The Western Lands

5- Breaking Away

Had a discussion about next steps…split the group into two…1 group takes the captured ants and the cage back to the employers. Get another cage if possible. The other group relocates the “capture camp” further north along the ant trail and closer to the “employer camp”.

Tig designed a system to dig a hole, put the cage into, and set up a rail system to be able to pull the cages out of the holes with horses.

The rangers returned from scouting and did not have any new information.

Betaya talked to Tig about the children. Shouldn’t we be concerned about them?

Frank used his naturalist skill to determine where the pheromones come from in ant body.

Lots of discussion to determine what should happen next.

Tig, Frank, Donny, and Betaya decide that they are going to go find the kids. Melissa sends out her “bird” and it comes back after spotting some goblins and hobgoblins to the east.

Melissa tells the group that if you do leave the group, you will forfeit any earnings from catching the ants….so they decide to leave at night.

The second group comes back with 2 empty cages after having dropped off the captured ants with the employers.

During the first watch of the night, the group of 5 sneaks off. Frank pushes to try to create a potion from the pheromones of an ant, but the group overrides and decides to walk around the tarpits instead.

They head off to the east to try to find them. After passing the tar pits, Betaya is hit by a dart and more continue to whizz through the air. Tig took a hit as well…Donny urged the group to run away….Betayah and Donny started to run away…along with Tig. Then Frank got hit as well.

The group ran for cover in a group of trees. Donny spotted a larger figure walking near the base of the hill. Without any further events…the group ran around the west side of the hill, occasionally spotting figures near the base of it. Donny sensed something wasn’t quite right and called to the group to gather up and not separate from each other.

A dart whizzed by the group’s head and at the base of a different hill, they came upon a huge humanoid with a spiked club. Tig fired at it, but missed, while Oedustov, Donny, and Frank ran up to confront it.
Frank created fire then manipulated it next to Donny to light up the area. The creature stepped up to engage Oedustov so Frank threw the fire into his face to try to blind him. Oedustov swung his sword and missed so poorly that he cut his own arm. Donny stepped up and attacked but barely fazed him by his swing. Tig grapples briefly, and Oedustov made a strong hit followed by Donny’s thrust. This was enough to bring down the creature.

Unfortunately, a second beast engaged from the north and attacked Frank. The rest of the group turned to engage once the first was felled. The creature made a wild swing, missed, and fell to the ground with Tig on his back.

The group attacked the creature on the ground, and it was beaten to a pulp.

Donny was so exhausted from the combat that he fell to the ground.

4- Rolling Stones

Role Call:

At Base Camp:

In the Hills

Scouting Elsewhere:

The session re-opens mid-day, most of the characters are on a hill above the ant-trail. They have sent a message to the basecamp via Melissa’s Falcon telling them strike base camp and bring the entire operation closer in.

This advance party has a cart, loaded with (among other items) a cage, 4 bear leg-traps and some rope.

Donny and Tig decide to position the bear traps and cage before rolling the boulders down the hill. The bear traps are sprinkled near one part of the trail, and the cage is put in a gully where they hope an ant or two might wander through the door.

Joey suggests using the horses to pull some of the rocks lower on the hill up to a higher point, this so that they can have a clearer path for the boulders they roll and more ready chances to stir up the ants. Donny volunteers to tie rope around the rocks, which he does with some difficulty, and after a half hour’s work, the boulders have been rigged and dragged up to a high point on the hill. They now have six boulders to roll into the ant trail.

Tig volunteers to man the cage on the first roll in case an ant strolls into the cage. He takes a position on the top of the cage so he can drop the door if an ant wanders in.

Frank successfully manipulated the earth beneath the boulder to send it down into the ant trail. Frank set the first boulder rolling by squinting his eyes and destabilizing the earth underneath it. The boulder tumbled down the hill, hit the line and scattering the ants. Within seconds the four bear traps had ants and the players started to move in to do what they could.

Oedustov and Donny ran down the hill with their ant catchers. Frank cast waved his hands around each other and the earth around one of the captured ants undulated like water then formed itself around the ant, effectively burying most of it. He repeated this two more times for two of the other captured ants. The rest of the expedition began running down the hill en masse.

