Hobgoblin tracks? They’re here somewhere!
The zombies all lie fallen around us, beginning to disintegrate and catch up with their natural state. We are chary of exploring too far or too closely, but there are a couple of sturdy doors near the stairwell, and we want to satisfy ourselves as to whether the staircase is the cellar stairs as Grim suspects. Upstairs there’s some rubble part-blocking a closed door.
“Jimmy – Jemmy!” – Grim
“Err, what’s that Mr. Grim?” – Jimmy
“Jemmy!” – Grim, miming a short bar
“Oh! Err yep, pry-bar comin’ up!” – Jimmy
Jimmy gimps the locks on the two doors – suspiciously new and well-oiled – with fish-hooks, while Grim takes the hinges off the door, and Alex and Borrox complain but don’t search. As Grim pries the door away, rubble piled up on the other side thunders down [Reflex save, makes DC10] bruising him slightly [1 damage]. Grim tidies the door to one side, wonders if he could get a shield made to that size, clears off enough rubble to be able to clamber up and yes, it was the cellar door as he suspected. Up above to the right is the pantry. Grim slavers with hunger at the thought.
“Hungry! Gonna get foods from pantry!” – Grim
“Grim, for St. Cuthbert’s sake! We had breakfast!” – Borrox
“Always hungry after rage!” – Grim
We retire upstairs for a second breakfast, make sure Blossom has a feed, exchange a few jokes about using bat guano and urine to clean the tarnished Ogre hoard, then return to search the Ogre’s supposed entry tunnel – the tunnel that leads directly away from its chamber.
The steps, just past the secret door, lead down to further tunnel, which then heads half-right (as though dug to circle round the moat far above) then fork. One might head off parallel to the road, one across below the forest. But they turn again, so one may even circle back into the area below the Moat-House. Grim, who has been able to confirm that the tunnel has been used by the Ogre [Take10=15], makes a meticulous search of tracks in both forks [Take20=25].
“Hobgoblin tracks! Both tunnels, both ways” – Grim
“That’s interesting, and also scary. Are they recent?” – Alex
“Yup. Also recent, two mans and one Gnome. Not Denn – just a Gnome” – Grim
The dust of the hard stone tunnel floor yields no further clues. At first, we take up Grim’s cunning suggestion of disguising the secret stair and re-blocking the cellar stair but as Jimmy works on the secret door he hears approaching footsteps and we hastily close it and retreat all the way to Hommlet, the town where everybody knows your name.
“Hey – big fella!” – villager
We re-equip, since we can now expect to be fighting this supposed Hobgoblin band that supposedly raids to the north. Kendrick buys a long spear, Jimmy six darts, Borrox a couple of torches (hey big spender!) Alex and Grim head first to the money-changer and change 2 gold for 18 silver apiece; then Grim, who has now inspected the defenses of the money-changer, heads over to the cabinet-maker across the way.
The cabinet-maker agrees that yes, he does shape wood, but only furniture and window sashes and the like, not door-size shields.
“Have a nice day” – Grim, in the same tone as the Terminator
Grim is the only one that needs healing, and Borrox’ deity is not awfully helpful [two Cure Lights for a total of 7], but with the aid of a couple of extra orisons and a full night’s sleep, the big guy is hale and hearty come the dawn.
Storm the Moat-House!
Next morning, we straggle back to the Moat-House, Blossom patiently bringing up the rear, then close up as we reach the rise and cut right into the forest verge. This is broad daylight – though still early – so any bandits or Hobgoblins watching will have seen our approach. But the forest will prevent them from seeing exactly what we are doing. We stop opposite the gate. Grim can’t see or hear any guards, but he has the impression that Hobgoblins are pretty sneaky, so decides to rush the gate anyway.
And a good thing he does!
Surprise round: Grim charges the gate-house, makes a “Take1” jump over the footbridge into the gateway, and a crossbow bolt clatters off the tower wall behind him! He discovers around four Hobgoblins, spread out in the courtyard and battle ready, as well as the crossbow-wielder up behind the rampart about 10’ to his right!
Round 1: Grim rages, charges the crossbowman and cuts him down. Kendrick races in (double-move to get to the gate for someone in scale armor) lunges with his long spear and misses [dubious call from the GM in favor of the NPC as to whether a double-move in a straightish line, zigging through the gate, counts as a charge.] Alex hurries to the gate as well, gets a line of sight over Kendrick’s shoulder and Sleeps a couple of foes. He begins his song (not sure how he fits a double-move, a spell and a chant in but hey, look at Kendrick.) The two hobgoblins still on their feet rush Grim and Kendrick but Kendrick [who has taken Combat Reflexes] stabs them as they close, killing Grim’s antagonist.
