setup: fight the cultists
[Some quick setup was needed, since I've been playing without a map. There is only [1d3=] 1 way into the great hall, other than through the kitchen. But the kitchen exit has been boarded up securely & barricaded already (which was in my notes, but I may have forgot to mention it in the write-ups). I did a quick sketch map of the hall on some graph paper; I'm glad I didn't do anything more intricate; you'll see why...]
Spurred on by the cook's warning, some of the heavy tables are quickly shoved into position to block the double door into the corridor. The remaining ones are put on their sides to act as cover. Everyone moves behind them, and readies their crossbows.
a reconstruction of the map before the beginning of the fight. Most PCs behind the barricade, Iexelcis unconscious on a divan at the back of the room, Emmeline and the valet tied to chairs.
There is a knock at the door. A woman's voice calls through the doors, which the castle residents recognise as belonging to one of the groundskeepers. "Surrender now! Or face the consequences!"
"Damn you, traitorous swine!" replies Manfred, "I'll see you all hanged first!"
"I hardly think you will. Let me offer a deal. Send out the Lady Margiste in her lovely new necklace, and we'll let the rest of you go."
"What?" Manfred asks quietly. "What necklace? What's that villain on about?"
"The necklace!" cries Lady Margiste. "It must have been meant for me all along. It must have made Emmeline go mad!"
Lycinia stalks over to Emmeline, and rips the necklace from round her neck. "We should destroy this," she says.
"Please, Lycinia," begs a tearful Emmeline, "set me free. I'm so frightened."
[this news calls for reaction rolls from Lady Margiste (10) and Manfred (4).]
"Yes, untie her quickly," calls Lady Margiste, "and give her back her sword!"
"No!" shouts Manfred, "have you lost your senses? What if the magic still holds her? And you want to give her a weapon!"
The groundskeeper screams once again through the door. "We need an answer!"
Manfred screams something unprintable in return.
After Manfred's tirade, a tense silence comes over the great hall. Nothing is heard but the nervous shuffling of feet behind the barrier, the creak of floorboards, the dull rattle of chain armour. Then, starting near the middle of the double doors and extending most of the way down the exterior wall, the solid stone of the château begins to melt, transforming into a wet grayish mud. The wooden floor, suddenly unsupported on one side, sags with a mighty groan, and begins to splinter and fall apart. The half on the side of the interior wall remains mostly intact, but the other half forms a fragmentary slide out of the castle through the now-missing wall. The furnishings barricading the doors slide off into the snow some 20' below. Some even fall into the room beneath the great hall. Half of the barrier of tables meets the same fate. And though they scramble up into the other side of the room, some of the defenders slide out as well...
[The excitement of random treasures in the hands of NPCs! One of the magic-user cultists had a scroll with Transmute Rock to Mud. The spell affects "3,000 square feet of rock 10’ deep", which is 30 map squares.
Everyone in the room needs to make a saving throw vs. Paralyzation or fall out. Anyone who is unconscious or tied to a chair fails automatically. It's a 20' drop, but the mud and snow will cushion the fall so that the damage is a mere 1d6.
Manfred, Orst, Lycinia, maid #2, Frère Ambrosius, and the cook make their saving throws.
The others fail:
Lady Margiste takes 5 damage (1hp left); Gerdie takes 3 (13hp); maid #1 takes 4 (-1hp, unconscious); maid #3 takes 4 (0, unconscious); Durcet takes 3 (3hp)
Iexelcis takes 3 damage, (-3hp, mortally wounded);Emmeline takes 2 (2hp); Franval takes 6 (-1hp, unconscious)
Everyone who fell and is unconscious or tied to a chair will drown in the mud unless rescued.
There are 12 cultists. Each one had a 1-in-6 chance to have received the unholy blessing of the god-thing they worship, thus becoming a level 1d3 Magic-User. There ended up being three of them, one of each level, so each one got to lead a group of three (Ftr-0) cultists. Their morale is 9, reduced to 7 should their MU leader be incapacitated.
