In which a veritable mob of villagers manages to kill a dog.
WARNING! Here be spoilers! Don’t read on if you ever intend to play Halls of the Minotaur!
Our intrepid gang of sixteen finds itself near the heart of the Thornwood, following a narrow track through the densely forested area. Soon, they observe a disturbing sight: the trees just off the beaten path have been overtaken by thick, thorn-covered vines that slide ever-so-slowly around trunks, into branches, and through the undergrowth. Fortunately, these creeping vines seem confined to the shadows and cover of the trees, sending not a tendril onto the sunlit path. The party swiftly resolves to stay in the clear and out of the reach of the writhing vegetation at all times.
This need to keep in the open forces them into a single-file procession along the path, so after some discussion our travelers settle on a marching order, with Perry the village watchman, spear and shield at the ready, taking the lead. Soon, they come to the edge of a glade, in the middle of which lies the massive carcass of a warhorse. Two paths lead away from the glade, to the left and right. Three wild dogs feast on the unfortunate animal’s fly-festooned remains, turning with feral growls at the villagers’ approach.
The PCs spill out along the near edge of the glade, quickly trying to prepare for their first fight. They notice something unusual about the dogs — their fur is mangy, matted, and altogether missing in places, and their hides are mottled by strange, thornlike growths. Before they can process these details, one of the hounds dashes across the grass and leaps at Gareth the woodsman!
Gareth raises his arm to defend himself and the dog bites him in the forearm for 1 point of damage. First blood! A second hound dashes at one of Stillman‘s pigs, which the swineherd had released as bait, but fails to catch the squealing animal in its jaws. The third hound bounds atop the warhorse carcass, bares its yellowed teeth, and snarls threateningly.
Osric takes his large sack and tries to scoop the first dog up in it from behind, but the dog is too fast moving and unpredictable to succumb to this somewhat questionable act. However, Sigbert the fisherman manages to toss his fishing net over the animal, entangling it! Gareth, shouting out in pain from the bite, hefts his trusty handaxe, rolls a d20, and splits the trapped animal’s skull like so much kindling.
Meanwhile Oswald the woodsman and Colby the butcher each choose to throw the only missile weapons they have handy — a piece of firewood and a chest, respectively — at the dog on top of the horse. Unsurprisingly, these clumsy projectiles fall wide of the mark.
On the dogs’ turn, I make a morale check, since the first of their number has gone down (and they are sort of surrounded by 16 semi-armed humans). I roll a 4, not helped by the dogs’ -2 Will modifier. The remaining two animals immediately break and run, taking off down the left-hand path.
Everyone counts themselves lucky to come out of the first fracas intact. Breathing sighs of relief, the villagers collect around the horse carcass to see what they can find. Thelma notices the broken spear partly hidden by and stuck into the horse’s body, and concludes that the dogs did not bring the horse down. She opens one of the saddlebags to find the interior coated in lamp oil. Within are some glass shards, a crushed lantern, a corked steel vial, and a stoppered ceramic flask. Impressed into the flask’s surface is a leaf symbol, which Durwin, about to open the other saddlebag, recognizes as the sign of Arimar (his god). Thelma chooses not to open either of these containers, but pockets them. From the other saddlebag, Durwin withdraws three items of potential utility: 50′ of silk rope, some flint and steel, and 6 days’ worth of trail rations.
I award the group 1 xp, and they discuss their next step. Some want to pursue the dogs, and others want to steer clear of known danger. After some arguing, they decide to split into two groups: Osric, Pierce, Gareth, Esma, and Sigbert set off to investigate the right-hand path. The rest of the group, numbering eleven in total, head to the left, the direction in which the dogs retreated.
Nobody elected to study the ground for tracks here, so they missed the trail of blood. And they didn’t look under the horse, so they didn’t find the half of Sir Galwaith’s broken holy sword. I take this inattention to detail as a negative indicator of the group’s survivability. But one can always hope!