Archive for Games

The Annals of Stonehell Dungeon – Season 2 – Sixth Session

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , on July 20, 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 13, 2017 (no game on July 6)

The following irascible scoundrels were present and up to no good:

  • “Hot Pot” Sullivan (halfling thief) and her henchman, Bob Agamemnon (fighter)
  • Unknown Zorick (magic-user)
  • Thepp the Squinter (thief) and his henchman, Big Ol’ Roy (fighter)
  • Knar the Broken (fighter) and his henchman, Cod Cully (fighter)
  • Ured Last-Born (fighter)

This week the Cobalt Cobras continued to explore the Hothouse, a warm, humid and strangely lit area of Stonehell dungeon overgrown with moss and vines. After gathering their wits in the eerily peaceful chapel and taking note of the frescoes on the walls depicting men of the cloth planting a subterranean Eden, the party went back to the excavated tunnel to search the body of the magic user they had previously passed over.  Most of his gear was in bad shape (what with having been buried under tons of rock for a considerable time), but they were able to save his spellbook and a pouch full of strange seeds that looked almost like glittering gemstones.  After a discussion about what those could possibly be, the party set forth, and here’s what they found:

A council chamber!  With a dead fish!  In a dusty council chamber with a large table surrounded by preposterously high-backed chairs, the party found the skeleton of a four-foot fish, with head intact, as if it had been recently eaten, but not that recently: it smelled just absolutely terrible.

A mysterious machine!  The party then came to a room dominated by a large, rattling machine made up of sputtering valves, pipes, huge tanks, tubes and pressure dials.  A webwork of pipes radiated out from the machine along the ceiling of every hall in the Hothouse.

The dormitories!  Filled with plant monsters!  And a chamber pot!  The Cobalt Cobras then found a cluster of overgrown dormitories or cells, each one furnished in spartan fashion and most of which were inhabited by some terrible plant monster or another.  The party fought an aggressive head of lettuce, three vicious patches of moss (one of which landed on “Hot Pot” Sullivan’s head), and a cluster of giant ticks (which nearly sucked the life out of Big Ol’ Roy, who is now not feeling very good).  Most importantly, the party found a chamber pot they could use, because the female members of the party had too much dignity to just relieve themselves in the corners of the dungeon like some people.

Splitting the party!  And wizard spiders!  At some point, Knar the Broken decided the Cobalt Cobras were moving too slowly, so he set off with his henchman to investigate an area of the hothouse that was covered in webbing.  Big surprise, it turned out to be the home of a pair of giant spiders.  But not just any spiders—these giant spiders could speak and cast spells.  And when the rest of the party tried to intervene, they had to first fact down a colossal, slobbering spider from their nightmares.  Literally from their nightmares, as it turned out, because it was just an illusion.  Eventually the party beat the spiders further back into their holes and got Knar and Cod Cully out.

A tight spot!  After some deliberation, the party decided to go explore the spiders’ lair.  However, this might have turned out to be a mistake, because, once they all got into the first webbed room, they found themselves surrounded by a whole lot more of the spell-slinging arachnids, menacing them spiderly with their little spider hands and their eight beady spider eyes.

How will the Cobalt Cobras get out of this mess? On to the next session!

The Annals of Stonehell Dungeon – Season 2 – Fifth Session

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , on July 6, 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.

June 29, 2017

The following veritable army of Cobalt Cobras descended into Stonehell for gold and glory:

  • “Hot Pot” Sullivan (halfling thief) and her henchman, Bob Agamemnon (fighter)
  • Reader Stedda (cleric) and his henchman, Bootblack (thief)
  • Fat Jack Blackfort (thief) and his henchman, Nibbles Neuberger (fighter)
  • Brother Criam from Qualer (cleric) and his henchman, Burt Slime (fighter)
  • Leaper Dray (thief)
  • Fast Fist Forbinn (fighter) and his henchman, Conchobar (fighter)
  • Thepp the Squinter (thief) and his henchman, Big Ol’ Roy (fighter)
  • Opill the Undersage (magic-user) and his henchman, Rodrigo (thief)
  • Veronica of Ghotir (magic-user)
  • Knar the Broken (fighter) and his henchman, Cod Cully (fighter)

