Archive for Fantasy Gaming

Henchmen, Men-at-arms and Torchbearers, Oh My!

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2017 by Kullervo

One of the things I love about old-school D&D is the expectation of tons of retainers.  To me, it adds another level of fun and personality to the game, and an interesting layer of resource management (it also mitigates a lot of the game balance and niche protection problems of newer D&D editions).  However, I have found that most of the older D&D editions and their simulacra don’t have very fleshed-out or consistent rules for this.  So here’s how I run retainers in my games, because I have found that it works and is fun.

I always assume that all NPCs have 10s in each stat unless there is a very good reason for it to be otherwise. This is just to keep me sane as the DM, because then all that matters is their weapons, armor, class and level, and I don’t have to also think about other modifiers for anything.

I also divide retainers into the following three categories:

Henchmen: Henchmen are like sidekicks. They can be any character class. They have names (often funny ones) and personalities.  They come completely unequipped, depending on the PC to outfit them (I think I got this from 1e), which means that the PC has to provide, at a minimum, workable weapons and armor and a basic adventurer’s kit. They don’t work for a per diem rate, but they take a 1/2 share of treasure and get a 1/2 share of xp. They are willing to enter into combat and even fight on the front lines, but if the PC orders them into dangerous situations that the PC will not himself go into (i.e., uses the henchman as a 10′ pole), the henchman will have to make a morale check. And I always warn players of this beforehand and remind them of it often. If a henchman dies, the PC has to pay 50gp/level to the henchman’s family/hometown/clan or have a hard time attracting future retainers of any kind. If a PC dies, we usually promote his henchman into the player’s new PC.

Men-at-arms: Men-at-arms are mercenaries. They are usually level 1 fighters, and they come fully equipped and usually in a unit (e.g., 5 archers with scale mail, shortbows and handaxes) with a leader, and only the leader counts against the hiring PC’s retainer limit. They work for a per diem rate, typically in the realm of 1-5 gp per day each (I use the Mercenaries Table from p. 133 from the Rules Cyclopedia, but it’s per day instead of per month for mercenaries who will go into the dungeon). They will fight, even on the front lines, but won’t carry stuff or otherwise engage in “adventuring” (they certainly won’t test out dangerous areas, sketchy looking bridges, etc.). They’ll just flat-out refuse. They don’t gain levels or experience or take a share of treasure (if you want higher level men at arms, you have to hire elite soldiers at a substantially higher pay rate). If any of them die, the PC has to pay 50gp to the mercenary’s family/hometown/clan or all of the rest of the band will quit and the PC will have a harder time attracting future retainers of any kind.

Torchbearers: Torchbearers are 1-HD humans who serve as porters, etc. They work for a low per diem rate of something like 1 sp per day. They won’t fight or engage in adventuring beyond basically following the PCs around holding things. If any of them die, the PC has to pay 50sp to the torchbearer’s family/hometown/clan or the PC will have a harder time attracting future retainers of any kind. They don’t gain levels or experience or take a share of treasure.

The Annals of Stonehell Dungeon – Season 1 – Eleventh Session

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , on April 18, 2017 by Kullervo

The Annals of Stonehell are the weekly record of the semi-seasonal game of D&D that I run using the brilliant Michael Curtis’s Stonehell dungeon.  (Go and buy it now; it’s worth every dang penny.)  All installments are indexed here.

September 1, 2016

Back to the Quiet Halls!  But only for a few minutes, because snake men are downstairs!  After the previous week’s slaughter, the party (consisting of a mix of new player characters and old player characters who hadn’t been present the previous week) decided to keep exploring the Quiet Halls, hoping to find that big gem.  So they headed off in a different direction from the teleport glyph and found a spiral stairway down to the Reptile House, a region of Stonehell known to have once been the territory of a terrible cult of snake men.