Round 2: Grim slays the remaining Hobgoblin still in the fight, and once again Alex finds he has wasted a chant (though at least not on a single opponent). Grim bounds up the steps to the Main Hall, checks that there are no more foes (and that they haven’t cleared out his beloved pantry) and Jimmy, wandering in with Borrox and Blossom, helps slaughter the sleeping pair.
Grim comes out with a light snack and we swig and munch while Alex assesses the loot in the bright spring sun. A heavy crossbow (and bolts) and five longswords are the only treasure worth noting. These are stacked tidily near Blossom in the Main Hall with our non-essential gear, we check the ruin again, then descend to continue our previous day’s task. Grim’s pretty insistent (though his reasoning sounds dubious) that we should check the zombie cells and tunnel first, then the sturdy doors.
Sudden Battle! What’s a morale check?
Descending using the cellar steps, we find the rubble has been cleared even more (and the zombie parts Grim draped around artfully to scare off militia or brigands).
Party order and what’s to hand:
- Grim: two-hander sword
- Jimmy: heavy crossbow
- Borrox: torch/shield, mace
- Alex: lantern, longbow
- Kendrick: long spear
We aren’t exactly surprised by Hobgoblins that roar with anger and rush at us, but nor do we surprise them!
Battle layout: the staircase that we have just descended is a full staircase, that is, it is fully enclosed and the sides support the risers. It stands clear of the cellar walls by 10’ at least, allowing free movement. On the left of it (looking down) the cellar extends wide (the short leg of the L-shape described last episode) and is supported by pillars; and then links to the broad tunnel with cells (the long leg of the L): this is where most of the Hobgoblins have rushed from.
- Jimmy, Hobgoblins
- Grim (later drops below Borrox)
Round 1: Alex puts the lantern down, looses and misses, retreats back up (was that three actions?) and begins singing. Jimmy drops one with a solid hit [8 damage] drops the bow and draws his shortsword. He hesitates, unsure if he should stay and backstab anyone that tries to flank Grim or Kendrick. A pair of Hobgoblins charge Grim – both missing – and another weaves past him at Jimmy; the sturdy rogue takes a heavy cut [8 damage and Jimmy is down to 1hp]; two more emerge from behind the staircase and rush Borrox and Kendrick. Kendrick lances his spear through the one attacking Borrox but misses his own target. He swaps out his spear for shield and sword. Grim turns on his heel, cuts down the Hobgoblin that hurt Jimmy, and retreats back up the stairs a short way. Borrox casts Bane, disconcerting some of the Hobgoblins [a reverse Bless, -1 to saves v Fear and to hit].
Round 2: Alex pulls back further, sings more, and looks for a shot, but in an enclosed stair there’s not much he can see. The lantern he left below is picking out ourselves and a couple of Hobgoblins in close combat. Jimmy pulls back, readying his darts. The Hobgoblins rush the steps, Borrox and Kendrick, waving their swords and howling! They don’t sound very discouraged! One cuts Grim [3 damage] but though there’s an exchange of stabs and swings, no-one else connects. Grim drops his init to below Borrox, and fights defensively. Borrox throws a Cause Fear but perhaps picks one that was unaffected by his last spell (it’s hard to tell – they are mostly very similar save for one larger one) and retreats up stairs as fast as his scale armor allows [a 20′ move minus stairs penalty – roughly 5′ to the steps and 10′ up].
Round 3: Alex tries a shot and misses, and Jimmy also misses with a dart. The Hobgoblins attempt to swamp the as-yet-unformed defense and Kendrick [AoO] kills two. One gets through and the fighter is hit hard [7 damage]. Now armed with his longsword and shield, he steps back onto the stair and is ready to defend it. Borrox casts Bless, Grim steps down [still defensive] alongside Kendrick on the stair and misses. [+6 to hit -4 for defensive.]
Round 4: Alex feels he is being left out. It’s at times like these when people start over-complicating things. He casts Mage Hand to retrieve his lantern. Jimmy throws another dart, unsuccessfully. The Hobgoblins surge forward and attack the pair defending the stair, but all miss: the sides or scoting effectively prevent any but the pair immediately facing the defenders from attacking. Kendrick strikes down the one in front of him, and Borrox heals Grim [minimum=3 but that’s all the big guy needs] and Grim misses again.