This was a complicated encounter to play out, with five groups on two levels. The initiative was rolled by group, so the order was: Upstairs PCs, Upstairs cultists, outside cultists group 1, outside cultists group 2, outside PCs (who automatically lost initiative because they fell). Lycinia changed levels, further complicating the sequence of events. I'm going to narrate the upstairs & downstairs battles separately.
a reconstruction of the map at the beginning of the fight. remaining PCs in the room and the now-reduced barrier. Other PCs outside in the snow. Casualties removed. Three groups of cultists grouped around their M-U leaders
CH CN DX IN ST WI HP AC
MU 2 m 16 14 9 13 15 11 8 * staff
cultist a m 13 8 8 13 10 11 4 11 cudgel
cultist b m 6 17 16 18 8 9 6 14 dagger, arquebus
cultist c f 13 10 10 14 15 8 4 12 rapier, longbow
MU 1 f 7 11 14 14 15 10 5 13 dagger, pistol
cultist x m 16 11 10 10 8 9 3 12 cudgel
cultist y m 13 10 6 6 12 10 5 11 poleaxe
cultist z f 7 10 10 12 14 7 5 12 longbow, dagger
*shield spell: AC 17mêlée/19missile
MU1: Hold Portal
Lycinia: Sleep, Comprehend Languages, Invisibility
CH CN DX IN ST WI ML AC HP
Lycinia f 11 14 16 16 15 9 -- 18 16/16 sword, pistol, chainmail
Emmeline f 16 11 8 14 8 9 7 11 2/4 (tied to chair)
Lady M f 12 11 14 12 9 4 7 13 1/6 rapier, lt. crossbow
Gerdie f 11 16 12 12 14 10 7 16 13/10 sword, hvy. xbow, chainmail
secretary m 8 12 9 9 11 8 6 12 3/6 polearm, hvy. crossbow
Lycinia's elven grace allows her to backpedal swiftly up the collapsing floor, but she watches in horror as Emmeline slides away and is pitched over the edge. Fearing for her charge's life, she doesn't hesitate, but leaps over the edge after her. She comes down harder than she had expected [1-3 damage for the jump, save vs. paralysis to negate; she fails, 3 damage puts her at 13hp], dropping to one knee and cracking it against something solid. One of the groups of cultists [led by the 1st level MU] approaches the building through the snow, the other group hangs back somewhat. Meanwhile, Lady Margiste hurriedly frees a sputtering and choking Emmeline from the broken chair and tangle of ropes, whilst Gerdie and Durcet collect their weapons out of the muck.
Lycinia speaks the words of her old elven magic, and throws a spell over the approaching cultists [casts Sleep, 2d8=11HD]. The charm vanquishes the four of them, and they nestle into a pile in the snow, overcome with enchanted slumber.
The warlock leading the other group [MU2] responds with a wicked spell of his own seeking to blot out the light from Lycinia's eyes [Darkness]. The magic swirls around her and dissipates harmlessly, unable to suppress her keen fairy senses [she made her save, so the spell failed completely].
One of the men next to the warlock raises an arquebus and discharges it in the elf's direction, but the ball whistles past ineffectually.
The woman draws her longbow and looses an arrow which sticks in Gerdie's shoulder [4 damage puts her at 9hp], but she seems unfazed by the injury. Moments later the woman is lying face first in the snow, Gerdie's crossbow bolt protruding from her neck [8 damage reduces her to -4hp, killing her outright].
Durcet fires his crossbow, but the bolt speeds off into the darkness. Lady Margiste and Emmeline have been rooting through the sludge for their weapons, and find a crossbow and rapier [respectively].
Lycinia trudges forward, drawing her shimmering sword as she advances through the knee-deep snow [movement rates are halved, so she only goes 20']. The three remaining cultists move to meet her, weapons poised for attack. They attack furiously, and power through her defences. One catches her squarely in the side with his cudgel [3 damage puts her at 10hp], the second rakes his dagger down her torso, but the heavy chain links turn aside the curved edge [the -2 for using a minor weapon vs. heavy armour made the difference].
Gerdie and Durcet charge, but cannot get enough momentum in the snow [both miss]. Lady Margiste and Emmeline ready their weapons should they need to defend themselves, but decide to leave the heavy fighting to the warriors. And Durcet, who may very well get himself killed.
