Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Watchfires & Thrones Session #34

At the end of the last session, the players decided to cut their subterranean explorations short because a missing player was supposed to return the following session and leaving the dungeon early would make things easier for all of us. So, when that player had to miss this week’s session, I “rewound the clock,” waved away my previous statement that the party returned to Blackpool unharmed, and picked things up with the PCs still in Stonehell examining the “Murphy Room” (named after the bed, not the law).

Having decided that the flip-top floor and furniture of this strange room looked suspicious, the band headed back to the massive portal they discovered in the room they believe led down to the fourth level of Stonehell Dungeon. Lighting fresh torches, the party passed through the cube and pool room (“The Lobby”), before reaching the high-ceiling chamber whose upper reaches were festooned with webbing. As they crossed the room, Hoover’s half-elven ears caught the sound of small humanoid footsteps approaching and the party hugged the walls in preparation for an ambush.

Their torches unfortunately ruined any chance of them successfully ambushing the approaching creatures and the sound of footsteps halted before their owners came into view. “Who’s dere?” came the call from the darkness beyond the party’s torch light.

“We are the Society of Plane Walkers, noble adventurers in search of glory and riches!”

“Oh,” came the reply, clearly unimpressed.

The two groups cautiously approached one another until the speaker was revealed: one of a half-score of kobolds holding spears and bulging canvas sacks. The scaly dog-man who spoke the Common tongue introduced himself as Sibik, explaining that he and his comrades were on their way from the lower levels en route to the Kobold Market with a bounty of goobachuk. This was revealed to be a dried fungus that many of the residents of the dungeon found edible (although the kobolds themselves disliked the stuff).

Thus began a pleasant conversation between the two diverse groups. The party learned much about the denizens of the third level, which seemed strangely small according to their map. The chambers they had explored were the main thoroughfare between the 2nd and 4th levels of the dungeon, inhabited only by “The Lady” and her “two big sons.” Some monsters occasionally prowled the halls, but it was mostly a traffic corridor for Stonehell’s residents. On the level below them were “caves, da big bridge over da fog with no bottom, and the Gentlemen dat cook dinners.”

After acquiring this intelligence, attempts were made to gauge the kobolds’ relationship with their potentate, Trustee Sniv. The party has vowed to get their vengeance on the fez-sporting, fur coat-wearing kobold boss ever since he shook them down for 100 gold marks and banned them from the community of Barkruf-Yip-Yip. Sibik explained that he had no feelings toward Sniv one way or the other—he was an independent goobachuk merchant who profited on the kobold market’s general neutrality.

Speaking of that oddly named fungus, the party purchased a bag of the stuff from Sibik, forking over 30 gold marks for the honor. After slipping the kobold a few more gold coins for his time and information, the party and the kobolds went their separate ways.

Continuing west, the party returned to the massive portal in the northern wall of the stairs room. Efforts to pry the doors open were magically rebuffed as a field of invisible force prevented them from gaining purchase with their crowbars. Believing a magical lock upon the valves, the party made plans to return with Anwar and his knock spell.

A corridor exited the stairs room to the west, but it was discovered that this corridor was blocked by an unknown amount of fallen stone, evidence of a cave-in. Another set of doors stood in the southern wall of the corridor, but these too displayed signs of being magically sealed. What to do now?

After some discussion and a little dissention, it was decided that a brief sojourn down to the fourth level of the dungeon was in order. “Just one room,” Mars Markus begged, his parchment and ink held ready to map the unexplored depths. With a sigh of acquiescence, the party descended the stairs, passing not one, not two, but three separate landings as they went—a distance never before encountered in between levels. Were they actually headed to the fourth level or someplace deeper?

The stairs terminated in a large chamber with a sandy floor. Several stone pillars carved in the shapes of tree trunks vanished into the gloom above and a low stone wall formed a barrier near the center of the room. The party edged their way into the chamber, stopping suddenly when Hoover’s ears detected the sound of skittering feet on the sand.

From out of the darkness advanced a single, dun-colored scorpion of gigantic size. More clicking in the gloom indicated that the beast was not alone. It charged at the party, moving much faster than they expected a creature of that size to advance, and lashed out at poor Mock with its claws and stinging barb. The half-orc dodged the blows, but when another two giant scorpions skittered into view and attacked from the sides, a general call for retreat back up the stairs was announced.

