This session saw the first real attempt at wilderness exploration and a hint at a semblance of a plot. After losing his chitin armor to a roll on the Triple Secret Random Dungeon Fate Chart of Very Probable Doom, Hamlen very much wanted to find the material necessary to replace it. Knowing of a rumor that giant insects roamed the jungle to the south, the party set out to go giant insect hunting.
They bought several extra shields — to take full advantage of the house rule we've been using that a shield can be sacrificed to negate a hit. They brought along a pair of mules to haul the chitin they expected to find. They hired on a cleric to help heal wounds. They bought a potion of plant control from the alchemist. Finally, they asked some of the locals for some information about the area they were about to venture into. Fr. Valinor mentioned that he had not recently heard from a village priest in the vicinity, so the party decided to look him up.
After spending several days wandering and fighting some nasty, very poisonous insects, losing the hired cleric to a failed save v. poison and going through several shields, the party came across a pathway that led to the village they were looking for, or at least what remained of it.
The village was razed and littered with bodies. Among the carnage they found a few bodies that were not like the rest. They were albino, tatooed and had had their heads removed. They did not find the body of the priest.
They scoured the village for clues and found a trail that led to the lair of a wererat. Inside they found an albino body with a head still intact — covered by a magical golden mask. It carried a potion of a metallic liquid and a very rare iron scimitar.
The wererat was defeated by a creative use of a silver holy symbol, a bunch of wrestling and the revelation that the iron scimitar could actually damage the lycanthrope.
The village priest was found, bound, tortured and barely clinging to life. Later, Deacon Guron was told by the priest, a Fr. Taggert, that both the albinos and the wererat were after a relic, the eye of St. Gabriel. It had protected the village from giant insects and allowed them to collect valuable resins and saps in peace. Fr. Taggert hid the relic by gouging out his own eye and replacing it with the relic.
Our session ended with the party taking the priest back to Headwater and delivering their hard-earned chitin to the leather worker.
My players, being used to 3.5 and heavy-handed plots, immediately sniffed out the fact that these bodies and the mask were important. They began to ask my NPCs in earnest, what should we do? I have to admit, I was torn. I could have easily pointed them in a direction I wanted them to go, and they would have gone. This, however, is not the first time they have found clues to what is going on in the background. So far, they have showed little inclination to go where these clues point. I didn't want to force them in a direction they didn't seem to want to go. As such, I didn't push the issue and my NPCs simply said, 'find out more' and 'is there any information you want us to get?' We shall see what happens.
One last thing. Evidently, monstrous spiders in this campaign can speak. A random encounter turned into a very entertaining negotiation that ended with a very clever use of the potion of plant control. This is what I love about random encounters and the need to make things up as you go along — improvisation can come up with wonderful things.
13 hours ago