Lycinia delivers a vicious slash across the cudgel-wielding cultist's face. The wound isn't as deep as it could have been, but it nearly takes the fight out of him [2 damage leaves him with 2hp]. Lycinia fends off his counter attack with her gauntlet, but the impact is still jarring [1 damage; she's got 9hp left].
The warlock raises his staff. He and Gerdie face off, but after a bit of dancing about, neither have managed to land a blow.
The cultist with the dagger decides that a softer target is in order, and comes at Durcet. He punctures the scholar's stomach with a swift stab [2 damage drops him to 1hp]. Durcet can't back up far enough to bring his poleaxe to bear [miss].
Lycinia swings her sword in a wide arc, severing her enemy's weapon-arm at the elbow. His forearm and cudgel land several feet away in the snow, and he falls backward spraying blood [6 damage puts him at -4hp, dead].
The warlock hits Gerdie squarely in the sternum with the tip of his staff, staggering her [she takes a single point of damage, leaving her with 8hp; she then rolled a 1 on her attack].
Durcet swings his poleaxe, lodging the blade in the head of the cultist. He pulls it free with a wet squelch [7 damage puts him at -1hp].
Gerdie and Lycinia gang up on the warlock. Gerdie suffers another punishing blow from the end of his staff that she can feel even underneath all her armour and padding [3 damage puts her at 5hp]. The two of them find their blades are slowed by the invisible magical barrier protecting the wild-eyed warlock [-1 damage/hit from Shield] but they wear him down a cut at a time until at last he drops beneath Lycinia's enchanted sword.
They leave Durcet with the girls, and rush back into the castle to aid their companions, whose battle yet rages over the remains of the creaking floor.
the map again for reference
Meanwhile, back upstairs...
CH CN DX IN ST WI HP AC
MU 3 m 7 10 9 12 11 4 8 * shortsword, scroll
groundskeeper m 6 12 11 9 15 10 4 14 handaxe, leather
groundskeeper f 11 11 5 11 15 12 4 12 handaxe, leather
cultist 1 m 14 10 9 10 9 11 2 12 dagger, lt. crossbow
*shield spell (from scroll): AC 17mêlée/19missile
MU3: Magic Missile, Spider Climb, Force of Forbidment
Scroll: Mirror Image, Contact Outer Sphere, Animate Dead, Speak with Dead
Confessor: turn undead
Relic: Protection from Evil 10' Radius at will, but cannot take any other action incl. movement
CH CN DX IN ST WI ML AC HP
Manfred m 5 17 8 12 12 10 8 15 30 rapier, lt. xbow, chainmail
Orst m 9 10 10 13 15 11 7 16 6 rapier, hvy. xbow, chainmail
maid f 17 6 10 10 12 9 8 12 3 spear, hvy. crossbow
cook f 12 8 13 10 8 6 3 13 3 mace, lt. crossbow
confessor m 12 4 14 8 11 16 6 13 7 shortsword, relic
As Lycinia is jumping down after Emmeline, the rest are scurrying up into the safe half of the hall, taking cover behind the remaining table, and aiming crossbows at the doors, one of which has fallen away, whilst the other half-obscures the corridor beyond.
Frère Ambrosius holds the relic of St Lisaveta in both hands and assumes an attitude of prayer [Protection from Evil 10' for as long as he concentrates], kneeling down behind the upturned table. Manfred moves into the corner of the room, covering the doorway from the side with his crossbow.
The cultists advance down the corridor under cover. None are yet visible.
A cultist appears around the still-hanging door and fires his crossbow. The bolt sticks into the table right beneath the cook [missed due to +4AC cover bonus].
The two groundskeepers charge into the room with their hand axes.
Four crossbow bolts sail through the air [the PCs had held their actions, so this is essentially simultaneous with the above]. The maid's shot rebounds off the stone wall (the part that's still intact), but the other three strike true. The cook's bolt hits the male groundskeeper in the chest [3 damage drops him to 1hp], and his sister takes one in the side from Orst while Manfred's hits her arm [2+1 damage drop her to 1hp as well].