The adventure began in Kobold Korners, after our heroes, the Cobalt Cobras, encountered the menacing black-eyed elf.  After some lengthy discussion, they decided to go ahead and try the medusa Lachesis again.  The plan was to offer her the book with the ouroboros on the cover (that they found in the spider room, two sessions ago).  The party could not read the book, but they hoped Lachesis would be able to and that it would tell her how to pass through the Ouroboros Gate.  Lachesis was unfortunately not there when the player characters went knocking, so they decided to do some exploring.  Here’s what they found:

A grand foyer!  With treasure!  After mucking around an empty room that had old spider webs on the ceiling (and by “mucking about” I mean, of course, “they lit it on fire”), and where Reader Stedda pocketed an old wineskin with some delicious liquor in it, the party found their way to a large pillared foyer with stairs down and a double door that the party could not budge.  Brother Criam from Qualer searched the pillars and found a hefty treasure cache filled with gold coins and jewelry.

Heavy manual labor!  And monsters!  And a dead body!  The party then came to a collapsed tunnel, which they decided to excavate.  The project took roughly two hours, during which time the party had an encounter with a curious giant tarantula (which Knar the Broken annihilated in one magnificent shot) and an aggressive gelatinous cube (which engulfed Fat Jack Blackfort, who nearly died before the other player characters killed it).  They also dug the body of an adventurer out of the rubble, but then they forgot to search it, so who knows what they passed up.  Probably they’ll never know because some other enterprising adventurer will get to the body first and loot it.  Live and learn, Cobalt Cobras, live and learn!

The greenhouse effect?  And an unusually relaxing chapel!  Past the collapsed hallway, the temperature and humidity increased substantially, and walls and floor were completely covered in lichen, mold and leafy vegetation, and some sort of ambient green light filled the passageways.  The party discovered a ruined, overgrown chapel dedicated to Ky, a nature goddess, with a nearly oppressive aura of peace and contentment.  It was a nice place to rest after clearing all of that rubble.

What else will the Cobalt Cobras find in this strange, leafy dungeon greenhouse?  On to the next session!

The Annals of Stonehell Dungeon – Season 2 – Fourth Session

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , on June 28, 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.

June 22, 2017

The following adventurers were up to the task this week:

  • Opill the Undersage (magic-user) and his henchman, Rodrigo (thief)
  • “Hot Pot” Sullivan (halfling thief) and her henchman, Bob Agamemnon (fighter)
  • Thepp the Squinter (thief) and his henchman, Big Ol’ Roy (fighter)
  • Reader Stedda (cleric) and his henchman, Bootblack (thief)

The adventure began once again in the Reptile House, in the aftermath of a failed attempt to properly activate the Ouroboros Gate.  The party wanted to head back to Kobold Korners and Fort Dawnsend, but also wanted to poke around a bit first, just in case they found something cool.  Here’s that happened:

An iron spike in the ceiling!  And an old wardrobe with treasure!  The party found a ruined bedchamber full of smashed furniture, and, weirdly, an iron spike stuck into the ceiling.  The player characters furtively fiddled around with the iron spike but couldn’t figure out how to get it down.  Thepp the Squinter took a close look at the broken wardrobe: no passageways to Narnia or anywhere else, but a hidden compartment full of gold!  Huzzah!

A ruined chapel!  With weirdly regular stone piles!  Why?  The party then investigated a ruined chapel full or strangely regular piles of stoned, at perfectly measured intervals.  Not sure what the deal was there, but disturbing the piles didn’t do anything.  File that one away for later.

Out of the dungeon to Fort Dawnsend!  The party managed to get back out of Stonehell and up into the box canyon, where they investigated some of the ruins before finally camping and heading back to Fort Dawnsend, ever vigilant for the yellow-and-black-clad brigand gang that plagues adventures heading back from Stonehell.

Encounters with other adventurers!  Everyone gets jealous!  And the party gets a name!  And matching jerkins!  Back in Stonehell, the party headed straight to the Lion’s Head Tavern, the usual adventurer’s haunt, where they enjoyed the lamb stew with displacer beast.  At a nearby table sat another group of adventurers, calling themselves the Order of the Brazen Toad.  They had awesome matching tabards and a cool standard with a toad on a pole, and the player characters were insanely jealous.  Plus, the Order was dismissive and snobby.  So the party decided they needed a name and uniforms.  Thus, on that day, was born the Cobalt Cobras.  The party decided on matching blue leather jerkins with embroidered cobras on the left breast.

