And so we gathered for the last session of 2010. It was nice to end the year on a triumphant note and I think we’re all waiting to see what the next half of the campaign has in store for us.
The party lifted Rondo’s body from off the flagstones and headed for the surface. Their healing spells were exhausted, their bodies wounded, and a comrade had been slain. Enough was enough. They reached the H room without incident, but, as they’ve demonstrated in the past, the lure of the Wheel of Fortune proved too difficult to resist. They headed south; passing through a room marred by bloodstains and scorched flooring. A mystic voice had spoken to them in this chamber once before and it did so again. This time, an angry tone declared, “The Crucible lies behind the door that cannot be reached! There it shall stay until Xograti admits defeat!” Hmm, what could that mean?
The party reached the Wheel of Fortune without further incident and it was Anwar who chose to tempt Chance’s Whims. As a result, he found himself slightly better protected against the attacks of his enemies—for a day, that it. No one else felt up to risking their lives and the party returned to Blackpool.
Arriving back at the Mad Manor, the staff showed concern over the death of Rondo. The Manor’s proprietor, Templeton Naz, produced a letter written by the dead dwarf that had been entrusted into his care. The missive stated that, in the event of his death, almost all of Rondo’s worldly possessions would go to whomever returned his body to his family’s crypt in the dwarven city of Dro-Baan Khaz, located some days’ travel in the heart of the Mossback Mountains. The party tentatively agreed to do this after the hobgoblin menace had been addressed and so a sadden Big Bull, the Manor’s bouncer and handyman, took the slain dwarf down to the boarding house’s cold storage room.
The party spent the rest of the day reorganizing. Grumble had achieved enough renown to train and would be attending the War College for the next six day. The hobbit, Kubik, departed to see if he could find if and where his light-fingered brethren might reside in Blackpool. Baragkus headed into town to speak with Doran the Wondersmith, who had been working on adapting the strange crossbow that the fighter had wrested from the weird roachmen of the Black Gut back on the world of the Rotted Moon. Dorran was delighted to see the warrior and proposed a business agreement: in exchange for 250 gold marks and a lifetime supply of the serrated disks the weapon launched (“Dorran’s Death Disks”™), he would buy both the weapon and permission to manufacture more of these exotic arbalests. He’d even make a new and improved weapon especially for the fighter’s personal stature for free! Baragkus heartily agreed and decided to forego the next day’s journey to the dungeon for a well-earned debauch in town.
The following morning saw a party consisting of Aieglos, Anwar, Hoover, Krunk, a now fully revitalized Mock, and Waren departing for the dungeon. Their plan was to stop the hobgoblin threat once and for all. They would risk the portcullis and the mysterious “spout” to attack the lair head-on since their attempts to find a rear entrance into the redoubt had failed. The party reached the dungeon without incident, passed through the Speaking Room again to see if it would impart more nuggets of wisdom (it did: “Oh my bones! They gnarl like roots! I should have never spun that Wheel!”), and ultimately reached the second level safely.
On the lower level, they found the entrance chamber to be empty of sentries or ambushing patrols—a first for them. This lack of sentries bold emboldened and unnerved the party. Had they slain so many hobgoblins that they were now cowering in their den or were they lying in wait somewhere else?
The party proceeded directly towards their chosen portcullis to assault the lair only to hear it grind open as they approached. A hobgoblin squad had been dispatched to, err, dispatch the intruders and the party made easy targets with their torches. After suffering through a hail of missiles, the band closed with the hobgoblins and battle commenced. Unfortunately, they found themselves assaulted on two fronts as hobgoblin spearmen attacked from a side corridor, leaving Mock to face several foes at once. Luckily, Anwar’s sleep spell managed to drop all but one of the goblinoid enemies and the last was quickly slain. During the battle, however, the portcullis from which the squad had emerged ratcheted closed, leaving Mock and Krunk to wrest it open again.
Behind the gate was an odd chamber. Two 20’ deep, spiked pits were separated by a narrow walkway. On the far side of the pits stood three hobgoblin bowmen, their bows drawn back with arrows nocked. A fourth stood behind a strange metal framework covered by armored plating. The circular mouth of a pipe-like object protruded towards the party. This must be “the spout.” Arrows began whizzing through the air at Mock and Krunk as the rest of the party scrambled into position. The assault on the Hobgoblin Redoubt had begun at last!
As Mock suffered several arrows hits, Aieglos and Hoover returned fire at the hobgoblins, dropping one of them. Anwar cloaked himself in invisibility and moved into the chamber to get all the bowmen in his sight. Once in position, he put the remaining three hobgoblins to sleep and the party charged across the narrow bridge to dispatch the sleeping guards.
Arriving on the far side of the pits, they had no time to slit the throats of their sleeping enemies because reinforcements were charging down the hall to meet them. A cursory look at “the spout” revealed that it couldn’t be turned around to point inside the Redoubt so battle commenced in the honored way of face-to-face fighting. In the battle, Krunk’s growing rage finally got the best of him and the berserker unleashed a slew of attacks upon the new hobgoblin arrivals. Assisted ably by his comrades, the reinforcements quickly joined their sleeping comrades on the floor and the battle ended in victory for the party.
