Okay, so we started our third group of characters for this campaign, and I have two immediate observations:
1. Our poor DM has an awful damned lot to keep up with.
2. This may be my favorite party out of all of them.
Our original characters were almost a spoof -- some of them, at least. The intro was a classic Elder Scrolls approach: release the PCs from prison with a mission that they have to accomplish or go back to prison. I came in later, so I was mainly there for the bits where we discovered that centuries ago the Humans of Sol Povos had promised Elvish sovereignity to various areas of traditional human land as part of a peace treaty. Sheriff Joe R. Pious (human paladin who genuinely thinks he's lawful good) sent the documents off with his intern, who promptly sold them off to the Elves instead of the Humans; shortly after that, we found the statue where the last Elvish king (and descendant of the Legendary Heroes) was imprisoned, released him, and saw him off to the Elvish reservation of Duendewood.
Our second batch of characters started in a completely different area, defending Fort Dedo in the southeast corner of the Kingdom. Events... quickly got out of hand, but between retrieving ancient Formorian artifacts and texts, killing off would-be allies of the invading army, and rescuing kidnapped members of our own party, well... What we essentially discovered was that A) worshippers of Vecna were the motivating force behind this strange, multi-headed invasion, and B) we'd been fooled and/or betrayed, and one of the enemy champions had taken over the body of our colonel and had been using us to recover artifacts. We escaped, but that was about the best that could be said for it.
So this week's episode was character creation for a third party to look at events from the Elvish perspective.
The current party consists of:
-Martini Grey (not her real name), Grey Elf (from the 3.5 Monster Manual), presumptive heir to her House, courtesan and assassin.
-Azrael (also not his real name) Neutral Grey Elf Wizard, and seriously emo high school senior (or the Elf equivalent, anyway).
-Waylon Mercy, human cleric of Artemis -- except that he's a Pentacostal snake-handling cleric who pronounces the goddess' name as Artem-hiss; he's come to teach the Elves how to worship the goddess properly. There's a decent chance that he'll be emphasizing the fact that he's 1/72 Elvish on his grandmother's side.
-Ruin (not his real name - he hasn't chosen one), True Elf Barbarian and Fighter, basically an angry revolutionary. True Elves are a homebrew specific to this campaign; basically, I sacrificed 3 levels in exchange for a host of nifty bonuses and abilities. Ruin was meant to be the tank of the group, but because of the level adjustment his hit points aren't all that much better than the wizard or the rogue. (The cleric is by far the highest, having about twice as many HP as I do.) His armor class, on the other hand, is the highest in the group, and he can deliver melee damage like nobody's business.
So we opened the session at the home of the Grey Elves, where Ruin and his mother had stopped to consult (and, well, scheme) and the local evangelical human preacher was making the rounds and happened to drop in. The result of this was that the PCs were sent off to the city of Annon, which is one of the major cities, to see if the populace and the political establishment supported the True King and what they thought of him.
The... essentially the mayor, I think the formal title was High Provost... of the city was delighted to meet with the son and daughter of his old friend, and said that of course everybody supported the True King but without the presence of this one Baron in a particular burrough a little ways outside of the city they couldn't hold a formal vote to say so. The Baron had been absent for some months, and the last people he'd sent down there hadn't returned with any useful information.
Naturally, Martini -- as a favor to her father's old friend -- offered our services to go investigate.
So we traveled to this burrough, which was just beginning its autumn fair, and let the guards put peace-bonds on our weapons so we could enter.
We'd been moving through the fair for a little bit when we heard screams and -- unlike sane people -- charged directly towards them. This put us into combat with four were-rats, who were in turn commanding about six dire rats.
It should be noted that Ruin has no sense of self-preservation. His fighting style is rooted entirely in rage: you kill the thing in front of you because you want it dead more than it wants you dead. So he charged right in and killed a were-rat with his first attack. The rest of the party followed, and the remaining were-rats moved to flank Ruin while the rats moved back to attack the others.
Ruin killed a second were-rat, and our wizard killed a third. Two of the dire rats attacked him, but one missed and the other one got its teeth stuck in his greaves. The head were-rat then fled, but Ruin (being a Barbarian, and therefore awesome) was able to chase him and cut him down, before finishing the dire rat that he'd been dragging along with him as he ran.
The rest of the party was having a ridiculous amount of trouble with the remaining dire rats (bad rolls, mainly). Ruin had moved back to help them when he realized that he wouldn't get any answers out of the were-rat leader if he let him die. He ran back and started trying to stabilize the werebeast.
By the time the rest of the party had finished off the rats (and it was neither quick nor easy) the rogue and the cleric had both been infected with diseases, and Ruin was plugging the were-rat's wounds with his fingers.
The cleric approached, healed the wererat up to a single hit point, then dropped a poisonous snake on its chest and let it bite him. Then, with the threat of death by poison looming, he asked questions: what were you doing? do you realize that most of the people you killed weren't guards? who sent you to do this?
And once we got answers, the cleric cast another spell and sent the wererat on his way. Ruin, assuming the cure had been given as promised, told the werebeast to get out of town. Already feeling better, the beast agreed and left. (At some point, the party will probably figure out that the Cleric is casting Delay Poison instead of actually curing people, but right now only the Wizard knows that and he thinks it's incredibly metal of the Cleric to do that. We... may not actually be the good guys, here.)
And that was where we stopped: we haven't spoken with the Baron, we haven't found the "blessed one" who was commanding the wererats, but we've had our first battle and worked at least moderately well together even if the brother and sister won't stop taunting each other (which is, I admit, possibly my favorite part of the campaign so far). I'll have to scrap something I was putting together with Ruin facing a challenge from he Dwarves, since in the Intro his mother changed course and sent him off with the rest of the PCs instead -- but looking at the overall timeline, that makes sense. The True King has only just returned, and everybody is scrambling for reliable information.