As the party fled, barely avoiding grasping claws and stinging tails as they dodged around pillars and sacrificed shields to save their lives, they discovered that there was no way they could out-run the insectile menaces. Their only hope was to battle on the stairs so that they could face a single creature at a time. Hoover and Mock formed a shield wall across the flight of steps, as Lyrax fired arrows from behind them. Mars and Waren stood at ready to heal those injured in battle. Krunk fled for his life, leaving his comrades to perish alone on the stairs.

The fight was pitched as the party battled for their lives. A single misstep could kill them, as the scorpions’ poison cared not how resilient one was in battle. Hoover take a nasty wound from one of the beast’s gripping claws, collapsing into unconsciousness from his wounds. Mars dragged the fallen ranger to safety as Waren strode forth to seal the breach. Mock and Lyrax downed one of the creatures with sword and arrow, but another took its place.

With the fighting desperately continuing before them, Mars called upon the power of Mog to heal Hoover’s injuries, restoring just enough health to awaken the ranger and allow him to unlimber his bow and begin launching arrows at the remaining creatures.

The second scorpion fell, and with two of its slain brethren blocking the stairs, the last great arachnid was slowed in its advance, allowing the party to launch another volley at the beast, weakening it as it came. Krunk, deciding that the reduction in screaming from below indicated the party was winning, decided to return to the battle just as the rest of party, blooded and blistered from the creatures’ venom, overcame the last of the scorpion threats.

It was decided that the exploration of the fourth level of Stonehell could wait for another date far, far in the future.

The party, suffering from its wounds, decided to make their way back to the first level of the dungeon in order to either return to town or explore the crypts to the east. They achieved the stair room on the first level without incident, but decided to pause there to bind their wounds and quaff some wine. Why, I really couldn’t say…

As they kept an eye out for wandering creatures, a voice spoke out of the darkness to the south. “What have we here?” it inquired. “Bold adventurers, perhaps?” The party stared into the darkness but no form was visible. “Who are you? Show yourself!” Lyrax challenged.

The voice came closer, but its owner remained hidden. “You look like you’ve had some trouble. Is there anything I could do for you?”

Thus began the party’s first meeting with Ichabod, an imp who made his home in the dungeon depths. The minor devil was very forthcoming with his purpose: He was more than willing to help out the adventurers if they needed some assistance, asking nothing but an oath that they had sought his aid by their own free will. The imp, who revealed himself to be a 2’ tall, blue-skinned and bat-winged humanoid, explained that he was working his way up the ranks of Hell and providing assistance to the brave and goodly-hearted benefited his standing amongst devils. So, if there was anything the party needed (“The location of a large treasure hoard? The resting place of a magical blade, perhaps? Maybe even the location of the backdoor to the kobold king’s chambers?”), he’d be willing to do his best to make it happen.

Despite Ichabod’s best efforts to convince them otherwise, the party refused to ask his assistance. The imp shrugged and predicted they’d regret it at some point, but should they ever change their minds, they should shout out his name and he might—just might—hear them and come see them. With a snap of his talons, the imp vanished. The party largely agreed to keep the imp and his offer a secret from Anwar.

The party, now rested if not recouped, headed back towards the H Room. As they reached a crossroad they regularly bypassed, Mars proposed that they try the adjacent corridors to see where they led. The Pit of Constant Annoyance and a method to avoid it had been on the party’s collective mind since they first encountered the hazard, and Mars was most vocal in mapping a route around it. Feeling a little bolder now that they were closer to the surface, the party agreed and headed to the east. Not far down that corridor, they discovered a chamber bearing two 8’ tall stone statues pointing at one another accusingly, an exit on the far wall between them. Their distrust of this set-up was well founded, as poking the floor with their pole caused a blast of electricity to flash in between the statues. More prodding revealed that this hazard seemed to be endless in power.

