It’s been a while since I’ve updated this journal. We haven’t been able to get together of late, what with the holidays and busy schedules and what not. So, I apologize for any inappropriate threadomancy. And now on to…

Session 4: Probes

Dawn breaks over Dekhi on day two of the crisis. The rising sun shimmers on the river, its apparent peacefulness belying the chaos that so recently overtook the city.

On the third floor of the Swagat Inn, things are beginning to look dire. The group is barricaded in on the third floor with only enough food to last for a few days. Even worse, two of their number, the dwarf Bracken and the riding dog Kata, have been bitten by the zombies. They’ve managed to survive the first day of the zombie attack, but their margin of safety is thin.

The group awakes to a hacking cough from Bracken and a pitiful whine from Kata. The two are just beginning to feel the effects of the zombie bites. Their skin seems to adhere more tightly to their bones and take on a distinct grey-ish tinge, their joints swell, and their eyes seem to sink deeper into their sockets. Bracken is plagued by a hacking, painful cough that brings up small amounts of blood while Kata is restless and shivers in the corner.

The group realizes they need to do something soon. Orlčans and Bracken have a hurried conversation in Dwarven and Bracken seems committed to going out in a blaze of glory. The two formulate a tentative plan to find some sort of goal and let Bracken either carve a path through the zombies or serve as a distraction while the rest of the group sneaks away.

A quick discussion between Orlčans and Javāsa (with some information from the DM) reveals that there is a bakery a few blocks to the northeast, a hardware store a few blocks east, and a blacksmith a ways to the southeast, all of which would be useful to reach. Even farther east is the docks and possible escape from the city. That is a goal for the longer term, however. The more immediate problems are Bracken and Kata’s imminent demise and surviving until the end of the day.

While all this is going on, Javāsa decided to take Kata into another room and end her misery rather than let the zombie bite slowly kill her. Lacking any other real option, he tearfully drops her body out of the window, staying to briefly mourn her passing. After only a few moments, Kata’s body begins to shake and the dog gets up and lurches away, another member of the zombie horde.

Meanwhile, the group has decided to make their way over the rooftops toward the bakery, starting with the nearest building. This building has stores on the first level (jewelry stores, a tempting looting target under any other circumstances) and apartments above. It contains three long, narrow “units” per floor, with three fire escape-style staircases reaching from the ground to the roof on the back of the building. The building is only 20 feet away from the inn and the same height, so the jump shouldn’t be too hard.

Quote Originally Posted by DM Note
Once again, the importance of clear, precise, detailed description is underscored. The image in my mind of the adjacent building is one of staircases climbing the outside of the building from the ground to the roof. Apparently the players either thought that the stairs didn’t go all the way up to the roof or that they started on the 2nd floor with ladders to the ground, like actual fire escapes. Either way, they thought that the zombies couldn’t make it all the way to the roof. A couple of them mentioned later that, if they had known, they would have tried another plan. In my case, I think this is simply inexperience talking – I wasn’t sure exactly what information to give. I also think that situations like this are good reasons for players to ask lots of questions.
Bracken has the highest Jump modifier and the highest weight, so he ties a rope around his waist and easily clears the gap. Javāsa finds a post hole in the inn roof and sticks Bracken’s waraxe in the hole, securing the rope on this end. Bracken simply braces himself against the short railing on the second roof and uses his strength and mass to hold the rope taut. Orlčans is last over, and he brings the axe with him, swinging across the gap and being hauled to the roof by Bracken.

All this activity has attracted undead attention, and zombies start to swarm around the building, with some of them taking the stairs to the roof. Looking over, the group sees three zombies on the next roof, and starts to feel trapped. Javāsa begins to hack at the stairs to keep the zombies from coming up, but it’s apparent that this method is too slow, so Malthenniel take out a pillowcase and some flint and steel and sets the case on fire before dropping it on the stairs, trying to burn them down. The pillowcase catches and doesn’t go out when dropped but the stairs aren’t yet on fire, though one zombie lights up and falls to the ground. Javāsa picks up on the idea and between the two of them, Malthenniel and Javāsa have flames burning on all the staircases in only a few rounds. Killian and Bracken, meanwhile, worked to hold back any zombies that made it to the roof, both of them having close shaves but only Bracken sustaining any additional bites.

Quote Originally Posted by DM Note
As far as I know, there’s no real mechanic for an object catching on fire as a result of contact with open flame. I think the assumption is that it happens automatically if the material is flammable. If I’m wrong, someone please enlighten me.

In this case, lacking time to peruse the rules in depth, I ruled that there’s a 15% chance of the wood catching from the torch-sized flame (remember, there wasn’t much in the way of kindling and the fire was just dropped onto the stairs). For each additional round of exposure, the chance increases by 5% (so, after two rounds it would have a 20% chance, etc). If a second source of fire, the chance increases by an additional 15% but still only increases by 5% for each additional round. That’s how I ruled and it seemed to work well.
After a few rounds, with the stairs burning merrily, the group realized that they’re pretty much out of options other than retreat. The stairs are on fire and the ground is swarming with zombies. The next building has zombies already on the roof and the same problem staircases. Faced with no options, Javāsa ties another rope around his waist, casts Jump on himself for a much-needed boost (he doesn’t have any ranks in Jump to speak of, and the speed penalty is a killer), and launches himself back toward the inn.

He needs to hit DC 20 to make it and has a +8 modifier to his roll. His player rolls and…it’s a 5 for a total Jump check of 13. However, because they’re on the roof, the players suggest the possibility that Javāsa finds a window in the third floor and dives through. It’s just too cinematic to pass up and could save the party from certain TPK. So, with a loud crashing sound, the halfling bursts through the window and rolls out into the hallway, bracing himself against the wall as quickly as possible. Meanwhile the others in the party, starting with the other halfling, slide along the rope and into the hallway, where they help hold the end and make it possible for the party to escape. And so the group survives (barely) to fight another day!

I hope you've enjoyed today's installment, and (as always) appreciate any comments.