It was interesting preparing for this portion of the campaign.

To recap: our party (Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger) decided to pursue divergent short-term goals of theirs and recruit new party members before eventually reconvening to cleanse the yuan-ti from Silver Hollow.

The first path is the Fighter, who’s gone to Fallcrest in the Nentir Vale.

The new characters (starting from 1st level), were a Bard, Monk, Paladin, and Rogue. I had initially thought to run the first adventure from the Scales of War adventure path. With an additional week of prep time, I decided against it.

Rescue at Rivenroar is too long, I think, for what we want to do. I need to help everyone “get into” their new characters, get them up to speed with some of the others, and eventually get them back to Fort Sungard where they’ll meet up with the rest of the characters. Rivenroar is too involved, I think.

My initial hook was some “soldier buddies” of the Fighter’s (keying into his Background), who wanted to bring him in on a raider gig they had going. He “politely declined.” They left, pissed.

Then, the Fighter was approached by the city guard because Fallcrest’s lord (who I called “Malarkey”), wanted to greet the soldier from Gloomwrought. Darnek told Malarkey what was up, and they talked quest stuff.

In brief, Malarkey asked for help with some kobolds and bandits that were giving his men some grief. In exchange, he offered to send the Fighter and his buddies with an escort to get over the mountains (to Silver Hollow).

The group talked it over, and decided to hit the kobolds first.

Before heading out of town, the group stopped by a blacksmith to commission some plate armor for the Paladin. It was going to take at least a week — by coincidence, they had another suit that could be fitted to the Paladin.

On the road, the party came across the wreckage of wagon and a heap of dead pilgrims. They determined the most likely cause was a burrowing monster, but it was nowhere to be seen. They resolved to tell the first guards they saw.

A while later, they met some guards on the road.

The guards were . . . skeptical about the party’s claims, and wanted to be taken to the site of the attack. Some . . . implications were made.

When the party returned to the site with the guards, they found fewer bodies than there had been when they left. While the guards puzzled over the carnage, the Paladin started beating on the ground with his weapon.

A bulette burst from the ground and devoured one of the guards.

I’ll admit, I hadn’t intended on running an encounter with a bulette for 1st-level characters. That’s why they found the carnage initially. But they were willing to return to the site, and the Paladin was itching for a confrontation — not to mentioned the fact they looked for its lair earlier.

They got pretty lucky.

The Monk and Rogue got in some good hits (yay, sneak attack!). But the Bulette? It took a flying leap and body-slammed the Fighter for more than half his maximum health (he’s 5th-level, mind you). It really didn’t look good for them.

They got in a second round of attacks, and they landed some good hits. But they weren’t able to take the bulette down before its next turn. . .

And it critted the Paladin.

Oh sure, when the Bard pointed out that he’d imposed disadvantage and I rerolled the attack, it wasn’t a critical hit, but it still dealt more damage with a single attack than twice the Paladin’s maximum health.

The party managed to finish the bulette after that. But the Paladin was dead.