Their explorations, however, attracted the attention of another group of Stonehell’s residents. From out of the darkness across the room, a trio of humanoid creatures edged cautiously. Chalk-white ,with eyes as large as saucers, poor clothing, and stringy hair, the men-like beings told the party to go away and leave them in peace. The party offered assistance to the strange creatures, asking if they could use anything from the surface world, as they passed this way quite regularly. After a shared wineskin demonstrated their good intentions, the Society learned that these strange, nameless creatures were escaped slaves. They had fled their masters, a race they called “the Vrilya,” who dwelled deep in the dungeon in order to seek sanctuary on the upper levels. Now they simply wished to be left alone, but wouldn’t mind wine and weapons of iron and steel. Other than learning that these creatures preferred a wine made from “fishy eggs” found deep underground, these being remained an enigma to the party, but they agreed to maybe stop in with trade goods from time to time. Leaving the pallid creatures to their own devices, the party headed back the way they came and explored the western passage.

They encountered no danger down that corridor, but did find a cistern, a set of stairs leading down, an odd idol, and a pair of unopened doors. They also learned that the passage eventually connected with the room bearing the poisonous fountain and therefore the H Room. A passage that avoided the Pit had at last been found! Huzzah!

To celebrate this navigation victory, a spin of the Wheel of Fortune was in order. Waren benefited well, finding that his strength was increased permanently. Mock suffered a slowness of action, resulting in him acting last in any combat for a short time. Krunk was unable to spin the Wheel at all, leaving the party to believe there might be a daily limit on the Wheel’s function. And so the party went home.

With but a single day remaining before their river trip, the party decided to make one last excursion into the dungeon in order to explore the crypts. Leaving Hoover, Krunk, Mock, and Waren back in town to train, a new party comprised of Baragkus, Grumble, Korlack, Lyrax, Mars, and Raijek descended into the dungeon to face its challenges.

They swiftly reached the crypts without incident, breaching the danse macabre-decorated doors and entering the antechamber where they had battled fire beetles and zombies once before. Grumble, recalling his demise in that battle, shuddered. The plan was to find the route that Korlack had taken through the crypts when he and his former companions had been attacked here weeks ago. This route led to the back door to Barkruf-Yip-Yip. I sense a reckoning is on the horizon.

Passing through the antechamber, the party soon found a south-bound passage that lay roughly in the direction of Korlack’s flight. This corridor passed through an archway into the first of a series of 20’ square crypts that formed a hive-like maze. The crypt was bare aside from several piles of skulls. When these proved to cover no treasure, the party moved south to one of two doors exiting the crypt.

As Baragkus and Raijek attempted to open the door, a vaguely humanoid thing composed of ragged pieces of shroud, yellowing bones, shadows, and dust emerged from the door behind the party, ready to strike at the living that disturbed its rest. Mars brought up his arachnid symbol and sent the thing fleeing under the baleful power of Mog. But, as the party’s attentions were turned in that direction, the door they had been struggling to open suddenly swung aside to reveal a band of six zombies that shuffled forth to surprise the front ranks. Mog sent two of the creatures fleeing, and the rest fell after a short melee.

Breathing a sigh of relief (and looting a silver brooch off of one of the slain zombies), the party glimpsed another door leading out of the room to the south. Beyond this lay a short corridor, one they suspected to be trapped, but proved safe. A door beckoned at the end of the hall, revealing another 20’ square mausoleum beyond it.

This crypt was different. A noticeable chill hung in the air and great piles of yellowed bones filled the space. A thin slime clung to some of the bones, but the room seemed unoccupied. With another door in the south wall calling them, the party crossed the chamber.

With a loud cracking sound and the cacophony of a dead man’s bed collapsing, the party witnessed a horrible, asymmetrical humanoid shape assemble itself from the discarded bones. With three fists of splintering bones as it weapons, this undead thing began assaulting the party. Mars was able to repel the beast, forcing it into the corner of the chamber. Sensing this thing would continue to pose a threat to the party, Raijek, Grumble, and Baragkus charged at the creature, breaking the cleric’s command over it. The three earned splintering bones to the face for their efforts.