The band took the time to bind their wounds , slay the sleeping, and quaff some wine. The spout was examined and it was revealed that the pipe-like object was in truth an urn of curious design. Words written on the base of the ewer danced like flames, indicating that they were magical in origin. The urn was bolted into place but could be removed with some effort, but the party was largely for destroying the object. In the end, it was decided to “destroy it on the way out.” The party moved down the hall from which the reinforcements had come, seeing at least one door down that passage. From the map they had gotten based on the interrogation of the hobgoblin prisoner, they knew that door to be a barracks and approached with caution.
As they reached the door, however, a hobgoblin voiced cried out from the darkness further down the hallway, “Romulus and Remus: Kill!” From out of the gloom sprang two war mountain lions, their necks encircled with spiked collars, their bodies clad in light barding. The feline duo leapt upon Mock and Hoover with the intent of ripping the two to Fancy Feast. Despite the threat the two war cats presented, luck was with the party and their claws only inflicted incidental damage before feline threats were put down by sword and spear.
An arrow sang out of the dark, nicking poor Mock. This enticed the majority of the party to run into the darkness to confront the hidden archer, Mock and Waren remaining behind to heal the bloodied half-orc. The party emerged into a 30’ square room with three doors along the south wall. A sole hobgoblin stood at the far end of the chamber, short bow in hand. The distance was not enough to close in a single round, so the band found themselves in the middle of the room when six hobgoblins poured out of two of the southern doors for more battle!
This was one of those “uh oh” moments for the players, one that found them thinking that perhaps they had bitten off more than they were prepared to swallow. At an earlier point in the campaign, an encounter like this would have likely resulted in half the party dying before the other half retreated, but they’ve learned well from earlier failures. They broke into groups to hold back the hobgoblins and were able to turn back the assault without too much overall damage. When the battle ended, they explored each of the three doors to find that they led to the “killing field” entrance to the Redoubt, meaning that the party had a clear line of retreat back to the stairs now should things go against them.
The party discovered another door that seemed to mirror the barracks’ door they had been interrupted in opening so they proceeded to spend the next several turns exploring these areas. Although both barracks were empty of hobgoblins and treasure, they did find a mysterious pink potion in the footlocker of one of the sub-leaders of the Redoubt. Pocketing it for later, they moved deeper into the lair after tending to their growing number of wounds.
An empty guard room awaited them further down the hall. Consulting their map, they determined that there was a medic’s quarters to the north and elite barracks to the south. An unknown corridor extended to the east. Deciding to see if medical aid could be liberated from the infirmary, they ventured north.
At the end of the north passage they found a bizarre chamber. The floor was lined in 1’ square white tiles and a pair of pillars stood in niches in along one wall. Each pillar was adorned with numerous crystal lenses. Hoover’s eyes detected a faint trail that led along the room’s eastern and northern walls and it was by this path that the party cautiously advanced. They reached the exit of the chamber without incident, but Krunk decided to poke the tiles to see if a response could be evoked from the pillars. His first attempt produced a beam of light that struck him with no visible effect. His second effort caused him to be burned by a heat beam for minor damage. Deciding that he had enough, the party moved on to investigate what was marked as a dining hall on their map.
The dining hall and attached kitchen were both empty, but their search of the pantry discovered a piece of crystal hanging inside a small iron cage. The crystal produced a field of cold air that kept the contents of the panty from spoiling. Pocketing the crystal with the intent to sell it, the band rested, ate a quick repast, then headed back to the corridor. Unfortunately for them, as they had engaged in the search of the panty and enjoyed their brief lunch, the elite hobgoblin guard, led by Commander Kura himself, has moved into position in the dining hall and was awaiting their return.
Things looked bad for the party. They were worn down and not expecting this fight, but they had neglected to post a guard while they ate so the hobgoblins had them bottled up tight. The wisdom of barricading themselves in the kitchen was briefly discussed, but discarded (quote of the game out of context: “The hobgoblins have wrenches.”). With nothing left to do but fight, the party charged the elite hobgoblin warriors.
This could have easily ended up killed the entire party or at least imprisoning them except for two things: 1) Krunk went berserker again and enjoyed a +2 bonus to his attacks, and 2) Mock drank the mysterious pink potion, which turned out to be a potion of heroism. The now 5th-level fighter with an addition 15 hit points and only needing a “7” to hit the hobgoblins waded into battle. The result was dead hobgoblins everywhere. Even their ability to strike as 4 and 5 HD monsters and above average hit points couldn’t save them. In typical fashion, the party called for Commander Kura to surrender seconds before they killed him. Pausing to catch their breath, they looted a small number of coins from the bodies, but also found that Commander Kura wore a gaudy helmet and owned a potion of purple and silver liquid. He also possessed a set of keys, leading the party to think that somewhere in the Redoubt was a chest brimming with treasure. Krunk put the helmet on his head before rest of the party could warn the berserker of the dangers of putting on strange headgear, and we ended the last session of 2010 there.
After doling out the experience points for this session, everyone but Hoover the Ranger gained a level, (and even the woodsman was only 150 points shy of 3rd level). If we had another hour to explore the Redoubt, we could have put the hobgoblin lair entirely behind us and started 2011 on the next mission in the Hobgoblin War. Nevertheless, after all the initial deaths and becoming acquainted with both the game system and play style, it’s nice to see that the players have finally come into their own and that the lethal levels of 1-2 are safely behind almost every character now. I’m sincerely looking forward to taking the next two weeks off to recoup and prepare for the next nine months of gaming.
Recaps will return after January 9th, 2011. Happy New Year, everyone!