Glory Holes!  After wending their way through a few corridors and chambers with ruined reptilian statuary, the party found an octagonal room with an unusual stone pedestal, topped with a statue of a four-headed cobra, rearing to strike in every direction.  On each side of the pedestal was a hole of disturbing size and elevation.  (“I thought this was a God-fearing house!” exclaimed one player.)  Eventually, someone stuck an iron spike (an actual iron spike; that’s not a bold euphemism) into one of the holes, which freed the statue to be able to  turn.  Pretty sure this was a trap, most of the party left the room and the thief wrangled a rope around one of the cobra heads and got out of the way to pull the statue around.  Unsurprisingly, this caused each of the cobra heads to spray green, poisonous gas into the room.  Also unsurprisingly, the player characters decided that this was not worth messing with.

The teleportation hub!  It was the last session of the summer, so the party decided, screw it, they were going to go back to the teleport glyph hub from the previous session (you know, the one that led to the total party kill)to see what they would find, for better or worse.  The party spent some time exploring the different teleport glyphs, mostly a matter of popping somewhere, taking a quick look-see, and popping back, and always worried that the Vrilya were going to find them and wipe them out again.  But then, one of the glyphs led completely out of the dungeon…

…to the stables?  Indeed!  The sixth teleportation glyph actually les to a little-used storage cellar underneath the stables of St. Nenno’s Abbey, miles away from Stonehell dungeon and the home base of an order of clerics in the service of Pope Borian Wolfric I, a regional pope whose lycanthropy is a well-known secret.  The party, appearing as if from nowhere, was quickly taken into a kind of “friendly” custody, and brought to a cell (the kind that monks pray in, not the kind prisoners are left to rot in… although it turns out it was able to serve either purpose admirably) to await questioning.

Questioned by the Reeve!  And then the werewolf pope himself!  The pope’s reeve came and tried to wrench the player characters’ story from them, but the player characters sensed a hidden agenda and kept their mouths shut.  A secret backdoor entrance to multiple locations in the dungeon could be of immense tactical value.  Eventually Pope Wolfric himself came to try to force the player characters to talk.  Of course, players being players…

THEY LIT THE WEREWOLF POPE ON FIRE!  AND THEN THEY ALL DIED!  Seeing where the situation was headed, and given that it was the last session of the summer, the party decided to go all in, and laid into Pope Wolfric with an alpha strike—bringing every possible weapon, resource and magical spell to bear directly on him, and the room, as possible.  And for first level characters, that means mostly vial after vial of flaming oil.  You heard that right, they doused the werewolf pope and his abbey in like a thousand Molotov cocktails, until he died.  It was a conflagration of apocalyptic proportions.  The death toll was incredible.  Wolfric’s men didn’t stand idly by, either, and as they burned to death in the greasy flames, they took all of the player characters out with them.  All, that is, except one: a kobold, played by Chris, who squeezed through the tiny window and scampered back to the stables, the teleport glyph, and the (relative) safety of Stonehell…

The Annals of Stonehell Dungeon – Season 1 – Tenth Session

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , on April 18, 2017 by Kullervo

The Annals of Stonehell are the weekly record of the semi-seasonal game of D&D that I run using the brilliant Michael Curtis’s Stonehell dungeon.  (Go and buy it now; it’s worth every dang penny.)  All installments are indexed here.

August 25, 2016

Zombies!  Barricades!  Death!  If you’ll remember, the party ended the week before shut in the nameless wizard’s inner sanctum with zombies pounding on the door. The player characters quickly threw together a plan: they threw down tables and furniture to make a barricade to fight behind, and tied a rope across the room as an obstacle for the mindless flesh-eating undead.  Everyone got behind the barricade and readied their weapons, and one player character (I don’t even remember his name, but he was played by Jon) threw open the door and ran for the barricade.  Didn’t make it though.  Zombies got ‘im.  As it turned out, he made the perfect distraction for the zombies, as they clustered around him, gobbling him up, the player characters on the other side of the barricade were able to unleash a withering hail of missile fire to soften up the zombies substantially, and then finished the restless dead off with polearms and other reach weapons.

