of his soul which was mortal now resides in the Gardens of the Wind alongside his friend Crispus. They have been there reunited.

What happened to Oloz? He fell victim to his overzealous scouting, in the end, convinced that he alone could solve a problem that beset the Hounds. Danny played the satyr to the fullest extent of his middling-to-low wisdom; he was a charge-in kind of guy. It didn't help that he was extremely well endowed stastically. First as a half-orc, he had an 18/90 strength and then even on his reincarnation he pulled out an 18/70. He watched firsthand as he slew opponents that many would have classed as far too dangerous... and this time they would have been right.

The Hounds (and back when they were the Dogs) have never respected the idea of their own mortality. They did battle with an Ashadi bone weird at level 3, an elvish wraith at levels 3-4, and now an extremely  dangerous foeparty. Each time they were put in grave danger and risked losing everything. The rewards were always great when they won. Invariably, they found themselves going over the level hump and either attaining or nearly attaining a new level. They have a fondness for overreaching.

Oloz was alone, cut off from the party, as he scouted out the location of the Scourge (the foeparty) following along behind. They had planned to ambush their enemies and catch them unawares, hopefully to counterbalance the clear difference between scale in party strength. They knew, or had been told, that the leader of the Scourge was an elven wizard called Salainen who was powerful enough to cast spells of High Sorcery. In Arunia, any wizard spell of level 5+ is known as High (or True) Sorcery while any spell below is Low (or Petty) Sorcery. This warned our mixed group of levels 3-4 that their enemy was a wizard of at least level 9, what would once have been Name Level if we didn't play 2e. This alone was enough to give them pause.

The Hounds gathered a number of thugs from the elvish city of Tyrma where they were living and sent them out ahead of the enemy. The main party hung back while these ambushers prepared themselves to shadow the Hounds; the Hounds themselves left through the Moon Gate and began down the southward road. Once they realized that the Scourge weren't hot on their heels, the ambushers came down from the hills and they changed their plans.

The goal of the Hounds and Scourge both is a tome called the Book of Dreaming (Teos Salunelma), an ancient elvish manuscript from before the Elf-Dragon Wars. The two wizard-factions of Silversong (there are others, but these are the biggest and most powerful) both want to get their hands on it. The Green Wizards are vigorous supporters of Anundarien Tournisiel, the king. In their long history they had once ruled Silversong, but ceded that power back to the reinstated line of the kings after the Wars of the Moon. The Silver Wizards are a lesser cabal in sheer magical might and numbers but more than make up for this lack in elf-silver and gold. They care little about the political rivalries of the Towerborn King and are simply interested in humiliating their intellectual enemies.

Nauraanen, Steve's elvish wizard, was trained by one of the Silver Magi. Indeed, coming to Tyrma has been a sort of homecoming for him. He has reunited with his master, Tholindinar the Wise, and discovered that old Tholindinar has attained the rank of High Master of the Order and now sits alongside the other four leading wizards of the Silver Order. However, he is on the outs with the current council, particularly its leader the sorceress Alodoriala. To make a long story short (too late!), the Hounds now act as Tholindinar's proxy to retrieve this book from the merchant who discovered it before the Green Wizards can.

Of course, there's more to it than that. Alodoriala had the Hounds brought before the Five High Masters and interrogated them while probing their minds with spells. She discovered their true intentions, which were to win the contract from the Silver Wizards in preference to the Scourge of Six, whom another of the Five believes are a dangerous enough party that even nominating them as the Silver Mages proxy would cause ruinous strife in the city. Alodoriala, breaking the dwarf Keir with her magic, has seen their plot: the hiring of the mannish mercenary Braggi Biletooth, a number of elvish and dwarvish thugs, and a dark Shadow Priest to counter any move the Scourge might make - wether the Hounds win the contract or not.

Mysteriously, Alodoriala awarded them the contract right then and there. That was when Cain, Braggi, and the mercenaries left through the Moon Gate.

They anticipated the Scourge would follow them. Once the ambushers and the main party met up on the road, one of the hired swords they left as lookout lit a smoky campfire some rods off as a signal. The Scourge was coming.

Oloz, being attuned to the wood as a reincarnated spirit of nature, crept off to espy them in secret and surveil their intentions. When he arrived there was no sign of Salainen, though he measured each other member of the Scourge as well as their twelve elves-at-arms. He waited a while until he overheard enough to understand what was happening: Salainen was moving ahead to scout the road while the others waited. Oloz ran rapidly to the false camp at the ambush point and informed Keir and Cain of the wizard's presence.

Seeing there was still time, he ran back once more to watch the Scourge. The return of Salainen was heralded by a disembodied voice speaking in elvish and then the dissemination of orders: Salainen would go ahead first, invisible, and the others would wait a preordained amount of time to follow him. Oloz hared off after the faint and growing fainter sounds of feet on earth and the thump of a staff.

Salainen grew quieter as the Scourge fell behind. A light snow began to fall. That was when Oloz used the falling of the flakes to estimate the mage's position and struck with his whip—or tried to. He was far enough off to give Salainen warning and a desperate battle of knife against spell began. Salainen's defensive magic (mirror image) was enough to deceive and misdirect Oloz for long enough to be battered down by a barrage of magic missiles, drained by a vampiric touch, and finally rendered unconscious by a color spray.

So, the next session begins: the ambushers have seen the flashing lights off in the north-west. Oloz lies dead, cut by Salainen's knife. The wizard's invisibility has been expended, as have a number of spells... and the Scourge comes.

The lone wolf play style is dangerous, particularly in D&D. The strengths of a party help balance out the individual weaknesses of each character. Bad rolls can spell the quick degradation of any character's fighting potential but, thanks to the law of large numbers, are far less likely to do so over many characters. One character caught against a horrific foe stands very little chance to recover from a bad roll; a party entire, which has many working pieces that help bolster, reverse, and shore up, stands a much better chance.

This is something built into the game itself. Intra-party balance is always what has been important in old school D&D, rather than party-encounter balance. It's true that MMOs have taken a lot from D&D, one of the primary things being the (rather simplistic) breakdown into DPS/tank/healer. Of course, anyone who's played D&D for any length of time knows that a mage is far more than the "glass cannon" of WoW. Indeed, the very experience Oloz had against Salainen is indicative of this. With low close-combat capabilities and very few mundane defenses, he nevertheless took no lasting harm from Oloz, a dual-classed 3/4 fighter/thief with exceptional strength.

Still, the point stands. A friendly wizard to fuck with Salainen, a second or third warrior to help hack through his mirror images, or even the Shadow Priest to do... whatever it is that the Shadow Priest intends to do (the players read this blog, can't go giving everything away).

Thus ends Oloz, and with him his lone-wolf style of scout-and-fight. We may pray to the gods above for the better ends to each of the other Hounds as they await their deaths at the hands of Salainen and his Scourge.


  1. Update: 5/6 of the Scourge lie dead, their elves-at-arms scattered. 5/7 of the Hounds survive. Fuck those guys and fuck Alodoriala.

  2. Leaves me holding my breath even after all these years.