Despite the fearsome aspect of the thing, the combined efforts of the party’s fighters were sufficient to tumble the creature back into its composite parts, leaving a heap of slime-drenched bones on the crypt floor. As the last of the bones fell inert, the band glimpsed the gleam of precious metals mixed amongst the remains. Shuffling the bones aside, the party found a small fortune in copper burial trinkets, several thousand silver guilders, and three pieces of golden jewelry. Loading up their sacks and thanking Chance for her blessings, the party turned back the way they came and returned to Blackpool to prepare for their morning voyage…

Monday, January 17, 2011

Watchfires & Thrones Session #33

Every now and then, especially in long campaigns, there comes a meeting when paperwork simply needs to be done. With the massive haul from last session now burning a hole in the PCs’ pouches, we spent the first half of this session re-equipping, cashing in jewelry, arranging for letters of credit, and scheduling training for the party. Finally, with two hours left in our scheduled session, we got down to dungeoneering.

After attending to business, the party headed to the keep to report the success of their mission to Say’skel the Mottled. The magic-wielding seneschal was pleased to learn that the hobgoblin menace of Stonehell had been eradicated (although the question of whether reinforcements are on their way remains unanswered for the moment) and awarded each of the party the agreed upon 100 gold marks.

The magic-user produced an almanac from his library and was quickly able to convert the date listed in the captured missives to that of the common calendar. The 18th day of Bile and Horn, the date of the meeting with the human traitor, “J”, and the hobgoblin warlord, corresponds to the 25th day of The Bloom, which was only five days away. If the party wanted to arrive at the Citadel of Iron Might and Furious Devotion in time to strike down the hobgoblin command and capture the traitor, a boat ride was in order. Luckily, the Mottled Mage had the resources to arrange such a journey and informed the group that their ship would be leaving in two days.

With some time to kill (and a generous offer from yours truly to reduce training times if they were brave enough to risk their lives one last time before leveling), the party decided to take a day trip back to Stonehell and see if they could expand their map of the place. After Krunk’s suggestion to ransack the Quiet Halls was outvoted, the party decided to travel to the third level of the massive delve, leaving the berserker to sulk in the rear ranks of the party—he wasn’t willing to risk his life on point if he didn’t get his way.

The party reached the dungeon without incident, although the angry chittering of rats was heard when they paused to hide their ladder in their usual disused room. Looking to test their steel against more challenging foes, the party ignored the rodents and headed towards the one staircase they knew reached deeper into the dungeon. This would put them back in the halls so firmly held by the kobolds and their hired goons.

But the dungeon had a small surprise for them. The party has become pretty blasé about their route to and from the lower levels, expecting it to remain the same outside of the occasional wandering monster. Imagine their surprise when they discovered that the portcullis chamber through which they so often pass now showed the signs of others busy at work in the dungeon.
In the middle of the room, an iron spike had been driven into the floor and a 5’ length of rope attached to it. The line ran toward the south exit, a passage which was known to contain a covered pit. The rope looked as if it had been cut, but there were no other signs of violence or activity. Is there some other group at large in the dungeon, one whom the Society has not yet met, or is this the work of the denizens of Stonehell?

Putting this conundrum behind them, the party moved towards the stairs again, their eyes and ears straining for danger—and sure enough, they found it. As they approached the guard room by the stairs, they discovered that the bugbears had been replaced by a hulking brute with a massive club in his enormous fist. An ogre!

“Hi! What’cho want?” it inquired.

“Get ready to die,” said Krunk from the safety of the rear ranks. The ogre scowled and charged.

Before it could close upon the characters, Mars Markus produced his holy symbol and the creature found itself bound in the celestial web of Mog, held fast where it stood. With the threat now neutralized, Krunk decided it was safe to attack the brute and strode into the room…only to discover the ogre had pet!

From out of the gloomy corner of the room came a long, sticky tongue that wrapped itself around the berserker and began dragging Krunk to the waiting mouth of a giant toad. The rest of the party, unaware of the lurking danger, charged towards the ogre and began to hack away at its unmoving mass.

Back in the corner, Krunk tried to step away from the warty amphibian, straining against the pull of its adhesive tongue so that he might better employ the pole-arm he bore. With immense effort, he resisted the pull of the tongue, but was much displeased to learn that he had only succeeded in pulling the toad towards him.

Meanwhile, the rest of the band had dispatched the poor defenseless ogre who had only wanted to make some new friends.

As the rest of the party rushed to the barbarian’s aid, the ogre’s pet toad was unable to breach the berserker’s armor and, after a few more moments of battle, Krunk brought down the head of his Bohemian Ear Spoon onto the creature to dispatch it. The party stood triumphant in the shadowy dungeon room. When a quick search of the ogre’s body turned up nothing of value, they pressed on toward the lower levels.