The swarm quickly grew with angry ants circling into a confused mass. One of the ants found the cage, but instead of walking into it it decided to go after Tig, who was waiting on top. The ant climbed up the front of the cage and Tig dropped off the back, gracelessly landing on his face. From up on the hill Tedrich wavd his hands and the tar residue in the ant’s mandibles caught on fire.

Tig picked himself up and ran around the cage only to run headlong into another ant which tried to butt him, but failed. Tedrich acted again and this ant caught fire.

Tig decided to make a run for the open cage door, so that he could close the door and find safety inside of the cage….he thought briefly about leaving the door open to entice an ant in and try to jump over it… and then thought better of it and closed the cage door for safety.

Tig began to load his crossbow to assist with the battle from his position. He took a shot at an ant and hit. The wounded ant advanced on Tig and the cage. Tig began loading another bolt in his crossbow.

Oedustov and Donny met a couple ants that were starting to come up the hill…The ants took up a defensive position….then Frank lit one of the ants on fire. It came barreling into Donny and Oedustov of whom the latter took some minor damage. Donny stepped back defensively, while Oedestov attacked it with his sword, cutting it nearly in half with one swing.

Oedestov tried to take a swing at a different ant with his ant-catcher. He missed, and the ant advanced on him. The ant bit, but Oedestov successfully parried the attack. From a distance Frank lit this ant on fire. Oedestov again tried to noose (the now burning) ant again and missed again. Frank uttered some words in an attempt to douse the fire with water, but failed. The ant lunged for Oedestov and he took a hit.

From a distance the now exhausted Frank, cast shape earth to encourage a lower boulder to roll into the ants…..the boulder rolled a small distance and crushed two ants in the process.

The swarm was starting to wane. Oedestov searched out Melissa for some healing while Donny tried to circle around a boulder to try to lose the interest of the ants that had taken up a defensive position near him. He yelled for others to follow him to give him help with the ants that are trapped in the earth.

Melissa found Oedestov and healed the wound in his side, and then turned her attention to an exhausted looking Frank to offer her assistance. Frank shyly declined, despite his obvious need. Joey and one of the redshirts began to follow Donny around the boulders.

Tedrich continued his offensive assault and lit another three ants on fire which had surrounded Tig’s cage.

Oedestov tried to approach the buried ants from the other side, but the three ants who had taken defensive up positions against him followed his every move. He backed up slowly to try to lure them away from Donny, Joey, and a Red Shirt and towards the cage.

Donny approached one of the (now partially buried) ants and started to try to noose it with his ant catcher. An exhausted Frank slowly started making his way to the buried ants as well, Melissa following to keep an eye on the weakened junior mage. At some point though, he realized he was done until he could regain his strength and he waved Melissa on to go help Donny.

After a few unsuccessful tries, Donny concentrated and made an extra determined attempt to noose one of the ants. This worked and Joey and the nearby redshirt grabbed on to the catcher.

Melissa arrived with a second ant catcher. Donny told her that he had his ant under control and that she should try to secure another of the buried ants. Which she did.

A couple redshirts finally got to Tig who was still caught in the cage- “Wow- are you alright? That was crazy!” Tig paid them no mind and took a shot at one of the lingering ants. He hit and an angry ant turned in the direction of the cage. The ant charged, but in the direction of the redshirts who had just joined Tig. Tig saw what was happening and tried to open the cage to lure the approaching ant inside. There wasn’t enough time though and the ant took a bite out of one of the unsuspecting redshirts. Red Shirt #4 wheeled around to try to defend himself, but the ant attacked again and knocked him to the ground. RS#4 took another bite from the ant…and was completely gutted. RS#2 hit the ant with minimal damage. Tedrich tried to light this last ant on fire, but failed. RS#2 made a solid hit and then RS#1 followed it up with another. Tig put a crossbow bolt into the ant…but it kept on going. RS#2 hit the ant again…the ant finally began to falter. Oedustov approached the ant with an ant catcher to try to capture it, but at the last second Oedustov dropped his ant catcher and decided to attack the ant with his sword. He made a devastating hit and the ant finally went down.