Getting custom-made jerkins is hard!  Especially when there are accusations of witchcraft!  The Cobalt Cobras immediately set out to get their matching jerkins made, but it turned out it would take a whole week, so they decided to just hang around town.  The first few days were uneventful (the party passed on a terrible investment opportunity), but on the fourth day, Reader Stedda was accused of witchcraft.  He narrowly escaped town by hopping over the wall while the angry crowd pelted him with rotten eggs and rotten vegetables, and he spent the rest of the week sleeping in the woods outside of town.

A debt collector!  And a quarg hunt!  While kicking around town waiting for the jerkins, “Hot Pot” Sullivan ran into an aggressive debt collector, who claimed that Hot Pot owed 100 gold plus interest on an old debt.  Hot Pot says the debt was her ex-husband’s (the one that left her with a heavily scarred face—heaven help him if he ever crosses paths with her again), but she paid up to avoid an entanglement with the Fort’s garrison and a stint in debtor’s prison.  A few days later, Hot Pot was invited by some locals on a “quarg hunt,” so she spent all night in the woods with the traditional quarg hunting regalia—a net, a bell on a long pole, and a bag of garlic.  By dawn, she realized that they were having her on.

Back to the dungeon!  And an unfortunate encounter with the black-eyed elf!  The week passed, the party picked up their custom-made blue jerkins (enough for everyone!), and the Cobalt Cobras headed back to Stonehell.  Back in Kobold Korners, in their way through the market, the party bumped into a white-haired elf with pitch black eyes and an ornate brass bracelet on his right arm.  The player characters asked the elf about the Ouroboros Gate, and even showed him the tome they pilfered with the snake devouring itself on the cover.  The elf’s reaction was singularly hostile; in accented common, he demanded that the party give him the book and leave Stonehell forever, and, when the player characters refused, the elf made himself absolutely clear: “Consider yourselves dead.”

On to the next session!

 

The Annals of Stonehell Dungeon – Season 2 – Third Session

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , on June 21, 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.

June 15, 2017

The following adventurers were up to the task this week:

  • “Hot Pot” Sullivan (halfling thief) and her henchman, Bob Agamemnon (fighter)
  • Thepp the Squinter (thief) and his henchman, Big Ol’ Roy (fighter)
  • Reader Stedda (cleric) and his henchman, Bootblack (thief)
  • Knar the Broken (fighter) and his henchman, Cod Cully (fighter)

The adventure picked up in the Reptile House, in the aftermath of the hobgoblin ambush.  The player characters scouted the room a bit and found that it overlooked some sort of arena or pit where giant flies were feasting on the remains of a huge beast.  Nobody thought that would be a fun way to go, so they headed on towards (hopefully) the Ouroboros Gate.  Here’s what they found along the way:

More lizardmen!  And a deal is struck!  The party entered a large feast and assembly hall, dominated by a statue of a huge cobra.  In the hall was yet another patrol of lizardmen.  They were on edge but not directly hostile once the player characters established that they were not planning on desecrating the lizardmen’s sanctum.  Ultimately, the party traded their hobgoblin captive to the lizardmen for more information about the Ouroboros Gate (and another warning about the elf with the black eyes), and they all tried really hard not to think about the hobgoblin’s fate (spoiler: the lizardmen were definitely going to eat him).  As the party moved on towards the room containing the gate, they ominously stepped over a huge shed snakeskin…

The Ouroboros Gate!  And a big snake!  And more snakes!  Seriously, snakes everywhere!  Finally, the party turned right and entered a chamber furnished as a bedroom, containing a huge stone carving of a snake devouring itself: probably the Ouroboros Gate!  As the player characters crossed the room, they heard the tell-tale rattle of a rattlesnake under the bed.  They peeked under the bed from a distance and confirmed their fears: this was not merely a rattlesnake, but a huge rattlesnake, coiled and angry and under the bed.  The party unloaded missile weapons and flaming oil pots on the thing until it died, and fortunately took no casualties.  Reader Stedda decided to rig up a device to extract venom from the snake (he ain’t smart but he’s clever).  Turning to the Gate, the player characters tried various things to make it work; eventually, Thepp the Squinter pressed the statue’s eye, causing a flickering green field of light to spring into existence .  “Hot Pot” Sullivan, feeling brave and immortal, tried walking through.  Unfortunately, not only was she not transported anywhere, but all of her torches and crossbow quarrels suddenly turned into live snakes, biting her something fierce.  She survived, but barely.  Frustrated, the party searched the rest of the room, finding a box of gold coins, a key on a lanyard, and a hammered gold leaf bookmark.

