We pick up the action as dawn’s light filters through thick summer foliage onto the rock-cut entrance in a rocky mound. The adventurers Vir Seck Cat and their new hireling Phoenix are hunting goblins and their boss – the green hag Yazol!
The cut stone steps visible from the cave mouth lead down steeply and proud of the cavern wall. Seck creeps forward alone and can see, at the foot of the steps, a goblin sentry snoring gently. At the limit of his vision the daylight filtering down suggests two pillars or mighty statues flanking a wide recess.
Seck draws his enchanted short sword and ends the sentry’s life, clamping down over the creature’s mouth so no loud gurgle can be heard. The others join him.
Reluctantly (and disbelieving that goblins find the dim light adequate) Cat searches the dead sentry; he weighs a small pouch of silver and tucks it away; lights a torch. The columns or statues are indeed pillar-like statues, each of a robed figure hooded so that the face is blank. (1) The recess is a broad and tall hallway. Seck checks the sides of the broad chamber; there are no visible exits there; he then peers up the broad hallway, and can just spot a good-size tunnel off right. The group heads in.
Party order: Seck, Cat with lit torch, Phoenix; with Vir moving forward to scout in dim light as required.
With due caution and stopping to listen, the scout force locates a door at the end of the right passage. Seck can’t hear anything at the door [investigation 08 at a very solid door] – all he can figure is the old door is less ancient than the original stonework; and it most likely opens away from him (4). He decides to let sleeping dogs – or maybe goblins – lie and returns to where Vir keeps watch.
They pass back down and across the grand passage and further in, where a left-branching tunnel, again good-size, bears investigation. It’s even longer than the last one, and midway along it there’s a door on the left. And another door at the end. The smell of large dog hangs about the middle door (2). Definitely leaving sleeping dogs lie, Seck moves on to the end door, unpicks the simple lock, and pushes it open to find a very dusty store-room (3). If the goblins are carting loot from caravans in, they ain’t storing it here!
Back to the grand passage and along, to find it ends at a T. The tunnels left and right are normal size – which is to say, good-size.
While the right-hand passage leads to crude goblin sign and a death-head daubed on a door (6), the left leads to a 90 degree turn left – parallel to the great passage – which at length leads to a choice of a 90 degree right turn, or more goblin sign daubed on the floor in front of an opening to a wider chamber (7).
Choosing not to risk the sign, they head left and at length find a stub-chamber, like a guard nook, off the passage. Ahead, there’s dim light and smell of food, and noise of raucous goblins. Seck creeps forward, and find himself near a corner entrance to a mess hall (8). Here, eight goblins, decked in stolen finery, feast along a great and long table. Roughly speaking half their backs are to Seck and half are facing. Light comes from lit candelabra on the table. Weapons are to hand or leaning at walls. There are perhaps two other exits.
Seck pulls back to the stub and the four make plans. Cat leaves a lit torch, so that they can pull back to it. Wishing Layton and his glaive were with them, they move to the attack!
Round 1: Phoenix rushes in, Vir dashes after Phoenix. Seck lurks and uses his bow and Cat likewise with his crossbow. Each of them chose a separate mark, and only Seck’s falls. The surprised goblins squall! Several hurl themselves over to the wall to grab up a bow but some simply leap up, and sweep out scimitars.
Diagonally across, a sad mostly-naked old woman and a sad mostly-naked man stop, horrified, as they begin entering from a side passage. They are carrying food trays.
Inits: Phoenix, Cat, bow-armed goblins, Seck, Vir, scimitar-armed goblins.
Round 2: Phoenix follows his mark, raging, and is easily dodged; the ax cleaves a corner off the table. Cat shoots accurately but the goblin manages to duck aside. Seck follows up past Phoenix and slams his short sword deep in Phoenix’ mark. He nips close in to the next two wielding their bows and immediately stabs at one trying a shot. The stab is deep but not mortal. Then he throws himself to one side and the arrow misses; but Phoenix takes an arrow from an accurate shot [5dmg halved]. Some goblins retreat and the adventurers can see they are not headed past the two humans, but down another passage away right of the original entry. Arrows rattle around Vir and Cat but they are unharmed. Vir glances at a short bow and quiver against a wall, but decides to keep following up.