Orcs again!  And lies!  On their way out of the wizards’ chambers, the player characters ran into yet another orc raiding party.  Fortunately, they spoke a common language, so the player characters were able to tell outrageous lies to the orcs, who were in fact looking for the player characters to get revenge, but didn’t realize it.  The player characters said they killed this “other party” and named off the locations of all their own dead comrades as proof of where they’d left the bodies.  The orcs bought it, and the party skedaddled back to Kobold Korners.  On their way, they poked into a few more rooms and found, in a trophy room, a mounted set of manticore spikes.

A Medusa!  Commerce!  And rumor about mysterious gem!  Back in Kobold Korners, the party briefly ran into Lacheisis, a Medusa known throughout Stonehell as an information broker, together with her two hulking ogre bodyguards.  Moving on, the party made their way to the trade warehouse where they sold the manticore spikes for a pittance and learned about a mysterious gem in the crypts directly to the north of Kobold Korners.  Hoping that it might be the fabled 40-lb ruby of Stonehell, the party recruited a kobold guide named Gretsch and set off into the Quiet Halls.

Even more zombies!  And a teleport glyph!  After traversing a strange stone bridge over a river of stagnant filth, the party started poking into sealed crypts, hoping to find, man I don’t really know what they were hoping to find.  But they found hordes of zombies.  Displaying the better part of valor, the player characters fled into a secret door they had found and ran into a glyph carved into the wall in the hopes that it was some kind of teleporter and not some kind of disintegrator.  The bet paid off, but they found themselves far deeper in the dungeon than they had anticipated.

Strange corridors carved with faces!  And ancient evil elves!  The party emerged into some sort of hub, with six little alcoves, each with a glyph like the one the party had just come through.  The ceilings were higher than before and the floors were more like some kind of poured concrete.  But the walls were carved with faces of all kinds of beings, some known, and some unknown.  The party set out to look around, and found itself face to face with a group of some kind of grim, science fiction dark elves, calling themselves the Vrilya.

“We’re gonna have to take the orc.”  The Vrilya demanded tribute, and immediately started picking over the player characters’ equipment lists, taking anything that looked interesting.  Certain they were outclassed, the player characters were prepared to submit to all kinds of indignity, even allowing the Vrilya to take Jon’s orc henchman (the orc was pretty pissed), but then the Vrilya crossed the line, demanding Rotam the Rotten’s bag of saltpeter.  Why this was the line, man, I do not know.  But it was.  The player characters turned on the Vrilya and were all cut down in their tracks in shockingly short order.  And that was that.  The fabled Total Party Kill.

On to the next session!

The Annals of Stonehell Dungeon – Season 1 – Ninth Session

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , on April 18, 2017 by Kullervo

The Annals of Stonehell are the weekly record of the semi-seasonal game of D&D that I run using the brilliant Michael Curtis’s Stonehell dungeon.  (Go and buy it now; it’s worth every dang penny.)  All installments are indexed here.

August 18, 2016

The party left Kobold Korners to go looking for the hidden sanctum of the surly ghoul’s master (we never caught the ghoul’s name, so we will call him “Ghoul Strider”), where they hoped to find a cure for Ghoul Strider’s undead state (and accompanying hankering for long pig).  Here are the highlights:

A trash pit!  And a secret door!  Finding the entrance to the sanctum turned out to be relatively easy, or else the player characters were just lucky, because they basically stumbled right into it.  Just south of Kobold Korners’ guard post, they found the local midden, a garbage pit that looked like it had been some sort of religious shrine at one point.  The arrangement of the bas-relief sculptures tipped the party off, and they opened up a secret door.  Ghoul Strider was cautiously optimistic.  Also, it was sort of a minor miracle that no player character ended up actually in the garbage pit, although it was seriously discussed.

