For those of you playing along at home, Say'skel the Mottled looks a lot like that gentleman over there to the right. I'm a big V.P. fan.
Back at the adventurers’ boarding house, the party met the acquaintance of a new agent of fortune, a hobbit acquirer by the name of Kubik Silverpalm. Kubik recognized the fighting duo of Grumble and Krunk, remembering them from a bout they performed at his home village of Goodearth. After some flattery and negotiations, Kubik became the latest provisional member of the Society of Planewalkers.
The rest of the crew embarked on various side tasks: training, procuring new supplies, and seeing to the refurbishing of looted weapons long forgotten about. Before too much could be accomplished, though, a linkboy arrived at the Manor with word that Say’skel was prepared to meet with the adventurers. He had new intelligence to share.
Back at the keep, the party learned that their captured hobgoblin was but a foot soldier in the 6th Century, 9th Cohort of the Hobgoblin Occupational Army—a unit of roughly three dozen hobgoblins currently occupying part of the second level of Stonehell Dungeon. Led by Commander Kura, the hobgoblins were intent on turning the dungeon into a staging point for raids across the River Ahkyl and into the Principality of Dhrin. The hobgoblins were well-entrenched in the dungeon, having turned their portion of chambers and halls into a defended redoubt. In addition, they were expecting reinforcements that would double their numbers in a week’s time. If the hobgoblin threat of Stonehell was to be addressed, it needed to be done now. Say’skel then presented the party with a rough but expansive map of the hobgoblin fortress taken from the captive’s description of the place.
The party studied the map and decided that the best chance for infiltrating the redoubt was by way of a less guarded back door that lay towards the north end of the lair—although they did not know the route by which to reach this entrance. They speculated that, with a little searching of the surrounding dungeon areas, they may be able to deduce a path there. So, with that goal in mind, Aieglos, Anwar, Baragkus, Grumble, Krunk, Kubik, and Waren, joined once again by their semi-regular hireling, Rondo Fleagle, departed for the dungeon.
The band made their way towards the stairs to the second level, pausing only to engage in not-so-friendly banter with a trio of bugbears that stood watch at the site of the recent kobold massacre. Although Krunk wanted to fight, it was argued that that was a battle which could wait. It was more important to scope out the redoubt and to find a path to the rear entrance. The party headed down the stairs, their numbers and heavily armored members precluding any chance of arriving there unheralded.
They stepped onto the second level to find a seemingly empty room. They headed south to see if their own discoveries would align with their newly received map, but were interrupted by a quartet of hobgoblins springing out from hiding to attack. The melee was quick and the party was victorious, but combat so close to what the party’s map indicated was the entrance to the hobgoblin “killing field” was less than desirable. The party fled into the dungeon without so much as looting their foes (although Kubik did come away with a few stray coins).
The southern corridor led to a series of disused rooms. It was evident that this area had not seen much traffic, and other than various loathsome insects, the rooms were uninhabited. Two rooms of note were found, however. One door bore a recently added padlock, one which was beyond the skills of Kubik to pick. Another room, seemingly a forgotten living quarters, divulged a swarm of flesh-rending beetles when disturbed. In their efforts to stop the swarm, the party set the door to the room and outside floor alight, sending up a volume of black, acrid smoke. This room was close to one of the secondary entrances to the redoubt, leaving the party to wonder if there was any possible way the hobgoblins could have missed the conflagration.
Fleeing from the site of the blaze, the party took shelter in an abandoned sunken bath. Krunk, Baragkus, and Waren, all of whom had found themselves subjected to the biting attentions of the beetle swarm, took the opportunity to strip off their armor and inspect themselves for any still-living beetles or festering bites. Grumble and Kubik searched for hidden passages, while Anwar went to scout ahead, invisible.
As the dwarf probed the walls of the bath, his peripheral vision caught sight of fleeing movement. Turning to face the motion, he discovered a large pool of gray ooze rising to strike at him with a flailing pseudopod. Chaos ensued.
Looking back on this encounter, I see that there was a lot of potential here for more hilarity and certain doom then occurred in actual play. As the ooze struck, I had to reacquaint myself with the special powers of the beast, so I cracked open my copy of Labyrinth Lord. Now, according to LL, the attack of the gray ooze does 2d8 points of damage to unarmored foes. “That’s great!” I thought. “I’ve got three of those standing in the room right now. They even stripped down to their skivvies by their own volition!” If a victim is hit by the gray ooze and he/she’s wearing armor, the creature destroys metal armor in 1 turn, regardless of whether the armor is magical or not. “Hmm,” I thought. That’s more of an equipment demolishing attack than a life-threatening one. It’s like a slow acting rust monster. There’s no way that things going to last ten rounds of combat so it can eat through armor and actually inflict damage.” Still, I decided to roll with that since I’ve seen stranger monster powers and durations in my time.
