The characters for this session:
Fennec, Level 2 wizard (no specialty)
Cauleigh, Level 2 warrior (background: literate townsman)
Jotunn, Level 5 warrior (background: hunter; talent: tracking)
Fear not the Hobgoblins, just be precise
We rejoin our heroes in the small but perfectly-walled hamlet Haislithveit, as they chow down at the local. Fennec realises he hasn’t taken his powders yet, and does so. Cauleigh is making good time with Baubri the dimpled and pretty serving-wench, and just as Fennec is about to say something cutting to ruin Cauleigh’s fun, the drug kicks in and the wizard face-plants into his pie. [Rolls a 3 on CON]
This creates a three-hour pause. Cauleigh learns that the Hobgoblin village near the northern border of Nan Roth is home to the charcoal-burners who service Rothway, so there is no need to circle round it. But be precise! Hobgoblins are very literal and need exactness in speech. [This relevant piece of information allows Cauleigh to pick up his L4 CHR SR AP!]
Once Fennec is mobile again (headache aside) they hit the road in blustery and occasionally wet weather. It’s well past noon so they overnight in another village a few hours later, choosing to get to the Hobgoblins in broad daylight thanks.
Something Crompton drinks there makes him very abstracted – almost as though he’s not there. Fennec takes him under his wing and pushes him gently along the road when he slows.
Destone, where Hobgoblins are what they say they are, literally.
Destone is a tiny place, dominated by a monstrous oak tree. Its few dozen buildings favour the dome, an unusual choice for these parts. Few Hobgoblins are in evidence: just some gaffers sitting in the morning sun. Dark, broad shoulders, slant dark eyes, short and silky beards. Ponderblade is of similar size and beard, and they wonder if he is a Hobgoblin. The mighty oak tree is at the hamlet’s centre and the buildings form a rough square around it.
The only active place to be seen is a tap-room, open to the square. Once they are seated on one of the clean benches there, a pot-boy (of middle age) finishes dealing with his three customers and greets them.
Fennec recollects the need to be very precise, saving some time. (Cauleigh tends to ask open questions, which can lead off anywhere.) They decide on various bits of cooked pig and a couple of different ales. Jotunn chooses double helpings of both. (Jotunn’s player has chosen to play up to his enormous CON, which is fun.)
As they ask as to the path north, Emren the hamlet’s elder introduces himself. He is human, and they learn a little of the circumstance that brought a small community of Hobgoblins here to replace folk who fled.
More practically, they also learn a small amount about the ruin and the danger there. Hobgoblins have stopped burning charcoal for Rothway, because of the dead men seen on the trail into the King’s Forest. The only sign of what may have done the terrible damage was a footprint left on a broken charcoal mound – a footprint as long as a short sword.
They decide that the first pass at the ruin will simply be a scouting mission. They ask Emren about accommodation, and he tells them the only accommodation is with Accommodation Girl, in Rose Cottage.
Accommodation Girl is, as far as they can work out, the hamlet’s prostitute. Her name is Rose, possibly because she lives in a house completely swathed in roses. Inside, tendrils of rose sway gently over the several beds. Crompton is put to bed – he seems quite pleased – and they stow armour or packs. Rose talks softly to her roses and they descend to cover the gear. Fennec is intrigued!
Freed from packs and extra weapons the trio make good time north and then north-east, and find the main marker, known as the gallows pole. A trail leads north-west off the path, into the thickets of the King’s Forest. Jotunn takes the lead, but the trail tells him nothing.
After some quarter-hour they reach the edge of a clearing and look north to see the remains of a defensive gate. The wall on either side is so crumbled that it could be clambered over easily by any fit agile Dwarf. Trees have grown up here and there across the clearing, but a mound and ruined keep can be seen beyond the gate. There’s also a suggestion of a very ruined building half-right, above where the ground drops away.
Scouting the ruin finds a guard
The trio skirt the clearing, staying within the treeline, hearing nothing of note above the gusting wind in the trees. They get a reasonably clear picture of the ruin. There are two other ruinous buildings below the keep. The best place to infiltrate out of sight of the keep is left of the gate, where trees have grown up on either side of the crumbled wall.
Jotunn is elected for this and scouts the interior, while Fennec and Cauleigh keep him covered. Jotunn learns little more, except that there’s a foot-trail off the path that runs between gate and keep-mound.