An ancient conjuring chamber!  Filled with ooze!  After poking into a couple of relatively nondescript rooms, the player characters found an obviously wizardly conjuring chamber.  Ghoul Strider was elated (he cried “Jackpot!” for what was not to be the only time of the evening), as it bore all the marks of his old master.  The downside was that the room was also filled with aggressive oozes that immediately began sliming their way toward the party.  After fighting for a few rounds, the party decided that discretion as the better part of valor, so they shut the door and moved on.  Let me give you a little bit of foreshadowing:  oozes can definitely squeeze through closed doors.

A wrecked arcane workshop!  A lilac orb!  And a brass door with glyphs!  The party moved on to the site of an obvious magical experiment gone terribly wrong (“Jackpot!” cried Ghoul Strider): a wizard’s workshop in terrible disarray, as if it had been the site of a powerful implosion, and in the center of the room was a glowing purple orb that absorbed whatever the player characters threw into it.  Also, amongst the room’s many exits was a brass door inscribed with glyphs that piqued the player characters’ collective interest, but it was locked and they couldn’t unlock it, so they headed a different way.

Zombies!  The next room was an old barracks filled with the walking dead, wearing insignia that indicated that they once served Ghoul Strider’s master (“Jackpot!” cried Ghoul strider).  They shambled hungrily at the party, and the party ran away.  The player characters locked the door behind them, but the zombies began to batter at it with a high level of undead motivation.  Let me give you a little bit of foreshadowing: eventually, zombies can break down a door.

A shrine to Math, the god of Magic!  And secret doors!  After running away from the zombies, the party found itself in a shrine dedicated to the seldomly-worshipped god of magic, named Math.  (You can tell it’s an American god because he’s not called “Maths.”  Call Neil Gaiman, I guess.)  Although Math was Ghoul Strider’s master’s deity of choice (“Jackpot!” cried Ghoul Strider), the player characters were not so much interested in the religious/cultic significance of the site as they were the possibility of a secret door.  And indeed, they found two (“Jackpot!” cried the rest of the party).

Slugs!  And death!  One secret door led to a storeroom filled with giant, aggressive slugs.  One player character (played by Mike) died by being rasped to death by a slug.  Not a pretty way to go, and death 1 out of 3 of the night.

Back to the zombies!  And the oozes!  And orcs!  The player characters wandered around the complex and, after picking their way through a dining room set with real silver (which they plundered) (“Jackpot!” cried Ghoul Strider, as he recognized his old master’s silver pattern), they found themselves back in the barracks where they had originally encountered the zombies, but the door to the ruined arcane workshop was broken down and the zombies were obviously loose.  Oh, and remember those oozes?  They attacked the player characters again.  The player characters fought valiantly, and then decided to run away some more.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, a party of Open Sore Tribe orcs (the bane of the party’s existence) came lurking into the room, looking for a fight and something to plunder.  However, the payer characters were crafty, set an ambush, and killed almost all of the orcs.  A few ran away to increase the orc-player character hostility in the future.  The zombies were still on the loose though…

A bedchamber!  And a weird self-portrait…  The party then found Ghoul Strider’s master’s bedchamber, with a weird self-portrait painted on the ceiling directly over the bed (“Jackpot!” cried Ghoul Strider; “Who does that?” asked the rest of the party).  The portrait’s depiction of the wizard’s bushy eyebrows was particularly disturbing.

A library!  Full of wee skeletons!  And death!  Next, the party wandered into a magical library (“Jackpot!” cried Ghoul Strider, and the rest of the party considered killing him) filled with books (duh) and very small skeletons.  The skeletons were not friendly, as evidenced by the fact that they ripped out Dathus’s throat (Mike again!).  The party stood their ground this time, and dispatched the skeletons with the aid of holy undead-turning power.