Nothing stood baring their passage on the second level, so it was an easy enough matter to descend the second set of steps to reach the third and completely unexplored level. After some debate over whether the party had indeed discovered the third level and not the fourth (thanks to a small error by the referee), the band began to explore the area in earnest.

The stairs had terminated in a 50’ square chamber with exits in the north, east, and south walls. A pool of dirty, dank water stood in the center of the room. At the middle of the pool, situated atop a low platform, was a 10’ cube that stood on one corner. Ignoring this piece of window dressing, the party scouted each exit. To the north, the corridor opened into a small chamber, one that seemed to bear several statues. To the east, the corridor turned both north and south after a small distance. To the south, the passage abruptly headed west.

Choosing the southern route, the party quickly came across a high-ceilinged room whose upper reaches were shrouded in old webbing. Ancient debris lay scattered across the floor, but the room was otherwise empty. After several tests seemed to indicate that the ceiling webs were empty of arachnid occupants, Mock and Hoover were sent ahead with a 10’ pole to explore the room and the passage which exited through the far wall. Their probing found no traps or treasure and the corridor beyond ran to the extent of their infravision before seeming to open into a larger space. Regrouping, the party pushed on.

At the corridor’s end, they found a roughly wedge-shaped room that bore numerous pillars, a staircase leading deeper into the dungeon, and a pair of imposing looking double-doors. Hoover’s eyes were able to detect the signs of regular traffic to and from these stairs, leaving the party to suspect they had found a major traffic thoroughfare between dungeon levels. Mock placed an ear carefully against the door but detected nothing. Not willing to try the door or risk the stairs (and possibly the fourth level), the party gave the room a quick going over before returning back to the entrance room of the current level.

Returning there, the party now headed east to discover that the southern turn in the passage ended in a door, while the northern bend lead to an oval room that contained another of those strange obelisks covered in arcane writing. As with the one they had found on the second level, the air here was much fresher and the floor was bare of any dust or dirt. Careful searching found nothing of interest so the band returned to the door they had passed.

Passing through the valve, the party discovered a 30’ square room, one completely bare of decoration or contents. Suspicious, Mock cautiously probed the floor with his pole, edging his way around the walls. Suddenly, his pole depressed a loose stone and the party watched in amazement as an entire 20’ square section of floor flipped over to reveal a trio of bunks, a table and chairs, and an empty fire pit all affixed to the underside of the room’s floor. Whether the purpose of these inviting, yet secret furnishings was provide comfort or danger was unknown, so the party gave them a wide berth…for now.

Since we had run out of time for the session, and an absent player would be returning the following week, the party decided to beat feet back to Blackpool and allow those party members who had acquired the needed experience to rise in level to train. Next week will either see another quick trip back to the dungeon before they head upriver to battle the hobgoblins in their own home or witness the party heading directly to the docks to set sail. Let me know what’s more likely so that I can put my limited prep time to its best use.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Map of Blackpool

Blackpool Map Key

Places to Stay
1. The Dead Dragon Inn
2. Toilers’ House (rooming house for itinerant laborers)

Places to Worship
3. Sanctuary of the Sovereign Flame (Temple of the Sovereign)
4. Chapel of the Square Deal (Temple to Chadem)
5. The Fortunate House (Temple to Chance)
6. The Tabernacle (Non-denominational worship house)

Places to Play
7. Mother Thums’ (house of ill-repute)
8. The Pit (games of chance)
9. Progo’s Theatre and Song Hall (performance hall)
10. Goodwife Esbah’s (2 in 6 chance of beer for sale)
11. The Begging Bandit (rough and tumble tavern)
12. Tobben’s Tilbyr (dwarven brauhaus)