There were a couple of un-uncaptured ants still lingering and Tedrich set these alight, completely exhausting himself in the process. After the last ant was on fire, he gripped his stomach in agony and collapsed to the ground. His work was done.

Tig released himself from the cage and with the help of Oedustov and a couple of the nearby redshirts they brought the cage over to where Donny and Melissa had ants noosed and subdued. The bear traps were opened and these ants were wrestled into the cage. The same was done for the third captured ant.

The party, exhausted, took a breather on the hillside. All were quiet for awhile. Just the sound of the nearby column of ants- thousands of feet trudging away nearby- filled the air. Joey at last stood up and announced. “Well! That went about as good as could be expected! With a little thought and effort, we can refine this down to a science!”

3- Ant that a shame which the party ventures into the hills to find the ants and discovers so, so much more...

By the time the captured ant was dragged into the cage and locked away there were only a few hours left to sunrise. A few people managed to sleep, most were wide awake. As soon as the sky started to lighten, Duffy began barking orders and rousing the few who’d managed to nod off.

The plan for the day was thus: Thomm and Emma would continue to scout to the south to find other ant trails beyond the one to the northeast. Bad Ladle John would stay at the camp to recuperate while Duffy and a couple of redshirts would tend to camp. The rest of the party, led by Melissa and Joey, would venture to the northeast to find the ant trail the scouts had discovered the previous afternoon.

One cart was loaded with an empty cage, some water, bear traps, ant catchers and emergency provisions. The valley the expedition had camped in opened to the northeast, so travel was relatively easy for the horse drawn cart. About a mile in they came to the base of a large hill, which they skirted to the east until they came across the ant trail (1). A river of giant ants trundled busily along in front of them in a northwest to southeast route. The ants journeying to the northwest carried nothing, but the ones traveling southeast carried large balls of some kind of tar in their mandibles.

At this point, the party debated (very briefly) about the wisdom (or serious lack thereof) of trying to snag an ant out of the line. This idea was discarded in favor of following the trail to the source of the tar where, they reasoned, the ants might be more spread out to collect the substance. The bulk of the party walked along the ant trail, keeping a reasonable distance between themselves and the ants. Because the ant trail went straight up the large hill the party had just skirted, Joey took a couple of redshirts with him and traveled around the base of the hill to meet up with the party on the other side.

The party traveled along the trail over the top of the hill and along a valley. Following the ants over the crest of another hill, they came upon the ants’ destination: a tar pit (2). The ants formed a relatively tight formation as they pulled tar from the pits. The characters were hoping the ants would be spread out more for easy capture but this was not the case.

the red line denotes the ant trail

The party noticed as well that the ants were somehow making the tar into tidy spherical globs in their mandibles for the return trip home. Oedustov tried forming the tar into a similar ball with his own hands, but it oozed fairly quickly through his fingers. Just in case the tar could be used for a lure somewhere down the road, he emptied a tool chest from the cart (which had by this time rejoined the party) and filled it with tar.

Oedustov, curious to see if his rations might be used for bait, tossed some dried meat at the ants, but it was ignored.

Not feeling confident that this would be a good place to capture the ants, the expedition decided to trace the trail of the ants back to their ant hill to see what else they could learn about their quarry. Joey and a few redshirts once again separated from the group as the rest traced their way back towards the anthill. At this point it was early afternoon.

The expedition traveled for roughly two hours following the busy and swiftly moving trail of ants. They were making their way down a hillside (3) when they heard shrill screams coming from the ant trail: a small child was clinging tightly to the back of an approaching ant and screaming for help to the adventurers. The ant it was riding was on the far side (outbound side) of the trail from the expedition. Oedustov tried to approach the line to try to snag it with one of the ant traps, but when he got within 15 feet of the trail, three ants peeled off from the line and took up a defensive stance.

Frank made a whiplike gesture with his arms and the ball of tar in one of the defensive ants mandibles burst into flames. It staggered forward, head on fire towards the party, the rest maintained their defensive position. The trail continued to move on, with the child, now identifiable as a little girl, still gripping the ant and screaming for help. She was about to pass where the adventurers were.

  • Frank attempted to set another ball of tar on fire, but without any luck.
  • The flaming ant staggered into the middle of the expedition before collapsing and curling into a ball.
  • The girl, still screaming, was now uphill from the adventurers and traveling away rapidly.