Despite their wounds, the furious siblings continue their respective charges. The sister makes for Manfred in the corner, but he ducks aside, and her axe merely crashed down on the wall sconce beside him, sending the candle rolling away down the sloping floor. The brother heads right for Orst, who does not pull back behind the table far enough; the axe comes down hard on his shoulder, and his collarbone is heard to crack [4x2(charge)=8 damage takes him to -2hp] and he collapses behind the barrier.
The cook and the maid are both crouching down behind the table, reloading their crossbows.
The brother dashes to join his sister, that together they may best Manfred, a much deadlier opponent than the help behind the table fumbling with crossbow mechanisms. They back him into the corner, but neither of them manage to land a blow. His own clumsy attack does him no credit [rolled a 1].
The cultist with the crossbow retreats behind the door to reload, and his wizard friend moves up behind him, staying out of sight.
The maid is still reloading [heavy crossbows take two rounds to reload] but the cook appears over the top of the table again, ready to fire. She sees the two groundskeepers pressing on Manfred, and decides to even the odds. She fires at an inopportune moment, and her bolt sails right past the groundskeeper and hits Manfred instead [firing into mêlée without aiming results in a random target]! He bellows as the bolt hits him in the thigh [5 damage puts him at 25hp].
The cultist leans around the door again to discharge his crossbow. His second bolt joins the first in the table before the cook.
Despite the unexpected help, the fight is going against the groundskeepers. Neither hits Manfred, but a slash from his sword lays the sister low [1 damage puts her at 0hp].
Behind the door, the wizard reads a spell from his scroll [Mirror Image]. [1d4=] Two duplicates spring into existence beside him, miming his every move.
The cook and cultist duck back under cover to reload, as the maid pops up and the tripled wizard moves into the room. The maid's bolt hits neither the wizard nor his images, as he tucks the scroll in his belt to prepare a spell.
The groundskeeper makes a fatal error of judgement, and Manfred slashes him across the neck, nearly removing his head from his shoulders [8 damage drops him to -7hp]. He dies in a heap over the body of his beloved sister.
The maid ducks down again to reload. The cook stays still beside her, chastened by her mistake and hesitant to repeat it. The cultist hasn't got a clear shot at Manfred, and is too prudent to make the attempt.
The wizard rasps out the words of a heinous curse [Magic Missile] in a chorus with the two phantoms beside him. Waves of colourless energy ripple from their fingertips through the air to swirl about Manfred, sapping his life energy as they surround him [12 damage leaves him with 13hp]. Unnerved by the damping of his very soul, he staggers forward a few steps and swings his sword weakly at the wizard, slicing through the air several feet short.
The three wizards draw three shortswords, and stab at Manfred. He parries the wrong one, and the true sword stabs him through a weak spot in his mail [4 damage drops him to 9hp].
The duplicates present a confusing target, but Manfred's blade comes down upon the real wizard, who cries out in pain as the blade opens a bloody line across his chest [4 damage leaves him with 4hp].
Moments later, the duplicates fade into oblivion.
Manfred is momentarily as baffled by the images' disappearance as he was by their presence. The wizard takes advantage of his sudden rush of overconfidence and jabs his sword into Manfred's leg [4 damage leaves him at 5hp]. Manfred's riposte is easily turned aside.
The cook and maid are both ready. They pop up from behind cover, and seeing the cultist in the doorway, loose their bolts. He had been waiting, and his own bolt speeds towards them at the same time. The cook's shot merely hits the wooden door beside him, but the maid's bolt catches him right in the eye, killing him instantly [7 damage puts him at -5hp]. But she will never know of her success, for at the same moment his bolt pierces her breast; she falls, her lifeblood gushing from the terrible wound [6 damage drops her to -3hp, mortally wounded, with 1d10= 1 minute left to live].
The wizard asks no quarter, nor is any given. Manfred fights on as one possessed, raining blow after blow down upon the wizard, who can barely fend them off with his short, stout blade. One gets through, a minor cut, and then another, and another. Finally he falls before Manfred's onslaught, bleeding but still alive [0hp exactly]. Manfred does not allow him to live for long.
He hears the thud of heavy boots running closer in the corridor outside. Suddenly Lycinia and Gerdie burst into view, bloodied and caked in mud. Manfred feels a sudden twinge of fear. "My sister--?" he asks.
the actual map I used to play out the combat. this is how we did it back in the day.