We were a lot shorter on players this week than I expected: Firstborn and Olderfriend (who plays the Monk) were both here, and Secondborn started the game with us before leaving for a playdate with one of his friends. The other two players had hoped to Skype in for the game, but that didn't work out; I'm not sure what happened there, although Microsoft locking my Skype account for "suspicious activity" might have had something do with it. (What activity? I created it two weeks ago, tested it out, and didn't touch it again until today. Microsoft is a pain the ass.)
They finished beating down the scorpions (fairly efficiently, though I'll note that the encounter was still pretty close; victory was by no means assured). They then decided that they'd spent more than enough time in this dungeon for one expedition, and turned and left.
The found Lord Aldenmier waiting for them just outside the dungeon, and deep in conversation with a woman whom he introduced as Lady Narolo of House Narolo, patron of the Shadow Blades company. Aldenmier reclaimed the banner of the Ivory Scimitars, and the group departed to sell off their captured equipment and divide up the treasure. On the way back, Lord Aldenmier explained that Lady Narolo was a relative newcomer to Roslof Keep, having arrived a few month back, established a House, and recruited a company. The Shadow Blades are the newest banner company except for the players.
Back at the manor, the Sheriff returned to tell the group that the nameless assassin who tried to kill the dragonborn sorcerer was still refusing to give a name or say who hired him (or admit that he was hired, even). However, his description tied him to a number of other killings in nearby cities, and there was a reward pooled from the families of several of his victims.
The reward for capturing the assassin was 500 gp, and since it came of what Aldenmier called "extracurricular activities", he has turned the entirety of it over to them.
By my count the party has now accumulated a shared chest of 661 GP. They also have:
-Six daggers (from a few games back), sold for 6gp
-Two Javelins (ditto), sold for 5 SP
-A Bronze Shortsword (spider room, claimed by the Barbarian) sold for 3gp
-five shortswords (earlier game, the kobolds) sold for 25 gp
-five more javelins (ditto) sold for 25 SP
-another 38 GP (kobolds)
-another 45 GP (kobold sorcerer)
-a silver dagger, which they're keeping for equipment - currently held by the Dwarf.
-a small bag of herbs which smell delicious (also kobold sorcerer) which they haven't figured how or whether to sell.
-A ruby worth 150 GP which they have tied around the neck of the cat statue using the sorcerer's handkerchief because they think it's part of some sort of puzzle. They have refused to sell this.
-a Greataxe, currently in use by the barbarian, but sold for 10gp.
-hide armor (from the orc) sold for 5gp
That's 132 GP and 30 SP, of which half goes to Aldenmier; so the party adds 66 GP and 15 SP to their total, bringing them to 721 GP and 15 SP.
OOC: the Dwarf Barbarian Jak was created for my niece to play as a one-time event. However, there's always the possibility that she'll come back through town. So, Jak will continue as an NPC in Lord Aldenmier's service, but not as part of the banner company. This brings us back to our original five characters (with me running Secondborn's Drow Rogue when he gets distracted or is busy elsewhere).
I am somewhat relieved by this, but Olderfriend (who plays the monk, and is actually younger than anybody in the group except Secondborn -- the name refers to his presence at another, earlier game) pointed out that he feels like they're reaching the parts of the dungeon where the monsters are tougher and they really need to level up again. Alternatively, with the Dwarf leaving the party, he'd like to draw up a second character -- his monk's long-lost twin brother -- and play both of them at once.
I'm thinking about this. He's not wrong about the challenges getting tougher - the scorpions very nearly finished the cleric last game, and landed some pretty noteworthy hits this game; fortunately, the monk had used his Ki to make himself considerably harder to hit. And there's at least one encounter coming up where I'm pretty sure they're just going to be outmatched, and if they stumble into that one before they've leveled up, well... Total Party Kill is not impossible.
I don't have it in me to keep up with experience points, so I've been doing a Benchmark approach to gaining levels. The first full venture into and out of the dungeon was enough to get them to level 2. There's another encounter here on the first level which will allow them to level up again if they complete it. Figuring out how to get down to the second level of the dungeon would be worth another character-level advancement. Actually clearing this whole level and advancing to the next would be worth another. That said, they really do need level up at least one more time before they hit the boss battle for this level, and at this point there's nothing to stop them from stumbling into it unprepared before that happens.
For the moment, I'm using a stop-gap: Lord Aldenmier has called in a favor from the wizardly owner of the local magical supply store. For 100 GP, each character may apply a +1 bonus to one weapon or set of armor, or may purchase one common or uncommon magic item. (This is rather cheaper than it really should be, which is why I set it up as Aldenmier calling in a favor: the stuff won't be this cheap again, and 5e treats magic items as quite rare and special. But they need some kind of edge, and I think this will help.) So far, the Monk had his shortsword enchanted (eminently sensible) and Firstborn delighted me by selecting an Alchemy Jug for his dragonborn sorcerer. Used creatively, I think it could come in quite handy.
Olderfriend has also mentioned that he looks forward to finishing this dungeon and exploring the larger world. That's not going to happen for a while -- the dungeon is central to this campaign -- but I think I might have Aldenmier send them out into the wilderness on a non-dungeon emergency next game. I'll have to think about how that works, but... House Aldenmier has been in decline for some years now, and while it has a perfectly sound contingent of guards and wards, Lord Aldenmier doesn't have a lot of spare resources to deal with unexpected threats to any trading concerns or other investments that he might have. Offering the PCs a special deal for their help with such a situation would not be out of character.
I wonder if there are any good 5e modules set in, say, a logging camp...?