Goods & Services
13. Chast the Scribe (spellbooks decoded, maps for sale)
14. The Quiet Repose (undertaker)
15. Japh Nidg, Silversmith (jewelry and gemstones bought and sold)
16. Fleetfoot’s Messenger Service (letters & parcels delivered)
17. The War House (fighter’s college)
18. Hortuuk’s Hides & Skins (leatherworker & furrier)
19. “Cheap Scrap Timber”/Doran the Wondersmith (lumber scraps [ground floor], artificer [second floor])
20. The Chortling Ghost (magic supplies & sundries)
21. “Gud Horsus” (stables & saddles)
22. Conundrum of Steel (blacksmith & part-time weaponsmith)
23. The Mother Lode (provisions, outdoor gear, & mining supplies)
24. Ferritixmus the Wheelwright (wagons repaired & sold)
25. Strongbow Arrowsmith (bowyer/fletcher)
26. Flora’s Remedies (herbs & folk medicines)
27. The Sacred Forge (Ferrumic smith – 2 in 6 chance of being open)

Civic Sites
A. Grain Silos & Cisterns
B. Watch Barracks
C. Council Hall
D. Assayer & Claim Office
E. Common Well

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Watchfires & Thrones Session #32

The party paused to bind their wounds and catch their breaths after their victory over Commander Kura and his elite hobgoblin guardsmen. The pair of keys they liberated from the commander’s belt indicated that something lay behind locks somewhere in the Redoubt and treasure was the most likely candidate for needing security. The party exited the now-bloodstained mess hall to further explore the lair.

A clean but barren infirmary was found, allowing the adventurers to stock up on mundane healing supplies as well as a hobgoblin “medicine stick” (an item which initial experimentation deemed non-magical). Moving west they encountered an empty guard post that seemed to contain the much-sought after back door to the Redoubt, followed by a bare prison cell further south. Near the gaol, the passage made an abrupt turn to end at a blank wall. Their suspicions raised, the party began to search for hidden doors.

Mock discovered that the wall did indeed pivot and opened the secret door cautiously. Beyond was a disused bedchamber, its hundred-plus years-old furniture rickety and dust-laden. Faded broadsheets advertising pit fights and the brutal warriors who earned their living on the sands adorned the walls. A chest stood near the secret entrance, and it was to this container that Krunk turned his attentions (and 10’ pole).

As the berserker prodded and pushed at the chest’s lid, the rest of the party watched in horror as two gloomy forms stepped from the flickering shadows to attack. These creatures were black as pitch and devoid of features, looking like horrible silhouettes with evil intentions. The pair converged on Krunk, but he was able to retreat without injury. Waren and Aieglos brought up their holy symbols and attempted to drive the creature away from the party, but their efforts had no effect. Had their gods abandoned them in their time of need?

Mock strode to the front of the line, wielding Froghammer in his grasp. With a grunt, he shredded the first shadow to ethereal ribbons with the enchanted blade, sundering its incorporeal form and sending it back to whatever foulness birthed it. The rest of the band’s attacks proved to be less effective against the remaining shadow, passing through its form without effect.

As the party retreated back through the secret door, the shadow touched Mock and the half-orc barbarian felt his strength begin to desert him as a chill settled into his bones. Krunk slammed the portal shut in the creature’s featureless ebony face and Anwar read quickly from a prepared scroll, sealing the door with his magicks to prevent the creature from opening it and following the party’s retreat. As the enchantment limned the door, the party breathed a collective sigh of relief.

That’s when the shadow stepped THROUGH the sealed door and continued it attacks!

Mock took another blow, weakening him yet again, but despite the chill, he has able to bring his sword up before him. As the rest of the party moved further away from the melee, Mock slashed twice. Like a mist before the wind, the shadow’s form flickered and dissipated. The party was victorious!

But they had locked themselves out of the room for an hour and a half.

Vowing to return, the party head back to the east, tentatively making their way through the “discotheque” and heading south through an empty guard post. The corridor before them contained a trio of doors, each of which they carefully breached. One was an armory, another a storeroom, while the third was Commander Kura’s own quarters.

The commander’s chamber held a table littered with maps, battle plans, and communiqués. Amongst these was a pair of letters. One was from the hobgoblin warlord and would-be emperor Zoka, who regretfully told the commander of Stonehell’s hobgoblins that the promised reinforcements would not be arriving do to unforeseen circumstances. Apparently, the hobgoblins’ weapon supplier, an unnamed human, has allowed the latest shipment to fall into the hands of raiders. Zoka had summoned the human agent to the “Citadel of Iron Might and Furious Devotion” on the “18th day of Bile and Horn” to explain himself and to discuss how to correct this situation. Zoka hinted that the human would survive his audience, but that Kura should explore the feasibility of removing human agents from the hobgoblins’ supply chain and replacing them with more trustworthy (a.k.a. hobgoblin) allies.

