So today I had one of the most interesting D&D sessions to date…
Last session, Ben commented that even though they were pleased they managed to RP young kids who’d never seen combat, and managed to creatively evade actual combat (tricking some goblins into getting what they wanted rather than killing them), he still wanted to flex his character muscles, so to speak. So I decided to give them what they wanted, and had gnoll bandits attempt to waylay them on the trail back to their village. Ben and Luis made their perception checks to notice the trail was disturbed 20 feet ahead of them, and Nefistys found cover while Kane created the illusion of a fat man covered in gems walking along on the path and over the covered net. Well, there’s no way those gnolls would ignore such a tasty treat, so they triggered the trap early and gave themselves away.
And so: Initiative. I myself was curious to see what they could handle…And it turned out about as well as I could have expected from a mechanics point of view. Low-level combat is something I have not run in a long time, and it was quickly apparent how quick and dirty it was on round 1. The lead gnoll was armed with a magic duergar axe that was supposed to be a piece of treasure for them, but he kept solidly hitting. And 1d6+2 is pretty tough on a character with 10 hit points, even if that character is a spontaneous healer. It was interesting to see how worried Ben and Luis got when they started taking lumps and realized they needed to do something creative if they were going to come out of it alive. But I’m digressing…Long story short, they used an illusion to make two of the gnolls believe they were trapped in thorny cages, and managed to kill another. The third failed a morale check and high-tailed it out of there (taking his shiny magic axe with him). After their leader ran off, the other two threw down their weapons and hit the dirt. Even though neither character spoke Gnoll, the meaning was clear: we surrender!
And naturally, opinions were divided into two camps: Nefistys (Ben) wanted to simply end them; they would undoubtedly kill again and they could not possibly reform them. And Kane (Luis) figured they should take them prisoner and let someone higher up off them if it fit the crime (passing the buck but still holding true to his convictions). Nefistys reluctantly agreed but blast a hole in the earth between the gnoll’s legs to make sure they got the message. Kane then tried pantomiming to get them to put their hands behind their backs and the gnolls did so reluctantly. Binding them at their hands and feet they paraded them into town, surprising the sleepy community of Stingard with two prisoners. After a few spearmen and Nefistys’ mother (the ranking Hathran – village elder and wise woman) were summoned, Nefistys and Kane butted heads once again on what to do with them. The spearmen seemed quite content on skewering the lot while Alaria when pressed reminded the two of them that they were adults now with all the right therein, and in taking the gnolls prisoners, their lives were in their hands. Alaria brought over a few language comprehension scrolls and allowed Nefistys and her to speak with the gnolls and vice versa. And again, I was surprised by their questions. They asked the gnolls, why they did what they did. And the gnolls responded that they were predators, that killing what they did, be they rabbits, deer, or men. Food is food, the strong will devour the weak and grow stronger. Such is the way of things. Among other things, the question came up that were the situations reversed and a human had been captured by gnolls, what would they do? However Ben did not translate Luis’ question properly (which had been "were a human taken PRISONER…", rather than CAPTURED) so the gnoll responded to what he heard Ben say, more or less dooming him by saying "we would devour him," as if it were quite obvious.
So Kane decided there had to be consequences and suggested castrating them. One of the spearmen seemed particularly enthusiastic, mentioning how in some of the southern lands, theives caught in the act might lose a finger or more. And eye for an eye, and all, especially when these gnolls were carrying gear that belonged to the people they’d killed. So castration got the vote. The gnoll got no warning from Nefistys, other than "we’re going to release you, but there will have to be punishment." And so two of the spearmen held the creature down while the third broke out a knife and did the deed. And the gnoll lost it, first howling maniacally, thrashing, and finally going mad, savaging the men trying to hold it down with his teeth. So Nefistys ended up blasting a hole in it’s chest, killing it then and there. The second gnoll began to panic and thrash, seeing what just happened, whimpering about having surrendered and caught another eldritch blast in the face, killing it as well.
And so Nefistys made his departure at this point, silent crowd of townsfolk giving him a wide berth as he made his way back home to ponder over what just happened. Kane took the bodies down to the river and did a small ceremony to allow their spirits to be carried by the river onto their final reward…Or punishment.
I was amazed, personally. Especially by Ben’s roleplaying. Ben definitely likes combat-oriented games, and the fact that he’s gone out of his way to have these sessions is a great sign. Even afterwards, him and Luis has another discussion on the gnoll issue as they cleaned up their injuries at the river before agreeing to disagree for now. That is exactly what I was looking for in this game and I have high hopes for future sessions.