Getting back to the fight, Grumble swung his weapon at the ooze, but missed, while Aieglos managed to put an arrow in the beastie. I rolled abysmally for the ooze’s hit points and I knew it was going to be a short battle. Krunk tried to get his crossbow into play, but Waren and Baragkus, both still armorless, charged into the fight to back up their recently raised from the dead companion. Kubik got the hell away from the thing. Waren, torch in hand, thrust the burning brand into the ooze. There was a horrible smell, the sound of splashing liquid, and the room went pitch black as the torch was extinguished by the creature’s viscous form. I had the party roll for initiative and state their actions anyway to keep the suspense going on for one more round, but they eventually got another torch lit just in time to see what was left of the ooze’s dead form run down the bath’s drain.
What I missed in my hurried reading of the gray ooze’s description was the part about it being immune to fire-based attacks. Oh well. You can bet I’ll remember next time. Additionally, once I returned home, I double-checked that whole “1 turn” thing in both Moldvay Basic and the Monster Manual. Turns out it should eat through non-magical armor in a single round; only magic armor takes a turn to destroy. I’ll be making that amendment to the Labyrinth Lord description myself…
Anyway, back to the fun.
After binding their wounds, quaffing a draught of wine, and re-armoring themselves, the party exited the baths and continued on down the night-haunted halls of Stonehell Dungeon. Traveling roughly southwest, they discovered a T-intersection. To the south lay a large open area; to the west was a strange 3’ tall post standing in the center of the corridor. It was decided that the post was the more interesting of the two. It also lay in the direction the party believed a route to the backdoor could be found.
The party was approaching the strange item when two arrows (frog-crotched, as we learned in play) rocketed out of the darkness beyond, just missing the party. Krunk and Rondo charged into the blackness, sensing an open chamber at the very edge of the party’s torchlight. As Krunk, forswearing any attack to close the distance, crossed the chamber’s threshold, a hobgoblin slashed at him from the shadows with a wicked naginata, wounding the berserker. Rondo also encountered a hobgoblin in ambush, but was able to fend off his attacker with his war hammer. The rest of the party hustled towards the embattled fighters to support their comrades.
With their torches closer to the melee, the party was able to see that the room beyond the fight was decorated in a martial fashion. Bas-reliefs of armored figures lined the walls and the tiled floor was done in the pattern of a kite shield. Looking down upon their battle was a 20’ tall statue of a figured dressed in battered plate mail. The figure bore a wild beard and a mass of unruly hair. He gripped a two-handed sword and stared down blindly with crazed eyes. In fact, he looked a lot like this guy:
The priests in the band were able to identify the statue as that of Vaughn, the War Lord, God of Battles. As impressive as the statue was, it didn’t distract the party from the pair of hobgoblin archers that fired from cover at the effigy’s base.
The battle with the hobgoblins at the room’s entrance formed a bottle neck, and there was much jostling for position to strike back at the goblinoid soldiers. All the while, a barrage of arrows rained down upon the party…until Anwar was able to send those archers into an enchanted slumber. With the missile fire halted, it was but a short time before the two other hobgoblins were brought down. Grumble and Krunk paused to kneel before the War Lord; the rest of the party rifled the pockets of the dead and uncovered more than a score of gold mark. The speculation, “Do you think they all have this sort of cash on them?” was uttered as the party thought back to the quartet of hobgoblins left unsearched at the entrance to the level. It was resolved to loot slain opponents more carefully from now on.
The party, their foes defeated, carefully inspected the post they had glimpsed in the corridor’s center. This proved to be a long iron spike, atop which was perched an elven skull. Written across its brow, in Hobgoblin, was the phrase, “Patrolled Area Ahead—6th Century, 9th Cohort, Hobgoblin Occupational Army”. By its position, it seemed that the adventurers were leaving the hobgoblin controlled area of Stonehell. Whether this meant they were on the right track to find the elusive rear entrance to the redoubt or not remained to be seen. The party proceeded north from Vaughn’s Hall, deducing that the way to the rear entrance of the redoubt must lay in that direction. Passing by a pair of open archways that led to bare rooms, the party came upon another T-intersection. To the north, the corridor did an abrupt zigzag before continuing on. To the west, a small lump sat in the center of the passage. Some attempt was made to get the hobbit to check it out (unfortunately, no one uttered: “You’re a burglar. Go do your burgling.”), but it was ultimately left to Grumble to step up (yet again) and risk his bearded neck.
Carefully poking the bag, for that was what the lump proved to be, he gingerly opened it and discovered a wheel of hard cheese, a link of salami, and an earthenware flask within. Someone has misplaced their lunch. Then, they heard the noise…
Recaps resume in two weeks.