Due mainly to illness, our numbers for this session were small, but we did have a new player at the table. He declared that he wanted to play a Thief as written (rather than my attempt at a sub-class), so I let him arrange his stats. Given the fact that the party was currently in elf lands, I also gave him the option to be an elf or half-elf according to the AEC rules. In order to justify why he was a thief rather than a regular spell-casting elf, he decided to go with the half-elf option and Raine became the newest PC in the party.
Since none of the cleric PCs were available due to the aforementioned illness, the party decided to reign in any grandiose plans, not only because adventuring sans clerics can be deadly, but for the practical reason that, for the time being, the home base needed to be the Summer Court for when the rest of our players are well enough to join in.
Feeling a tad bit guilty over their antics last session, by which they avoided taking responsibility for unleashing an undead horde upon the elf lands, they decided to offer their services to the Summer King as emissaries to the Cloud Giant King, whose castle was within a days travel upon eagle-back and who had a standing treaty with the elves.
When they arrived, however, they found that the King was missing and his castle had been overrun by half-giants and ogres. During their investigations, they learned that the Queen had escaped, but most likely was trapped somewhere inside the castle and that the leader of the half-giants and ogres was called Yellowface.
Most of this information they got from a half-giant named Ornak. Through some really good roleplaying and a clever use of spells, they managed to convince the half-giant to switch sides. With this new ally, and some information gained via a Clairvoyance spell, the party arranged a brilliant ambush of Yellowface (who turned out to be one their old nemeses — those who wear the golden masks). This created enough chaos within the castle to allow them to find and rescue the queen, which is where the session ended.
A few notes about how I ran this session:
This is where I get to admit that I am a minimalist when it comes to preparation. This session is a classic example of why.
At the beginning of the evening, I didn't know whether or not the castle of the Cloud Giant King had been over-run or that half-giants charmed by a mask-wearing magic user were the main culprits or that half-giants were normally desert nomads that minded their own business and were happy to leave well enough alone.
I had in mind both a location (the castle of the Cloud Giant King) and an event (the disappearance of the king and the ransacking of the castle). I knew the party was likely to go the the location, I just didn't know whether or not the event had happened yet.
Due to the needs of the evening (keeping everybody entertained within close proximity to the Summer Court) I decided to have the event occur; however, it was originally meant to be accomplished with a group of evil giants. Such a reality was beyond the ability of the party. Therefore, I changed the intended giant invasion to a group of half-giants and ogres led by a magic-user in order to make the situation on par with the power of the party.
This may sound as if I need to hand in my OSR membership card, but I make a huge distinction between events and locations. Had the party decided to go explore a castle occupied by giants, I would have given them giants, not half-giants and ogres. The difference is based on choice and who makes the choice. An adventure based on location comes out of player choice, so whatever lives there, lives there. Events are my choice, therefore I feel obligated to make sure that such things are mostly about information (feeding player choice). If that information comes via combat, I want to make sure that it is something that will challenge, not overwhelm.
Thus, spurred by the necessity to replace giants with something less overwhelming and the fact that my players like talking to my monsters, half-giants were born. They now wander the deserts in small tribes mostly minding their own business. Had I been anything more than a minimalist in my preparations, half-giant desert nomads would not now be a part of my campaign world.
18 hours ago