Spiders!  Books!  More fire!  Heading back the way they came, the party stopped to check out a nearby room with an open door.  It was an old scriptorium draped in spider webs, with the upper third of the room completely willed with webbing.  The player characters tossed in a lit vial of flaming oil and shut the door.  While the flames scoured the room, the party heard the unholy screeches of giant spiders roasting inside and trying to get out.  Once the flames subsided, the party went into the room to find the bodies of three giant black widow spiders, a desiccated body used as the spiders’ storage unit (full of treasure!), and a few intact books, written in some ancient and inscrutable language, but one of them was inscribed with the ouroboros image on the cover.

At that point, having had enough fun and not really sure what to do with the Ouroboros Gate next, the party headed back out of the Reptile House, strongly considering taking a trip out of the dungeon to Fort Dawnsend to recuperate and regroup.

On to the next session!

 

The Annals of Stonehell Dungeon – Season 2 – Second Session

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , on June 14, 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.

June 8, 2017

The following adventurers were up to the task this week:

  • Opill the Undersage (magic-user) and his henchman, Rodrigo (thief)
  • Fast Fist Forbinn (fighter) and his henchman, Conchobar (fighter)
  • Reader Stedda (cleric) and his henchman, Bootblack (thief)
  • Thepp the Squinter (thief) and his henchman, Big Ol’ Roy (fighter)
  • “Hot Pot” Sullivan (halfling thief) and her henchman, Bob Agamemnon (fighter)
  • Eshto Mastodon (fighter) with no henchman

This week’s adventure began with a side-quest by Opill the Undersage and Fast Fist Forbinn, since nobody else showed up on time.

An Acolyte of Chaos with terrible taste!  And a courier job!  Opill and Fast Fist made it back to the Festering Itch before everyone else, so while they were kicking back and relaxing, they were approached by a human priest wearing robes that looked like they were designed by Ed Hardy.  He identified himself as Buzz, the Acolyte of Chaos, and said he was looking for some hardy boys to make a delivery into the undead-infested Quiet Halls, immediately to the north of Kobold Korners.  Buzz said that he and his co-religionists had been trying to make contact with a hermit named Malfreces Nul who lives in a crypt.  So far, Nul has rebuffed the acolytes’ advances, so the acolytes want to give Nul a gift, which Buzz showed to the player characters: a chaotic grimoire, bound in black leather with gold filigree.  Buzz promised to compensate the player characters well for their efforts, and gave them some general directions, but most importantly he warned them to not open the book.  Opill and Fast Fist agreed, and headed out.

The kobold warehouse!  And more very exciting unfilled work orders!  The trip to the Quiet Halls went through the kobolds’ busy goods warehouse, where Opill and Fast Fist noted the board with unfilled orders.  Most interesting were orders for five shrunken heads and a lich’s coccyx.

Economic exploitation by the kobold with the tall hat!  Opill and Fast Fist met their first obstacle: the locked gate leading out of Kobold Korners.  They were unable to pick the lock, so they had to “rent” a key from the kobold’s watch captain (the one with the tallest hat) for 10 gp.

A slobbering, flopping monstrosity!  In the Quiet Halls and on their way to Malfreces Nul’s crypt, Opill and Fast Fist came face to face with some horrible, wet, flopping thing in the hallway ahead of them…

But then the rest of the players showed up and the player playing Opill had to go to bed (because he is eleven years old), so we put that side quest on hold and joined the rest of the party back in the cantina, trying to figure out how to proceed with the task that Lachesis the Medusa had set them to (i.e., find out how to pass through the Ouroboros Gate).  They decided to head into the Reptile House, the area of Stonehell below the Quiet Halls, and noted the unfilled orders in the warehouse.  The kobold with the tall hat was unavailable, but fortunately, Hot Put Sullivan was a better lockpick than Rodrigo and was able to pick the locked gate.

A scything blade trap to the face!  On the stairs down to the Reptile House, Reader Stedda noticed a large groove in the wall.  He decided to investigate closely, and triggered a scything blade trap.  Ouch!  He was injured seriously but not killed, and so he wasted his cure light wounds spell dealing with his own foolishness.  Reader Stedda claims he was the smartest man in his home village.  One shudders to think of the kind of brain trust that place is.