Donny called out to the child to jump off the ant. “I can’t! They’ll eat me!” she screamed as she disappeared over the crest of the hill.

The party at this point decided to retrace their path, heading outbound on the ant trail, their rationale being that the child would eventually return on the inbound line of ants and might be easier to reach. After an hour walk, someone noticed that a rope was dangling from a tree that hung over the ant trail (4). It hung low enough that the girl might have been able to reach it.

It was starting to get late in the day. Not wanting to leave the fate of the little girl to chance, it was decided that some of the party would set up camp by the tree while the rest of the party would return to base camp to coordinate with Duffy and the scouts. Melissa, Oedustov, Uther, Frank, Donny, Betaya and Tig would stay behind while the rest would return to base camp. The cage was unloaded from the cart just in case it was needed.

Four watches of two were established, with Melissa taking both the first and second shift. One sentry stayed near the ant trail while the other stuck closer to the camp. At the start of the final shift, Donny marched up the hill to relieve Uther of his watch and found Uther dead- his throat was shredded, almost as if it had been raked open by claws or sliced repeatedly with a knife. Donny raised an alarm and most of the crew ran up the hillside to see what had happened. It looked like there had been no struggle, something had snuck up on Uther and slashed his throat in a most violent way.

Tig, still near the camp, shouted in alarm: A large dark shape vaulted over the nearby ant trail. From what anybody could see, it looked like something roughly human in size and shape was running off into the distance on the far side of the trail.

Unable to cross the ant trail themselves, the party regrouped. The rest of the night the remaining party kept awake to watch for more intruders. In the morning, the party buried Uther while they waited for the rest of the expedition to return from base camp.

When Joey returned with the rest of the party, the group consulted and it was decided that it would be necessary, for efficiency and safety’s sake (not to mention to better keep an eye out for the distressed child), to move base camp closer to the ant trail. One of the redshirts was sent back to tell Duffy, Bad Ladle John and the rest of the crew of their decision. A new camp was chosen a little bit farther to the south (5).

While the bulk of the party waited for Duffy and the other carts to arrive at the new base camp. Joey, Frank, Donny Oedustov and Tig scouted along the rest of the ant trail to see if they could find the colony.

Another mile or so on the party rounded a bend and found the ant hill, a tall mound of broken up earth out of which four streams of ants were emerging. Here and there, the sun glinted off of bits of metallic deposits that were mixed in with the churned up earth. The four stood up on a hillside overlooking the ant hill considering what their next move might be.

Frank reviewed his elementalist repertoire, considering plugging up the hill with earth, or creating a wall to stop the flow of ants. All of these things required much more power than he currently had.

Oedustov was impressed with the way setting fire to one of the ant’s tarballs had worked the previous day. He proposed several times to set the ants on fire. Most of the party demurred on these ideas, as it seemed to only affect one ant, and it had let to the fast death of the ant which was counter to their goal of capturing ants alive.

Tig’s brain was trying to formulate an effective trap he could engineer.

After the group had mulled over their options for a little while, Joey spoke up:

“Do you remember stepping on an ant trail when you were a kid? The ants would scatter and wheel about randomly for awhile before reforming the trail. Maybe we could do the same…” With this, he grabbed one of the ant catchers and used the pole end to pry loose a nearby boulder. The large rock bounced and rolled down the hill and into the trail. The ants scattered. For the next ten minutes a radius of about 50 feet was filled with randomly circling ants. Gradually the ants reformed into a line.

Because they were so close to the anthill, repeating this exercise in this particular spot with the intention of capturing an ant didn’t seem like a particularly good idea… also, they needed more bodies to lend their strength to wrangling an ant. The five decided to rejoin the main party to explain their idea and find a better place to execute the capture of more ants.