It’s quite late, so he heads back. As he bundles himself over the wall he’s slam-tackled by a gargoyle that dislodged from the nearest gate-pillar!
All the combats in the ‘dungeon’ can easily be won by the Dwarves fighting united. I jazz them up with specific challenges. In this case, only ‘shock-effect’ replies can count against the gargoyle’s one-on-one damage.
Fennec throws down with a L2 TTYF, which saves Jotunn, who decides not to count double armour as is his right. (He’s wearing a rental!) 31 off CON nonetheless.
Cauleigh arrives with a nimble vault and leap (first use of magic gloves!) to smash down on the gargoyle, and the fight is quickly over. Cauleigh’s nifty silver-headed mace fits so well in his grip that while using it he cannot fumble while stunting, which is very cool. The mace-head is a little bent out of shape though.
They make swift time back to Destone, and rest up. Fennec shrewdly suspects Rose has some ability beyond moving rose vines, and asks. Sure enough, she can use her roses to trade their vampiric power for healing. Jotunn has a choice of losing STR or losing WIZ and chooses WIZ. It is slower but safer for a warrior. [It is 1:1, since I’m interested in the story not in penalising characters that get hurt.]
A second pass clears the upper works
Two dawns later all four Dwarves set off for a first real attempt, fully-geared-up. Crompton will be baggage-minder. The other three drop packs and spare weapons off with him at the gallows pole and head in.
Alert to a second gargoyle – they paid attention to Emren’s opinion that gargoyles are often found in pairs – they set up well. Fennec’s OTIS reveals the second gargoyle but its cover, the gate pillar, prevents them hurting it. Cauleigh goes in as decoy…
This time Cauleigh’s fine steel breastplate saves him from any damage, and with a TTYF, a successful bow-shot from Jotunn, and his own readiness, the gargoyle is neutralised then slain.
They extend their search further, and as they near the mound’s stair – an easy climb where some previous baron has decided a proper military ramp is inconvenient – are attacked again!
This challenge is about toughness. The two Tigran are very similar to Wulfan, but bigger and stronger. Failing a CON SR allows the Tigrans to knock a character over and fight with an advantage.
Jotunn is rammed off his feet by the pouncing Tigran [rolls a 3] but Cauleigh and Fennec deal with the second then come to Jotunn’s aid before he can be hurt.
However, this has nearly tapped Fennec out, so rather than heading in further with a no-spell wizard they declare his 15-minute working day over and head back to Destone.
Hobgoblins are willing to offer gold, so let’s do it!
Emren visits them as Cauleigh polishes his scarred breastplate back up, and talks to Fennec. The Hobgoblins are concerned about the days lost, and Rothway has sent him a note as well. Destone is prepared to go as far as a 10 gold piece reward! As Fennec seems hesitant, Emren throws in an offer of something the Hobgoblins brought from their ancestral lands. Unnamed, but valuable to a Wizard. Evidence is required though – a head of something huge enough to sunder bodies for example.
Jotunn makes the acquaintance of Lizard Hunter, the only Hobgoblin that does not use established paths around the forest (and the source of a non-pig option on the pub menu!) Jotunn gets a valuable tip on a simpler way to get to the north end of the clearing.
Back once more at the ruin on the morrow, the trio bring Crompton up with the baggage. [This happens repeatedly: assume Crompton is within hailing distance from now on.] Exploring cautiously again, and down the side-path, they next meet a small community of brownies or similar illkin of that size and disposition. Cauleigh negotiates with them but is not entirely successful. One slips away towards the mound…
Wasting no time the trio hastily ascend the mound by a decayed side-ramp and are in time for Cauleigh to hark by a broken gap in the keep wall and hear the brownie’s feet tapping down a stone stair. [L4 LK SR on an open ended roll!]
Fennec bravely proposes the old OGA bait trick, and as the Troll squeezes its shoulders out of the stair, he and Jotunn scramble over the rubble, and the spell is thrown. Jotunn acts as his shield and Cauleigh vaults into action at the same time!
The question for this combat is whether the Troll can be prevented from its single-minded attack on Fennec. It is big enough to punch a Dwarf off his feet unless thoroughly beaten.
A little spite damage is suffered but the Dwarves get into action in a coordinated defence-attack, and Fennec is unharmed. Two more rounds and the Troll lies in pieces… which begin regrowing.