Glowing mushrooms in an ominous figure!  And a rare moment of wisdom!  Down in the Reptile House the player characters were assaulted by a marshy smell and the smell of lizards, and right at the landing, they found a patch of glowing mushrooms I the shape of a humanoid body.  They decided to not to eat them.

Totem poles with shrunken heads!  After finding a metal spike in the ground with a frayed rope attached to it and afraid of what that might signal, the party wound its way into some sort of tribal ceremonial room, decked with totem poles decorated with feathers and shrunken heads.  Fast Fist meticulously gathered five of them.  Order filled!

Gross eggs!  And parley with the lizardmen!  In an adjacent room, the party found a clutch of leathery eggs, recently broken and oozing something onto the flagstones.  At nearly the same time, a band of lizardmen approached the party, cautiously with spears out.  Hot Put Sullivan was able to parley with them in the neutral tongue.  The lizardmen were mostly concerned that the player characters not defile their sanctuary (which they apparently had not done yet), so they were willing to give some information, most important of which was that they knew the location of what they called the Serpent-That-Devours-Itself, which the player characters sure hope is the Ouroboros Gate and not some terrible monster.  The lizardmen also warned the party about a pale elf with jet black eyes who has been seen coming and going from the room with the Serpent-That-Devours-Itself.

Carnivorous flies!  And treasure (finally)!  On their way to the Serpent-That-Devours-Itself, the party made short work of a pair of carnivorous flies feasting on the corpse of a hobgoblin (probably from the hobgoblin army that is occupying part of the same level of the dungeon), and looted a couple of nice-looking gems from the body.

Hobgoblin ambush!  And a captive!  Continuing on their way, the party was ambushed by a group of hobgoblins shooting crossbows from a perch at the top of a staircase.  The party was pinned down for awhile, until Fast Fist Forbinn used a ring of invisibility and elven boots to scout the hobgoblins’ position.  As there were only three hobgoblins, the party decided to rush them (armored guys first, of course).  The player characters put two of the hobgoblins to the sword and the third one surrendered.

On to the next session!

 

The Annals of Stonehell Dungeon – Season 2 – First Session

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons with tags , , , , , , on June 7, 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.

June 1, 2017

The following members of the expedition were present and expediting:

  • Throgmorton Le Strange (kobold) and his henchman, Couch (kobold)
  • Fast Fist Forbinn (fighter) and his henchman, Conchobar (fighter)
  • Reader Stedda (cleric) and his henchman, Bootblack (thief)
  • Opill the Undersage (magic-user) and his henchman, Rodrigo (thief)
  • Nevuch the Gesticulate (cleric) and his henchman, Hortensius (hobgoblin)
  • Knar the Broken (fighter) and his henchman, Cod Cully (fighter)

This summer’s campaign began with a recap of what has happened in the passing year:

The annihilation of the Werewolf Pope’s army!  After the conflagration at St. Nenno’s Abbey, the forces of St. Nenno’s, led by Pope Borian Wolfric II (also presumed to be a lycanthrope), invaded Stonehell through the Efah-Soom, a teleporter nexus built by the grim, science fiction dark elves deep in the dungeon known as the Vrilya (who TPK’d the party last year).  The invasion was enthusiastic and fervent, but the forces of St. Nenno’s were  by the Vrilya, and the site of St. Nenno’s Abbey was disintegrated, leaving a glass crater in its place.  Now, the ragged survivors of the forces of St. Nenno’s are seen sometimes in the dungeon, looking haggard and grim.

The invasion of the Blue Lich!  Earlier in the spring, the party of player characters went on a side-mission to investigate the Blue Tombs, a mysterious burial site located on the second level of Stonehell.  Giant toads were fought.  An elf was skewered.  The player characters found the grand tomb itself, opened the sarcophagus, and quickly stole a blue amulet, a blue scepter and a blue sword off of the body laying inside (they weren’t quick enough to also grab the blue crown).  The body woke up, of course, enraged and floating in the air, and opened a portal to who knows where, out of which an army of armored skeletons came marching out.  The party skedaddled with the stuff they stole.  Since then, the armored skeletons have been taking over the Asylum (a portion of level two that was once a sanitarium for Stonehell’s less mentally healthy inmates, but later fell to become a kingdom of madmen).  Folks are asking questions, and Rythik, the king of the madmen, has not been heard from.

