We skipped a week of D&D, but got together this past weekend to continue.
The party was exploring and fighting their way through this Temple of Orcus that they'd come across in the woods. They made their way down the hallway, checking the doors that they came across. I was doing "find traps?" checks for Andrew, and kept rolling a 2, so he disarmed a couple of traps with his face.
While doing this exploration, the paladin spied some shadows moving, further down the hall, and went to investigate, an orc in dark, silent armor charged her, and combat was joined.
I'll not be too granular, but this was a terrifically fun fight against some orcish semininjas. These guys were 'lurkers', and so they moved a lot, and had special attacks that let them slide the players around. Plus, the three ninja types came at them from two different directions, so in no time at all, the party and the orcs were all mixed up, with the orcs apparently bypassing the armored melee defender types and going for the softer wizard and cleric. The party performed admirably though. One of the orcs would stick a character with his sword, and then begin to drag that character off into the darkness of the hall. This was super fun from a GM perspective. Players are accustomed to bad guys trying to whack them repeatedly with swords, but are less accustomed to bad guys trying to drag them away into the darkness in order to eat them. As I said, it was a good fight, and the players had fun with it, as did the GM.
They did some more exploring, finding some barrels containing a sulfurous powder which they knew could be explosive when combined with another particular chemical, so they resolved to keep an eye out for said chemical. They found a torture chamber and a secret passage, and continued their exploring. Then they entered the Bone Room.
We had a bit of disagreement at the table. The paladin opened a door, and inside was a large room with piles of bone, and a robed orc. She charged into the room. At that point, I asked everyone to roll initiative, and gave the paladin a surprise round to act, but had her beginning from the door that she had opened. She did not like that at all, and did not want to "back up". Instead she wanted to start in the room where she'd run before I called for initiative. So we went with that.
The group charged in, within a round or two, most of the party was in the room, or halfway across it, heading toward this robed orc. But because they were coming from a cramped passage, at least the wizard had not even emerged into the room when the piles of bone shifted, and animated skeletons emerged from them.
They managed to drop the robed orc pretty quickly, and some of the dark light radiating from the skeletons faded, but they advanced. The party was completely scattered, and there were about five skeletons, one of which was a large minotaur skeleton.
Put simply, this was a tough fight, and I think we were all a little concerned about some deaths, or even a Total Party Kill.
Further complicating things, when they entered the room, one of the exits which was closed double doors, had the sound of chanting coming from it. The chanting stopped.. and Andrew's thief went and dropped a bar across the door, right before someone on the other side started trying to open it. This was a good move on their part, since the addition of the chanting whatever on the other side of the door would have made this very difficult combat into something else entirely.
As I said, the party was scattered and disorganized. The skeletons were single minded in their assault, and to make matters worse, they exploded in waves of jagged bones when bloodied and killed.
This became a halting exercise in strategy, trying to defend the softer members of the party, while destroying the skeletons, while trying not to get everyone killed when they exploded. It was pretty brutal. The paladin lost consciousness at least once, and the cleric dropped twice. It was bloody and furious combat. In the end though, the party succeeded.
It is tough to really beat up on the characters. What I mean is that when I know a character is in a bad way, I feel reluctant to continue to beat on him or her. I find myself asking how bad off a character is. I set the expectation in the game that I would not fudge rolls or nerf things. Still, I do want the players and their character to succeed. I don't want to kill off a character. Fortunately, no characters were killed in the running of this session.