I've been lax in my posting about my ongoing D&D campaign. I'm lazy.
Sessions 9, 10, and 11 have passed. I'll at least summarize.
In session 9, the party had just left Moore's Creek with a small group of slaves. They were playing impostor as Athurn, a henchman of the Lathien family. They were to get another "package" on their way back to Drugen, which turned out to be a pair of cowled people, one of whom did not speak, the other spoke in a harsh accent. They traveled through the cold night and arrived at Drugen before dawn. Shortly after getting through the gate, Jerry's character, Father Kreuz, who has a particular passion for Orcs, noticed an orc-like smell from these two cowled individuals. With his mace in one hand, he reached over and tugged the hood off of one, and oh hey! an orc! Battle was suddenly joined in the dark and quiet streets of Drugen, and the snow was turned red with blood. The two orcs, one a cleric sort, the other his guard, proved to be tough, but the party dispatched them and took off toward the Lathien estate, with their semi-freed slaves tow, avoiding the town watch. They made it to the Lathien's walled compound, and sought to gain entrance. Employing the Athurn impersonation again, the tried to bluff their way into the compound but were had. In the ensuing fight and flight, some of the slaves that they were escorting were killed, while the two shifty ones escaped into the night.
Afterward, the party decided to try to track down the Orcs, wondering how and why orcs were being arranged to be smuggled into Drugen. They went back to Moore's Creek, fighting a bugbear ambush along the way. They made contact with Velder and started asking their questions. Velder wanted them to help him, in exchange for their information. One of his rivals, Palmer, was bringing gemstones into the town from elsewhere, and Velder wanted to know where they were coming from. The party saw that Palmer had some dealings with mercenary guards of some food warehouses, and so they got jobs with the mercenary company guarding these food warehouses. After a time, they were told that a wagon caravan was leaving in the night, and they were to make sure that it was not followed. They were given very specific instructions to stop along the trail one mile outside of Moore's Creek, and to wait there for two hours to make sure that no one followed, and then to go back to Moore's Creek, and absolutely not to follow the wagons further from there.
Naturally, the party decided to follow the wagons to see where they were headed. They soon saw that the wagons were headed into territory of the Red Hand orcs, some miles away from Moore's Creek. As they followed the wagontrail, they saw the site of an old battlefield. They noticed that there had been recent excavation, and it looked like someone was digging up mass graves, and extracting the bones. While some of the party picked over the excavation sites, the thief scouted ahead along the wagon trail, and where it entered thick woods, he spied some orcish sentries mounted on wargs. Under the cover of darkness, the party decided to stake out the excavation and the road, hiding within the treeline to watch both. Soon a group came out of the woods and onto the battlefield, and began to continue digging and putting bones into hand carts. The thief snuck closer, trying to see whether these were men or orcs, but he was seen by a guard, and he had his answer, half a dozen orcs mounted on wargs charged after him, while some of the diggers dropped their shovels and ran after as well. The party lured them into an impromptu ambush and soon overcame them. After, as night turned to day, they set off into the forest to see where the wagons had gone, and where these orcs had come from. After some distance, they saw ahead a clearing in the forest, and within the clearing, a large structure, still being constructed, but mostly finished. At its front, up some stairs was a large doorway, and before it, some empty wagons and some orc guards, as well as a large bell mounted from a frame with a mallet beside it.
They decided to attack, but wanted to keep the guards from sounding the bell in alarm. They had in their possession a scroll of silence and a scroll of arcane lock. There was a long distance from the cover of the trees up to the orcs and the bell. They formulated a plan to have some of the party, with the livery of the mercenary guards, approach the from the trees while two of the party snuck up from the opposite direction. Once their sneaks were in position to silence the bell and lock the main door, they attacked. Their plan went off well, and the alarm was not raised, as far as they could tell, with the bell silenced. They fought the orcs and overcame them, though one of the orcs proved especially tough. They looted the dead, and prepared to move into this structure, apparently a temple or fortress of Orcus.
The players officially named one of their strategies "The Striker Sandwich". They've had a goodly amount of success putting their two strikers onto a single opponent in order to quickly drop that opponent. It is not without its drawbacks though. The strikers are not built to absorb a lot of punishment, and the thief took a short dirt nap while they worked on dropping the toughest of the orcs.
I've noticed a difference between the stats for monsters in the Monster Manual, and monster stats generated via the formula from the DMG, with this monster math cruncher. I've found that I like the stats from the DMG formula better sometimes than the stats in the MM, because sometimes the MM stats seem bizarrely under powered.
The hardest thing about monsters on the fly, instead of straight out of the MM is their powerz. Players and monsters both get to do cool stuff, like big heavy-hitting attacks, or pushing opponents around, or buffing people, etc. And while I say that this is the hardest thing about original monsters, I have been having a great deal of success with simply plagiarizing from the Player Handbook. If I have a level 5 "soldier" monster, I just flip through the fighter powerz in the PHB and start stealing! Sometimes I come up with stuff just on the fly too, which is pretty easy. All I need to know is how many dice of damage its going to do, or how far it can push someone, or what have you. The rest is largely cool effect/flavor text.
Next week, Session 12. We'll see how things going inside the Temple of Orcus.