The second letter was from the aforementioned human agent, identified solely as “J”, explaining that the weapon shipment had been lost when an outside factor raided the agents who were responsible for delivering the arms to the hobgoblins. The weapons were deemed unrecoverable, as they were now likely in the possession of either these unnamed raider or their superiors. “J” revealed he would be meeting with Warlord Zoka to improve security and indicated that he would meet with Commander Kura on their “usual neutral ground” in the days after the audience. The dates in this letter again referred to the month of Bile and Horn.

Aieglos, with his command of the hobgoblin tongue was able to deduce that the month of Blood and Horn was a period on the goblin calendar that roughly coincided with the current month of The Bloom. The day numerations were not identical, so there was some uncertainty as to when the 18th day fell, but the party suspects with some careful planning, they may be able to assault the hobgoblin fortress on Hob’s Hill so as to catch the human traitor as well. More research would have to be undertaken when the returned to town. The party laid claim to their first map of the northeastern region of the Kinan-M’Nath from amongst the commander’s paper as well—a resource that will assist them greatly in the weeks to come.

All this intelligence paled in comparison to the contents of the strongbox that was found beneath the commander’s large campaign bed. With a twist of one of the looted keys, the party laid eyes on a sizeable sum of treasure—six thousand gold marks and a few pieces of jewelry to be exact. Triumphant and gleeful, the party laden themselves with booty and headed out of the room.

A brief peek to the south revealed the elite hobgoblins’ barracks and an east-bound passage that showed signs of someone or something breaking through the corridor’s stone walls. A cursory glance was all the party had time for, as their calculations indicated that Anwar’s hold portal spell was about to expire. The party hurried back the way they came, returning to the secret door just as the magic faded away.

In the pit fighter’s room, the chest that Krunk had been examining when the shadows attacked proved to be a disappointment, but a dusty tapestry occluded richer fare. In niches hidden behind the hanging fabric lay three massive chests. After nearly falling victim to one of the chest’s traps, the party was astounded to find more coinage than they had ever seen in their lives. Mixed amongst the silver, electrum, and gold were a few glass vials and ornamental pieces of jewelry. The party began unloading every spare piece of equipment they carried so as to be able to haul the treasure up to the surface. It took some doing, but, much like the old “fox, chicken, and chicken feed” conundrum, with some effort and calculations, the party could get every last coin out of the dungeon. Of course, only Warren and Aieglos would have a weapon in hand and the party’s progress would be at a snail’s pace, but it could be done.

The party left the Redoubt, straining under the great weight but joyous, and headed towards the surface. As they reached the landing between the second and first levels, they paused to plan. They knew that there had been a group of bugbears lounging just outside the scene of the party-induced kobold massacre for some time. Each foray down to the second level, the bugbears let them pass without incident, merely smiling a little too much and snickering whenever the party left with another dead companion. The adventurers suspected that they wouldn’t get past the bugbears so easily this time, not with such an obvious fortune in their hands. The party began debating on how to approach this problem, sending Krunk with torch up to the first level to see if the bugbears were still at their posts. The barbarian poked his head up over the stairs, his torch burning brightly in the dungeon gloom, and saw two bugbears eyeing him with interest from the room beyond. The berserker quickly turned and descended back down the stairs.

The party began to debate—loudly—amongst themselves as to the best course of action. It was finally decided that they would send three of the fighters ahead without treasure to try and launch a surprise attack on the bugbears, hoping to dispatch them quickly before gathering up the treasure and limping quickly to the surface. Aieglos, Mock, and Hoover ascended the stairs…but found that the bugbears had vanished. Shit.

The trio returned and the party decided to risk running (crawling, actually) the gauntlet. With sacks in hand and backpacks near leaking, the party reached the first level and made a beeline for the surface, expecting an attack at any time. They had made good progress when they reached the portcullis they needed to bypass before having a straight shot back to the H Room.

“Well, well, well,” a gruff voice chuckled from the darkness as the party reached the lowered gate blocking their way. “What have we here?”