Fennec uses a Bic Flic (the fire part of It’s Elemental) to scorch the neck flesh of the troll’s severed head, and all that remains is to loot the ruin!
The dungeon, in summary
Well, not quite. The ruin above-ground has nothing at all of interest, but below ground there are a number of interesting features.
Feature 1: Troll leavings
The Troll seems to have preferred a comfortable clay bed with no ornament, but in a chamber opposite lie remains of people it ate. The Dwarves pick up three arm-rings and a few rings.
Feature 2: Curiously clear font with family crest
A T-junction has at its head a font set in the wall. The water in it is clear, and a family crest can be clearly seen through it. Testing it shows it is neither flammable nor acid.
Feature 3: Runes are bait for a trap
The left passage leads to an arch through to a chamber where a plinth and pedestal’s remains can be glimpsed but large runes are set in the stone passage below the arch. None of the Dwarves recognise the runes. Suspicious minds spot chip-marks around the plinth where a heavy circular iron cage has slammed down repeatedly. With little effort the trap’s lever is located and the trap switched off, but the room holds nothing of value.
Feature 4: A second font
A very similar T-junction has a very similar or identical font at its head.
Feature 5: Pit chamber
The left passage from that T-junction opens to a chamber whence can be sensed a darkness. Fennec detects something, and his spell is enough for the Wight to attack! However all three are ready with silver weaponry and the Wight does not get to contact range.
The pit the Wight has guarded for who knows how long contains an ancient perished leather satchel. Cauleigh is lowered and raised, bringing it back up. It holds a book, and clinking silver. Fennec retrieves his backpack and stows the book and silver there.
Feature 6: Troll store
The Troll stored meat taken on the road. The chamber is not cold enough to preserve the bodies of men and half a horse, so a putrid stench hangs over it.
Feature 7: Mysterious chamber of silvered design
At the far end of the same corridor that contained the Wight’s pit, a silvered inlay can be seen in the floor of a partly-collapsed chamber. One side of the chamber is covered in a great web.
All three react as a giant spider jumps but Fennec is not quite quick enough [misses L1 DEX SR]. Luckily this spider is a smaller, weaker type than the one they fought in Dudney Chasm, and he shrugs off the poison [L2 CON SR].
Feature 8: Pool of the Hydra
Something slithers back into a large chamber. In it can be glimpsed a dark pool, as well as the other half of that horse, and though the hour grows late they make plans for what might come out of it. Fennec moves a Will-o-Wisp in to hover over the pool and Cauleigh ignites his lantern oil and successfully lobs it to float burning atop the water.
This challenge is about delivering enough shock damage to prevent the Hydra activating its breath weaponry. The Dwarves manage to do this and Fennec sears the Hydra necks again to prevent regrowth.
Feature 9: Bombed-out summoning chamber
One side of the Hydra’s great chamber is pierced by a broad archway. Beyond is a pillared circular rostrum or plinth, but whatever was at the centre of it has been obliterated at some distant time. Fennec speculates that a Hellbomb may have caused the damage.
Feature 10: Treasure with a nasty little trap
The far end of the Hydra’s chamber is littered with ancient crates and chests. The metalware has corroded beyond value but some baled silk’s inner core has remained undamaged enough to salvage.
These chests and crates cover a small niche-entrance and two sturdy caskets can be seen beyond. Suspicious minds think that is too convenient and detect the presence of a trapdoor that has to be crawled over to get inside the chamber. The trip-latch is found and made safe, and the two casks recovered. They are heavy enough to contain plenty of coin.
And feeling extremely pleased with their first ruin, the four Dwarves retreat bearing:
- Troll head
- Hydra head (just one)
- Two hefty caskets
- Remains of a bale of silk
- Silver, various, plus rings and garnets
It was worth going to full-session time, the Hydra chamber was a fun challenge with real treasure. These are very experienced players who took full advantage of a passive dungeon – one where they could take a quick dab then retreat back to a safe base. It was a shame Crompton’s player wasn’t there to enjoy it, but I’m sure now the others have a taste of a ruin-style dungeon there will be many more opportunities.
Destone comes from Towns and Villages III though Accommodation Girl is inspired by a random draw from the Rural Encounters deck. I used the vampiric roses creatively as a way to supply healing. The monsters of the ruin come from &Magazine’s Dungeon Builder randomiser, though the brownies are my idea. The forest, clearing and ruin itself comes from and is a remarkably close version of the Evening Session Map 1.