Once regrouped, the party traveled a bit farther to the north and found a hill overlooking the trail where they could roll a boulder into its path. Melissa was starting to become concerned because Duffy and the remainder of the expedition should have met up with them by now. She sent out her falcon to see where everybody was at. After thirty minutes the falcon returned and related to her that base camp was unmoved. She sent out the falcon again to look for the redshirt that had been sent to retrieve the rest of the party. Another 20 minutes passed and the falcon returned to tell her that he’d found the messenger dead, murdered. Melissa then tied a note to her falcon’s leg explaining the situation of the rest of the party and sent it off to be delivered to Duffy. Then she turned to the expedition: “From now on we have to stick close. The ants are not the most dangerous thing in these hills. No one travels alone from now on!”

2- Something Hazy which the subtitle runs off the side of the screen before the thought is finished
  • Arrival at Gurum
  • Troubles at Gurum
  • Nighttime trip to the Marchlands

The next morning the expedition is roused by Duffy, as per usual. Tig attempts to tell Melissa and Duffy about his foray into the fog the previous night, which interests Melissa, but irritates Duffy greatly: “I didn’t hire you to go die in some evil fog: I hired you to kill ants! This is a problem we can look into later, but for now, we’re on an ant hunt. Wander off again and I’ll kill you myself!”

The party proceeds south and east through the foothills to the location that has been indicated to Duffy. Now that the expedition is off of the roads, travel with the cart is more difficult and a journey of only fifteen miles ends up taking a good part of the day.

The emissaries are waiting for the party when they arrive. The rendezvous location is on a large flat hilltop that sits in the middle of a wide valley. The emissaries have set up a camp for themselves here- nine tents of high quality red and gold fabric are arranged in a circle. Each is emblazoned with a sigil of three gold rings pulling at the apexes of a strangely dimensioned central triangle.

The emissaries all wear masks that conceal their faces. Likewise, they don red monks robes and gauntlets so that every part of their body is covered.

Duffy, Melissa, Joey and Bill go to meet with the emissaries while the rest of the party is told to hang back.

The players, from a distance, watch a conversation start between Duffy and the leader of the emissaries- this proceeds for a few minutes until a few of the emissaries step away to pull back the fabric from one of the tents, which turns out not to be a tent at all, but a cage that had been draped with fabric. The emissaries continue to pull away the fabric from two mare cages. Duffy looks astonished for a second, then begins to gesture and shout angrily.

Cross words are exchanged between Duffy and the emissary, with Melissa watching the interchange with a look of disgust. Then Duffy and Melissa hang back to consult with Joey and Bill, theres more angry gestures and shouting between the four while Duffy holds his head like he has a huge headache. Finally Duffy throws his hands into the air in a gesture of defeat, then walks back with Melissa to talk to the emissaries.

Melissa starts discussions with the emissaries this time. She gestures to Duffy, then gesture to the cages. The emissary says something to which Duffy responds with some angry fist waving and yelling. The other emissaries reach for their swords, then Melissa holds up her hands and say something that diffuses the situation.

The emissary says a few more words. Duffy and Mallisa nod a few times, then turn back to Joey and Bill. They all consult one more time, then come back to the group. Duffy climbs up onto one of the wagons and delivers the following speech:

_“Men (and ladies): I’ve done you a bit of a disservice. Through a misunderstanding between myself and our patron for this expedition, I’ve put ourselves into a much more dangerous situation than I previously understood and presented to you upon hire.

We are not here to slay ants and collect the corpses. We are here to capture live ants and deliver them here in cages that will be supplied to us.

In defense of my own oversight, there was no talk of cages mentioned or required when we were hired, which led me to understand that we were to be engaged in the act of killing only. Now that we have arrived, our employer has provided us with his own cages for our use.

Obviously this is a much more dangerous task. I’ve negotiated with our liaison for a higher price per ant- an additional 200 silver per ant.

Additionally: I’m a man who pays for his mistakes, and I owe you all something extra for this one. Out of my own pocket: five extra silver per ant to all of you… on top of the lay you’re getting. And even more so: I will pay five gold to the first of you to come up with a safe and effective scheme for capturing these ants alive.
We have five days to capture as many ants as we can. There’s great money to be made here! And you lot are the crew to do it! Can I count on you?”_

There are a few grumbles from the group, but most shout their assent. One of the redshirts, however, grabs his pack and departs towards Gurum.