Round 3: Phoenix races after the retreating goblins and sweeps his ax harmlessly over their heads! Cat tries to trap a goblin but it whips past, trying to catch up to the others; Phoenix slices sideways as he leaps past and he falls. The ax arcs on its course and takes another goblin – but momentarily – it leaps back up, bleeding from a scalp wound. Cat’s shot sails down the passage. In the mess hall another goblin rolls under the table and away from Seck as he and Vir fail to prevent them escaping. Cat whips up a 3-candlepower candelabra and they all race on after the goblins!
[Athletics checks for the pursuit, only Cat fares mediocrely]
Round 4: Free attacks to fleeing backs! Phoenix cuts down one, then cleaves into another. Vir and Seck are close on his heels. Past a door (10) they don’t have time to check. The lead goblins are screaming for help, yelling Boss! Boss! Back in his own little pool of light Cat glances back at the cowering couple – the woman looks vaguely familiar – then hurries on, pausing to kick a goblin back into oblivion.
Round 5: Phoenix is in increasing darkness and can hear goblins squealing and banging on a door. They’ve run past a couple of right-hand passages. [At this point I roll a truly awful roll for the hobgoblins hearing and reacting] Cat arrives and tries Eldritch Blast, dropping a goblin! Vir and Seck follow; Seck cuts another goblin down while Vir, who has been following warily, kills a survivor limping up from behind.
Round 6: Vir can see the goblins are hammering on a sturdy door (11) and certainly hear them screaming, while the others can see vague small shapes. Phoenix charges to close the distance and again wafts his ax harmlessly. Cat misses his next attempt in the dim light. Seck lingers to make sure of one fallen, then lops the head off another one. Vir, too, finishes a goblin.
Round 7: Phoenix is now slashing at unwounded goblins in low light but still cuts deep. Cat brings the light up again and finishes it. The goblins remaining cut back but both miss Phoenix, who twists aside. Seck follows up and cuts at both goblins, putting one down and nicking the other. Vir follows up again as rearguard, glancing down a side passage and seeing it is undisturbed. [A moment of inspiration cancels his exhaustion]
Hobgoblins yank the door open and join the the init order at bottom of round.
“Who’s making that fucking… oh, shit!”
Round 8: Phoenix [acrobatics] tramples the fallen goblin and his ax misses the lone surviving goblin. Cat uses Eldritch Blast again and misses. The goblin, trapped, is unable to get past the hobgoblins, and Seck finishes him. Vir readies his short sword behind them, in case a hobgoblin tries to break through.
[We hit the normal ending time here but the lads vote to press on!]
But the hobgoblins simply wait, baiting Phoenix to come at them!
Round 9: As Phoenix presses in the hobgoblins cut him down with two well-executed blows. Now Seck is without his ally and the hobgoblins are using a well-coordinated defense. Drawing a deep breath Cat summons Faerie Fire from beyond and one hobgoblin remains bathed in it. [provides advantage to attacks against it] Off in the dim of the nearest side-passage, Cat picks out a huge lupine shape! [WIS SV disadv] Seck cons his options. Time to get rid of these sturdy hobgoblins! He strikes but the shield defense is up to it. Seck darts back to back Vir up, who still stands ready. The hobgoblins keep with the existing plan – it’s working – and start banging their heavy shields and yelling: BOSS! BOSS! BOSS!
Round 10: [Phoenix misses the death roll] Cat hugs the corner, casting light as best he can. There’s a wolf-like growl but much deeper. Seck again darts in and shouts “disengage – back 30” but to his surprise gets past the shield and the hobgoblin falls! He zips back away from longsword-range and away past the side-passage [WIS SV disadv] . A massive wolf’s eyes can be seen down there.
