Le Bouche - hireling
Janis - hireling
Mika - hireling
Fabrino - hireling
Pita - hireling
Tory - hireling
We return to the battle in progress. Z is anchoring a shield wall with G and the last two red-sashes with shields. They are holding back a tide of vulture-headed pygmies. Tory and a few other shieldless red-sashes have been caught on the pygmy side of the shieldwall. A orangutan with forks for feet is walking toward the warriors. At each step a pygmy sacrifices itself by lying down in front of it so it can sink its fork into living flesh.
On the bridge behind the shield wall are the hirelings and Toral who just broke off chanting to move back. Hugelina is at the opposite end of the bridge near a barrier she and Gail constructed. Gail has gone missing in Nidus searching for more materials. Derick, Sara, and Athydas were elswhere in the city and join the party on the bridge just as the red-sashes holding pygmies at bay in other parts of the city begin breaking.
Oddly, a long dead Pita, the bearded female hireling has appeared clutching the side of the bridge as well as a recently turned to iron Yestlick on the opposite side of the bridge.
The orangutan approaches the shieldwall and suddenly hundreds of rusty blades, axe-heads, nails and sharp objects rise up from the ground in a perfect cylinder around it before shooting out causing terrible damage to all around. Several red-sashes are killed, G survives only by splintering a shield. Tory thrusts a spear straight into the side of the creature and it does nothing. One of the hirelings behind the shield wall thrusts forward with a 10' pole and surprisingly strikes it directly in the face while it was looking at Tory. This knocks it back.
The party suddenly discovers casks of oil near the barrier (Hugelina and Gail had already searched there unsuccessfully). Athydas grabs one runs toward the shield wall and pitches it at the orangutan. Sara casts a sleep spell and then pitches another cask. Athydas casts sleep. A hireling pitches a torch and fire spreads across many sleeping vulture-pygmies. The fire has no effect on the orangutan. G shield bashes the creature. It is forced back. It's fork sinks into an already dead pygmy and it instantly turns to a red sand falling to the ground.
Vulture pygmies begin pouring from Nidus the members at the back of the party barely manage to pull the barricade across the bridge and set it on fire and then things get weird . . .
Suddenly tools and objects begin falling from the sky-- ladders, rope, chairs, poles. Yestlick's neck is broken by a 50' coil of rope. Athydas is killed by a falling lantern and falls into the ravine below. Toral is hurt badly by a falling ladder. The party is in a somber mood when a full-sized junk falls from the sky into the ravine next to the bridge. On the deck are duplicates of the entire party, apparently from the future.
The future mages cast spells as the party decides it is better to live to fight another day and begins jumping from bridge, to junk, to ravine floor. Except Tory, Toral, and future Toral. There was also a grey hulking creature-- faceless with trepannation holes and a pygmy poking a reed into them to control it. Several of these "drivers" have been killed. Tory makes a daring jump onto a pygmy an then onto the hulks back and through trial and error begin operating the hulk, having it smash the vulture-heads. Future Toral is chanting. Toral fashions a lasso from rope prays, and snags an orangutan coming from the city-side. He jerks it forward, its fork hits the ground with no pygmy under it and it turns to sand.
And that's where we leave off-- the bulk of the party (two each) are running up the ravine toward the hills. The two Torals remain on the bridge with his hireling smashing vulture pygmies to the left and the right. Silver litters the ground.
I think this is the most players at one session so far, with eight. With their six hireling and then doubles of all that it was just on the edge of too much for me to control. You have probably felt that, when something is just about to fly out of your hands and smash into the wall but you manage, somehow to keep it together. That was Friday's session.
One way I did this was order of battle determined by geography. I know this simplification can screw over missile users and spell casters, but with so many bodies on the board about the only way I could keep track of things was start at one side of the bridge and work my way to the other. It worked okay.
Another thing that helped is I gave the npc red-sash turns to the players at risk of being left out in the chaos, in other words, the newer players, the quieter players, the mages who had already cast their spells. That worked well too, everyone was involved in the battle. It kept me hopping though.
This kind of battle really pushes me to d6 only damage. It is too much of a slow down to have to remind players every turn: "This red-sash has a sword that d8, your hireling has a spear that's d6 . . ." I guess when it comes down to it, I care more about the dynamic around the table than longer term simulation aspects. I will sit down and try to think about clear and interesting ways to distinguish weapons besides damage so that every one doesn't just use spears.
I had no preconceived time that I thought the equipment would fall from the sky or the ship. I suppose I could have rolled randomly, but here I chose to pull those cards at the most opportune times, mainly when things were bogging down.
The players were bummed when the were killed by the falling tools, what an inglorious way to go. And Z's player felt horrible because it was he who threw the crap at the diorama. But when the future selves showed up they felt better. None of them seemed to remember Z had even put the ship into the diorama but me.
I used the Rientsian big purple d30 rule for the first time ever. G probably survived the falling crap because of using it for his save. Toral was probably only able to take out the second demon with the lasso because he used the d30 to roll to hit. The other forgot to even use theirs.
I had wondered if the party would 1) figure out that the demons would be destroyed if they touched the ground, or 2) try to take control of one of the grey hulks. They did both, which was cool. I wasn't expecting them to, they didn't need to to survive. I just thought it would be cool if they did.
After rigging up this whole battle because some players were disgruntled because they wasn't enough fighting happening, now they are disgruntled because they didn't level up! Blarrgh. I told them these little things are not worth much XP (essentially kobolds). The silver pieces they spewed on the ground is where the XP is at and the party left it all there to save their skins! Torals player seemed pretty happy. He had some heroic, cool action there at the end.