Wound-enhancing mirrors!  And more death!  Next, the player characters found a mirrored room, but these were no ordinary mirrors!  These mirrors reflected the viewer but more wounded—and their twisted pictures become real!  Ruphus the Merciful (played by Jon) found out just how real when he tried to crawl through the room on his hands and knees, not looking at the mirrors.  The mirrors were not merciful to Ruphus the Merciful  He died.  The party sent the next player character through with a bag over his head, only to find out that the room just led to the other side of the brass glyph-covered doors, that the party couldn’t get through from this side either…

Jackpot!  For real this time!  Also, zombies again.  The player characters rounded a corner and found themselves face to face with the zombies again, so they dashed through a door, into… the inner sanctum (“Jackpot!” cried Ghoul Strider, and everyone groaned).  After shutting the door behind them (remember the foreshadowing?), the party found a glowing vial on a table.  Could this be.. the cure for undeath?  Ghoul Strider didn’t wait to think it through—he quaffed the whole thing greedily, and, after some rather painful-looking convulsions, TURNED BACK ALIVE!  And right about that moment, the zombies began battering in the door.

On to the next session!

The Annals of Stonehell Dungeon – Season 1 – Eighth Session

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , on April 18, 2017 by Kullervo

The Annals of Stonehell are the weekly record of the semi-seasonal game of D&D that I run using the brilliant Michael Curtis’s Stonehell dungeon.  (Go and buy it now; it’s worth every dang penny.)  All installments are indexed here.

August 11, 2016

The party found their way to Kobold Korners, the dungeon’s Mos Eisley-esque neutral ground, trading post and cantina, and, after checking their weapons at the guard post, spent the evening exploring and interacting with the settlement’s weird patrons.

A market!  And a soothsayer!  The player characters first entered Kobold Korners’s widely-famed market, where they were assaulted by smells, very few of which were appealing.  The snake-seller (live or fried!) was particularly interesting.  The market’s patrons ran the gamut of horrid humanoids, but also included members of the brigand gang the party has tangled with in past sessions, and hooded cultists of some kind.  The first market stall was a soothsayer’s tent, to the party went straight in and consulted with the kobold soothsayer, who gave revelations of strictly dubious authenticity from a glass ball.  (Not crystal.  Glass.)

Gentlemen ghouls!  And an invitation to dinner!  Next, the player characters ran into an extremely polite and bespoke pair of ghouls with monocles, waistcoats and top-hats.  The ghouls were enamored by the player characters, and invited (nay, insisted) the party to come visit them at their stronghold several levels below, where the ghouls promised an evening of engaging discussion, witty repartee, literature, music, poetry, and fine dining.  With the player characters as the main course, of course.  The player characters politely declined the generous offer, but the ghouls pressed the matter, assuring the player characters that it would be an evening they would remember for the rest of their lives.  Such as it were.

A brew tent!  And a sobbing dwarf!  After poking around a junk merchant’s stall (where the player characters bought, inter alia, some map cases stuffed with random scraps of parchment, one of which may very well be a magical scroll), the party made their way to the brew tent.  The tent’s offerings were impressive—nearly every combination of fermented urine and dead animal that you can imagine.  Interestingly, a dwarf sat at one of the benches, crying tears into his beer.  The player characters approached him, and he proceeded to tell them his tale of woe: he once drank a gray mushroom ale of Stonehell dungeon provenance, and it was the greatest brew he had ever tasted.  The kind of brew that dwarven clans go to war over for generations.  He is certain that a colony of dwarves—kin to him, no less—was established deep in the dungeon long ago and developed the recipe for this ale of legend, and he is equally sure that if he could only find the colony and this recipe, that it would mean eternal glory for his clan and probably a wild fortune.  The party took note, and the sad dwarf kept drinking and crying.

A kobold warehouse!  With very exciting unfilled work orders!  On the hunt for sulfur (having already found saltpeter and interested in making some kind of explosive, I guess in case a Gorn shows up), the party left the market and wandered into the kobolds’ busy goods warehouse.  They didn’t find any sulfur, but they did spy a slate board with unfilled orders on the wall, and they noted that there is a demand for manticore spikes.