“What else can I do?” – Alex
“Get a 10’ pole!” – Grim
Round 5: Alex heads off to get a 10’ pole from our “campsite” (Blossom and the gear stack). Despite the reduced light, Jimmy spots one that is exposed by Kendrick’s success makes his first successful hit with a dart and kills one [6 damage]. There are only three left, but the Hobgoblins seem intent on finishing the fight [GM rolls an Int check for them behind the screen, fails] and press in, missing again. Kendrick can’t repeat his success. Borrox loads his heavy crossbow. Grim goes on the offensive and slays his foe.
Round 6: Jimmy holds as no obvious target presents itself. One Hobgoblin retreats as quietly as he can, but the other, still face to-chest with Kendrick, keeps gamely trying, without any success. Kendrick stabs his longsword through the wretch. Borrox passes his crossbow forward, Grim drops his sword, steps around the staircase scoting and drills the retreating Hobgoblin through the back!
You want who to go first?
We tidy bodies away, checking for valuables, but only ten more longswords are added to the pile upstairs. Borrox pumps 4 orisons into Jimmy, who feels pretty chipper now. He turns to and searches the cells: nothing, though a loose stone with a cavity under it causes a few seconds’ excitement. The “tunnel” leading off to the left (looking up the cells from the staircase end) proves to be an arch leading to a torture chamber, very dilapidated. Grim borrows the pry-bar again and begins dismantling stuff.
“Yes, St. Cuthbert hates these evil devices: see they are all pulled apart” – Borrox
“Not the impression I got about him” – Grim, sotto voce
Sadly no cache is found. But a search of the floor turns up a trail of blood, leading to a stone flag. When levered up it reveals a tunnel: but it’s tiny! Party Vote! Grim (6’10, 300lb) gets to strip down to chain shirt, dagger in teeth, and squeezes down the impossibly small 2’x2’ tunnel.
“Hey, you can see in the dark Mr. Grim, I would be useless down there” – Jimmy, virtuously
After some 90’ the tunnel takes a right-angle right, and slopes down. At least 30’ later it ends in a door. Performing a seemingly impossible contortion Grim wiggles around 180 degrees and returns. [No check required, maybe the GM ain’t so bad!]
We’re still not ready – according to Grim, and the lads trust him in these situations – to check the two good sturdy locked doors. We head back to the Ogre chamber and check the remaining door. It was previously blocked by a sliding block arrangement, but that’s now been shifted. Inside are the corpses of two men and a Gnome, hands bound behind their backs and bearing the marks of basic torture. Clutched in the Gnome’s clenched dead hand is an iron ring. Alex can pick out tracery on it, perhaps a design or runes.
You and who’s army?
Finally we’re now ready for the two sturdy doors. Jimmy persuades the first open while we wait, poised for action (though it is unlikely that anyone behind it did not notice our huge battle, it’s possible). It’s an armory-cum-storehouse, with supplies, provender and armor. The second is similar, with supplies and weapons, many of them pole-arms. While we don’t make a detailed tally, this is a substantial stockpile that might be suited to supplying a major host.
Grim’s intuitive grasp of where the area lies in relation to other regions allows him to guess [Take10 on Intuit Direction and Wilderness Lore] that the Hommlet region could be used to move stores on to the area north of Garrotten – the area that supposedly holds at least one mixed horde of creatures. He roughs out this explanation to the others, in case he dies before this can be reported.
Returning to Burne’s tower, we report this find to Rufus. It’s enough evidence to earn us the 400 gold coin reward for locating the Hobgoblin lair.
“We could move against them, especially if you are willing to join us” – Rufus
“We fight for money – seven gold a head – that right Alex?” – Grim
We agree to serve with the Hommlet standing militia as mercenaries for 7 gold per Hobgoblin bounty. And now having agreed to join a Rapid Reaction Unit most of us scurry round hunting up healing and more equipment.
Alex persuades the Druid to heal Jimmy’s few last scratches.
Borrox begs the Canon for help: the Canon and Burne “face off” and have a jurisdictional pissing contest but whilst the Canon won’t take a direct hand he does heal Kendrick and loans a magic shield, which Borrox hands on to Kendrick. [He now knows his own small metal shield is +1.] Borrox himself is mentally readying himself to fight as a second-rank fighter, for spells he has none.
And we are ready to march!