“He’s lost his mate – get him!” – Cat
Vir bravely plunges to close-up combat and wounds the hobgoblin who roars in pain and smashes his sword against the door-lintel, but not breaking it. Using his strength the hobgoblin shield-heaves Vir back but he does not trip over Phoenix or goblin corpses. A massive worg leaps around the corner and gnaws at Cat, but though his calf muscles tear he does not trip!
Round 11: [Phoenix misses the death roll] Cat attempts to turn the worg with Fear but as it fails to affect the beast he realizes he can see partly through it… and [making a DC15 Perception check] there’s a shadow farther down the passage! “Illusion! Caster down there!” he shrieks. Seck rushes up to where Vir is battling and risking the longsword [good STR check] heaves Phoenix away from stomping range – the longsword whips above his head – and [bonus action] starts applying first aid. The hobgoblin sneers as he parries off Vir’s sword and his return stroke sheers through Vir’s chest armor. “BOSS?!?” he cries plaintively. Orange streaks of light slam into Seck [twice for 6 points] and Cat [once for 3]. Momentarily that shadow did not look like a goblin boss.
Round 12: [Phoenix makes his death roll using advantage style rolls to represent the emergency aid] Cat’s eyes glow white and he puts the hobgoblin down with Eldritch Blast! He huddles further out of line of sight of the caster! Seck keeps stabilizing Phoenix, pulling him back away from line of sight. Vir lurks ready to sword any caster running past – but under cover of a rolling barrage of poison, a goblin-shaped shadow flickers through and away! [Vir has disadvantage and believes it to be poison gas, as does Cat] – Yazol races past Vir and nears the mess hall, her feet slapping through the blood spreading from several fallen goblins. She does not care: her invisibility power also removes traces of her passage.
Round 13: [Phoenix makes double success] As they realize there are no ill effects and the gas is illusory, Cat and Seck begin heaving Phoenix into the hobgoblin’s quarters and onto a pile of fabric; while Vir races back up the passage after the “goblin boss!” Yazol meanwhile, still invisible, ignores the still-terrified prisoner-cooks as she races through the mess hall and around the table and across into the passage and towards the stub corridor. She momentarily considers opening a forbidden door in the mess hall but it would take far too long to bait a trap; and besides, there would be some peril to her too! Ahead, she can see a light – lucky for her, for otherwise she is running blind.
Round 14: “We got through without anyone dying!” Cat exclaims and Seck nods as they finish pulling the unconscious Phoenix onto the fabric. “Looks like he might be staying on with us.” The quarters are spacious, and a couple of rushlights provide light. Meanwhile, Vir uses his elf heritage to race forward to the mess hall at full speed and in: he looks around, knowing the hag is tricky. The two near-naked servitors are still there, looking scared. The woman looks vaguely familiar. “Who are you?” he asks and learns a revelation. Yazol meanwhile, diverts into the stub corridor, picks up the torch, and races on almost to the T-junction: just to the left the warning message reminds her not to duck into the summoning room. If only she’d had longer to work out how to control it…
Round 15: Seck has keen hearing and hears Vir’s holler. “It sounds like we’re needed,” he alerts Cat with. “Well the new hire is sacked out and not going anywhere… let me just light this torch…” Cat responds. “Oh and I thought you liked the heavy silver thing,” Seck quips, already at the door. “A silver candlestick in the hand is worth two in the bush” Cat japes back. Since he can’t see in pitch dark, Seck waits and the two head out together, picking their way over the heaped bodies.
Vir looks around from the servitors, who heard something run by. He’s working under the assumption that the caster is making for the exit and that it’s Yazol. But time is pressing and Vir can’t just assume that Kestrel has some amazingly amazing plan to trap the hag. Assuring the wretched pair that his friends will be along, Vir grabs another light off the table, and races around it and into the passage towards the stub, his bloody footprints obvious to those following. Ahead of him, Yazol whips right and up the passage.