Stepping out of the gloom behind them was a quartet of bugbears backed up by five kobolds bearing javelins. It was an obvious stick-up job so the party discarded parley after a brief attempt and drew their weapons. The bugbears and kobolds launched themselves at the party.

As the two forces locked in combat, one of the bugbears and the kobolds ran south down the T-intersection near the portcullis. It was obvious that they intended to cut off the party’s retreat to the surface. And although this division of forces left the party facing only three bugbears, the giant goblinoids’ first attack struck down Hoover, sending the ranger into unconsciousness and rapidly approaching death. Krunk, Waren, and Mock ran to the back of the party to hold off the bugbears, leaving scrawny Anwar to handle lifting the portcullis. Aieglos sent arrows flying at the bugbear in the rear rank. The party honestly believed that they had met their doom in Stonehell.

The fighters and bugbears clashed at the rear, with wounds taken on both side. Anwar struggled to raise the gate, failing once before his feeble body, strengthened by adrenaline and fear, lifted the iron bars above his head. He stood there, his legs trembling under the weight, and gave serious thought to abandoning his comrades to their fate. Aieglos began shoving bags of treasure under the gate as quickly as he could.

At the rear of the party, the adventurers slowly began to gain the upper hand. Finally, thanks to the “Chop While They Drop” rule and really lousy bugbear hit points, the party dispatched the last of their assailants and quickly gathered up their belongings. A healing potion was poured down Hoover’s throat to get him ambulatory. As they dashed through the portcullis and turned north, a flurry of javelins came flying out of the gloom to their south. The kobolds had flanked them and now stood on the far side of a pit trap hurling their tiny missiles. A few struck home, but thanks to the scaly dog-men’s abysmal strength, only minor damage was inflicted. The party threw all caution to the wind and ran blindly towards where they secreted their ladder, hoping to get out of the dungeon before a wandering monster check indicated they met something on their flight to safety.

Finding their ladder where they left it, the party finally reached the Pit of Sheer Annoyance and began to slowly cross it. From the heavens above, some not-quite-benign deity started laughing maniacally and reached into his celestial miniatures case.

Mock and Waren had reached the far side of the pit when the sound of moaning and the stench of rotting flesh assailed them. Mock’s infravision detected nothing and the party’s lantern was on the far side of the pit, leaving the duo in darkness. When the party finally got a torch lit and handed it across the covered trap, the barbarian and cleric found themselves about to be over-shambled by seven zombies!

Waren was able to send three of the loathsome things fleeing before his god’s might, leaving Mock to dispatch the remainder with the help of Krunk, who had dashed across the pit. All the while, the rest of the party continued hauling loaded sacks across their increasingly-worn ladder. As the last zombie fell, the party struggled up the stairs and into the fresh air and fading light of late afternoon. Wearily and slowly, they headed back to town, cringing each time a die was rolled to check for wandering monsters. But Chance was with them and they reached the town of Blackpool after sundown on the 19th day of The Bloom.

Thus ended the first game session of 2011. I sense a spending spree on the horizon…

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Partial Map of the Kinan-M'Nath

After months of real time in the campaign world, the players finally got their hands on a map of the region. The Kinan-M'Nath is largely based on the Outdoor Survival map so any similarities are intentional. The acquisition of a map arrived just in time, as I'm foreseeing several overland journeys in the weeks to come. The hobgoblin citadel (not pictured) is a likely candidate for sacking and looting, and there is the matter of returning Rondo Fleagle's earthly remains to his people in Dro-Baan Khaz. And you can never be sure when or where a giant turtle will strike. They are amphibious after all...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Haul

This is for my players.

So that you’re aware of what you pulled out of the dungeon on this last delve, here is the breakdown after taking the time back at the Mad Manor to sort through it all:

11,000 silver guilders
5,000 electrum suns
13,000 gold marks
1 silver nose ring
1 silver & platinum necklace
1 gold necklace with onyx stones
1 gold pinkie ring
1 gold & silver bracer
3 gold & silver pectorals
1 gaudy helmet
1 vial of purple & silver liquid
1 vial of clear oil
1 vial of brown liquid
1 jar of milky white leaves
1 scroll of ward against undead
1 magic-user scroll containing two spells
1 detailed map of the northeastern lands of the Kinan-M’Nath

Not bad for a day’s work.