The Rat Kebab Café!  And a wee Manticore!  Next, after another brief encounter with the gentlemen ghouls, the party wound their way to the Rat Kebab Café, the Korners’ favorite haute cuisine eatery.  The rat kebabs made the player characters retch, but they did sit down with a small manticore (sitting at the table just like a little man!) who was messily devouring kebabs, and they inquired about the manticore’s spikes.  This was probably dangerous and stupid, but the manticore was not in a fighting mood, so it told the party that it would part with some spikes in exchange for a live halfling to eat.  The party was surprisingly amenable to this frankly reprehensible proposition, but as they haven’t actually encountered any halflings in Stonehell, nothing may come of it.

The cantina!  And a sullen ghoul!  The player characters headed into a dim cantina bustling with drunk, raucous monsters (and better drinks then the kobolds’ brew tent).  The party met a sullen ghoul, lurking in the corner (like Strider at the Prancing Pony, but undead and a cannibal, and also not smoking).  For all the angry attitude it was copping, the ghoul was actually fairly willing to tell its story: it had once been the apprentice of a magic-user who was investigating the lines between life, death and undeath.  The ghoul claims that its undead nature was a result of a magical experiment not its fault at all (i.e., not from, say, succumbing to the lure of human flesh, per usual), and reported that its master apparently discovered a cure for undeath.  After the ghoul and its master parted ways, the magic user established a laboratory and stronghold in Stonehell.  In fact, the ghoul believes that this hidden sanctum is near Kobold Korners, but he just can’t find it, but the ghoul is willing to join any party that will help him look for it, and even forego its share of the treasure—all the ghoul wants is the cure for undeath.

SURELY YOU’LL NEVER FIND A MORE WRETCHED HIVE OF SCUM AND VILLAINY THAN KOBOLD KORNERS.

On to the next session!

The Annals of Stonehell Dungeon – Season 1 – Seventh Session

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , on April 18, 2017 by Kullervo

The Annals of Stonehell are the weekly record of the semi-seasonal game of D&D that I run using the brilliant Michael Curtis’s Stonehell dungeon.  (Go and buy it now; it’s worth every dang penny.)  All installments are indexed here.

August 4, 2016

The party continued to explore the Contested Corridors, looking for the fabled neutral ground settlement of Kobold Corners while dealing with the threat of the Open Sore Orc Tribe.  The party covered a huge amount of ground, and here’s what they found:

Following the mysterious figure!  Into a trap!  The party went ahead and opened the portcullis and followed the mysterious figure from last session through an octagonal room and down a corridor, sending Rotam the Rotten (played by Chris) into a pit trap.  The mysterious figure was not seen again.

Another octagonal room!  And the sound of orcs!  Further down the passageway, the player characters found a nearly identical octagonal room but decorated differently and with a ruined statue in it.  To the south, they heard the raucous sound of orcs, so they decided to explore through a portcullis to the west, as the party’s numbers were small this week and their luck tangling with orcs had been mixed at best.

Child labor!  And an angry crystal statue!  The party made Hulk, the huge but almost certainly underage henchman, hold the loud portcullis open while Dhilgo Three-Quarters (played by Ann) checked out the next room, which was barred from the outside.  The room had a further door and a massive crystal statue.  Rotam tried the door, and the statue came to life, swinging its fists.  Rotam ducked and the party skedaddled out of the room, barring it again and finally letting Hulk lower the portcullis.

A desecrated church!  And cannibals!  The party kicked in the door of what turned out to be some sort of old chapel, now being used as a larder (!) by a cadre of horrible, insane cannibals—some of the descendants of Stonehell’s original inmates.  The player characters applied flaming oil and missile weapons liberally, and were able to take out the cannibals.  Nobody was particularly keen on thoroughly exploring the gag-inducing room, so the party moved on, satisfied that they had done the world a favor.

A throne room!  With giant centipedes!  Next, the party found a throne room/audience chamber, strewn with nasty old pillows.  Dhilgo decided to pick one up, and it burst, releasing a pile of giant poisonous centipedes.  The party withdrew hastily, closed to door behind them, and moved on.

