The party needed a distraction. They knew that the cult guards were holed up in the stables, but it was the stables that the party needed access to in order to steal the wyverns and catch up to the floating castle. No, this is not an acid trip. Yes, there was fire involved.
The party Scooby-Do’d their way around the northern edge of the the town to where the stables stood, dark and ominous (as ominous as a rough building that smelled like animal poop can be, I guess). The bard crept around the far side of the structure to get within range of the derelict house that the ranger had seen the potential informant enter earlier in the night (and where the resulting dead body was currently stashed). With a snap of her fingers, the shoddy pitch roof began to smoulder, and within seconds the structure was ablaze, because there’s no such thing as home inspection requirements in Faerun.
Two guards emerged from the stable after smelling smoke, and several of the nearby residents did as well. The guards quickly took charge, ordering townspeople to start a bucket brigade from the central well to the blaze. All this shouting brought Captain Unpronounceable out of the stable to check on the ruckus.
At the back of the barn, the ranger was all set to throw open the barn doors and abscond with the wyverns, but was stymied by the fact that when you own wyverns, you keep that shit under lock and key. The barn doors were barred from the inside. The ranger suggested to the bard that she use Mage Hand to, you know, give them a hand and unbar the door from the inside, so the bard summoned a well-manicured extremity that slipped through the crack in the doors like so much smoke being sucked through a ventilation grille, and the bar fell to the ground. Now the ranger could throw open the doors to the barn, and in doing so, startled the lone guard who was present and tending to the spooked wyverns secured in their pens.
And unfortunate ankle-twist (the result of stepping in wyvern poop) caused the bard’s Charm Person spell to misfire, which meant that the guard had to be dispatched. Meanwhile, the rogue was sent ahead through the barn to secure the open door that had allowed Captain Underpants and his minions to organize the villagers against the housefire. As soon as she had closed and locked the smaller door, she was greeted by a quick lunge from another guard who was on his way down the stairs from the hay loft.
The ranger, being all elfy and woodsey and all that, attempted to soothe the agitated wyverns using his Woodland Sexytalk. The first one he opted to name Socks, because calling the creature Chad just seemed too cruel. The wyvern, responding to the ranger’s suggestion of “Chaucer and chill”, settled down enough to allow its shackles to be undone and the riding harness applied. The creature was turned over to the less calming monk to be lead out of the stable.
The guard on the stairs was quickly dispatched, but not before another guard appeared on the stairs (geezus, are they breeding them up there? Nevermind; I don’t want to know). This time the fighter and the bard joined in, and the action further escalated with the violent arrival of Captain Shoulderpads who literally burst through the front door like a pissed off purple-clad Kool-Aid man. The two guards from outside were in tow.
As the fighter, rogue, and occasionally the bard engaged the enemies at the front door, the monk was having issues dealing with the wyvern on the road outside. Once it saw the continuing blaze going on next door, the creature returned to it’s panicked state. The monk had seen what the ranger had done to calm the wyvern, so he tried to follow suit, only to be rewarded by an attempted stinging attack and a violent bucking (Bucking) that whipped the gnome into the side of the barn for a nasty d6 headache.
The ranger was feeling the pressure. His own attempts to charm the remaining wyvern weren’t going as well as they had the first time. He also had to dodge out of the way of an angry tail-swipe from the remaining creature, but at the eleventh hour was able to critically calm the beast, free it, and saddle it for a quick escape from the barn.
Captain Wassisname and his minions were giving the rest of the part a hard time, refusing to accept any attacks until the rogue took advantage of the Captain’s engagement with the fighter to flick off two dagger throws that wounded him greatly. One of the two guards was ordered around the outside of the barn to collect the stolen wyvern, but was smacked in the face with a Sleep spell from the stubby but deft fingers of the bard.
The monk, realizing that he was not a pet-person, handed the reins of his wyvern to the ranger and raced back inside to get a piece of that sweet, sweet combat action going on by the front doors. Never one to let a good situation go unpunished, the bard decided that with the last successful Sleep spell, she was finally on a roll. She carefully aimed another into the fracas across the barn, and scored a hit on the guard, Captain Naptime, and the unfortunate monk who toppled like a very, very short stack of bricks. LEGO bricks, not the heavy cement kind.
The ranger’s continued handling of the wyverns allowed the party to beat cheeks with the unconscious monk slung over the fighter’s shoulder. The party mounted up and the wyverns took to the air in pursuit of the flying castle.
+ + +
There’s a little poetic license in this recap, since I’m really tired this morning and can’t remember the specific order of activities. I don’t think I added in anything, but timing of certain actions might be off.
There was two ways I could go about this: let the party into the barn and give them the time they needed to tame the wyverns and escape while the guards were battling the blaze outside, or let the party into the barn but interrupt them once the chaos of the activities outside brought the remaining guards down from the barn’s loft. The former would have brought them to the castle quickly; the later would have probably been a bit more realistic as the guards began to come to their senses and get moving.
The idea was that since the players didn’t fully account for all of the guards in town that they knew existed (they only saw two, and the Captain, outside, but were greeted in town by five and the Captain)…where were the other three? One was tending the wyverns as the de facto animal handler of the group. Two more were upstairs playing Canasta, I guess. But once the crisis outside became “all hands on deck” the two from upstairs had to rush down to help out — only to find the party there jacking their rides. The second guard, realizing the party was attempting to steal the wyverns, alerted the Captain and the other guards outside, who burst into the barn in response. So the feeling I was hoping for was to be a scene of action and hopefully chaos as the party attempted to hold off the guards while also trying to do what was necessary to get the wyverns calm, harnessed, and out of the barn. It’s just lucky for the players that I only thought about spreading the fire to the barn this morning.
The module wanted a whole lot of Animal Handling skill checks, which we did, but not with the frequency that the module asked for since the module’s response to a failed roll was a poisonous wyvern tail to the gut. At the rate the monk was failing his checks, he would have been dead before long. We also inadvertently subverted some of the rules last night in regards to attacking an otherwise engaged target/switching targets to another while also engaged. It was an error in the party’s favor: the rogue had switched targets twice, throwing her daggers at the Captain who was engaged with the dwarf. The Sneak Attacks did massive damage to the Captain, which helped save the party from a two hour fight with that elite NPC. Later, the Captain attempted to return the favor with a from-the-hip throw of his spear at the rogue, who was engaged with a guard on the stairs. According to the rules, both secondary engagement attacks should have been made with disadvantage. That probably would have hurt the rogue, though, but not the Captain since he missed the first time anyway.
I like the rules just fine, personally, and a most of them are there to make sure players aren’t some kind of medieval Superman with always-on mind control powers, but there’s a kind of hierarchy involved, in my view. Some rules must be followed, some should be followed, and some exist for the purpose of completing the immersion. I prefer to be all about the story; the players are more than capable of winning or even losing fairly arbitrated fights or situations. If they play smart, they can come out on top. If not, they can put themselves behind the 8-ball, or even lose a party member or two. It’s really the “play smart” part that I’m most interested in: when the players come up with creative solutions, or are otherwise making wise moves that fit within the realm of the game, then those little esoteric micro-situational rules will get in the way of an otherwise exciting round of play. Better to enjoy the stresses of the narrative than to worry about looking up laws and guidelines for every non-standard action.