I'll be sure to pass those along, thanks!
Sixth Session: In which the PCs realize they are not heroes and break the adventure.
This session started off simply enough, with looting the bugbear (nothing good). The merchant paid them all for saving the caravan and the rest of the trip to Darguun continued without incident. They ended up in Rhukaan Draal, the capital of Darguun, a few days later and headed to the oh-so-lovely Bloody Market. The letter they had said the person who could help them was a human named Failin so they asked around the Market, getting nowhere until the binder rolled a 19 on an intimidate check against some poor goblin merchant.
The merchant pointed them towards the Clenched Fist Tavern where they found Failin sitting in a corner. He told them a little about Rose Quarry, mainly that it was formerly a House Cannith mining town and was right on the border of the Mournland, but ultimately agreed to take them there. Outside, they were ambushed by by a group of bugbears who were after Failin for cheating them. It was a fairly uneventful fight up until the end; the rogue pulled out his sap and knocked one of the bugbears out and the swordsage finished the other (who was running away) with an attack of opportunity. They used the unconscious bugbear as leverage against Failin, threatening to wake him up if he didn't agree to cut the fee for transportation. It's around this point where the PCs half-jokingly realized that even the best among them is neutral and one of them is actively evil (Rogue: "So the party consists of a psychopath, a sociopath, a kleptomaniac, and a farm girl?").
They also leveled up to 3 at this point. The swordsage took Shadow Blade, allowing her to add her Dexterity modifier to damage rolls. The binder took Expel Vestige, expelled Dahlver-Nar, and immediately bound Ahazu, a Dragon Magazine vestige, but made a bad pact and so became obsessed with stealing things. The artificer took Item Familiar, but didn't bind to any yet (as she doesn't HAVE any magic items) as well as gaining the ability to craft wondrous items from artificer levels. And the rogue took Open Minded for more skill points.
After renegotiating their deal with Failin, they hopped on his bound elemental and cart and made for Rose Quarry. The immediately noticed two things: that the town was almost completely destroyed and that someone else beat them there. They counted sixteen horses and various humanoid figures standing around a fire; what they didn't see was skeletons and even more soldiers, as well as a necromancer, in the tents. They heard a man chanting off a bit to the north, so the rogue and artificer went to scout.
Now, this is where they did something stupid: they attacked. This whole camp was an effective level 8 encounter, with the book giving multiple warnings about how direct combat would be suicide and they should sneak around. They ignored all my increasingly-less-subtle warnings and sketched a plan of attack. The artificer (after infusing her bow with Human Bane) and the rogue dropped the chanting man (a 2nd-level cleric of Vol) in one round, not even giving him time to scream. When the rest of the soldiers noticed he wasn't chanting anymore they sent a scouting party: three soldiers and two skeletons. The party dropped them easily enough but made enough noise that the rest of the camp had time to don their armor and and attack. This fight was six soldiers, two skeletons, and a 2nd-level necromancer. They didn't have a chance. The artificer's Human Bane bow dropped the necromancer in two shots. The binder banished one of the soldiers to the Void with Ahazu's power while the rogue tumbled around and flanked them. One of the soldiers attacked the swordsage and rolled a crit, but she used Fiery Riposte (an immediate action Counter) and exploded him instantly. The swordsage's fists and binder's morningstar smashed through the skeletons' damage reduction and the rogue became the first and only player I've ever seen to use a Full-Round Withdrawal, setting up yet more sneak attacks.
It was a long fight, and the soldiers got pretty lucky and rolled quite a few crits, but they ultimately fell to the party. Much experience and loot was had by all. We stopped there for the night while I scrambled to put the adventure back together.
Observations: Wow. That was a REALLY intense battle. Both sides were getting extreme rolls; lots of 1's and 20's. They put a lot of effort into scouting and planning before the fight even started, and dropping the cleric in two shots certainly didn't hurt their chances. They stayed far away enough that, in the dark of the night, the soldiers didn't really have a chance of detecting them. Even if it means more work for me, this is what I love about DMing: when the players do something totally unexpected and really get the feeling that the story is THEIRS.