The hobgoblins are restless!  The hobgoblin military force that occupies a portion of the second level of Stonehell has become more aggressive as of late, even attacking Kobold Korners a few times.  The kobolds have reacted by building barricades and becoming much more careful about their security (read: pathologically paranoid).

A new power in the depths?  Rumor tells of a group of white-clad cultists with bronze masks making appearances on the lower levels of the dungeon.  They are said to serve an inscrutable goddess of riddles and death.  What do they want?  Where did they come from?

So this week’s adventure began with the party at the Festering Itch, the neutral-ground cantina in Kobold Korners, wondering what to do with the mysterious treasures they plundered from the Blue Tombs, and making friends with Throgmorton Le Strange, the lone survivor from last year’s conflagration at St. Nenno’s Abbey and keeper of last year’s dungeon map.  After making inquiries, the party determined that the most likely source of information about the blue artifacts would be Lachesis, a medusa information-broker who lives on the third level of Stonehell with her enslaved human mage and two ogre bodyguards.  She is known to frequent Kobold Korners, but has not been seen in weeks.  Accordingly, the players decided to head to her lair.  Here’s what happened on the way:

A furious dwarf!  The party was approached by an imposing dwarf with a blunderbuss who announced himself as Zodar the Elder.  He said that his brother, Wodar the Elder, had gone missing in Stonehell dungeon looking for the recipe to Stonehell’s gray mushroom ale, a legendary brew that a colony of their dwarven ancestors had invented deep in the dungeon long ago.  Zodar claimed to have it on good authority that Wodar had spoken to a group of adventurers about this, and they didn’t help him, so Wodar went it alone and never came back.  Accordingly, Zodar has entered this unknown (to him) party of adventures into his Book of Grudges and sworn his everlasting vengeance against whoever they happen to be.  The party assured him it was not them (which is technically true since everyone had been playing different characters when that happened last summer).  Zodar remained suspicious, but informed the party that they could earn his everlasting esteem by finding Wodar and/or the gray mushroom ale.  Then, Zodar went to bother another party of adventurers who were also hanging around the cantina.

Paranoid bureaucracy!  As a hobgoblin, Hortensius’s presence in the party proved to be a bit of a poser when the player characters wanted to cross the barricade to get to the stairs down to level two.  They struck a bargain with the kobold watch-captain, who issued Hortensius a very detailed and officious pass.

A room full of statues!  And something terrible on the ceiling!  After a brief encounter with a hobgoblin picket on level two of the dungeon, the party headed down to level three, where they followed the directions they had been given to the medusa’s lair.  When they came to the huge gallery of stone statues of adventurers, they were pretty sure they had come to the right spot.  While trying to figure out what to do next, they were attacked by a bloated, segmented worm with long tentacles around its mouth, crawling on the ceiling.  The player characters killed it almost immediately, and pressed on.

The medusa’s lair!  The party bypassed a door covered in poisonous spikes (courtesy of Reader Stedda’s shepherd’s crook) and made their way into Lachesis’s reception-hall, where they met her enslaved magic user, a short, balding man named Skelmis.  Although he situation as tense, Lachesis eventually agreed to meet with the party from behind a screen.  She told them that, although she did not personally know the details about the blue artifacts, she did know where the information could be found, and she would tell the player characters for a mere 10,000 gold pieces.  Obviously the player characters did not have that kind of cash, so, in the alternative, she offered to trade her knowledge for more information: the secret password to pass through the Ouroboros Gate.  Although the name “Ouroboros Gate” didn’t ring any bells to the player characters, an ouroboros is a symbol of a snake devouring itself, and, last year, the party had explored a part of level two of the dungeon that was decorated in a snake motif, so they thought they might at least know where to start looking.

A refugee!  A kidnap victim!  And callous disregard for the suffering of others!  On their way back to Kobold Korners, the party ran into a survivor from St. Nenno’s, a cleric named Brother Azrael.  He told the party that his companion, Brother Bastian, had been taken prisoner by the hobgoblins.  He told the party that he has a plan to rescue Brother Bastian, but he needs help, so he asked the party to help him by attacking the hobgoblin redoubt from the other direction as a coordinated distraction.  The party thought this sounded like a terrible idea, so they left Brother Azrael and trooped up the stairs to Kobold Korners, bribing their way past the hobgoblin sentries with ichor steaks they cut from the horrible worm and using their pass to get Hortensius past the highly suspicious kobold watch-captain.

And that’s where the adventure ended for the night!

On to the next session!

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.