The carts are then rolled over to the emissaries’ tents, where the three large cages are waiting. The cages are incredibly light despite the construction, which has the bars placed close together. Long bars for carrying the cages are welded about four feet up from the bottom of the cages and give them the look of sedan chairs. Eight men can carry the cages with a safe distance between them and the ants that will be placed inside. One side of the cage slides up to open and a bolt holds it locked in place when closed.

Some rearrangement of the equipment in the carts is made. The ants , the party is told, can be found farther in, to the east as indicated by the main emissary. This is the first time any of the player characters has heard the emissaries speak, and they’re alarmed to discover that the voice of the emissary is suspiciously throaty with strong hints of a lisp.

The party departs from the emissaries’ camp and travels a mile or two farther up the valley where they set up their own camp.

  • Reports from scouts of an ant trail to the northeast
  • Scout ant arrives in camp & is captured
1- We're looking for a few hardy souls! which the players are recruited for a relatively simple, though unusual errand.


The campaign opens in the streets of Highguard, just outside of the Third Teat. A tall and well built man in leather armor, a sword in his belt, is standing on a barrel on the corner calling out for all within earshot to hear his pitch. Standing around the barrel are his compatriots, ready to greet all who step forward as potential recruits.


A crowd has gathered. Some are there to watch the spectacle, some hover, wondering if they could drop the drudgery of their daily chores for a couple of weeks to pick up what sounds like easy lucre (I wonder if I could borrow a sword from the armory… or maybe uncle Herrick…?), a few actually step forward to sign the contract.

OEDUSTOV: Aye! I’m game to kill some ants! Sign me up!

DUFFY: Well! You’re a strapping lad and that’s a fine sword you’re carrying… but you’ll be useless to me, boy, unless you find some shoes to wear. We’re walking a good ways to get where we’re going and trudging all over who-knows-what once we get there. (A large number of the crowd look woefully down at their feet.) Get some shoes and come back son! There’ll be a spot waiting if you do.

DONNY BOY: I’d like to join!

DUFFY: Shoes! Why am I being accosted by the barefooted masses today? Find some shoes and we’ll talk…

TIG TAYAH: I am Tig TaYAH, world renowned treasure hunter and adventurer at your service!

DUFFY:World Renowned? I haven’t heard of you… Have you ever done battle with an ant, Sir Famous Treasure Hunter?

…and so it goes…

The characters are promised a 64th lay of the profits from the venture. The bounty the Free Council receives for ants are valued at 500 silver each.

The expedition departs the following morning. Three horse drawn carts are laden down with supplies for the expedition: rope, poles, bear traps, provisions for a crew of 24 humans and six horses- enough for two weeks, water barrels, divers supplies and a couple of tents.

The crew:

Only a few hours out of Highguard, the expedition is chased down by the City Guard. A detail of six horsemen overtake the group and announce that the group is harboring a fugitive by the name of Slim Peter.

No one in the group goes by the name Slim Peter, but the guards insist that they’ve learned that he traveled out with the ant-hunting expedition this morning. Donny demands to know what it is that Slim Peter has done. The guards explain that he’s a known thief, most recently wanted for the robbery of an elderly shopkeeper.

The man in question is nowhere to be seen, but a discription provided by the Guard indictates that Slim Peter is probably known to this group as Horace, who is nowhere to be seen. Melissa is reluctant to hand over a member of the expedition but Duffy is impatient to keep moving and begins rummaging through the back of the carts, in case Horace/Peter is hiding under the equipment.

Duffy comes across Emma in his search, finding her burrowed under some sacks of oats. “You aren’t looking for this one as well, are you?” The City Guard say no, and Emma protests that she was sneaking a nap, not hiding. Duffy gives regards her with new suspicion, but then resumes ransacking the carts. Peter is soon found crouched between some water barrels.

Peter attempts to make a rousing speech about his innocence and how he is now a brother of the Highguard Free Council and should be defended from the City Guard’s false accusations. Only Donny seems swayed. The rest shrug their shoulders and let the constabulary make off with their purse snatcher.

The group continues on through the rest of the day with no incidents. Bad Ladle John sets up a fire and rigs up a pot to make stew. Joey the Hobbit walks up to the PCs and tells them how Bad Ladle John earned his name. (story to be inserted later)

Camp is set up and the characters pass the night without incident.


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