A secret door!  And a spear trap!  After poking around some doors and corridors, the player characters found a ruined feasting hall where they uncovered a secret door.  Immediately beyond the door were the tell-tale marks of a spear trap.  The player characters triggered the trap and proceeded to break the spears, rendering it relatively safe for the moment (at least until the kobold work crew repairs it).

Goblins!  And a deal is struck!  The secret passage led to the camp of a goblin tribe.  Several of the player characters had a decent command of the goblin language, and the goblins seemed relatively desperate to cut some kind of a deal, so the party agreed to pay the goblins 50 gold pieces to guide them to Kobold Korners, and the goblins agreed.

Full circle!  To Kobold Korners!  It turned out that the way to Kobold Korners actually involved going back to the octagonal room where the player characters started out following the mysterious figure—beyond the room and through a few twisting passageways and the party was face to face with the entrance to Kobold Korners, heavily guarded by kobolds (of course), who have asked the party to turn over their weapons and come on into their wretched hive of scum and villainy!

All of this action happened in a maze of corridors and octagonal rooms.  In fact, the party found no less than eighteen new doors and corridors that they didn’t explore.  So there’s lots more of Stonehell awaiting!

On to the next session!

The Annals of Stonehell Dungeon – Season 1 – Sixth Session

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , on April 18, 2017 by Kullervo

The Annals of Stonehell are the weekly record of the semi-seasonal game of D&D that I run using the brilliant Michael Curtis’s Stonehell dungeon.  (Go and buy it now; it’s worth every dang penny.)  All installments are indexed here.

July 21, 2016

The party continued to tangle with the orc tribe in the Contested Corridors, and much blood was spilt on both sides!  It was harrowing and most bloody.  Here are the specifics:

A skirmish with orcs in the hallway!  Last week, we left the party having just put an orcish outpost to the sword, and facing down an angry orc patrol.  This week the slings and arrows were loosed, and blades ran red.  The battle was brutal and swift—several orcs were killed, but in the fray, Syllas Hexor the magic user (played by Nate) and his henchman, Loamer, both met grisly ends at the hands of orcs, as did the beloved Giel Kerash, the fighter (played by Oliver).  The orcs turned and ran first, but the player characters swiftly withdrew rather than pressing the attack.

A trap… maybe?  The party withdrew to Hell’s Antechamber and explored a different corridor, where they found a short dead-end passage with a weird glyph carved into the wall.  However, immediately in front of the glyph, the flagstones were heavily charred, and some kind of spout in the ceiling made the player characters nervous.  They gave the situation serious thought, but decided to just not mess with it.

A smashed gallery!  And stairs down!  Beyond a gallery full of smashed statues and low plinths, the party found a stairway leading further down into Stonehell.  They were a bit ambivalent about it, because they had heard that below Hell’s Antechamber was once an insane asylum, where the madmen took over.  For once bravery won out, and the party headed down.

Creepy stick figures on the walls!  At the bottom of the stairs, the party came to a room covered in creepy stick figure drawings.  Eerie laughter echoed distantly.  The party decided that tackling the madhouse was not a great idea at this point, so they headed back up the stairs to try the Contested Corridors again.

A blue cave!  With more kobolds!  Continuing to explore in directions other than where the orc tribe has apparently staked out territory, the party came across a large natural cavern with walls made of blue stone.  They met another kobold work crew here, this time transporting fungus that they harvested from the caves beyond.  The party got more information about Kobold Korners and the fabled neutral ground tavern there.

A dilapidated hall!  And another orc battle!  “Battle” might be a generous description of what happened.  “Dry gulch” is more accurate.  The party found a crumbling old great hall, and took a band of orcs by surprise.  True to form, they immediately opened fire, no quarter given, and killed all of the orcs but one, who ran away.  He didn’t make it far though, because Thergus the Poacher (played by Sean) cornered the escaped orc at a closed portcullis and put the orc down.  Truly an act of bravery!

A mysterious figure!  Looking through the portcullis, the party saw a mysterious figure on the other side, beckoning them to follow it.  The figure looked like a person but there was something… off about the way it moved.

On to the next session!