For a variety of real-life issues, this session saw a very small table. Faced with the choice of putting off play until such time that folks could actually show or coming up with some lame excuse as to why everyone else's character couldn't participate in the session, we decided on the latter. Given that the party was trudging through the wilderness where they knew an active orc lair existed, we decided that the characters and henchmen of the players who showed were outriders for the party — scouting out ahead to root out any wandering monster encounters.
The evening began with a night encounter with a Troll who seemed to be in command of a group of blind-folded, feral orcs. Armed with nothing but brutally spiked gauntlets, they bore a wide variety of nasty scars and had been branded on their stomach and chest with the tribal symbol of the rot- grub-tossing-orcs that they had encountered on their way out to the Dwarven mountains.
Desperate to track these orcs back to their lair, they were forced by darkness to wait until morning, when they woke to a nasty surprise. The orc's bodies decomposed at a much faster rate than one might expect and out of the muck emerged several small carrion crawlers. Though these were relatively easily dispatched, it greatly disturbed the party.
In the daylight, they managed to find a series of cave openings that they hoped would turn out to be the lair. As a side note, we decided to make extensive use of miniatures for this session. My players have been hinting that they would like to and given the relative complexity of some of the encounter areas, I didn't really mind the visual aids. It actually made the combats go quite smoothly.
In process, they encountered orcs decked out in leather aprons with long leather gloves armed with tongs. They discovered the purpose of these outfits when they interrupted some kind of ceremony where the tongs were being used to place rot grub on the stomachs of other orcs. They also found a "birthing" room where it seemed orcs were being manufactured. Mixed in among all of this were some carrion crawlers (which the party accidentally made angry) and a type of carrion-undead that caused those that looked upon them to be frozen in fear.
The most intriguing part of this session was the way a bunch of 1 and 2 HD creatures affected a mid-level party (ranging from 3rd to 6th level). Although the party PCs were immobilized a number of times via entangle spells, paralyzation and fear (leaving the henchmen to do the heavy combat lifting) no one was ever really in danger of dying. Rather, this session was all about resource management. Things like ammunition, torches, oil, spells, potions and scrolls got eaten up. When the party decided to retreat back to their camp, it was not due to low hit points, but rather because they had run out of virtually all of the above.
4 hours ago