Round 16: Cat and Seck run, torch popping and flickering erratically, up as far as the mess hall entry. Already well out of their sight, Vir races straight to the end of the cross-passage. And well ahead of him, Yazol races to the great passage. If she had more nerve she could race straight to the sanctuary and risk circling back; but there’s no guarantee the human caster wouldn’t be ready in the mess hall… as she runs she’s already planning more misery on these new meddlers!
Round 17: Cat and Seck slow as the two servitors come into view. There’s not much light left in the huge chamber but Cat’s torch picks out bloody footprints, spaced as though running, heading to the servitors, stopping and standing, and then away. Seck bends and swipes a finger over the trail as Cat tries disbelieving. The warlock is thinking of motivations and cunning hags. “Nope, that’s goblin blood,” Seck assures him. “Then she’s headed for the entrance” Cat posits, “and who have we here?”
“I’m Brogan, a trader, this is Frida the village constable.”
“Ah, the REAL Frida! I thought something was off with that bitch,” Seck concludes, then swings back to the servitors: “Point which direction they went.” They both point the same way the footprints are headed.
Vir, feeling quite alone, swings hard right and races on, trying not to second-guess. It has to be the entrance; or if not, they’ll have an impossible task. He covers most of the length of the passage and can see the next right-hand corner. And well ahead of him, Yazol races up the great hall – she can’t smell much blood but assumes they already cleaned out her minions here as they did at the mess hall – so without pausing she runs on and between the giant statues of the Night Mistress.
Round 18: Cat calls back optimistically “we’ll be back!” as with Seck he runs around the table and into the cross passage. Somewhere in the darkness ahead there’s a stub corridor.
Vir’s pace takes him to the great passage. Well ahead of him Yazol takes the flights two at a time and out into the green-filtered woods.
Round 19: Cat and Seck run most of the way along the cross passage. Vir runs up the great passage and as far as the entry chamber. Yazol is already outside and making good time along the trail… thwick!
The tripcord releases a full-grown bough to whip across the trail; it plunges spikes deep into Yazol’s body. [16dmg] The pain breaks her invisibility.
Round 20: Cat and Seck round the corner and continue, most of the way along the passage. Vir runs past the statues, through the entry hall and to the foot of the steps.
“Shit! Missed!” Kestrel shrieks as what should have been a finishing arrow strikes a stray frond. Knowing the hag has a deadly touch she has sited her ambush well outside lunging range.
Yazol’s gaze snaps up, finds the elf hidden among the greenery [makes 17 Perception with disadv] and three spears of dirty light arc from the hag to Kestrel, who screams again [9dmg].
Round 21: Cat and Seck round the last right-hand corner and run along the cross passage towards the great passage.
Kestrel breathes out properly, releases, and this time her arrow sinks in true. Yazol screams in pain [8dmg].
Vir blazes up the steps. He can only hear the blood pounding in his ears [terrible Perception check], but recalls leaving his bow and quiver nearby… he sweeps them up. Off along the trail he catches a flash of light and then something like a shaft of dirty light spears him! [3dmg] Kestrel takes the other two bolts [6dmg] and topples, falling back into her ambush site. Vir staggers as the bitter herb Kestrel fed him gives out and deferred harm from the fever hits him [6dmg after failing a CON SV of 5+dmg]
Round 22: Cat and Seck round the corner into the great passage and run toward the entry hall.
[Kestrel makes death roll]
Vir focuses on his target. Just where the trail begins, Yazol is thrashing around with a big wood spike and an arrow in her. Barely pausing Vir draws and releases and knows it’s a great shot as soon as it leaves his bow. [Crit, 8dmg] Yazol bellows in pain and fear and keeps working the spike out of her body. A mighty worg bounds through the trees at Vir but in the summer light he is not fooled for a moment [nat20 on WIS SV] and ignores the illusion.
Round 23: Although the great passage has side passages and there’s no immediate sound of battle Cat and Seck keep running up towards daylight. “Should we check around?” Cat gasps. “If we’re wrong we can always double back” Seck responds. He reckons that Vir will be out with Kestrel. Cat fears Yazol getting clear and in Frida’s guise raising Biddypoint against them. They hit the entry hall and race to the foot of the steps and up.
[Kestrel misses death roll]
Vir eases into better cover and shoots again. It’s an easier shot standing and with a pinned target. Again his arrow is true and with a gurgling scream Yazol thrashes, still pinned, choking on her own blood. Vir begins working closer, looking for Kestrel.
Round 24: “Over here!” Cat and Seck, panting hard, run to Vir’s voice. He is aiming another shot at the dying Green Hag. Wasting no time Cat burns her blood black with another Eldritch Blast.
[Kestrel misses death roll]
“I can’t see Kestrel” Vir gasps, “I think she’s hit” [1 with disadv on Perception].
They begin searching but Vir mutters “just to be sure” and puts his third arrow into Yazol’s corpse.
Round 25: If a wood elf falls in a forest she is harder to find than you might think…
[Kestrel makes death roll, Seck’s investigation is miserable even with advantage]
Round 26: “Over here!”
The three adventurers stumble through tree roots to the prone Kestrel.
Seck quickly goes through the basics of first aid but looks worried. “I can find a couple of bumps but nothing worth binding up,” he deadpans. [Medicine check OK] Vir scowls. “She’s unconscious, lucky for you… wood elves are traditionally slender you know.”
[Kestrel makes advantage death roll and stabilizes]
Rounds 27-30: Seck loots Yazol’s corpse while Vir rests and Cat fetches a pack, and the three adventurers begin devising a strategy.
“My thoughts are balanced on Vir and Phoenix’s – and Kestrel’s – chances of survival,” Cat begins. “So if Phoenix will heal here – and Kestrel says that Vir will be okay sweating out the fever while she retrieves healing herbs from the local woods and tends him – we could stay here and search the joint.”
“Kestrel’s in no condition to be retrieving,” Seck reminds him. “But I’m inclined to agree with you, however the other issue is food and water. If we are low on either. I know the goblins are likely to be well supplied but do we actually rate their hygiene standards that high? We don’t want any more goblin fever cases to deal with.
“We need to get Kestrel to evaluate the health of Frida and the other rescued captive. Do they have goblin fever? If not, we need to check that they have indeed been eating the goblins’ leftovers; if that’s the case then goblin provisions are safe and we can fort up here for a while. If the rescuees have goblin fever then I think we need to work out how to get everyone back to town quickly and safely.”
“Kestrel’s in no condition to be evaluating,” Cat reminds him. “But my pack has six days food in it, having kept Phoenix fed. I think we have enough to hold here for a couple of days at least before we have to run for Biddipoint.
“And we are probably staying for 24 hours (we attacked at dawn – so next dawn) anyway.”
Thanks to the Cat and Seck players for finishing the long chase using PBEM. I used CRGE for NPCs and Vir; Phoenix’s player rolled the success for Kestrel’s trap while still in-session. Kestrel is not a Mary-Sue and was one bad d20 roll away from death. Seck’s bonus action saved her. The sexist (elfist?) joke is all my fault.
After the normal session I was asked why I took the gobbos through death rolls. Though I might have changed my mind if the fight had gone to custard, I felt the adventurers started with the advantage of being higher level than the game is designed for. Seck’s level two abilities for example are worth an entire extra character. So it felt right at the time, and certainly added to the realism, but is not a precedent for later action.
Given a long rest, and some good luck or decision-making, Phoenix just hits level two. Kestrel also reaches level two. Cat easily romps into level two. Vir makes level two and has now caught up to Layton. Seck hits level three! These are not a given, and still depend on the chosen strategies proving sound.
Next session: we deal with Seck’s choices, goblin fever lashes the Alshon region, and we flash back to the earl’s council in Leischport. Stay tuned!